Helping Harvard MBAs to Help Others

I was somewhat star-struck the day I was assigned my Social Enterprise Alumni Mentor. “Hell Week” was rapidly approaching and in preparation for a summer internship search in social enterprise, I had been reading The Harvard Business School Guide to Careers in the Nonprofit Sector. As I was casually dropping Stephanie Lowell (MBA ’99) an email, I realized that my new mentor was the author of the book laying open on my desk.

Stephanie’s own career has included a blend of work in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Upon graduating from Yale, Stephanie joined Mc Kinsey & Company. There, she worked on several pro-bono projects, but soon realized that she wanted to make social enterprise a more integral part of her career.

After a summer working for the United Way of Mass Bay (one of her former pro-bono clients), Stephanie decided to pursue both an MBA and a degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government in order “to discover how I could have the most impact on the nonprofit sector given my consulting background and skill set.”

Although intrigued by Stephanie’s career path-she is now the Manager of McKinsey’s Global Nonprofit Practice-it is the role that she has played in encouraging social enterprise at HBS that has most captured my attention. While at HBS and struggling with her own career choices, she found that there was a lack of practical advice and tools for planning a career in the nonprofit sector.

As part of her role in the SE club, Stephanie decided to “write a little pamphlet” to help other club members navigate the job search process. After many suggestions that all seemed to start with, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could just include …,” and a lot of support from the Initiative on Social Enterprise, this small project grew into The Harvard Business School Guide to Careers in the Nonprofit Sector, which was published in 2000 by Harvard Business School Press. (The book has sold several thousand copies and her proceeds go to charity.)

As an alumnae, Stephanie continues to facilitate the careers of HBS graduates in the social sector. She is co-leading the HBS Social Enterprise Alumni Association (SEAA). The mission of the SEAA is to help alumni more fully engage in and strengthen the social sector, both personally and professionally, at all stages of life. The club has quickly swelled to over 600 members, more than many older and more established clubs, proving the need for networking opportunities and career support among HBS alumni working in social enterprise.

Equally exciting is the fact that the membership includes alumni from
each class since 1950! To celebrate the launch of the SEAA and begin to take the next step in defining its potential programs and activities, the association will be holding its first conference on the HBS campus this week, in conjunction with the HBS and KSG Dialogue on Social Enterprise.

Over time, Stephanie and the association hope to provide connections, information and support to alumni in many ways, such as offering assistance in the search for career and/or volunteer opportunities in the social sector, including board membership and volunteer consulting, and tools to help make alumni involvement in the sector as effective as possible. Indeed, they hope to help Harvard MBAs help others.

April 22, 2002
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