Moving to a New City, Doing an MBA and Having a Baby at the Same Time?
Partners at HBS

Moving to a New City, Doing an MBA and Having a Baby at the Same Time?

Anja Do, Contributor

Edi Rumano (RC partner) shares how to do it all with the right expectations.

I first met Edi and his wife Giang (MBA ’21) at the movies to watch The Farewell. It is a story about a Chinese American protagonist (played by Awkwafina) returning to China to say goodbye to her dying grandmother, who is the only person in the family unaware of her terminal illness. While both Giang and I found many familiarities in the movie with our culture because we are both from Vietnam, I did not expect Edi to have the same appreciation for the cultural subtleties. However, to my evident surprise, Edi enjoyed the story very much as it reminded him of the strong family ties in his own Albanian family. That piqued my curiosity and I wanted to learn more about them as a cross-cultural couple. 

Within the first five minutes of our conversation, Edi completely shattered my misconception. “People think we are supposed to be this cross-cultural couple but I don’t feel that way at all. Instead, we are just very similar. Probably because we have the same values,” Edi shared honestly with me. This feeling was reinforced during his first visit to Vietnam to meet Giang’s family. As soon as he got off the plane in Hanoi, every aspect of the country reminded him of Tirana, the capital of Albania. Albania is a former communist country and, in many ways, shares similar characteristics with Vietnam. From clothes, to architecture, to big families supporting family members—everything reminded him of Albania that he knew from his childhood memories. Vietnamese culture therefore felt very familiar to him and that is perhaps why he does not find many differences between himself and his wife. If asked what he does differently now than five years ago before he met Giang, he would only say: “I eat more Vietnamese food!”

Getting to know Edi a bit better, I learned that he was born in Albania and lived there until he was seven years old. He then moved to Colorado because his mother was going to do a PhD. Edi’s family stayed in Colorado until he was about 16 years old, after which he moved back to Albania for two years before moving back again to the U.S., this time to Pennsylvania, to finish high school. He stayed in Pennsylvania for college and subsequently moved to New York City to study at the Columbia Law School. 

When talking about New York City, I could tell it is a special place to Edi. He lived there from 2011, before moving to Boston last Fall, but he shared with melancholy in his voice that “New York is probably the longest place I’ve ever lived in at one time, so it still feels like home.” New York is also where Edi met Giang and also where he proposed to her. 

Like many singles living in New York City, he and Giang met on Bumble, the dating app, but they connected right away. At the time, Giang was already thinking of applying to business school and so they began talking about it from the beginning of their relationship. It was clear to him that she wanted to go to business school so it did not come as a surprise when a year into their relationship, she started taking the GMAT and preparing for the applications. He recollects clearly, “It did not happen in one conversation. It happened through a process, and I completely supported wherever she wanted to go” 

Giang applied to most of the top schools, and hence, Edi knew early on about the cities that they could potentially end up living in. With his current job, he had the flexibility of relocating anywhere in the U.S. so he was not too concerned about the location of the school Giang would end up going to. He declared rather matter-of-factly, “I just wanted her to go where she wanted to.” It was very endearing that he was so committed to Giang even before they got engaged and married.

 Their relationship moved really fast because, in Edi’s words, “We clicked really well.” At core, Giang and Edi had a lot of things in common and shared a lot of values and goals of what they wanted to do in life. So within just a couple of months of dating, he suggested that they move in together. Once they moved in together, he also met with her family and in less than a year, he was pretty certain that she was the one. He admitted, “I did not want to date for a long time just to see what would happen. Once I felt I was certain that I had met the right person, I wanted to move forward. So, we got engaged.”

Before Edi proposed to Giang, he wanted to ask her dad for his approval. At the time, Edi was not in Vietnam to meet her dad, so he involved Giang’s sister to help. Edi’s conversation took place via a Skype call with Giang’s dad, with her sister translating between English and Vietnamese. “It was pretty funny!” Edi recalled with fondness and amusement about the story. 

They married in December 2017. After Giang was accepted to HBS, Edi began making plans to request for relocation with his employer. Fortunately for Edi, the law firm where he specializes in Mergers & Acquisitions and Private Equity has offices in many locations in the U.S., including an office in Boston, and the firm allowed to transfer him in his same role to its Boston office. With the fixed location and a full time job for Edi in Boston, they moved on to their next milestone—having a baby.

