May at HBS is often a time of reflection for our second year students. It’s a time of endings and beginnings, as one part of their lives comes to a close and they prepare to embark on the next adventure. Before our EC students leave campus, we wanted to find out what the last two years here have been like for them.

Before coming to HBS Derrick Snyder studied engineering at Vanderbilt and spent a few years working for National Instruments. After graduation Derrick is moving to Austin, TX to join Monitor Deloitte's consulting practice.

Here’s what he said about his time as an HBS MBA student. 

Why did you decide to come to HBS?

I visited HBS and it just felt different than other schools.  The facilities are immaculate, and there’s a buzz about campus, constantly; so much energy and collaboration everywhere you look. 

What surprised you the most about coming here?

I thought I was going to walk into an environment with 900+ cutthroat “alpha” personalities and that I would get eaten alive as a result.  The reality couldn’t be more opposite from my initial preconceptions; despite all of their remarkable individual accomplishments and backgrounds, my classmates are so incredibly humble and selfless – each one thinks they were the “admissions mistake.”  I love that no matter how busy they are, they’re always willing to help; the way in which the system is set up actually reinforces this:

  • The grading system operates on a bell curve, meaning we aren’t defined by our grades
  • The case method derives most of its value from learning from your peers
  • The general management curriculum means almost everyone is going to have at least one class they find easy and at least one class they struggle with, so there’s an incentive to help others for when the time comes you’ll need help too
  • The class at large is destined to form the basis for your future network of business partners, customers, advisors, and even investors; this incentivizes you to be your best self!

What’s your favorite HBS memory?

The last day of class my RC (first) year.  Of course we were all excited to be finishing our first year and heading into the summer, but we were also shocked to realize that half of our journey was over. There was a resounding feeling of sentimentality; we were all shocked by how close we’d grown together as a section, how much we’d learned from each other, how much we’d all changed, and how much we’d miss each other over the next few months.  Believe it or not, there were tears!  It stands out in my mind as the moment I realized exactly how lucky and privileged I was to have gotten the opportunity to get to know and learn from the 90 other people in my section.  We’re like one big family.   

Can you tell us about the friendships you’ve made here?

My closest friends here are some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met; they’d drop everything (and have!) if I need help with something.  They’ve visited me in my hometown, hosted me in theirs, supported me in my extracurricular endeavors, tutored me in classes, and remember to check in with me multiple times a week no matter how busy we all are or what crazy part of the world we might be in.  The only thing I’d change about our friendship(s) is that we’re all committed to jobs in different cities after graduation – at this point, I can’t imagine a week without seeing them!   

What advice do you have to someone thinking of applying?

The process of putting together a high quality admissions application for a top MBA program involves a lot more time than you think it does.  Plan backward from your hopeful date of matriculation and account for what could even be a whole year’s worth of effort.  It’s not as simple as filling out some personal information and paying an application fee; studying for the GMAT alone often takes many months of preparation.  When you consider the rest of the steps in the process – from career planning to experience mapping and goal-setting to identifying and approaching recommenders to writing (and re-writing) essays to researching schools so you understand their intricacies – all of which you’ll do while you probably have a full-time job with full-time responsibilities, it becomes a lengthy journey.  If I could go back and do it all again, I’d probably get started a year earlier and matriculate a year before I did. 

What advice do you have for admitted students?

Every day at HBS is a gift.  How will you use it?  You could fill every hour of every day taking advantage of different opportunities that HBS affords you – academics, networking, job hunting, industry research, travel, leadership opportunities, clubs, sports, dating, event attendance, hearing from speakers, and more – let alone human necessities like sleep.  Now that you know you’re admitted, do some soul searching about what really matters to you and what you really want to take away from this place.  Realize that you simply can’t do it all, and become comfortable with that as quickly as possible.  Prioritize early, draw the line somewhere, and be okay with “saying no” to everything below it. 

What is your biggest takeaway from HBS?

They say that the HBS experience is a transformative one, and I couldn’t agree more.  I’m much more effective as a leader, having been given incredible opportunities here to challenge and augment my way of thinking.  I’ve built a network of classmates and professors to whom I can turn in the future when I need to seek advice.  I’ve launched a business and done consulting projects in countries with completely different cultures.  I’ve learned about who I am and how I can contribute to making the world a better place, and been given the tools and confidence to do so.  And most importantly, I’ve built friendships that will last a lifetime.  If that isn’t a transformational experience, I don’t know what is.