This summer I decided to take a year-long leave of absence from HBS. My motivations are simple: time and opportunity.
It started during a conversation I had with Grace [Choi (OI)] about 6 months ago when she told me that HBS professors and alumni were much more willing to help students than other alumni, and one of the smartest things an entrepreneur could do was take a year off. At the time I thought she was crazy; the sooner I got my MBA, the better.
Coming into HBS, my goal was to start a company by the time I graduated. Given my lack of experience with developing a company, Grace’s advice began to make a little more sense. Course selection also made me reflect on what I wanted out of EC year. I wouldn’t take back a single night at Bus Stop or Kong, but I realized that there were many opportunities that I couldn’t or simply didn’t take advantage of.
When else will I have intimate access to HBS professors, entrepreneurs-in-residence, and 900 brilliant, motivated people?
When else will I have enough financial aid to support the exorbitant parties (Euroclub), fine dining (Spangler), and luxurious accommodations (McCulloch) I’ve become accustomed to?
Field study courses could actually give me credit for working on my foolish ideas. The business plan competition will connect me with other students and resources to turn my senseless thoughts into irrationally huge valuations.
More than any other consideration, however, was this: How could I spend another year at HBS without knowing what I want to do with my one wild and precious life?
Choosing where to focus my job search was a somewhat daunting task. I was interested in emerging economies and after an amazing experience in Brazil during Field 2, I decided focus my research on Sao Paulo.
Leveraging my network of classmates and former co-workers, I’ve already had the incredible opportunity to meet many CEOs of the fastest growing companies in the region. I’ve listened to stories of amazing success and incredible failure which only increase my excitement to fly down in September.
Following the advice of another classmate, I plan to spend a week or two meeting with entrepreneurs and exploring several opportunities in person rather than accepting a position over the phone.
The lessons I’ve learned in and out of the classroom this year have exceeded my wildest expectations.
I can now build a P&L model in less than a minute, I’ve been on intercontinental adventures with fellow classmates, and I even know what the word “trilema” means! Well… kind of.
No matter where I go, I take great pride in knowing there is no distance that could break the amazing bonds I’ve created with my friends at HBS.
Written by Mark Michelman (OI)