“It’s inspiring, and it transforms the boundaries in your mind between what you think you can and cannot do.”

While consulting with McKinsey & Co on industry projects ranging from education to energy utilities in India, Gopesh Mittal discovered a deep interest in one especially important field, health care. “I worked for a health care company that was launching a new, scientifically designed nutrition product expressly intended for the Indian market,” says Gopesh. “They found a way to deliver a high-quality infant formula at half their international price.”

The experience showed Gopesh that “there was immense potential for innovation” in growth sectors like health care and, just as importantly, awakened a desire to work on products that “target the ‘bottom of the pyramid.’”

 

Real value of soft skills

Like many MBA candidates, Gopesh was attracted to Harvard for its “360-degree point of view, which would help me develop skills in both health care and growth investing.” He had been impressed by books written by two HBS faculty members, Michael Porter and Regina Herzlinger, and wanted to participate in a program “that has produced leaders.”

“HBS does train you in the ‘hard’ skills of how to think about financial modeling, strategy, and marketing,” Gopesh says. “But the greater part of our education is in the ‘soft’ skills, the essential ingredients of leadership such as motivating teams, managing change and working across different cultural contexts. In a world where people are becoming more connected than ever before, these skills become more important each day.”

Initially, Gopesh “had no idea” how a class of nine hundred people would be effectively structured. “But you develop close bonds with each of your colleagues, you recognize each of them for their uniqueness. Everyone has an interesting story about how they developed, how they look at the world, how they will impact the world. You make friends you know you can call at three in the morning for help. It’s inspiring, and it transforms the boundaries in your mind between what you think you can and cannot do.”