Strategy Alum Charles Barrett Keeps Climbing

Whether it be climbing the tallest mountains in Europe and Africa or climbing the ladder toward a successful business career, Charles Barrett, a 2009 graduate from the Marriott School strategy program, reaches the top one step at a time.

Barrett, a former McKinsey & Company employee who did some consulting in Africa, will spend the next three years in a dual-degree program as an MBA candidate at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and as an MPP candidate at Harvard Kennedy School.

Barrett’s journey to this point hasn’t been easy—starting with his graduation from BYU at the height of the Great Recession.

“At that time, no one was recruiting,” Barrett remembers. “After fifty to one hundred applications and so many interviews, nothing was happening.”

Though he received rejection after rejection, Barrett says he never stopped applying for new opportunities.

“I kept applying myself and consistently pushing through even when I was rejected,” he says.

Eventually, Barrett was offered an internship with Innosight, an innovation and strategy consulting firm—which provided crucial momentum for future opportunities, and for which he was well-prepared.

Barrett used the tools he gained in the strategy program to work hard in that first internship. His work with Innosight led to his next step: a job at McKinsey as a business analyst.

“Thanks to the strategy program, I was able to hit the ground running,” Barrett says. “I did really well in my first setting not because I was smarter, but because the learning curve was less steep for me. The program really helps you to plop down on day one and start contributing value right away.”

Working at McKinsey helped Barrett find his path. He always had an interest in poverty alleviation, particularly in Africa, and McKinsey had connections with the Ethiopian government. After a year with McKinsey, Barrett flew to Ethiopia, where he worked for the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency as an international consultant, coordinating loans and analyzing finances for local farmers and agricultural development.


Charles Barrett in rural Ethiopia with local farmers.

On his return from Ethiopia in 2014, Barrett joined Vivint as a project manager for a software originally called Space Monkey. After leaving Vivint in March, Barrett returned to Africa, this time working in Uganda. While there, he worked with a startup business called SafeBoda, transforming and innovating the transportation around Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city.

Being an outdoors enthusiast, Barrett couldn’t return home from his travels without climbing the tallest summits in Africa and Europe: Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Elbrus, respectively. His other hobbies include keeping up with his favorite sports teams, reading, and watching TV.

“I am a sports junkie,” Barrett says. “I love reading, and I probably watch way too much TV.”

While at Stanford, Barrett is continuing to prepare himself for the next career peak to climb. He believes graduate school will help him increase his professional network, especially when it comes to finding people interested in working in Africa.

“I want to eventually work actively to help alleviate poverty in Africa,” Barrett says. “This could take several different forms: start businesses that employ people, help multinational companies expand into those markets, or impact investing.”

As for Barrett’s next literal peak, he says, “While in California, I’ve got to do Mount Whitney.”