Clicking the submit button on my Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP) application felt like an act of courage, one that left me feeling vulnerable and open to rejection, a sentiment likely shared by many of my peers. As we each prepared, reviewed, and submitted our applications, the vulnerability involved in the process prompted me to reflect and truly determine my motivation and what I hoped to gain from the experience. Throughout the program, we were encouraged to take risks and recalibrate through internal case preparation and case discussions. I also had the opportunity to give one of the student speeches at our closing ceremony. Despite my initial fears, SVMP provided me with a safe environment to grow in this regard, too.

The courage to fail at leading internal case teams.

At the start of the program, we were assigned to small teams to prepare for the broader case discussions. The small teams provided safe spaces to test new ideas and learn about the case topic from a new perspective. In these teams, each of us was encouraged to lead the discussion, which was a new experience for many of us. In a small way, this experience emphasized the program’s commitment to building and developing leaders in such an insular and risk-free environment. While leading the small group case discussions, I learned to question ideas, push the conversation forward, and approach each conversation with a student mindset, which has given me the courage to transfer this mindset to all areas of my life.

The courage to fail during case discussions.

At the beginning of the program, the fear of saying the wrong thing held many of us back from expressing our thoughts. However, as we worked through more case studies, our confidence grew, and we became more adept at articulating our ideas in ways that advanced the discussions. Exposure to cases such as “Kwame Owusu-Kesse at the Harlem Children's Zone” and “Toto Wolff and the Mercedes Formula One Team” reinforced these themes. Primarily, the importance of taking calculated risks, maintaining high standards, and leading by example. The highlight of the week was meeting Toto Wolff in person, which provided an excellent opportunity to understand the foundation behind his successful track record. The cases and in-person case discussions helped us improve our approach to problem-solving and high-stakes decision-making.

The courage to fail at giving speeches.

During one of our final meals, HBS professor Anita Elberse announced that a student from each section would be selected to speak to the overall class (over 180+ people) at the closing ceremony as a way to inspire and connect us all. This opportunity would challenge us to engage in public speaking despite our fear of failure. With less than 5 minutes to prepare, many of my classmates courageously took the stage and addressed the entire class. When it was my turn, despite feeling terrified, I recognized it as a chance to grow in public speaking. I felt safe enough to try because the program emphasized taking risks while learning and growing from the results. I was ultimately chosen to represent Section A and was once again terrified about finding the “right” words to articulate the experience in a way that felt authentic to me and my peers. Thanks to the support of my new friends in the program, I wrote, practiced, and delivered my speech successfully. Through the speech preparation and delivery process, I learned about the importance of community and pushing past fear to achieve my goals. SVMP provided me with a safe environment to grow and build meaningful relationships with other dedicated and motivated young professionals.

SVMP truly gave me insight into the value and resources associated with an MBA degree. The program taught me the importance of being courageous enough to fail and staying open to new experiences. My peers and I have emerged with more exposure, a wider network, and a taste of how an MBA can complement our careers and dreams.