An Interview with Fred and Jyoti

Scott Daubin (“Scott”): First of all, a question I understand you get a lot: are you two dating?

Jyoti Agarwal (“Jyoti”): [laughing] No. Is that really a question?

Fred Smith (“Fred”): I think that’s a good question. [More laughing from Jyoti]. No we are not dating. Jyoti is actually in a serious relationship, and I am semi-single.

Scott: What does semi-single mean?

Fred: I am kidding, I am single. I am not looking, but I am single.

Jyoti: We have heard that question throughout the year; I have heard it about 50 times. I think the reason is we are such close friends. Fred is my closest friend on campus. That is what makes this whole experience work and the reason we got so much done. [Now laughing from Fred] Fred why are you laughing?

Fred: That question is hilarious.

Jyoti: I am not Fred’s type.

Scott: Did you two always get along? Were than ever any personal issues between you? Was it ever hard to work together?

Jyoti: I honestly cannot think of one moment when it was hard to work together, I cannot think of one disagreement we had. We had different opinions, of course, but we never fought, it was never disrespectful.

Fred: Workflows are important. There are times when I am busy, and she will take over, and times she is busy and ill take over, and if that wasn’t the case it would stress us out. Honestly, we weren’t friends before this, and barely knew each other when we ran. I went to her birthday party and met her there and two weeks later we were running for co-president together. I think we lucked out, because we are the closest of friends now. On a personal side, we have things that happen to us, and its tough, and its good to know that the person I have to interact with on a regular basis is a good friend as well.

Scott: How did you think the year went?

Fred: We haven’t had a chance to look back on what we’ve done up until this point, and when we got together to organize our list of accomplishments, we both looked back and said, you know, we really did a lot. And when we were putting together the transition documents for you, we said, this has been a lot of work.

Scott: What was your proudest moment?

Jyoti: One was after the RC speech that we gave during orientation. That was something we had prepared a lot for and was our first major presentation. We knew the impression we left on you guys, not necessarily what was said but how we said it, would affect our credibility throughout the year. After the speech, Dean Badaracco commended us for it, and we got a lot of good feedback from you guys the RCs and the administration. The other highlight was the Talent Show. Sitting in Burden and watching, first off, all the show go off and watching how talented people are here, but then just looking around and seeing six rows of people sitting on the ground for three hours and two rows of people standing in the back was just amazing.

Fred: The Talent Show was a learning experience for us too, because I think that is the model of how to get something done and manage it. We came up with the concept, we were fortunate enough to have great people working on it, and we would provide input while they would keep us up to date, but honestly we were the least hands on with the Talent Show than with anything else.

Jyoti: I think the other one was when we sent out our accomplishments list to the school. There have been so many people who have been like, wow, I really thought the SA didn’t do anything, and this really showed me all the work you do.

Fred: Even today someone said that

Jyoti: It’s not even really for us. We did it because we love it. It’s good for the branding of the SA and to show that students who get involved aren’t in it to be politicians. There are people out there who are very cynical about HBS and student government and for them to say, wow, the SA does stuff, it’s great.

Scott: How do you deal with negative criticism you hear from the student body?

Jyoti: One of the best things about this role is that it’s a co-president, so if Fred hears something that bothers him or vice versa, we have eachother to whine and complain to, so it never has to go outside the two of us.

Fred: Some of the things we hear are reasonable, things we didn’t think about, things we would love to get to but have a lot of other things on our plate, and we appreciate the constructive feedback. But there are other people who just, I don’t know, just don’t think through what it takes to do something, or how reasonable their request is, and that’s when it gets frustrating. On a whole, we knew we were going to get positive and negative feedback, so it’s just part of the condition and a good learning experience for us in the future as well.

Scott: Were there things about the school or the SA that surprised you once you became Co-Presidents?

Jyoti: The biggest pleasant surprise for me is how responsive and caring the administration is. A lot of people have the impression that the administration doesn’t care or they just exist in a bubble, but every administrator we have talked to here cares about students, is willing to not just help, but help quickly.

Scott: What are the opportunities for the SA next year?

Fred: One of the things we wish we would have done is establish a better relationship with section presidents and club presidents. If we had that network and communication path, we would have gotten a lot more of the right feedback.

Scott: As an EC about to graduate, what advice do you have for the RC class as we all go into next year?

Fred: Be thoughtful about how you approach the EC year, which classes you take and how you use resources. It’s cliché and people say it all the time, but I am thinking now, are there professors I could have spoken to and established connections with, are there students I could have reached out to on the career side that could have helped me?

Scott: Any last thoughts?

Fred: I want to tell you to have fun with the job. Make sure that you and Patrick work hard but take time to talk about things outside the SA because it is important for you to keep the endurance throughout the job, but it is a fun job, so anytime you have successes like the talent show you should celebrate.

Jyoti: I agree, have fun, and be open to learning. Fred and I both learned more in this role than anything else we did at HBS. You can learn so much from this role and you are both very fortunate to be in it.

May 4, 2009