Triston Francis: Advice for Harvard MBA Admits, 120 Alumni Reflections & Crafting Your Life - E303

· Harvard,Executive,Purpose


“You can meet a lot of people in the HBS MBA program. What you want to do is identify people that have a similar set of values and interests because those are the individuals that you really have the most potential to build with. The sooner that you can start getting to know your classmates, the better. That also puts me at ease. It takes the nerves out because you start to realize that you and the other 929 people that are showing up on campus the same day have no idea what to expect. As I was talking to people that started, it normalized it for me and made me feel more comfortable.” - Triston Francis

“Therapy is another resource that was tremendously helpful. It's an opportunity to really sit and spend a concentrated hour with somebody who is trained at helping you unpack the things that you're thinking through. It doesn't have to be focused around areas that are negative, which is oftentimes the perception of therapy. They usually think there's an issue that you need to fix. I view therapy as no different from going to the gym and working out to maintain a healthy body as opposed to fixing it when there's something wrong. That's another area that really helped me a tremendous amount.” - Triston Francis

“I was a research associate of Organizational Behavior Professor Leslie Parlow. If it weren’t for that, I probably would've come out of HBS overly focused on the professional side of the equation. The reality is if you go to a place like HBS, things will work themselves out on the professional front for the most part. That doesn't mean that you're going to found the next unicorn company or be a billionaire. It means you'll be able to find good jobs that will allow you to provide for yourself and your family. The bigger variability I saw after interviewing 120 alumni was around how things shook out on the personal side of the equation. That's the bigger driver in people's satisfaction with how their life unfolded. When I started working, it allowed me to take a step back and not lose sight of investing in the relationship with my partner and building communities with friends that you feel supported and excited to be around. There's a lot of value and importance in there that unfortunately gets overshadowed by the professional component.” - Triston Francis

This conversation between Jeremy Au and Triston Francis, who leads People & Organizational Strategy at Sea and former HBS Student Body Co-President, gives valuable advice for incoming Harvard MBA students who already received the offer. The discussion highlights three main takeaways:

1. Thoughtful Planning: Triston emphasizes the importance of having a well-defined plan before starting the MBA program. He draws an analogy to being a DJ with a playlist and highlights the importance of setting clear goals and priorities to effectively utilize time and resources.

2. Veteran Stories and Nostalgia: Both Jeremy and Triston share their experiences and reflect on their time at HBS. Their anecdotes on social events, planning, and relationship building showcase the diversity of paths and opportunities available during the MBA program.

3. Embracing Experience and Uncertaint#2AABD9y: They share the value of cherishing experiences, no matter how small. They encourage potential students to build deep connections with professors, administration, and peers and to be kind to themselves as they navigate the challenges they will face during this career inflection point.

They also talked about the significance of in personal relationships and building communities, therapy as a helpful resource, and the creation process of the course Crafting Your Life, which aims to help MBA students live with greater intentionality.

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Jeremy Au: (01:50)

Hey Triston. Excited to have you here buddy. Another Harvard Business School MBA classmate. We got to know each other in Southeast Asia and Singapore and wanted to have you on the show because you and I were discussing what kind of advice we would have given to friends who were going off the business school, and we have so much to share. And so I thought this would be an incredible time to shoot a breeze and talk about what we could have done differently and what we would keep doing the same. Could you please introduce yourself real quick?

Triston Francis: (02:14)

Thank you, Jeremy. I'm definitely looking forward to the conversation today. In terms of a quick introduction on myself, I'm originally from New York City. I'm a first-generation college student. Had studied finance at Wharton as an undergrad and then started my career in Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley.

Did a variety of roles there before HBS, so investment banking, sales, and trading, and a strategy role helping Morgan Stanley increase business with Asian, Black, and Hispanic clients. And then human resources for a bit, for five or six years before joining HBS. And while I was very much on leadership, so I was the student body co-president, I was the education rep for my section, which is basically a liaison between your peers and the professors. And then on the academic side was very focused on organizational behavior topics, with one of the highlights being working with the head of research to create a course called Crafting Your Life, which was all around how you help MBA students live with greater intentionality, which I suspect people listening to this conversation would probably have those similar topics top of mind as well.

So that was a lot of interest. After wrapping up at HBS, I moved to Singapore and joined the Boston Consulting Group. First, as a consultant doing people in organizational strategy work, digital transformation works financial services, TMT, and those types of projects. And then spent a year helping BCG build out a leadership institute, which was an executive education offering for our Asia Pacific clients.

After BCG, I transitioned over to Sea Group, the parent company for Shopee, Green, and Sea Money, in a people strategy role that was a part of their COO office, but really excited. It'll be a walk down memory lane to have a chat about HBS and some of the things that I wish I knew heading into it and so forth.

Jeremy Au: (03:52)

I think one question that people often ask at the start of anything is, is it worth it? Should I do it? I think one person was like, Hey, I want to be a Web3 VC. Another person was like, I want to be a founder. Does a Harvard M What's the ROI? When is it worth it? So I'm just curious what your perspective on that is. I'm happy to share mine as well.

Triston Francis: (04:10)

Yeah, my perspective on it, and I have a pretty bullish perspective on it, and I honestly believe that if the MBA cost a million dollars, I would still enroll in the MBA. Of course, I would need a very generous loan repayment process with very low interest to make that work. But no, in all seriousness, I think that there's a tremendous amount of value in the MBA. And the thing that I would say there is when you're thinking about the ROI think it's really important to look at the long-term value that the experience in the network really adds to your life. So I think if you're looking at ROI in terms of, okay, what's my salary before the MBA? What's my salary after this MBA, that's too shortsighted.

