I was an English major at Yale and worked at JPMorgan Chase in investment banking and corporate strategy in the years before HBS. So I knew enough about words and numbers to be dangerous, but certainly didn't know very much about bits & bytes. I liked to tell people that the only coding knowledge I had was some basic HTML/CSS knowledge from keeping a Xanga blog in high school (how's that for a throwback?).
One of my stated goals for business school was to transition to a company and career path that was mission-driven. Over the course of my two years at HBS it became apparent that I found digital innovation compelling - especially if you think about the democratization of access that digital technology enables.
It also meant I needed a serious boost in my digital literacy, so I ended up taking CS50 for MBAs during my second year. I had toyed around with the idea of cross-registering and taking regular CS50 with the undergrads at the College, but hesitated knowing it required a ton of effort to acquire a level of technical sophistication that I wasn't sure I actually needed. I never aspired to write lots of code, but knew it was very likely I'd end up in a position where I would have to manage and interact with people who do.
The lessons and exercises in CS50 for MBAs departed dramatically from the case method in terms of pedagogical method and philosophy. The lessons were much more lecture-style (although one of Professor Malan's strengths is his ability to engage a crowd) and the homework required answering questions and submitting little coding projects. It was much more practical and hands-on, and was an interesting departure from my usual routine.
In the end I didn't join a technology company after school like I had been planning on. The digital innovation mission I found compelling took the form of an opportunity to join the Boston Ballet as the Chief of Staff and help push forward a massive website and systems upgrade project that the Ballet had just launched.
Millions of dollars of online sales move through the Ballet's website every year. The importance of a beautiful, functional, and maintainable website for the organization and the art form it serves cannot be overstated. Lessons from CS50 for MBAs have helped me navigate so many moments in this project -- from thinking about how we maintain consistency in layers of the technology stack, to working with our Director of IT on a number of infrastructure upgrade decisions, to communicating out technological decisions in plain business terms with management and Board members.
HBS has taught me to be very open minded about what I learn and how I might end up applying it later on. Not everything you do in your career and life will fit neatly into certain industry and functional boxes, and if you go outside those boxes while you're at school you'll end up with tools that give you a differentiated perspective down-the-line.