Cold calls. Your professors love them. You fear them. Your ed rep crushes them. We think it’s about time that this HBS staple gets the rebranding it deserves. Each week, The Harbus chats with a randomly selected member of the student body. This week, Kristen Hale shot the breeze with Andrea Quadros, touching on everything from her Section E heroes to her love affair with the city of London.
KH: How has EC year been so far?
Andrea: It’s been fun! You’re more in control, even if you don’t feel like it. EC year is probably as busy, if not more. Maybe it’s just the classes I’m taking, but I have more reading than last year. But an entire course has disappeared (FIELD), so it’s a lot more relaxed. And now I know people. I’m not running around like a headless chicken anymore.
KH: Tell me about your pre-MBA life.
Andrea: I lived in Mumbai for 24 years and spent two years consulting with McKinsey. Then I went to Singapore for two years and with my role (at Singapore Post) I spent time in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Malaysia… and then I came here.
KH: Did you enjoy your time in Asia?
Andrea: I loved Asia. There is a very strong sense of optimism. Everyone believes that is where the next world innovations are going to come from, and everyone’s bought into that dream… it can be a little chaotic but its so exciting.
KH: Let’s talk about your summer internship in London.
Andrea: I really love the city. Of course, there is TONS to do, the theater, the ballet, the opera. I was with BT (British Telecom) and I loved the people I was working with. I think what really struck me most (about the city) was the cultural rootedness. Everything about London is from centuries ago. Professionally, India is more like the U.S., but what I had forgotten is that, culturally, India is very British, because of the colonial history. I had friends in London this summer who were studying history, and by doing a little of my own research, I found that I am the first generation in my family that’s growing up in Indian-India. The rest of my family grew up in Portuguese-India. My grandfather spoke mostly Portuguese, my mom learned Portuguese when she was small, and I know ZERO Portuguese… so for me, it was more a discovery of my identity that made me love the city, more than anything else.
KH: Let’s talk about section E. Do you miss the section experience?
Andrea: I do! It was so nice going into class, knowing each other. You would know exactly when someone was going to make a certain comment and you know who to look to at in that particular moment. It’s pretty amazing, because you realize that knowledge is really the basis for the relationship you have with them.
KH: Describe section E in one word.
Andrea: I would say “balanced” – we were a good mix of everything. In a good sense, not in a boring sense. There wasn’t an extreme that ever made it uncomfortable. There were enough people who brought the fun, enough people who were reflective, enough people whose role it was to challenge, and enough who brought up moral questions. We were very balanced as a section.
KH: So you’re saying the admissions team knows what they’re doing.
Andrea: (Laugh) I think so!
KH: Major differences between RC and EC year?
Andrea: Having a choice of classes. Also the fact that you are meeting new people who have similar, overlapping interests. Not only is that interesting, but I’m also realizing how valuable that is.
KH: What is one thing that has surprised you most about HBS?
Andrea: I was surprised about how much it can drive you and drive everyone into a place of insecurity. When I came to HBS I was pretty confident about myself and what I had achieved. Most people should have been as well, because I look at their achievements and I think, “Wow.” And then within a couple of weeks you start questioning, “Have I achieved as much as I could have?” Initially I thought it was just me, but then I realized that most people went through that. The thing about HBS is that it’s not just about building people up, but it’s also about breaking them down before building them back up.
KH: Do you think that is just the atmosphere here or do you think that’s purposeful in the program?
Andrea: I don’t think that’s purposeful. I think the faculty know its there, because they keep reassuring us (laughs.) All of us come here fairly competitive and we have always been amongst people who are similar to us. What happens here is that you come together and you realize how much others have achieved in their respective fields, and suddenly the playing field is much, much larger.
KH: So where do you study?
Andrea: My room. I usually start reading my cases pretty late, around midnight. I go to sleep at like 3 or 4 a.m. and sleep until 10 a.m. I can’t sleep if I’ve got something on my mind. What I can achieve in a half hour at night takes me hours during the day. (Pauses.) I’m a night owl.
KH: Do you have a favorite HBS moment?
Andrea: I have a favorite series of moments! You know Brooke (Boyarsky), right? She is one person I miss in my classes because her comments were very thought provoking. They were never something I would have thought of on my own. Usually her comment was not just about the academic topic but it was always a broader “life” question. In my classes now, I always know the moment that Brooke would come in, but I don’t know what she would have said. And I always think, “I wish she were here right now!”
KH: Any really awkward experience that sticks out in your mind?
Andrea: So… in one of the accounting classes at the start of the year, I had actually fallen asleep. I was genuinely asleep. And somehow I raised my hand when I was sleeping. And of course, that is the day the professor called on me. And I had no idea what we were discussing or what the topic was. I literally had no idea. I had read the case, but I had been asleep and just couldn’t process what she was asking me. She was asking me basic questions that anyone would have known, but I had no idea. And Ale (Palma) was sitting next to me, and he scribbled the topic on a piece of paper to jog my memory. And after that I remembered everything I had read. But that moment of panic was unbelievable.
KH: Anyone who has inspired you that deserves a shout out?
Andrea: Definitely Ann Chao. She has been amazing and has kept my spiritual life intact. She challenges me to not get carried away with everything. She helps me evaluate the spiritual side of the decisions I’m making. I needed that a lot in the last year, with the job search and everything. She definitely deserves the shout out.
KH: Is there anything left on your Boston bucket list you want to do before you leave?
I don’t think I’ve discovered Boston enough! MIT hosts an incredible international program that allows anyone to experience other cultures, and I would love to get a much better understanding of other national cultures. And I would love to learn Spanish! Next semester I am going to try to schedule my classes so that I can take a Spanish class. And I would love to take something at the Kennedy school! Maybe next semester… I don’t want to pack on too much.
KH: So, those are all… lofty goals.
Andrea: But it’s all going by so fast!
KH: Do you have a favorite “spot”?
Andrea: I really like to go down to the river and just sit on a bench. It’s so relaxing. I feel the gravity of who I am if I just sit there. You can see people kayaking and boating and running, and I usually go there with cases, but while I’m reading, it’s very grounding. You can see all the Harvard buildings and it’s really powerful. You realize where you are. I see the tops of those Harvard buildings and think, this is a place where people will emerge and potentially change the world as we know it.