Meet The MBA Class Of 2023: Kareem Stanley, Harvard Business School

Kareem Stanley

Harvard Business School

“I’m the product of two cities that I jokingly call two different countries — NYC and Mobile, AL.”   

Hometown: Queens, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: I won a spelling bee in the first grade and competed regionally in spelling competitions, played basketball around the country on an AAU team, trained at an acting/modeling agency in NYC, and ended up not pursuing any of those things. Clearly, my fun fact is that I have the most understanding parents in the world.

Undergraduate School and Major: Columbia – Chemical Engineering; Harvard Law School — JD

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Zenith Energy Terminals – Project Manager

What word best describes the Harvard Business School students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Thorough. It’s no secret that alumni end up in completely different fields. I’ve spoken with MDs at private equity firms, presidents of renewable energy companies, founders of their own asset management firms, and more. The common thread is that these folks are extremely thorough — our calls are efficient, insightful, engaging and always push me to be at my best.

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? The attractiveness of the case method, in my head, comes from the idea that I’ll hear how some other incredibly talented people internalize the same facts I’m reading. Management is about empathy and seeing other perspectives so having the case method experience will help me both in leading teams and negotiating terms.

Aside from your classmates and cases, what was the key part of Harvard Business School’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The Career & Professional Development office is wildly impressive. As a career switcher, the ability to reach out to CPD and have a blueprint laid out for how to effectively transition into new fields was important to me. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Harvard Business School? Honestly, I’m looking forward to the Basketball Club. There wasn’t much of a basketball culture down in Mobile — where I lived before coming back to school — so I’m excited to get in a gym and compete like I used to during undergrad.

When you think of Harvard Business School, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Systematized. I say this all the time — HBS is a well-oiled machine. There’s a structured process for everything, but it’s flexible enough to account for feedback and continually improve. It makes complete sense, but you don’t really gather it until you get here — it’s an example of what happens when you seamlessly mesh the best business practices together.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My most recent job was at a fairly small company; they were opportunity-rich, resource-constrained, and had some aggressive deadlines. It was tough to meet the scheduling deadlines, period. However, I was new and hadn’t done project management before so it was doubly difficult. I was managing a $3MM project, and needed to have it complete by a specified date. Initially, I thought there was absolutely no way and I voiced my concerns but we had no wiggle room. In response, I formulated my own meeting cadence/systems and constantly communicated with the crews working for me to make sure everyone was aligned down the minute. We ended up getting the job done on time! I hadn’t ever had that much responsibility on my shoulders in a professional context, but the experience taught me that I was good at toeing the line between being agreeable and authoritative that management requires and able to problem-solve under high-stress situations.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? Between my undergraduate years, internships, and working full-time, I hadn’t been home for an extended period in six years. I didn’t see much of an issue with that until COVID-19 led me to spend almost a full year back home. I learned the value of face time — something I considered equivalent to FaceTime ® — in building relationships. Between taking care of housework for my parents and spending time with my nieces, nephew, aunt, and grandmothers, I deepened my relationship with my family in a way I could only imagine beforehand.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I’ve worked in the energy industry and I love it. I hope to continue working in the space and to catalyze change as the industry goes through a much-needed transition. I’m not sure if that’ll be from a legal or business perspective just yet, but I’m dipping my toe in the water for both and will decide what’s best for me when graduation rolls around.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Wharton and Booth

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Harvard Business School’s MBA program? Look at the application material requirements early! So often, we push off taking the first step for a variety of reasons – fear, anxiety, procrastination — the list goes on. Looking at what all will be asked of you is a much easier first step than starting the essay or studying for your GMAT/GRE, but our minds typically go to those bigger hurdles first. The application is time-intensive and I think the best first step is wrapping your head around that to create a plan. Pacing yourself is imperative for putting together a quality app, so take that small first step to avoid rushing for a recommendation, asking for a transcript too late, or hurriedly updating your resume.


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