“It’s not only about what is said, but how it’s said.”

Elisabeth Ndour was not fazed that hers would be the initial HBS class to participate in the new FIELD program. In fact, she says, “I wanted to be among the first to experience it, even the ups and downs.” Her previous work experience at Google taught her the value of experimentation. “At Google, I learned that good things happen through trial and error. I knew that my experience at HBS would be richer because of the energy that would be here!”

As it turned out, the most challenging part of her FIELD 2 project in Shanghai was the language barrier. “I’ve travelled a fair amount,” Elisabeth says, “but China was the first place I’ve been where I couldn’t read the alphabet. I understood what it might feel like to be deaf, mute, and illiterate all at once.”

Growing awareness of self and others

“The most exciting thing about HBS? You learn something new every day, about yourself and about others,” says Elisabeth. “In every class, you get a chance to observe people and to share your own perspective, to see how people react -- what comes across as credible, what doesn’t. When you see how impressions are formed, you realize that it’s not only about what is said, but how it’s said. Here, I can experiment with my own style. I can get a glimpse of how my presentation would play out in a boardroom among executives. It’s a unique opportunity to develop and hone my communication skills.”

For her summer internship, Elisabeth will combine lessons learned from Google with new skills gained at HBS. In Nairobi, she’ll work with a start-up that allows SMBs to accept mobile payments. “It’s a life-changing technology for people without computers or bank accounts,” Elisabeth explains. “And it represents a whole new level of sophistication for small businesses, which can now use payments data to gain insights into customer behavior.”