I am what
you may consider an atypical candidate at HBS; I am an art history major in pursuit
of an MBA, dedicated to a career path in the arts.
fascination with art stems from an experience I had in high school. I attended
a weekly seminar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, during which public school
students from all over New York City would meet to discuss one or two works of
art from the collection in depth. The conversation was moderated by a wonderful
museum educator named Rika Burnham, who had a talent for allowing our personal
stories to shape the narrative for the works we would delve into.
Art became my
portal to everything: history, philosophy, science, far away cultures, and
those closer to home. Through the works we studied, framed by our collective
perspectives, I was able to explore all facets of the human experience.
college and HBS, I had an amazing opportunity to combine my interests in art
and finance by working for an asset management firm where I helped to establish
a group focused on financial services for the art community. We worked with museums, artist foundations,
artists, collectors, and non-profits in the arts.
Our primary focus was managing the investment
of their assets. That being said, we also had the opportunity to advise clients
on how to best achieve their philanthropic goals. To this end we were able to guide artists
on establishing foundations to preserve their artistic legacy, and collectors
on their work as cultural philanthropists.
years in finance I was ready to come to HBS to build a more holistic skillset. At work, it is easy to fall into a given
professional function, or limit your engagement to thinking only about the
performance of your own team. The MBA curriculum forces you to think instead
like a CEO and consider all components of what makes a business thrive –
operations, the underlying financials, the importance of strong leadership – and
gives you the skillset to address the unique challenges of each.
how my experience in discussion group and in section reminds me of my time at
the Metropolitan Museum as a teenager. At HBS, I am constantly learning from my
classmates, who are eager to share their experiences across industries and from
around the world.
My first year gave me the confidence to approach the art world
from a different angle through my two summer experiences. Coming from a
business development background, I had never thought about working on the
operational side of a business. But my Technology and Operations Management (TOM)
Class – taught by the amazing Feng Zhu – inspired me to pursue an internship
with a start-up art storage and logistics company.
I applied my newfound
knowledge on process flow to help senior staff redraft their procedures for
receiving incoming property, among several other key operations. I worked to
understand the existing process by shadowing and interviewing warehouse staff,
and observed art being handled on the loading dock and throughout the facility.
Once we had refined the procedure, making it more efficient and improving
accountability, I helped to train the art handlers who would be following it
day to day.
I spent the second half of the summer enjoying the sunshine in
Los Angeles, where I assisted a major talent agency with the launch of a new
art division. While consulting on the build out of a platform connecting visual
artists to licensing and branding opportunities I was able to hone my strategy
and marketing skills. I called upon
lessons from the whole gamut of RC courses – TOM, Leadership &
Organizational Behavior, Marketing, Strategy, and Finance – proving the
academic experience to be invaluable upon re-entering the working world!
only time spent in the classroom that’s made my first year at HBS so special.
I’ve been incredibly lucky at HBS to find a group of friends who share my
passion for art by way of the Art Society, one of the student clubs at HBS. Over
the course of our RC year we hosted exhibitions of artwork by our classmates,
planned a number of events at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston and Museum
of Fine Arts, and visited the private art collections of local HBS alumni.
We also took
a trip to New York to see the Armory Show and visit artists’ studios, and
hosted a community event called Slideluck
that featured work by local artists and an en masse potluck dinner. We have
many more events lined up for our second year: trips to Miami for Art Basel, to
the Berkshires to visit Mass MoCA and the Clark Art Institute – and of course – events
with the newly renovated Harvard Art Museum. All of these experiences have
allowed me to make connections across the art community as I consider my next
I am looking
forward to returning to school for EC year with the confidence of having chosen
an industry I am devoted to: the arts. I am excited to continue to mine the
resources of classes, faculty, and alumni to build the skills and connections
necessary for my career. I may not be
on a typical MBA career track, but as Henri Matisse once said, “creativity
a Student Club at Harvard Business School
This post was orginally published on the HBS MBA Voices Blog.