2021 MBAs To Watch: Mark Easton Johnston, Brigham Young University (Marriott)

Mark Easton Johnston

Brigham Young University, Marriott School of Business

“Human progress focused HR Professional by day, father, husband, reader, and gourmand by night.”

Hometown: Stafford, Virginia

Fun fact about yourself: I enjoy the peaks and valleys of life. Specifically, I like scuba diving and peaking mountains.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Brigham Young University, Business Management – Organizational Behavior/Human Resources emphasis

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was an HR Brand Associate at the Four Foods Group.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? I interned remotely from Provo, Utah for MediaKind, which is based in Dallas, Texas.

Where will you be working after graduation? I’m headed to ConocoPhillips to start as an HR Generalist.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Head Sherpa (student director of recruiting efforts), Client Relations Lead for Cougar Talent Solutions, and was recently awarded the distinction of Hawes Scholar.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was part of a team that won 1st place in an annual HR case competition hosted by Purdue University. It was a proud achievement because we were able to leverage each other’s unique talents to win against other schools that had more of a background in labor relations (the topic of the case competition).

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was responsible for rolling out a training initiative for the 2000 person employee population at MediaKind. The organizational goal was to get 60% engagement in 7 months; I achieved 83% engagement in two months.

Why did you choose this business school? For my MBA, I chose BYU because I could balance experiential learning, excellent instruction, fantastic placement with great companies, coupled with a family-friendly atmosphere allowing me to tell my daughter Grace her bedtime story almost every night.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It’s a toss-up between Kristen DeTienne and Liz Dixon, but they were my favorite for the same reason: they were instrumental in helping me smooth some of my rough edges, and both helped me become a better, more passionate, more effective leader.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? It’s a tradition in our MBA program to play a multi-week competition using StratSim software, where every MBA team is expected to expand a car company in a very competitive environment. It’s a friendly competition, but it provides an avenue to combine past experience and current academic learning in areas like marketing, finance, accounting, operations, and human resources. I loved our team dynamic (Go Team Dermb!) as we battled it out with other MBA teams, especially when our team figured out our strategy, stuck to it, and won the simulation, creating $29 billion in value.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have prepared more for the program, both academically and professionally. If I had prepared better, I could have carpe’d more diem. To quote the economist Howard Ruff: “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” I wish I had built more of my MBA ark before it started raining during orientation.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I honestly don’t know what the myths about BYU are. I’ll ask someone objective at the U of U, and get back to you.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was surprised that the MBA wasn’t just school, but a life-altering experience. It is a microcosm of life in two years, complete with success, failure, hard work, lots of fun, and lessons learned every day.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Something that made all the difference in the application process was work with Gibb Dyer, a professor at BYU. He was an invaluable coach to help prepare me for the application process and the program itself. Without his help, I’m not sure I would have been accepted.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One student that comes to mind is Lillian Barton. She is an avatar of what a BYU MBA should be: smart, well spoken, hardworking, driven, and able to engage with those with whom she disagrees in an incredible way. She has made the program better in small and large ways. When she graduates, it’s the MBA program’s loss and a lucky company’s gain.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? It required a lot of flexibility, especially while doing classes from home with two busy kids under the age of 5 running around. Our professors did a great job making the experience as valuable as a classroom experience, but it was a tough transition.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I would have to say Russ Lee. I was a resident assistant reporting to Russ in my undergrad, and was struggling to find a way to use my passion for people in a career that I felt could provide meaningful experiences and relationships. In a conversation with Russ that I still remember, he brought up human resources as a path, one I hadn’t considered before. Incidentally, Russ was a few years ahead of me on that same path. I’m blessed to have him as a guide and a mentor.

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

  1. Never prove the Peter Principle right.
  2. Always coach others with the goal of surpassing me.

What made Easton such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Easton Johnson is a star in every area. He is a Hawes Scholar (BYU Marriott’s highest honor for academic achievement) and is contributor. Before enrolling in the MBA program, Easton was an entrepreneur whose most important job was developing people. Easton has served as the MBA Head Sherpa, leading a large team of 2nd year MBA students in efforts to serve and mentor 1st Year students in recruiting and placement. In doing so, he has become an honorary member of the BYU Marriott MBA Program administrative team. He is someone who tries to help everyone around him regardless of the context.”

Dan Snow
Director of the BYU Marriott MBA Program


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