There's a part of Amanda Pratt that wants a clear understanding of the world's quantifiable pieces, the side that encouraged her to pursue math and science, and to get a graduate degree in electrical engineering. "I liked the idea of building things, of getting highly transferrable skills that were very analytical and process oriented," she says.
But there's another side to Amanda, one that wants to explore options and is willing to embrace novelty. Instead of going to a traditional engineering school, she chose a new school, Olin College of Engineering, which was only in its fifth year. "All of the classes had a team and project focus, and a strong humanities component; many of them had a business and entrepreneurial aspect, too," says Amanda. "We valued not just the technical aspects of a problem, but how they fit together in a broader context."
After graduation, she took on a traditional engineering role – working on medical imaging devices within General Electric's Healthcare business – that took her to some nontraditional worksites: Wisconsin, India and Southeast Asia. Yet after reinforcing her technical skills with a graduate degree in engineering, Amanda wanted to look beyond circuits. "I just couldn't see myself doing the same thing ten years out."
Exploration of possibilities, integration of knowledge
Amanda saw the "MBA as an opportunity to review different options, do some exploration, and build skills that would enable me to pivot." Perhaps not surprisingly, she views the HBS experience from a very analytical perspective. "In the first year, you get a broad spectrum of information that may not connect at the time. It takes until the second half of the third semester to start connecting the dots, to see the interplay and appreciate how the HBS curriculum builds your business acumen, helping you understand what's going on inside a business or industry. In the final semester of your EC year, you really cement all the things you've learned."
As an example, Amanda cites an EC course, Business Analysis and Valuation. "It builds on the finance and strategy classes you have in your RC year," she explains. "But now you look at how companies' financial structures and business strategies work together, and how they compare to competitors in their own industries. In class, you test your hypotheses; you learn strategic thinking through practice."
Last summer, Amanda went to Nairobi where she took an internship working on the supply chain and operations for a company that runs a number of American fast food franchises in Kenya. While the assignment was a far cry from her previous work in circuits, its technical aspects were still "too close to what I was doing before." She's still in the recruiting process, searching for a customer-facing role, perhaps in product development, that will allow her to apply her "competitive advantage" in technology. "I'm hoping that in the future, I'll do more work internationally in emerging markets."