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.