Adrian J. Kimbrough
Harvard Business School
Describe yourself in 15 words or less: I’m driven by imagination and an insatiable intellectual curiosity. I love debate, languages, and rugby.
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
Fun Fact About Yourself: My Chinese name translates as “Little Chicken.” A little back story: after graduating from Cal, I moved to southwestern China for a year to study Mandarin, travel around East Asia, teach English, and play rugby. Sure, exploring a new part of the world, challenging myself, and making some great life-long friends were all incredible experiences, but one of the things that will stick with me for the rest of my life is this name. Originally, I was supposed to be “Little Gold,” which represents a colloquial, phonetic translation of my first name. Nevertheless, an Irish expat friend of mine just could never quite pronounce the “gold” part in Chinese. Unfortunately for me, his version of “gold” sounded a lot like “chicken.” Only after the name had thoroughly entrenched itself among the teachers, students, and pretty much every single one of my friends, did my friend and I realize that the name also has some more unsavory connotations. Alas, it was too late. I am Little Chicken.
Undergraduate School and Major: University of California, Berkeley (Double Major: Political Science and Global Development)
Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Energy Industry Analyst, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). I helped negotiate and, when necessary, litigate (as an expert witness) oil pipeline and electric utility rates, tariff terms, damages, and penalties. Prior to graduating from Berkeley, I also served as a Cryptologic Linguist (essentially analyzing foreign communications and intelligence) in the US Marines for five years, specializing in Spanish and Latin American affairs but also deploying to the Middle East.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Without a doubt, the biggest achievement in my career so far has been transitioning into the energy sector and serving as an expert witness. The intellectual challenges of learning complex and unfamiliar topics under significant time constraints, creating thorough and persuasive policy proposals, and conveying my expertise to diverse audiences was immensely rewarding. I think, though, that what makes this accomplishment especially significant to me is that it represents a dramatic shift from my time in the Marines and at Cal. Despite no prior background in economics, finance, or energy policy, I persuaded partners from major law firms, PhD economists, CPAs, commercial executives, and senior management from the Commission to adopt my positions during numerous litigated and negotiated proceedings. My time with the FERC gave me a newfound confidence in my ability to adapt and excel in demanding, complex endeavors.
Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the course of the application process is the incredible value in telling your own story. Yes, preparing for the GMAT or GRE through an extensive and regimented program that includes periodic practice exams is crucial, but highlighting a unique and relevant story through your entire application package (essays, interviews, recommendations, resume, etc.) seems to me to be equally important.
From the beginning, I assumed that the competition from any of the top-10 programs had superior test scores, GPA, etc. To separate yourself from the deluge of geniuses, I recommend that you find an experience (or pattern of achievements) that demonstrates your unique set of passions and skills —qualities that will allow you to succeed in a demanding MBA program and beyond. Use your essay to explain what your passion is, how it’s relevant to the program, and why it separates you from the rest of the applicants. And, if possible, make sure that your resume demonstrates the achievements and progression described in your essay to help the admissions staff clearly understand your unique story. Don’t forget to have an ongoing dialogue with your recommenders, as well, to ensure that they understand your particular story and objectives.
What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? HBS stands apart from other MBA programs for several reasons, but three, in particular, resonate with me: exposure, challenge, and brand. First, I want to be a part of a program with a relatively large, diverse student body and faculty so that I can seek out as many opportunities to connect and learn from people with different backgrounds, interests, and skills. That’s not to say that there isn’t value in programs that are either lesser known or have fewer students and faculty – there certainly is! Personally, I just prefer the option of having access to a larger peer group. Second, I want to be constantly challenged through a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum to better prepare for the challenges ahead. I expect that the high caliber of students and the relentlessness of the courses – especially in the first year – will accomplish just that. Third, the HBS brand is, needless to say, incredibly valuable and will help distinguish any graduate from among the throngs of other equally ambitious, highly-qualified MBA graduates.
Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? This is a difficult one. I have an idea of where I would like to be after earning an MBA from Harvard Business School, but I also recognize that there is still much that I have yet to learn over the next two years. With that being said, my time with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission piqued my interest in energy; so for right now, I think I’d like to continue carving out a career path in this industry – perhaps in a more finance-oriented role that will allow me to work in the developing market of innovations in renewables and distributed energy technologies. The Gates Foundation, for example, recently articulated a desire to become involved in this very market. Being able to apply my experience in international affairs, development, and energy in working on these issues for an organization like the Gates Foundation would help me focus my goals and the steps I need to take to achieve them.
What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? I hope that my peers find inspiration in my determination, adaptability, and commitment to seeking out new ways of thinking and bringing humor to just about every situation imaginable – ideally when appropriate.