From FIELD to Field, Putting What I’ve Learned at HBS into Practice

If you asked me two months ago whether I learned anything during my first year at Harvard Business School, my response would have been a resounding “Yes!”  But, if you followed up by asking me for an example of how I applied the lessons I learned into practice, my response would have been a hesitant “Umm…”

The FIELD (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development) curriculum provided me an incredible opportunity to learn leadership skills not only in the classroom, but also through practical experience in Ghana and in Boston. However, at the end of Minh_HBSthe day, FIELD remains an exercise constrained within an academic environment. The question I asked myself was “How do I actually put what I learned to the test?”

As I was starting my summer internship in Zambia over seven weeks ago, I pondered “What am I bringing to the table that I would not have been able to had I not gone to HBS?” At that moment, the answer was not quite clear. However, as the days passed and the summer (technically, it’s winter here) progressed, it became clear that what HBS equipped me with was not the hundreds of cases I read and analyzed, as I will be the first to admit I will be the last to recall any of the case facts. Rather, it was the persistent pushing and prodding by my professors, section-mates, and discussion group members that I remember the most.

As I dove deeper into the managerial and operational issues of working in Zambia, I found myself asking whether the problems were really as simple and clear as they appeared at first glance. The many times I was pushed to justify my stance – from the morality and ethicality of pharmaceutical patents in the developing world to the negotiation tactics I would use with Steve Jobs – became constant reminders for me to go deeper than just the first layer of the metaphorical onion.

What I learned at HBS and what I have applied in Zambia was more than just root cause analysis or the typical “Five Whys” questioning. It requires combining a dose of empathy with an equal dose of traditional problem solving. Just as I had to put myself in the case protagonist’s shoes, trying to understand the motivations, pressures, and stakeholders influencing his/her decision making, I found myself standing in the shoes of our sales captains, sellers, and buyers. I forced myself to distinguish what the problems appeared to be and what they really are, as well as what the solutions should be and what they really could be given the real and practical constraints we face. This “method” of thinking has become my de facto mindset whenever I’m in the field with our sales team or in a meeting room with a multinational telecom.

There isn’t a simple list of “Things I’ve Learned at HBS and How You Can Apply Them Too,” because the skills I’ve learned, and am constantly honing, are those that can only be learnt through the experience of having been forced repeatedly to defend my logic despite knowing it was not perfect.

To end this post on a lighter note, my HBS experience also never lets me forget that having fun is just as important of a success metric as any other. Here are a couple snapshots to explain why I may never leave Zambia (more on Google +).

- Minh Chau, MBA 2015


Discovering a new organization and state as an intern

I have a tendency to plan rather far in advance (huge understatement), so I was pretty psyched to get the MBA intern calendar from Walmart in my email prior starting my internship.  Opening it was actually overwhelming- there is literally at least one training / tour / meal / happy hour / concert / festival / charity event / bike ride every single day for the whole summer!  I’m thankful that Walmart is helping us get to know the Northwest Arkansas area while we’re Stephanie_Post_2there, since they understand that not every MBA student is clamoring to move there full-time without a trial run.  I’ve spent the last 5 years in Boston taking road trips all over New England, so I am excited to explore a new area and enjoy the lakes and mountains in the region.  Maybe I’ll even drive the 45 minutes across the border to Oklahoma and see my 35th state…

As for time spent in the office, I’m excited about that too!  It will be a nice change from sitting in class each day, and I’m curious to see how different it is from my previous job.  I imagine the main difference will be the financial impact of any given project. Given Walmart’s scale, I expect to be amazed by the sheer magnitude of the numbers I’ll be seeing when I reunite with my friend, Microsoft Excel.   It will also be gratifying to apply some shiny new b-school knowledge to my project and further realize what I have gained from HBS in the past year.

- Stephanie Tupi, MBA 2015

Get First Year Students Excited About Your Company

Company Presentations are a great way to connect with students, to promote opportunities within your organization and to introduce your recruiting structure.  According to students, the best presentations include senior level executive presenters as well as an employee who is a recent business school graduate.  This combination of presenters provides a deeper understanding of your organization and insight into how students’ skills, experience, and career interest may fit within your company culture.


