“At the end of the day, you converge on an opinion and a plan of action.”

As a child in Haiti, Alika Phipps watched her family manage its business interests, in margarine production and property insurance, and became “fascinated with markets and finance.” While attending MIT, she took a summer internship at JP Morgan that allowed her to fulfill her curiosity. “It was a great way to learn about industry,” Alika says, “at a time when I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. The internship opened doors and gave me a glimpse of multiple opportunities.”

Specific reasons for general management

Alika returned to JP Morgan after graduation and worked for three years in the Ratings and Capital Structure Advisory Group, “advising clients on the optimal capital structure to maintain a favorable credit rating. JP Morgan was a great experience. But although I gained a lot of expertise in finance, I was missing broader business management and leadership skills.”

With an eye toward returning to her family’s businesses, Alika was attracted to HBS’ emphasis on general management. “The program gives you a broad overview of many different skills,” she says. “Daily case study actively builds leadership qualities: the ability to influence others; the ability to understand the perspectives of people with different backgrounds and interests; the ability to listen to other points of view and integrate them with your own understanding. At the end of the day, you converge on an opinion and a plan of action.”

Under the leadership of HBS Senior Fellow and Chair of the Immersion Experience Program (IXP), Regina Abrami, Alika participated in the Vietnam IXP last winter. “We explored different types of businesses in Vietnam and how they evolve in a macro-political context,” Alika says. “It’s an emerging market, so many of the lessons could apply to Haiti going forward.”

Succeeding in Haiti and beyond

While at HBS, Alika is especially interested in marketing. “I used to think it was primarily about brand management,” she says. “My courses have opened my mind to the importance of distribution, and I’ve learned how to set up and manage channels.”

Alika plans on applying her marketing skills to her postgraduate ambition: to return to Haiti and help her family rebuild its businesses. “Our factory collapsed in the earthquake,” she explains. “Fortunately, no one was in the building at the time and no one got hurt. After the disaster, I was amazed by how much support I got, not just from my section, but from the entire school. The RC charity auction designated Partners in Health as its major beneficiary, and there’s a project in the works to rebuild a school.”

Once the family enterprises are back on their feet, Alika hopes to works with an aid agency or “build a world-class business, or both! I’d like to lead a Haitian business to success outside its borders, to the Caribbean and beyond.”