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Talking to a Harvard Alum

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Talking to a Harvard Alum [#permalink] New post 25 Mar 2013, 07:30
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Working for a big consulting firm has the benefit of easy access to alums from some of the best schools around. I met with a Managing Director in the Capital Markets Strategy group to talk about Harvard Business School. You can read the full thing here

1. Me- How did you end up at HBS and what has your path been since then?

Harvard Alum (HA)- I applied to and got a deferred admission to HBS during my Senior year in Undergrad. Why did I go to business school? Back then the corporate culture was a little different: you needed an MBA to advance up the ranks. While some of that still holds true, things have changed since then and there are plenty of successful executives and entrepreneurs without MBA's. So I would say my decision to go to business school was influenced by circumstance.
Having said that, the MBA degree holds more value today because the schools have become more focused on teaching specific skills. Of course this also means they only want to attract students that want to learn those specific skills.
But anyway, I digress. I graduated from HBS and sort of...

2. Was strategy consulting always something you wanted to do?

HA - I was always interested in strategy. But no, I think my career path has been more of a function of being in the right place at the right time. The pattern that tends to follow is: I go into internal strategy for my employer, we end up getting acquired, and then I work for strategy for the acquirer.
For example, I was working for a smaller bank doing strategy for them. We got to a point where we thought we had bought up everything around Boston and figured out it was time to sell. So we got acquired by a larger bank. They ended up firing my boss because they wanted to bring in their own strategy guys. That left me without a boss - technically I was reporting to the CEO but I wasn't doing a whole lot. So I decided to quit and ended up doing strategy somewhere else.

3. You mentioned that the “value” of an MBA has changed. Can you talk more about that?

HA - As I said, traditionally to climb the corporate ladder you needed an MBA. But today you can get very far without one as well. So it is no longer a check box you need and prospective students should consider the cost and benefit of an MBA. Besides the direct financial cost, there are opportunity cost of added experience and lack of income during your tenure at school.
Having said that, the benefits are big as well. You do learn a lot while at Business School. Also, there is generally a pay rise after an MBA. But there are non-monetary benefits as well. You develop an amazing network of friends. Many people also meet their spouses at B-School, so that's there as well...

4. What kinds of networks did you develop at Harvard?
HA - I met some very interesting people there, of course. I keep in touch with a few of them and of course that does help. People are very open to talking to fellow HBS Alums - especially if you reach out with an HBS email. You have access to all the Alums from Harvard which is huge - but I am sure most schools have that nowadays. The difference of course is that Harvard probably has Alums in higher places than compared to most other schools, but ...

5. Can you talk more about the Case Method and how has that helped you in your career?

HA - I found it very useful. You get to solve problems in an environment where making mistakes is acceptable so you can learn from them. It teaches you how to think creatively and definitely helps in consulting. I think people do recognize its value - for example Virginia is now a mini-Harvard...
Talking to a Harvard Alum   [#permalink] 25 Mar 2013, 07:30
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