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Reflecting on the HBS MBA Experience

 

By Sparsh Agarwal

By Sparsh Agarwal

Time Flies! It seems like yesterday when I received my offer of admission to Harvard Business School (HBS) in December 2013. Fast forward two and a half years and here I am, ready to leave. In most regards my experience here has been surreal. As HBS students, we are in a position of extreme privilege. Everyone outside treats us differently, with feelings of admiration and with high expectations. It is scary to think that in a few weeks, I’ll be leaving the HBS bubble and entering the ‘real world’ again. My identity will no longer be defined by being a student at Harvard Business School, but by my work and my contributions to society.

The most memorable experiences for my #lifeatHBS have been outside the classroom. As I look out of my window (pun intended), here are some of the things I will remember the most.

Relationships

HBS is all about the people you meet and get to learn from. Barring success on the romantic front, one of the most enriching parts of my HBS experience has been the relationships that I cultivated. In the last two years, I have made some of my closest friends, and I hope these friendships will last a lifetime. I will be there for my friends whenever they need me. Thanks to WhatsApp and GroupMe, there is no part of the world that is too far to stay in touch.

Leadership

One of my most meaningful experiences at HBS was being co-chair of the India Conference at Harvard. I found leading a conference to be a great way to practice leadership at HBS, since it involves team building, negotiating, managing conflict, marketing and several other facets of our MBA training. Additionally, this was a fantastic opportunity to create relationships with peers across the river as the conference was jointly organized by students at HBS and HKS.

Travel

Initially, I found it a bit bizarre that travel was considered such an integral part of the MBA experience, especially the obligatory weekend trip to Iceland. Having been guilty of the same and with trips to 13 countries in 5 continents (yes, I was counting) during my MBA, I can affirm that while not ‘integral’, some of my most memorable experiences did happen during those trips. Travel made me develop some of my closest friendships and further expand my worldview. As wonderful as the trips were, there were some downsides – perpetually feeling like a travel agent as well as having to pin down and convince groups of non-committal MBAs. But there were tangible benefits too – the extensive travel inspired our home-grown and successful Field 3 startup, CleverLayover.

Learning from Failure

I was lucky to have channeled the Erik Peterson in me when the stakes weren’t that high. I had two failed startup experiences in one summer – one as an employee and another as a founder. It renewed my appreciation of how difficult it is to really build and operate a startup and provided me with a framework for assessing opportunities as I progress in my career. Recruiting has also been much tougher than I had anticipated, especially since I am seeking careers in technology. But as a mentor recently described it to me, “take time to find the right career – make your own choices and do not let others’ choices make you.”

#LifeatHBS has shaped me in ways I can’t even describe.  Entering into HBS, I never fathomed what I would be feeling today, nearly 2 years later.  I wish this experience could go on forever – thanks to the relationships I’ve forged, I know there will be more to come.     

To conclude, I’ll quote a professor from a course wrap, “HBS has put a floor on your career, with unlimited upside. If you were paying attention in finance, your life my friends, is now a call option. Make the best of it.”

Sparsh Agarwal (HBS ‘16)  is part of the graduating MBA class of 2016. He worked at Microsoft for 4 years before joining HBS and is passionate about technology and entrepreneurship. Sparsh is an avid blogger and routinely publishes on the LinkedIn Pulse platform. You can follow him on twitter @sparsh_ag.
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May 10, 2016
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