“The real difference between someone with an idea and someone who starts a business is just courage.
What’s the one thing you’re most excited about learning at HBS?
I came to HBS to switch tracks from finance to starting my own business. We have a course, The Entrepreneurial Manager, and in every class we look at a new business from different industries, traditional and high tech, and you realize that a lot of these businesses were started by ordinary people. The real difference between someone with an idea and someone who starts a business is just courage – taking a leap. Then you look at everything from how to get financing, how to examine weaknesses in your business model, how to scale your business. As a result, I’m planning to develop one of my ideas in an independent project next year to see if my idea has legs.
How do your HBS ambitions fit into the big picture of the world beyond?
We’re encouraged to solve problems that haven’t been solved before. But in most of our cases, the problems are for one kind of market. Where I grew up, in Pakistan, the challenges are broader and more basic: getting electricity, getting access to education. I think technology can be a resource to solve a lot of these kinds of issues, but the world’s attention is not on the poor’s problems. Long term, I’d like to turn my attention to the developing world.
How are you pushing yourself?
In two ways. First, the coursework. Initially I was skeptical of the Required Curriculum. Do I really need to learn about accounting, marketing or operations? I thought the school was being too prescriptive. Now I’m a believer. For instance, I wouldn’t have volunteered to take a course on operations. But after taking the course, I can see that operations are fundamental to any business you might be involved in. The second thing is that HBS makes us work in teams. Most of us have been in organizations that have some kind of hierarchy. But in the FIELD projects, you work in teams of six peers – a very different kind of experience. It forces you to be more mature because you learn how to manage conflicts, differences of opinion, different working styles. It’s forced us to grow.
What might people find surprising about you?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer, a novelist or journalist. I loved to write. In the world of business, a lot of what you have to do is persuade or at least express yourself clearly. So I think that writing part of me has carried over to my business side.