Amidst the busyness of MBA programs, some MBA students manage to find time to blog and share about their MBA experience. I enjoy reading these posts and hearing what others in a similar position are experiencing and thinking, and had the chance to pick the brain of one of these bloggers when I interviewed Marta Szczerba. Marta is a 1st year MBA student at Harvard Business School. Originally from the United Kingdom, Marta spent time as a Fulbright Scholar and consultant at BCG before entering business school, and currently blogs about her MBA experience at the Financial Times MBA Blog and her own blog. Here is what Marta had to say about her MBA experience.
MBASchooled: What’s something that’s surprised you during your first year at HBS?
Marta: Something that surprised me was the rigor of academics and the amount of work. Coming from consulting, you hear about business school being a 2-year vacation. However, there are times when I’ve worked harder than in consulting. On many days we have to read 3 cases – the cold calls really motivate you to do well and to prepare the work. You don’t want to let down your teammates down. It’s a very humbling experience.
MBASchooled: What’s a class you’ve enjoyed?
Marta: One class I enjoyed was Leadership and Corporate Accountability. This class covers all the important business issues such as what’s legal, what’s economically feasible. While we learn a lot of frameworks, not all cases have frameworks that are clear cut – the professor Lena Goldberg is fantastic and pushes back on your answers and gets you to think deeply about the issues. You really get into the shoes of the protagonist in the case. It’s a fun class but the professor’s enthusiasm is a huge driver.
MBASchooled: What’s been the greatest challenge thus far?
Marta: This shouldn’t be a surprise but prioritizing what is it that you want to do. In order for me to do this I needed to be very clear with myself. I had to assess the goals and align my activities with those goals. As an MBA, you want to do everything – you want to go to all the events, you want to try out all the industries you can – it takes a lot of maturity to figure out what you want to do for yourself.
MBASchooled: What’s an experience that has been particularly impactful or meaningful during your time at HBS?
Marta: We had a leadership class where a lot of students shared personal stories. Those personal stories changed the way I looked at people and genuinely how I relate to others. Thinking about EQ and IQ, everyone has a hidden story that you might not be aware of but you need to be respectful of. That particular class made me think how I can build my empathy and emotional intelligence.
MBAschooled: It’s only been 8-9 months, but have you noticed any particular changes in yourself since you began business school?
Marta: I’d say something that’s changed is my Emotional intelligence. I think I am much more empathic towards different people’s needs and concerns. Furthermore, I’ve defined much better what I want for my career. After really assessing all the different things I’ve done and I think I want to stay in technology and early stage companies.
MBASchooled: What’s been your recruiting process like?
Marta: In general, I have been very selective. Looking at my past history I knew I wanted to stay in technology, 1-5-10 wanted to be in an executive. While I have had operational experience, I realized I did not have as much of a background in Finance/Venture Capital. A way to fill the gap is to seek a finance or VC internship in the US. In addition to pursuing VC, I had an interest in entrepreneurship. At the end of the process, I’ve decided to spend 8 weeks interning for a VC firm in the Bay Area and to spend the rest of the time testing a hypothesis and testing a tool that I’ve working on.
MBASchooled: Who has been your favorite guest speaker, alum, etc.?
Marta: My favorite speaker, (non-alum) was Peter Thiel. In terms of HBS alumni, my favorite speaker was an MBA graduate from a few years ago who started an apparel company that ultimately failed. Listening to her speak, reflect about her failure and hear what she did right and what she did wrong was helpful. It was also interesting to see how failing helped her accelerate her career. Nobody talks about how the failure. In general, I think nobody likes to talk about failure, so it was great to see someone speak so honestly about it.
MBASchooled: How do you define success?
Marta: For me, it’s about becoming a Founding CEO of a company, or an “almost Founding CEO,” and then helping that company grow. Time will only show if I reach that definition of success. On a more general level, I want to be a kind human being that contributes to humanity, measuring my life by the impact that I’ve made on others.