From our series, What It's Really Like To Be A Woman At The Country's Most Prestigious Business School, these are highlights from conversations with four women from HBS’ class of 2015. In their own words, they tell us about their two years at Harvard, what they learned (including lots of amazing getting-ahead advice), and how they’re planning to conquer their futures.
HBS class of 2015
One of the main reasons I came to business school is that it put me on a great track to get to the next stage of my career. But when I got here, I started thinking that I could be doing more with my life. In the moment, you just don’t always realize how big an opportunity this is and you take it for granted. But when you put it in perspective, you realize we have the opportunity to go on to do whatever we want with our careers — and also a big opportunity to inspire other people.
I grew up in Brooklyn. My mother immigrated to the U.S. from Guyana. She was a single parent and I am an only child. My grandparents were close by, and so were both my aunts, so after school I'd go to my grandparent's house, but I also learned to be independent. I think we just managed, you know?
What did I want to do when I grew up? I wanted to do so many things. I think at one point I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a high-powered CEO in tech and then finance. I knew I wanted to be successful; that was always in the back of my mind. For me, it meant earning money and being in a powerful position. Being at the top of a company, that’s how I envisioned it.
You arrive at HBS and you’re suddenly surrounded by 900 students who have done well in their careers. Every day, I’m around people who have done so many spectacular things and, at times, I wonder whether I’ve really done that much with my life. There are people here who have started a company. I see all the possibilities of things I could do and I think, my god, I want to find that awesome thing that I really love and go after it.
To a certain extent, it’s true that men are more aggressive than women. I have been sitting next to some of my guy friends thinking, I need to talk at some point, too. Women tend to think through our thoughts before we say them — we might have more internal monologue than men do, or men just know how to ignore it.
Especially in my first year, I’d find myself sitting in class thinking I had this perfect comment, and you go through all the internal dialogue, trying to frame it perfectly. Then you look across and see your male colleague speaking up and think, wait, I had that comment, too, why didn’t I raise my hand? You don’t want to be that sort of person.
This environment pushes you to just speak up, even when you don’t have a perfectly well thought-out comment. Speak up, voice your opinion, be able to defend it.
Most of my bosses have been men. As you move up, there more men than women — because it’s a tough industry. There’s a busy season where we’d work nonstop for three months, and if you’re a woman who wants to start a family it’s difficult juggling all of that.
Right now, I’m 30 and I’m focused on building my career. I know this is probably the wrong way to look at it, but I’m just not ready to get married yet. There are still so many things I want to accomplish, so much I need to learn about myself. I want to get married when I’m ready and willing to give my all.