But the thing I would ask yourself is, okay, let's say you graduate from college and then you're going to be working for, let's say at least 40 years, especially with increased life expectancy. Fair to say most people will be working for 40 years. What I ask myself is, would you rather work for 40 years and get no graduate degree Or would you rather, have 38 years and two years of additional education?

And as I thought through it, through that timeline, there was no version of my life where I felt like 40 and 0 was a better equation than 38 and 2. So let's say, you know, as an example, you want to found your company the network and the access to individuals that could help you in your fundraising journey and so forth.

All it takes is one or two relationships to make it far more worth it in terms of what you've actually paid for the MBA program and the time that you've invested in so forth. So yes. I tend to be very bullish in terms of the value of it, not only from a professional perspective, which is mainly how you've been talking about it but also from a personal perspective. I know that for many people who go through this experience their closest friends for the rest of their life are people that they met in the MBA program. That's also really hard to put a price tag on.

Jeremy Au: (05:58)

Yeah. You know, I think one thing I started to think of right now is that this advice, obviously primarily, I think is for Harvard MBA I, I think obviously it's not generalizable to all MBA programs. I would expect that maybe this could be generalized to some extent to Stanford and INSEAD, but I think for this conversation, I think we're talking as Harvard, MBA graduates to other Harvard MBA perspective joiners.

Right. Yeah, so I think from my perspective I think that three sets, right? I think the first of it, what I got away from it obviously, is the skills training. Obviously, there's a case study and a bunch of training to have. That was obviously very utilitarian in the sense that, you know, I could learn to be a vc, I could learn to be a founder, I could learn to be a general manager.

So these are all like, skillset sets I got to learn. I think that's what a lot of people see the value in. But I think the other two things that I got out of it personally was I think the second thing is obviously what you said was community. Which is, I think that network is not just with the people in your class of 900. I mean, Tristan, you and I are not in the same class, right? We were in different years, but we just happen to be in the same geography. So that spread, I think of Korea and of course, you know when you're like 30 years old hanging out with 28 years old, you're both in the same plane. But if you are like 55 and another person's 53 is effectively no difference and you're both probably specialists in different industries. So the power of that network as everybody kind of like diverges and becomes experts in their own domains, kind of like really compounds and in terms of like density of the network, but also the weak connections within the dynamics there.

The third thing that I really got out of business school was, I got to meet people who I kind of didn't realize were just human. So, I met like the CEO of Goldman Sachs, I met all these great speakers who came on campus. You got to shake their hand. And these folks were just like people I knew on Twitter or were written about on, you know, news and everybody's hating them.

Everybody's loving them whatever it is, right? But, you know, I think I got to shake their hands, I got to hang out with them. And I was just like, oh, okay. Like, He's me. But like with 40 years but with experience, like you said. Right? And I'm just like, okay, that's doable, right? There's some dynamic there.

So I thought that was an interesting learning on my side was like, Hey, you know, these titans of industry, you know, there's a path to get there and I don't need to get there while I'm like exactly 30 years old. But it's, it is a human time slash progress dynamic, right?

So I thought it was an interesting personal takeaway that I got away from it.

Triston Francis: (08:03)

Yeah, absolutely. I would echo all those things in terms of the skills and so forth. Maybe building on that, I would say coming into the MBA program, one of the things that I was really attracted to about HBS, in particular, was that case study method. Because one of the things I really wanted to develop was what I thought of as impromptu speaking.

So I was very comfortable. I was actually a public speaking coach in undergrad. I am very comfortable speaking if you give me a microphone in front of an audience. Where I'm actually less comfortable speaking is in the moment. I like to take time to actually think and process my ideas.

So how do you, if you're in the middle of a business meeting, interject that point or that idea? Time will bring in the evidence. So there's a whole component of communication that I feel like HBS trains you really well to do it . It's pretty interesting to see when I talk to people before they join the MBA program and then after they join the MBA program, you can really actually pick up on the change just in terms of conveying messages in a very structured and impactful way.

Jeremy Au: (09:01)

I think a lot of folks, obviously, get in, they're excited and then they're like, okay, obviously they make the math work and do the savings and just always a pain in the ass. But then obviously they start worrying, right? Because they're like, okay, what do I need to know? What should I know beforehand? How do I prepare for this? I mean that people get stressed out before because they don't know what it is. Right. It's a new geography, it's a new experience, which is a graduate school is a new group of people. Any advice you give people before they kind of head out?

Triston Francis: (09:26)

Yeah, absolutely. I would say, the sooner that you can dive into the experience in terms of meeting your classmates right away, so. And I applied for round one. I actually started organizing small group events for other admins in the New York City area. So I had in small groups of three to five and actually through volunteer activities, I would arrange these events where I'd bring in 20 to 30 college students and then I would have two or three of my incoming classmates and we would each share our own story and then have like a little bit of a networking event.

And was great 'cause we were giving back. So we were helping this demographic and we're also hearing each other's stories in a way that actually got to know them a lot better than you might during a coffee chat or over drinks because when you hear somebody give their outlook on the world and give advice in a mentorship capacity, just really shines a different light on them.

So, I actually had over 50 of my classmates speak at one of these events in New York before starting. And it made a really big difference because I think the more people you're able to meet before you start, the better because if you can imagine, you show up on day one, there's some event where there are hundreds of people.

If you know a few people, it just makes it easier to walk up and continue the conversation with that person, basically. And then if they have two or three people that's standing around them it just right off the bat. And, you know, I had the luxury of being able to do that 'cause I was in New York City, but especially today so much can be done just by hopping on a Zoom phone call and chatting with people. So even if you're in a city where there aren't a ton of admins, I think you can really be very proactive about the outreach because especially at a place like HBS, maybe people that are matriculating to Stanford might feel a bit differently, but especially at a place like HBS 930 is a large class. So you have a lot of people to ultimately try and meet. And I think that what you're trying to do is identify people that have a similar set of values and interests, because those are the individuals that you really have the most potential, to build with. And yeah, the sooner that you can start getting to know your classmates, the better. And also puts me doing so put me a bit at ease and it took the nerves out because I start to realize that, wait, okay, maybe I have no idea what to expect, but these other 929 people that are showing up on campus the same day also have no other idea what to expect. And as I was talking to people that started to, it normalized it for me and made me feel more comfortable.

