Believe it or not, many of my Class of 2010 friends from HBS weren’t sure if they were going to attend our 5th reunion. It’s expensive to register, and then there’s the flight, $250+/night hotel room, and even more money if you plan to bring your partner and/or children. However, one of my friends and HBS classmates told me about how positive his experience had been when he had attended his reunion the year before, so I resolved to attend my 5-year HBS reunion—and actually got excited about it!
Since I was a joint degree, my HKS reunion with the people I actually went to school with would have been last year in 2014, and I completely missed it. Even if I was going to entertain the idea of attending the HKS reunion this year, it was the same weekend as my wedding. So I only ended up going to my HBS reunion.
To get more involved, I signed up to moderate a panel titled “Managing Millennials” featuring three of my fellow HBS alumni from Class of 2010 and Class of 2000. It was nervewracking to put together, but it came off well, and I’m glad I did it.
While I fully expected to have fun, be super-happy to see my friends, and feel the excitement of being back on campus and seeing some of my old professors, there were also some pleasant surprises. Here are some unexpected positive experiences from my Harvard Business School reunion, the first school reunion I’ve ever attended.
1. We (mostly) remembered one another’s names.
Now, of course you remember the names of your good friends and the sectionmates you spent the most time with. Duh. But there are over 900 of us in each graduating class, and of course you just aren’t going to know everyone’s names. And of the peoples names that you do know, you will forget some of them. Now, we did have nametags, so maybe this entire point makes no sense, but I didn’t have to look at most peoples nametags and I didn’t feel like people were staring at my nametag either! That mutual recognition was a good feeling. Facebook makes it a lot easier to stay in touch with friends and classmates, but they have to actually be on Facebook and use it for it to be a useful tool for keeping up with one another.
2. I chose to learn some finance.
Throughout the reunion, professors and alumni hold lectures, discussions, and panel presentations about a variety of topics. I completely surprised myself by choosing to attend a finance lecture titled “The Market for Small Firms.” I learned a lot about how much opportunity there is in raising money from my fellow HBSers, buying small businesses and profiting from improving their operations. That’s not really my deal as I’m more of a “dream it up and make it happen” entrepreneur rather than a “get in the nitty gritty and fix everything” type entrepreneur. Anyway, after being one of the very worst finance students in my section, it was great to see how my interests have evolved as I’ve become a business owner.
3. I learned about some really cool new stuff HBS has in the works.
I got to tour the i-Lab at HBS, learn more about FIELD, and I attended a session with one of my old professors about HBX CORe and a fairly secret, superbly awesome initiative called HBX Live. All of these things came about after I graduated, so I have to keep myself updated on what’s changing and getting better at my alma mater.
Another thing I learned about is Schwarzman Scholars (I don’t believe this is directly affiliated with HBS but with one of my professors from HBS), a one-year Masters degree covering Public Policy, International Studies, and Economics and Business at Tsinghua University in China. The program sounded absolutely fascinating, and I highly suggest you look into it (if you are aged 18-29 as this is a requirement). I spent a day at Tsinghua University on a trip to China while I was at HKS, and it definitely made me want to return to China and learn Mandarin (I’ve yet to do either).
4. I didn’t feel like an underachiever.
Now, this probably sounds crazy to many of you, but a fear that I had—and that I later learned many of my classmates had—is that I’d show up to reunion and feel like a failure. Some of our classmates have built multimillion dollar companies by now or even spend hundreds of thousands of dollars investing in other people’s companies. While I came in as a nontraditional MBA student, and chose a nontraditional post-MBA career path, I still had those infamously outsized MBA salary expectations. I’m very proud of this company that I started building while a student at HBS and HKS. I get to make a full-time income using my strengths, helping other people’s dreams come true, and having autonomy over my time and location. I do not take these things lightly.
However, while we were at HBS, our professors had us write what we thought our lives would be like 5 years later and I was supposed to be married with a daughter and two books published. My life is not too far off from that vision, but when I was graduating, I also imagined I would be making a lot more money and would have sold a lot more books than I did! Despite the gap between reality and my vision, I felt great as I updated people that yes, I was still running my admissions consulting business, and that things were going great. It felt really good to honestly say that I love my job (even though I’m not rich and famous like I thought I’d be…yet) and to introduce my friends and classmate to my new husband (who was such a champ hanging out with 1000+ Type A strangers for three days). Rather than feeling like a competitive atmosphere, the reunion felt warm, welcoming, and buzzing with happiness and excitement. We were all just genuinely happy to see each other again and quickly catch up on each other’s lives.
I ended up having a great time at my HBS reunion, and I’m very happy that I went. If you’re on the fence about attending your high school, college, or grad school reunion, I encourage you to attend and see what pleasant surprises await you. Now, it’s time to get excited for my 10-year Pomona College reunion in May 2016!