As an economics major at Dartmouth looking for career direction, Jessica Kramer saw Morgan Stanley’s employment offer as “a good way to earn my chops” in business. Two years selling interest-rate derivatives in New York City, plus another three in San Francisco, gave Jessica many insights not just into finance, but into her own values.
“I got a front row seat to the financial crisis of 2008,” Jessica says. But even with the crisis aside, she began to wonder if finance was the right fit for her. “I saw that my boss was doing exactly what I was doing,” Jessica explains. “I didn’t want to wake up in fifteen years doing the same thing. Eventually, I realized the values of the people surrounding me were not my own. When you’re trading financial assets, you’re moving money around without necessarily creating value. I realized I wanted to be part of creating something. In San Francisco, it’s impossible not to get the creative bug. There, money is less a goal and more a byproduct of creativity.”
Learning from 900 “incredible” people
Like many MBA candidates, Jessica seeks an MBA to “get a wider skill set”; in her case, one that would “give me the tools to start my own business.” HBS’ class size, combined with the case study method, holds special appeal for her. “I really like learning from other people,” she says. “At HBS, you’re among equals, a group of nine hundred really incredible people.”
At HBS, Jessica gets to explore entrepreneurship immediately. “My favorite class so far is The Entrepreneurial Manager,” she says. “It’s very practical – we get face time with real entrepreneurs who talk about the million problems we’ll have to resolve.”
Applying the business “code”
For her FIELD 3 entrepreneurial assignment, Jessica and her teammates are combining “the convenience of online shopping with the appeal of brick-and-mortar browsing.” Throughout April, five different bus stops in Cambridge will carry the team’s posters, a visual simulation of bookstore shelves packed with titles and corresponding QR codes. “We’re capturing people with time on their hands,” says Jessica. Each curious click captures information; when people purchase, the team gets a percentage of the sale through its Amazon Associates account. “It’s the perfect lean-start up prototype for this project,” Jessica says, “because Amazon has already built the backend for us.” Jessica is not the only one to think so: impressed classmates have made the project one of the top three in the school’s simulated stock market, rewarding the team with an additional $2,500 in capital.
If the business takes off, business plan competitions may be part of its future. In the meantime, Jessica has arranged a summer internship with a San Francisco startup, Strava, where she will help develop a go-to-market plan for the international expansion of the company’s fitness data analytics product.. “After graduation, I plan on gaining more startup experience before I launch my own business,” Jessica says. “I don’t know what my product will be, but I want to build my business around something that will change people’s lives for the better.”