Jeremy Au: (11:58)

Yeah, that reminded me of a feeling ahead, which was on the first day I was just you know, everyone's dressed up so nice on the first day. 'cause you got to wear that business suit and then. Yeah, you're right. I was nervous. I was anxious. I remember I kept telling myself at the time, I was like, this is the first day of school again.

And it was like the first day of school at elementary school, secondary school, you know, junior college and high school undergrad, army, first day of a job at work. So there's always that jitters. And so think at least one benefit I had was like I felt like this is normal, but still, you know, it's kind of intimidating to hang out with 899 other folks. And then adjust to the nines a little bit. And then, yeah, I think you're right. Everybody else is a little bit anxious. One thing I do think about a bit as well is that I remember I was like a new admit I was going to these big parties with all the alumni. And I was intimidated obviously by all the alumni who are ahead of me.

And it's kind of interesting 'cause now I'm on the other side of it. I'm not going to be, I'm not that old, but you know, at least what, five, six years out of HBS. And so, you know, I think it's interesting because you're right, it's like, you know, I used to look at these people who I'm now the same age at as intimidating, but now I'm looking at them and, I was thinking to myself like what I feel about them, I'm not aggressive to them. I'm not angry at them or anything, so there's nothing for them to be anxious about or scared about. But it did remind me, actually, of this thing, which is, I was actually, I remembered, I felt a little envious. There's a little bit of envy because I would love to go back to HBS and the first day again, right? I mean, like now I'm like, I was like HBSs, I would love to be back at the. I would love to be anxious. I would love to be lost. I would love to be exploring new things and new people. ' cause now I'm kind of locked and loaded with my marriage, two kids, and career.

So I think there's an interesting bit where I was like, oh, I wish, when I was studying my first day at HBS, I wish someone had told me like, hey, just really enjoy the feeling of being anxious and confused because it's actually a nice sensation of freedom, in a weird way. So I think at the end of the day, I wish I appreciated that first day more because it's not just like telling myself not to be anxious, but to also feel like, hey, being anxious and nervous about what the future is kind of a privilege because time flies very quickly, 10 years down the road and suddenly, you're locked and loaded into your career and your relationships. I don't think you have that same ability to be exploring and have that freedom to explore and to be lost. I think being lost is a nice feeling to have if you're able to be comfortable being lost.

Triston Francis: (14:10)

Yeah, no, it's definitely a privilege and I think the MBA program gives you the space to be really introspective and delve into yourself in a way that is much harder to do in the professional world, and there are higher stakes in the professional world once you have a mortgage, kids, all of these different things. And so, in some ways that MBA program is a bit of a risk-free environment or a relatively low-risk environment to test a lot of these things out.

Jeremy Au: (14:34)

Yeah. I mean, you go to HBS and tell people, it's like, I don't know if I want to be a VC or a founder or an operator, and everyone's going to be like, Duh. A hundred percent. You're supposed to be confused. Let me give you all the free advice, solicited, unsolicited over coffee to tell you that, versus if you're like 40 years old, you're already a vc, for example, you walk around and you say, Hey, I don't know if I want to be a VC or a founder. Everyone's going to be looking at you and saying like, wait, you didn't figure that out already 10 years ago. You know, I mean, there's no social permission for you to be lost and publicly down the road. Right. So I think. I think if you can get as much of that self-discovery going when you are at HBSs, just take it. But I got to ask the question, how do you do that self-discovery? Because HBS in a church, in this religious institution helps you discover your soul or your purpose. So how does Soori find their career path, or their meaning, or their self-awareness?

Triston Francis: (15:21)

Yeah. So I definitely think that it is a lot of being proactive in terms of navigating a lot of these introspective topics. I'll share some of the resources that were most helpful for me. Some may be Traditional, and maybe others are less traditional. I would say on the more traditional side, I would say as I was exploring things, I really leveraged the professors on campus who are just absolute experts and rock stars in their field.

So, my passion revolves around human capital topics, and so I got to know pretty much most of the organizational behavior professors and I would just pressure test all of these ideas with them. Hey, this is how I'm thinking about the world. Hey, this is one of the really big impacts, like big challenges that I see with a lot of companies and what I would love to fix around employee engagement. What have you seen, so forth? And those conversations with professors were just extraordinary in terms of being able to advance my thinking. Pressure test. Classmates is another area that I put on the more traditional side in the sense that bouncing ideas off of classmates, getting a sense of what they were passionate about and why.

Triston Francis: (16:28)

So really spending that time, getting to know them, and hearing that thought process also triggered thoughts in my own way of saying, oh, Actually, this area really clicks or resonates really clicks or resonates with me. Maybe on the less traditional side, I would say I am a big proponent and believer in terms of therapy and I don't view therapy as something that is just for people who are going through a difficult time, even though I think that there's a negative, you know, unfortunately, bit of a negative connotation with it.

But I think that HBS, all of these top business programs will have free access to therapy and really leveraging that and taking advantage of that, I think is a great way. You're spending an hour with somebody that's really trained and helping you delve into these deeper topics. So that was another resource that I really used. And then some of the courses, so I spent a year, I had mentioned working with the Head of Research at HBS to create this course, I should say, called Crafting Your Life, which was all about helping MBA students live with greater intentionality and a part of, as a part of that course and as a part of the research I was spending time basically thinking about questions like, do I want to have kids, or how do you manage a dual income household? Or what do you think about preparing yourself for aging parents and the role that you'll play in their lives? These are very heavy and deep conversations that I was able to tackle.

