“Young People Have the Capacity To Do Important And Meaningful Things”
Alumni Series #1: Jonty Katz
Meet Jonty Katz, a management consultant in McKinsey & Company’s Sydney office and former UN Youth National President. UN Youth Australia has shaped a large part of both Jonty’s personal and professional life.
From being encouraged by his debating coach to attend a NSW Evatt Round in Year 10, to being appointed as National President in 2017, Jonty is now part of our extensive alumni network and has taken the time to share his experiences with us!
As one of our longest-standing members, what kept you involved in UN Youth year after year?
The bit that made me keep coming back to UN Youth was that I felt I was always given so much by the organisation first as a high school student and later as a volunteer. I attempted to pay it forward by contributing something back to this organisation and leaving it in a better place than where I found it. I always felt that what I had contributed didn’t stack up against the continued gifts the organisation gave me in terms of the friendships it gave me, the personal development I got from it, the skills I learnt, and the experiences I had.
Every year in the organisation, I got more out than what I put in.
I never managed to make it square. I mean, I live in a share house that is comprised entirely of UN Youth people. My regular friendship group is still pretty much comprised of UN Youth alumni, so there’s definitely a friendship component that brought me back to the organisation each year.
What career advice would you give to our volunteer network?
There’s a wide set of skills that can be useful for young people to do what they want, I reflect that no one person can master all the skills you need for anything. It’s about finding what you can do well and what you enjoy, and hopefully one day I’ll figure out both of those things.
If any delegate or volunteer figures that out, let me know because I’m still not there just yet.
During your time at UN Youth, what were some of the most exciting parts you were involved in?
The process of getting the first diplomats tour set up. Although I can’t claim full credit for it, seeing the trip all the way through from a random thought to totally overhaul our Europe program, and then selecting delegates and taking them across Europe with convenors – that was an exceptional experience. Any success in the organisation was ultimately co-owned with the national executives and event convenors.
“there’s definitely a friendship component”
As Jonty recalls some of the exhilarating experiences we wondered what some of the most challenging aspects of his role entailed.
The most stimulating position I had in UN Youth was being the NSW President.
As the president, you’re making sure that firstly, all volunteers whether on the executive or events teams have the support they need. Secondly, that they’re not breaking any long-term relationships because they run an Evatt round incorrectly. And finally, at the same time making sure the events are actually successful.
I found the whole event convening experience of that year to be very challenging but ultimately worthwhile. The pay-off on the other side of it is you’ve had a hand in helping organise State Conference, Evatt, Voice, the collection of day Summits throughout the year. It’s challenging because of the sheer volume of things – but it makes you sort of look back and say wow I really did something. Real things actually happened as a result of all that time and effort.
Given your experiences, what skills have you developed that have benefitted you throughout your career?
As a business analyst at McKinsey & Company for the past two years, there are two main lessons from UN Youth from a variety of roles that have applicability in the workplace. You learn it’s not enough to be smart and hardworking, you have to be able to figure out what am I doing here that actually makes things happen in the real world.
You can spend hours talking about the best way to run an event but unless you actually go out there, book a venue, do the unglamorous work of convening or coordinating people or running a volunteer list, things may not get done. The work of getting things done in the real world isn’t necessarily as high minded as the sort of conceptual issues we teach our students about, but it requires a real and concrete set of skills that you get better at over time. UN Youth has such a high volume of those sorts of things happening, and you get really good at identifying what to do to make this thing happen.
The other main thing was UN Youth taught me a lot about how to manage people, I don’t mean manage them as being their manager, because your formal management capabilities in UN Youth even as the president are relatively limited.
But how do I make someone agree with me when we’re both on an executive together and I need their cooperation, how do I make their life easier and in doing so make my life easier. Those sorts of informal people management skills, I found useful in the workplace. Developing an intuitive sense of how people react to the work you’re doing and how to get them to help you out and help them out in return.
Tell us what an ideal 24 hours would look like for you?
I’d probably wake up at around 8 am. I’d lie in bed reading, roll out of bed to walk to brunch with friends, until about midday. I’d then read a book for a bit, spend some time on the computer, go for a walk, then honestly see more friends in the evening. I really do structure my life around eating, seeing friends and reading, and I like all of those three things quite a lot. Cliche like that, unfortunately.
If I recall correctly, back in 2015 you shared a Facebook list of the 52 books you read that year. How did that come about?
I was inspired by a former youth rep and a very good friend of mine through UN Youth, to read 52 books in 52 weeks. Honestly, I found the goal to be particularly helpful. In 2014, I had the goal of ‘read more’ and I read maybe 10 or 12 books. When I had the goal of ‘I’m going to read a book a week’, I set time aside for it and I prioritised it against other things. I thought it would drop off when I started working hectic hours but I found that I need something to do to calm down or to focus or just to enjoy myself. Every year I post a list on Facebook of the books I read that year and encourage everyone who does the challenge to do it as well because that’s how I get more book recommendations.
My go-to book recommendation for someone looking for something really engrossing is called ‘Bad Blood’ by John Carreyrou.
Why do you think UN Youth had such a strong impact on you?
The actual thing that distinguishes UN Youth from a lot of other youth-focused organisations, we have the opportunity to hold consultations with young Australians through the youth rep program, which is about centring the voices of young people about issues that matter, But what distinguishes UN Youth from comparable organisations that care about young people is that UN Youth walks the walk.
What I always found so distinctive is that literally everything is done by people under the age of 25.
The thing that always struck me about UN Youth is that we said we believe that young people had the capacity to do important and meaningful things and we extended that to every part of the organisation. In doing so, UN Youth provided really important grounds for people to figure out and learn really important skills that would help them later in their careers but also to learn really important skills that they could then put to use to whatever they thought was most important both within and beyond the organisation. I still find that incredibly impressive.
I know quite a few people who took the skills they learnt in UN Youth and used them as a springboard to get involved in issues they really cared about beyond the organisation as well.
Like, the real management of the organisation is done by a 23-year-old university student who everybody calls old in the organisation!
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