I asked Jonathan Metrick, a Canadian, about his experience studying for his MBA at Harvard from 2007 to 2009. This was a particularly interesting time in American history and not just for business majors, but for all graduates. The Great Recession of 2008 caused nationwide economic instability. Despite graduating at such a challenging time, Jonathan has accomplished much more than most during his professional career. This is no surprise since he is one of the most passionate and positive people I’ve ever met.
Here is what he had to say about this period of his life at Harvard Business School:
“I grew up in Toronto, Canada, which is a very culturally diverse city. Yet I always had an interest in studying and living abroad. In high school, I went on exchange to Melbourne, Australia.
In Melbourne, I lived with a host family and made a lifelong friend in my host brother Craig who now also lives in NYC. This was my first chance to live abroad and discover how others’ live (e.g. Australians having BBQs at Christmas as it is summer for them).
In college, I went on exchange to Antwerp, Belgium for a semester where I lived with peers from Europe, Asia, and the Americas. On weekends, I backpacked around any chance I got. One highlight was a Greek Easter with my friends from Athens.”
Why did you choose to go to school in the United States?
“I had always wanted to live in New York City. I figured going to school in the US would be a great way for me to eventually work and live there.”
Why did you choose Harvard over other MBAs?
“I started my career working in marketing at Procter & Gamble and have always been interested in globally-renowned brands. Harvard held a strong reputation in Canada. I figured if I was able to attend, I’d meet some really interesting people from all around the world.”
What did you think of the application process?
“The application process definitely felt thorough. However, I did expect that while applying to a competitive MBA program. There was the GMAT, the written application, and the interview. I remember being both relieved and anxious after progressing through each stage of the application.”
Was there something significantly different about Harvard Business School compared to other MBA programs?
“HBS offered a general management MBA, which I thought would give me more flexibility to explore different industries and countries throughout my career. Since graduating, I’ve had a chance to live/work in both New York City and London, and been employed in entertainment, luxury goods, education, and tech fields. I think obtaining an MBA from HBS definitely helped me along my journey.”
What part of the school were you most excited about when applying?
“I was excited to meet people from around the world and hear first hand from speakers on campus who were leaders in their respective industries. At the time, I remember thinking it was awesome that we had the co-founders of Gilt (a popular flash sale site at the time) come to our retail class and discuss their rationale for launching the business.”
What did you think of the first year’s curriculum?
“I found the first year more difficult than the second year. In year one, you take a predetermined list of general business courses (Finance, Accounting, Marketing, and Strategy), some of which are more interesting than others. You also attend after-class career events while acclimatizing back to full-time student life. It was a lot. In the second year, I was more in control of my schedule. I was able to choose my courses, so I stuck to marketing and strategy classes. I had a better sense of which direction I wanted to take my career.”
Did your undergraduate program in Canada prepare you for Harvard’s academic structure? Are the classrooms and curriculum in Canada similar?
“In Canada, I did a four-year undergraduate program in business at Queen’s University, so that did help me prepare for some of the content at HBS. My program was lecture and project-based, however. HBS follows a case method, which was something I had to adjust to.”
Did you participate in extracurricular activities while attending your graduate program?
“I was an active member of the luxury goods, entertainment, marketing, and LGBT associations at HBS (likely part of the reason my first year was so busy).”
What was your favorite part of the program?
“The best part was the people I met during my two years at Harvard Business School. They have become lifelong friends, offering both professional and personal advice whenever I needed it. In fact, I was recently on vacation in Mexico City and ran into a section mate of mine from HBS in a restaurant. We immediately reconnected like no time had passed and he ended up giving me a ton of insider recommendations to the city that made my trip unforgettable.”
How do you reflect on your time at Harvard Business School?
“Looking back after ten years, I think my decision to attend HBS was a great one. It opened doors for me to live and work in places that would have been much harder for me, as a Canadian, to do on my own. I think a Harvard Business School MBA makes sense for someone who is looking to make a career change (geographically or functionally). If you are someone looking to do that, I would highly recommend it.”
Jonathan is the Chief Marketing Officer for Policygenius, America’s leading online insurance marketplace. He has also held senior marketing roles at Procter & Gamble and Live Nation. We will follow up with Jonathan in future to hear more about his professional journey.