Meet Harvard Business School’s MBA Class Of 2019

Jonathon McCarthy 

Harvard Business School 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: An intrepid and curious adventurer, always excited by the possibility of the unknown.

Hometown: Brisbane, Australia

Fun Fact About Yourself: I grew up in Arnhem Land (Australia), a region larger than the state of Maine with a population of only 16,000 people but over 40,000 saltwater crocodiles!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Queensland – Bachelor of Mining Engineering & Bachelor of Business Economics.

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: My role prior to business school was Business Unit Head – Australia for TerraCom Limited, a listed mining company in Australia. Prior to this role I was the General Manager of Mongolia Operations based in the remote Gobi Desert. Before joining TerraCom, I worked in mining finance and project development roles with Coalspur Mines, Mitsui & Co. and Rio Tinto across Australia, Asia and North America.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was leading the environmental permitting and development of a new large-scale mining project in Canada that had been denied on several occasions by the province of Alberta’s regulatory bodies. Taking lessons and technology from other work my team and I had done, we were able to significantly reduce the environmental risk of the project and get government approval for it to proceed. This not only provided a platform for the development of the project, with a positive impact on the local economy but gave the regulator a new benchmark for the mining designs and processing techniques that could be used in Alberta to safely and successfully deliver other mining projects.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? Harvard Business School makes it very clear that the GMAT is just one of many things they look at in evaluating an applicant.  But it’s still something that most people worry about, so in my view it makes good sense to study hard for the GMAT. Use some reasonably priced GMAT prep software to assist with giving yourself the best chance of maximizing your score. A strong GMAT score is one indicator of your analytical ability and enables you to more fully focus on your other key attributes in your essay. Attributes such as leadership, teamwork, ethics, cultural diversity and strategic perspective will help set you apart from other analytically strong candidates.

Equally as important as the application process, I believe, is your personal preparation to attend business school. As a married international student with two children, I can attest to the massive effort required from those in your network to get you to your business school of choice. Everyone will have different circumstances but you will be amazed at the support you will require. From recommendations and interview preparation to dealing with financial matters, the move to a new city, and those in your professional network who will help you long after you graduate, you are relying on a lot of support to be successful. For me, my family have been the stars of this process and the enthusiasm they have shown throughout our transition to Harvard is testament to the fact that everyone needs a good team to succeed.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I chose to attend Harvard Business School due to the case method style of learning. I have been fortunate to see many different business cases across the globe and strongly believe in the immersion and accountability that comes with the case method. The method teaches you to analyze a situation with incomplete information and take a position — a daily requirement of all business leaders globally. The case method also encourages debate and discussion with highly skilled professors and peers, providing a chance to hone the skill of ‘seeking dissenting opinion’ on the way to making decisions.  In this regard, the case method and the high calibre of the network at Harvard will give me the best environment to develop strong leadership capabilities for my career.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? After a year of business school, I hope to have a strong network inside and outside of my section and a strong internship position for the summer. I hope to have enhanced my knowledge of the key business drivers in many different industries and honed my skills in entrepreneurship, capital markets and strategy. Overall, success will be defined by my desire to make the most of the second year of the course on the way to defining the next steps in my career.