30 Aug 2023

Know Your HBS Staff: Ted Petrosky


By Shona Simkin

As a staff assistant for the program delivery team in Student Academic Services, Ted Petrosky has been part of the team behind the scenes, pulling all the logistics together for incoming first year Required Curriculum (RC) students. We asked Ted about his current role and career path, including juggling and performing with fire, which isn’t as far removed from his current work as you might think.

What does your work look like day to day?
Our team handles everything that can fall outside of the typical RC week-to-week experience, like pre-matriculation/START [RC's weeklong introduction to HBS and the case method]. We’re currently doing registration; making sure that they are up to date with their checklists. If they're not, we tell them what they need to do and send them off to do it, or off to pick up their course materials and their IDs and get situated for START. We also handle the logistics of START, with their class section reveal and a Dean’s welcome at Klarman Hall, and then their meetings with their full section and section chairs. The rest of the year we handle SIPs [Short Intensive Programs] in January, then the on-campus parts of FIELD Global Immersion in the spring and Bridges [a capstone experience] before Commencement. Then we do it all over again!

What was your career path to HBS and this role?
I was an MBA classroom scribe for almost two years before I was in program delivery. It was the most interesting way to be introduced to academia—being able to sit in the back of the room and get an understanding of the MBA experience—to be part of the class, but not taking the class. I type 110 words a minute, so it was a perfect role for me.

Before that, I had a kind of bizarre life where I was a freelance circus performer for 10 years—fire spinning, acrobatics, and juggling. Juggling conventions, circus retreats, and festivals around the world would hire me to travel to them to perform and teach the techniques I specialized in. I stepped back from that once my work for HBS got more involved.

Tell us more! How did you become interested in being a circus performer?
I'm originally from New York City. When I was 13, I saw someone juggling in Central Park and thought it looked fun. I sat down and talked to him for a while and he explained the whole world of circus work, and I was in. From then on, when I wasn't at school, I was in a park practicing juggling, spinning, and a little bit of martial arts—about eight hours a day. I went to college for a few years when I was 21, but decided I wanted to pursue performing and then spent about 12 to 16 hours a day practicing. I started making YouTube videos of new ideas I came up with and made it onto an international ranking and was voted one of the top 10 performers of fire spinning every year for about three years in a row. And then it just exploded from there (pun intended!). There’s a big circus community here in Boston, which was one of the big motivators for me moving up here about eight years ago.

What is it like to work with fire?
There are two types of performing: performing for other performers, and for non-circus performers. When you perform for other performers, you focus on the technicalities. For those who aren't enthusiasts, it's more about the spectacle—making it big and interesting. That's where fire can come in. Other performers are really tuned into the tiny little motions that others don’t see, but with spectators you can show them something like a giant fireball and it will blow their minds.

I was a fully insured performer, and went through multiple training courses for safety—learning about specific types of fuel, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, costumes, and lingo for conveying different circumstances to the safety team, as well as responsibilities to the audience as a performer.

Photo courtesy Shawn Ferry Photography

Are there any intersections with fire spinning and what you're doing now?
It's more that the experience gave me an understanding of what devotion and commitment mean, and how to see something through to the end. I tallied up how much time I spent practicing, and it was probably more than 15,000 hours. My choreographed performances were very intricate and difficult to do without mistakes. Sometimes it’s up to six months of choreographing, finding the music and props, and talking with other dancers or performers I’ve worked with to help with things like stage blocking and lighting. Then it’s watching all of the small pieces come together—like we do in program delivery—and understanding that the final product of what we’re working on is greater than the sum of its parts.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
My two biggest things right now are photography and motorcycling. I got my first motorcycle a few years ago and started trying to figure out how they worked. But I kind of ruined that motorcycle and I have another one that I’m working on. When I was learning my circus work as a teenager my mom gave me her old 35mm camera, and I’ve been taking photos since then. Now that I’ve taken a step back from the circus work, I'm able to focus more on photography. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been a concert photographer working for local magazines, shooting big concerts that come through town. That led to connecting with musicians, so now I also do promotional photos for musicians, which is super fun.

What is something that surprised you about your work here at HBS?
There are faculty here who are some of the most incredible people I've ever met. When I started, I wasn't sure what to expect. But over the past five years I've had the chance to work with faculty in a multitude of roles—as a scribe, an online learning facilitator during the pandemic, and then in my current position. It’s been surprising and wonderful to get to know them, and have them be curious about me too. I thought that faculty would live in their world, and I’d live in mine, without anyone making a bridge. But everyone tries to make a bridge, and it’s really beautiful. There are so many kind, wonderful people here.

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