It’s hard to believe how quickly a year can fly by. When I first started my RC year at Harvard Business School, I grossly underestimated the advice, "business school is a constant struggle to balance your social life, academics, and career search." Considering everything there is to do (and everyone there is to meet) it’s no wonder that HBS students can suffer from FOMO

Here’s a little snapshot of what I got up to this year.

  • I read and discussed 250+ case studies with 94 section-mates
  • I built 10+ Discounted Cash Flow models for finance classes
  • I traveled to four new countries with classmates (Iceland, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Mexico) 
  • I met hundreds of new classmates/friends from across the globe
  • I planned a New Venture Competition pitch as part of the 19th annual Africa Business Conference, which had over 1000 attendees 
  • I met with and heard talks from renowned business leaders and former heads of state
  • I successfully completed one consulting engagement with an egg manufacturer in Tanzania during my FIELD Global Immersion

As I look back, some of the most meaningful lessons this year came from navigating the environment at HBS. 

1. I Found My Own Voice

Our classes are all taught through case method, which means there are no lectures.NO1.jpg

Instead, professors facilitate a discussion on the case the class reads the night before. I initially found it challenging to speak up and speak out on topics where I had a different point of view or a different perspective than my classmates. As a black/Ghanaian/African American woman I always felt this unnerving pressure to make strong comments because I stood out, and I wanted to represent well! 

During the second semester I felt more comfortable moving the discussion forward or in a different direction. "Finding my own voice" came full circle when I was nominated by a professor to speak in front of about 1,000 people (my entire HBS class & faculty) in mid-May during our FIELD Global Immersion capstone. I spoke about working in Sub-Saharan Africa, and key lessons I’d learned about conducting business in emerging markets based during my Tanzania consulting engagement (and broader personal experiences). It was well received by both my classmates and professors.

2. I Learned about Purpose Driven Leadership

During our leadership, marketing, strategy and finance courses we often discussed the tensions between optimizing shareholder value and the taking into account the wellbeing of employees and society. I struggle on a daily basis to think of how I can optimize my HBS experience and resources, not just for personal gain, but for broader societal impact. I’m grateful to HBS for helping me to think in this way. 

3. I Followed My Passions 

This summer I have been working on starting up Chaku Foods Limited, a consumer goods food brand from Ghana that creates delicious snacks using local agricultural products. The first product is "Nikki's" Plantain Chips. There will be a ripe and unripened version that I will be testing in South Africa. A Rock Summer Fellowship from HBS provided me with funding so I could pursue this venture.

I have already been applying what I have learned from marketing, finance and entrepreneurial management (three of the courses that took during my first year). It has been exciting to focus on entrepreneurship (specifically in manufacturing and processing) which is an interest I want to pursue in the long term. 

It's hard to fully articulate my experience this year. I have learned so much, but more importantly it has challenged me in so many ways and has helped me grow and develop as a both a leader and a person in ways that I could not have imagined.