Brent Powers- Harvard Business School
I went into my outlook calendar and picked a day at random: Tuesday, February 16, 2016. I was up at 8 to make breakfast, get cleaned up, read the news, answer emails, and skim what I had left of my cases for that day. I was out the door by 9:40 to make my two classes, Business Accounting and Valuation and Authentic Leadership Development (ALD). After that let out at 1:00, I was off to the gym for an hour, followed by a quick solo lunch in Spangler. With an hour until my next event, a meeting of my ALD discussion group, I found a quiet space to start prepping one of my cases for the next day. On my way to meet my discussion group, I detoured by the Student Services office to pilfer some candy from their candy basket (if one has to spend two hours with five other people in a small room talking about feelings, a handful of candy can go a long way!). Two hours of reflection and small group discussion later, I met a first-year student downstairs in the Grille for a coffee chat; he had just received a summer offer to BCG’s London office, where I spent the previous summer, and wanted to talk about my experience. At that point, I quickly hammered out and submitted a reflection assignment for ALD, skyped with my girlfriend for a bit, and then trekked into Harvard Square to meet a group of sectionmates for dinner at Red House, a New England seafood restaurant. Lively and friendly discussion ensued where we recapped our January travels, discussed ongoing job searches, and caught up on each other’s life over fish and wine. Then it was home by 10 to finish off my case for the next day and get to bed by midnight so I can do it all over again the next day.
Where did you work before enrolling in business school?
I was a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy. I commissioned right in after graduating from Duke through the ROTC program and spent my first two years undergoing scuba, nuclear power, and submarine training. I served for three years aboard a submarine based in Guam, spending about half that time underwater. The next year and a half found me stationed ashore in Bahrain, traveling around the Middle East planning exercises and operations, just after the Arab Spring kicked off. After that experience, I took a desk job in Washington D.C. so I could get back to the U.S. and figure out my next steps.
Why did you choose this business school?
Harvard’s a great school and I’m lucky to have had the chance to attend. It and Wharton were the only schools I applied to because I knew I wanted to be as close to my family and friends back in Boston as I could, having spent so many years away. Once my twin brother got into HBS too, the decision made itself.
What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school?
Start as early as possible because everything takes longer than you think it will. Get the GMAT done and out of the way before the applications open and use all the time you have to write and rewrite your story until it’s honest, authentic, compelling, and ambitious.
What is/was the most enjoyable part about business school?
My daily interactions with my fellow students. I’ve never been in an environment where there was such a wealth of talent and depth of experiences around me, and it was so special to talk to my classmates about their lives and ambitions, or hear their perspectives on literally anything – the cases we had to read, how they wanted to live their lives, job or romantic prospects, the news, whatever. It was a real pleasure to get up every morning and know that I was going to spend another day interacting with such people.
What is/was the hardest part of business school?
I found the recruiting process to be the most stressful part of business school. As a military veteran, I had a lot of uncertainty about how I would fare in recruiting – I half-joked that I was looking for my first job. I put extra pressure on myself by recruiting for consulting, which is competitive enough to begin with, but choosing to do so for London offices which, as an American studying in Boston, made it even more difficult. The case prep was enjoyable but strenuous- from early November through final exams, I was doing a couple of cases per day around everything else. That said, the recruitment period was fun too. Meeting the various companies and being wined and dined was enjoyable, as was befriending other classmate I met through the process, and students at Sloan and Tuck, too.
Where will you be working after graduation?
I’ll be a consultant in BCG’s London office, where I also was a summer intern.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career or at your school?
There are a number of operations and inspections that my submarine worked through any number of difficulties to accomplish that I always look back on as being high points of my career – they’re the ones that we’ll talk about whenever we get together.
Favorite MBA Courses?
Building and Sustaining Successful Enterprises (BSSE) is the seminal HBS course and it’s the one that most transformed how I think. It gave me a number of theories and frameworks that I’ve carried over into a number of my other classes at HBS and even into my life. It’s rare to have any given class that affects one’s thinking in such a way. Also, I took two courses from Sophus Reinert – Business, Government, and International Economy (BGIE) in the first year and Globalization and Emerging Markets (GEM) in the second – and they were the most enjoyable courses I have ever taken. That man has a gift for teaching and I loved every minute of the “Sophus show” as I called it. He’s one of those professors that everyone dreams of finding in university or graduate school and I’m infinitely better for having learned from him.
Fun fact about yourself:
I have an identical twin who was also in the military, was also in my HBS class, and is also going into consulting. Coincidences?