In fact, when I met Giang and Edi at the cinema in September 2019, she was already about five months pregnant. Fascinated by how much they have accomplished together, I wondered whether the baby was part of the plan. With complete certainty, Edi told me, “Yes, this was deliberate!” They were going to move to a new city, do an MBA and have a baby all at once.

Reflecting upon the type of work he is in and the kind of jobs Giang wants to get in, like Private Equity Investing or Asset Management, Edi admits that both of their careers will be intense and time consuming. With that in mind, they concluded that there would never be a completely optimal time to have a baby and figured they would start now while Giang is at school. Having a baby during business school brings its own set of challenges and constraints that differ from having a baby while working. For instance, although school may allow for more flexibility in certain respects, recruiting and summer internships continue on their ordinary schedule. Edi emphasized they try to keep in mind the long-term perspective as they go through the day-to-day, balancing pregnancy (and soon, childbirth and parenting) while allowing Giang to utilize the full HBS experience. At the same time, Edi recognized that they are lucky to have resources (such as the paternity leave offered by his employer) to enable them to tackle these challenges at the same time. Edi feels that it is his role is to support Giang through this process but he is also very grounded in reality and jokes to ask him again. “Once the baby arrives, maybe the reality will hit us and it will feel different.”

As someone who is married and hoping to have children one day, I see Giang and Edi as a phenomenal team and I admire them for their joint effort in achieving so many milestones together. What really stuck with me was Edi’s life perspective which I think would be a perfect preface to a parenting book: 

“Fundamentally, the single most important decision you’ll ever make in your life is the partner that you have. So, once you’re sure of that, everything just falls into place. After that decision, you can try to optimize other parts of your life a little bit but at some point you just accept that achieving your goals is going to be difficult. Use the resources at your disposal, as you won’t be able to do it yourselves. You will need to make tradeoffs, but if you have the right expectations going into it about the outcome that you want, you can structure your life appropriately and make it manageable. Giang is on the business side, and I’m a lawyer but we think very similarly, that having a family is one of our long-term goals. I don’t expect that having a baby means I’ll be overwhelmed with joy 100% of the time. No, it’s going to be work, a lot of work. But I think those are the things that will bring you satisfaction later in life.”

So far at HBS, they have received a lot of support as future parents while Edi has received support as a partner. In particular, Edi appreciates how very thoughtful and deliberate the school is about what they do here to incorporate partners. His reference was Law School where he does not recall seeing the same level of involvement for partners. Compared to HBS, there was less focus on integrating partners and bringing them to events. At HBS, there are so many opportunities to get involved, such as a Partners’ club and social activities. What was the most surprising thing for Edi was how deliberate and formal socializing and meeting other students and partners here is and he very much enjoys the set-up. 

However, not to generalize his own experience as a partner at HBS, Edi recognizes that he is very lucky because he was able to relocate here with a full-time job. Unlike other partners who are in a long-distance relationship or who have to commute weekly to see their partner, he works here and has a life in Boston which occupies the majority of his time, and then he goes to HBS events to simply enjoy himself. He feels he is in a very fortunate situation and gets the best of both worlds. Though his situation might not apply to many partners, he wants them to know that people here will be very welcoming and very open to partners. “Try to take advantage of that more, and participate more,” he shared encouragingly.

Finally, he advised partners to be thoughtful about what the future can hold and work backwards from there, together as a team: 

“Think about what you want and what you’re going to do. It does not have to be a detailed plan, but if you do think of those things, and imagine yourself going through them, then you come here with the right expectations. Then when you face a difficult situation, you know what is the goal and you figure out how to make this work. Where problems may arise is when people don’t make things explicit. Then it turns out when one person has one set of expectations and the other person has another set of expectations, and you cannot resolve them because you realize you are not aligned on goals. If you both are aligned on goals, you know what they are, you make them explicit, everything else will fall into place.”

Anja Do is an RC Partner at HBS who recently moved to Cambridge, MA, with her husband from Singapore. She identifies herself as a global citizen and loves meeting people from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and religions and learning about their personal stories.

February 7, 2020
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