Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Hereford Johnson, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Hereford Johnson

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

“I strive to achieve goals that inspire others to dream big.”

Hometown: Joliet, IL

Fun Fact About Yourself: I dropped 30 pounds during Covid and still barbequed nearly every week!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Illinois at Chicago, Industrial Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Deloitte Consulting, Consultant

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I appreciate Kellogg’s diverse offerings because I am fortunate to be surrounded by classmates coming from various industries and offering different perspectives. I’m grateful that Kellogg is not only strong in finance (my desired industry) but others as well, which makes this possible.

I find this to be an advantage in the recruiting and networking process. With a diverse range of interests across the Kellogg class, you have a more balanced supply and demand for internship and post-MBA opportunities within Kellogg. Mix the intimate experience with the pay it forward culture that Kellogg is known for, and you are in for a pleasant finance recruiting experience.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Humble and down-to-earth. This rings true to not just my classmates, but many Kellogg alumni who are successful in their own right. The ‘high impact, low ego’ persona that Kellogg targets in applicants is very apparent. For example, you could be grabbing a drink or be in a study group with an Olympic Gold Medalist or successful entrepreneur and never know it (true story). Or, on the opposite end, through deep conversations with classmates, you will uncover stories of someone overcoming unbelievable hardships, and you will wonder why there has not been a Netflix film made about their journey. No one ever brags or comes across as a know-it-all. They are not afraid to raise their hand and admit that they do have the answer to a question and, at the same time, they are very willing to prioritize their time to support your journey. It is a special community that I feel lucky to be a part of.

What club or activity excites you most at this school?  There is a subset of the Kellogg Private Equity Club,which emphasizes Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA), that I am most excited about. The Search Fund community in the U.S. is a tight-knit group with a big pay- it-forward culture in the Private Equity space. In addition, Kellogg and Booth have a partnership in the ETA space, and it is an exciting opportunity to experience the benefits of collaboration between Booth’s Polsky Center and Kellogg’s Heizer Center.

Kellogg is often described as “team-driven.” In your experience, what is the most important quality of a team member? How do you intend to bring that into Kellogg? For both a team member and team leader, exhibiting selfless service towards other members is what I believe to be the most important quality. I am a strong believer in that if my team benefits, that is the only way I will benefit, too. For the team to shine, I cannot focus on myself.  As much as I benefit from the support of classmates and alumni, I prioritize time almost daily on taking action towards being an asset for someone else whether it be someone within the Kellogg ecosystem or in the local community.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In my spare time, I launched and grew a residential cleaning company, Marvelous Maids, to significant yearly revenue over the past few years. I learned more about sales, marketing, and operations doing that than being a consultant by day, or studying Industrial Engineering in undergrad. It has been a great experience to apply everything I thought I knew about business at a small, manageable scale.

I am most proud of navigating my business through the entirety of the Covid-19 epidemic so far. Facing the decision to immediately shut down or take on the challenge to lead my team through a high stress, unpredictable environment felt like a true test of character. I have been able to persist through the pandemic without employee layoffs despite losing over 60% of our recurring customer base at the beginning of Covid-19. Having the strongest financial performance year since launch this year is something I am very proud of.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? There were two major occurrences which made me realize that now was a good time in my career journey to pursue an MBA. First, it was the work that I was doing as a Consultant, while enjoyable, started to feel familiar. While I could see myself having a long career at Deloitte, I wanted the opportunity to gain exposure to other careers that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to explore without the Kellogg network.

My cleaning company was an additional inspiration that drove my decision to business school. I became interested in learning from successful investors of small companies, as well as learning what it’s like to be the CEO of a significantly larger ‘small business’ and scaling it. I knew that there were both gaps in my soft and technical skills that I needed to reinforce such as negotiations and motivating teams, to M&A and LBO. Attending Kellogg for my MBA seemed like the perfect way to not only gain these skills from an academic standpoint, but to also have the opportunity to put those skills to practice in a safe environment.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I only applied to Kellogg but heavily considered MIT and Stanford.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Kellogg’s second essay question – “What values are important to you and how have they influenced you?“ – took a lot of self-reflection. Of the entire application, I spent the most time in deep thought around that question. It is such a seemingly simple question on the surface, but I wanted to put my true self into this application and tie those values into how those values fit into Kellogg and long-term goals.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I first tried to determine the likelihood it would be to achieve my specific post-MBA target industry and geography. If I did not come across alumni presence in a target industry or geography, it did not make sense, I conducted coffee chats with employees in the industry to get an understanding on their preferred schools. If a school did not align at all, I removed it from my long list.

The next most important characteristic for me was a deeply rooted pay it forward culture not just within the student body, but the alumni network.  I wanted it to be so engrained that I could feel comfortable cold calling an alumnus from 1992, and she would be excited to help me for simply being a part of the Kellogg community.

Paying it forward to the next generation is an important part of who I am, and I wanted to be a part of a community that genuinely celebrated and embraced that. I found that to be abundantly clear at schools like Kellogg. I feel that you really cannot determine this type of fit by just listening in on informational sessions or reading online forums. It really takes being proactive in doing coffee chats, picking up the phone, and doing school visits.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school?Getting a job at Deloitte was a big deal for me. I came from very humble beginnings, with an ample amount of external challenges including taking a very non-traditional career path. While it was an intimidating uphill battle, I went through a multi-year journey of consistent effort and taking big bets on myself to get in a position where I would be competitive for a large consulting firm. The numerous rejections and setbacks along the way not only set me up well for being an entrepreneur, but gave me the confidence in myself that I could accomplish seemingly impossible goals with discipline, hard work, and grit. As a Deloitte Consultant I realized the power of a strong, supportive network as well as the efficacy of a high-performing team. The past few years have been filled with numerous life and professional lessons that have positioned me well for this next chapter.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I have two organizations that I admire for separate reasons. I believe that all businesses, not just MBA students, could learn a lot from IDEO’s work culture. With the increasing amount of discussion and action that corporations are involved in around diversity and inclusion, IDEO has shown that diversity and inclusion expands beyond race, gender, and culture. Diversity of thought, education, life experience, and talent are also important. Bridging the strengths of all these aspects in a flat-hierarchical environment can result in an impressive, humble, high-performing team.


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