2020 MBAs To Watch: John Chao, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

John Chao

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

“A purpose-driven husband and father with a penchant for good vibes and adventure.”

Hometown: Greenwich, CT

Fun fact about yourself: I was a child model for Lego and Jell-O when I was 5 years old, but retired early because I couldn’t read or do math.

Undergraduate School and Degree: American Military University

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Raytheon, Principle Field Engineer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? DISH Network/Sling TV, Denver CO

Where will you be working after graduation? Undetermined

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Teaching Assistant for Business on the Frontlines, Chief Technology Officer for the MBA Association, President of the Management & Leadership Club, MBA Ambassador, Service2School Ambassador.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of the predictive model I created from class application data, which was used to determine the criteria of successful student work teams. I wanted to challenge myself with this project because I had no prior experience in cleaning data or making predictive models and saw this project as an opportunity to learn something new.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of earning a Bronze Star with combat “V” for valor while on Marine Special Operations Team 8232 because of the distinct challenges I had to overcome while in Afghanistan.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Viva Bartkus, who has shown me the power of business for positive change on post-conflict and impoverished nations. I never thought about global security from the lens of commerce and am forever grateful for her insights.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Football games and tailgates! I found these events especially wonderful in providing a family friendly-forum where my wife and I could catch-up with my friends and classmates.

Why did you choose this business school? I came for the network and MBA Military Vets Club, I wanted to attend a school that would best help me transition from military culture to professional business. The university and clubs certainly help me achieve this goal.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Showcase your desire to work hard and contribute to the collective MBA student experience. Experiential learning is a focus at the university that carries an extra degree of effort on the students’ part. It conveys that you are up for the task.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The University is a Catholic school, but many are not devout Jesuits. In fact, I believe the majority of my class are not Catholic or Christian and instead are other denominations, other faiths, or agnostic.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have read more books for leisure before I arrived on campus. I miss reading for fun!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Phoebe Tzannes.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My Dad. He earned his MBA so he understands and appreciates the powerful ability an MBA can provide for one’s future. While I was mulling over the decision on my next career step he helped guide me to these same realizations, albeit not truly understood until arriving here at Notre Dame.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. I want to hold a product I created and developed from thin air.
  2. I want a private office with a standing desk and window view.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? “He is hard-working, intelligent, funny and has a wonderfully loving family”

Hobbies? Parenting, husbanding, self-learning, CrossFit, running, reading.

What made John such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“It is a pleasure to recommend John Chao. I believe that John has displayed the first-rate intellect and creativity in problem-solving, maturity, and leadership among his colleagues, and the character and commitment to his teams that will enable him to perform exceptionally no matter the demands of his future profession. John is always ready to get done what needs to get done, no matter the obstacles.

To start, John presents a truly unique combination of talents: creativity and pragmatism, leadership among his peers, commitment to getting to the solution despite difficulties, and genuine empathy for “the other” that his efforts are serving. As a retired former partner of McKinsey & Company, I can spot talent. I have had John for MBA courses at the University of Notre Dame and we have worked together closely these last two years as John has been my teaching and research assistant.

In addition to possessing a first-rate mind, John is a natural leader. He is direct, tough, and hardworking. By asking the critical questions, John brings the best out of his teammates. His team developed stronger answers, as John took over the leadership of the team.

What distinguishes John from the many other talented graduate students is his tremendous insight and maturity on a range of challenges. John was both a teaching assistant and enrolled in my MBA class, “Business on the Frontlines,” which is dedicated to exploring the role of business in rebuilding war-torn societies. In addition to course work on development economics, politics, and international relations, during which John displayed his uniquely versatile grasp of diverse issues, the course required service with an NGO partner in Kenya. John never lost focus of the purpose of the project, which was to save a beautiful wildlife conservancy from financial insolvency and closure, thereby throwing many local residents out of work and putting in danger much wildlife from poachers. John naturally rose to lead the team of five Notre Dame MBA students working on the financial turnaround of this charity. Indeed, he became my right hand; I depended on his organizational abilities, to manage the work of the team, and make recommendations for new ways of operating for the partner.”

Viva Bartkus
Associate Professor
Department of Management & Organization
Mendoza College of Business


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