The Multiple Paths of Life
Recent Role: Associate
GMAT Score: 770
Degree: Applied Math & Economics Years of Experience: 6
Analysis: You will love this essay if, like the author, you are not sure which path you’d like to take for your post-MBA career. More often than not you will encounter goal-oriented essays in which the author had a clear purpose since a tender age. This essay, on the other hand, does a wonderful job at guiding the reader through the twists and turns that life has. It is a very honest and transparent essay, which focuses equally on the highs and lows, both with a perspective of “lessons learned.” While the honesty also applies to the post-MBA career plans–“I don’t know exactly what path I will pursue,” notice how the author is also clear on what they expect to get from the HBS experience–“What I do know is that Harvard Business School will give me the opportunity to explore these different paths and discover new ones.” An important takeaway is, therefore, that curiosity and exploration are very good purposes to pursue an MBA.
My mother has always called me lucky and I understand why. She was born into a conservative Muslim family and had to fight hard to secure an education and forge a different path from the other women in her family. Unlike her older sister who had been married off at 19, my mother overcame many obstacles to finish at the top of her program and become a rising star at [Fortune 500 Company]. Nevertheless, when she lost her firstborn, she found herself giving up her career and succumbing to the expectations of her husband’s family.
A generation later, the expectations of me were very different. I was permitted the freedom to chart my
own path, but it was my mother’s experience that impressed upon me an urgency to make the most of my circumstances. Eager and determined to make a mark, I worked very hard to unlock opportunities. However, there was no denying my mother’s refrain – the odds were stacked in my favor.
Two years into my job at [Name of Consulting Firm], just as my prospects were burgeoning, my luck turned. Despite it being my third attempt, I wasn’t selected in the [North American Country] work visa lottery and had to hastily relocate to [Western European City]. I left behind the life I had built over the past six years to join a professional environment where I had no mentors or visibility into my future. But I’m not one to give up easily. Despite being staffed to a role below my tenure, I found ways to transform my experience. I stepped up to fill
a leadership void when my manager and supervisor abruptly left [Consulting Firm] amid a challenging case. This meant winning over clients who were skeptical of [Consulting Firm]’s value, changing toxic team dynamics by tirelessly advocating for better team roles with my Partners, and motivating junior associates and clients to fashion the experiences they sought.
A year on, my path back to the life I had sought in the [North American Country] appeared to clear. I finally won the lottery and was ready to start a new job at [Consulting Firm] in [North American City]. I just had
to wait out the first six weeks in [Consulting Firm]’s [Southeast Asian City] office while my visa was being processed. However, those weeks soon stretched into months. I would refresh the immigration services webpage.
daily, only to find “no further update” flash across my screen. The [Southeast Asian City] team, never knowing when they would lose me, threw small bits of work my way. My long distance relationship, which had been my anchor in rough seas, also fell apart. The volatility of the past 18 months began to catch up with me and for the first time in my life, I felt completely untethered, with seemingly no control over my professional or personal life. I felt luckless and helpless.
As it turned out, one of the more unconventional bits of work assigned to me during my time in [Southeast Asian City] included gathering information about the impact of health outcomes on [Southeast Asian Country]’s economy. Digging into [Southeast Asian Country]’s evolving disease burden and inadequate health infrastructure, I began to realize just how many people our health system was leaving behind. Low insurance penetration meant catastrophic health incidents were plunging millions of families into a cycle of poverty they could not break out of. My research proved cathartic, enabling me to gain the perspective I so sorely needed to reassess the magnitude of my own crises. Perhaps fueled by the deep sense of helplessness I had felt, I became determined to help millions of people gain more control of their health outcomes and their lives.
As I was confronted with the uphill battle that [Southeast Asian Country] faced to bridge the growing gaps in healthcare access and outcomes, I began to face my fears of the unknown and embrace different eventualities. Instead of seeing obstacles in my path, I began to see different paths emerge. I saw an opportunity to succeed in a different work environment and to drive impact in a broken health system. Researching how private health systems across South East Asia, and the Middle East had to adapt to meet changing healthcare needs opened my eyes to new deal angles. With my relentless focus and fervor, I began to win over the [Southeast Asian Country] team and take back control of my professional experience.
Six months in, my visa finally came through. By that point, I had mixed feelings about leaving for [North American City]. I had to balance my eagerness to make an immediate impact in [Southeast Asian Country] with the realization that many of its problems could only be solved through transformative solutions, and these disruptive technologies are being pioneered by [North American Country] companies.
Shedding my fear around the uncharted has empowered me to mold a unique experience for myself at [Consulting Firm] in [North American City]. I have channeled my passion for healthcare technology to chase down entrepreneurial companies operating in the areas of telemedicine, hospital pricing transparency, and low-cost electronic health records – all atypical targets for my teams. My efforts to invest in companies revolutionizing healthcare have enabled me to carve out a niche for myself and earn recognition as a thought leader and self-starter.
Today, when I look to the future, I don’t know exactly what path I will pursue – perhaps I’ll continue as a healthcare investor or pivot and become a healthcare entrepreneur, a professional at a health-focused nonprofit or a technocrat working to actualize [Southeast Asian Country]’s ambitious new national insurance scheme. After the experience of these past few years, I know not to be laser-focused on a precisely defined plan but to trust that there may be many paths to achieving my longer-term goals of influencing health access and outcomes in [Southeast Asian Country], some of which I don’t even know about yet.
What I do know is that Harvard Business School will give me the opportunity to explore these different paths and discover new ones as I benefit from the diverse perspectives of my classmates across public policy, technology, entrepreneurship, and healthcare. I know I will incubate my ideas around disruptive healthcare technology with support from the Rock Center and the Healthcare Initiative. I know I will refine and test those ideas through section debates and field exercises in classes like Innovating in Healthcare and Transforming Health Care Delivery. I know I will learn from future leaders and invest in becoming the kind of leader I want to team up with.
And perhaps most importantly, I now know that whichever path I do pursue, I will have many more obstacles to face. But no matter what gets thrown at me, I’m ready to take it in my stride. I’m ready to make my own luck.
Author’s Comment: “Start early and continuously redraft. Be humble – HBS already knows your accomplishments, I think the essay is where they get to know you as a person!”
Extracurricular Activities: Non-profit board, Women in Consulting & Volunteering.
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