Connecting Fashion & Technology at Kate Spade

I found my internship with Kate Spade through Career & Professional Development’s collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Coming from management consulting where the recruitment process was very structured, this PL-Clock1was a totally different experience. February through April was filled with introductory calls and various trips to New York City and San Francisco. In the end, my interview with the Senior Director of Product Strategy here at the Kate Spade company went extremely well, and I was very excited to start the job after receiving the offer the very same day. With this internship, I hope to immerse myself with the fashion-retail industry in New York City and find out whether this is a career I want to pursue in the longer term.

This new division, Product Strategy, was launched just this year in January. The division is tasked with accelerating the growth of three categories of product: tech accessories, watches, and beauty across all three brands, Kate Spade New York, Kate Spade Saturday, and PL-Sat4  Jack Spade, and across all channels of distributions globally. I’m specifically in charge of the tech category this summer. Our goal is to optimize how we work on these specialized categories and to increase our sales and profitability while leading the day to day operations.  Currently we are evaluating existing business, researching new and relevant product categories, distribution, and partners, and identifying the appropriate modeling for the business. My work has involved some overlapping with friends from HBS who are interning for tech companies in San Francisco, and it has been great to be able to reach out to them.

The interplay between fashion and technology is still a new aspect of the industry, but it is a very exciting one with a lot of opportunities that are occurring at a fast pace. It is the perfect combination for me to work on this summer since I was focused on telecommunications, media and technology (TMT) clients prior to HBS, and I have always had an innate interest in fashion retail.

It is currently my third week and I am really enjoying myself. The company has a bright ‘sunshine-feel’ to it, with neon installations on all floors. It has been interesting to discover the different personalities of the three brands. I love working with the Senior Director who had previously interviewed me, along with the product development, design and marketing teams. I also participated in consumer electronic trade shows for the first time to discover new PL-Neon sign2products on the markets and look out for potential licensing partners for the company.  The Fashion Tech Forum was also very useful in connecting with different people who were in the tech and fashion space and getting to know the industry on a deeper level.

So far, this has been the perfect experience to work on some of the day-to-day decisions needed within the Product Strategy division and on my tech growth strategy project alongside as well.

- Proud Limpongpan, MBA 2015


Cambridge to Nairobi

I’m sitting in the outdoor veranda of an upscale café, sipping a perfectly made cappuccino and digging into a vegetarian quesadilla for lunch. It’s a pleasant 70 degrees and sunny, and all around me, young entrepreneurs are lost in their work – coding, tweaking UI designs, excitedly discussing business ideas with peers. At first glance it’s San Francisco—except that we’re 9,586 miles away, in Nairobi, Kenya.

This summer, I’m interning at Ushahidi, a non-profit technology company that uses crowdsourcing for social activism and public accountability. The company was one of the first to use “activist mapping”—a combination of citizen journalism and geospatial ihub-roominformation—to allow citizens to submit reports using their mobile phones or the internet to create a map-based account of events. Among other things, the platform has been used to monitor election violence in Kenya, disaster response in the Haitian earthquake, and collect eyewitness reports in Gaza and Somalia.

During my first year at HBS, I wanted to find a job that blended my previous experiences—technology and government—as well as provided new opportunities for learning. I first heard of Ushahidi while working for Google in 2010, and they had long been on my list of “dream companies to work for.” In the spring, I reached out to Ushahidi’s Business Development lead, interviewed, and received an offer. A few formals and five finals later, I found myself on a 16 hour flight to Nairobi.

As an intern, I’ll be doing a combination of product management and business development, helping the company to monetize and think through feature development of a new mapping platform. I’m thrilled by the opportunity and the level of responsibility I’ll have. I’ll be spending the first three weeks in “The Bat Cave,” the unofficial name of Ushahidi’s headquarters in Nairobi, before heading to San Francisco to work closely with the company’s business development team.

