By Kate Griswold
Besides managing activities which include Iron Man and triathlon competitions, her three-year-old daughter Lily, and another due in February, Krista Willing also manages the eight billion dollar Medicaid budget for the state of Wisconsin.
Willing graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics, and a certificate in business from UW–Madison. During the second semester of her senior year, she interned for Senator Herb Kohl in his Madison office near the state capitol. Her goal was to get into politics. After the completion of her internship and graduation, she worked for Governor Jim Doyle in constituent relations, and then with Senator Judy Robson in the Wisconsin legislature. It was at this point she decided to return to school for her master’s. Willing enjoyed public policy but knew she needed a master’s degree to advance in her career.
Willing went back to school at the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs and continued to work part-time at the capitol for Senator Robson. Halfway through her master’s degree in public affairs, she started working for Senator Russ Decker who replaced Senator Robson as the majority leader.
During her time at La Follette, Krista’s emphasis was in health care and the analytical side of policy. She also enjoyed her class in budgeting. After graduation, Willing worked for the Department of Revenue on the Medicaid program, which led to a job at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. She worked her way up to Director of Fiscal Management for the Medicaid Program, her current position.
Willing enjoys her work; every day is different, she works with a dynamic team, she spends her days meeting with internal and external partners to problem solve solutions to meet the needs of the program.
“I love the fact that this job is extremely challenging. I’ve been with the department for five years and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new. I work with a strong team and we make decisions that we know impact people every day.”
Willing acknowledges she had to take a lot of required courses while pursuing her master’s. She can attest to the importance of those classes today. She believes each class helped to build the foundation of where she is today and have helped her explore her interests.
Although one takes a lot of classes during their time in school, Willing also advises students to meet people and figure out what type of job they want to pursue.
“In your last year of graduate school especially, really start exploring career opportunities to see where you want to end up. Don’t wait until you graduate to find a job,” she said.
Between her family, their hobbies and her career, Willing has a lot on her plate. She reminds students, “Make sure you have a balance, the job will always be there and you won’t always accomplish everything in one day. Take the time with family and for hobbies; careers can be stressful and figuring out how to manage that stress is critical.”