From the time he got his first computer in middle school – an IBM Aptiva complete with a DVD encyclopedia featuring actor Patrick Stewart in the introductory video – Jonathan Evans was hooked on technology. Years later, after graduating from college, Jonathan combined his first love with “a desire to connect people” by joining Means For Dreams, an early independent offshoot of DonorsChoose.org, a consumer website that pioneered peer-to-peer philanthropy.
“I joined as the first employee, when it was a brand-new start-up,” says Jonathan. “I was completely fascinated by the way it was redefining philanthropy by connecting people, one by one, to ideas that spoke to them.” Over a period of three years, the organization grew. “We added staff, an office, then merged with DonorsChoose.org. I learned a lot about due diligence and operations. When I transferred to the parent company, we had to expand from serving eight schools to serving schools nationwide. To scale the technology, I assembled and managed a team and was charged with managing partnerships with people twice my age.”
Connected by a drive to make an impact
The sudden growth inspired Jonathan to consider business school. “I knew that there were a lot of things I could do better as a leader, a manager, and as a strategic thinker,” Jonathan says. While he investigated multiple MBA options, “nothing came close to HBS. I visited a classroom, and I remember having to sit on my hands because I wanted to be part of the discussion. I knew right then this was the kind of school for me: The case study method brings real business problems, real leadership problems, to life.”
So much of the vitality of the case experience comes from the quality of the students themselves. “I’m humbled every day by the breadth and depth of their experience. We can have a case about a cranberry factory and someone will stand up and talk about agriculture operations. We can talk about governance in Africa and a student from Nigeria will speak from his experiences. When you combine the cases with this kind of diversity, it raises the level of conversation.”
Yet Jonathan finds unity within the diversity. “The thread that connects students here is a true desire to make an impact on the world, in whatever field they’re passionate about,” he says. “When I was twelve, my father died in a commercial plane crash. Every day I try to live out his legacy – it drives my desire to use the power of technology to connect people and businesses together, to allow people to share and be heard.”