Therapy is another resource that was tremendously helpful. The way I viewed that is it's an opportunity to really sit and spend a concentrated hour with somebody who is trained at being able to help you unpack some of the things that you're thinking through. So, it doesn't have to be focused on areas that are negative, which I think is oftentimes the perception of therapy where there's an issue that you need to fix. Whereas I really view therapy as no different from going to the gym and working out to maintain a healthy body as opposed to fixing one where there's something wrong with it. So that's another area that really helped me a tremendous amount. And then last thing I would mention would be working on that Crafting Your Life course, which was really designed to help MBA students live with greater intentionality as a part of the curriculum for that course, we delve into questions that were very heavy, but important to figure out things like how do you manage a dual income household, whether or not you want to have kids and how to plan for that. Plan as best as you can for that, and things like how to, how are you going to, manage really caring for aging parents?

I think there's just all of these topics under the sun, in terms of things that you don't oftentimes talk about and, some of the courses can actually facilitate that. So Crafting Your Life, I think was great for that. There was another one called Authentic Leadership Development that was really good for that. And so, I'd say professors, classes, therapy introspection classmates. These are, it's daily waking up and trying to push the ball forward in terms of gaining clarity around what you want to do.

Jeremy Au: (19:31)

I think that when we think about HBS and the MBA program, One output is, did you land the right job? That's how people think about it. And I think if you unpack that further, actually what I tell people is in terms of job, you need to be thinking about the geography. You need to be thinking about the industry. You need to be thinking about the role. Obviously, this is a group from HBS, right? So that's how they think about it. And I think that's a very important side of the career side, but as you mentioned, the other pillars that there's there, which is, family and your relationships there, but also your own self-awareness about where you are personally, in terms of your strengths, what makes you feel alive, and what you want to do in terms of meaning in your life, right? And I think it's interesting because when we think about a Harvard MBA program, I think we think about it as like, it's primarily at the last thing that we just talked about, but it's not really about the other two domains of your life I think it's fascinating.

Triston Francis: (20:16)

No, I think it's a much more holistic experience than people probably think heading into it. Exactly as you said, people head into it thinking it will be this very academic and career-focused experience, and those are undoubtedly blocks of what the experience is. But there's so much more in terms of the holistic side of it, figuring out yourself, understanding your values, understanding the implications of your values, and the way that you show up as a leader. Piecing together what you want your life to look like for the decades that follow. So I think that it goes so much beyond just the career and the resume and the job into these more personal life topics.

Jeremy Au: (20:57)

Yeah. And I think Harvard isn't necessarily doing all the goodness of their heart. Not because they're hippies either, but also because I think, in order to be a strong performer at work, you know you should be in a job that you love and that you really want to do well in and you probably want to have a good personal life and a good family life, whether you define it to be, and then you can be an excellent performer, right?

But if your life is falling apart or you're in the industry you hate. Oh, your family's falling apart, then you know, everything else will suffer. And then you become an unhappy alumnus. And an unhappy alumnus isn't a performing alumnus. I think that's why I appreciate Harvard is, I think they have a very strong focus on the full lifecycle of alumni. Lifecycle in terms of the alumni giving program, but also the full lives of the alumni because they're quite interlinked. One thing I didn't know that I appreciated so much was actually the HBS Reunion program and I think it's kind of crazy because for no cost, effectively they organize the one-year reunion, the five-year, the 10-year, the 20, the 30, 40, 50.

So it's actually quite a. It's actually quite, I mean, I don't, nobody ever told me at the start, it's like, Hey, we have, we have a membership program where we're going to throw a giant party for you at HBS and we're going to arrange professors to talk to you. And I thought it was interesting. I went back for my five-year reunion and they were like, Hey, because the job that you thought that you were aiming for HBS probably does not work out. So you should sit with yourself. And I was like, wow, are we that predictable to all have a career crisis five years after business school?

Triston Francis: (22:16)

Yeah, no it obviously when we're going through and navigating our own lives, we feel like it's very, unique and it is. But I think in the macro sense, yes, they have the ability to know exactly what's going to be on our mind at the five-year reunion, the 10-year reunion, and to create some fantastic content around that.

So, Yeah, I agree. This is why I always thought of it as a lifelong experience, not as a two-year experience. So there are all the resources that you mentioned. Not to mention things like having access to free career coaching. At least up to six sessions of free career coaching for a year through career services as an alumni. So there are resources really that stick with you. And I think that's also in my view, the future of education is kind of continuous learning as opposed to just the on-campus experience.

Jeremy Au: (23:02)

On that note, one thing that fascinated me, and we had a nice long walk along the Singapore River, was your prior work actually interviewing alumni of the business program and what advice they would have for their younger selves and how they would've done things differently. So can you share a little bit more about what that research was and what you took away from it?

Triston Francis: (23:17)

Yeah, absolutely. So this was when we were designing this craft in Your Life course, and I was a research associate for Professor Leslie Parlow who heads research for HBS, and she's an organizational behavior professor. And what I was doing is basically I led about 120 60-minute interviews, and they all started off with the same question, tell me about how your life unfolded after HBS highlighting the major personal and professional transitions you went through. What were the trade-offs that you had to make and how did you come to those decisions? And so after asking those questions the rest of the 60-minute interview would basically just be a double click into whatever topic they proactively raised. And then we took all of that anonymized it, but took the transcripts and worked with the data science team to really identify the themes that were going to be most important. And those themes basically became foundational to the modules that the students would cover in the course. And in terms of some of the tremendous in insights that I had gleaned from it. And it was so timely for me because this was right after I had graduated and I was getting all of this life advice basically packed into the four months between graduating plus joining BCG is when I was serving as this research associate. It really helped me put things into perspective.

