Category Archives: Alumni Stories

A New Way to Recruit

When I was a student at HBS, I spent a lot of time discussing my career with classmates who were interested in learning about my experiences working in venture capital, or as a summer intern at a start-up.

HBS coffee chats are a great way to understand how to find opportunities in a given field, day-to-day responsibilities in those fields, and how those positions may affect one’s career trajectory. As HBS students, we are all extraordinarily lucky to be part of a talented group of professionals willing to share our experiences and advice with one another.  Unfortunately, most people are not as fortunate. Starved of the peer set we sometimes take for granted, most job candidates are forced to rely on google searches, and questionable third-hand accounts of how to procure and succeed at the jobs that interest them.

I started working on LifeGuides a year ago while still in business school.  We set out to democratize career-related knowledge, so that anyone could understand whether a given career path was right for them, how to successfully pursue that path, and  how those efforts could affect one’s long-term career trajectory.

Nearly a year after starting this journey, LifeGuides now features nearly two thousand pieces of content, most of which comes straight from employees at top companies.  By having such a prominent presence on the site, LifeGuides offers a unique way for businesses to recruit the proactive, well-informed candidates that are already searching for detailed career information through LifeGuides.

Furthermore, LifeGuides allows corporate recruiters to convey their opportunities in far greater depth than is currently available via a careers site or LinkedIn posting.  This is a pitch that has resonated with companies, and we’ve signed on some great corporate partners as we continue to grow.

Were it not for my HBS experience, I would never have founded LifeGuides.  Even as an alumnus, the Harvard community continues to support this audacious goal by providing office space at the Launch Lab.  With an HBS classmate as our head of content and section mates as our initial contributors, the HBS community remains a driving force behind our very encouraging growth.

At LifeGuides, we’re excited to provide a new  opportunity for job seekers to understand various career paths, in addition to offering great companies a new opportunity to communicate with the most thoughtful candidates in the job marketplace.  Check out our guides, mentors and companies.   Or, if you’re interested in using LifeGuides to recruit talent, feel free to send me an email at phil@lifeguides.me.

– Phil Strazzulla, MBA 2014, LifeGuides Founder

Alumni: Where are they now? Featuring Robert Leke…

RLCurrent Position: Senior Associate, Tana Africa Capital

Current Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Tell us what you’re up to these days. I maintain a position at the same company I joined shortly after my graduation from HBS in 2012. I work at Tana Africa Capital (Tana), an Africa-focused investment firm targeting businesses in the consumer-driven and agriculture-based sectors. My time with Tana has been nothing short of a thrill. I am grateful for the exposure and experiences gained over the past 2+ years, evaluating and executing on investment opportunities in over 10 countries across the continent. Given the lean team structure at Tana, every team member is encouraged to continuously stretch himself/herself into roles of greater responsibility and influence. This has afforded me the opportunity for great learning, as well as great challenges. Traveling in the frontier markets of Africa clearly places one at the forefront of the socio-economic difficulties confronting the region today. However, I continue to be amazed by the profound determination and optimism which I discover in the people I meet: hope for a better Africa has never been stronger. Other than work, I have taken up more reading and enjoy exploring the gradual rebirth of Johannesburg’s once-derelict downtown neighborhoods.

How has having an MBA impacted your career? Obtaining an MBA has impacted my career in more ways than I would have imagined on my graduation day. Experiencing the case method has greatly enhanced my ability to unravel complexity in the midst of a challenging conversation, and contribute in a timely manner with relevant input which moves the conversation forward. Given the broad geographic reach of the HBS alumni network, I can gain from their hospitality – as well as learn from their experiences – in several cities where I travel. Finally, I have had the opportunity to maintain touch with some professors who have served as invaluable advisers during important junctures in my career thus far.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where will the next chapter take you? I enjoy working with African businesses, providing support wherever necessary, to grow them in a sustainable manner. I do not foresee this interest changing over the next 5 years. I intend to continue growing my career at Tana, learning from its leaders and the increasing responsibilities which they offer to younger members of the team. I hope to one day help in building this investment firm into one which is known for its hands-on management approach, patient capital and deep knowledge in the sectors within which we operate in Africa.

– Robert Leke, MBA 2012

Tap into HBS Alumni Talent

Over 100 alumni who graduated between 20 and 45 years ago connected with our office while on campus for Fall reunions a few weeks ago. Proving to be as driven as the day they graduated, this dynamic group of alumni expressed interest in a wide variety of opportunities from joining a board to weighing new job offers and actively seeking new roles.

