My Tuck Essay that Worked! – Part 2

Leadership is not about being the boss.  It is about inspiring others to follow your direction.  If you have direct supervisory experience, great!  If not, think of situations where you influenced others without a position of authority. This can be an even more powerful example for a MBA applicant.

2.  Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?

It was midnight in Japan. My team was in the process of completing the improbable, reconfiguring our Western European accounting system, a task that had previously taken 6 years. However, we had advantages: I had assembled an all-star team, had built momentum in Eastern Europe, and had been given motivation. Our Chief Accounting Officer asked for this project to be finished in six weeks, which came as a surprise. I was scheduled to be in Kobe, Japan to train engineers and accountants on the processes I had designed over the last year. During the day, I trained my Japanese colleagues, and at night, I returned to the hotel to lead my team in the US and Europe.

When I joined the company, Eli Lilly & Co. had 44 affiliate countries disconnected from its central accounting system, Systems Applications Products (SAP). My task was to partner with each country’s leadership, implement SAP, and supervise the data migration of 35,000 Fixed Asset records. This position, especially my time in Japan, required me to perform at a mature level early in my career. I was the youngest member of a 200 person team and, moreover, the least-tenured process leader.

In this position, I learned how to lead subordinates and peers. This helped me discover a strength: caring for others. After a colleague realized that she had more work than time to complete the work, we met one-on-one. She quickly steered the conversation to what she needed to do and how long each task would take. I read in between her words and realized that she believed, if unsuccessful, her job would be in jeopardy. After having a discussion about what was truly expected of her, we developed a careful prioritization plan to complete the critical tasks and to ensure her success. I once viewed caring for others as a personality trait. After witnessing what people can achieve when they know you care about them, I now view it as my greatest strength.

I asked an experienced team member to help identify my weaknesses. He told me in some tough situations, like a mistake I made on a tax entry for the United Kingdom, my stress had affected my ability to lead. We agreed that if someone else had made the same mistake, I would have sprung into action, solving the issue and minimizing the damage. He could not understand why I would react differently to my own mistake. His honesty made me better.

Awareness of my strengths and weaknesses helped me lead my team from that hotel room in Kobe. Instead of allowing stress to slow me down, I organized the team before leaving for Japan, placed the European financial manager in charge during my absence, and scheduled daily virtual meetings to solve issues. The success of this project, completing the improbable in only six weeks, has served as an example for me of what I can accomplish as a leader by leveraging my strengths and mitigating my weaknesses.

My Tuck Essay That Worked! – Part 1

Fit is very important at Tuck and their first question gets right to that…

1.  Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA fit for you and your goals and why are you the best fit for Tuck?

How do I want to be remembered when I die? I answer this every few years with an exercise many would consider morbid, but I find constructive: writing my obituary. Although some things change each time, the theme has never wavered. I want a life of lasting impact.

I want to impact the world by making products that improve people’s lives. I will prepare myself for this at Tuck. I will leverage Tuck’s healthcare program and coursework, such as “Structure, Organization, and Economics of the Healthcare Industry.” Utilizing the Healthcare and Entrepreneurship Initiatives, I hope to combine innovation and improving lives into my First Year Project, ideally working with a healthcare startup. To further prepare myself and impact the world, I will join the Tuck Global Consultancy. In this trip, I hope to get a closer look at healthcare on the ground floor, as a previous team did in the Rwanda Health Ministry.

My passion for Tuck goes beyond my professional ambitions. The most important person in my life, my wife Jessica, has not stopped talking about Tuck since we visited together last April. She and I dream about our daughter, Loralei, making friends with other Tiny Tuckies. Jessica laughs when I talk about becoming a “Tripod.” There is no school that better aligns with our values of family, love for the outdoors, and community. We plan to add to this community, sharing our Mid-Western hospitality at Loralei’s birthday parties, leading kayaking and hiking trips around the Upper Valley, and organizing play-dates with other Tiny Tuckies. I look forward to the “transformational experience” my colleague and Tuck alumnus, John Doe, has told me about. His experience changed his life, just as I am sure Tuck will change my life.

Just as Tuck is a good fit for me both professionally and personally, I am a good fit for Tuck both in and out of the classroom. In the classroom, I will bring my international knowledge and six years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. I will be a vocal member of T’17, challenging my classmates and listening when they contest my assumptions. Outside the classroom, I will seek a leadership position in the Healthcare Club. My life experience and maturity as a husband and a father will bring diversity to the class.

I want a business school that will prepare me for my short-term and long-term goals. After Tuck, I will return to Eli Lilly & Co. to pursue leadership positions, which require broad management skills and strategic thought. Long term, I aspire to start my own healthcare company and continue to help my community through philanthropy and activism, as the Lilly family has in Indianapolis. I will give back to Tuck also, mentoring the next generation of Tuck students. This will be symmetrical; I hope to leverage my classmates as advisors, business partners, and clients to meet my long-term goals. When I die, I want my obituary to read how my Tuck experience empowered me to run and launch businesses that created jobs, shared wealth, and made products that impacted people’s lives.

Stay Tuned for Essay 2!

My Harvard Post-Interview Reflection (PIR)

Harvard asks you to write a post interview reflection (PIR) within 24 hours of your interview. Many have said that there is little you can do in this reflection to get in, but there are a few things you can do to eliminate yourself.  Here are my tips:

  1. Follow instructions.  Make sure you have a plan to complete the PIR and have access to internet.  Do not delete your upload once complete (even though the system will allow you too).
  2. Allow time to reflect. Although it will be very helpful to jot down some details about your interview immediately following the interview, that is not the time to write the PIR.
  3. Complete other visit activities around interview day. Attending class visits and other interview day activities will not only be beneficial for you, but will also benefit your PIR by providing additional data points that you can use while writing.
  4. DO NOT WRITE IT AHEAD OF TIME!  They will smell it from a mile away and they have specifically asked you not to do so. In addition, this is intended to be a reflective exercise.

You’ve just had your HBS interview.  How well did we get to know you?  

Twenty-four hours is not a lot of time.  My wife and I meet in sixth grade.  Seven years later, we started dating and four years after that we got married.  I spent five years building my family and developing myself and earning three promotions at my company. It has taken twenty-eight years for me to become the man I am today. However, a lot can happen in twenty-four hours. As I reflect on my interview, I cannot help but to also think about my entire day at HBS.

Jane, when you began by telling me that you were impressed by my application, I could not believe it.  “Impressed by me? I am just a kid from Indiana. How could someone from Harvard Business School be impressed with me?”

Although I may have not nailed every question, I believe you did get to know me in my interview. However, you know the version of me that existed twenty-four hours ago. Since that interview, I met war heroes and Ivy-league scholars that could be my future classmates, I learned about the seemingly endless amounts of opportunities at the CPD, and I toured the world-class facilities at iLab. I am starting to really get it:  I can see what I can do with an HBS MBA. Twenty-four hours ago I did not believe I was special, but if you are still considering me to join you at this amazing place, I must be.

Jane, you asked me if there was anything else I wanted to share at the end of my interview. I attempted to convey how I was passionate about using business to have a positive impact on people’s lives. In the last twenty-four hours, I have realized how big that impact could be.  Twenty years from now my company will have a different CEO and in the next twenty years dozens (maybe hundreds) of entrepreneurs will start biotechs that will disrupt healthcare and save lives. Twenty-four hours ago I would have asked, “Why should that be me?”  Now I am asking, “Why not me?”