On-Campus Interview Series: Up-Close and Personal with The International Man of Mystery, Chris "Rusty" Rust

Chris “Rusty” Rust was hard to track down. We started our conversation over a cool pint of lager in a pub in Notting Hill in London, where he was working as a private equity investor before coming to HBS. We continued our discussion sipping Rum Punch in the British Virgin Islands and Panama last spring. We then met again in Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro this summer. And, today, we spoke again over a coffee on Spangler lawn.

With his usual air of sophistication, dressed in designer jeans and a pink t-shirt, Rusty lit up a Gallois cigarette and inhaled deeply before telling me about his life at HBS.

He took his section by storm by dressing up as Austin Powers during the section rep elections. The International Man of Mystery outfit was eerily fitting. The son of a French mother and American father, Rusty spent his childhood in Germany and the US. He is also well traveled. For instance, he spent the summer working as the assistant to the CEO of a Chinese start-up company in Shanghai and often refers to his travels to places like Cuba, Cambodia and Croatia.

If you think that his life has been glorious all the way through, think again. Like the rest of us, Rusty has faced some set-backs. A few hundred vertical yards from Kilimanjaro’s summit, he had to turn back due to altitude sickness. He also learned what it means to be without a job the hard way-a few months after moving to London for his dream job he found himself on the streets unemployed.

You might have spotted him in Shad lifting weights with the big boys, seen him trapped by a killer wave surfing in Brazil or caught a glimpse of him at some celebrity party in Los Angeles. Here is your chance to get up-close and personal with him.

Name: Christophe John Charles Albert Rust
Section: OB
Nationality: French and Americant. (“Despite perception by peers to the contrary, I am not German!”)
Height: 6 ft. 11 in. (“Yeah, that’s right! Really…”)
Weight: 160 lbs. (“I might look skinny, but in reality it is all muscle.”)
Eyes: Hazel (“The green comes out at twilight.”)
Hair: Auburn, with hint of sand
Marital Status: Variable; mostly single
Favorite Food: Escargots, Sushi, Thai..
Favorite Drinks: Champagne on ice, a nice pint of lager.
Favorite Films: Blade Runner, Amorres Perros, Lawrence of Arabia, Notorious
Favorite Bands: Bob Dylan, Thievery Corporation, DJ Shadow, Gregorian Chants
Favorite Welsh poet: Dylan Thomas
Favorite hangouts in Boston: Franklin Cafÿ, West Side Lounge.
Nicknames: Rusty
How Acquired Nicknames: After the famous surfer, Rusty (Editor’s note: What?!)

Harbus: How do you like being student at HBS?
I think it is an invigorating experience. Yes, very stimulating. It is a good balance of learning and socializing and having fun. My class mates are inspiring and diverse and cool.

Harbus: Do you consider yourself cool?
It’s not really for me to judge. What do you think? (Editor’s note: well …) Some days I am dorky. Some days I am cool. I lead a balanced lifestyle. I mix up my school work with sports, arts, and, of course, partying with friends. I am part of the HBS soccer team, co-president of the Art Appreciation Society and a member of the International Committee. I also like to travel. That’s kind of cool, right?

Harbus: How would you define cool?
Coolness is about not being arrogant. It is being friendly and honest and open to people. Basically, it means being who you are and not putting on any facades. To be cool, you need to know when to take things seriously and not. You need to be able to laugh at yourself. That is important.

Harbus: What did you do prior to coming to HBS?
It’s kind of dull… After graduating from Georgetown, I did two years of M&A in New York and then moved to London to try my luck in private equity. Did that for a good four years and decided that I needed a break. That is when I left for business school.

Harbus: Why business school?
I wanted to get a better understanding of non-finance business disciplines, such as marketing, operations management, strategy, etc. I see business school as an investment in my future. It is an insurance policy if s*** hits the fan later in life. Hopefully, HBS will give me some form of credibility and flexibility.

Harbus: What was the most rewarding part of your first year at HBS?
Aside from building some sort of circus lighting system for TOM and drunken nights at the Kong with my lovely section, the best part of my first year was getting to know a great group of people. In particular, making good friends through sports and other activities. I also found the academics rewarding, especially… Well, I don’t remember which classes… I think I slept through quite a few … but it was certainly rewarding. What was that good LEAD case we did? I can’t quite remember, but there were a couple of good LEAD cases. I just feel I should say that the academics during the first year were rewarding…

(Editor’s note: Did he really read his cases last year?)

