Interview with the Vice-President of Partners

An EC partner shares her experience representing the partner community at the Student Association.

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I went to Clemson University for my undergraduate and studied industrial engineering. That is where I also met my husband, Robert Stallard (MBA ’21, Old Section E). I actually met him right before we went to Clemson together and then we started dating towards the tail end of Clemson. 

After undergrad, I moved to Atlanta and then shortly after that to Charleston, South Carolina, which is where I now call home. We also got married in Charleston last year.

What do you do outside of HBS?

I work for the same company that I started with after college. I began working for them in person when I was in Atlanta, then I moved to remote work after coming to HBS and I have been remote ever since. I work as a design lead, designing warehouse management software for distribution centers for big-box retailers, like Target and TJ Maxx. I design everything from inbound receipt of inventory to the design of robotic picking systems and shipment of orders out of the building. It is a cool job, they have great benefits and I enjoy it. 

Although this is my first job after college, it has been six and a half years and it is a really good place to work. I have to travel a lot to the client sites, the company really does not care where I am, as long as I complete the work. It can be crazy packed like this week, there is a ton of work but then I will have some downtime. That is part of the reason I am able to take on this role. When there is downtime during the week, I can focus on the responsibilities of the VP of Partners. 

Why did you decide to take on this role? 

  Last year, I was involved in the Partners Club and I was responsible for the newsletter. I was also the Partner Rep for my Section and I loved being the Section Rep. In that role, I was able to apply my creative nature to come up with new ideas to bring partners together. So when this VP of Partners role came about, it seemed like a natural fit both with my creativity and with the arrangement of my day job. In this position, I would not need to be there in person on a specific day and time to set up an event so it worked well with my job that requires me to travel often. 

I accepted it pretty quickly because I was super excited and I did not want anyone else to take the role. Responsibility-wise, I thought I would just be in charge of the Section Reps and call it a day but now I am learning that it is a lot more than that. I thought it would be awesome because I would be super involved but it is so much work and I originally did not expect that. It definitely feels like a full-time job, especially with the Covid situation. 

Although I am still in charge of Section Reps, there is so much going on behind the scenes (such as around technology) that I had no idea on before. Before last year, the role did not even exist. The Section Reps did not exist either. Amanda Friedman (graduate EC partner), who was both the co-president of Partners Club and also the VP of Partners, started the whole thing. When she came on board, she put the big foundation pieces together–the listserv and the Section Reps, but there are so many details that need to be filled in and those are the things that I did not know would be on my plate. Luckily, she laid the groundwork which will benefit the partners community widely for years to come and where I come in is to fill in details on top of the foundation. That has been super fun!  

What are the responsibilities of VP of Partners?

Until last year, I did not even know the difference between Partners Club and this role. One of my goals this year is to ensure everyone–including students and partnersknows the difference which will enable us to push the role even further. Last year, the role was brand new, so no one really knew and understood it well. 

VP of Partners is who you go to for general partner issues like registration questions such as “How can you get access to certain things? What are your benefits as a partner?” For any information that is school-related, partners should come to me. Then there is the Partner Club which is more of a social networking club with tons of fun activities. 

The school has also hired a team of staff whose entire goal is to make sure that partners are represented. But it is good to have someone on the ground like me who is an actual partner. It is important that the school knows some of their policies in reality do not apply well for partners. Therefore, in this role, I am like an advocate for the partners. 

What can HBS partners look forward to for this year?

One of the big things that I am working on is a manual for the Section Reps. It will provide guidelines for Section Reps to share with the partners. What can partners be involved in? What should be communicated to them? Here is how we email our newsletters. Here is how you use your listserv. Here is how students can send their events to your listserv and then partners can have it on their calendar. Here is what worked. Here is what did not. How do our monthly Section Reps meetings take place? Streamlining the Section experience is one of my biggest goals for this year.  

I think having a strong involvement in the community from the partners is important as well, though it is perhaps sometimes undervalued. It is not that HBS undervalues partners’ involvement but it is something that most of us generally do not think about. Simple experiences such as both you and your husband going to the same events together or you feeling comfortable going to events without him around definitely have a long-term impact on strengthening the community. So I hope to achieve that in this role.

Another thing I am working on is making sure that partners have access to everything that they need without having to go through their student. In the past, that has been the biggest issue that we heard most complaints about because often communication from the school goes through the student and not their partner. That is the intention of listservs that just came out. Once that is established, we want to take it to the next level with more detailed communication directly to partners. 

Based on your learnings from the previous year, what specific changes do you want to make to improve partners’ experience?

I always feel really bad when I hear about a Section that did not have a strong partner involvement. During some of our Section Reps meetings last year, we heard that some Section Reps struggled to get partners involved in section and HBS events. I was disappointed to hear that because it makes partners feel they are separate from the students and the Section. And I strongly believe that we are part of the Section! The Section belongs to us as much as it belongs to the students. This belief is so ingrained in me. I feel that our HBS experience is incomplete without us, as a couple, experiencing it together. 

So for now, everytime there is a meeting with the Section Presidents, both Emily Vocke (VP of Families, Old Section E) and I try to jump in for five minutes to emphasize how important it is to make the Section experience available to families and partners. We would tell them: “When you are driving leadership, make sure that you are paying attention to partners and families. Small details such as what time to have Section events matter. If you want to be truly family- and partner-friendly, you need to try to organize the events at times when families and partners can also attend. Many families and partners will struggle with some event timings because of work or early bedtime for their children.”  

How is Covid-19 changing the partners’ experience?

There are so many things and so many details that need to be figured out. Things are changing every single day, whether it is direction from the state or from the school. For example, today we had to figure how to organize the virtual club’s fair and how people can sign up. The school is transferring everything to be online for clubs which is awesome and super exciting. However, you have to have a myHBS account to get to the club’s page. This directly impacts partners because we do not have a myHBS account. So, I suggested that the school either give partners an account or make the page accessible in a different way. The school is still working on it but that is just one of the examples of what I am advocating for. 

Covid-19 has thrown me for a loop a bit because instead of focusing on manuals and other partner-related things, I need to figure out testing protocols and how to make everything work online. The school is moving Partners registration to be online as well as the Partner Info Session, the Partners Case Night, and so many other activities. So due to Covid-19, every piece of the partner experience has to be virtual and has become another beast.  

What was your most memorable moment at HBS from RC year?

There are so many! Holidazzle was super fun. With Emily, we gave a Partners roast for the Section. Emily is blunt and hilarious so she made the roast very funny. I was so nervous and must have, consequently, downed a whole bottle of wine before we got up there!     

For the Harvard Yale game, we rented a party bus for the Section and blasted Christmas carols through the journey there. Those two are definitely my favourites! 

Lauren Stallard (VP of Partners) moved to HBS with her husband Robert Stallard (MBA ’21, Old Section E) from Charleston, SC. She has her degree in Industrial Engineering from Clemson and currently works remotely in designing warehouse management software. She loves wine and food, painting, and hosting dinner parties.