While many of our recruiting partners think of our school as a place to recruit students for summer internship and post-graduate full time opportunities, we thought this was a great opportunity to remind you, our partners, that our alumni are an extraordinary group of individuals with diverse backgrounds and interests that would add value to your organization.

If you are recruiting for a mid-level manager, senior leader, or even C-suite executive, we encourage you to visit Career Hub. Once there you can post a job or view a resume book of all alumni actively seeking new roles.  You may also want to visit the Harvard Business School Education Page on LinkedIn to find relevant alumni in your sector. Additionally, contact our office at any time to discuss best practices.  Our industry experts can help you devise a recruiting strategy specific to your hiring needs.

– Scott Renner, Associate Director, HBS Career and Professional Development

HBS Social Enterprise Initiative Visits NYC

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SEI visits with HBS Club of New York leaders and Summer Fellows the Club is supporting.

A lot can be achieved through emails, phone calls, and meetings, but being in the field helps broaden perspectives. The HBS Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) did just that – when Matt Segneri, Director, and Margot Dushin, Director of Programs, took a field trip to New York City over a couple of days in July, to visit Social Enterprise students and alumni.

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Lunch with Larry Ackman (MBA ’63) and Summer Fellows he is supporting.

Within SEI, we have a lens before fellowships start, when we receive student applications for the Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship or when HBS selects opportunities for HBS Leadership Fellows. We also work closely with students, alumni, and organizations after the fellowships, to hear about experiences. Seeing students and alumni during their fellowships brings us an entirely different angle. They may have just come from a brainstorming session or have on their mind a presentation to senior management coming up next week, and we get a peek into their day-to-day roles and the impact they are having.

HBS Social Enterprise Summer Fellows:

Urvesh Shelat, MBA 2015, arrived with a hardhat in hand for our breakfast with the HBS Club of New York, the fellowship sponsor for his summer internship. Working with New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, he often finds himself going between on-the-ground construction sites and strategic planning meetings at the central office with the Recovery and Resiliency group – a team that started in 2013 in response to the effects of Hurricane Sandy to make the system more resilient against adverse weather and climate change impacts. Urvesh was motivated to pursue this internship by his belief, as he explained, “that efficient and reliable transportation is a critical public service, and that it stands to become only more important as the U.S. population returns to urban centers from the suburbs and as environmental consciousness grows. My mission is to pursue a career improving public transportation, and this summer experience, which is more operational than my previous management consulting and transportation analytics work, is giving me greater skills and insights to manage a system in future.”

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Jacob Cohen, New York City Department of Education

We met with Jacob Cohen, MPP/MBA 2016, at his internship with the New York City Department of Education (DOE), between meetings he had scheduled with staff throughout the organization.DOE serves more than 1.1 million students and their families in over 1,800 schools, and Jacob is playing a critical role with senior leadership in the Office of Student Enrollment in mapping and documenting current admissions/enrollments processes to advance the efficiency of daily operations. Jacob told us, “The Education Pioneers fellowship and my placement at the DOE is providing me with an opportunity to work directly with an education agency on the types of strategic issues that have the potential to impact thousands of kids and entire communities.”

HBS Leadership Fellows:

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SEI director Matt Segneri and HBS Leadership Fellows (past and present) at Harlem Children’s Zone

A visit to Harlem Children’s Zone connected us with three out of four HBS alumni who are current or alumni Fellows through the HBS Leadership Fellows program, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a select group of graduating HBS students to experience high-impact management positions in nonprofit and public-sector organizations for one year at a competitive salary. Lauren Scopaz, MBA 2007, and Adam Zalisk, MBA 2013, shared how their roles have evolved since their Fellowship years, including Adam’s significant role in the HCZ transition team for their new CEO; and Christina Anderson, MBA 2014, spoke to her upcoming Fellowship year. Each has been working with senior leaders and playing a key role on HCZ’s strategic priorities going forward. Joining us in the conversation was Shana Brodnax, Senior Advisor of Quality Improvement and Strategic Planning, who noted that each of the alumni have “immeasurably enriched” the organization.

Thank you to students, alumni, and organizations for the chance to meet with you and learn more about your experiences in making a difference in the world!

