Meet Georgetown McDonough’s MBA Class Of 2020

Catherine Johnson

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

Personally and professionally, I seek new challenges and strive for excellence every day.”

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

Fun Fact About Yourself: In kindergarten, when asked about my future career aspirations, I answered that I wanted to be “retired.”

Undergraduate School and Major: Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service; Major: Culture & Politics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Oracle Corporation; Enterprise Account Manager, Cloud Education Sales

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: After my first year at Oracle, I achieved a highly coveted promotion to management, as one of two people from my starting class of 250 to attain it. This accelerated my professional growth in positioning me to achieve subsequent sales promotions in my sales career. In this management position, I found coaching my team of 15 direct reports to be extremely motivating and very fulfilling work.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? At Welcome Weekend back in January, I was struck by how the McDonough students seemed more ‘well-rounded’ than any other students (admitted or current) with whom I had interacted elsewhere along the application process. They are balanced – focused on academics, campus involvement, and recruiting, of course; but with an ability to prioritize their personal lives and commitments outside of school. These are students who seem to me to be fundamentally grounded and confident. They know who they are, understand why they’ve undertaken business school to transition professionally, but are committed to doing that without having to sacrifice fulfilling personal lives outside of all that.

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 distinguishing factor that led me to choose McDonough was, at the end of the day, the global mindset of the program. As an undergraduate student at Georgetown in the School of Foreign Service, I chose to study abroad in three unique programs: a summer in Paris, France to focus on my French language studies; a summer in Alexandria, Egypt to focus on my Arabic language studies; and a semester in Doha, Qatar to focus on both Arabic as well as Middle East-specific courses for my major. Those programs defined my time in college, providing me with both rich cultural and challenging learning experiences and enabling me to meet people who today remain among my very best friends. With that perspective, I really value the emphasis that McDonough places on the global mindset of the MBA program through the Global Business Experience and student-initiated treks to destinations worldwide, international diversity within each cohort of students, and opportunities to concentrate academically on international business through the International Business Diplomacy Certificate. I am very excited to be pursuing my MBA at a school with a diverse student population and to learn about business in a global context.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? As a Forte Fellow, I am really looking forward to getting involved in Georgetown Women in Business (GWIB). The current MBA students I met who were involved with and leading GWIB were so welcoming to me at every event over the course of the admitted students weekend. I really look forward to getting involved with an organization focused on supporting other women MBAs and building a network of professional women.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? At the point when I resigned from Oracle, I had completed a full four years comprised of a total of four sales positions in four different lines of business, in both management and individual contributor roles. I decided an MBA would enable me, at this point, take my career to the next level and position me to advance along a general management (not only sales management) track.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? During my career at Oracle, I was lucky to have a couple of stellar bosses who have now become very important professional mentors. In talking with them about my next steps, they encouraged me to pursue an MBA full-time to accelerate my professional growth. I decided that an MBA program was ultimately worth the investment because it would broaden my exposure to business generally and enable me to learn more about other industries outside of technology.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UVA, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I did a lot of research on the programs I applied to because I wanted to be sure I only applied to schools that would fit my interests and aspirations well. I looked at program culture, cohort diversity, top employers, and the attributes that distinguished each program academically. I used websites like Poets and Quants, attended as many events in DC as I could, and spent a lot of time on each program’s website.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? When I achieved the promotion to management after my first year, I transitioned into the Oracle Marketing Cloud organization, which was based out of Oracle’s Austin office, and the promotion necessitated my move to Austin from DC where I was based when I started at Oracle. This was a huge move, and my first time ever in Austin was the weekend I flew down to find a new apartment. Nonetheless, I was excited for the adventure and eager for a change. I ended up being in Austin for a year before I was promoted into a quota-carrying sales position and transitioned into a different organization based in DC that required me to move back. While I loved my work and overall enjoyed Texas, I didn’t see myself there long-term and spent a lot of time thinking about where I did want to be, which I eventually concluded was DC. In moving back, I made a commitment to myself that I would invest time professionally in determining my next step – which I decided was to pursue my MBA – and invest time personally in making time to do what I really enjoyed. This led me to be elected as a deacon at my church, get serious about my fitness and run my first half marathon, and prioritize time spent with my friends and family.

What do you plan to do after you graduate?  I am very excited about pursuing a leadership development program because of the opportunity such a program offers to grow in general management. As far as industry, I remain interested in technology because of my experience at Oracle, but I also hope to gain exposure to other opportunities and industries.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Overall, I see myself three to five years post-MBA continuing to thrive in a dynamic corporate environment where I can work directly to impact revenue, chart strategy, and develop talent within my organization.

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