Real Humans of Harvard Business School’s MBA Class of 2021
Wes York, HBS MBA Class of 2021
Hometown: Marblehead, MA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Vanderbilt University, Human and Organizational Development
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): I spent the first four years of my career in the Beverage Industry, working for Coca-Cola. I did a supply chain rotational program in New England for two years before working in strategy and marketing at the Atlanta headquarters. I have spent the past two years in eCommerce at Jet.com, developing food products for the private label team.
Why business school? Why now?
I have enjoyed working in many different functions in my prior roles and have always considered myself a generalist. The decision to pursue my MBA was not to help switch careers or find a new job, but to equip myself to be the best possible business leader and general manager throughout the remainder of my career.
Business school has been on my radar since finishing undergrad, but I had wavered on whether I wanted to do a full-time program before turning 30, or potentially doing a part-time program later in my career. I decided at 28 it wasn’t too late to do a full-time program and doing so would allow me to fully immerse myself in the coursework and overall experience.
Why HBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Successful business leaders are able to make the best decisions when the stakes are the highest. The case method at HBS forces students into the shoes of real business leaders who are faced with complex challenges.
I hope to one day be in those shoes myself, and able to leverage the vast knowledge of my peers and professors from my days in the HBS classroom. I only applied to HBS during round 1, but probably would have sent out a couple of other applications in round 2 had I not been accepted.
What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2021?
The first two years of my career were spent in a factory and distribution center, managing large teams of union employees, all of whom were older than me. I was forced to learn all of Coca-Cola’s operations firsthand on the front lines, while supervising dozens of uneducated, unmotivated employees. The challenging environment helped me develop as a people leader, and also gain valuable experience solving problems in a very tactical environment.
Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I was a three-time intramural dodgeball champion in college.
Post-MBA career interests?
I would love to stay in the Food & Beverage space, preferably working for a smaller, up and coming brand right after school. One day I hope to start and lead a large CPG organization.
Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Talk to as many students or alumni of your target school as possible. While all of the information on the internet is extremely helpful, a 15-minute conversation can help you understand the pros and cons of a school, and what your experience there might be like. I’d also recommend talking to alumni who are several years out, as they will reflect back on their experience differently than a recent graduate.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
Attend a class much sooner in the admissions process. I had toured HBS during the summer, two years before applying. It was not until the day of my interview that I sat in my first case-method class and was blown away. Seeing what the students and professors are like in action was incredibly helpful in picturing myself in their seats.
–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
GMAT studying. I spent at least 1 hour a day for the majority of a year studying for that arduous exam. I started studying in January, took my first test in July, and the second in November. One thing that helped me get through it was the app, “GMAT Prep by Ready4.”
I found it very helpful to study in small bursts on my phone whenever I had 5-10 minutes to spare. All of the practice problems I did on my phone added up to lots of extra reps. (No, they are not paying me to promote them)
What is your initial impression of HBS’s students/culture/community?
Diverse. It is so hard to find two people with similar backgrounds, experiences, nationalities, or ethnicities. This was a huge draw to the school for me, as the more diverse people you surround yourself with, the more you can learn and grow as a person.
One thing you have learned about HBS that has surprised you?
The large availability of the greater Harvard University resources. Although most of Harvard is located on the Cambridge side of the Charles River, HBS is on the Boston side, making feel a little bit isolated.
However, almost all of the resources available to an undergrad or other grad school student are easily accessible for an HBS student. Everything from healthcare, to fitness facilities, shuttle buses and academic resources; it really feels like you are part of the larger Harvard community.
Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Time management. With up to three cases a day, employer visits, internship searching, social events, and the need to eat, workout, sleep and relax, it all seems a little bit overwhelming.
Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Meeting and learning from all of the international students. I will never forget during my class visit I counted the flags in the back of the room which represented all of the countries that the students hailed from.
Out of a class of 93 students, I counted 45 different flags, some of which I didn’t even recognize. The fact that almost half of my peers will be from outside the US is incredibly exciting, and I can’t wait to hear about both their personal and professional experiences.