What impact did HBS have on your life and the life of others?
After I received my MBA from HBS, I took a job in corporate strategy for a Fortune 500 corporation. I found the job unfulfilling, however, and began looking for something more creative. While trying to locate a fellow alumnus who worked at Walt Disney Co. to discuss career options, I learned that Disney had begun a program to develop television writers. I used analytic skills honed at HBS to figure out how television scripts were constructed, wrote my first original script, and was accepted into the program. When I interviewed for the show Martin I was surprised to learn that the show's creator graduated from HBS the year before I did. He hired me for my writing talent, but he also knew we shared a similar perspective because of our common experience at Harvard. Television writing and production are careers where you don't find many MBAs, but my understanding of general management principles, organizational behavior, and ability to shape my creative vision in a way that profitably meets the objectives of a business unit and parent corporation have been a key part of my success. HBS provided me with the perfect career through a series of unexpected connections.
I have been a writer and producer in Hollywood for over twenty years now—a long career in a very turbulent industry. I consider myself blessed to have been able to sustain myself doing something I love and consider it my obligation to share that blessing with others. I have carried on my mother's commitment to education by establishing schools and scholarships in our names. Over a decade ago, through The Links, Inc., an African-American women's service organization, we established a village primary school in South Africa. I also wanted to provide opportunities for students at the institutions where my mother served as vice president, so I established a book scholarship at Bowling Green State University and scholarships for students pursuing degrees in biology and communications (our respective passions) at Stanford University.
I'm also extremely proud that I've been recognized for providing career opportunities for others via my position as a television show-runner (essentially the CEO of the production). I received an award from the Alliance of Black Entertainment Technicians for hiring an exceptional number of qualified African American crew members on my shows. And for the past three seasons, I've been recognized by the Director's Guild of America for hiring 100 percent women and minority directors for the television episodes I produced. I believe it is my responsibility to open doors that might otherwise be closed to talented artists and to strengthen my productions by hiring the best people for the job.