SEEKING ‘AN ARSENAL OF WORLD-CLASS MANAGEMENT SKILLS’ FOR AN IDEALISTIC DREAM
Indeed, Klein did come to HBS to change the world. His passion was non-profit management. He left his pre-MBA job in consulting to gain “an arsenal of world-class management skills” to run a non-profit. During the summer between his first and second year, Klein interned at a venture philanthropy organization.
“I learned it’s frustrating as a (nonprofit) manager because the direction of your organization is too dependent on funding and where it comes from,” Klein explains. “Say you are running a non-profit that serves inner-city youth but then a major donor is interested in youth in rural communities and wants your organization to serve them. It’s not really what you are designed to do but your funding depends on it.”
During his internship, he examined more than 1,000 non-profit organizations founded during the previous 30 years. “You could count on one hand the amount that had grown to have a broad impact,” Klein explains. So he decided to shift his passion to serve others elsewhere. “The confluence of those experiences made me feel like it would be an uphill battle,” says Klein. “It was not how I wanted to spend every minute of every day. My plan was to donate some services pro-bono, serve on boards, and later in life be a big donor.”
THE CURVE BALLS OF LIFE
Klein jumped back into the consulting job at Deloitte he had before entering HBS. But after a couple years of the lifestyle that comes with a consulting gig, he wanted something else. Newly married, Klein wanted to spend time with his wife instead of traveling around the country and working insane hours. A conversation with some friends led him to asset management and investment research, initially at Morgan Stanley, allowing him to “use every muscle in the brain and course at Harvard.”
All of this is to say, life throws curve balls. When Klein was penning his Portrait Project in 2002, he had no idea he would take a different path, straying from non-profit management or that he would have a toxic tumor removed from his body and then fight for his life.
“My path has been nothing I’ve expected it to be,” Klein says. “But it’s been wonderful and I’m grateful for my family and the work I do. I’ve been blessed. I couldn’t have planned this before or during business school. My life has been nothing that I’ve expected.”
FOLLOWING A SIMILAR LIFE PATH
Of the 2002 grads that responded to a Poets&Quants survey, Klein seemed to be somewhat of an anomaly. Many, in fact, had slight changes but for the most part said that they did stay close to the ambitions, values, and ideals they wrote about more than a decade ago.
“It has been a long time since I read my portrait project essay, and I am surprised to say that the theme of the essay largely reflects the life I have been living since I wrote those words,” explained one member of the class who wished to remain anonymous. “I have done my best to not focus on end goals but to enjoy both in my professional and personal lives, the journey of building a career, raising a family and staying connected with family and friends important to me.”
Added another classmate, “My path was very open-ended, so there are not a lot of things different from what I wrote. However, I realize I find myself less concerned with the more material signs of success and more focused on my family and to continue my learning in life.”
A PORTRAIT PROJECT PROPHECY
Dave Reinke, is one example of taking a course more akin to what he initially described in his essay. Reinke wrote about marrying “the woman with the blue eyes and the crazy curly brown hair.” Reinke indeed, did marry that woman and now they have a family.
He also spoke of a painful life experience. “I plan to let go of the pain of having my biological father walk out on my mother and me when I was five,” he wrote. “I plan to live my life for me instead of trying to show him what he missed out on.”
It turns out that portion of Reinke’s reflection was close to a prophecy. A couple years after writing those words, his biological father saw the project and contacted him asking to rekindle the relationship. “I think his intentions were good but I really wasn’t open to it,” Reinke told Poets&Quants. “I kind of felt that at that point in my life, it was my turn to be the father and husband, and I wanted to direct my energies there rather than on exploring being a son. I’m sure that was disappointing for him, but I felt really free to do the right thing for me rather than focus on pleasing him.”