What It’s Like To Attend HBS As An Introvert
When you think of business leaders, you typically think of people who love networking, excel at public speaking, and are overly-ambitious.
In other words, they’re extroverts. But how do introverts fit into the business world and how can they excel in the b-school environment?
Bismah Rahmat, a second-year student at Harvard Business School, recently discussed her experience as an introvert at HBS and how it influenced her b-school experience.
“Introversion is often too narrowly defined by how one recharges – by being with others or by spending time alone,” Rahmat writes. “Yet there are many other important aspects (well-summarized in the book Do What You Are) and these include: preferring to be more private, listening more than talking, favoring depth to breadth, keeping enthusiasm to oneself, needing time to respond, and actively avoiding being the center of attention.”
THE CASE METHOD
Harvard’s Case Method is integrated into the entire learning experience at HBS.
According to Harvard Business School, over 80% of cases sold throughout the world are written by HBS faculty, who produce approximately 350 new cases per year.
The Case Method places place students in the role of the decision maker. Students read through a situation and identify problems they are faced with.
“The case method forces you to think on your feet and puts you in the spotlight,” Rahmat writes. “This can be an uncomfortable experience for those who are naturally introverted – it certainly is for me. While it is an unnerving experience, it is also a unique chance to bolster important communication skills and build up a base level of confidence needed to address large audiences, a valuable ‘real world’ skill.”
As an introvert, Rahmat says, she prefers a slower pace and in-depth reflection. Given that the Case Method only offers 80 minutes of time, Rahmat says she had to think more quickly on her feet.
“While depth is often sacrificed, I feel that I have vastly improved my ability to synthesize and draw high-level takeaways more quickly,” she writes. “And ultimately, I think there is no other experience that compares in exposing such a range of managerial and societal issues in such a short amount of time. The case method helped me break out of my comfort zone and as a result, I was able to round out my skillset.”
Rahmat says HBS has been supportive in her search for a summer internship.
“I chose to embrace my introversion this summer and start a small non-profit that partnered with local artists in Maputo, Mozambique to represent their art in New York,” she writes. “I was lucky to be supported by the HBS Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship, without which I likely would not have taken the leap.”
It turns out, her decision was the perfect fit for her personality.
“My decision to pursue entrepreneurship, often referred to as a lonely path, partly stemmed from the flexibility to create an environment compatible with my preferred style of working – quiet, intentional, and thorough,” she writes.