When she arrived at HBS, Meredith “Max” Hodges (MBA 2010) already knew that she wanted to be the director of a nonprofit cultural organization. “I think that was the first line of my application essay,” she says, adding, “I had plenty of opportunity to test and refine that hypothesis through field studies, projects, and in the HBS classroom.”
It proved correct. Named executive director of Boston Ballet in May 2014, where she and the company’s artistic director lead a staff of 750, Hodges continues to call on her MBA skills in an organization characterized as much by its analytical, data-driven culture as its commitment to performing innovative, contemporary dance alongside beloved ballets like The Nutcracker.
“Boston Ballet is an organization heavily steeped in data,” says Hodges. “But the crucial step is closing the loop between analysis and insight, figuring out what to do differently, and moving to implementation.”
To that end, Hodges has already made a point of bringing other MBAs on board, hosting both a Social Enterprise Summer Fellow and an HBS Leadership Fellow.
“I love giving students and alumni the opportunity to make an impact here,” she says. “Data-driven decision-making, executive-level synthesis, insight, and communication are all part of the MBA skill set, in addition to quick time-to-output. The training that leads people to take a complex and somewhat amorphous problem and quickly drive to a new outcome can have a very exciting impact in the context of the arts.”
Despite the value of MBA skills in an arts organization, Hodges recognizes that her field isn’t as obvious a career path to others as it was for her. “Arts and nonprofit organizations can be very network-based and a little more complex to navigate,” she says. Clearly, Hodges is doing what she can to clear the path for others—and creating significant change in the process.