A Day at HBS

7:00 AM

Up earlier than usual – off to my section mates’ apartment. An Egyptian, he has invited me to his special power breakfast. Arranged on the wooden table was a breakfast worthy of the Ritz-Carlton: steaming hot poached eggs, fresh salmon, spicy bacon, crisp arugula salad, soft croissants, freshly-squeezed orange juice, and various kinds of yoghurt.

“I didn’t know there was a three-star restaurant in our apartment.” I said.

“Even Michelin doesn’t know.” he replied.

8:00 AM

To Spangler cafeteria as usual to find my study group in the corner of the huge dining hall.

“Shall we start with Finance?”

We usually start with technical stuff such as Finance and Accounting, sharing the financial model and confirming assumptions with each other. We then spend the last 15-20 minutes on qualitative classes, such as Leadership and Marketing, and take a dry run of the actual class. This one-hour is a good wake-up exercise.

9:00 AM

Today’s first class is Marketing. Our case concerns the 2012 London Olympics, and we discuss the pricing strategy on the various events’ tickets.

“So, how would you set the price for swimming?”

Although not thoroughly prepared, I tenuously raise my hand – remembering my study group member’s comment.

“I think we should look at the Sydney Olympics as a reference point for the following three reasons…”

10:50 AM

Up next – Finance.  Theme – the corporate valuation with DCF analysis, which used to be my daily chore at Morgan Stanley. Remembering those dreadfully busy days, I remain quiet, listening to the class discussion.  At the most inopportune moment, the professor calls on me.

“How would you calculate the asset beta of this company?”

“Well, we usually take the comparable companies’ average, but considering the unique business model and the stable performance in the capital market of this company, I think we should use its own beta in this case.”



1:30 PM

The last class of the day is Financial Reporting and Control (FRC). The protagonist is a board member of an American retail company. Ernst and Young, the company’s auditor, finds some fraudulent accounting practices, and requires the CEO and CFO to resign or terminate the contract of audit.

“This auditor is crazy! The CEO says it’s just a misstatement and unintentional. How may CEOs do we need to work with this auditor?” A section mate who has an entrepreneurial background argues.

“I can’t disagree more! The auditor’s request is quite reasonable. It’s just after the Enron scandal. They can’t be too conservative. They shouldn’t work with such a dodgy CEO and CFO.” An ex-accountant harshly counters the argument.

Discretion being the better part of valor, I prudently decide not to mess with the big dogs, opting to just listen to the exciting and engaging conversation.

4:00 PM

Immediately after third class, a thousand enthusiastic students run into the HBS’s biggest auditorium, Burden Hall. The attraction is a 90 minute lecture by Clayton Christensen, one of the most renowned professors at HBS, speaking on “How will you measure your life?”

This lecture is based on his latest book with the same title. He applies various business theories to our personal lives, and throws out many thought-provoking questions.

“No one aims to be a workaholic CEO whose family is dysfunctional. However, many over achievers, especially HBS graduates, walk into the same trap. Do you know why?”

Usually high-handed HBS students are now listening to the lecture like kids with shining eyes.

6:00 PM

At this time of the year, various career sessions are held for first year students, as the start of recruiting season is only two months away. Our classrooms are transformed into the companies’ presentation booths. Together with some section mates, who have the same career interest, we meander from classroom to classroom.

After the “presentation crawling”, we finally get to a light dinner at Spangler cafeteria. Today’s dinner is sushi box. Not bad.

8:00 PM

Telephone conference with Chinese company, our FIELD 2 program client. We are now developing a new design for apparel products and today’s agenda is to present our first cut draft to them. Nervously, I push the call button on Skype…

“Hi! Good morning to you! How was our first cut sketch??”

“Hi guys! Good evening to you. It was awesome! We liked that. Is that really yours (HBS students’)?”

Seems they fancy it. Breathe easy.

10:00 PM

Start reading tomorrow’s cases. Hmm, where did the day go?


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