How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

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Location: India

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

'Toughing it out at Harvard'

I read a very interesting book called 'Toughing it out at Harvard: The Making of a Woman MBA', written by a lady called Fran Worden Henry and published in 1983. This woman had been approached by the publishers (Putnam) to write a book on her experience getting an MBA from Harvard Business School. She wrote this book almost immediately after graduating (in 1982).

The author's background included a degree in psychology and a lot of work in the women's movement and also in working at US Presidential campaigns, etc. She was thirty-two when she started to do an MBA. I had thought this age would not be very unusual in a US B-school, but it seems she was one of the older people in her class. The age range of the students was 21 years to 38 years, with most people in their mid- to late twenties. Also, the author already runs her own business for advising small companies with a partner, and wants to continue doing that after HBS, and not participate in the recruitment process at HBS.

The book describes in very great detail, the day-to-day experience in the Harvard Business School, which is particularly interesting to me, being in a B-school myself. Here are some of the important points:
  • Most of the subjects studied are very similar in terms of topics & concepts covered. But HBS follows a semester system, as opposed to a three-month term here. So the number of subjects studied in 2 years at HBS is quite less compared to here.
  • The teaching method is completely different. HBS, of course, follows the case study method very strictly, with one case discussed in each class of each subject. Prior preparation for cases is absolutely vital, because you may be asked to 'open the case' in class - i.e. summarize the case and give out your recommendations. Also, class participation makes for about half the marks weightage. So poor participation in terms of quality & quantity might actually get you failure grades. At IIML, most teaching takes place through the normal instructional method, with cases and examples discussed occasionally. And the emphasis on class participation is not that great.
  • The work pressure at HBS right from day one - mainly case preparation for the next day - is very great. Such pressure is comparatively much lighter and more manageable here.
  • Many drawbacks of the case method come out during the course of the book, namely: It puts too much pressure on students with backgrounds very different from the subject matter, concepts often don't become clear at the end of the class because of the jumble of contradictory stands taken by people, cases are written poorly with gender bias and other kinds of discriminatory attitudes, most cases belong to the big industries or companies who can afford to consult an HBS professor, not smaller businesses, etc.
  • The levels of stress experienced by HBS students are very high. Even though people have to be on their toes at most times here, the stress is not really high and very manageable.
  • The theme of feminism runs throughout the book, as the author points out numerous instances of subtle or overt gender bias and discrimination.
  • Grading is done on a relative basis, just like it is here. Some of the behaviour distortions that this relative grading causes - like lack of co-operation and help, stealing others' ideas, etc. are mentioned.
  • The stress at important times like the recruitment season is extremely great. However, unlike here, all companies do not come to campus to recruit. People may have to fly all over the country to interview with their desired companies.
  • The amount of group work assigned is less than that here. However, formation of informal groups to study together is very prevalent there, and to some extent, here too.
  • Even professors are under a lot of stress as they are also evaluated on a relative basis. Consequently, the level of research done is very high.

Overall, the author is finally not too sure that going through HBS was a good thing for her in all respects. She definitely gained a lot of knowledge, but at the expense of a lot of stress and bad moments. Also, she feels that the absence of a humane orientation at HBS, that it is only concerned with one thing - making money.

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لتنظيف منزلكم لأنها أفضلشركة تنظيف شقق بحائللأن تنظيف

المجالس يحتاج إلى وقت طويل وجهد كبير فشركة الكمال أفضل شركة تنظيف مجالس وكنب

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