Welcome, Back and Forward

Welcome, Back and Forward

Welcome back future business leaders. And for you first years…welcome forward?  I can tell you that as a first year you will constantly be enamored with the second years, entranced with the classic paradigmagical trap that makes every second year seem much older and wiser than you are.  And, you’re right.  We are. Even the 2+2’s.

Harvard Business School: a preparation for your future profession as an industry leader.  But first, you must start anew in a job.  There’s nothing like the feeling of beginning a new career, in a subdued role, having the pleasure of coming off your previous role as a thoroughbred leader only to takeover the role of awkward silent one who eats lunch alone.  Your awkwardness at work this past summer can only be topped by your response to your manager’s weird and mistimed attempts at humor as you rear back your head to bellow out an overtly loud guffawed attempt at a future promotion while your subconscious begs you to stop being such a milquetoast.  Yeah, look that one up.  Milk + Toast.

I battle back tears as I write this, knowing that I will soon have to leave my job and enter back into the real world at Harvard.  Arrghh, business school!  How dare you take us away from our cubicles!  Sitting at your desk this summer, toiling over your thoughts of how much better you would do as the CEO while waiting for your favorite part of the day (read: lunch), your thoughts undoubtedly turned toward being back at business school, toward your newest of friends, toward your pending vacations to exotic countries and your countless late nights at the KONG with the hour of the night closely underpinning your floor 1, 2, or 3 choice notwithstanding a risk-benefit analysis of others’ sweat. It may be tough to give up your cubicle, but at least we can exchange it for recess and your chance to pretend your high school abilities are still readily available.

For you first years coming in, wide-eyed, ready to experience the environment that is Harvard Business School, we welcome you.  We won’t see you…ever, but we welcome you.  In all fairness, inside of this powerful institution you will meet some of the most interesting and intelligent individuals that you’ve ever come across.  You will meet people from all over the world, with stories, experiences, and backgrounds that meld together to create an unforgettable class experience.  From the former World Health Organizationizer who planted water seeds in the soils of disadvantaged nations to the reputable private equity champ who can get to a DCF before you get out a WTF, you will meet them all.

If you are worried about your first few classes here at HBS, we second years are a solid resource of best practices.  One such tradition to get accustomed to is the infamous “cold-call” which starts every Harvard Business School class.  Put your worries aside.  The following is a five-step best practice outline to prepare you:


Mastering Your First Cold-Call:

1)    Once the professor closes the door to signal the start of class, push your chair back and stand up.  This enduring tradition at HBS is two-fold: showcasing respect for the professor while indicating that you are ready to begin class.  A lot of your peers will not know about this tradition at the onset, but rising before others will enable you to stand out.

2)    Before the professor cold-calls a fellow student it is advised to cold-call the professor.  This forward gesture will be much appreciated.  Basic compliments and small talk about the morning are commonplace.  Do this prior to sitting down in your seat.

3)    If you happen to be cold-called, take a deep breath and relax.  This is your time to shine. Take as much time as you need from the moment you are called until when you first speak.  No sense in saying something wrong.  Side conversations with your neighbors prior to beginning are encouraged and can help add structure and depth to your opener.  When you are ready, stand up and begin your comment.

4)    Minutiae, minutiae, minutiae.  I can’t stress this enough.  The more details the better.  Undoubtedly you have committed most of the case to memory and minute case facts prove your preparation as well as your ability to memorize large volumes of data.  This is especially important given the recent growth of Big Data as an emerging field.

5)    Lastly, when your comment is complete quietly exit the classroom, as you will not be called on again that class.

In transition and in summary, as you look back at your internship second years, the main question to ask is: Did you become CEO by the end of the summer? If the answer is no, you haven’t failed, its just that your coworkers have yet to see your full potential.  Keep posting those 8×10’s around the office from your days in student government and before long people will take notice.  That coveted CEO spot will soon be yours.  If anyone deserves it, it’s you.  For Peet’s Coffee sake you go to Har—.   You go to school in Boston…. errr…Cambridge…. ummm… you go somewhere near Harvard Square??

Just to be clear, you go to Harvard Business School.  Spit it out.  Welcome back, and welcome forward.