Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Hannah Henderson, Harvard Business School

Hannah Henderson

Harvard Business School

“A Chicago gal obsessed with her mini golden doodle, sour candy, and what makes people tick.”

Hometown: Green Lake, WI

Fun Fact About Yourself: My family owned an old-fashioned candy store for over 10 years of my childhood.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Wisconsin-Madison; Marketing

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Walgreens; Manager of Value Customer Insights. Prior to this role, I was on our Category Insights team, supporting our buyers and their supplier partners. Before that, I started my Walgreens post-grad career in a two-year rotational program, exploring four different roles across Merchandising and Marketing.

What has been your first impression of the Harvard Business School MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Harvard Business School story so far. Everybody has been so incredibly kind and very generous with their time. From meeting current students and alumni during the application process to meeting many of my classmates, I am constantly impressed with how genuine everybody has been. As someone who can get a little nervous meeting new people – especially after two years of a pandemic and working from home – the HBS community has made it so easy to feel connected. So far, one of my favorite moments was the Admitted Student Welcome (ASW). One night, we made a group reservation at a local Boston restaurant, where I met new friends and their partners. I left that dinner feeling like I had known that group for years, even leaving with inside jokes – how is that possible? ASW made me feel like attending HBS was hands-down the best decision for me, and I accepted my spot in the class of 2024 before I left Boston that weekend.

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? At this point in my career, getting an MBA is no longer about how I learn best (lecture, lab, case, etc.), but rather what content is most applicable to me. Getting introduced to hundreds of different business scenarios provides a more realistic view on various pressures I may face in my future and how muddy the waters can really be when trying to make a decision. I think I’ll be more well-rounded and realistic as a manager, having been exposed to all of these different cases and point of views at HBS.

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? Classmates and cases aside, the size of the class was really enticing to me. Having 900-1,000 students in my class, going through the same first year curriculum as me, felt like I already had a network that I could rely on and connect with from the start. Additionally, the size of the class also lets you disappear a little bit, if you’d like. I attended a Big Ten school and felt like the world was too small some days, even with over 30,000 undergrad students. Being a part of a bigger MBA class at HBS allows me to carve out my own little corner of the world. I am a firm believer that you can always make a big class smaller, but you can’t make a small class bigger.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Harvard Business School? It’s hard to narrow it down, but I think what I’m most excited for is to have guest speakers in class. Often, Harvard will invite the protagonist to class while we talk about their specific case. You get to hear directly from the source what it was like to go through that experience and make that decision. I think it will really help bring cases to life, while also hearing from people we might not have gotten a chance to meet otherwise.

When you think of Harvard Business School, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Intentional; they spoke a lot about this during our Admitted Student Welcome, but it’s the perfect word to sum up my experience thus far. For example, the application process is meant to hand-select students based on their unique perspective on the world, shaped by their unique background. That way, all different perspectives and experiences are on the table during case discussions. Additionally, each case is meant to introduce a new, real-life scenario you could encounter in your career as a leader. Not a single thing escapes HBS’ mind in their programming for us. There is a reason for everything they do – it truly makes you feel validated and like you’re in the best hands for two years.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Drug stores are notoriously known for having heavy promotions, at the expense of having high base prices. However, as retail becomes less promotional, customers are now stuck with those high prices without discounts. That said, over a year ago, I joined Walgreens’ journey to give value back to the customer by investing in prices on items that matter to them. With the help of my team and a consulting firm, we identified thousands of items that our customers heavily shop. We then lowered prices on these items, investing a significant part of our budget in this activity. We also fought price increases during inflationary times to protect these items for our customers. This project just finished rolling out to all Walgreens stores, and it feels good to walk in and see that I helped make a difference. With over 9,000 stores, Walgreens has a huge role to play in making our store accessible to shop at for all customers. Being a part of the team that helped invest in and fight for this initiative certainly has brought me a lot of pride and purpose.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? There are two main reasons I am pursuing my MBA. First, to be completely honest, my mom got her MBA and always instilled in me that investing in my own education is the best investment I can make. Not only does it open doors, but it also won’t hinder career progression if I am up against other candidates who may have more education than me. Second, I am looking to pivot industries. I am coming from a retail background (having worked at Walgreens for 5 years). I’ve learned a lot about various kinds of customers and now want more control of how I can help anticipate and meet their needs. Retail kind of feels like I am in the middle of it all, so pivoting to another industry like CPG or Tech will put me in the drivers’ seat instead.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? This isn’t ground-breaking or career-related at all, but I’ve been reading a lot of YA or easy beach read romance novels. It’s nice to just disappear into a lighter book without judgement. No specific recommendations, except read what you feel like and let your inner child free for a moment!

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford (GSB), Chicago (Booth), Northwestern (Kellogg), and NYU (Stern)

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Harvard Business School’s MBA program? Applying can be daunting, so my advice is all about building up your own confidence:

1) Your story should be about YOU, not about what you think they want to hear. The essay is very open-ended (intentionally)! Make sure it flows well (of course), but more importantly focus on your voice, why you’re applying, and what you want out of this experience.

2) Make them tell you no, don’t tell yourself no! Harvard needs EVERYONE to apply to build the best class possible. If you take yourself out of the running, you’re already losing your shot at getting in.

3) Be authentically you in all aspects of the application process. You will be the only person like you at this school. Your classmates may be similar in certain ways, but they are not you! Lean into it.


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