Although the pursuit of happiness may take many paths and even change over time…diversity matters, it always has and always will.
With increased awareness and prioritization of inclusion and diversity, the principles of this idiom are what John Burt has dedicated his life to.
John is the CEO and co-founder of JumpStart Advisory Group, established in 2004, a forward-thinking company that connects employers and academic institutions with highly qualified diverse candidates during three career phases (undergraduate and graduate school, and working professionals). Among their distinguished index of patrons are top universities who have been there since the beginning, such as Duke, Univ. of Chicago, Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, and their corporate client list includes Bank of America, Evercore, First Republic, Vista Equity Partners, Accenture, Bain, BCG, Deloitte, McKinsey, West Monroe, Google, Sephora, Beam Suntory, ConAgra, as well as many others.
Leaving his corporate career, John has led JumpStart’s business model across financial services, management consulting, consumer product goods, technology, and healthcare industries with clients in their pursuit of an inclusive and diverse culture. More notable still, JumpStart enables individuals to progress in their careers and students to advance their education.
Undoubtedly, John’s contributions to create an equal opportunity society, where diversity and inclusion is no longer a necessary labor, have been immeasurable, but his own journey was not without conflict. While his academic background may have been a catalyst to the formation of JumpStart, he was a graduate student during an unprecedented time in America—9/11. Several years later, following that catastrophe, John would be faced with two personal tragedies—the untimely and unfortunate loss of his son and, one year ago, his wife. They were grievous losses that impacted him deeply, both emotionally and professionally, leading to a reassessment of his life. He questioned how he would re-invent himself and remain productive as a businessperson, but more importantly, as a father to his two young daughters and adult son. Thankfully, with faith and support of many, John chose to endure, and more than that, to succeed and to uplift others in the process.
We spoke with John to learn more about his journey and how it led to the creation of a company whose sole aspiration is to democratize equality in every workplace, campus, and community.
John, what was the impetus for JumpStart?
While pursuing an MBA and transition into to professional services, I realized the need for advanced diversity and inclusion. My classmate, Elton Ndoma-Ogar, and I created a strategic approach to the job search process as MBA students, which resulted in 19 job offers. We published our strategies and then, realizing that others could benefit from them, we turned plan to practice.
Since co-founding JumpStart in 2004, you’ve held other roles that focus on diversity. Tell us a little about them.
As a co-founder of JumpStart, we had the opportunity to create something unique and address unmet needs of the marketplace at scale across industries, companies and thousands of individuals. For 7 years, I was a director of diversity for The Boston Consulting Group, a management consulting firm in the business of solving the most critical problems for clients. Throughout my 7+ year corporate finance career at Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company, I held six roles with increasing responsibility, including corporate global roles, business unit roles, and regional roles. Those line experiences included consideration for diversity initiatives. As an adjunct professor at three academic institutions, I was able to influence the classroom while bringing a diverse perspective of experiences as an African American male. I serve on the boards of the Indiana University Kelley School of Business Dean’s Council and The Oaks Academy. Previously, I served on the advisory board of the Ron Brown Scholars program. Each of these organizations had a diversity initiative.
How has JumpStart grown since its inception?
In 2004, we were a small startup with less than five clients. Today, we are a full-service diversity and inclusion (DNI) advisory firm that covers recruiting across undergraduate, graduate, and lateral hire career phases. We have earned ongoing relationships with many top tier clients across several industries and academic institutions. We impact the lives of thousands of diverse individuals who help each other and live the mission of JumpStart. Operationally, our staff and execution team are truly global in nature with people in the U. S., India, Philippines, and Toronto.
How has JumpStart effected change toward diversity and inclusion?
Problem-solving is at the core of our mission, and through it, we’ve been successful in penetrating many industries that were not typically known for DNI and preparing candidates for careers in those and other markets. Through our JumpStart network, which is a cooperative of talented professionals and students working in support of each other, we offer resources and opportunities for development.
What are your greatest professional accomplishments?
Although there are several professional accomplishments throughout my career, my view is more about concepts and themes. As a problem solver, advising several top tier clients and executives on initiatives that are important to them has been a focus of mine for several years. This includes business priorities as well as the evolution of how diversity and inclusion initiatives help us get there. Being a co-founder of an organization via JumpStart that has been able to remain viable and scale over 15+ years brings a smile to John Burt. My ability to influence as an individual contributor early in my career has taken different forms over time based on various roles as a leader, manager, owner, investor, and decision maker.
What drives you?
A pursuit of interests with elements of problem solving, curiosity and learning, continuous improvement, helping others, and smiling or laughing often while living my purpose in life represent what drives me. As a father of two young daughters and a grown son, frequent adjustments to be what is needed of me motivates me daily.
John holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Indiana University Kelly School of Business and received his MBA from Duke University School of Business.
Jumpstart Advisory Group