2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Jon Ilani, Johns Hopkins (Carey)

Jon Ilani

Johns Hopkins Carey Business School

“Passionate about health care and innovation, with experience in venture capital, business development, and strategic partnerships.”

Hometown: New York, NY

Fun fact about yourself: Before my MBA, I was involved in launching initiatives to promote diversity and inclusivity in the beauty industry, such as working with Tyra Banks to end size restrictions in beauty advertising and partnering with community organizations to promote access for underrepresented populations.

Undergraduate School and Degree: I hold a BA is English from Binghamton University and completed post-baccalaureate studies in business and finance from UC Berkeley Extension.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked for Elite World Group, a prominent global talent media company that represents models, athletes, and actors. My role involved brokering brand endorsements, product collaborations, equity deals, and product launches for our talent.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? During the summer of 2022, I interned at Medtronic in Minneapolis in business development and strategy role in the neuroscience portfolio.

In the summer of 2021, I completed a pre-MBA internship at Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Transplant Center in Los Angeles, which was facilitated by Carey. This experience marked my first venture into the health care industry.

Where will you be working after graduation? After graduation, I will be joining Medtronic in business development and strategy in their medical surgical portfolio in Minneapolis.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: During my time at business school, I have taken on several leadership roles and community work initiatives. As the governance advocacy and academics chair for my MBA class, I serve as a liaison between the student body and the school’s administration, representing the students’ interests and ensuring their voices are heard.

In addition to my role as chair, I am also proud to serve as the co-president of the Pride Business Association, where I have worked to promote inclusivity and diversity within the business school community.

Outside of school, I have dedicated my time to volunteering with Upsurge Baltimore, an organization focused on promoting equitable startup growth in the Baltimore area. Additionally, I have actively participated in fundraising efforts for Ukraine, a cause that is close to my heart.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of two achievements. The first was in 2022 when my husband and I raised funds for the people of Ukraine following the Russian invasion. With our organization, we were able to raise over $30,000 for individuals in Ukraine. Our efforts were recognized and covered by Poets & Quants, which was a great honor.

The second achievement I am proud of is my involvement in reimagining the Carey LGBTQ+ student group, now called the Pride Business Association. As the co-president, I wanted to ensure that the organization was inclusive of the entire community. We hosted a successful launch event that was attended by students, faculty, and staff, which was a great feeling of engagement. It was a privilege to play a role in shaping the organization.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of my work with Nucleate’s Baltimore chapter, which I co-direct. Nucleate is a student-led 501(c)(3) organization based out of Boston. It emerged from Harvard’s Biotech Club and now has many chapters globally.

Last year, I went through their flagship program called the Activator, which is a biotech accelerator that pairs PhD students with MBA students to commercialize discoveries. I went through the program with a postdoc from Johns Hopkins, which was in early development of a new diagnostic platform. This year, I stayed on as co-managing director to continue to support Baltimore’s biotech ecosystem.

Additionally, I am proud of my work as a venture fellow and now fellow leader at DigitalDx Ventures, a fund that invests in early diagnostic companies that utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to detect disease earlier and less invasively.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Carey Business School as it offered me the perfect opportunity to transition into a career in health care. Prior to joining Carey, I had completed three health care certificates and a post-baccalaureate program, and after researching extensively and speaking with numerous business schools, I realized that Johns Hopkins was the ideal place for me to make this switch. The unique advantage of learning from leading health care researchers and professors, as well as being exposed to other schools within the Johns Hopkins community, made Carey stand out from other business schools. Our core classes were taught by health care research leaders in areas ranging from marketing to finance.

While every school talked about their potential to help me, Carey Business School went the extra mile to make it happen. They arranged an interview for me with a Carey alumnus for an internship at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, setting me up with a pre-MBA internship and leveraging their strong alumni network. This experience provided me with valuable real-world experience, which was immensely helpful when I applied for internships for the following summer.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I really enjoyed having Professor Stacey Lee as my Business Law, Health Law, and Regulations professor for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that she is very engaging and made the material fun to learn. She has a great way of presenting the material that makes complex concepts easy to understand, which was especially helpful in the complex world of health law and regulation.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Business Law, Health Law, and Regulation was my favorite course because it delved into the complex and ever-evolving legal landscape of the health care industry. We explored various health care regulations and laws, and how they impact the different stakeholders, such as health care providers, patients, insurance companies, and government agencies. What made the course particularly interesting was the breadth of topics covered, including medical malpractice, informed consent, and health care reform. Plus, I just loved reading the cases!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? (What did it reflect about your business school? The annual Diwali event at Carey Business School was one of my favorite MBA events. Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is a Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. The event was organized by the Indian Business Association, and it was a great way to showcase the diversity of the Carey community.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One of the biggest myths about Carey Business School is that as a new school, it may not have the same level of prestige or reputation as other top-ranked MBA programs. However, in my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Carey has an elite roster of faculty and industry professionals who are leaders in the health care industry, and the school places a strong emphasis on experiential learning and practical application of concepts. While Carey may not yet have the same name recognition as some other top-tier programs, the education, and experiences that students receive are truly exceptional.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me the most about business school was how much I learned about myself. I came into the program with a clear goal of gaining business skills for health-tech innovation, but I didn’t expect the level of self-reflection and personal growth that came along with it. The intense class discussions and group projects challenged my assumptions and pushed me to think critically about my values and beliefs. I also had the opportunity to work with people from diverse backgrounds, which exposed me to new perspectives and ways of thinking.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I completed a post baccalaureate in business and finance through UC Berkeley and received a 4.0. After that, I completed three health care certificates from prestigious institutions. I believe the admissions team at Carey saw I was taking concrete steps towards achieving my goals.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate I most admire is Ehab H. Elhag. Ehab and I took every class together and were both DigitalDx Venture Fellows where we analyzed health care technology investments. I am so impressed by Ehab’s dedication to his academic and professional pursuits. Ehab arrived at business school with the goal of growing both personally and professionally in the venture capital and private equity industry, and it has been an honor to watch him do so. He has taught me how to think of the bigger picture and believe in myself. He is a great friend, sounding board, and confidant.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I would love to be a part of a major acquisition of emerging health care technology. The prospect of exploring new and innovative technologies, and seeing them through the rigorous process of FDA approval and eventual launch, is something that I find incredibly exciting. Being part of a team that brings cutting-edge health care solutions to the market would be a highly rewarding experience for me. Secondly, I would like to take on a leadership role in my industry. As someone who is passionate about health care and the positive impact it can have on people’s lives, I am determined to make a real difference in the field. Whether it’s through mentoring others or driving innovative initiatives, I want to contribute to the growth and advancement of the health care industry in a meaningful way.

What made Jon such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?  

“Jon Ilani is a current second-year full-time MBA student who is an active member of our Carey community. He has been the Governance, Advocacy, and Academics Chair for the full-time MBA Association, a mentor to first-year full-time MBA students, and Co-President of the Pride Business Association. He was instrumental in rebranding the Pride Business Association and opening up the organization to all students, thereby galvanizing LGBTQ allies in the Carey community. Notably, Jon was the first Carey student to become a Venture Fellow at DigitalDx Ventures in 2021 and is currently their Venture Fellow Leader. He is the Co-Managing Director at Nucleate Baltimore, a student-run nonprofit (501-c3) that serves as a biotech accelerator by pairing PhD, clinical professionals, and MBA candidates to commercialize discoveries through a curriculum, workshops, mentor matching, and culminating in a pitch competition.”

Stacey Lee
Professor of Practice
Academic Program Director, Full-Time MBA
Johns Hopkins Carey Business School


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