HBS students come to campus from all over the world with different industry backgrounds, passions, abilities, and motivations. The aspects that make each student unique do not disappear once they enter the HBS class room so students often create or find communities that allow them to continue pursuing their hobbies. Isabel Yap knew how important it was for her to have a creative outlet on campus, so she ultimately decided to join a group of fellow podcasters, journalists, and creatives to run the second season of the We Are HBS podcast.

In 2017, the HBS Student Association launched the We Are HBS podcast designed to take an in-depth look at various people in the MBA community.  Early in the year, I was interviewed for an episode about creatives on campus. A few weeks later, I decided to get involved as the podcast’s Marketing Director. As a fiction writer and product manager, I’d been looking for something that would engage both the left and right sides of my brain, and the podcast turned out to be an excellent fit. 

During one of our monthly brainstorming sessions, the We Are HBS team set aside time to discuss why creating this podcast is so important to us. 

A shared passion for storytelling 

I asked others on the team why they decided to get involved with the podcast, and one theme quickly emerged: we are all passionate about storytelling. 

The podcast’s Director Valentina Zarya, who used to be an editor at Fortune magazine, shared: “I was a writer in my past life. When I came to HBS, I wanted to still do something where I would be reporting on the human experience, but I wanted to experiment with a different medium. I really like getting to know people and their stories, and journalism is a great way to get to know the community you’re in. This felt like the right outlet – different than what I’d done before.” 

Bhargav Srinivasan, one of the co-hosts who is part of the four-year JD/MBA program, added: “I hosted a basketball podcast when I was an RC. That was much more about performance. It was sports radio. With We Are HBS, I wanted to get back in the booth, but my reasons are now much more like Val’s. As an eight-semester Harvard student, listening to the community’s stories sustains me.”  

For co-host Jade Enns, who has a computer science degree and a love for entertainment and media, audio as a device was specifically compelling. “I love podcasts as a medium. I came to HBS knowing that I wanted to either start one or get involved with one. I also like comedy because it makes you look at things to understand, what’s actually going on here? That’s really the mission of the podcast - to go beyond the official stuff at HBS.” 

Both of the show’s producers were avid podcast listeners when they decided to apply for the role and lead the team. Farrah Bui had been a radio DJ during her undergraduate years at Princeton, before joining Google’s consumer product team. “I’ve always been passionate about technology, and I wanted to learn more about creating podcasts as it’s something I’m personally interested in.” Amelia Elverson, who is part of the first class of MS/MBA students at HBS, shared that she wanted to leverage her engineering background with something that was also creative. “I thought joining the team would be interesting and engaging, and a great way to meet cool people.” 


Taking listeners behind the scenes 

For season two of the podcast, the team decided to focus on uncovering stories that revealed facets of the HBS community in a new light by taking listeners “behind the scenes.” The first episode, Love@HBS, tracks the love stories of people on-campus: from a married couple that applied and got accepted at the same time, to RCs who found unexpected love in their first semester. The second episode, Black@HBS, shares insights on what it’s like to be black on-campus from the perspective of both students and faculty.  

“When people think HBS, they think buttoned-up,” Bhargav said. “It’s often this very corporate image. But in Love@HBS and Black@HBS, the people we featured were sharing pretty radical concepts and breaking molds. They were happy to share their stories even if it’s going on airwaves and anyone can listen to it. That’s just who they are.” 

I asked the team what they hope people will take away from listening to the podcast.  

“That we’re not all money-grabbing robots!” Amelia laughed. 

Valentina clarified: “Podcasting is one of the few mediums where you aren’t being judged by how you look, or what you see and read on a resume. It’s purely about how you’re telling your story.” 

Amelia added, “It’s in the voice of the person who is telling their own story too. Sometimes we focus too much on resumes, which is a weird contrived format. I like that with our podcast, none of this is scripted. There’s an actual back and forth between the host and the person.” 

We all had a strong desire to present an alternative view of the community. “When you’re from the outside, the “institution” of HBS can be a little intimidating,” Jade said. “But I want listeners to know that you can find community here, with just about any aspect of your life. At first I thought: oh no, everyone here is so professional. No one likes trashy TV. But actually, so many people do! Like the Bachelor! Half my section is watching the Bachelor.” 

Farrah summed it up: “I think there’s a misconception that business school students are not creative. But this is an example of creativity - we’re creating this podcast, sharing it, and building something in a very non-traditional business-y way.” 

If you want to hear genuine stories from HBS as you consider your application or prepare to attend in the coming school year, listen to the We Are HBS podcast! Episodes are available on our website, or on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever else you get your audio fix.