Nothing prepares you for the opportunities at Harvard Business School. Inside the Aldrich classroom between cases, the conversations I overhear are so astonishing it’s almost comical. Exchanging plans for traveling to Namibia for spring break and meeting the president, prepping for a conference with prominent Seth Klarman, and talking about seed funding for a startup poised to transform business trips. 

Approaching the midpoint of my second semester at HBS, I’ve had some time to reflect on how a program named after a kindergarten math problem has changed my life. 

For me, the Harvard Business School 2+2 Program was just an aspiration during my senior year. While finishing my engineering degree, I had an interest in leveraging a business education at some point to further my potential within an operations company. I didn't, however, have expectations that it would be at Harvard. 

After getting accepted, I embarked on a three year career at Exxon Mobil that opened up the world to me--traveling to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Arctic Circle—as well as being involved in multi-billion dollar projects. 

When it came time to matriculate at HBS I had reservations about putting my career on hold to go back to class and reinvest in myself. Meeting my potential classmates during Admitted Students Welcome persuaded me to make the move to Boston, and after the first week of classes, I affirmed that I had made the right decision. 

The HBS reputation prepares you for the case method, the magnitude of the alumni network, and the caliber of the students. What I didn't know was the strength of the pedagogy and the unique background of every individual student. Be it the world renowned way of teaching through vigorous discussion, esteemed professors facilitating the debate, or the carefully crafted cases themselves, there is so much more learning and knowledge sharing than I have ever experienced in any other classroom setting. 

One key component that is often overlooked is the way that students contribute to the learning. Yes, the class is filled with astute students, but it's something more than that. The unique experiences of each individual that was hand picked by seasoned admissions staff gives the case discussion more color. And it isn't just one class; it happens over and over again. Bringing in personal experience, work history, and nationality creates a discussion that is hard to replicate. That's where the 2+2 Program gave me my uniqueness.

I mentioned that it took me some time to feel like I made the right decision. That's because I came into orientation and the first few days of classes unsure how a 25 year old engineer from Texas would fit into the HBS ecosystem. I was overwhelmed, intimidated, and anxious. 

I soon realized that I am able to bring a unique perspective to the class because of the experiences I got during my 2+2 deferral period – specifically my technical background, international work experience, exposure to an operations management environment, and direct supervision skills of front line labor. If I hadn’t known I had a place at HBS to come back to in a few years, I don’t think I would have felt the freedom to pursue my interests in the way that I did. And I am so grateful I had the chance to do just that.