The start of my second semester at HBS has been harsh. I expected the start of classes last week to be a nice experience, where I would slip back in my controlled routine I had established in the first semester. It turns out however that prepping cases after a well-deserved 6-week break is harder than I had expected.
After the exams ended on December 14th, I returned home to Europe for a couple of weeks. I spent the Christmas period with friends and family and loved every second of it. Early January, I travelled to Ghana for my HBS project. Mid January, I returned to freezing Boston for recruiting events before starting classes again on January 28th. I guess the break from reading cases had been a bit too long to just stumble back into an ‘automatic pilot’ mode.
I believe the real reason I haven’t gotten into routine mode yet is because all of our courses and hence professors have changed compared to the first semester. We finalized the basic training mainly focusing on accounting, operations and marketing. The second semester takes us on more adventurous paths tackling topics such as corporate integrity, strategy and a course in global business and economy. I realize now that the routine I referred to was not so much linked to a way-of-working of solving business cases – rather it was built around a level of understanding concerning the expectations of the different professors. The batch of new professors now forces me to get used to their different teaching styles and requirements.
Which brings me to the importance of the teaching staff at HBS. Because of the interactive business case teaching model that HBS stands for, a professor can make or break a course. He or she is our guide in the desert. The good ones bring us to a set of oasis and amazing views during class. We might even encounter a camel or two. The less talented ones just leave us with … eh … sand. As our section went out having drinks with our professors of the first semester, I realized how blessed I had been with the professor assignments. I found the vast majority of them very impressive and inspiring. The desert was overall very well irrigated and fertile ground.
Time will tell how this semester’s professors will turn out to be, though I have faith in HBS’s ability to provide us with some excellent teachers. Moreover, my section is in for an experiment in our Strategy course, as we will be the first ever MBA class to be thought by 2 professors at once. Jan Rivkin, a monument within HBS and Kevin Sharer, former CEO of Amgen, will divide our Strategy classes amongst them. After his corporate career, Kevin Sharer decided to let MBA students learn from his extensive experience. As he has no background in academics however, Kevin asked for a coach for his first year as a teacher at HBS. Hence the birth of the dual professor class. Too early to tell how this experiment will work out. I’ll keep you posted when classes have evolved a bit further into the semester and when I get back into my comfortable routine mode…