Sarah Zia
Home Region

Laguna Niguel, CA

Undergrad Education

Harvard College

Previous Experience

Netflix, Inc.; The Walt Disney Company

HBS Activities

Student Association Chief Community Officer and CPD Student Advisor

“One of the most valuable features of the case method is the opportunity to hear classmates’ personal experiences and share your own to provide unique context and perspectives.”

Coming to HBS is...

An adjustment, and it takes a bit to settle in. But once you get the hang of it, time starts to fly by. The first 6 weeks of the first semester felt like 6 years and the second 6 weeks felt like 6 minutes.

What is your most memorable classroom moment?

One of the most valuable features of the case method is the opportunity to hear classmates' personal experiences and share your own to provide unique context and perspectives. Prior to business school, I worked on Disney's Strategy team, so I shared a longer comment during the Disney case, part of the Strategy curriculum. This comment was my most memorable of RC year, and it coincided with our section's Virtual Friends & Family Day, where relatives and friends were invited to listen in on class discussions via Zoom. My dad was on the call, and to top it off, my sister happened to be visiting me, so she was in the classroom and heard the comment live too. Having my family witness “classroom Sarah” and get a peek into my business school experience was incredibly rewarding.

What is one thing you brought with you to campus, and one thing you'll be leaving with?

Brought with me: a strong dislike for 8am meetings; leaving with: an excitement for my 8am discussion group meetings. (At the beginning of first year, everyone was assigned a discussion group, consisting of students from different sections. We met every morning during the first semester to review the day's cases—our group continued meeting through the second semester since we'd become so close and enjoyed spending the time together.)

How have diverse perspectives in your section contributed to your understanding of business concepts, leadership, and / or problem solving?

Every year, the South Asian Business Association (SABA) hosts EKTA—an inter-section Indian dance competition. The dances are open to all students in the section, and the performers represent diverse backgrounds. I choreographed the performance for Section J, and it was one of my first times leading such a large group. Everyone had their own unique learning style and cultural norms for how to work in groups. My leadership style constantly flexed based on whom I was teaching or working with. While some people were more nervous and preferred gentle coaching, others appreciated “tough love” and direct feedback. That said, I also observed some aspects that people universally responded well to: approaching work with energy and excitement—instilling faith that each performer could dance.

If you could give one piece of advice to prospective students, what would it be?

What you'll take away most from this experience are the strong, lasting friendships, so take time to invest in those. Meet people both inside and outside of your section, get to know them, and have fun with them. For me, it was often the little moments (e.g. late-night Dominos runs, bonding in airport lounges, game nights, staycation at a friend's place) that were the most impactful.