My Week at Harvard Business School
I had the opportunity to represent Birmingham-Southern College at the Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP). This immersive one-week, residential program offered ~160 rising seniors the opportunity to live the lives of Harvard Business School (HBS) MBA students.
One of the four integral components of HBS’s signature Case Study Method is individual reflection following each class, and in retrospect, I want to share my own of this past week with you.
The Life of an HBS MBA:
We were divided into two living-learning communities: Section A and B. Section A was the best, of course. ;)
We were then sorted into small groups of eight, which we met with bright and early each morning before the day’s classes.
From Starbucks C-suite executives to Beyoncé and Jay-Z, we stepped into the shoes of fourteen protagonists over the week and presented our own solutions on actual challenges and problems. We discussed domestic markets, as well as international ones.
Then, we brought our A-games to the broader classroom discussion, anxiously anticipating a “cold call” (the Socratic method) from the professor.
One of us was cold called by Helen Summers (a Harvard MBA alumna and the wife of Chicago’s treasurer). He was #shook. Only kidding. He killed it!
After learning of a 5% acceptance rate, I asked myself, “Am I good enough – even smart enough to be here?” I’m so glad I was able to push those anxieties aside and lean in because the risk paid off, and this is what happened:
I connected with students from different backgrounds, offered my own perspectives in classes, and laughed with strangers who have since become family.
One important lesson I learned reflecting on this week is that when deliberating multi-million dollar decisions, diverse perspectives are not only needed – but are necessary. The varied backgrounds and stories each student brought to the table were uniquely different, but essential. It’s amazing how our own ideas and recommendations can shift when we respectfully listen with open minds to others’ opinions. Mine surely did. And when we combine, not marginalize, viewpoints – we have the potential to maximize our outcome.
It was intimidating at first to see how every student was talented and wildly successful, especially in their early careers; some worked for blue chip companies (the Apple’s and Goldman Sachs’ of the world). However, I found each and every one to be brilliant and driven, while also humble and genuine. Those are rare combinations, but when you think about it, those amalgamations are the ones that exist in effective leaders.
SVMP stretched my mindset and worldview in ways I never fathomed because of these vast perspectives. The students brought their appetites to learn and fires in their bellies to make a difference in the world, which created a transformative culture.
World-renowned professors like Anita Elberse (an expert on the business of entertainment, media, and sports and author of Blockbusters) the genuine admissions staff (who worked tirelessly for us) and the generous donors were also all integral parts of the formula that made this experience enlightening.
I am so grateful.
Some Free Advice:
About two years ago, I had a few “friends” tell me I wouldn't make it to Harvard. On the contrary, I have been fortunate to have many supportive ones in my life who constantly encourage and push me to reach my goals. How does this apply to you?
Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.
Nothing is out of your reach when you have great people in your life.
You may not be chasing the b-school dream, but whatever your passions: chase them with persistence and heart, with relationships that push you towards your goals and being the best you possibly can. Society will sometimes stand in your way. Some folks will exit your life as a lesson or stay as a blessing. Use both as a catalyst to propel you forward. Let go of anyone who is a lesson, and channel the anger for your own good. Find those who believe in you, and keep them close. Great relationships take work, so roll up your sleeves. And as you rise, lift others.
I am thankful for the relationships forged over this past week. As I continue to chase my dreams, I feel empowered by 160 other beautiful souls. We all returned to our corners of the nation on Friday, but now I have an excuse to travel even more. :)
Thanks again for the mems, Harvard Business School.