Alumni in Action
“The reward of working every day on behalf of historically underserved students to ensure that they have access to a quality education is far more important than making half a million dollars.”
Jimmy Henderson - 2007 DC Metro Area
Spotlight on Jimmy Henderson
Jimmy began his career in strategic planning for the Energy Services division of General Electric, and then moved to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) where he was a business strategy consultant for three years. At BCG Jimmy focused on consumer products, retail services and industrial goods clients. In addition to these projects, Jimmy worked with the Georgia Department of Education on several occasions. While at BCG Jimmy taught an experimental elective course at the Georgia Institute of Technology entitled 'creative leadership' for first year students. Jimmy Henderson
Chief Operating Officer, E.L. Haynes Charter School
Education Pioneers Graduate Fellow, 2007 (DC Metro Area)
Fellowship Placement: New Leaders for New Schools
Education: MBA and MA Education, Stanford University
Changing Course: A Calculated Risk Yields Significant Rewards
Education Pioneers Alumnus and Stanford MBA Jimmy Henderson
steps off the consulting path to transform education
As an Education Pioneers Fellow, Jimmy Henderson found himself squarely in the middle of a revolution. It was the summer of 2007, and Washington, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty had just appointed Michelle Rhee ' an untraditional, dynamic, but polarizing school leader ' Chancellor of the DC Public Schools. The shakeup electrified the city and the education reform movement nationwide.
From the outside, it might seem an unlikely place for someone like Jimmy to be; after all, he'd had only slightly better than 50/50 odds to graduate high school, statistically speaking. The small, rural high school he attended in northwest Georgia had an abysmal graduation rate of 55%, and Jimmy was one of only a handful of students from his class who went on to a top-tier, four-year university. But then again, Jimmy was never one to be satisfied with the status quo.
Early on, Jimmy identified education was the key to his success, and he was determined to apply his skills in a meaningful way to education to better the odds for other students across the board. As an undergraduate at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Jimmy started a for-profit tutoring company, and later, while serving as a business strategy consultant for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), he taught a leadership class for scholarship freshman at Georgia Tech.
Make no mistake, though: Jimmy, an industrial engineering major who started his career in strategic planning for the Energy Services division at General Electric before becoming a business strategy consultant with BCG, expected the private sector to be his bread-and-butter.
"I took the BCG job because I wanted to get an MBA," Jimmy said. "Most top firms have a clear track and a well designed system to get there. I'd also learned the importance of credentials, and taking steps that would give me the most options professionally."
But even in the private sector, Jimmy found ways to work in education. One of his last projects at BCG before returning to graduate school was working with the Georgia Department of Education to improve organizational effectiveness among departments.
At Stanford University, Jimmy learned about Education Pioneers Graduate School Fellowship ' a professional opportunity unlike any he'd experienced previously ' and leapt at the opportunity to apply his business skills to make an impact on education on the ground level.
During his summer Fellowship, Jimmy served at New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS), where he was responsible for finding ways for NLNS to partner with DC Public Schools to ensure that every school had a high performing principal at the helm. He was surprised by the commonalities between his summer project and the work he'd done at BCG, as well as how enticing the nonprofit world was for him.
"I drew heavily on what I'd learned from BCG," he said. "Developing and managing strategic partnerships was something that I'd done regularly, and I was well prepared for the work. I was also impressed with the high caliber, the scrappiness and the tenacity of the people I met and worked with. I'd come in with false impressions about the sector, and those were quickly debunked."
While his summer project placed him directly into the high-stakes trenches of transforming education, the Fellowship's structured professional development workshops deepened his knowledge of the sector. Ultimately, the Fellowship permanently changed the course of his career.
When Jimmy returned to work at BCG after graduation, he found that something was amiss.
"There were a million things to keep me from the education work I wanted to do," he said. "I found myself working on projects in industries that I didn't care about."
Surprising himself most of all, Jimmy took a risk. In a leap of faith that contradicted everything he'd been taught about staying on the path of consulting, he accepted a role as Finance Director of E.L. Haynes Charter School in Washington, DC.
"It felt risky and countercultural to take a role at a charter school," he said. "Not to mention that the school wasn't a proven commodity at the time. But the professional network that I gained during my Fellowship gave me the insight I needed, that the head of the school was a fantastic leader, and that the school was headed in a very positive direction."
His risk paid off. Now the school's Chief Operating Officer, Jimmy realizes this is where he is meant to be. His work is the most imperative and meaningful of his career.
"The reward of working every day on behalf of historically underserved students to ensure that they have access to a quality education," he explained, "is far more important than making half a million dollars.'