Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Advice to the class of 2017

It's your time. You've worked hard to get to this moment, and now classes are about to start. Congrats, and welcome to RC year!

I have a few friends who will be joining the HBS class of 2017, and they have recently approached me for advice. I realized that some of this content may be helpful to the larger community, so I'm also posting it here.

1. Make an effort to form more than surface level connections.
At the start of your first year, your section will have a million social events. You'll chat with your  sectionmates and peers from other sections, and then you'll move on and chat with even moroe people. While it's great to get to know a ton of people, try to have conversations that go beyond the typical questions of "Where are you from?" and "What did you do before HBS?" These are the conversations that you'll remember later.

2. Don't stress about commenting in class.
At HBS, 50% of your grade is based on class participation. This means it's critical that you comment regularly in class. Most people suggest trying to comment once in every 2 or 3 classes. Early on, many people try to have the perfect comment. Honestly, there's no such thing. Just say what you believe, and don't be afraid to say something wrong. Your peers are there to support you. Despite the fact that grading is based on a curve, most people aren't actually trying to compete against one another. After the first few weeks, you'll start to understand this better. Also, the quality of comments will progress throughout the year. You don't have to be perfect on day one.

3. It's okay to over schedule yourself, but also take time to relax.
Are you interested in 10 different clubs? No problem, join them all. Want to finally try yoga? Awesome, there's a beginners class every Thursday afternoon. You'll probably see me there. Are you considering 50 different career fields? Cool, there are events for all of them. In business school, there are so many opportunities that it can, at times, become overwhelming. But don't be afraid to explore. Joining a club doesn't mean that you have to attend every meeting. In fact, it basically just means that you want to be on their email distribution list. You can then decide how involved you want to be. If you're the type of person that likes to constantly be doing something, that's great. If you're more like me and enjoy some alone time, that's okay too. Take advantage of the unique resources that you'll have for the next 2 years, but also make sure to take some time for yourself.

4. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Everyone at HBS is super smart. At times, however, that can make it challenging to ask for help. When everyone else seems to be understanding something, it's hard to be the person to say "I don't get it." But honestly, you're not the only one thinking it. HBS offers private tutoring (free) for all classes, and the more technical courses like finance and accounting offer weekly review sessions. In addition, your classmates are one of your best resources. If someone says a comment that you don't understand, invite them for coffee after class and chat about how they got their answer. This will help you understand the material, while also being a great way to form deeper relationships.

I also have given random advice about laptops, school supplies, dating, and other stuff, but these seem to be the topics most frequently asked.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A recap of a year at HBS

Oops, sorry. I really meant to update this blog months ago. Somehow, life got in the way. I'm now preparing for my second year (known as EC year) at HBS. A few followers have recently contacted me asking about my b-school experience, so over the next few days/ weeks, I'll be posting various updates, musings, or learnings.

Random musing #1. The section experience is awesome. 
During your first year, all of your classes are taken with the same group of 90 peers. You sit in the same assigned seat everyday, and the professors rotate (yes, it's kind of like elementary school). One of my concerns in choosing HBS was its massive size. Would I feel lost in the crowd? How could I form meaningful relationships when there are 900 people per year? The section experience takes care of these issues, and the program begins to feel much smaller. Its a unique mix of the resources of a large program, combined with the intimacy of a smaller program.

#2 The case method works
Before HBS, I took Financial Accounting and Microecon courses at a local university. Not coming from a traditional business background, I wanted to have some insight into these basic principles. Within a few months of finishing those courses, I remembered very little (virtually none) of the details. At HBS, I took courses in a variety of fields. While I don't remember every nuance, I frequently find myself referencing cases. If I say "Apple and Einhorn," "cranberries," "Tesla," or "Martha Stewart," I bet that 90% of my peers would know what I'm talking about. Cases provide a real-life story to put key learnings in context.

#3 Second years are unicorns
Second year students are on completely different schedules than first years, meaning there is very limited interaction. And when I did see them, they always seemed significantly less stressed and with more free time. Especially at the beginning of my first year, they were like unicorns, a bit rare and mythical. I interacted with them a bit through clubs and social activities, but for the most part, first year students tend to stay within their sections. I'm curious to see what life will be like for me this coming year.

I'll post other thoughts in additional posts later. In the meantime, feel free to leave any comments below if you'd like me to discuss a particular area.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Congrats to HBS Round 1 Admits!

For those of you who got the golden ticket on Wednesday, congratulations! I still remember the sense of exhilaration and awe I felt after logging in to the portal and seeing "It's a yes!" It was a long journey for me, but it was definitely worth it.

A couple pieces of advice:
  • If you are deciding between multiple offers, go with your gut. Also, feel free to reach out to me (Send a PM on GmatClub, if you want to chat about the decision-making process).
  • Attend ASW. It's a great chance to meet other admits (some of the people whom I'm closest with now, I met during ASW).
  • Stay on top of the HBS checklist. There will be a million things you have to do between now and August, should you decide to enroll. The checklist felt never-ending (they'll continue to add new stuff). Pay attention and be mindful of deadlines.
  • Spend this weekend celebrating your success. You made it! You accomplished something awesome. 
Whelp, I need to keep this post short. We're in the middle of both finals and recruiting, so there's a lot to be done.

