Cutting edge’ is hardly the traditional view of the non-profit sector. However, this is the aspect that attracted Bob Halperin (HBS MBA 1982) to a career in education. Halperin is responsible for HBS’s custom executive education business at HBS Interactive (HBSi) and was a co-founder of the HBS Social Enterprise Fellowship Program.
Halperin has not always been in non-profit. On graduating from HBS he was attracted by the enormous potential of the PC industry and worked as a product manager in the software industry for 10 years.
A meeting with an MIT professor in the early 1990s provided him with the opportunity to move into higher education, managing a research center at MIT’s Sloan School. While the move to academia involved a pay-cut, it was extremely attractive to Halperin. “I wanted to work in a field where the mission was greater than just making a profit for one company. Through education and research, I have been able to help business people understand how IT can be used to improve organizations.”
Halperin moved from research-focused work at MIT, to Babson College and most recently to executive education at HBS. “The field of executive education provided me with the opportunity to run a business in the non-profit sector. It acts as a bridge between my background in software and the world of business.”
Q: What are the benefits to working in non-profit?
A: Having a meaningful mission: “HBSi shares in and contributes to HBS’s larger mission to develop leaders who make the world a better place. That feels right and good to me.”
Diversity: “There is an enormous diversity of people and companies involved in executive education. I have particularly enjoyed the international dimension through partnerships with companies and schools from around the world.”
“Hot” sector: As the PC industry was in the 1980s, today Executive Education is an extremely exciting and ‘hot’ sector to be in, at the intersection of business, education, and technology.”
Q: What are the challenges of working in non-profit?
A: Measuring success: “The flip-side of a non-profit mission is that unlike the for-profit world, you can’t just look to the bottom line to measure success”
Wealthy ambitions: “Obviously, business schools and other non-profits don’t offer stock options so it’s clear that you’re never going to get rich in Social Enterprise.”
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring HBS students interested in social enterprise?
A: “Look for dynamic intersections between business, government, and non-profits. That’s where some of the most interesting work can be found.”
Q: How do your experiences match your previous perceptions of the social sector?
A: “Life at a business school is not an idyllic ivory tower existence. We’re fully engaged in the world, and our plates (and work days) overflow with opportunities and challenges.”