Beyond the internship, the environment is full of energy: the Nairobi office is located in the iHub, the heart of Kenya’s “Silicon Savannah,” and a nexus of African innovation and tech startups. With so much economic growth in Africa, a rising Kenyan middle class, and staggering levels of internet and mobile phone penetration relative to GDP per person (this is after all, the country that invented M-Pesa), it’s an exciting time to be in Nairobi. With the next three months stretching before me, the experience feels a bit like the Swahili word that Arab traders used to connote a long journey—a safari. I look forward to sharing a bit of my safari with you this summer!

- Jen Bullock, MBA 2015

GongKe center

Journey to my Summer Internship

I started my internship search with an amorphous criterion of “something different”. Having worked in high tech and consulting so far, this definition only eliminated two, albeit large industries, leaving still endless number of exciting opportunities around the world. Several company presentations and interviews later, it was clear that I needed to narrow down my focus.

In a conversation with my HBS career coach, she asked me “what would be your ideal internship?” “Well”, I said “perhaps something that allowed me to learn a new industry, strengthen or develop a weak skill… while allowing me to be with my family for the summer.” GongKeAs soon as I said that, I realized that it was the right fit and reflected what was most important to me. Guided by those criteria, I narrowed down my search to roles in the Boston area that would allow me to improve skills where I was weak or experience marketing, operations or sales.

As luck would have it, I interviewed with Danaher, a global science and technology company with operating companies in many different industries and locations. They had a marketing role open at Beckman Coulter Genomics located in the nearby town of Danvers, MA. I hadn’t heard about Danaher prior to the job search process and wanted to find out more about this company. So I reached out to current and past students who have worked at the company in full-time and internship positions and spoke to my hiring manager at length about their experiences and expectations, respectively. I was impressed by the amount of impact that interns can have and even more so, Danaher was well regarded for developing their associates into senior leadership positions.

By the time I received the offer from Danaher, I was very excited to face the challenge of working in a new industry and invigorated by the steep learning curve that it represented. My hiring manager at Danaher also shared with me the internal process for defining internships and criteria of a successful internship. I appreciated the thoughtfulness that went into the selection and scoping of the internship projects. It was clear that Danaher expected real useful work to be done in the summer which was exactly what I wanted to do!

I accepted the offer shortly afterwards and closed the chapter of my summer internship recruitment, elated.

-Gong Ke, MBA 2015



Recruiting Millennials in a Global Market

The recruiting landscape is in constant flux and influenced by numerous external factors. The financial crisis several years ago was a global event that affected all of us directly. But more often than not there are subtle changes that impact an organization’s efforts to identify and retain top talent. Organizations need to be nimble and stay ahead of the curve to effectively target the right candidates through methods that appeal to them. As an international educator who has worked with college-aged students and young professionals from across the globe for more than 20 years, I have witnessed first-hand the transition from serving and advising both Generation X and Generation Y. And while all individuals are different, members of each generational group share common characteristics that shape their behaviors and desires and result in different motivations for success and happiness in the workplace.


Generation X: The Digital Migrants

Born in 1967, I came of age during a key digital revolution in the United States. In the late 1970s my friends and I were playing video games on consoles attached to our televisions. By the early 1980s we were using Commodore 64 or Apple II computers in our homes, withdrawing cash from ATMs for the first time, and learning BASIC in school. By the mid-1980s we were replacing our LPs with CDs and by the late 1980s we ditched our typewriters for PCs. The digital revolution had started a few decades before but it did not really begin to impact the daily lives of mainstream America until the 1980s and 1990s; this was the catalyst for the way technology has come to shape our everyday lives today. As a result, Generation X were some of the earliest adopters of new technologies in the workplace like e-mail, the first instant messaging that would come to revolution and define social media in a few years. As digital migrants, Generation X immigrated to a working world that required the use of technology to survive and to get ahead and we were the first-adopters of these internet-based technologies in the workplace.

For the full article on Generation X and Y, and the impact they’re having within the recruiting landscape, see page 86 of the April National HRD Publication.


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