Cold Call: Olga Gomonova (NE)

This week, Cold Call has the pleasure and privilege of sitting down with Olga Gomonova…

DC: So let’s start from the beginning. Where are you from?

OG: From Russia, a place called Tula, a small military industrial town. Mom is a teacher; dad is a doctor; and everyone still lives there, including my grandma.

DC: Then they must miss you!

OG: Yes, absolutely, but my moving away from Russia wasn’t really a planned event. I went to school in Tula, bc in Russia, people don’t travel the way they do in America – it’s just not a mobile place. In the second year in college, my girlfriend tells me there are programs that allow students to come to the US for a summer. The idea is that you practice English and work in a foreign country replica watches. So I’m told that I am going to New Hampshire to work as a maid, and I think “whatever, it’s America, it’s all going to be awesome.”

I’m literally working at Motel 9. $5 an hour, clean the toilets, all day long. There’s absolutely no one there. The hotel is probably only 30% filled, and so English practice, making money for the summer —those plans all go out the window.

DC: That’s insane.

OG: So everyone is strapped for cash, but we didn’t think things through, obviously. So I almost decided to go back and exchange my ticket, when I wake up, and I hear a rattling noise. I open the door, and it’s a thousand Harley Davidson boys on bikes. By sheer luck, the first week of July is a Harley Davidson party. There are big tents where they sell anything you can imagine, and the place is completely populated // So half an hour later, I had a new job, selling leather chaps. By the time bike week was over, I had $1000 saved, and the next day, we get on the bus. I always wanted to go to New York, but my girlfriend was scared, so we compromised and said Boston, which is how I ended up in Boston.

DC: You became a fiction novel overnight. Did you tell your parents??

OG: My mom was freaking out, and my girlfriend was a little chubby, and she lost weight bc she was stressed. But then, I was on Newbury Street, and an agent suggested I try modeling, and then things really changed. By the end of the summer, I so loved it that I took my girlfriend to the airport, and I just stayed.

DC: What year was that?

OG: 2004. I just so loved the country!

DC: What did you love about it?

OG: I’m the biggest American patriot. I follow American politics closely, and I’m very passionate about the issues. I don’t take for granted that the effort you put into things in Russia accomplishes nothing, but the same effort in America accomplishes so much. You couldn’t pay me to live anywhere else.

DC: That’s so heartening to hear!

OG: Yeah, so I worked really hard to stay, and I then figured out my migration status, and after a year and a half, I transferred my credits from Tula State and got into Tufts.

DC: Was it easy to make friends?

OG: No, I made two friends at Tufts, but I treated school like a job.

DC: What happened after Tufts?

OG: I dropped modeling altogether. I don’t think it’s a very good profession bc only 1% make it big, and 99% only break even for the rest of their lives. It’s a fun lifestyle and sort of flattering, but underneath it all, it’s a lot of hours spent trying things on.

DC: So then what did you do after modeling?

OG: I got a job with State Street Boston, and three weeks later, I had the opportunity to move to New York finally after six years! Part of the deal was corporate housing, and it was in Times Square. I remember flying there, and thinking “OMG, I totally have it made, I’m living in TIMES SQUARE.”

DC: Did you apply to a lot of business schools, or was it Harvard or bust?

OG: I applied to nine! I just knew that I was for sure going to school.

DC: What did you tell Harvard what you want to do?

OG: I was at a startup working with currencies, so I thought maybe wealth management.

DC: What is your thinking now?

OG: I’m trying consulting with McKinsey New York, and we’ll see how it works.

DC: What are you most excited about going back to in New York?

OG: I love New York. I will not live anywhere else. New York is the only place where I feel like ”this is the action.” Anywhere else, you feel the action is somewhere else, but in New York, you do feel like it’s the center of the universe.

DC: Do you hang out with mostly Americans or…?

OG: I have a pretty steady group of Russian models that are my hookup to the club scene. All you need is one girlfriend who goes out all the time! And in my real life, I still have my two friends from Tufts!

DC: What was the most surprising thing about Harvard to you?

OG: How nice and humble everyone is! I think everyone might say that, but it’s true. And there are so many things you still don’t know about people – you find out that classmates make documentaries about whales!

DC: And what’s the biggest downside of HBS?

OG: I’m pretty happy about everything. Wait, I don’t like how Harvard is in Boston. I’m happy to go on record for that because I suffered all through undergrad here!

DC: What are your favorite Boston spots, since you have to be here?

OG: I recommend Mistral and Sorellina – great Italian restaurants with very tasty food.

DC: What did you do for Spring break?

OG: Cancun! You’d be surprised how wonderful it was! There were a bunch of people from other sections, and it was just a nice experience. I was totally shocked.

DC: How do you think things will change next year?

OG: I’m looking forward to next year! I’ll take Fridays off and maybe Mondays and then pile my classes!

DC: Anything you want to make sure you get done before school ends?

OG: I need to get a driver’s license! For consulting, I need to have a driver’s license.

DC: How do you feel about style at HBS?

OG: First of all, I’ve found that the student body is attractive. People are cute, and that’s great news.

DC: How much of that is raw talent, and how much of that is packaging?

OG: There’s raw talent for sure. People have great accessories. I love seeing women dress well.

DC: And men’s fashion?

OG: Men’s fashion is decent. They can always work on it!

DC: If you weren’t at business school, what would you be doing?

OG: I think working in finance, but long term, I’m definitely an entrepreneur, and I operate the best in unstructured environments. I think school will help me, but I might have ended up there anyways.

DC: What business could you envision yourself setting up?

OG: Anything – I just need a good idea. Dude, how fast do you type??

DC: I don’t know…pretty fast, I think. I have piano fingers.

<conversation about typing skills ensues>

DC: There are typing drills you can do…

OG: I’ve done them! But I still <hunt and peck type miming>

DC: Any other goals out of HBS?

OG: I am going to try to do what I didn’t do at Tufts – make more good friends. And I’ll try and be more grown up.