Week 1: Wheels Up

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I can’t believe it’s only been 1 week since I started classes here. Over the last 5 days, I have felt like I am drinking from a firehose while simultaneously making 90 new best friends. I spent some time reflecting with friends this week, one of whom made me promise that I wouldn’t “keep it vague.” So here it is, week 1 insights in a nutshell.

Part of the reason I want to be sure to keep sharing insights about my experience here is because I benefitted greatly from the blogs of people who have done this before me (h/t @ellenchisa) when I was deciding whether or not to go to business school.

The start of anything can shake you to your core, and this experience puts you in a blender and burns the candle at both ends. It’s great, but profoundly exhausting. We’re just getting started.

With no basis for comparison, Harvard feels like I am running a marathon at a sprint’s pace. The week started with Section reveal at 7am Monday morning – when you find out who you’ll be spending the whole year learning, debating and making friends with. It’s also the crew you do reunions with and probably the better half of your business partners/friends/colleagues for the rest of your life. I have a great, lively, brilliant group of section mates who make the day go by in a breeze. Go Section F!

HBS teaches by using the case method: practical stories with demonstrable applications of business principles, and nuanced lessons that can be debated in every possible way. We spent 2 days learning about the case method by doing none other than 2 cases. The days were peppered with social activities, alumni panels and an opportunity to meet 2nd year students (ECs) who answered questions.

The crux of the week came at the end, when we had our first 2 days of classes each of which had 3 cases. The courses we are required to take in the first semester spread from Finance (FIN1) and Accounting (FRC) to Leadership (LEAD), Technology and Operations (TOM) and Marketing (MKT).

My initial observations about business school are the following:

  1. There’s no such thing as isolating one business problem: every case could be examined from each of these 5 lenses, and you would unearth something that sways you in a different direction each time.
  2. Practical learning is much more enjoyable than textbook learning: I’ve never taken accounting, but it’s a lot more enjoyable to contextualize a problem than to create sample balance sheets.
  3. Everyone is social all the time: I am giddy every day by the idea of getting to know such a brilliant cohort of people. Taking time to really get to learn about them seems overwhelming at the start – there are a lot of people I want to know and many group events that connect us. People are warm, friendly and gregarious in a way I’ve never seen in a professional environment. I am looking forward to being in a routine that allows me to do this in a more in-depth way.
  4. Listen: this has always been a weakness for me. I started by always having my hand raised in class, but I’m learning that it’s much more valuable to listen to the conversation around you and to interject only when you have something truly meaningful to say. People in the room are much smarter than I am, and often bring to light ideas that had never crossed my mind. Be discerning about hand raising – and only speak once per class.
  5. Collaboration is highly encouraged: unlike in grade school where it was important to do your own work, we excel when we work together. Discussion groups are a valuable forum for this – leverage the experience of your peers and let them do the same with you. The reason to take several years in between college and business school is to be able to give genuine perspective from personal experience on certain topics.
  6. Figure out what you want to be known for, and move fast: Everything moves very quickly here. People are constantly posting ideas, gatherings, questions, etc on social media. In observing this, it’s helping me figure out what kind of role I can play and how I can add value to the group.
  7. Introspection is critical to growth: Harvard asked us to submit personal portraits about what we’d like to get out of these 2 years. The application process is a way to step back and reflect, and the act of taking yourself out of the work force most likely forced us all to think about these things before we acted. Nonetheless, this task was extremely challenging but very rewarding: I now have a stronger sense of what motivates me, what my values are and how to think about being introspective and reevaluate during this time.
  8. Bring your own lunch: the Spangler cafeteria is insane from 12:10 to 1:25.
  9. Be punctual – not to be taken lightly: This is seriously critical and indicative of better business behavior. On the contrary, the business formal thing isn’t really all that.
  10. Business school is genuinely fun: it’s a time to step back and reflect, and also to enjoy meeting new people and reconnect with old friends. Smile!
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Week 1: Wheels Up

10 Lessons I Learned While Working At Twitter

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I have been fortunate to have worked for this great company for the last 3.5 years, and even more lucky to work alongside some of the best and brightest minds in the industry. Yesterday, I culminated my Twitter experience by delivering something called The Last Lecture, an oratory style based off of Randy Pausch’s own last lecture at Carnegie Mellon.

The topic was on the 10 lessons I learned from working at Twitter. Looking at this list, I believe that I’ve had the best job at the best company. I don’t take for granted the fact that I’ve been able to learn all of these valuable lessons in such a short amount of time, and that I’ve been surrounded by great people who have taught me these wonderful things.

  1. You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Some of the greatest ideas start with a question, and you don’t get 100% of the things you don’t ask for. I challenge myself to ask a question at every possible avenue.
  2. Challenge assumptions, even though you respect those who made them. The beauty of working at a small and rapidly growing company is that there doesn’t exist precedent for a lot of the things we’re doing. As a result, I found myself constantly challenging the status quo: why are we structured this way? Why doesn’t this exist, or how can we be more efficient? Nothing is set in stone, and we have to thrive on malleability.
  3. Be an entrepreneur within a growing organization. I had the fortune of working on a project early in my time at the company. It was suited to my skills and my background, and conveniently something that the company desperately needed. I had the best manager support and was able to write my own job description to help found a new team – the opportunity of a lifetime.
  4. Own something: become an expert and do it well. Being the “go-to” person for an industry, a workstream or even a market can put you on the map for projects you may never have otherwise had. I have been privy to many interesting things happening across the company because of my historical understanding of certain things, and it’s opened my eyes to many new schools of thought.
  5. Meet as many people as possible. Twitter is made of people, and those people have exceptionally interesting stories and backgrounds. One of the beautiful things about working in tech is that you have a variety of people with many different backgrounds, and we all have so much to learn from each of them. I made a point of trying to grab coffee with 2 new people every week, and I have started to forge lifelong friendships and business contacts with many of these brilliant people.
  6. The only thing you can count on is change. You only have to read the newspaper once in the last 6 weeks to know that Twitter is a company that undergoes constant change. But we are also the kind of company that thrives on it. We strive to be the best, the boldest, and do good for the world. That’s not possible without embracing change in all forms – trying new things in new ways allows us to achieve greatness.
  7. Work with the goal of leaving Twitter [or any company] a better place than you found it. This principle guides me in everything I do. My hope is to change people’s lives and leave a legacy that will help people move and grow. I feel humbled that I was able to work on the Super Women at Twitter initiative to help the industry start to think about how to strive for gender and diversity fairness.
  8. Use the product. There are times when we all take things for granted. But working for a company with a product as powerful as Twitter’s makes me step back all the time and realize that we are working on something great. I find myself with my breath taken away almost every time I open the app. The fearless communication that takes place, the revolutions, the idea generation and even the humor are awe-inspiring.
  9. Surround yourself with bright spots. When I started, my organization had 5 tenacious people. Today, we have over 120. I had a hand in helping grow our talent pool and our scope, and one of the most important things I learned in the process was to be sure that I worked, hired and managed people I could learn from and people who inspired me. We’ve built an exceptional team of people, and we’re hiring!
  10. Life can’t be contained in 140 characters, but you can do a lot with constraint. This company is built on 10 core values, all of which can be contained within a tweet. They are our integrity, our guiding light and our savior in times of confusion. These are beautiful pearls of wisdom that have helped us achieve greatness, and will continue to shepherd us through. The power of a Tweet is endless.

#THANKYOU

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10 Lessons I Learned While Working At Twitter