I am becoming. The power of that memoir title never really hit me until I sat to write this blog post. I don’t mean to quote Michelle Obama in making that statement (I mean… there are definitely worse people to quote), but it’s a powerful statement and it fits what I am about to share. My journey, my life before college, my undergraduate experience, my time at HBS - has been one of becoming. Baby Alexxis could never have imagined where she would end up. Her path was one of constant evolution towards becoming who she is and being where she is today.

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I am from Texas. Born in Lubbock, I spent my younger years (~3-10) in McAllen aka the RGV (Rio Grande Valley), and closed out my childhood in San Antonio. My mom is Puerto Rican and had me when she was 19, and I was followed by four siblings. We grew up with the foundation of a single mom, my grandparents, child support, and food stamps. In middle school, I transitioned to living in San Antonio with my dad who is Panamanian and who was married to my stepmom. Two more siblings came along and I found myself in a two-parent, relatively stable middle-class household. I learned a lot in my childhood, and something that I will always be grateful for was the opportunity to understand and live through a wide variety of circumstances. It built my empathy towards others and instilled in me a sense of gratitude for the small things in life.

I went to MIT undergrad and studied mechanical engineering. While there I played Varsity basketball and tried my best to manage the craziness of being a student athlete. I would have never imagined myself at a school like MIT - and once there, I had no idea what should (or could) come next. I was honestly just grateful to be there and was hoping no one would catch on that maybe I didn’t belong.

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Through what at the time felt like sheer luck, I landed an internship at Procter & Gamble on the Dish Engineering team between my sophomore and junior year. That internship taught me a lot about what a “corporate job” in the Consumer and Product Goods industry looked and felt like. It also taught me about how to do “engineering” projects, about my ability to work with others to get things done, and about what it felt like to make good money and to be in an position to support myself. I performed well that summer and got a return offer for a second internship (yay!), the following summer. I was sold - the stability, the pay, what more could I really want? I had made it so far from being the little girl on welfare helping her momma with her younger siblings.

I was set to return to P&G for a second internship, and since I had torn my ACL in January of my sophomore year (that’s a whole story on its own) I was red-shirting my junior year in basketball, and had a bit more flexibility in what I could do. Traveling abroad was something that I always knew I wanted to do, and so I decided to apply to the Spain study abroad program for my second semester.

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My time in Spain was life-changing. It was my first time out of the country except to cross the border from Texas into Mexico to get my hair braided when I was younger. It expanded my outlook, brought me closer to the Spanish-speaking roots of my Afro-Latina identity, and ignited a desire in me for more exploration.

While I was in Spain, I was forwarded an email about the HBS Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP) with the commentary, “You might be interested in this.” After learning more about the program, I definitely was. I had never considered business school before then, but figured the program could be a great way to learn more. I honestly don’t remember much about applying. The main piece that sticks with me is the requirement to get approval from your future manager to miss work for a week. I remember being nervous to ask because I felt that I was lucky to even have the internship in the first place - how could I try to justify missing a week? On top of that, P&G felt like a “promote-from-within” type of company… what would they think of my interest in an MBA? In the end, I decided to ask. My dad had always taught me that “the worst they could do is say no,” and I was still working on building that confidence. While it was daunting, I wrote the email and was happy to see that they were supportive. I was told I still had to complete a full internship load of work and I happily took on that challenge. In the end, I still got an offer at P&G to return full-time after graduation!

I am so grateful that I did decide to put myself out there a bit, because my SVMP week truly did change my trajectory. It was impossible to know then, but by submitting the SVMP application and then attending the program, my eyes were opened up to a broader view of the possibilities for my life and career. During the week on campus at HBS I got exposure to and built some comfort with the case method. I was able to engage with and build a deep admiration for Prof. Anita Elberse, I met and became friends with amazing peers, and I learned about so many potential next steps I could take after undergrad.

I left my SVMP experience feeling so energized and ready to take on the world! By the time I completed my internship and was back at MIT for my senior year, my eyes were set on finishing up my classwork and securing a job. My first semester was super busy, but by the end of it I had several job offers in the engineering and consumer and product goods space. As I came into my last semester of undergrad I was exhausted and looking forward to having all of the fun. I had been going back-and-forth about whether or not to apply to HBS via the 2+2 deferred admissions process and I had created several excuses for why it didn’t make sense: I “didn’t have time” to study for the GMAT, I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted an MBA, I didn’t want to ruin my chances at getting in later if I was denied, and I didn’t have the typical background for an MBA, yada, yada, yada.

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In the end, I now realize that I was excited about the potential to go to HBS because of the small taste that I had through SVMP, but I was so scared that I would not be “good enough” to get into the “actual” HBS MBA program. After a healthy dose of encouragement from my then-boyfriend and a burst of hyping myself up, I finally made the decision to apply. In a whirlwind I took the GMAT, gathered up my recommendation letters and application materials, and submitted my application. I was both shocked and ecstatic to find out I got an interview, and even more blown away when I got the call that I was accepted. It all felt so unreal.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. A week or so before finding out I was accepted to HBS, I was told by the company I had accepted an offer with (a helicopter company where I was going to be a manufacturing engineer) that they had recently laid off 30-40% of their workforce and that while I still had an offer, they were opening it back up in case I wanted to decline. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to go to a company with that type of negative energy going around, but I also needed a job and was afraid that if I declined it was too late to find something else. As I was struggling with this decision, I found out I was accepted to HBS. Getting that acceptance gave me the confidence and assurance that I needed to step out on a limb and bet on myself. I now had HBS as a “backup option.” I could explore and build the skills I was most interested in with the knowledge that HBS was on the horizon. I ended up declining the offer, working at MIT for a semester helping run a product design class, and then worked at a small digital transformation firm for 2+ years.

Coming to HBS has truly been a transformative experience for me. It sounds cliché, but it rings so true. I have discovered my passion for striving for equity and sustainability within organizations and systems. I've broken down emotionally and begun the long, rewarding journey of personal growth. I have gained confidence in my own perspective and contributions, and I have built a small circle of motivating, deeply impressive friends.

In the end, I’ll leave you with this: You are enough. You have absolutely nothing to lose by applying, except the application fee! If you don’t get accepted to HBS, you can always re-apply after working for a few years, and you will have such a strong story to tell of how you have grown since undergrad but have always had HBS on your mind as a possibility. On top of that, you have SO MUCH to gain! The application process gives you a unique opportunity to learn about yourself and reflect on the growth that you’ve experienced during your undergraduate experience. The reflection process not only helps to strengthen your essay and application, but it also helps you really start to find your voice and realize how you’ve come to be who you are. And best case scenario, if you get in, you get the amazing option to attend HBS in 2-4 years!

SVMP not only opened up my eyes to the potential of an MBA, but it also gave me a burst of confidence once the nerves finally subsided a bit (admittedly, they never fully went away). I realized that I actually had a whole lot that I could contribute to HBS and my classmates in a way that no one else could. My beautifully blended identity and interests provided me with a perspective that many don’t have. Our voices - especially as underrepresented minorities - are exactly that, underrepresented. By throwing your hat in the ring you are helping to push that representation up: we will no longer accept that the “pool is not big enough.” You are enough. You are ready. Time to apply!