When I was a senior in college, I planned to attend a PhD program in Economics to study industrial organization and potentially labor economics. I had always been interested in Economics and was intrigued by the influence of the government, especially given my exposure to these effects growing up in Washington. However, I decided to take some time off to continue my work at the Federal Reserve. As an undergraduate, I worked at the Philadelphia FED on a local manufacturing survey, where my interest in international competition piqued. After graduation, I spent time at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors where I jumped right into a section investigating Financial Stability and Regulation during the middle of the financial crisis. This time spent working made me realize that the goings on inside of a firm and the relationships between firms and governmental organizations are enormously complex. I still wanted to study some of these same issues, but with a more applied focus, and HBS seemed the perfect place to do so. I am able to take advantage of the top faculty in the world, both at HBS, across the river, and down the river, while being connected with the leading current and future practitioners.
My Research Interests
My time at the FED led me to an interest in non-market strategy. I picked up this interest almost immediately when I came to HBS, through joint work with Dennis Yao. In addition, working before coming back to school got me interested in the hiring and organizational practices of firms, and how these interact with the firms' strategies. Coming into graduate school with less clearly defined interests meant that I have been able to use my coursework to guide potential research ideas. For example, my interest in hiring processes was driven from my experience at the FED, but exploring the theory in organizational economics and the literature in Strategy has led to more specific ideas about how I could arbitrage these literatures.
The HBS Experience
The best thing about HBS is the supportive environment provided by the faculty and staff. When I talk with students at other programs across the country, I often hear they can never get time to meet with their advisors and how difficult it is for them to get answers regarding classes and other issues from the administrative staff. My advisor regularly stops by my office - even outside of appointment time - and I can stop by the Doctoral Programs office at any time to ask questions. Not only that, but in both instances, I am met with smiling faces!
The most challenging thing in my second year has been balancing coursework and research. I definitely take this as a good sign though - I found my classes inspiring and thus I want to spend lots of time on the reading lists and generating new research ideas, but then it's tough to actually get the research done! It makes me even more excited about the upcoming year. This past year, I also worked as a facilitator in an Executive Education program. This really helped to bring focus to my research ideas in terms of the issues actually faced by managers and is one of the unique aspects about attending a school like HBS. Beyond classes and research, I try to keep up my athletic pursuits by playing in tennis, basketball, and field hockey in local leagues. Cambridge and Boston are very young, outdoorsy areas so it's easy to meet new people and get involved with activities in the area! A run around the Charles River is a quick fix to a stressful day.
I am hoping to get a job in a Strategy or Management unit at a business school after I graduate. I'm pretty flexible about where I end up and plan on using similar criteria as what led me to HBS - I want to have great colleagues and mentors, and an amazing administrative support system. I know that being an assistant professor will be even tougher than being a graduate student and so I will definitely need all the support I can get!
Advice for prospective HBS doctoral students
Graduate school really is more of marathon than a sprint! It is important to take time throughout the program to relax and spend time with loved ones - the support of my family and friends has been instrumental in my happiness thus far. In addition, sometimes graduate school can be lonely - but it is important to remember to reach out to your cohort and all of the support systems that HBS provides during these times. For instance, my favorite afternoon pick-me-up is stopping by the Doctoral office to get a chocolate from LuAnn's desk! The upper years in your program and others will be happy to talk you through course selection and all of the other steps in the program - so don't hesitate to ask. Graduate school is an exciting time to explore your interests, and HBS is a challenging and supportive place to do so.