Most people prefer to embrace security; Doba Parushev tends to run from it. "My life interests tend to go in two- to four-year stretches," he says. As a ten-year-old in Bulgaria, he competed nationally in math contests. But by 7th grade, he was entranced by computer science. Then at sixteen, he discovered economics and enrolled in the United World College in Italy, a school hosting approximately 200 students from around 90 countries. "It was a fantastic exposure to the world while staying in one place," says Doba.
After Italy, Doba took advantage of a scholarship opportunity to study at Princeton University where his initial intention was to study economics. Instead, he switched to physics, then engineering. "I enjoy multi-faceted programs," Doba explains, "and have never settled on one field I can call my own." Seeking further adventure, Doba joined a nonprofit in Chile, Endeavor, in which he supported potential entrepreneurs. A one-year fellowship became a three-year residency. "It was one of the best decisions I ever made; it gave me a position with tremendous leeway. By the time I left, I was mentoring people who were much more experienced than I was—it was real roller-coaster ride."
To expand his formal business training, Doba moved to McKinsey, where the consulting firm tackled "mining and anything else," and he became the "resident expert in 'anything else.'" There, colleagues encouraged him to get an MBA, which appealed to Doba as an opportunity to "to think about my direction. What do I actually want to achieve? I wanted time to reflect. I wanted clarity."
Becoming comfortable with uncertainty
HBS had been highly recommended by colleagues. And for Doba, the case method of study "just made sense. I don’t learn well from textbooks. My way is through directly doing things or sharing things with others."
While Doba has found the case method as exciting as he had hoped, he didn’t find the time he was looking for. "HBS is too busy!" he says. As for clarity: "I leave class with less clarity, with more confusion than when I began, but with more confidence. You come looking for answers, but you realize it’s a Sisyphean task—it’s impossible. But at some point, it becomes okay. You realize that everyone feels that uncertainty; it’s part of life, how it’s meant to be. Eventually, the sense of anxiety and insecurity dissipates. You don’t find clarity, but you become comfortable with uncertainty."
Doba has been pleasantly surprised by two things at HBS: how open and willing people are to talk, and that "everyone is in the same boat, with uncertainty about their career paths. You know you’re not alone." Happily, he recently gained some certainty by landing a position with Edison Partners, a growth-equity firm in Princeton, NJ. "While consulting is fun, I’ve missed the entrepreneurial side of business," Doba says. "Working in VC reawakens that interest."