What impact did HBS have on your life and the life of others?
I came to HBS in the fall of 1981, believing that I was well prepared for the storied rigor of the MBA program and confident in my ability to speak up in class. I expected collegiality, but discovered quickly that this was a bit too idealistic. I absolutely felt like an outsider-black, female and much less wealthy than most of my classmates. I was used to that feeling, however, and was not deterred. There was one other black woman in my section, and she remains one of my dearest friends.
As I found my voice in the classroom, I realized that my HBS experience would be transformational in ways I hadn't previously contemplated. I expected to be engaged in intellectually rigorous discussions about issues facing business managers focused on improving shareholder value, but I didn't expect to question and learn so much about my leadership style and personal influence. I dearly valued being a member of the African American Student Union, which was my family on campus. As a second-year student, I was chair of the AASU Alumni Conference and worked tirelessly with a visionary group of AASU members to plan a seminal conference that included Michael Manley, the former Prime Minister of Jamaica, among others. Leading a team of my classmates to create a conference that highlighted issues related to African American students and alumni and provided an opportunity for the entire HBS community to listen to a former prime minister of a developing country was the highlight of my HBS experience. I recently found a Harvard Crimson article about the 1983 AASU conference; the HBS dean at the time, John McArthur, commented on the challenges faced by minority students on campus and the need for more black faculty. So this was a pivotal time at HBS, and I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of talented African American students whose impact reverberated through the HBS community.
As a black HBS alumna, I have had extraordinary professional experiences in the financial services industry, ranging from municipal finance banking during an era of black political leadership across the United States to being part of a Morgan Stanley team which focused on accessing institutional capital for women- and minority-owned investment firms. After years of line experience, a staff role in the C-suite at Citi allowed me to positively impact firm-wide strategic initiatives. Over the course of my career, I have adapted to changing market conditions and developed expertise in banking, corporate strategy & business development, investment management, and wealth management. My impact as a black HBS alumna has been to forge career paths throughout many segments of financial services, to serve as a role model for young black professionals, to be a tireless advocate for diversity and inclusion, and to engage in philanthropic initiatives that promote educational, health, and economic opportunities for minority communities.
To young black women and men who will come to HBS, I offer the same advice that I would give my younger self: Explore new disciplines where you have no expertise, forge new relationships, and discover the common bonds that bind people in order to build support for your ideas. Embrace the transformational experience of being a member of the HBS community but also remember that your life's journey and your definition of success will be shaped by many factors, of which HBS is one small part.