I'd say one of the big takeaways for me personally was I think had it not been for that experience, I probably would've come out of HBS, maybe a little bit overly focused on the professional side of the equation. And what I mean by that is the reality of it is if you go to a place like HBS, things will work themselves out on the professional front for the most part. And that doesn't mean that you're going to find the next unicorn company. It doesn't mean you're going to be a billionaire. It doesn't mean that you're going to be the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. That doesn't mean you're going to be a partner of a prestigious professional services firm. But it does mean you're going to be able to find good jobs that will allow you to provide for yourself and for your family. So the bigger variability. What I saw in terms of outcome in interviewing these 120 alumni was more so around how did things shake out on the personal side of the equation. Did they go through a divorce? Did they have a good relationship with their children? Did they have a good community of friends that they've stayed in touch with and feel supported with? Some of these things that, Or really on the life side of the equation.

That's the bigger driver in terms of people's satisfaction that I saw with how their life unfolded. More so than some of the things that we think about when we're in that MBA program, which is, did I land a job at my dream company? And so I think that takeaway, once I joined and started working, allowed me to take a step back and not lose sight of some of these things like investing in, the relationship with your partner, and building communities of friends that you feel supported and excited to be around. So I think there's a lot of value and importance in some of that stuff that unfortunately gets overshadowed by the professional component.

Jeremy Au: (26:26)

Yeah, and I think that's such a fascinating amount of research. I would love to fly on a walk listening to all these conversations as well. I think where I kind of got it was from, actually some of the advice from the professors. I think a lot of them gave advice and I remember I had Professor Chicago, I mean he was named by fault as a master of the internet universe.

He was on a cover and he was an incredible professor in terms of sharing his actual practitioner slash founder experience, but also in the context of the founder's journey in terms of the classes and how to be an entrepreneur. But I think what I took away from it was he was sharing his own experience about how, you know, having this professional success on one hand.

But then he ended up and he shared very honesty about being divorced, right? And getting divorced and discovering that in parallel with his professional success. And I think this contrast between private failure and professional success and his own regrets about what he could have done differently made me do a little bit of a reflection right?

A little bit to be like, okay, you know what's important, right? What can you fix? And I think people often use different examples. I think someone I heard the first time, I hear HBS is like, some things in life are rubber balls and some things in life are glass balls and when you're juggling them, you know, you know, career is one of those rubber balls, you know, if you drop it, Still figure it out. Right. But I think in family and your relationship, that's one of those glass balls that if you break it, it's hard to put it back together. And I thought it was like, oh, okay. I don't know. And you kind of theoretically know that, I don't know, in your twenties 'cause people tell you that all the time and you watch your partner is divorced and everyone's like talking about it on the side. But that was interesting to hear those real-life stories very frankly, and also very honestly that made a big difference.

Triston Francis: (27:56)

I was just going to say the stories will definitely stick with you and sometimes it, you know, you can have an individual that's very well-intentioned, but it's just easy to lose sight of some of the stuff. So, you know, as an example, at the time I was at HBS I was single and I remember actually one of these interviews with the 120 was a very successful alumnus, as an investor career has been tremendously successful going down that path, but was going through and had gone through a very difficult divorce. And, even though I was supposed to be the one interviewing him at some point, he asked me a very simple question. He was like, look, when you were interviewing for McKinsey, Bain, and B c G, how many coffee chats did you have with alumni and people as you were preparing yourself for that?

And I was like, maybe two, 300, a lot. I was very proactive with it. And he said, okay. During that same period, he was like, how many dates did you go on? And I was like, I don't know, less than five. And his whole point at that moment, he was like, look, You're a smart guy. I'm going to let you pause and think about this, but like what do you think is more important, whether you land a job at BCG versus Bain versus McKinsey versus some other consulting firm, or whether you find the right partner and are you going to find the right partner if you're not spending any time, going on dates and being open to that. And so it was this very clear, like, if you ask me, Triston, what's more important, finding the right life partner, if you choose to have a life partner or finding the right company, it'd be a no-brainer that you know that. It's like, okay, well the life partner.

But then when you actually diagnose the time and look at where are you spending your time, There's such a big disconnect between what the actual priorities are and where you spend your time. And so I would say that's one of the big things, from a Crafting Your Life perspective.

That's one of the big things the course was really trying to get individuals to do is understand like, where are you spending your time what are you overlooking? 'cause there's some massive things overlooking things like sleep, overlooking things like exercise, diet as if they're not important, and instead investing all of that energy into giving 110% at work, and that's great. I'm not saying don't work hard, but I'm saying, you know, making sure that you're maintaining a healthy diet and exercising is equally important to make sure that you're giving your work that eight plus. And I tend to find. Maybe it's because of the type of people that HBSs attracts in terms of being very ambitious and professionally oriented.

I tend to find that people can get so maniacally focused on that career, a plus knocking it out of the park, that they can lose sight of simple things like sleep and diet and exercise and friendships and partnership. And so I think that Part of the beauty in the course was really just allowing people to take a step back and reflect on what's.

Jeremy Au: (30:57)

Yeah.I think before HBS, I used to kind of say this in undergrad, I used to say like, relationships are temporal, but the resume is eternal. Anyway, let's just say that. I love my pre-MBA relationships didn't really work out, let's I say, because I was just very focused on work. And I take a step back and I think the awkward reality is that HBS does select people who are very focused on their resume in terms of like, you have to prioritize, obviously, your GPA. You got to do your g a, you know, obviously you need recommendation letters from people who, sign off on you. And you probably came from companies and you had a great performance at those companies, right? That's what Harvard's selecting for. So I think this is an awkward reality, which is that Harvard is selecting all these type-A overachievers who are perfectionists at work.

