Both Tuce Zengin Van den Eynde and her husband, Alain, had completed master’s degrees, and had considerable experience in corporate finance. But Alain was eager to go the United States to get an MBA, and in what might be considered a foreshadowing of the negotiation skills she practices today, Tuce struck a deal: “He convinced me to do the MBA; I convinced him that we should do it at HBS.”
Why the insistence on Harvard? “I reasoned that if I were to invest two more years in studies,” Tuce explains, “I wanted the case method. I already had a solid base in traditional lecture studies; now I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and see the bigger picture.”
Tuce has not been disappointed. “The case method makes everything interesting,” she says. “You’re not going to remember all the case outcomes. That’s not the point. It’s about shaping you. The open debate and discussion makes the learning real. You’re learning more than numbers – you’re learning judgment. You’re learning how to be clear in your thinking, how to convince others. I can see how my and my sectionmates’ thinking has changed since the beginning of the year.”
The power of thinking “small”
After years of corporate finance leadership training with G.E. – a high-level program that took her to Istanbul, London, and Paris – Tuce experienced a significant shift in scale when her FIELD 2 assignment took her team to Chennai, India, where they advised a fruit-juice stand operator on its expansion opportunities. “I loved it,” says Tuce, “going from a huge company to one with just thirteen shops. You can see how everything is related: marketing, operations, government relations, finance.” Ultimately, Tuce’s team advised the stand operator, based on numerous customer interviews, to accept a reduced, ten to fifteen item menu that would help facilitate rapid growth through a drive-in retail model.
FIELD 3, Tuce observes, “pushes you to see how entrepreneurs work. It gives you a sense of what it would be like to build a business from scratch, and teaches you how to test ideas, talk to customers, determine market needs.” Tuce and her colleagues decided to think small, developing a little device that allows people to track important items – like glasses and keys – through a smart phone app.
With help from HBS Career Services, Tuce has found a summer assignment that combines the intimate scale of small business with the broad connections of international field work. In her internship, Tuce will work with a Colombian non-profit that connects MBA students with small or start-up companies looking for expert advice. “I was in India in January and am going to Bogota, Colombia for the summer,” says Tuce. “Who would have known? But I love it.”