Monthly Archives: July 2013

The reasons I chose HBS

Around the same time that I received an offer from HBS, other business schools I had applied to also announced their decisions. I was lucky enough to be accepted by Kellogg, Columbia, Tuck and MIT. As well, I received interview invitations from Stanford and Wharton, but declined them as I already had decided to accept the offer from HBS.

Here is a theory: it doesn’t matter how many schools you are admitted to – no one can attend more than one.

I had visited each school’s campus and was more than a little attached to them. However, the following factors were key in my decision to attend HBS.

Ultimate decision-making training:

Having worked at an investment bank and a consulting firm, I was proficient in business jargon, frameworks and analytical skills. What I needed was to hone my decision making skills before assuming a management position.

With this in mind, HBS was definitely the ideal choice. During the two years, we make about 800 decisions through the case method. Every case mirrors an actual business situation and students are required to make their own decisions. Every class is like a company board meeting. When I first visited an HBS class, I realized that HBS was the place for me.

Business passport to the world:

Since I aspire to expand my own business globally, I wanted a “passport” which would make it easier to travel from organization to organization, from country to country, everywhere around the world. HBS’ reputation and strong network will make this possible. Bottom line – when I meet someone anywhere in the world, there will be no need to explain my business acumen from zero.

This factor was quite attractive to me. There are a lot of great business schools, but in many cases their reputation varies depending on the region.

City of Boston, a healthcare haven:

Boston was the city I had long wanted to live in. In addition to the beautiful sights and fresh seafood, Boston is known as a city of healthcare.

In southwest Boston, there is an area called Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA). In this area, surrounding Harvard Medical School, are nearly 20 healthcare institutions attracting a multitude of talented healthcare people from around the globe. Since my career interest is in the healthcare industry, I wanted to build a good network in this city.


HBS MBA admission rarely asks “Why HBS?” in its interview process. But if they had asked, I would have answered like this.

Baker Library

Getting into HBS

It was December 12th of last year.

The end of the year was rapidly approaching. That afternoon I was facing two extremely tough client meetings. One was with my client’s CEO, who was eager to advance a new cost reduction project in the company. The second with a Vice President of the same company who was vehemently opposed to the CEO’s project.  In preparation for the meetings, I had been working without sleep for almost two days and had developed a presentation designed to lead the two senior executives to a point of compromise.

After finishing the meetings, exhausted, I left my office earlier than usual and went for a drink with my colleagues. I was feeling a little depressed as the meeting did not go as I expected. Anxiety chewed away at my mind while I tried to relax and forget the day imbibing in the bartender’s libation. Making my way home I fell into bed sleeping the sleep of the dead…


At 2 AM my cell phone notified me of an incoming email. I groped for my phone in the dark and glanced down at the display. In that split second, my sleep was blown away. It was an email from HBS. I jumped to my feet, opened my laptop and logged into the application website…

On behalf of Harvard  Business School, it is a pleasure and a privilege to offer you a place in the MBA Class of 2015. After careful consideration of all aspects of your application, we believe you have the ability to thrive at Harvard Business School and be a leader who makes a difference in the world. Our distinctive learning model will demand the very best of you and your classmates and will provide a firm foundation for any career path you may choose. …


Reading the message again and again and again, I finally realized that I had been admitted to HBS.

After gazing at the display for several minutes, I felt emotion welling up. Looking back at the hard days and remembering the faces of people who had supported me, I felt that the long grueling journey of the MBA application process had finally ended. The anxiety of earlier that day had totally disappeared.

The next day, I was very busy reporting the good news to my family, friends and colleagues. There were countless people I had to thank. To be honest, I was a little concerned the message I had received from HBS was some sort of mistake. It was not until I received an official letter from HBS a week later that I became confident of my admission.


HIT Started!

So, the HBS International Transition (HIT) program got underway today!

Because participants are scattered all over the world and we are in different time zones, it was early morning in Boston when class started for me. At 5:50am I rubbed the sleep from my droopy eyes and plopped down in front of my computer. HIT began with a warm greeting from a faculty member.


The first case, which I will always remember, dealt with Sara Campbell LTD. Here is a quick rundown of the case:

    • Sara Campbell LTD (SCL) is a small but fast growing apparel company with sophisticated design and high-quality products
    • Sara, the CEO, is managing the company well but is facing difficulties caused by a complex situation involving a financial controller, Stephen
    • Stephen’s work performance has not been satisfactory and he has recently been causing several serious problems. Further complicating the matter is the fact that  he is Sara’s ex-brother-in-law and paying child support for his daughter (Sara’s niece)
    • As the CEO, what Sara should do?