But I think HBS kind of like knows that and then they want to like to inject in that deceleration to make sure that we don't end up hurting ourselves or families or careers because we didn't have that self-awareness or self-work about what kind of companies or industries or roles we want to have.

So that's why I think this advice that we talking about is so specific to HBS only because I think there's advice I would give to other people who are in life and I'll say like, Hey, you need to focus more on your career if you want to achieve A B, C, if you want to achieve these things in your life and you say that, then you got to focus more on your career. So I think there's an interesting dynamic where the part that's my reflection, personal reflection about what you said.

Triston Francis: (32:14)

Yeah. No shortage of career focus at HBS.

Jeremy Au: (32:16)

I mean, it's like everyone's just optimized. You, to get there, you had to have been working your ass off, right? There's no, you know, so if Congrat, so, you know, obviously this podcast again for people who have been admitted to HBS, so going, congratulations. We know exactly who you are. You work your ass off for a long period of time.

The reeducation is going to begin, I think one piece of advice that you did remind me of, and I remember the professor didn't say it, but I think I think it was Professor Larry, I think he eventually joined GE, a CEO. But, I think he wrote in the school newspaper which was actually a surprisingly good newspaper.

I mean, I'm just saying I did not expect much from a school MBA newspaper. Anyway, the point was I thought was fascinating 'cause I think he wrote something. But I think one of the advice pieces that I got was that like, you got a prioritize your significant other and you've got to be in a city that allows you and your sign significant other to have a career. And I thought that was really good advice. Which was like, yeah, it go, it kind of goes both ways, right? It's like if you really wanted to pick a geography, You should probably disclose that to your significant other before you get married and all these other things, because you know that person may not want to be in the same geography as you.

And so that's quite material to your relationship. Just like I think you mentioned earlier, like deciding whether you're going to have kids or not and how many, I think deciding whether to have kids or not is more important than a number of kids specifically. But that's going to be an important conversation because that's not the same destination you hit it to.

Right. And I think you. For having kids or not. It's a binary decision. It's either you have them or you're not. There's no negotiation that's going to make it work, honestly. And the same thing to geography like if your spouse wants to be in the US and you want to be in Southeast Asia, no amount of negotiation can you know, there's no Zoom relationship that's going to work out, biologically, hormonally. We want to be someone that we're physically present with. Right. So I thought that was just an interesting piece of advice I remember, and I think I've seen that happen so many times now to friends and classmates who just, I don't know, maybe they didn't read the same news article that month, I guess but it's like it just keeps coming up over and over again.

I think a lot of breakups after HBS happen because they are not agreed on the same geography. Cause they're not agreed to be in the same city even. Or vice versa, it's like they end up having very difficult conversations because, you know, somebody has to sacrifice their career in order to go to where another person wants to be.

Right. And I think it happens a lot for HBS folks. So I think there'll be a piece of advice that I got and took away, that I think is actually really important to be thoughtful

Triston Francis: (34:25)

Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think that these are some of the really important things that you walk away from the MBA experience, just with greater clarity around how you feel on some of these topics. And the more clarity you have, the more you're able to effectively communicate that to a partner or to anybody else. And so I think before you're in a position to be able to communicate that to somebody, you need to know where you stand on some of these things. And I think an MBA is quite a good acceleration in terms of thinking through some of these, things that will have long-term life implications.

Jeremy Au: (34:59)

Ooh, that reminds me of relationships. So some people have told me it's like, Hey, you know, I'm single. I'm going to HBS. Is it good to match up with other people? I don't think they say is good is a good place to date, but I think they're more like saying like, is there anything I should watch out for if I'm dating an HBS student or so, so forth?

I'll take a first crack at this I think it's easy to get another HBS student because you're both going to be in Boston at the same time, and you're both discovering yourself. So there's a very great moment, if that makes sense, where there's a lot of affinity, but the end outcome of that self-awareness exercise might be like, one person might be like, I want to work on New York, and another person's like, I want to work in the Midwest on production.

I mean, and then I think that's a very. Problematic thing because I think in other places when you meet, somebody can be a trailing spouse, right? Whoever that is, right? Trailing husband, trailing wife, whoever it is. But I think when you're HBS, both people tend to be like type A, right? And both of them want to have a career, so that can be a very difficult conversation all of a sudden. So I think that's something I think people should be aware of, which is that you can date within the context of HBS about whether it's going to survive post-graduation when you both start to. Climb your various corporate ladders or whatever you want to call them. I think that's a common breakpoint, I would say.

Triston Francis: (36:06)


Jeremy Au: (36:44)

Yeah, I think for myself, I was already dating my now wife, but you know, we both went to, she went to University of Chicago for MBA and I went to Harvard and we're both let's, I. Wait and see what happens. And then we kept going. Right? So for me, I'm one of those many people who kept going into relationships and I guess we never broke up because now we're married after business school and now we have two kids.

So maybe it's less of a function of discovering what the right person for each other is, but maybe just. Not breaking up. Right. You know, anyway. I mean, no one else walked into our lives. That was a better option. That's terrible to say. But you know, I think there's a Turkey drop as they call it. Right?

There's like, you know, around Thanksgiving they say like there's a lot of people break up, which I think I saw that happen in our class. But I think HBS also, there's a lot of older couples. Obviously, there are veterans, there are older folks who are coming in, so a lot of them also are married or have kids. Right. What advice would you give? Anything that's off the top of your head for folks who already have an HBS offer?

Triston Francis: (37:32)

Yeah, I would say one really big piece of advice that I would give would be to make the most out of your time by really coming in with a plan and having clear goals and knowing what you will sacrifice in order to create more space, time, and energy in for those goals. So as an example, Before I actually arrived on campus, I knew that I wanted to run for student body co-president.