Matt Segneri, Director, Social Enterprise Initiative
Margot Dushin, Director of Programs, Social Enterprise Initiative

ABOUT THE HBS SOCIAL ENTERPRISE INITIATIVE
The HBS Social Enterprise Initiative applies innovative business practices and managerial disciplines to drive sustained, high-impact social change. It’s grounded in the mission of Harvard Business School and aims to inspire, educate, and support leaders who make a difference in the world.

 

Alumni: Where are they now? Featuring Joe…

Chrysalix staff portrait of Joe BlairCurrent Position: Associate with Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital

Current Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Tell us what you’re up to these days.  I’m currently an Associate with Chrysalix, a leading early-stage venture capital firm focused on energy technology innovation. We identify promising breakthrough technologies that could have a real impact on energy-intensive industries like electric utilities, oil and gas, chemicals, and mining, and then provide financing to help build fast-growing start-up companies. As an Associate, I’m responsible for identifying high potential technologies, performing due diligence on prospective investments, conducting deep dives into new spaces and developing investment theses, helping our existing portfolio companies as a board observer, and supporting the firm’s fundraising process (as we are currently in the process of raising a new fund). I am fortunate to work with a world-class team of investors at Chrysalix and to work alongside an exceptional group of entrepreneurs and operators within our portfolio companies. I am motivated and inspired by my work because I have the opportunity to address the challenges of climate change and ensure a more sustainable energy future.

How has having an MBA impacted your career? Pursuing an MBA at Harvard has helped jumpstart my career in venture capital. Before HBS, I was an engineer at a large industrial technology company and then a business development associate with a venture-backed cleantech start-up. I had no prior experience in investing whatsoever. After learning more about finance in my course work and interacting with my classmates with investing backgrounds, I became attracted to a potential career in venture capital. My first stint in venture capital was as a Summer Associate with Cue Ball, a Boston-based venture capital firm started by HBS alumnus Tony Tjan. After a phenomenal summer at Cue Ball, I knew venture capital was a perfect fit for me. My current role at Chrysalix allows me to combine my two passions, venture capital and energy technology. Had I not attended Harvard Business School, this career change would have been much more difficult to achieve and it likely would have taken much longer to make such a transition. The HBS MBA opened my eyes to a new career path and then provided me with the skills and connections to get a “foot in the door.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where will the next chapter take you? I’ve definitely found my calling in venture capital. I feel like I could stay in venture capital for the next 5 years and still learn something new every day.  As long as I’m learning, I’m very happy. My ultimate goal is to become a partner at a venture capital firm and continue fostering breakthrough technological innovation and enabling great entrepreneurs to solve the world’s most daunting problems.

– Joe Blair, MBA 2013

BaubleBar Brought to Life, and Other Tales of Joining a Start-up

It’s Tuesday afternoon, March 4th.  A lively group of HBS students passionate about retail entrepreneurship sit in Aldrich 108, waiting.  Then “ping!” – up pop Julia Straus (HBS ’11) and Katharine Hill (HBS ’12) who both work at BaubleBar, the growing one-stop retailer for affordable jewelry, on the big screen.  Our virtual conversation is live!

Julia Straus (HBS '11)
Julia Straus (HBS ’11)

Julia is the Director of Business Development at BaubleBar, and oversees the company’s global digital and offline partnerships.  Before HBS, Julia never worked in retail, but had lots of good finance experience.  Katharine is the Director of Offline at BaubleBar, after stints in retail and finance.  Both had good advice for HBS’ers looking to break into a retail start-up, and discussed the business of BaubleBar.

Katharine Hill (HBS '12)
Katharine Hill (HBS ’12)

Go in ready to roll our sleeves up, they said.  Katharine shared a funny memory of her first week.  One of her first projects was to create the company’s first shop – in the NY office.  Sure, she said, where are the drawings?  What phase of development are they in?  As she stood in this blank space of a room, the founders (Amy Jain and Daniella Yacobovsky, both HBS ‘10) explained, “that’s why you’re here!”

Words of advice for 1st year students without retail experience?  Julia encouraged them to get relevant summer experience, like her internship at New Balance.  She jumped on an e-commerce project there, and did related independent work during her 2nd year that definitely helped her sell herself to PopSugar Media, her first job post-HBS – where she managed the development, launch, and operations of their e-commerce business.

