A Reflection from Graduation Day

AnnChao

Life is an emergent strategy. This is my main takeaway from my two years at HBS.

In one of my favorite classes, Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise, we studied a theory about deliberate strategy and emergent strategy. With the former, we map out our goals and the actions we will take to achieve those goals, predicting that x will lead to y over z time. With emergent strategy we open our course to influence from the environment, and often the resulting actions and outcomes are unplanned and often a surprise. Businesses use a blend of both approaches, though more established companies try to be more deliberate and startups by nature must rely on emergent strategy.

As I pursue entrepreneurship full time after graduation, I have realized that life is really much more like a startup than most of us would be comfortable with. No matter how much we try to plan out our lives, very few of us will end up where we originally intended.

My first year at HBS, I listened avidly at CEO speeches, CPD workshops and career coaching sessions for some hint of what I should do to reach some vague destination in the future where I would be living my life to the fullest. We saw many business leaders who had “made it,” and we all wanted to know how to achieve the same success. We asked the same question over and over with slightly different wording: “How did you get to where you are?” The answer was also basically the same. “I don’t know.” When they were our age, these leaders couldn’t have predicted that they would end up where they are now. They simply lived life and took opportunities as they came along, and with passion and perseverance they accomplished great things.

I came to HBS certain that I would return to China and continue to work in consulting. In a few months that all changed as mentors and classmates challenged me to think about what I really wanted to do with my life. I’ve always had a love of storytelling and creativity. I took a 180 degree turn out of a traditional business field into entertainment and arts, writing script coverage on my free time and landing internships at Lincoln Center and Mirada, a studio in LA. I thought I’d be set for Hollywood after graduation. Then at the beginning of my second year, I was hit very powerfully with a startup idea. It was scary. Heart-pounding scary because I’d never thought about starting a business. At the same time I couldn’t stand the thought of this idea NOT coming to fruition simply because I was afraid. I started working on it right away, wondering if this would derail all my plans for Hollywood.

Several months later I was pursuing three startup ideas at the same time. I eventually picked one as circumstances narrowed down my choices to one path – a revolutionary technology that allows musicians to play with real, dynamic orchestra sound. An orchestra in your pocket that listens to and follows you like real musicians would. As a pianist I’ve always dreamed of playing a full concerto with an orchestra, and lamented that I never would be able to because I’d given up professional training a long time ago. 99% of musicians are in my position. Now this technology, Music+1, can change that, revolutionizing the world of music performance the way recordings did for music listening a hundred years ago. I am working with a great team, and we recently won a runner up prize at the Deans’ Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge. China is a huge part of our future plans. I’ve landed at the intersection of my passions, and through this I think I have discovered the overall driving force behind my work. To spread beauty to the world.

Two years ago, I had no clue I would end up staying in Boston, much less working on a startup. But through a wandering wide-eyed journey, I have come to a place I know is right at this time in my life. And while from my limited, human perspective, my life strategy seems to be perpetually emergent, I know that from God’s perspective, it is deliberate. Only when I have already lived through these things can I look back and see how He was so meticulous and so very good in how He shaped my path. Proverbs 16:9 encapsulates this.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”

I can embrace uncertainty because I know that “emergent” does not mean “random.” It means open-mindedness and faith, and no regrets.

– Ann Chao, MBA 2013

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Running into Summer!

Amanda Post 1
At Nike in South Africa with my FIELD 2 team

As I look back on my first year at HBS, one of my most memorable experiences was the international FIELD project. I had the incredible opportunity to travel to South Africa and work with a company that’s been a part of my life since I learned to walk. A lifetime athlete, I have a long history with Nike – my first basketball shoes were Nike, I crossed the finish line of my first half-marathon in Nike running shoes, and my favorite yoga pants now sport the famous swoosh. Like the five other HBS first years on my team, I was honored to help Nike think about its strategy to grow access to shoes and apparel in Africa. The experience was so rewarding for me, I vowed to put every effort I could into finding another way to work with Nike. Using the knowledge and skills I developed working with the South Africa team, I interviewed for the Nike World Headquarters internship in the Corporate Strategy & Development group – believing my prior work as a consultant and my passion for sport would be a winning combination. As I prepare to fly to Portland for the summer, I’m thrilled to accomplish three things: to better understand the role of an internal strategic planner, to use the new skills I’ve developed during my first year, and to make a valuable impact in a company that’s left such a positive mark on my life. I suppose I should confess to one more goal – I’d love to leave with some awesome new shoes, too.

– Amanda Burlison, MBA 2014

Meet Nick, MBA 2014

Hi! My name is Nick Singh and I’m a first year student at Harvard Business School. It’s the end of the year here at HBS, and I am amazed at how time has flown by! The experience is bitter sweet as I get ready for an exciting summer interning with a media company out in LA while leaving an incredible place with familiar friends and sights.

At the moment, we are frantically preparing for finals, picking courses for next year, and (when we get the chance) reflecting on our past year (see below  – it is a rarity to have computers in an HBS classroom but we were allowed to use them for RC end-of-year evaluations!).

Nicks Photo - Post 1

It was at this point in class that I started to think critically about the year that has been.  Some highlights include (with specific moments in parentheses):

  • The Section Experience: Having every class and spending so much time outside of it with the same group of people builds a unique and enduring group of friends and future business partners.
  • Participating in the ‘New’ Curriculum with FIELD: From travelling to foreign countries (Brazil) to starting a new venture (making an app to capture a young child’s unique experiences), we’ve been to new, dynamic places and started entities that we had only dreamed about.
  • Working with the Entertainment & Media Club: I bonded with so many other E&M enthusiasts, which further propelled my passion and excitement for the sector.

While I don’t know exactly what the summer will bring, I know that HBS has better prepared me and fellow RCs to deal with the unknown. Time after time this year, we have been thrown into new situations where problem solving and calm have been a must!  Through learning from each other, we have developed new skills/characteristics while internalizing different perspectives and approaches.

Did I mention that things are frantic? I’m also preparing to travel to Japan before my internship, so the exciting new experiences just keep on coming. I’m looking forward to future posts updating everyone about the summer but before I do that I also still need to get my summer housing completely sorted out…

I promise to be back soon!

– Nick Singh, MBA 2014

Student Spotlight

This fall, as we kicked off first-year recruiting, we asked students about their experiences prior to HBS and their future career goals and plans.  What do they hope to do after HBS? Here’s what they had to say.

With summer now approaching and their first-year coming to a close, our students are preparing to embark on diverse internships.  Last year the Class of 2013 accepted internships in a variety of industries, functions and locations; from 19% of the class interning in the technology sector to 8% of the class interning in Europe.

Given our students’ unique career choices, we wanted to showcase and share their experiences with our recruiting partners.  So, we asked students in the Classes of 2013 and 2014 to share their stories with us.  Stay tuned as we follow their career journeys.