Developing a regional growth strategy, managing a finance fund, and identifying sources of earned income are all typical responsibilities for HBS graduates. What is atypical is to perform these tasks on top of working hand-in-hand with CEOs, COOs, and CFOs of some of the largest and most successful organizations in the world just six months after graduation. Ten members of the Class of 2007 recently embarked on their journey as part of the Leadership Fellows Program, a one-year experience that “gives a select group of graduating HBS students the chance to make an impact in nonprofit and public-sector organizations.”
This class of Leadership Fellows was initially attracted to the program for many reasons including professional development, the opportunity to work alongside top management on key strategic issues and the ability to work for an organization whose mission fits with their passions. Four current Fellows share their motivations for wanting to become Leadership Fellows and the impacts that they are currently having on their respective organizations.
Business Fellow, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY
Before starting at HBS, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in hospital administration. However, while it’s clear that hospitals can benefit from the skills of an MBA, they often struggle with how to hire and place these individuals in positions that maximize these skills. Knowing that the HBS Leadership Fellowship Program works closely with organizations to craft relevant and meaningful positions for MBAs – and that the Hospital for Special Surgery had a history of hiring Fellows – gave me confidence that my skills would be well utilized and that I would have access and exposure to senior leadership. In addition, the Fellowship Program offers professional development and support throughout the year, which I knew would be critical given that many hospitals lack extensive, formal training programs for new hires. Finally, the Fellowship provides a unique opportunity to get to know the ins-and-outs of the organization before settling into a dedicated, full-time position that best suits your interests.
In my first four months as a Business Fellow at Hospital for Special Surgery, a hospital specializing in musculoskeletal medicine, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of different projects with senior leaders across the hospital. For example, I am working directly with the CEO to develop and implement the hospital’s strategy for regional market growth. Another project has me working with the COO and nursing leadership to improve both the flow of patients through the system and their overall experience during their hospital stay. Even in this short amount of time, my role as a fellow has enabled me to have an impact and helped create momentum for initiatives of strategic importance across the hospital.
Director of Enterprise Planning, World Wildlife Fund, Washington, D.C.
I knew since my RC year that I was going to apply for a position in the Leadership Fellows Program. Over the course of a combined three years in the joint-degree program at HBS and KSG, I have known several friends who had accepted positions as Fellows. In addition, after my experiences in consulting early on in my career, I knew that banking and product management were not for me. I needed a position that would both allow me to do the type of work that I was passionate about, and make sense of my varied professional experiences that range from change-oriented management consulting, to serving in the Peace Corps, to managing donor-funded tourism projects. My belief is that multi-sector approaches are required to solve some of the more intractable problems we face as a society. The fundamental question for me during my time at HBS was to determine which sector was the best place to start from.
Like most large non-profits, WWF has been recruiting private sector talent as it has been seeking to develop more proactive and in-depth partnerships with corporations. Large-scale conservation work requires a deep understanding of the markets and economic drivers that impact the most important ecosystems left on the planet. The challenges WWF is facing were the perfect match for my range of skills, experiences, and interests.
After only two months into my fellowship, I am working with the COO and staff across our international network to harness the range of skills that we bring to bear in Coastal East Africa, one of our priority places. From public/private partnerships, to sustainable tourism investment, to market-based interventions, a portfolio of solutions that reaches beyond the traditional approaches of conservationists is required for effective results. This promises to be an event-filled year, full of many challenges and opportunities to test myself. I am still not sure if this the best sector for me in the long run, but so far, it has been a great place to start.
Special Advisor to the COO, Harlem Children’s Zone, Inc., New York, NY
I came to HBS knowing that I wanted to improve my business and management skills to help tackle the world’s social problems. However, I was hesitant whether I would choose to enter the nonprofit sector right out of school because of a general lack of opportunities for career advancement and lack of knowledge of the value of an MBA in the sector. However, the Leadership Fellows Program provided me with a perfect opportunity to utilize my business skills and do what I was passionate about while erasing those concerns. First of all, the Fellows program set up the reporting structure with top management so that I am able to work and have an impact on key strategic and management issues. In addition, I was drawn to the professional development available through the Social Enterprise Initiative, the access to HBS resources, and the network of peers facing similar challenges.
Working at Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) has been an incredible experience so far. HCZ is a $58 million community-focused nonprofit with the mission of improving the lives of youth and their families living in New York City’s most devastated communities. I have worked very closely with the COO, acting as a sounding board on most issues he deals with every day. For example, I am helping to reorganize the reporting structure for senior program managers. I have also participated in management meetings addressing organizational goals, grant contracts, potential new program offerings, and major donor site visits. My main project at the moment is to create and implement a plan to improve HCZ’s performance-tracking and management processes. Not only am I analyzing how to optimize the use of a web-based software designed to track program efforts and outcomes, but I am also working with senior management to improve documentation, definition, and communication.
Senior Director, Gateway Microfinance Infrastructure Fund, ACCION International, Boston, MA
Through my studies at HBS, I developed a strong desire to become a knowledgeable investor in emerging markets. I also brought to HBS a passion for using my skills in finance to benefit the less fortunate. In thinking about my career, I wanted to give back to others and feel that I was truly making a difference in people’s lives. Participating in the Leadership Fellows Program provided the perfect opportunity for me to mesh my talents for finance with my passion to serve the less fortunate. For the course of one year, I will be managing ACCION International’s Gateway Microfinance Fund, a venture capital fund that invests in technology ventures that further the purpose of financial inclusion.
During my first month on the job at ACCION, I closed an investment in a venture capital backed internet service provider servicing rural India. In addition to serving on the board of that company, I am also currently serving on the board of an alternative credit bureau with operations in the U.S. I have traveled to Colu
mbia to meet with our team in South America, and I have forthcoming due diligence trips scheduled for Kenya and Mexico. In addition, I have begun writing a placement memorandum for a co-investment partnership that ACCION will launch that solicits third party investment on a larger scale. Finally, I recently returned from serving on a panel at the Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, where I answered questions about my experiences and the broader issue of the commercialization of microfinance with other experts from the microfinance field. Through my fellowship, I have undertaken far more responsibility than I could have possibly imagined at this point in my career. Most importantly, I am using my skills and passions to benefit the less fortunate in tangible ways. I know that this experience will set the standard for my expectations of what I want to achieve in my career, whether in nonprofit or in for-profit business.