Harvard MBA Essay Samples: How Five Applicants From India Overcame The Odds

Finding My Voice

Age: 25
Country: India Industry: Private Equity
Recent Role: Associate
GMAT Score: 730
GPA: 3.30/4.00
Degree: Commerce
Years of Experience: 4

Analysis: The author starts the essay by sharing a personal experience about their journey to finding their voice and crafts an engaging tale about how they have helped others to find their voice after this pivotal time in their life. They share three specific stories in chronological order (from college to their most recent work experience). Each story starts with the author setting the scene (specifying where they had this impact), explaining their impact, and describing how they were able to achieve this impact. The structure of the story makes the essay easy to follow. The engaging start of the essay will keep the reader interested and curious to keep reading. The chronological order helps the reader to be able to establish a timeline of events and impact. The author finishes the essay by specifying their post-MBA plans, which was tightly linked to their track record of impacting individuals in the different organizations they have worked. They also clearly established why HBS was the right business school for them by citing courses and professors that would help them learn the skills relevant to them. This signifies to the essay reader that the writer committed time to research the school and program.

A thousand eyes and fifty cameras glared at me. Sweat dripped down the back of my neck as I walked up to the podium.

As my high school graduation approached, I was invited to deliver a keynote address to be live telecasted on national television. While I had rehearsed every word of this speech many times over, I worried that my life- long stutter would play spoilsport once again. Even in middle school, I used to dread being asked to read a paragraph out loud in class. Giggles would fill up the room as I would be left hanging at a consonant, leading
to an incessant loop of stutter, anxiety, stutter. The resulting under-confidence seeped into all aspects of my
life, from poor grades to dismal social skills, so much so, that I ultimately decided to change schools. Without access to external help, I devised my own speech exercises and challenged myself to practice public speaking and take on dramatics. With each situation that I forced myself into, my stutter began to recede. I started to believe in my personal and academic capabilities, which led me to approach school with renewed zest that was now culminating in this address.

Drawing strength from the small, everyday triumphs over a long, arduous journey, I felt the confidence return in me. I took a deep breath, grabbed the mic, and delivered my speech – yes, stutter-free.

The magic and liberation of finding my voice has shaped my trajectory in unimaginable ways – from a timid 16 year old who avoided people, to someone who now dreams of making a difference in people’s lives. In recent years, I have strived to enable others to find their voice by helping them realize their true potential.

In college, I founded a not-for-profit focussed on uplifting a group of skilled rural craftswomen. I became particularly close to the group leader, [name]. She was an incredibly enterprising woman, but her perception of herself as “just a home-maker” had curtailed her ambitions. I soon realized that this was a deep rooted issue for the whole group. Seeing a reflection of my old self in their under-confidence, I knew I had to rewire years of conditioning. To enable them to envision a better future, I invited women from similar backgrounds who were now leading successful businesses to mentor and inspire them. Simultaneously, I helped solve small — albeit fundamental — business problems, such as setting up an online shop to increase sales, which helped them discover the true monetary value of their business. Over the course of a year, I helped [name] and her group progress towards financial independence, and I am delighted every time I hear continuing updates of success from her.

Through implementation projects at [global management consulting firm], I found a way to continue to have hands-on roles that generate impact. During a turnaround project at a footwear company, I worked with the CEO to establish a missing middle management team. While he believed that they needed new, external talent to fill the positions, I saw this as an opportunity to empower scores of existing junior employees to become leaders. One of many such examples was the CEO’s executive assistant (EA) of 10+ years. I had seen the insight, motivation and problem solving skills that she brought forth when she worked with the supply chain team in the CEO’s absence. She possessed the ability to lead and had a passion for the company – she was the right fit for the Head of Supply Chain, but the CEO failed to see her potential beyond 1 that of an EA. Offering to take charge of her transition, I convinced him for a two week trial. I then helped her on developing small daily goals, defining clear roles, and instilling a team culture. In a few months, an employee once seen as mere “support staff ” gained recognition as the leader that she was capable of being. Like her, many others rose through the ranks and I was moved by the sheer scale at which I could help individuals to succeed, all through transforming organizations.

As I entered the world of private equity, I sought opportunities to continue to affect similar degrees of change and took the initiative to lead financial inclusion investments at [private investment firm]. In the process, I came across a relatively young digital microfinance company. Given the atypical venture-like, early-stage nature of this bet, the directors were quick to dismiss this idea. However, my curiosity led me to delve deeper, and I saw an enormous opportunity to profitably provide loans to 20 million new-to-credit, self-employed [South Asian Country], just like [name], whose ambitions would otherwise remain unfulfilled. A desire to support such individuals to realize their potential led me to interact with the company team, speak to many customers, and study global examples. I was confident that this was an extraordinary proposition and that [global management consulting firm]’s experience in financial services would be invaluable in helping this company achieve its vision. I convinced the director to at the least take a meeting with the company. When he saw the scale of the opportunity, he said he would possibly invest out of his personal wealth!

I have seen first-hand that businesses, fuelled by capital and guidance, are the engines that enable individuals, and through them communities, to succeed and become the best versions of themselves. It is my dream to set up an impact fund in [South Asian Country] to collaborate with such businesses in their journey of transforming lives. An MBA from HBS, with its pioneering social enterprise curriculum, is a critical next step to help me achieve this dream as I seek to bolster my conventional investing abilities to fit the value-based construct. Conducting cutting edge-research with the renowned Professor and Impact Investor Vikram Gandhi, on the topic “Asset Allocation from an LP’s Perspective in Emerging Markets”, would be an invaluable opportunity
as I set out to play my part in enabling impact investing to become an even grander reality in [South Asian Country].

Discovering my own voice changed my life. I now aspire to support many individuals and organizations to find theirs – to turn halting whispers into roars.

Author’s Comment: “I started about 4 months in advance and engaged with two consultants to review my essay. I also took input from friends and family since those are the people who know me best.”

Extracurricular Activities: Founder of an NGO.

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