Diamond Richardson is a first-year student at HBS (class of 2019). She is the co-founder of Thrive, a community designed to support women of color who are pursuing MBAs and careers in business and tech. Here, Diamond shares her experience and tips for future students about what life is like at HBS as an introvert.
Do you have to be an extrovert to attend HBS?
HBS is a social place. There is no doubt about it. You could easily fill up every second of your non-class hours with coffees, intramural sports, happy hours, dinners, and parties. In this environment, it is easy to feel like you have to be a person who gets energy from all of this constant social interaction (an extrovert) to be happy here. I, however, am an introvert. That does not mean I am shy. I love talking to people and listening to their stories. Despite that, I’ve learned that I need some downtime each day to recoup from my interactions and recharge.

Happiness at HBS is not about having the “right” personality type. It is about defining the experience for yourself. The only reason some students feel pressure to be overly-social is because they think that is what they should be doing. If you want to do that, the opportunities are endless here. However, if you are like me, this is also the place for you. One of the beauties of having a large class is that there are people here with all different types of personalities and interests.

I won’t lie – when I first got here, even my strong sense of core independence was a bit shaken. I had a hard time feeling like I fit in and wondered if it was possible to be myself here. But it is. Here are a few tips that helped me out:

1. Assess your experience by your own metrics.
I came to HBS with specific goals: find a summer internship, leverage HBS’s entrepreneurship resources to work on a business idea, and stay on top of my mental and physical health amidst all of the craziness. Through the process of pursuing those goals, I knew I’d connect with awesome people, so I didn’t worry too much about trying to be everywhere doing everything. So when I think about how HBS has been for me, I assess it along those dimensions, not someone else’s dimensions.
2. Set aside time for yourself.
The days at HBS can be long. A typical day for me last semester involved discussion group, classes, a networking coffee, club dinner, and recruiting reception. Could I have piled a party at the end of this? Sure. However, I know that to be my best self, I have to work out and have some time to myself to decompress, so I give myself that time regularly. Learning to say no to things you really don’t want to do helps – and there is no better place than HBS to develop this crucial life skill.
3. Remain grateful.
One day, I overheard that a classmate of mine had asked someone else about how “happy” I was at HBS because she did not see me at many of the parties. For some reason, I was pretty down about this. After this encounter, I went to work out at the Harvard stadium. While I was at the top of the stadium stairs, the sun was setting and I had a great view of Cambridge. In that moment, I was overcome with so much gratitude for this experience. Every day, I get to read interesting cases, talk to smart people, think a lot about what I want out of life, and pursue my personal and professional interests. In a world where most people are working just to make ends meet, this is an incredible privilege and remembering that always helps me put any small worries in perspective.

HBS is an incredible place, and worrying about being an introvert here should not stop you from applying. All kinds of people thrive here and that is what makes the experience so incredible.