Back in 2011, HBS added the FIELD program as a required part of the first year curriculum. Dedicated to putting learning into action, it continues to expand and evolve each year.

To learn more about FIELD we checked in with Ariana Farney (MBA 2016) about her experience with the program. Formerly a Vice President at Wells Fargo Global Banking Group, Ariana was interested in attending business school to develop herself personally, hone her critical thinking through the case study method, grow her network, and think long and hard about what she wanted to do next in her career.

Did you enjoy participating in FIELD?

When applying to school, FIELD was something that sounded exciting, but I did not really know what to expect. After having gone through the process, I can say that I have met some of my best friends through the process, worked on some projects that I am most proud of in my academic and professional career, and learned an insane amount all by putting learning into action.

What is FIELD 1?

FIELD 1 takes place in your first semester at HBS and lasts about two months.  It is a deep dive into what makes you tick and how to better communicate, and is structured to set the foundations for working in and leading teams. There are various exercises surrounding communication, negotiation, team launches, emotional intelligence and self-awareness. The various forums set us all up for success in the remaining courses.

One of my favorite exercises centered around a theater group which taught MBAs the art of storytelling. During this exercise we were instructed to focus on our presence and presentation skills. Who knew that part of business school was also being an actor?

A personally revealing exercise was Johari’s Window, in which you list adjectives to describe your own personality traits and compare them to ones listed by several section-mates. It is incredibly eye-opening to learn what others can pick up from you after knowing you for just a few weeks, but also fascinating to learn what type of first impressions you give off. This is very tactical information in both a personal and professional setting as you look to work on new projects with peers or enter career recruiting.

Through various other team simulations, I learned the importance of setting team norms and establishing a game plan during a Team Launch phase – this greatly helped in launching my teams for FIELD 2 & 3.

What is FIELD 2?

In FIELD 2, first year students travel to an emerging market to work on a short term consulting project for ten days in January.  Students rank the 13 to 14 locations, and then are put into groups of six with people from different sections and backgrounds. It is a great way to get to know others outside your section and also have everybody bring their unique skills and experiences to the table. In a grand-reveal you find out your unique project and global country host.

Almost exactly one year ago, I discovered that I was not only heading to India (a country I have always been interested in exploring personally and professionally), but that I would have the opportunity to work on the iconic brand Harley-Davidson. Not only that, but I would get the opportunity to work with five people who have become some of my closest friends at HBS.

The FIELD 2 course is structured around “Design Thinking” and teachings based off IDEO - deep customer observations, brainstorming, prototyping and testing.  You are given multiple opportunities to put the consumer first through in-depth interviews and data gathering in country with local customers. FIELD 2 is a unique opportunity to change the way you normally attack a typical consulting project and explore an amazing emerging country through local immersion.

Our team was tasked with improving brand awareness and accessibility to women in India. Through pre-work and DASH day, we got up to speed but quickly realized how different brand perceptions could be across various cultures and countries. Through multiple customer interactions, we synthesized our findings to develop real short term and long-term strategies for the company to pursue.

My team had such an amazing time working on the project, but also exploring New Delhi on a daily basis.  We tackled project work as well as cultural immersions…including a rickshaw bike ride through the old streets of Delhi and watching the local weekly prayer ceremony. Our FIELD 2 team bond has yet to waver, and we still do regular hangouts as often as possible. 

What is FIELD 3?

FIELD 3 is an opportunity to become an entrepreneur and launch your own microbusiness. During the second term of the RC year you form small groups within a section and come up with an innovative idea you all feel passionate about.

My team gravitated to empowerment for young girls and decided on a children’s book series featuring real-life protagonists. The chance to converge on an idea, create a physical product or service, and then bring it to market (all in a semester!) is no easy feat but makes the results that much more satisfying. You learn entrepreneurial, team development, and operations skills. 

While my team probably spent an inordinate amount of time working on our project (because we were so passionate about the mission and enjoyed spending time together), it is likely the course that I learned the most from – on how I interact within a team, what motivates me personally, and what is important when launching a business.

FIELD has been the biggest positive surprise and most educationally valuable aspect of my HBS experience thus far!