Five women in the class of 2022 share with us their stories of leadership.
There are so many different ways to welcome the class of 2022 and introduce them to the HBS community. We could talk about challenges, uncertainty, connectedness or innovation, but in the end, it all comes down to leadership. Sheryl Sandberg (MBA ’95), COO of Facebook, described leadership as “making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” This definition of leadership has become more important than ever before within the HBS community. Today, we share the stories of leadership of five women from the class of 2022. They embody this definition and represent the broader sisterhood of HBS’ newest class.
Janvi Shah (MBA ’22)
“My mom and I have the same birthday. The best gift every year is getting to share it with her.”
Shah tells me with a proud smile how her mother’s leadership skills and her father’s entrepreneurial spirit have shaped the way she sees the world and makes decisions. She brought both worlds together by becoming a product manager at Google. There, she discovered that being a leader sometimes meant “fading into the background while keeping everyone else running.”
Months before the Fall semester started, Shah was already applying that definition of leadership to bring the class of 2022 together. Despite her little experience on Slack, she was proactive to become the main administrator of the class’ workspace. With an incredible amount of work, she put together a platform in which students and partners found new channels of communication in the midst of a global pandemic. Shah was amazed at people’s proactivity to create a community, but the truth is, without her determination and leadership, the class of 2022 would not have had a space to feel together in the most difficult times of uncertainty.
“With this experience, I have learned how our community is able to come together, which made me even more excited to come to HBS this fall.”
Rena Ogura (MBA ’22)
“Food and wine, the loves of my life. My conduit to cultures and community”
Ogura has a dual vision of leadership: being a leader as a woman and being a leader for women. The former was shaped by her early experiences as a Japanese girl in an American high school. Her initial difficulties to vocalize her Japanese identity were mitigated by some wasabi Kit Kat she brought as a present (omiyage) from Japan. The chocolates became a medium to start conversations about her origin and her identity. It was then when her fascination for consumer products started. This led her to become a sommelier, finding in wine a medium of culture, language and history, “all in a bottle, and so delicious that it brings people together to enjoy with their five senses.”
The latter vision, being a leader for women, has been the motivation of her latest endeavour. Ogura has founded a startup to bring people together around wine tasting. With a conscious choice of wine brands, she highlights female winemakers and other underrepresented minorities. With her incredible entrepreneurship and leadership skills, Ogura is not only elevating the voices of female winemakers, but also contributing to the class of 2022 community by leading the #wine Slack channel. At a distance, she was able to form a community around wine. Today, 17 sessions later, these wine tasting gatherings have become a space for everyone to feel included, virtual or in person. In the words of one of our classmates: “it’s more than just a place for people to drink together, […it is] a platform that allows people to find common ground and get to know each other”.
Nirit Gilboa (MBA ’22)
“The moment I was told that the trumpet is for boys, I chose the flute instead. Today I’m an engineer”
When Gilboa was eight years old, she was told that trumpets are for boys. She loved the instrument but decided to play the flute instead. That early experience completely shaped the way she approached the important decisions in her life. She was determined to never again let her gender constrain her goals and desires.
10 years later, aged 18, she joined the Intelligence Corps to serve her military service, where she fell in love with technology. She then worked for three years at a startup as a software quality engineer, pursued a degree in Engineering and joined NICE as a project manager, to later become a product manager. As an engineer, Gilboa was often the only woman in the room, which made her wonder how many other women had not been able to choose the trumpet. She wanted to make a difference and bring more women to the room, so she was thrilled to join a volunteering program to teach middle-school girls how to code. She finally felt she was making a real difference by giving young girls the opportunity to be exposed to technology and believe that anything they want is possible.
“Girls can play the trumpet. Girls can play a significant role in technology or in any other path they choose to pursue.”
Lizzie Matusov (MBA ’22)
“‘You’re so uncharacteristic for a technologist’, they always say. I’m here to change that sentiment.”
Matusov was also shaped by an early school memory. She was nine years old when she wrote a career essay about being a project manager. Her teacher gave her a C, telling Matusov her essay was “not realistic.” Needless to say, the early disencouragement quickly transformed into determination to fulfill all her unrealistic goals.
A profound interest in biology shaped her human-centered vision of the world. While pursuing a degree in molecular biology, Matusov was eager to get to the heart of what could really help people; she was desperate to help on a deep and meaningful level. This led her to the world of technology, in which she found endless possibilities to contribute to her mission. Seeing her passion and willingness to learn, Red Hat took a chance on her, hiring her as a software consultant. After two years, she joined Invite, bridging the worlds of technology and health care. The world of technology fascinates her, but she believes it would be much richer if more women were part of it. Matusov is now co-leading the #womenintech Slack channel, eager to make a change and contribute to the gender equality of the tech space.
“Being a number to improve the statistics is important, but taking a step back and making a change in those statistics is more impactful”
Roja de Cande (MBA ’22)
“Indian woman and a French man got married in Denmark with a witness from Serbia while they lived in Germany.”
De Cande started her career as an Engineer at Texas Instruments in Arizona. She loved the job, so she applied for the visa lottery. Three times. With the last failed attempt she was given 30 days to leave the US. After living in the country for seven years, her whole world fell down and she did not know what to do next.
Her company took a chance on her, creating a role for her in Germany, where she helped different teams with their needs. Soon, she had become the go-to person and, before realizing, she was promoted to be the manager of one of the teams. She was the youngest, the only foreigner and the only woman, but she overcame all challenges and found her unique leadership style: building leadership on empathy. De Cande put her focus on building relationships and understanding the individual needs and desires of her team members. The company quickly realized her incredible potential, which brought her back to the US to lead a marketing team and subsequently manage a team across four locations in two different countries. Her teams kept on growing but she always stayed true to herself, leading with empathy, charisma, and care.
“Covid-19 hit my team in China first, and the team in the US quickly offered to cover for them. When the US team was sent home and had mask shortages, the Chinese team sent over masks. These unprompted acts made me realize that I had built a resilient and collaborative team.”
Noelia Lombardo (MBA ’22) was born in Argentina but identifies herself as a global citizen. She is a biomedical engineer and a management consultant. She is a storyteller and a lifelong migrant. She loves the outdoors, yoga, reading, and good debates.