I knew that I wanted to be the education rep for my section. I knew that I wanted to go into consulting it with b c g being my first choice. I knew all those three things before I stepped foot on campus. And the analogy that I like to make is, it's like being a DJ before you go and do a set in a club.

You have your whole playlist, more or less mapped out. And then the actual N B A experience is kind of like modifying things at the moment, in the way that, you know, a DJ based on the energy in the club might say, okay, let me do something with the lights. Let me add a little bit of steam. Let me throw my hands in the air, whatever it might be.

The DJ might respond to how the audience is responding to the actual experience, but he or she goes into that set with a plan. And I think that if you're really trying to make the most out of your MBA experience because it's two years and there are so many resources, and it goes by so quickly, and there's so many incredible classes to take, incredible professors, incredible peers, because there's just so much of everything, the way to make the most out of it is to have a plan.

So if you've, you know, been admitted and you haven't yet stepped foot on campus, use this time. To really think about what you are going to, what you're going to do so that when you show up on, on campus, you can basically press play like a DJ and then modify as necessary. But I think that when you go in with a plan the people that I saw who went in with a plan, I feel like on average were able to make more out of their MBA experience than those who were kind of wandering.

And then the second piece of that is knowing what you will sacrifice, right? Because you can't just say, I want to prioritize one, two, and three. You have to say, I want to prioritize one, two, and three in order to make time for one, two, and three. I'm not going to do A, B, and C. So for me, a, B, and C were, going to like large, happy hours, and things like that because I felt like I'm an introverted person.

My voice is relatively soft-spoken. It doesn't compete well with loud music. So I kind of thought to myself, what's the point of going to this bar? I'm not going to go to the bars because I'm not going to get anything from that experience, and it's going to take up a lot of hours.

So anytime a classmate would ask me, like, look, are you going to X, Y, and z? I'd be, no, but like, how about we grab breakfast tomorrow or lunch or coffee or something like that? Turn that into a one-on-one. or my roommate and I would host dinners, so we hosted small groups of five to six people for dinner. In our first year, we hosted over a hundred people, over a hundred of our classmates, which is a large amount, if you think about it in our home for dinner. And I was like, that's a much better way for me to be able to get to know my classmates. So think about where are, what are some of the traps where you might spend time in ways that aren't actually consistent with your goal, and then just think about when you identify them, then you can really remove them. This frees up the capacity for being able to really follow through on the things that you've planned. So I would say the biggest piece of advice would be the way to make the most out of your time is to have a plan and be very intentional in terms of how you're spending your time.

Jeremy Au: (41:17)

Yeah, I think I'm happy to share about what my plan was as well when went in. So for myself, I think I had heard some advice similar. So I wrote down my plan, but also I wanted to tell you how I changed my plan, actually. So I think the first thing I had was, plan one I wanted to meet a new person every day.

Jeremy Au: (41:34)

So simple. I didn't want to meet 900 people. I just knew that wasn't possible. So I was just like, I just want to meet one new person every day, I'm going to go. The second thing I did was I wanted to learn how to be a great 'cause I felt like I had been, I learned how to be a founder, but I felt like that.

The journey from a founder to a CEO that transition was something that had been very painful for me. And so I thought this was a good opportunity for me to learn and progress and learn on that skill set. So about, obviously all ranging from tactical, right? Sales and marketing and so, so forth, all the way to how organizations scale, especially for startups, and then how that success becomes a unicorn, right? So for me, I was looking for that journey.

And the third thing I did was I said I wanted to join something that I really believed in. And if it didn't exist I would be happy to create it. So that was like my thesis. And so I went there. So because of that, I was not like you I was definitely not running for any club's office.

It was like sections like, who wants to be this rep or that rep. I was like, peace out, you know, and you know, student body presidents like peace out, right? And then all these clubs, right? I mean, that being said, I did participate in a lot of events. So I joined the. Social enterprise club, the healthcare club, and the technology club, because these were the experiments I had to understand the industry domains because I felt like these were the domains that would let me explore my love for technology, leadership for people development, but also you know, have a strong sense of mission and purpose.

Right? And so these were things I was just exploring. So I was doing those experiments. and as a result, I think, like what you said, I end up realizing that those large parties were useless for meeting new people because you meet lots of people but you don't remember their names. They don't remember you, there's no conversation.

So I wasn't, it wasn't a real meeting. So I also did not participate. So I guess both of us were uncool. People just there for the first hour, high five and handshakes, and fist bumps and dance with a little bit of music and then have to like peace out and then have a nice little sleep at home and then, do it. They said to do the morning breakfast, coffee, and lunches. But I think one thing I did change, I remember, was that in the second year, I changed it to be like, instead of meeting a new person every day, I changed it to meet a new person every day, or have a deep conversation Because I felt like, I was kind of like pushing myself to meet new people. But then I realized that I wanted to kind of deepen that conversation with people. I met and liked it. And so, I think that was a realistic approach at the end of the day for me to slowly build out my perspective, but yeah, that's what my plan was.

Triston Francis: (43:50)

Interesting. Yeah. And I interestingly had a similar in the sense that in my first year, I think my mindset was more, let me try and meet as many people as possible. and then my second year, my mindset was, okay, I've met all of these incredible people. let me try and use this second year to get to know them even better, to build relationships that will sustain them.

Which in a sense came from deep conversation. So interestingly I think our switch was similar in that sense from a scale in the first year mindset to a depth mindset in the second year. Which seems like it has some similarities in terms of what you're describing.

Jeremy Au: (44:30)

I mean, it is 900 people, right? I think a big part of it's just the fact that 900 other students is a lot of people and a lot of people are like, oh, don't you know this person from HBS because this person was. In the same year as you. And I was just like, no. I probably, if I look at the photo, I'll be like, yeah, I recognize her at the cafeteria.

