Bad Advice: Life @ HBS

Nishkam Prabodh, Satire Editor

Popular RC and winner at life shares advice on how to thrive.

With summer’s lease having passed its too short a date, we are well and truly into the Fall now. Boston is taking on every shade of orange, yellow, and brown, and the weather changes more frequently than my mood. Even as turgid morbidity rages on around us (33 million cases, 990 thousand deaths), social circles spring up with fervid passion here at Harvard Business School (shot!). Life, as it rightly should, goes on.

As the cold winds of winter and recruitment begin their frigid expedition, I am eager to arm myself with every piece of advice I can get. So, I sat down with ultra-popular RC, winner at life, and my personal life coach, Mitsi Picot (MBA ’22), to get a few tips on navigating life at Harvard Business School (shot!). I would highly recommend not following them. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

 Let’s talk about appearances, first. What is the ideal Fall look?

Here’s what’s important. No matter how cold you are, don’t whip out that winter parka yet. You must look good and slowly trick people into accepting you for who you are. Until that, pretend and shiver. Form over function. Lastly, Fall is a fairly predictable season; everyone dresses like they’re going to a pumpkin patch and everyone does actually go apple picking. I say do it—it’s mostly fun. But be safe and stay at least six feet away from that basic shit. 

How has the classroom experience been for you?

 Well first of all, participation has largely been a breeze for me. I am here to learn. So, I ask rhetorical questions with answers built into them. Part of the case learning method is to listen, adapt and regurgitate without letting it be known that you just threw back an already stated point.

How are you navigating social life? 

There are three categories of people here. Self-select and settle. Don’t worry, you can change it later if you want.
If you’re good looking and socially nimble, you’re basically set. Go out, drink aggressively and win at life.
If you’re introverted but still considered funny by a few people, seek good company, drink aggressively and forge friendships. After doing that for a couple of weeks, form a gang, pledge fast, pledge hard, and stick with them. Have diversity and a solid vision to ensure you are not branded a clique.
If you identify as socially awkward, well…drink aggressively, hangout with whoever you want and say whatever you want. You’re already socially awkward and so you might as well have fun. 

That still sounds a lot like a clique…

There are no cliques here. There, I said it. It’s just that some of us do our cases with loud music on and in groups of 20. With alcohol and the occasional weed. It’s a very common study method, honestly. You’ll find it everywhere. Cliques are what I witnessed in high school when the cool kids would not invite me to their parties. This is different. 

Any tips on recruitment?

If your previous (and future) recruiter is footing your MBA bill, go crazy. The world is your oyster. Try out a different industry. I say go as weird as possible. If you’re debt-ridden, go crazy anyway. Experiment, switch careers, or build more experience in your industry. If you feel like playing it safe, ask yourself: when, if not now?

Have you found any of this stressful?

What, the life here? It’s the right kind of stress, I’d say. Look, I’m basically a god when it comes to social interactions. I mean that. Everyone wants to be my friend. But even I feel conscious when I haven’t read a case before class or when someone calls me out on my high pitched laugh or makes a joke about my choice of music. But this is the sort of stress I’d happily take. It’s complicated. The right kind of complicated. 

What about relationships? Have you been on any dates?

Tricky business, dating. Very tricky. At HBS (shot!), it’s very hard to gauge what constitutes a date. I have been on a few lunches where I found myself chugging wine from sipper bottles and talking about my previous relationships. I realized after I had gone home that maybe that was a date. What you need to know is this though—there is no such thing as out of league anymore. You think you like someone? Grow a pair and ask them out for lunch. Who knows? Maybe it will turn into a date mid way.

Mitsi and I continued our conversation late into the night. However, with little time for romance and my sleep related fragilities, I had to call it a night and bid adieu. Mitsi pulled on her leather jacket and headed to Cambridge for Midnight-Mayhem totally-socially-distant and within-allowed-limits-of-guests small gathering.

Edit: I met Mitsi again the following night. She was in an unusually reflective mood which I put down to sobriety and fatigue. Here are her thoughts on life at HBS (water, please!), verbatim:
“It’s ok to be different, boo. You need to embrace your inner unicorn. You are among very, very talented people. Everyone knows something about a lot of things or a lot about something. If you, at times, feel like an impostor in a crowd of pulchritudinous intellectuals, if a campus brimming with introductions, new beginnings and nervous energy gets you both excited and anxious, and if you’re still looking for social ground to settle your feet on, relax, friend. You are not alone.”

Nishkam lived and worked in India prior to coming to HBS. An alum of IIT Delhi, Nishkam is deeply passionate about hammy comedy, happy music and trashy fiction.