Also, be ready for a possible multi-step job process, Julia said.  Maybe you work in tech over the summer (think Yahoo, etc.) and then in your 2nd year, do independent e-commerce projects.  Whatever you do, it’s key to be both patient and passionate.  You’ll send out a lot of emails and have a lot of coffee chats.  As long as you really do your homework for every conversation, know the company, and bang on the door as many times as you need to – it will happen.  Julia shared the tale of one Bauble Bartender; this woman sent 14 emails.  They decided she was either crazy or they needed to hire her.   She got the job.

“What else should we think about, when looking at different start-ups?” 

Don’t be afraid to pitch a position, they said.  Offer to spend the summer exploring some specific need or project facing the start-up.  This advice dovetailed well with what we in Career & Professional Development hear from entrepreneurs all the time.  Don’t go in to an interview without a point of view on the start-up, and what you could specifically do to contribute to the business.  Founders don’t have the time to hear someone offer to do anything… they value focus.  Yes, it’s also good to be flexible.  Just don’t approach an interview vaguely.

“What challenges are next for BaubleBar?”

One ongoing task is customer acquisition.  How to get that next person who can’t touch or try on the jewelry?  The offline partnerships are key for BaubleBar now, as were the pop up stores the past couple years.  Anthropologie now carries BaubleBar pieces, and the partnership is off to a great start given the customer fit.  Other deals are in the works, and the company continues to look at demographics and/or geography as criteria for future partner prospects.

Julia and Katharine agreed that the leadership team is focused on where the company is in terms of its scale.  They have 85 employees now, and are looking at internal operations carefully.  In fact, both Julia and Katharine agreed that this issue of thinking about company size is important for anyone looking to join a start-up.  Have a sense of how you would perform given the challenges of wherever the firm is in its growth.   What are the operations like?  Amid all the opportunity, are you ready for the hurdles and obstacles?  What size start-up would you perform best at?

Final words of wisdom for would be start-up joiners? 

Katharine admitted that she herself didn’t take the advice she was about to share.  “Really, do not stress about waiting for the right role”, even if your section-mates are all set in February, and it takes you to Spring to land the start-up.  It’s so easy to lose perspective, but please don’t.  You’ll find the right job, and you’ll be so happy you did.

Julia nodded, “It can be discouraging… so many meetings; what feels like so little structure to your search.  Keep at it.  If it’s really what you want to do, you will absolutely find a way in.  I have been so happy at BaubleBar.  A product I believe in, a great group, a perfect job for me.  So just don’t take it personally when you have to keep plugging – it’s worth it.  Do it!”

–          Laurie Matthews,  Career & Professional Development, Sector Lead: Retail and Entrepreneurship

Alumni: Where are they now? Featuring Matt…

HBS alum, Matt Segneri, MBA 2010, provides an update on his career post-HBS. Check out his original profile at graduation.

Current Position: Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies
Current Location: New York City

Tell us what you’re up to these days.
After two years as a senior advisor to Mayor Thomas M. Menino (the first as an HBS Leadership Fellow), I’ve spent the last year and a half on the Government Innovation team at Bloomberg Philanthropies, Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable foundation. I lead Matt Riley Walkinginitiatives to promote public sector innovation and spread proven and promising ideas among cities.
I co-ran our inaugural Mayors Challenge, a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life. (We launched a second competition in Europe this fall.) I also oversee projects on cross-sector collaboration, evidence-based government, and innovation teams in governments around the world. But surely my most important project is raising our one-year-old daughter!

How has having an MBA impacted your career?
My interest in general management led directly to my work with mayors. Just like corporate CEOs, they’re called upon to make their organizations more effective, efficient and accountable. I’ve greatly enjoyed working closely with big city chief executives. I’ve learned a ton from their pragmatic and principled leadership and it’s been a privilege to work with two of the greats.
HBS was a great education in what it takes to build and run high-performing organizations. I grappled with the difficult decisions that managers face daily and learned from classmates different ways of approaching challenges and opportunities. I became a better listener, a more authentic leader, and a more committed community citizen.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where will the next chapter take you?
Career-wise, I’m not sure. I don’t have a dream job or a five-year plan. I’ve learned that if you’re excited about what you do and you’re focused on being excellent at it every day, the right opportunities emerge from that.
What I do know: I find the greatest happiness in serving others. I’ll continue to seek out roles in which I have tangible impact and find meaning and adventure. I aspire to be a tri-sector athlete, working across the private, public and social sectors throughout life. I care deeply about being a great dad and husband, and an engaged member of my community. And I intend to heed the words of E.B. White and “get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time.”

– Matt Segneri, MBA 2010