Harbus: Most disappointing part of first year?
Well, I was very disappointed when my section lost its first dodge ball game in the section Olympics. That was crushing to morale. More seriously, getting up at 7:45am for study group sucked – I am not a morning person – and the workload in general was excessive. I think there is a flaw in the system. It is clear that they engineer the curriculum to give you more work than you can handle I guess it is to prepare you for the future, but I don’t think it works. It certainly made it difficult to maintain relationships with family and friends outside of HBS. I also broke up with my now ex-girl friend due, at least in part, to the madness of HBS life.

Harbus: I am sorry to hear that you broke up with your girlfriend last year. Anyways, as a single man, how do you find the women on campus?
[Long pause… lost in concentration.] There are definitely some foxy ladies here. There are more cool women than people will admit to. The thing is, there is a scarcity of women that are foxy, cool AND single. It’s an elusive trinity. The key is to have more Priscilla ball type events where the girls dress up in scanty outfits.

Harbus: What do you like in a woman?
Oh, a lot of things! I like a woman who is creative, has some edge, is comfortable in her own skin and is bright. Well, she does not have to be a nuclear scientist. She should also be a bit worldly and enjoy sports and fitness. And she should want a family, preferably four kids. I think that’s a good number don’t you think? Whatever, basically I like fit and sexy women[laughs].

Harbus: What are your passions in life?
Family and friends, the arts, and challenging myself. I need challenges that put me in new situations. You only live once; life is not a dress rehearsal, so you have to make the most of it. Giving back to the community is also very important to me. I was involved with community service when I was at Georgetown and in London. As for art, I love painting, photography, and film. They offer a new perspective on life and allow you to discover new ways of seeing the world around you and how you fit into that world.

Harbus: We have heard that you paint? Is that true?
I used to paint a lot, but I have not painted in recent years. My interest has evolved from painting to photography. Photography is beautiful and easier to do. You don’t have to walk around with your easel and all that.

Harbus: What other interests do you have?
I love soccer! I play IM soccer and with the HBS team. I also like basketball, volleyball and boxing for fitness. Boxing is a great exercise.
They don’t call me “Sugar Ray Rust” for nothing! I also like reading, music and traveling.

Harbus: Talking about traveling. What have been your favorite travel destinations?
I would say Cuba ,Cambodia and Croatia, followed by Brazil and Iceland are up there too. I like all those places for different reasons. They have natural beauty, rich cultures, or interesting histories.

Harbus: What do look forward to during your second year at HBS?
I have actually made some resolutions for this year. Generally, I want a more balanced lifestyle and more control over the pace of life here. Specifically, I want to be in much closer touch with my non-HBS friends and my family. I will also place the highest priority on physical fitness and health. Finally, I plan to take more advantage of visiting speakers at Harvard University and to better define my career interests.

Harbus: Tell me about a big set back you have had?
I lost my first job in London after eight months when the firm I worked for closed its London office. There I was, new to the city and without a job. And, it was also a big set back not making the summit of Kilimanjaro. I got altitude sickness when I had a few hundred yards to go to reach the summit, and I had to descend immediately.

Harbus: And, now, a notable success?
[Long silence] Making the HBS soccer club B Team! And, of course, being voted Section B international rep. I dressed up as Austin Powers during the election speech!

Harbus: Most scandalous thing you have done?
Well, there was that time in the Jacuzzi with the two girls when one of them just started under… [CENSORED]

(Editor’s note: Unfortunately, the Harbus had to censor Rusty’s answer to this question. If you really want to know, you will have to ask him personally.)

Harbus: Ok, now, coming back to the issue of career. What are you looking for in your career and what do you want to do and where do you want to be when you graduate?
I want to find a job that I love and that I look forward to going to every day. I want to work with cool people that I really like. And, I want to be financially comfortable. One option is to return to private equity. However, I am considering doing something entrepreneurial-helping to build a business. I think that could be very rewarding and being an entrepreneur would allow me to use a much broader set of skills. As much as I like traveling and discovering new parts of the world, for now, I think I would like to be back in London. I love London, it is a cosmopolitan, progressive, beautiful city, very green, and it is close to my family and close friends.

Harbus: What advice would you have for the first years at HBS?
Think twice about that fourth Scorpion bowl at the Kong on Thursday nights. Take advantage of the HBS treks. Go on at least one of them. I went to Israel last May and loved it! Do your best to strike a balance between all the available activities. But, don’t feel like you have to do everything.

Harbus: Chris, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. It has been very interesting to learn about your life and your views on HBS.

September 26, 2005
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