Peru Immersion Experience

Hello faithful readers! It has been a crazy couple of weeks here at HBS, hence the reason I've been slacking on the blogging. This week, EC company presentations began so I've been bopping around to those (and their accompanying dessert receptions...can I say yum?), taking care of the duties that go along with being an officer in two clubs, managing school work and trying to have a bit of a social life now and then. But all complaining aside, I have some very exciting news to announce:

I am going to Peru for two weeks in January!

Background Info on my Peru Trip: HBS hosts a series of programs called IXPs, short for Immersion Experience Programs, and every winter term they offer student trips to a variety of countries where you are intended to both learn and have fun. The trips are lead by a member of the faculty and are designed around a specific subject matter. The educational component comes into play through company site visits, panels with executives, alumni events and usually some sort of capstone project. So in the end, it's less of a vacation and more of an educational opportunity, but they do include several cultural activities, some free time and gorgeous, picturesque accommodations. This year they offered IXPs in really exotic destinations: Rwanda, UAE/Bahrain, Vietnam, India, China and Peru. I went to the info sessions for each of the desintations and, in the end, fell in love with Peru, despite the fact that it's probably the least "out of the ordinary" among the countries.

The Peru trip is called "Escaping the Natural Resource Curse" and the business education side is focused on a combination of economics (i.e. building up an economy that has become entirely reliant on the benefits of abundant natural resources, and therefore suffers in most other industrial sectors) and ecotourism (which is totally my thing!). We're visiting some really interesting companies (Brescia, Inkaterra [a rainforest lodge...and we're staying there!], Inca group, Ingrid y Gaston [a 5-star restaurant that we'll also get to eat at!]), visiting the Caral-Supe archeological site, touring Machu Picchu, touring the Sacred Valley of the Incas, AND going ziplining through the Amazon rainforest (how amazingly amazing is that???)!

It's a 13-day trip, and get this, with nearly everything included, costs less than $2K.

Now if I could only figure out how I'm spending the other 4 weeks of winter break, I'd be set!

Hire Me!

Gabrielle Bill \ga-bree-el b-ill\ n : A creative blogger/HBS MBA candidate who is currently seeking an awesome job in marketing. Company must be highly innovative, company-culture oriented and well structured.

First Week in Review plus Add/Drop Results

Interestingly enough, my first week of EC classes turned out to be way more stressful, and also more surprising, than I imagined. Courses I thought I'd love, I hated, and courses I thought would be way outside of my comfort zone turned out to be neat fits.

Firstly, let me say that after just two sessions, I can proclaim that Consumer Marketing may just be the very best course I've ever had in my life and most definitely the best course at HBS. Youngme Moon is an amazing professor -- funny, down-to-earth, observational, extraordinarily intelligent and able to pull the most delightful lessons out of a case. I absolutely love the class.

Authentic Leadership Development is another course that I knew I'd fall in love with. One of my friends recommended the professor (Peter Olson, she had him for RC Strategy last semester) and although we only had one session this week, I immediately recognized a caring professor, an engaged class and a trusting environment to discuss difficult leadership challenges.

A surprise keeper was Managing Service Operations. This course I had added on a whim last semester -- it was literally the very last course that I had ranked on my Lottery sheet, and I had selected it at the last minute. In the end, it turned out to be a good gut instinct as the professor is energized, the cases are interesting and challenging, and the section had good conversational chemistry right from the start. So although I mentioned wanting to drop this one in an earlier entry, I decided to stick with it.

Commerce and Society did not meet my expectations for several reasons. Firstly, the professor, although a sweet man, was less than charismatic and lacked the commanding nature necessary to successfully lead a class. Secondly, the initial case discussion felt very flat -- I could sense an entire semester of arguments about whether or not businesses should engage in corporate social responsibility or not, and I find little learning in that. Most importantly though, through some self reflection I realized that after an entire summer working in the social enterprise arena, and after learning a lot about the industry and charitable giving through that experience, I would probably benefit more in the long run from a course on another topic.

Most disappointing, perhaps, was Building & Sustaining a Successful Enterprise, which I had with a less popular professor than celebrity teacher Clay Christensen. The first day's reading was incredibly dry -- a theory paper written by Christensen (I found it funny that Christensen referred to himself and the theories he discovered, in the third person nonetheless, in this paper) and a case on Level 5 Leadership. The second reading wasn't bad, but the first was very academic and esoteric...and sleep inducing. Then in class, the professor I had was very stale, showed little personality, and despite having served as a CEO for many years, didn't appear to know how to lead an engaging class. I was hoping this would be a wonderful course since it's so popular (and famous), but I left feeling a bit empty and wanting more.

To make a long story short, I began to scramble to find two interesting courses led by two exciting professors to take the place of what I did not enjoy and I was lucky enough to find and get into two such courses.

Replacing Commerce & Society is Managing Human Capital, a course led by the famed Professor Boris Groysberg, and loosely related to human resources, performance management, and managing one's own career trajectory. I sat in on his class on Wednesday, and not only enjoyed his teaching style, but the syllabus of cases for the semester, and the line-up of in-class protagonists and guest lecturers.

Replacing BSSE was a last-minute choice with Competing Through Business Models -- I made the Add/Drop request before sitting in on the class and just crossed my fingers that I'd be satisfied. Turns out, the professor is a bit of a "wild" one -- he bounced from one end of the room to the other, running up and down the steps, gesticulating like crazy and even getting down on his knees in a "ducking" position. I'm not sure exactly why he is so high energy, but it makes an 8:30 class eye-opening (literally). I also shouldn't fail to mention the interesting course material that focuses on the strategies businesses employ in their models to compete with one another and retaliate from attacks by industry intruders.

And thus my new and improved fall schedule is this:

X Days:
Managing Human Capital
Managing Service Operations

Y Days:
Competing Through Business Models
Consumer Marketing

T/W: Authentic Leadership Development

So happy!

(P-S: I also swapped out Leading Innovative Ventures in the Winter for Leading Teams. Perfection!)

EC Lesson #1

It is not advisable to drink two diet cokes and a delicious cup of white peony tea (even if it is marked low caffeine) between 6 and 8:30pm the night before your first day of EC classes. Do not be surprised if the combination of caffeine, anxiety and excitement keeps you up until 3am. The elements do not care that you have an alarm set for 7am or a "shopping" schedule that includes four back-to-back classes in the morning. In fact, the elements prefer that you get no sleep because it means they'll receive all that much more attention in the morning when you feel like a zombie (enjoying first cup of joe (of many, I'm sure) at the moment).

Here's to a fun day and a lesson learned!