Meet Chicago Booth’s MBA Class Of 2020

Ricardo Johnson

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

Just a country boy from South Carolina that believes in building meaningful relationships with people.”

Hometown: Orangeburg, South Carolina

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love oldies music, but more specifically, I love tracing the origins of modern songs that sampled classics from the past

Undergraduate School and Major: Howard University, BBA Finance

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Schroder Adveq, Investment Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment in my career thus far would be having the opportunity to lead due diligence on a number of private equity fund commitments very early in my career. These opportunities not only provided me with a great deal of responsibility early on, but also gave me the autonomy to be creative in sourcing new investment opportunities, which ultimately led to the thesis for which I enrolled in business school to pursue.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I would best describe the classmates I’ve met thus far as passionately curious individuals. That curiosity is wide-ranging across a variety of topics from industrial automation to Big 3 Basketball (and yes, we actually went to a game). Everybody’s journey is so unique, but everybody shares a similar drive for trying to figure out the next chapter. More importantly, there aren’t a lot of egos or super-competitive spirits dominating those conversations. There’s a sense of humility and authenticity that embodies the culture of the school.

Aside from your classmates, 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? The flexibility to create my own MBA experience is what attracted me to Booth. I didn’t view the MBA solely as an opportunity to get a good job and network, but I also viewed it as a launching pad for carrying an idea into fruition. Furthermore, the Chicago Approach has birthed many ideas and theories, so I was really drawn to the idea of having an academically rigorous curriculum that could be highly additive to my professional ambitions. Given that Booth provides the perfect environment for fostering these ambitions by providing resources for those who are pursuing a “non-traditional” path, much like myself, I knew that Booth was a perfect fit for me.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m most looking forward to engaging with the Svider Private Equity Program through the school’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Svider is unique in that it caters specifically to students who have an interest in Private Equity. With programs such as the Private Equity and Venture Capital Lab, Oxford Chicago Global Private Equity Challenge, and the Investment Thesis Challenge (to name a few), there are a lot of opportunities for students who want to develop greater depth of knowledge in the space.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I reached a point where I saw a huge opportunity to address a void in the private equity marketplace. Given that there are currently not a lot of solutions to address this specific industry bottleneck, I realized that the best way to pursue this strategy was to create it. After weighing the prospects of trying to pursue this on my own, I realized that business school, specifically Booth, offered resources that could be valuable in translating this idea into an actual strategy.

I also recognized that we’re amid a technological revolution that will fundamentally change how business is conducted over the next few decades. The opportunity to pursue an MBA now presents a unique opportunity to expand my skillset to focus on areas that are most relevant for a business world that will become increasingly more global and technologically advanced.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I started by seeking trusted advice from mentors and friends. While people had different reasons for why they chose to pursue an MBA, there were very few people who told me that the MBA would not be worth it. What I did discover from most of those conversations is that the decision to pursue an MBA is a deeply personal one and finding your purpose for pursuing the degree is just as important as finding the right fit.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UCLA, Harvard, and Stanford.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I started my search by spending countless hours on the internet researching various programs. I knew I wasn’t going to pursue a “traditional” MBA path, so I prioritized schools that provided resources for students looking to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. The most meaningful research for me during this period was the personal interactions with students, alumni, and faculty of the school. There are a lot of good MBA programs, but I paid close attention to how enthusiastic people were about their respective institutions. For me, the enthusiasm around Booth remained consistent no matter if I was at an information session in New York or an event on campus. It became very evident to me that Booth really emphasizes a family-oriented culture, which was an important factor for me during my recruiting process.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I cannot think of any one defining moment, rather a compilation of experiences and lessons learned that have pushed me to go where I‘ve never gone, to pursue avenues that I would not have ordinarily pursued. The road on my journey has not always been as scenic as I would like, but it’s because of every twist and turn, every bump and bruise, and every obstacle that I’ve had to overcome that has molded me into who I am today.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? After graduation, I plan to be in a place where I’ve conducted a great deal of primary research to validate whether there is a market opportunity for my thesis. A successful MBA experience for me will be positioning myself to be in a place to launch my concept independently or joining an organization where I’d have an opportunity to explore the concept that was researched and developed over the course of my MBA experience.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I hope to be in a place where I can say that I’ve founded (or co-founded) a specialized private equity asset management firm that started from a crazy idea to address a void in the marketplace.

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