Wednesday, February 26, 2014

So, what do you want to do after school?

This questions is part of the holy trinity of business school introductions. Besides "Where are you from" and "What have you been doing before school", "What do you want to do after school" has been answered numerous times by me and my classmates especially in the beginning of out time at Stanford.

Theres a little problem though. A lot of people come to business school because they want to be exposed to different industries or functions, might be looking for a career change or want figure out what ultimately gets them excited. Answering "What do you want to do after school" therefore becomes quite difficult and usually leads to "Well, I want to try out different things and then see what I like".

Funny enough the big Stanford admissions questions is: "What matters most to you and why" accompanied by a little "Where do you see yourself after business school". Its interesting to see that I, along many, many other classmates answered this question, got admitted and now say "Well, I want to try out different things and then see what I like" when asked about what to do after school.

I believe it is totally fine to not know what ones goal in life is and where one wants to devote all energy and resources to. Actually, I find thinking about this quite scary. I like to have options and I like to be able to take opportunities once they come along. A narrow focus on one specific topic makes me feel that I am actively shutting out a lot of other options. An MBA compared to another Masters Degree is basically the result of that fear. Getting an MBA means getting a very generalist education. Joining consulting kind of is the same deal.

I wonder whether I will at some point find that ONE thing that I want to do or whether I will continue to flip-flop. One can never try everything out and be 100% sure. I sometimes wonder whether that fear of commitment and that constant search for better options is a characteristic of our generation. I for sure don't only see it in professional life.

Cheers + bis bald,

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Should I have gone to Harvard?

We just had the 1st round admit weekend on campus and it was interesting to see many potential members of the class of 2016 evaluate their classmates, campus and faculty. I hosted a German admit (who has just paid his deposit and will be coming to the GSB - Way to go Daniel!) and was thinking more than usual about why coming to Stanford was the right choice for me, what it meant and also what I had to sacrifice.

Adding on to this, last week I was asked by a classmate who had also been accepted at Harvard if I sometimes think that I should have gone HBS. I think about it at least once a week and most likely much more often. Especially coming from Europe the HBS brand name carries so much more weight and is the Coca-Cola of education - something really everyone knows. As most human beings (some more, some less), I like to impress people. I find it satisfying to see that my parents and friends are proud of me. I could have had so much more of that had I gone to HBS especially talking to people that have only heard about both schools and never did any research. Still, I believe Stanford is the place where I can grow the most and where I am prepared to have maximum impact in whichever path I end up choosing.

Whenever I think about that a quote from our Dean of Admissions comes to my mind. Someone asked him the grandparents question:

"Derrick, my grandparents have no idea what Stanford is. I want them to be proud and I remember how excited they were when I got into Harvard."

Derrick's answer:

"You know it is really sad if your grandparents don't really know where you are going to school. But imagine, that one day your grandkids won't know where you went to school."

Stanford is a great place, but in some regions outside the US it does not yet have the reputation of Harvard. This will change over time though. Stanford is forward-looking, innovative and shapes the world like very few other places. Going to Stanford means taking pride in what is possible, not in what has been.