What impact did HBS have on your life and the life of others?
In the world of finance, if you were smart, creative, and assertive, you could make decisions and see the impact on outcomes. You could do deals that would markedly affect a company’s future, help a city build a stadium, or a school expand their programs—in other words, make a difference in society. So I enrolled in business school to prepare myself for a career in investment banking. My Harvard MBA is an incredible franchise, and I’d repeat that decision in a heartbeat.
HBS has had a profound impact on me as a leader. I appreciate the collaborative approach to leadership offered through the section experience, and recognize the enormous value of relationships. When I first arrived, fresh out of Harvard University, I relied on my own intelligence, work ethic, and delivery as the keys to my success. But I came to recognize the power and essence of developing and nurturing a diverse set of relationships, and that has shaped who I am as a leader, a mentor, and a sponsor. I also credit my HBS experience with my confidence in looking at a set of facts, even a deficient set, and arriving at the right questions to solve almost any problem.
I derive an immense amount of satisfaction from advising and coaching a new generation of talented African Americans to be courageous. I sincerely believe that we were given blessings so we can be a blessing, and that the fastest way to realize your dreams is to try to make them happen for someone else. I promised myself that if I made it, I would repay those who helped me by guiding others, who in turn will reach back and show someone else how to move ahead. I encourage young women and men to stretch themselves, to take the ball and run with it. Don’t become so immersed in work that you forget to say hello to people. You need to develop relationships over time with both colleagues and clients, and positively influence perceptions about you. I learned some lessons the hard way in the early years when there were fewer mentors.
Young black women who attend HBS should fully embrace the experience in every way: aggressively pursue academics and relationships, particularly relationships with people from other countries and with backgrounds markedly different from your own. Lose preconceived or imagined notions about how others see you. You earned the privilege of attending HBS. Own every bit of that power and move forward; the admissions office does not make mistakes. I would also say to take risks. If your expertise is finance, immerse yourself in operations; if operations is your expertise, immerse yourself in marketing. As a future global leader, you will need to have a perspective about all of the core competencies that enable an organization to grow and maintain leadership.
I cannot say that being black and a woman particularly shaped my experience at HBS, although I looked to members of AASU to get the support and help that I needed to find my sea legs at HBS. I went on to join the leadership team of that organization and also became involved in WSA and three different study groups, two that were multicultural and one that was African American. I was very comfortable with my ethnicity and gender while at HBS.
Being a black woman graduate of HBS creates a perception of intelligence and capability—a perception that I am happy to make a reality.