I sat there silently screaming. Eyes flitting across the room at the faces sitting around the table gathered for a Brita leadership team meeting. They couldn’t possibly do it, I thought to myself, clutching my 3D-printed prototype like a wounded sparrow. I had spent months contaminating water only to clean it again through my novel filter. I had filed the patent. Lined up suppliers. Met the ridiculous margin requirements of a Fortune 500 company.

The category was declining. Our last two product launches fared poorly. The buyer wouldn’t be interested. Maybe we could repurpose the technology? The torpedoes kept coming.

Not to be dramatic or anything, but for any product developer this is the most painful moment of their career. The moment when the fledgling idea you’ve spent months, maybe years, cultivating, testing, prototyping, iterating breathes its last cold sigh before death.

Fast forward to my time at SpaceX where we found an incredible new technology for—of all things—capturing urine in a zero-gravity environment. A tiny lab was working on the technology that was going to save us mass, space, and complexity in manufacturing. We were ready to get to work on a partnership except for one thing: they wanted a multi-million-dollar up-front payment.

If you learn one thing at SpaceX it’s you don’t buy expensive things unless you absolutely have to. In fact, overpriced rocket launches are the reason the company exists in the first place and remain its raison d’etre. So we stopped pursuing the technology and set out on developing our own solution, a move that—I’m sure—crushed the team at the laboratory: watching what they thought was a sure partner and lucrative contract slip through their fingers.

This is why I decided to come to Harvard Business School—to give life to the technology that has the potential to change how we do things, and whose only barrier is a poor revenue model or a misaligned product-market fit. I’m now better equipped to solve these problems, identify the right segment, launch plan, financing, strategy, etc. to get great new ideas off the ground. 

When I look back on it I wish I could pinpoint a single case, conversation, or speaker that really had an impact, but I can’t, which is really how I describe the whole experience of being at business school. In undergrad I’d walk out of a lecture and think “cool—now I know how to optimize a bioreactor.” 

Business school is different. Discussing 2-3 business situations daily with the brightest people I’ve ever met doesn’t give me an immediate “take home” lesson. But I think back on what classmates said, something the professor mentioned, and how the discussion morphed my own first impressions in nearly every decision I make both personally and professionally.

This summer I joined Target as a Buyer to try out merchandising and retailing, hopping over to the other side of the table from where I was at Clorox (where I spent four years before my time at SpaceX). I was so incredibly eager to see how the same people for whom I developed products make decisions about buying them and taking product development from the product level to the shelf level. The culture is incredible and Minneapolis is a fantastic city, both things that don’t hurt for a summer respite from classes.

Who knows what the future holds after graduation. The one thing I can say is this: to all the product developers out there with fantastic ideas, I’m coming for you. We’re going to take that widget you’ve poured your heart and soul into and make it the one thing that someone can’t live without. I can’t wait.

This post was orginally published on HBS MBA Voices