But because there are so many people, right? And I think like what they call it, Dunbar's number, right? Like your brain can only process honestly a hundred names, in terms of relationships, maybe a thousand in terms of very weak. So I just thought it was just a kind of a crazy dynamic where like, is this impossible to, so I think if you go to HBS and feel like you don't end up meeting everybody, Don't kick yourself too much for it because I don't think you get to know everybody.

But I think, as you said, I think you should try to stretch yourself to get to meet people in the format that you like. So if you're introverted, like you said, you got to do those coffees, right? If you're extroverted, you can maybe do those bigger parties. Yeah. So any parting words of advice that you would have for folks?

Triston Francis: (45:20)

Yeah, I guess I would say parting words of advice would be to remember to do as much of the planning as you can, but at the end of the day, don't beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself through this process. It's an exhausting one, but it's an amazing one. So really soak it all in. Go in with an open mind.

Build relationships, not just with your peers. Make sure you're building relationships with faculty and administration. That'll be really helpful for you. I think in the past year alone, I've probably had conversations with about 15 of my professors. So I really stay in touch with a lot of my professors and if not a conversation I'm updating emails.

They're some of the most brilliant minds in the world. So, leverage that and establish these relationships, especially if you could find ways to do so in mutually beneficial ways, whether it's working as a research associate for one of our professors, or writing a course for academic credit.

would highly encourage you to look into some of those things as well. So my parting words of advice would just be, to make the most out of the experience. It's a once-in-a-lifetime type of opportunity, that's really remarkable and that a lot of people would love to have. So congratulations on landing that seat. Now it's time to go and make the most out of it.

Jeremy Au: (46:35)

Wow. I want to make that a t-shirt, a slogan, a speech. Speech. Speech. Okay. That's your HBS student body co-president right there. Okay. I think, okay. For me, I think there's so much advice. I think there's obviously the tactical, for example, I want to be a founder. These are the classes I should take and these are the kind of coffees I should do, and these are the ways I'll find product market fit.

I think there's that, right? But I think for me, I think I would like to call back to a certain point, which is like, I was reading this interesting article, which was like, Hey, if you're like an MBA fresh, like fresh to enter and then, you look at Jeff Bezos. You know, it's like, what, 50, 60? And I think those interesting articles said like, do you think Jeff Bezos would like to swap bodies with you? the answer was like, the article was like, Yes. Right. I mean, you would love to be, somebody in your late twenties or early thirties starting your career from scratch, right?

I mean, everybody wants to be young and be at a frontier of exploration. Like, you know, like, because you got time, right? You know, that's why you don't need to invest in a longevity startup when you're 30 years old because you're 30, right? There's so much, I don't know. Stuff to explore and so much more time that you have.

And so I think the article's point was like, Hey, you know, being in your thirties and being lost is a huge gift and privilege, right? And the fact that if you're at HBS. Exactly like you said, Tristan, there's effectively zero risk, right? You are in a nice cocoon and staging ground.

They call it about the Western point of capitalism, right? But you know you're in a good spot, right there are good professors, there are career counselors. There're therapists. You have health insurance. You have a great community. You have a tribe. It's okay to be lost. It's okay to be anxious.

It's okay to be nervous and enjoy it because you know it's okay to feel those things. Especially when you know that you don't get to feel them so much. You know, like, you know, even me right now, I'm like, oh man, like in that alternate universe, maybe I would've taken this other class and, had that conversation with that other person, and then my life would be different.

And the path isn't there anymore. So I just think it's an incredible gift, to be lost, right? Because now there's the thrill of finding yourself. So, You know, you know, enjoy the discomfort. You know, it's a beautiful moment. I don't know. It's a butterfly, it's a cocoon moment, right? Whatever you want to call it. But you know, something amazing can happen, especially like you said earlier. Your career's going to work out now that your HBS as long as you keep your health, as long as you keep your family, as long as you keep your personal self-work in place. And like you said I've seen friends who, or heard stories of other people who've lives ended pretty short, right?

Because of health and all these other issues, right? So, I don't know. Man, I would, for anyone who's listening and going to HBS, you know what I'm not a little jealous. I'm very jealous. I would love to go to HBS all over again. Sign me up. If I could swap bodies, I'll totally do it. I'll be like, yes. I would love to be anxious.

I know in the auditorium, again, with everybody else, and of course, this distinctive Tristan Ferris, our student body co-president will give me that, speech as well.

Triston Francis: (49:13)

Yeah, I'm with you. I would love to redo the experience, not because I feel like I. Would do a whole lot differently. I'm happy with how things unfolded, but just because of how amazing the experience really was.

Jeremy Au: (49:24)

Yeah. On that note, I'd love to summarize the three big takeaways. First of all, I loved how I don't know, what's the word, how thoughtful you are with going in with your plan, but also what you're doing to understand and do that own research on what 200 alumni. 200 B C G calls, but also doing a couple of hundred alumni as well.

So I thought it's very fascinating to hear that, full spectrum, very data-driven, well story time in terms of storytelling, but also very data-driven, right? So I think it's interesting to hear that synthesis. The second thing I really enjoyed was, I don't know, Our reminiscing slash nostalgia slash old men recounting veteran stories about our individual lives at HBS.

I thought those stories were really fun to share. And lastly, I think I really enjoyed the part about, enjoying the experience and enjoying and experiencing different things, all these small moments they had that you got to research your professors, you got to update your professors, you got to do the research, you got to be, you know, Co-president.

I don't know. I have lots of beautiful moments in there, so that's why I got away from the conversation. Yeah.

Triston Francis: (50:22)

Yeah, no I enjoyed it as well. It definitely delivered on being a walk down memory lane, so I appreciate that.

Jeremy Au: (50:29)

All right. See you, Triston.

Triston Francis: (50:30)

All right. Take care.