2018 Best MBAs: Heather A. Harrison, Yale SOM

Heather A. Harrison

Yale School of Management

I am deeply passionate about paying forward the wonderful opportunities I’ve been granted in life.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee

Fun fact about yourself: I love camping and hiking in national parks!

Undergraduate School and Degree: BS in Business Administration, University of Tennessee

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Tennessee Valley Authority (Federal Power Utility in Knoxville and Chattanooga, TN):

  • 4 Internships throughout undergrad (Fuels team, IT and Enterprise Risk Management)
  • 4 years – Enterprise Risk Management (Risk Analyst)
  • 1 years – Structuring & Portfolio Management (Energy Marketing Strategist)

Salt River Project (State Power Utility in Phoenix, AZ):

  • 2 years – Market Risk Management (Sr. Financial Analyst)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? McKinsey, Stamford, CT

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be an associate with McKinsey in their Stamford, CT office.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Summary: I have resolved to make my time at SOM impactful, and in that spirit, I have pursued a number of leadership roles over the last two years. This has included serving for two years as an elected cohort representative to our student government; currently serving as the student government vice president; volunteering to lead a consulting case team; working with the Academic Affairs and Student Life office as a student consultant; putting together and instructing a number of training workshops for my peers; assisting with four classes (including a trip abroad to India) as a TA and two more as a course tutor; heading the commencement committee; and volunteering to lead a group of new students in my “4037 family.”

Role Descriptions:

  1. Student Government Vice President – As a VP in Student Government, I have had the honor of working closely with the deans and student and faculty leadership to promote a respectful and supportive culture that is distinctly SOM. I have been able to spearhead a number of initiatives, including leading our commencement committee, co-sponsoring a committee to evaluate the fair representation of one-year degree programs, and kickstarting working groups that are re-evaluating SOM’s technology offerings, including calendaring and the IT portal.
  2. Student Government Cohort Representative – In my role as cohort representative, I worked with students, the administration, and faculty members at SOM to help create a positive learning environment and fun social experience for my peers. I also worked each week on producing a newsletter that was customized for the 70 people I represented and encouraged their participation in our community.
  3. Excel Tutor – I volunteered to host a tutoring session for my peers who had little experience with the program. When more than 70 people attended the workshop, I became a formal tutor offering classes in this area. I hosted five or six additional workshops throughout the year for both students and the administration that were designed to help advance their analytical skills and structure.
  4. Student Consultant to AASL – I worked extensively with Yale SOM’s office of Academic Affairs and Student Life to help them revamp their orientation scheduling tool, creating a model that could generate the schedule in a variety of forms designed for different audiences (partners, students, staff).
  5. Designed a “Job Prep Training” Series – Worked with the administration and students to coordinate a three-part training series designed to help my peers prepare for their professional endeavors. This included an Excel course that I taught, as well as PowerPoint and “masterful meetings” sessions. The series was well attended and well received, and is being planned again for 2018.
  6. Teaching Assistant – I was a teaching assistant for Power and Politics, Freakonomics and the International Experience India trip, as well as a head teaching assistant for Modeling Managerial Decisions. Throughout this time, I kept a list of suggestions on how to improve the TA process, and upon completing my first teaching assistantship, I worked with the Academic Affairs committee and AASL to help integrate my lessons learned into more formal standards for TAs. (This process continues to be refined.)
  7. Designing a Stress Reduction Workshop – I have been working with Professor Sarah Biggerstaff and Rebecca Udler, Director of Academic Affairs & Student Life, to design a workshop that will ease the transition into grad school and create a greater sense of community among new students at SOM.
  8. Course Tutor – I tutored multiple students in Competitor and Investor, meeting with small groups twice a week to help them better grasp the course concepts.
  9. Case Team Leader – After interning at McKinsey this summer, I made it my goal to help other SOM’ers attain their dream jobs by volunteering to be a Case Team Leader for the Consulting Club. This has been a wonderful way to “pay it forward,” as my case team leader had done for me.
  10. 4037 Family Leader – I volunteered to help mentor first-year students as a 4037 family leader. I answered questions, met them all when they arrived in New Haven, and planned events to help bring the group together and create a sense of community within our group.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My time in Student Government has, by far, been the richest part of my SOM experience. The opportunity to reach out to our population and help them make their visions a reality has been truly humbling. I love to solve problems and to help other people, and this opportunity has allowed me to serve my community in that capacity. I feel truly honored to have been allowed to help lead this organization and to impact change at the highest levels at the Yale School of Management.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At the outset of my career, I worked with a team to completely revamp the Enterprise Risk Management program at Tennessee Valley Authority. From the ground up, our team and leadership built a new process for risk capture and assessment, and forged relationships with stakeholders across the company at the same time. This allowed me to work with senior leadership in a variety of capacities, and to learn and think critically about the company’s greatest challenges. In my time there, we collected and catalogued hundreds of risks, developing a more rigorous framework for risk-informed decision-making and mitigation planning.