Congrats again!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Apologies for the delay

Eeek! I'm super embarrassed by how long it's been since I've updated this blog. Well, that should tell you how busy life has been. There are only a few days left in my first semester at HBS. In fact, my first final is in just 12 days.

I'll try to recap the last few months, but there's way to much to fit in one post, so I'll just give you some general impressions.

Classes have been both more and less stressful than I imagined. Because 50% of our grade is based on participation and cold calls are a common occurrence, it's virtually impossible to slack in class. The Case Method brings an unparalled sense of energy. Debates amongst peers are commonplace and encouraged, and reflective of the real world. (Although, I must admit, there are times where I wouldn't mind a lecture or two in finance). But anyway, I spend hours reading cases each night, followed by a one-hour meeting with my discussion group every morning. All in the hopes that I will be called on to contribute one hopefully-somewhat brilliant comment in class. However, other elements of class are pretty low-key. For example, the midterm for one of my classes was un-graded, and we had a group project for another class.

Besides classes, I'm also currently in the midst of corporate recruiting for summer internships. Over 200 companies are interviewing on campus in January, and many more have submitted job postings. It's a bit overwhelming, but also pretty exciting.

I've also joined several clubs, including the Social Enterprise Club, where I've been able to meet a bunch of other do-gooders :-)

All-in-all, I'm having a really great start to my MBA experience.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The busy life

Things are starting to ramp up. It's weird, I thought that my first 3 weeks of HBS were hectic. I can't remember the last night I actually was able to get 8 hours of sleep. Everyday seems filled to capacity -- from time spent in class and with my discussion group, to preparing cases, to study groups and review sessions, to dinners with my sectionmates, to countless parties.

Yet, I'm realizing that this has likely been the most relaxing time of my first year, because now, clubs are kicking off. Amongst the 90+ student clubs at HBS, I have to decide which ones I want to join, and whether I want to run for an officer position. Right now, I'm thinking about joining the Social Enterprise Club, and there are several more that I'm considering, including Board Fellows, and the Harbus Foundation.

In addition to those activities, we're now also gearing up for recruiting. This coming week, there's an event called Career Teams. Apparently about 600 first year students participated last year and it's supposed to be incredibly helpful. Plus, our officially-formatted HBS resumes must be submitted to the career development office soon. These resumes will go into the large Resume Book that is seen by employers/recruiters.

So anyway, despite the fact that I'm severely sleep-deprived and I know that things will only become more intense, I'm still ridiculously excited about what's ahead of me for this first year at HBS.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Round 1 Applicants -- Do this

Eek, it's almost time to finally press "Submit" on your application!

You're stressed and tired and likely feeling anxious. Take a moment to breathe. If you've been focusing on your app for multiple hours, walk away for a bit. Spend some time re-focusing your energy, then come back later to proofread. Make sure you are telling a compelling story that shows how you will contribute to the HBS classroom experience and one that highlights your leadership potential. The admissions committee isn't looking for the next great author, so your writing doesn't have to be award-winning... but don't be sloppy. Watch out for typos and check your grammar. Consider having a friend or colleague review your essay. After that, take Dee Leopold's advice and "don't overthink it." Press "Submit," and then go celebrate. You deserve it.

Friday, September 5, 2014

#LifeAtHBS

The admissions team is running a social media campaign called "Life at HBS." Based on feedback from prior years, it seems that applicants are really interested in what life is really like at HBS. They've asked us current students to use the hashtag #LifeAtHBS on many of our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc posts. So, if you haven't already checked it out, it'll give you something to do after you submit your application and are looking for a distraction for the next 3 weeks until interview invites are released (I wish they had this when I applied!).

In the spirit of that campaign, I'm writing more about my life at HBS. Here are a couple of basics:

All first year students (known as RCs), take 6 classes the first semester:
  • TOM: Technology Operations Management: This is basically an operations class
  • FRC: Financial Reporting and Control: This is an accounting class, but HBS likes to use fancy names
  • LEAD: This is a class on leadership and is often cited by alums as one of the most important classes they took
  • MKT: Marketing: This name is pretty straightforward
  • FIN: Finance: We won't officially start our finance classes until next week
  • FIELD: This is a three-part course that spans the entire first year. In Field 1, the focus is on interpersonal dynamics and teamwork. In FIELD 2, we'll all travel to developing countries to consult on a good or service for a company. Lastly, in FIELD 3, we'll work in small teams and get a couple thousand dollars from HBS to launch a start-up.

We're typically in class from around 8am-3pm, followed by activities, events, speakers, meetings with professors, and review sessions. Then, we spend a few hours each evening preparing for the following day's cases. Amidst all of that, we often have group dinners or go out for drinks. There are also multiple campus parties each week. All-in-all, we are often sleep-deprived, but the experience has been pretty freakin' amazing.