As part of our "HBS Takeaways" series we’re interviewing some of our second year students before they embark on the next chapter of their lives.
Clay Wiske attended Columbia University and the University of Cambridge before joining the Class of 2015 at HBS. After graduation he will finish up his MD degree at Brown University Medical School and then apply to residency in vascular surgery.
Why did you decide to come to HBS?
It came down to the people and the classroom experience. When I visited a class, the value of the section experience became obvious. People were engaged, comfortable with each other, playful, and willing to take risks. It was exactly
the kind of learning experience I wanted and I realized that the case method builds skills that continue to be valuable throughout a career. I also met a number of smart, driven, and down-to-earth people who inspired me to come. It ended up being an easy decision.
What surprised you the most about coming here?
I was surprised by the humility and diversity of the students. These were some of the most interesting and inspiring people I’ve ever been around, and yet they didn’t let their accomplishments get in their way. The students didn’t all come from the traditional backgrounds that are often associated with MBAs. I was also amazed at how accessible the professors at HBS are. They genuinely get to know each of their students and are dedicated to helping us learn and grow.
Can you tell us about the friendships you’ve made here?
I’ve made many friendships to last a lifetime. The friends I’ve made here are different from the friends I’ve made during other periods of my life, in large part because of the section experience. Whether we intend to or not, we often associate with people who have shared backgrounds or interests. The beauty of the section is that it forces us away from this tendency. Some of my closest friends have experiences or interests that are very different from mine, and yet we connect well on so many levels. I have a background in healthcare, but many of my friends have served in the military, run small businesses, or worked in large banks. I’m already looking forward to staying close to my HBS friends throughout my life.
Academically, what part of your HBS experience has been the most meaningful?
The most meaningful part of HBS for me has been the case discussions. I’ve learned so much from my classmates and teachers, and more importantly, the case method has improved my ability to think and speak well in front of a group of people I really respect.
What has been the toughest thing about being at HBS?
It’s always hard to take a pause from the traditional career trajectory to focus on learning and growing. Many of us come from backgrounds with very linear career trajectories. For instance, I’m an MD/MBA, and the “MBA” part of that combination is certainly outside the traditional pathway to building a career in medicine. We all take a risk by coming to HBS, because there are great alternatives out there for us—otherwise we wouldn’t have the opportunity to come here in the first place. The toughest part of HBS for me has been reminding myself that although the MBA feels like a detour in the short-term, in the long-term the benefits are huge. I’m not here to get a slightly better or higher paying job after two years, I’m here because the education will help me to achieve my goals over the course of an entire career.
How has being here changed what kind of leader you are?
I come from the world of medicine, where leadership is very hierarchical. HBS has taught me how to lead in a more nuanced way and how to better communicate.
What advice do you have to someone thinking of applying?
It’s very easy to convince yourself that HBS wants a particular type of person. Someone who’s extremely decisive, overconfident, and coldly logical. The reality is that the Admissions Office looks for passion, drive, and humility. I would recommend to everyone applying to really consider why you’re applying and what you want to get out of the experience. It will not only help you determine whether business school makes sense for you, but it will also help you to better convey who you are and why you should be admitted. It can never hurt to bounce your ideas off of both people in the business world as well as those who are less familiar with your career path and goals.
What advice do you have for admitted students?
Allow yourself to entertain different careers, industries, and geographies while you’re in business school. One of the most under-recognized benefits of business school is that it gives you time to pause, explore, and self-reflect.