At Columbia, Danny Lipsitz pursued a major not commonly associated with business: classics. “I had a terrific Latin teacher in high school who drew me in,” he says. In college, he sustained his interest in the classics and wrote his thesis on “the mythologization of Cato the Younger as the champion of Stoic philosophy.” While Danny recognizes that his choice of study may seem unusual, he believes there is a direct connection between it and his current interests. “When you study ancient history,” he says, “you’re given limited pieces of information you have to put into a coherent whole. The same is true in business. My experience at HBS has only underscored that.”
After graduation, Danny remained in New York (“I can’t see myself living anywhere else – I have a lifelong love affair with the city”) where he worked for Citigroup and lived with three other young finance professionals in a Chinatown apartment above the Whiskey Tavern. “It was a little noisy,” Danny says, “but the barkeepers got to know us and kind of became our doormen.” While Danny has left the finance industry, he has remained friends with his former roommates; one of them, Ben Tagoe, will enter HBS in the fall of 2013.
Importance of having the right people
When visiting campuses to evaluate MBA programs, Danny was “impressed by the caliber of people” he met at HBS. “I had thought it would be a cut-throat environment, but my experience here turned that assumption on its head,” says Danny. “HBS looks for leadership, but also humility, the ability to be part of something bigger than yourself. I’ve met a lot of people here who have successfully married these two qualities.”
For Danny, the qualitative skills of leadership – of attracting and collaborating with talent – are intrinsic to effective business practices. “My work experiences have taught me that a company is only as good as its people,” he says. “You can have all the right frameworks in place, but they won’t matter if you don’t have, and cannot manage, the right people.”
Danny acknowledges that, as a person with a significant hearing disability, participating in the case study method with his section mates can be difficult. “But it’s a challenge I welcome,” he says. “It forces me to stretch my ‘cognitive load,’ to listen carefully and respond both thoughtfully and fast. As a leader, I’ll have to be able to do this well. HBS gives me a chance to practice in a safe environment.”
Embracing both the new and the familiar
For his FIELD 3 project, Danny and his teammates are, “going against the grain. None of us has any prior entrepreneurial experience. And none of us has worked for a company that actually builds things. But we’re making a physical thing anyway.” Noticing the trend toward slimmer gym wear, and the vast number of people who carry gym bags on their work commutes, they’re developing a compact gym bag that could that can either attach to, or fit within, a work bag or briefcase.
In his EC year, Danny will return to a place familiar to him, the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York City where he received therapy throughout his childhood. “They have a specialist doing research in auditory processing disorders,” he says. “But they don’t have a funding model for it. I’d like to create an independent study project helping them find ways to make or raise money.”