Friday, August 29, 2008

Two years at Harvard Business School

Just read a book written by a journalist, Philip Delves Broughton, who attended Harvard Business School or HBS, as it is popularly known, and wrote about his experiences there. It's a much cheaper way to get a sense of what studying at HBS is like and definitely less stressful!

There is no doubt that HBS is the most powerful brand name in terms of business schools (sorry Wharton). What I found interesting about this book is that the author is very unlike the type A, super intense and incredibly driven individuals that one typically finds at HBS. He doesn't have any background in finance, he didn't even know how to use excel when he first attended HBS and didn't know the management speak that is common currency in these circles.

Although he finds himself being critical of some of the attitudes adopted by some of his colleagues - those type A people - he also writes very fondly of some of them. Some of them are actually nice people who don't want to work in the two industries most associated with HBS graduates - investment banking and management consultancy. (Not to say that ibankers and management consultants are not nice people :))

And I think through his journey at HBS, he actually slowly finds himself being more comfortable in the world of balance sheets, financial ratios and management jargon. He begins to write more sympathetically about the kind of stuff which you learn at HBS and even some of his experiences. He goes for that mandatory interview with Mckinsey (he didn't get the job), he pitches an idea to a venture capitalist, he visits the HQ of Google in California.

In the end, his path was not the same taken by most of his fellow graduates. He was the only one from his class that did not have a job when he graduated. I think he spent some time writing this book and doing some small consultancy projects here and there. For those of you who want to get a sense of the academic and career challenges that one faces in a place like HBS, I definitely recommend this book. There are some parts in which he discusses some of the details of what he learned at HBS which some might find boring but these snippets, in my opinion, are still instructive. While this is not as exciting as Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker, I found it to be well written and an instructive read.

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