What was your favorite MBA Course? At Yale SOM, we have a course on Interpersonal Dynamics that encourages us to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” In a small group, we explore our interactions with true honesty and deep introspection. Building this skill has helped me appreciate that while we’re all striving to excel in our environment, the deeper humanity that connects us can often be found in our failures. I strongly believe now that our biggest growth comes from our failures, rather than our successes, and that by normalizing and discussing failure, we create connection and trust. I try harder now to be open about the things that are difficult for me and when I need help. In this way, I believe that we can create better opportunities for collaboration and when appropriate, more informed risk-taking.

Why did you choose this business school? I had the opportunity to tour and consider a variety of programs before I selected Yale SOM. My background made me nervous about my ability to fit in and feel at home. When I finally had the opportunity to visit the school, I was thrilled to find that it was the kind of place where people truly cared about making the experience better for those that came after them—a core value that I share. I knew in that moment that it was the place for me.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? At SOM, we strive to help those around us and that come after us, while maintaining a sense of true community. The people you meet here are your friends and your network, not your competition. Think deeply about the value that you can bring to those around you, as well as what you hope to take away from your time here. Be intentional in the way that you plan this experience by taking enthusiastic responsibility for creating what you wish to see.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I was very nervous that I wouldn’t fit in. I am from a small, rural town and was the first in my nuclear family to finish college, which I attended at a state school. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my peers and that they would have all “trained their whole lives” to be in a place like Yale.

In fact, my experience was so substantially different. The people that I have met here are humble, kind, and come from all walks of life. I have been truly lucky to have had my perspective refined by the diverse and immensely caring group of people that I have met at SOM. The truth is that if you work hard and are willing to pour your heart into your goals, there’s little you can’t accomplish here.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I very much look up to my friend Ruirui Kuang, who goes out of her way to help others and to foster inclusivity in our community. She has put together numerous dinners (open to all who sign up) at her home, has a brilliant mind in the classroom, and is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. Her kindness and intellect have a unique way of making people feel at ease with her almost immediately.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My fiancé was an endless source of support in my decision to go back to business school. Five years ago, I never would have envisioned this future for myself. Truly, what I needed was to be told that this was possible for me. He was relentlessly encouraging, even when I felt that I was way out of my depth. He empowered me to take control of my future and to be proactive in creating the life and career I wanted for myself. Without him, it is extremely unlikely that I would have found the confidence to work through this process.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…in the energy field, probably pursuing a career in energy trading.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would make the courtyard at our school dog-friendly for the day so that students could take a break and relieve their stress with their classmates’ furry friends!

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Hike Machu Picchu in Peru
  2. See the Northern Lights

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope that they will think of me as someone who enriched their time at SOM and who they can always reach out to and count on in the future.

What is your favorite movie about business? Office Space—always keep an eye on your stapler!

What would your theme song be? “Suddenly I See” – KT Tunstall

Favorite vacation spot: New Orleans

Hobbies? Traveling, dancing, hiking, puzzles, playing with my Goldendoodle

What made Heather such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Heather Harrison is distinguished by her leadership and selfless dedication to the school and larger community. Heather serves as a role model for all students in her caring commitment to the varied perspectives of the student body. She serves as the vice president of the SOM student government and also as cohort representative. She has volunteered her time to coach students to improve analytical skills, offering multiple workshops each academic year. Her dedication to volunteer in assisting her classmates to thrive in their coursework speaks to her commitment to the success of her peers.

Heather has also participated in the coordination of an additional workshop series designed to assist her classmates to prepare for their next professional engagement. She has served as a teaching assistant in four courses and has improved the effectiveness of the training for teaching assistants. Heather has also served as a tutor, a case team leader, and an active participant in many school-wide committees. Her interest in improving the academic and co-curricular experience for all students is boundless. Heather has had profound impact on the holistic student experience, as her classmates have greatly benefited gaining new skills and insights through her efforts. She has also committed herself to designing stress-reduction programming for new students as they enter managerial education. Heather has also been devoted to the larger community, serving the needs of diverse and divergent populations. She has raised funds for the Colon Cancer Alliance and worked with victims of youth trafficking. She designed and launched a summit on igniting cultural change as a component of her summer internship. Her selfless dedication to assisting others achieve their goals and maximize their unique potential defines Heather.”

Sherilyn Scully

Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and Student Life


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