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Dominic Barton was born in Kampala, Uganda in 1962. Barton's father was an Anglican missionary who helped develop a theology college in Uganda; his mother was a nurse. In his childhood, his family's house was occupied by general and future dictator Idi Amin, who was rising to power in Uganda at the time. At age seven, his family moved from Uganda to the community of Sardis, in the Canadian province of British Columbia. 
After graduating, Barton worked briefly as a currency analyst for N M Rothschild & Sons in London. In 1986, he was hired by McKinsey & Company to work in the company's Toronto office,  and worked from that office as a management consultant for eleven years. He was nominated to be a partner earlier than normal, but was not promoted to that level until his third attempt.
In 1997, Barton moved to the McKinsey office in Seoul. He enjoyed close relationships with the president and government of South Korea. He parlayed those relationships into a role running McKinsey in Korea from 2000 to 2004.
He served as chairman for McKinsey in Asia from 2004 to 2009, operating out of Shanghai. He co-edited a book of interviews based on his experiences in Asia, China Vignettes - An Inside Look At China,
Barton's experience in Asia ultimately made him a strong candidate in the firm election as global managing director.
In July 2009 he was elected to the position of Managing Director of McKinsey & Company, based on a vote of 400 senior partners. He was re-elected to a second three-year term in 2012 and a third term in 2015. He was replaced by Kevin Sneader in 2018.
On the 19th of June, 2018, Barton was named the 11th chancellor of the University of Waterloo, following his involvement in the HeForShe equity initiative.
Honors, awards, and civic and philanthropic activities