Valerie Brown
BJ Wiley

BJ Wiley

Valerie Brown


Valerie Brown is a senior research analyst at Bernstein Value Equities, where she covers the media and retail sectors for the US and Global Large Cap Value portfolios. Prior to her current role, she recommended investments in the healthcare and consumer discretionary sectors for the firm’s US Small/Mid Cap Value team.

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What impact did HBS have on your life and the life of others?

Harvard Business School has had a tremendous impact on my life. At HBS, I cultivated a lifelong passion for critical thinking, leadership, and global business. The culture at HBS was dynamic, collaborative, and far more collegial than I had expected. In addition to the energy and excitement of the business school, I loved being at Harvard as a whole. I fondly recall trudging over the bridge to listen to leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors from around the world at the Kennedy School and the Law School. It was an extraordinary experience and helped me gain a better understanding of how public policy influences the private sector and the macroeconomic environment in which businesses operate.

At HBS, I developed important leadership skills inside and outside of the classroom. I served as president of the African American Student Union in my second year, and we had a fantastic leadership team. As a team we were cohesive and committed to academic excellence. Three of us graduated as Baker Scholars. In addition, we launched innovative new programs, including a study tour to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, many years before the business school integrated these types of experiences into the curriculum. Our access to senior leaders in business and government gave us a more informed perspective on international trade, the development of capital markets, and investment opportunities in the region. One lesson that I learned from this experience is that if you are not receiving something that you think is important, create it.

The HBS experience encouraged me to think broadly about solving complex business problems. I also learned the importance of commanding a room and influencing others through preparation, persuasion, and clear, effective communication. I apply these skills daily in my current role as an equity analyst at AllianceBernstein. They have also served me well as a director and volunteer at several nonprofit organizations.

I encourage young black women, and others who plan to attend HBS in the future, to take full advantage of everything HBS and the broader Harvard community has to offer—academically, intellectually, and socially. Give it your all. There are few other times in your life when you will be surrounded by such talented people on a daily basis. Revel in it and drink it all in! Speak up in class. If you have something to say, say it with conviction. Your comments are being evaluated, by your professors as well as your peers. Make friends. Take the time to build relationships with your classmates and professors. Get to know them as people, and I assure you some will become lifelong friends. You might even meet your future spouse. To that end, work out. Shad is fabulous. Daily exercise will help you manage your stress level and put you on a path for lifelong fitness.

When you graduate, pursue your goals with diligence and focus. Maintain a strong support system so that when things go off track, as they inevitably do, you will gain perspective, rebound, and move forward. Set clear financial goals. Make as much money as you can and be diligent about getting paid what you are worth. This is harder than it seems, even in this day and age. While money cannot buy happiness, it certainly makes life more comfortable. Many of the things you may choose to do at different stages in life cost money, whether that’s child rearing, eldercare, world travel, philanthropy, or building an art collection. Be in a position to afford those things that are important to you.

Always have your “vex money.” I don’t mean cab fare for a taxi home if a date does not go well. I mean the kind of money that gives you peace of mind, the ability to move on when you need to, and the ability to take calculated risks, knowing that even if things don’t go as planned, you will be just fine. Always strive to keep yourself balanced. Take the time to tend to your spiritual, physical, and mental health. Running on empty is not sustainable. Finally, remember to enjoy yourself and have fun! It’s later than you think.