Illustrated portrait of Megan McArdle, MBA’01

(Illustration by Jordi Ferrándiz)

Megan McArdle, MBA’01

Questions for the  Booth alumna and Washington Post columnist. 

What surprising job have you had in the past?

Maid at one of the old Catskills hotels, just like in Dirty Dancing except that all the guests were over the age of 60. The women called me “Millie,” after a maid one of them had once, and taught me Israeli folk dancing.

What would you want to be doing if not your current profession?

Kitchen designer and registry consultant, combining my passion for kitchen gadgetry with my irresistible impulse to tell other people what they ought to do.

What do you hate that everyone else loves?

Cooked fish, which is, alas, perilously close to the official food of my demographic.

What do you love that everyone else hates?

Jerks. Too many institutions are currently suffering from an epidemic of niceness run amok.

What was the last book you finished?

The Canceling of the American Mind: Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All—But There Is a Solution by Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott. For my review, see my previous answer.

What was the last book you recommended to a friend?

Sick Societies: Challenging the Myth of Primitive Harmony by Robert Edgerton. I used to assume that all social institutions must have some useful purpose, even if that purpose was lost to the mists of time; Edgerton taught me otherwise.

What was the last book you put down before you finished it?

The Bible. I’ll get to the end eventually—I hear there’s a real banger of an apocalyptic finale.

What person, alive or dead, would you want to write your life story?

Robert Caro. I know he’d be thorough!

What’s your least useful talent?

Imitating Christian Slater. No, I cannot explain how I acquired this talent, or why; it just came to me one Saturday evening in late adolescence, and to this day remains the only impression I can do.

Tell us the best piece of advice you’ve received—or the worst.

“You can rewrite garbage. You can’t rewrite nothing.” This is my mantra every time I start a new piece.

What advice would you give to a brand-new Maroon?

Take a few classes in things you cannot imagine enjoying, because they offer the best chance of really broadening your outlook. Also, invest in a pair of really good snow boots.

What did you learn at UChicago that still benefits you today?

To approach every proposition by thinking “OK, what would make that not be true?”—especially the ones I most want to be true.

What’s your most vivid UChicago memory?

Austan Goolsbee using the Socratic method to bring 60 crestfallen MBA students to the realization that the TimeWarner/AOL megamerger was doomed to fail. We’d all spent interview season extolling its merits to all the banks and consultancies that had worked on the deal, and now we (deservedly) felt like fools.