I am currently a joint degree student at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and Harvard Business School (HBS), and attending Harvard has been a fantastic experience so far. I spent my first year here studying the Master in Public Administration and International Development (MPA/ID) at HKS and the second year in the MBA program at HBS. This fall I will start the third year of the joint degree program, which combines courses at both schools.
Prior to coming to Harvard, I worked for McKinsey & Company in Mexico and India, and then with the McKinsey Center for Government in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. I had the chance to work for different poverty alleviation programs, education reforms, and some healthcare initiatives with different governments. I am really passionate about understanding how to tackle poverty and I truly believe that we need to find sustainable solutions that involve both public and private sectors. I chose to pursue this joint degree because I hope to one day work for the government of Mexico, spearheading programs that create more competitive manufacturing and financial sectors in my home country.
As a student interested in government, I see a lot of value from my education at Harvard Business School. First, I can now speak the language of finance, marketing, or strategy. I can sit and have a conversation with someone from private equity, investment banking, or venture capital. Those areas are not as well developed in Mexico, so they were totally unknown to me before coming to HBS. I didn’t even know what ‘private equity’ was!
Just one year later, my understanding of those fields is totally different. In fact, I will be working in investment banking for Goldman Sachs in New York this summer. I am totally excited about this learning opportunity on Wall Street, which will directly connect with my future goal of creating a stronger financial sector in Mexico.
Second, the case method has been a fantastic source of learning. In the first year we read more than 250 cases that involved difficult business decisions. After some months, the case method has helped me develop a business intuition to make decisions with limited information and under time pressure. I am now more detail-oriented and I have become a better listener. Also, discussions in class have forced me to think faster and to articulate my ideas more concisely. Those are necessary skills not only for a business leader but also for someone considering a career in politics like myself.
Third, HBS provides many opportunities to take leadership positions. The responsibilities of the HBS Student Association (SA) really amazed me – they were incredibly structured and comprehensive. At HBS I am Head Senator of the Student Association. The Senate is in charge of defining the structure of section leadership –for example, each section has a president and more than ten elected positions to support social and academic activities. The Senate also organizes elections and approves the budget of the SA. As Head Senator, I have led sensitive debates such as the approval of new positions for next-year’s elections, and we have managed some emergency decisions. It has been an exciting opportunity to learn about my own leadership style.
In sum, there is no doubt that I feel more ready for the future after my time at Harvard. At the Kennedy School, the MPA/ID program offered me rigorous quantitative courses about macroeconomics, statistics, and policy making. I learned to evaluate the impact of social programs using statistical analysis, and now I feel more comfortable evaluating macroeconomic policies. At the Business School, I learned about finance, entrepreneurship, accounting, marketing, and more. HBS introduced me to industries and opportunities that were totally unfamiliar to me. As I close the second year, I am convinced that studying in the joint degree program was the right decision for me.