Les Williams (MBA 2005) is the Partner and Chief Revenue Officer for Risk Cooperative. Les completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia in Mechanical Engineering. As an MBA student, Les was co-president of the Student Association and later sat on the HBS Alumni Board from 2010-2013. Since graduating, Les has experienced firsthand the global alumni network and the resources available to students and graduates alike. We caught up with Les to learn about the concept of lifelong learning at HBS and his experience with The Reflective Leader program.

One of the phrases students increasingly hear on the HBS campus is "lifelong learning." If you are a first or second-year student, then this may be difficult to grasp, especially when you are just trying to survive the next cold call.  I didn’t fully grasp this concept until I became an alumnus. Since graduation I have participated in many experiences that contribute to lifelong learning such as lunch and learn webinars featuring faculty, monthly podcasts, club events featuring influential speakers, and the annual alumni/student capstone project titled The Boardroom.  Among these unique opportunities, I was fortunate enough to join the host committee of a new Executive Education experience entitled The Reflective Leader.   

The three-day program is geared toward full-time MBA Alumni from the classes of 1995-2005 who wish to take stock of their professional and personal lives post-HBS.  While I was prepared for the course academically - I read all my cases, watched all the videos, and steeled myself for my first cold call after nearly 13 years - I was not prepared for the emotional journey. During the first day of the program there was not a dry eye in the house as alumni discussed their own personal shortcomings, failed personal relationships, or the death of a close family member. Several of my fellow alumni shared how they learned that happiness is more about balance than it is about money. Don’t get me wrong, there was also plenty of levity to go around: whenever you get in a classroom with Professor Tom DeLong or Professor Scott Snook, there is always more than enough laughter to ensure we still had fun back on campus.  

Like my full-time MBA experience, the cases discussed during the course focused on the tough personal and business decisions that face executives. However, as alumni, we have had experiences that allow us to relate to these cases on an even deeper level.  During our individual study group sessions, a common theme emerged: “I can’t believe I am actually experiencing the issues we read about years ago.

My eight-person study group has been communicating via What’s App since we finished the course, offering advice and even planning a reunion in 2019.  I was one of the younger participants in the program, so I appreciated learning from more seasoned alumni who provided a preview of things to come as I enter my fourth decade of life. For those alumni who qualify for the program, be prepared to experience two things that will make you green with envy: the food at the executive education facility is excellent, and the lodging accommodations rival that of many hotels I have frequented. 

Bravo to the leadership team at Harvard Business School. I hope The Reflective Leader continues to grow in size and duration so that more alumni can further their never-ending journey we call Lifelong Learning.