“Fitness is your hobby. Finance is your career.” - Words so false that they changed my life. 

Finance

After graduating from Yale University, I joined the fast-paced world of Foreign Exchange (FX) at a large US-based investment bank in New York. In many ways the trading floor could be daunting. Being a young Nigerian female on a highly quantitative desk was already unconventional, but I was also joining the firm with an untraditional background as a liberal arts major with previous experiences in media. Nevertheless, I was still thrilled to be returning to the team I had worked with the prior summer.

Discovering Fitness

No level of excitement for the job could have prepared me for working 60-70 hours/week and operating in the 4th decimal place. In time, I realized I needed an outlet, and it came in a rather surprising place. Despite quite a bit of hesitation, a co-worker convinced me to go to an indoor cycling class with her. I didn’t understand. The bikes didn’t move – why would I do this? 

Nevertheless, I went to a class at Flywheel Sports and left feeling better, physically and mentally. While I grew up playing sports, I was not the person in the gym lifting weights or doing Tae Bo...ever.  Workouts were in service of the sport – not for myself. However, I found that working out led me to be more productive, nutrition-conscious and quite frankly, happier. It didn’t hurt that I could finally open a jar of peanut butter by myself. I realized I had discovered a passion for the overall effects of fitness and wanted to share what I felt with others – what better way than teaching? 

My Double Life

While still at my full-time job at the firm (though in a different role), I became a Flywheel instructor and started studying for a series of fitness certifications. In time, I was teaching roughly 8-12 classes a week, and I loved it! I know I surprised a few co-workers the first time they saw me teaching a class:

“Did you quit the firm? No? You’re nuts. Great class!”

I fully admit that doing both at the same time was crazy, but whether it was 5:30am before work or 7:30pm at night, I was so happy doing what I loved. I was also conscious of the fact that my primary responsibility was to my company. I worked to ensure that I was productive and meeting deadlines, and I appreciated the support I received from my colleagues. However, one day a senior colleague cautioned that “fitness is a hobby and finance is your career.” I remember nodding in agreement, but at the same time, those words rang so false.

Why Harvard Business School

One day it really hit me that I ultimately wanted to partner my love of wellness with the powerful effects of media. I knew that in order to bring my vision to fruition I needed to evolve as a person, both personally and professionally. I also wanted to be in an environment that could nurture my desire to explore and meet others I could learn with and from. As much as finance had changed my life (not to mention supported my lifestyle), I could not achieve my goals staring down Excel at the firm.

Enter HBS! The idea of going to business school had been a flickering thought throughout the years. However, the moment I knew going to grad school was right was when I realized how great of an opportunity it was. Yes, I was giving up my steady salary, but I would be gaining the opportunity to live the life I truly wanted powered by an MBA.

After visiting for Prospective Student Diversity Day and spending time with one of my best friends from Yale (an HBS first-year at the time), I had already fallen in love with HBS and had no doubt that it was where I wanted to be. Thankfully, I was accepted—and I can say with certainty, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Life at HBS

Now as a second-year, Elective Curriculum (EC) student at HBS, I can honestly say that HBS has given me the opportunity to explore wellness and media both personally and academically. As a first year Required Curriculum (RC) student, I came to understand what financial, operational, and cultural aspects I needed to consider to be an effective leader post-HBS and, thankfully, I was able to keep teaching fitness throughout the year. Over the summer I had one of the best corporate experiences of my life, interning at Equinox for the COO and the Director of Strategy. 

As a second year, I now have the exciting ability to really focus on my interests in media, fitness/sports, and entrepreneurship. I serve as Chief Wellness Officer of the Student Association and am actively working with my team to make HBS a healthy, active, and fun campus. My schedule this semester consists of taking classes that perfectly complement my career goals: the Business of Sports, Entertainment, and Media, Developing Mindsets for Innovation, Building Sustainable and Successful Enterprises, Negotiations, and an immersive class that allows me to travel to Los Angeles and work with a media company. I’m also working with one of my favorite professors on an independent project that allows me to test out some of my ideas. 

What’s Next

On the personal front, I have met people that have forever changed my life. From section mates that have become my soul sisters, to friends I consider family, to professors and faculty who have helped me answer questions I could have never answered alone. One of the biggest losses of not coming to HBS would have been living life without these people. 

I will never regret going into finance. Not only did I work with some incredible people, but without that experience, I might not have discovered my passion for wellness. 

Life post-HBS will be the start of yet another great adventure. I never could have imagined the doors that HBS would open for me to pursue my interests post-graduation – but there’s no doubt that it has and I’m excited for what’s next. 

While in some ways it feels like sprinting into the unknown, what’s life without a great sweat? 

Learn more about Dilan’s experience at HBS by visiting her student profile on the HBS People page or listen to her podcast.

This post was originally feautured on the MBA Voices blog.