2016 Best MBAs: Johnny Mathias, Dartmouth Tuck

Johnny Mathias Dartmouth

Johnny Mathias


The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when I was at an industry conference panel that was addressing the declining state of the music business, and a panelist took the microphone and said, “look folks… we’re not selling data-bits and digi-bytes… we’re selling emotions.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Education: A.B. Dartmouth College, Cum Laude

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Filligar (Professional Musician – Lead Singer & Guitarist); Decade Records (Co-Founder, Partner); United States Department of State: Kuwait, Guyana, & Azerbaijan Embassies (Cultural Ambassador)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Harris Williams & Co. (Richmond, VA.), Investment Banking Summer Associate

Where will you be working after graduation? Harris Williams & Co. (San Francisco, CA), Investment Banking Associate – Technology, Media, & Telecommunications

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School While at Tuck, I co-founded a company with my brother which has been awarded funding from various pitch competitions and grants. Across campus, I’ve hoped to support the culture of entrepreneurship that’s been cultivated by the Dartmouth Entrepreneurship Network (DEN), the DALI Lab, and The Center for Private Equity & Entrepreneurship. It’s an amazing community to be a part of, and I try to give back to the people who have worked hard to make it so strong—both while a student at Tuck and following graduation.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? This past winter, I toured Russia with the rock band that I play in. To give some context: prior to the trip, the heightened tension between the United States and Russia was all over the news. When we landed in the frozen city of Yekaterinburg, there was a subtle but palpable element of uncertainty to the whole thing.

I am most proud of the friendships that were made while we were there. We met musicians, TV personalities, professional athletes, community leaders, teachers, and future business leaders—some of the most wonderful people. We performed at concert halls, a festival, an orphanage, and a radio hour dedicated to the life of David Bowie.

At one point, we taught a music class at a local community center on the outskirts of Siberia. Inside this beautiful, Soviet-era theater were roughly forty teenagers in chairs onstage. Amongst all of them sat one girl who was visibly timid from the outset.

The greatest “achievement” in recent memory was to get that girl out of her chair—to get her to stand up in front of everyone, grab a microphone, and ferociously belt out a song she had just written. And she nailed it.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Selling someone merchandise they didn’t think they wanted. I’m most proud of the little things that you have to do when building a business—those uncomfortable tasks: cold-calling, handing out flyers, speaking in front of crowds, putting yourself out there.

Who is your favorite professor? It’s a ten way tie.

Favorite MBA Courses? Building Entrepreneurial Ventures with Steve Kahl, Field Study in Private Equity with Phil Ferneau, Entrepreneurial Thinking with Trip Davis & Tom Naughton, Business of Healthcare with Don Conway, and the CEO Experience with John Lynch. Among others.

Why did you choose this business school? When deciding between schools, I knew from my undergraduate experience that Dartmouth has a great set of unique offerings. In particular, I like that living in a small town affords you the opportunity to really get to know the people around you. It also affords you the opportunity to have very individualized interactions with high-caliber professors, visiting professionals, speakers, and others on a daily basis. I also just generally like the school.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I enjoyed learning. There are many reasons to go to business school. There are many reasons not to. For me, to be surrounded by such an array of outstanding resources has been pretty remarkable.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? I won’t know until at least a couple of years.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? The consistent surprise of “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

What was the hardest part of business school? Prioritizing what is most important at any given time.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? If you’re curious, reach out to me. Happy to talk.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was at an industry conference panel that was addressing the declining state of the music business, and a panelist took the microphone and said, “look folks… we’re not selling data-bits and digi-bytes… we’re selling emotions.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…selling emotions.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I don’t really have a rubric for that. I admire anyone who gets up and works hard to create something from nothing.

What are your long-term professional goals? To be happy.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My four siblings for making me competitive. And for putting me in my place…which is first place.

Fun fact about yourself: I did improv comedy at Second City in Chicago and Groundlings in LA for a while.

Favorite book: Endurance by Alfred Lansing

Favorite movie: Best in Show

Favorite musical performer: Favorite music: always changing. Favorite performer: James Brown.

Favorite television show: ESPN Sportscenter

Favorite vacation spot: Visiting my family in South Haven, MI.

Hobbies? Playing in a men’s hockey league. Hanging out with my twin sis.

What made Johnny such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“John always comes to class prepared and willing to wrestle with the material in order to develop a deeper understanding of the concepts. But, what truly sets John apart is his enthusiasm and creativity. His enthusiasm is downright infectious, and it brings the best out of others – whether it be a start-up team he is working on, his classmates, or faculty. It is this foundational empathy bottled within positive energy that makes John a valued leader and appreciated community builder at Tuck.

John also brings creative perspective that helps us all think more deeply. He has a significant musical background, which is unusual for an MBA, but he has successfully channeled it into classroom discussion to help provide an alternative perspective. He is also working on a new venture with his brother in the music industry. Yes, they have an interesting idea and they work hard like many other entrepreneurs. But, beyond excelling at the blocking and tackling of doing the hard start-up work, they both see a bigger picture about the emotional value of bringing music more readily into people’s lives. It is this “challenge the world while doing good” attitude that really sets John apart. It has been an absolute pleasure to teach and work with John at Tuck.” — Steve Kahl, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth


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