We’d like to introduce you to Jyll Saskin, a graduate of Harvard Business School’s inaugural 2+2 Program. Read our interview to learn about some of Jyll’s favorite things about HBS, as well as advice for incoming and future b-school students. Thank you Jyll for sharing your story with us!
This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? What and where did you study as an undergrad? What is your favorite non-school book?
Jyll: I was born and raised in Toronto – I’m a very proud Canadian! I studied Psychology and Child Development at Tufts, Class of 2009, and was really involved in student media. I wrote for the Tufts Daily, and served as both Chief Copy Editor and Chief Op-Ed Editor during my tenure there. I also wrote for the Tufts Observer and co-founded a fashion magazine.
While in college, I worked as a Fashion Editor for TheCampusWord.com, a now-defunct start-up that was this great news source by and for college students; the founders pivoted the site into what is now BostInno.com, a great website about all things innovation in Boston. When I entered college, I thought I’d graduate and become a psychologist, but I quickly learned that, while I love studying psychology, I wasn’t interested in the lifestyle and work culture that came with practicing it.
The inaugural year of the 2+2 Program was announced right at the time I was debating the whole, “What do I want to do with my life?” thing, so I applied and, much to my amazement, was accepted.
As for my favorite non-school book, it’s definitely got to be the Harry Potter trilogy. Book Three, if I had to pick just one. I re-read the series every summer; I was relieved when they were finally released in e-book format!
Accepted: Congrats on your recent MBA! What was your favorite thing about Harvard Business School?
Jyll: What a hard question! I’d have to go with the clichéd answer and say “the people.” There are all of these stereotypes about how b-school students are either really high strung, competitive and backstabbing, or fratty d-bags, and it’s just not true. I’m actually so in awe of the work that admissions does, because they put together a class of people who are obviously smart, but more than that, really driven and interesting and interested in so many different things.
I really miss having case discussions every day, getting the opportunity to learn from and (politely) debate with this wildly diverse group of fascinating people. You can’t replicate that elsewhere. It’s once-in-a-lifetime.
Accepted: If you could change one thing about HBS, what would it be?
Jyll: Well, if I could change anything, then I would make the program three years instead of two. This is purely for selfish reasons. The first year is entirely required curriculum, and the second year is elective curriculum. I spent my second year at HBS taking all of those courses that interested me most, generally in strategy. I wish I’d had another year so I could have delved farther outside my comfort zone and taken courses like Entrepreneurial Finance and Real Estate Development.
Yes, that’s a copout answer. It’s all I’ve got! #sorrynotsorry
Accepted: Where did you work before starting HBS? How did the 2+2 Program help you prepare and transition to HBS’s regular program? As a 2+2 participant, did you feel “different”? Finally, are you glad you participated in 2+2?
Jyll: I held two jobs before starting at HBS. First, I was an Editorial Assistant in the teen division at Bauer Publishing, a magazine company.
Unfortunately, the magazine that I worked for folded after I’d been there for a year, so I moved home to Toronto and landed a job in corporate strategy at McCain Foods, a global frozen foods company.
They were two very different experiences, but I was grateful for both perspectives before starting my MBA.
I loved being a part of the 2+2 Program. I was part of the inaugural class, and we had these wonderful summer programs where we got to meet each other and take special classes with HBS professors.
Unfortunately, that part of the program has been phased out, so now the 2+2 Program is really just the grad school equivalent of Early Admission. Once we enrolled, we were just like everybody else in the MBA program – same classes, same activities, same everything.
The only different was that the 2+2 participants all knew each other from the summer programs, and we were the youngest students in the class. I think that there was a bit of stigma attached to the 2+2 label because of that, but honestly, it had more to do with people’s own insecurities in the first few months than anything else. Once we got into the groove with our sections, you pretty much forgot who was the youngest or the oldest because it ceased to be the most salient thing.
Accepted: What is your current job? What role did HBS play in helping you secure that position?
Jyll: I’m currently a Manager in Project Leadership at Scratch, a division of Viacom. If a strategy consulting firm and an advertising agency got together and became experts in all things Millennial, you’d get Scratch. It’s this great mix of left-brain and right-brain problem solving for clients as diverse as General Motors, Hilton and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.
HBS definitely played a part in helping me secure this position. I was networking my butt off the summer before last, trying to meet as many HBS alums working in digital/strategy/media as I could. One connected me to someone else, who then connected me to Scratch. Also, two of our most senior people at Scratch are HBS alums, so having that common ground made me feel much more confident going into those interviews.
And now the cycle continues, as I connect current HBS students who are interested in working in this industry.
Accepted: Can you talk more about how you plan on transforming the media/entertainment industry?
Jyll: It’s a lofty goal, isn’t it? The media industry is transforming, with or without me. What really interests me is how you teach old dogs new tricks, how you take legacy media companies and help them transition their business models to not just survive, but thrive.
Throughout my second year at HBS, I worked on an independent project solving that exact problem, but on a much smaller scale: for The Harbus, HBS’ student newspaper. I worked with the staff, my professor and industry experts to put together an analysis and business plan for The Harbus, diversifying its revenue and exploring new audiences and channels and products. It had been so focused on cutting costs, that it wasn’t investing for future growth.
I’m still in close touch with the General Manager at The Harbus, and they’ve started implementing many of my suggestions, often making them better by putting their own twist on things.
So, that’s been very rewarding for me to see, and I know that a lot of the things I did and am doing with The Harbus would be highly transferable to larger news and/or entertainment organizations. It’s an ongoing interest and passion of mine.
Accepted: What are some things you wish you would’ve known before starting b-school? Can you share some advice on this topic with our readers?
Jyll: I wish I had taken some time off before starting business school. It’s a crazy two years, and I went straight from my job into school; my brain could have used some rejuvenation!
At b-school, for the first few months, I kept having to tell myself that I was not some sort of admissions mistake. It’s challenging, you’re in a new environment, learning new things, meeting new people, and everyone goes through that mindset of, “Why am I here? I don’t belong here!” Just know that you’re not alone, everyone feels that way, you do belong and by second semester, you’ll be smooth sailing.
Lastly, I’ve alluded to this earlier, but I do have a twinge of regret that I didn’t push myself harder academically while I was at HBS. I stuck with classes that I loved, which was great because I loved them, but I do feel as if I wasted an opportunity to try some new things.
I would encourage people to keep their electives as broad as the required curriculum, so you can take advantage of everything your MBA program has to offer.
For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages.For specific advice on how to create the best application for Harvard see:
• Harvard Business School 2014 MBA Essay Questions & Tips
• HBS Post-Interview Reflections, a video
• The Accepted Guide to Getting into Harvard Business School, a free webinar.
• What HBS is Looking for: Engaged Community Citizenship
• What HBS is Looking for: The Habit of Leadership