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. And now for a follow up interview with Tim Massey, who is about to complete his first year at Harvard Business School. (We first met Tim last year – you can read our first interview with him here.)
Accepted: Since we last spoke you applied to and got accepted to HBS. Congrats! How has your first year been so far? It b-school as you expected it to be? Any surprises?
Tim: The first year has been an incredible ride. I’ve really enjoyed pretty much every aspect of it so far and I haven’t regretted my decision to study in the US for a second. The students here are an incredible bunch of people, and it’s really evident that the professors love teaching here. We’re fortunate enough to meet many of the protagonists of our cases or leading business leaders who come to visit our campus. The worldwide draw of HBS really enhances the experience. Without particularly seeking these opportunities out I’ve been able to listen to Peter Thiel (founder of Paypal and hugely successful investor), and Alan Mullaly (former CEO of Ford and Boeing).
HBS also is far more friendly and collaborative than I expected. It has a reputation for being a tough dog-eat-dog place, and that’s not really been my experience at all. Yes, it’s competitive but certainly not at any cost.
My biggest surprise is quite how busy I’ve been (despite HBS’ reputation) – it’s very different from my undergraduate studies and I’ve barely had a minute to myself from when I started right up until the Christmas break at the end of the first semester.
Accepted: Which MBA programs did you end up applying to? Was HBS your first choice?
Tim: I described HBS originally as my joint first choice. As an engineer, I was also keen on MIT, but MIT made it an easy decision for me! I had a few other applications that I withdrew from early as I knew where I was going to be, and HBS is pretty much one of the first decisions you get in Round 1.
Accepted: If you could change anything about the program, what would it be?
Tim: My least favorite aspect of the whole MBA experience has undoubtedly been recruiting season. In contrast to many other parts of the experience, which tend to focus on self-growth and really achieving something meaningful, this seems very much stuck in the past.
I am sure this is borne out of necessity to compete with other schools and maintain league placing high up the recruitment league tables that applicants look at. But depth of support is really variable between traditional MBA industries (finance/consulting) and other more creative directions. It is very much at odds with the rest of the course and HBS’s mission to ‘educate leaders who make a difference in the world.’
I have a strong suspicion this is not unique to HBS and I think the competitive stats-based ranking system for admissions to the top business school really influences behavior here. Any school that deviates from promoting the top highly paid starting salaries and internships will suffer from a disadvantage in these metrics, and this promotes a ‘groupthink’ approach.
Accepted: Are you involved in any clubs on campus? How central to student life is club involvement?
Tim: There is a pretty huge array of clubs on campus to join, HBS definitely benefits from its size in this respect with members forming based on range of different interests. The majority are based around either professional/career interests (e.g. VCPE club (venture capital/private equity), Tech club), geographical locations (e.g. Euro club/LatAm club) or sports, with some special interests thrown in.
I’m been involved in helping to organize several of these, which is a bit of a throwback to my undergrad days when I was also heavily involved in the student body.
The main difference is a slightly more ‘professional’ edge than undergraduate clubs, with most designed to help navigate and network amongst the diverse student body, and attract specific career opportunities to campus.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your experience with HBS’ FIELD program?
Tim: So far, I’ve travelled to Chengdu in China on FIELD 2, working with a social enterprise focused on promoting recycling electronics (I wrote about this in a little more detail on my blog here). It was a great project and really allowed me to get a unique perspective on awareness of environmental issues in China. As a whole experience, it really challenged some perspectives I had before I went.
At the moment I’m in the thick of FIELD 3, in the early stages of starting my own business with a group of other students. I’ll be sure to write more about it as we make progress!
Accepted: Have you been keeping up your blogging? Can you direct us to one or two posts that will further help us get up to date with your b-school adventure?
Tim: In addition to my post about FIELD above, I wrote down some of my perspectives on the first semester here.
I’m trying to keep up the blogging, but the strain on my time commitments makes it a bit more difficult to find time than it used to be! I try to write once a month or so – I’m in an incredibly fortunate position to write about what’s it like on the inside – I try to answer the questions I had as an applicant, and if anyone has any suggestions of things they’d like to know more detail about, I’m happy to take requests!
For one-on-one guidance on your b-school applications, please see our MBA Application Packages. To read more about Tim’s b-school journey, please check out his blog, The Adventures of a MBA Student. Thank you Tim for sharing your story with us!
• Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One
• What Does Harvard Business School Want?, a video
• Life as an HBS MBA Student