SVMP 2003 HBS MBA 2006
College: Morris Brown College/Georgia Institute of Technology, B.S., 2004
Major: Mathematics, Industrial Engineering
Work Experience: Vice President of Operations & Finance, American Biosurgical, Inc
Interests: Entrepreneurship, basketball, tennis, golf, reading, family, friends
How did you get interested in SVMP?
I initially heard about SVMP from a former graduate of HBS, and I talked to a couple of the former participants from SVMP as well. I was really interested in the case method. I had heard a lot about it, but had never participated in anything like it before. So it was really an opportunity to get a good understanding of what MBAs go through in the program.
Describe what the week was like?
The week was amazingly similar to what I'm going through right now at HBS. I think we did around 13 to 15 cases in four or five days. It was an opportunity not just to get a good understanding of the culture on campus, but also to go around Boston. I met a lot of students from Ivy League schools, from assorted black colleges, from a lot of different walks of life, just people I would never have met in any other kind of environment.
How would you describe the classroom experience?
The first impression is very overwhelming. I think a lot of people think it's pretty easy to speak up and say the things that are on their mind, but it's pretty intimidating sometimes to be in the case environment. I think it was important for me to build confidence in those kinds of arenas. I'd never spoken much in front of large crowds, so that helped me to guide the train of thought, say it in a very understandable kind of manner, and move forth from there and continue to listen to what other people had to say.
In class, you have to be able to quickly break down the problems and tackle those problems that are central to the issue at hand. When you begin to really look at a case you feel that you want to understand this problem, you want to become the protagonist—and that's something refreshing. Even in internships, you have three months to do something, but typically the level of accountability and decision making is limited. I think the case method provides you with a higher level of understanding of what it's like to be the leader in a critical business situation where decisions are often made instantaneously with limited information. At SVMP you'll be able to see 15 different businesses during this week.
In what ways did you personally develop during that week?
It really engrained in me that I could do well pursuing an MBA and coming to a place like HBS right after I graduated from college. That was a bold move, but I knew I was ready. What factors made you feel you could come right out of college and pursue an MBA? When you are applying right out of college, there are several factors you can consider to make a compelling case for making the move. Internship experiences during college give you a great background. Secondly, I think leadership experience is important, whether it's in business, community, or academia. And, of course, you have your extra-curricular activities. I focused on these throughout undergrad—and one of my big selling points was the student government positions I'd held. If you can shape that entire story, your story is going to be similar to someone who has been out there five years. Some things may seem minor to you, when you look at them on a holistic level, leadership, building teams, or helping your team to get to a certain place, can all convey your ability to have a powerful impact in an organization. The biggest pro is that you come in primarily with a very unjaded, unbiased view of business.
What was the biggest incentive for making the jump?
I think one of the biggest things is that you can really provide a jump-start to your career. When you come out of your undergraduate experience you have the raw talent and it's just about polishing that. When you've finished the MBA, there will be so many opportunities available to you—and your age will be irreverent.
How have you enjoyed HBS?
It has been an amazing experience. I can definitely see that my confidence has grown as far as communicating, but even in taking chances and challenging other people's opinions. Outside of class I've been able to develop further on a personal level through meeting some people here who have kind of taken me under their wing. I think peer mentorship is a great thing here. People here are fundamentally down to earth and well grounded.
How empowering is an MBA in terms of opening all kind of opportunities in many fields?
If you think of the diverse personalities who come to HBS, you understand that not everyone is going to be doing the same thing when they leave. I think the MBA is definitely a big driver towards business, but also politics. If you want to be an entrepreneur, in social enterprise, all of these types of things are fundamental. In social enterprise, for instance, an MBA is becoming an even bigger value because those types of problems are beginning to overlap into for-profit kinds of issues.
Final thoughts on your SVMP experience?
I think more than anything, regardless of whether you think business is for you, whether you think law school is for you, or another path, coming to SVMP is a great opportunity to develop a network outside of the one that you have, and to come to a place where I think the learning model is something that you will never experience elsewhere.