Written like this, it seems a straight forward, easy case. But in fact, it’s not. There are complexly intertwined issues here: business ethics, incentive management, internal control, etc. Also, some additional information is thrown in the midst of the class and it directs our discussion another way. How dynamic!

The case discussion, however, went in an organized manner and there was a great deal to take away, thanks to the high-caliber of the professor. Every year HBS assigns renowned and veteran faculty members to the pre-MBA program.

I’m still groping my way through trying to survive and get familiar with the case study method, but the first 80 minutes flew by.

This is so exciting!

How Diverse?

“Diversity” is one of the defining keywords when we talk about business schools, including HBS; and there are so many aspects of diversity: nationality, gender, business background, undergraduate major, etc.

With this definition in mind – how diverse is HBS? According to a survey, HBS’s international student ratio ranks in the middle of the pack among the top US business schools. Considering the total number of students (about 900), more than 300 international students come to HBS every year and it is said that they represent about 60 countries.

International Student Ratio

However, what does “international student” actually mean? At HBS it means the nationality on their passport is other than the U.S. but does not necessarily mean that they are not native English speakers. The reality is a great deal of international students have lived in U.S. at some point in their lives and many have graduated from American universities.

Therefore, the number of what I would term “genuine” international students (students who have never lived or studied in the U.S) is quite small. As a matter of fact, the HBS International Transition (HIT) program for international students starts tomorrow, but there are only 23 participants this year (2% of the total!).

Now this may appear to be a lack of diversity to some, but considering the nature of the case study method, such quality control is necessary.

Anyway… I guess the upshot of all this is – it’s really, really (and getting more and more) difficult for “genuine” international students to get into HBS.

At a summer retreat

A short 40 minute drive from downtown Boston is the ocean-side summer resort of the very wealthy – Marblehead. Today one of my HIT teammates hosted a barbecue at his family’s summer residence there where we grabbed some hamburgers while we sipped champagne and enjoyed the friendly sea breeze and the roar of the waves.

I know that once class starts my leisure time will be limited and I probably will not be able to enjoy it anyway – what with the concerns of academic life weighing on my mind. That said – it was so nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the past week…


Pre-MBA Programs at HBS

Before classes start in September, HBS offers two traditional pre-MBA programs. One is Analytics and the other is HBS International Transition (HIT).


Analytics is an intensive quantitative course for students who have little or no financial or accounting background. The program is similar to a math boot camp. From morning to night, participants engage in analytical training. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) I could waive this requirement as I have a finance background.


HIT is aimed at international students who don’t have sufficient academic experience in English speaking countries. The four week program offers international students intensive training in the case method and writing program in use at HBS.

In the past, HIT had been conducted in an actual classroom environment, but HBS has made a major modification this year. The program is now conducted online during the first three weeks with only the last week being conducted in the classroom. This experimental approach actually caused a lot of controversy among admitted international students. It is said that HIT is one of the most memorable experiences at HBS and HIT participants can build a lasting network through the program. Of course everyone wanted to experience this in the more intimate classroom setting.

This morning, participants (including me) had an online orientation of the program. It still remains to be seen if the online program compares favorably with the traditional method, but I was still very excited to see my future classmates via webcam.

HIT starts next week, July 24th!

Class Web Cam 2


Settling in

Well … my task list for the past couple of days has included furnishing my apartment and establishing my new life.

vacant room


The temperature in Boston has been above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and I have been sweating from morning to night while schlepping from one Big Box store to another. Have made several trips to Target and Wholefoods and have almost all the essentials.


At the same time, we international students have a lot to do. Opening a bank account, buying a new car, getting a driver’s license and cell phone and on and on ad nauseum. While not overwhelming, these things are stressful and time consuming, but fortunately everything is near Harvard Square. Things are progressing nicely.


The pre-MBA program is just a week away. Hope to enjoy the remaining calm days.


Arrived in Boston – and so it begins….

Today my life in Boston begins.

For the next three days, I will be staying at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge while I settle into my apartment at HBS, One Western Avenue (OWA). Built in 2006, OWA is one of two HBS apartments for students with families, the other being Soldiers Field Park. The HBS apartment application process is very competitive, but I luckily won the lottery and obtained the right to put down my roots in a very nice apartment.


In the morning I visited the HBS Property Management office and received my apartment keys. Although the apartment is empty, the view overlooking the Charles River is spectacular and I can’t help but get excited thinking about the upcoming two years at HBS.