Kristina Hu is from the Class of 2022 and a proud member of Section H. After graduating from Harvard College in 2016, she worked in investment banking at Morgan Stanley before pivoting into tech, eventually becoming a product manager at Uber. At HBS, Kristina is the Co-Founder of The Equity Network, a social enterprise empowering the next generation of diverse business leaders by democratizing access to professional networks. She is also Co-President of the HBS Tech Club and Co-VP of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for the Asian American Business Association.

“It’s who you know, not what you know.”

To many professionals, this is a no-brainer — but if you had asked me in college how I felt about networking, I would have been at a loss for words. Despite the impostor syndrome I experienced while navigating my early career, I was lucky to have classmates, alumni, and mentors who helped open doors and set me up for success. Networks are critical in providing exposure and access to opportunities — and without them, I would never have broken into or thrived in Wall Street or Silicon Valley as a woman of color.

I came to HBS to close the Network Gap, the phenomenon that one’s household income, alma maters, and employers can give someone up to a 12x advantage over others in accessing opportunity. I adopted this mission during the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement when I realized that my habit of helping people in my existing networks actually exacerbated racial inequality. After all, we are taught to network by leveraging our similarities, rather than our differences — a practice that disadvantages Black, Latinx, and Native American communities, some of the least-represented groups in corporate America.

Two months before school started, I met my future sectionmate and co-founder, Shelby Schrier, in the HBS Class of 2022 Slack. Together we published an “HBS Mentor Directory” through which we and 70 classmates shared our contact info on LinkedIn to extend our professional knowledge and networks to underrepresented groups. After two weeks and 200+ inbounds, it became clear that this could become much larger than a summer project and be a real opportunity to make a difference for marginalized communities in the workplace. And thus, The Equity Network was born!

At HBS, we set out to turn The Equity Network from a minimum viable product (MVP) into a tech-enabled social enterprise. Little did I know just how valuable the HBS network would be — not only for my startup, but for my personal and professional growth.

From day 1, I fell in love with the case study method. Although HBS’s faculty is incredible, some of my greatest teachers were my own classmates. I was mesmerized by the way they leveraged their diverse backgrounds and experiences to bring new perspectives into the classroom. After years in the Silicon Valley bubble, it was refreshing to learn about industries, business challenges and leadership strategies I never would have been exposed to otherwise.

Outside the classroom, I joined the Tech Club, one of the largest student groups on campus. Every week brought opportunities to meet industry leaders through fireside chats, WesTrek, NYTrek and the Tech Conference — and as their Director of Community, I organized social events to bring students with similar interests together. I got coffee with a new Tech Club member every week, and every conversation left me feeling more inspired than the last. I’m excited to continue fostering community as one of Tech Club’s Co-Presidents for 2021-22.

As we geared up for The Equity Network’s pilot launch, we also took advantage of Harvard’s entrepreneurial resources. We conducted dozens of customer interviews in Startup Bootcamp, leveraged the Rock Center and Innovation Lab’s expert office hours, and became a semifinalist in the HBS New Venture Competition. With the help of our teammates Isa Oliveres, Olivia Melendez, and Jordyn Turner, we also won 1st place at Berkeley’s Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition. Throughout the process, our professors and classmates were instrumental to our success — lending their knowledge, time, and personal connections to help us refine our value proposition and acquire our first users.

The Equity Network is a platform that helps Black, Latinx, and Native American college students and recent grads book free 1-on-1 conversations with Advisors in their dream jobs. Our mission is to empower the next generation of diverse business leaders by democratizing access to professional networks. After launching a successful pilot as a Social Enterprise Fellow this summer, it is so rewarding to see Advisors who share our mission of racial equity go out of their way to advocate for others — and to see Advisees gain the knowledge and networks to confidently navigate their careers. My EC (second) year at HBS will be focused on growth, partnerships, and financing so I can pursue The Equity Network full-time after graduation.

“It’s who you know, not what you know” — and I am proud to be a part of the HBS network.