Wednesday, March 18, 2009

B-School Book Review

I just finished another holiday book gift, which I guess isn't that exciting, but I was very interested to read it (and my girlfriend did I very good job in picking it out)

Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at HBS

It's a book written by an HBS student (and former professional journalist) about his two year experience at the most prestigious business school in the history of the universe.

It was definitely an interesting (if pretty brief) read. Anyone who's currently in business school or recently graduated will find a fair number of similarities to their experiences. At least, I did.

But I'm hoping that nobody out there who's thinking about attending B-school someday picks it up thinking it's a completely fair and accurate assessment of business school in general and/or Harvard specifically. I just think it would give them a pretty biased view.

The author, although he seems to have positive takeaways, really seemed like he didn't like his experience at HBS (the book takes place between 2004 and 2006, so it's not like it's skewed by the complete collapse of the global economy).

But reading the book (and the author writes this himself a number of times), it's clear he's not a typical MBA student and not pursuing typical MBA goals.

He's older (early 30's), has a family, and from my perspective really seemed like he had no idea what he wanted out of business school or what path he wanted to pursue.

I expected to get a lot of space dedicated to his adventures as part of the business school community...but I really felt like this guy just didn't really put himself out there and get involved.

I think one of the reason's I've enjoyed business school so much is because I specifically tried to get involved and meet lots of different people. To hear this guy tell it, he would go to school, observe stuff, then go back and tell his wife about it, all the while wondering what it all meant. How does an MBA change you? What does an MBA do? Why are we here? Blah Blah Blah

It's not that I think introspection is a bad thing, and it's not that I think people who put their family first are wrong, but I think it's slightly disingenuous to write a book about two years attending business school if you're more of an observer. He sure didn't seem to have too many close friends in school (maybe that's a HBS thing? I'm sure if I had to take all my first year classes with the same people, I'd definitely have fewer close friends, but I really have no idea)

Anyway, it does give people a flavor for what the whole MBA experience is like. The parts about his recruiting efforts in particular, were lots of fun to read (and very familiar). But the more I read it, the more it seemed like maybe his goal in going to business school was to get out and write a book about it. He seemingly didn't put a ton of effort into getting an internship (or maybe he just didn't write about it) and instead worked on a novel.

I'm a little suspicious to say the least. Anyone who really did want to have a business-type job would at least try something for the summer, and I find it hard to believe a guy from HBS couldn't find anything that he wasn't at least a little interested in.

Whatever, that's just my theory. If you told me that I could do nothing over the summer, graduate without a job and then write a (seemingly) successful book about my MBA, I'd definitely consider it

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