I grew up in Bogotá, Colombia and then in the Bronx. My mom instilled in me a passion for education which motivated me to seek out academic opportunities. At Harvard College, I was pre-med and studied psychology with Phil Stone and his graduate students who worked at the intersection of psychology and business. After graduating, I decided not to pursue medicine, and a year spent studying and working in Korea sparked my interest in how to structure effective collaboration across culture and distance. As a doctoral student now, I am grateful for what my travel, work, and research experiences have taught me about people and companies.
My Research Interests
I have been fortunate to work on three research projects during my first year: exploring creativity in cross-cultural teams, how people perceive teams, and communication and emotions in linguistically diverse groups. I am also interested in understanding how to structure and coordinate flexible groups in complex settings, especially in the health care sector. I find that my research interests often reflect a mix of deeply personal experiences and intellectual curiosity. For instance, helping my mom navigate doctors and hospitals made me keenly aware of the pressure placed on patients to find their own way through a web of disconnected specialists who do not communicate particularly well or build on each other's knowledge and expertise. At the same time, I have enjoyed studying teams and organizations, and learning about the types of ideas that have emerged to address problems, knowing that every approach has complex and sometimes unexpected consequences. I have learned that, to address the problems I have seen, I must learn about organizational structure and history even if I am most comfortable studying the interactions of small groups of people.
The Management Program
The Management program is quite small—about nine people total—and I have felt that I have received a great deal of attention from the program directors. They are committed to building a program that has relevance and rigor at its core. The program is evolving quickly and students are constantly asked to participate in shaping its development, which is representative of how faculty members treat doctoral students—like junior colleagues. As a first-year student I was encouraged to think deeply about the type of research that would be significant and also fulfill my interests. I was asked early on to try to articulate the phenomenon that I want to tackle, and my faculty mentor worked with me to find classes and research opportunities that fit my interests. My faculty mentors, Jeff Polzer and Tsedal Neeley, ensured that even while I was exploring I was also involved in research, and they gave me as much responsibility over projects as I was willing to take. Yet, despite the generous mentoring I have received, I have noticed that being entrepreneurial and developing a wide range of contacts and experiences is not only highly valued, but also essential at HBS.
The HBS Experience
Some days are very long and challenging, but they allow me to bond with my classmates over problem sets and a thick set of readings. Most days just fly by as I help prepare for a study and take care of the many details that are involved with that. In my free time this year, my (now) husband and I planned our wedding and honeymoon. So far I have found graduate life much more intense than undergraduate, but it is also much more flexible and centered around my personal and professional interests.
Advice for prospective doctoral students
Try to learn as much as possible about each program you apply to. I found that schools vary greatly in their approach to doctoral students; even within a school, requirements, faculty contact, and expectations vary greatly by program. Find faculty mentors you get along well with early in your program, because they are crucial in providing advice about coursework and research, and they are and will be your main advocates in the field. I would definitely get to know the students in your program, because you can learn a lot from each other and can offer support to each other. I have found it helpful to treat my classmates as potential collaborators because I know that is what they often become.