Guys, we are at Harvard Business School. Here with me today is the graduate of MBA and MD Programs and, in my view, the smartest guy who managed to pass these programs. Watch our inverview and you will learn how to enter such programs, how to survive, how to pay the loan back, and how to move to California to work in hospital and help people Guys, we are now at a very famous place, in a university which is known to everyone in the world: Harvard University and Harvard Business School. Now there is complete silence here. Everyone has finished studies, received their diplomas and set off to search for a job. And today we’ve got a great opportunity to touchbase with our colleague who comes from the same geographical region. Ales, please tell us about yourself, your experience, etc., and then we will touch issues that are more serious. Sure.I was born in the city of Minsk (Belorussia) and moved to the USA at the end of the 1990s. I resided in the Northeast (not very far from Boston). Then after finishing school, I studied at Yale University (also very close from here: only two-hour drive). After this I was working as a consultant at McKinsey for three years in healthcare projects (pharma, biotech, etc.), including several ones in the Russian pharmaceutical market. After this, I decided to keep on with business but also to become a doctor That is why now I am completing the Joint Degree Program in Business and Medicine here at Harvard. You mean MBA and Degree in Medicine, right? Yes, MD and MBA. The first issue that comes to mind is that your experience is not a standard one for those coming from Ukraine, Russia, and Belorussia. You have already moved here with you parents and applied being practically an American, right?
In your opinion, to which extent has your place of residence contributed to your application?. Do you happen to know many guys who got enrolled being citizens of Ukraine, Russia, and Belorussia? Here there are two things to take into consideration.The first one is the official application (visas, interviews, logistics, etc.). The second one is the idea of culture here, and how business culture, ethics, etc. differ from those in Russia, Belorussia, or somewhere else. From the official side, the way from big companies or countries like Ukraine or Russia is already paved, and I know a lot of guys who come here from Moscow, Kyiv, and other places to study in this or other business schools. I think that it is sometimes more challenging to perceive from the point of culture what business schools expect from them. In other words, to understand, after settling down the visa issues or logistics, what they want to see in your application. Here the experience of working in the company that is Western, or collaborates with Western businesses, or has Western clients turns really important. You had a very impressive way before entering: college in Yale, McKinsey (for sure not the last company in this world), and it would have been strange for you not to study at Harvard. In your class in Harvard, were there many people who came from the former countries of the Soviet Union? So those who entered not as I did? Yes, not like American citizens, but those coming from Ukraine, Russia, Belorussia, etc. Let me see. There were five or six people like this in the class consisting of 900 people. I didn’t face this in my medical school: I was the only guy, but the class there was smaller (only 180 people) We will talk about the medical school a bit later as this is also a very interesting issues for the applicants. 900 people. Today many people are saying that they have read that in 2017 the number of non-white applicants for the first time outnumbered that of white ones. In your opinion, did you witness this and is it really possible to see the overrepresentation of other nationalities over the native Americans? I didn’t witness this. There are many international students at HBS (around 40% of them are from other countries, if I’m not mistaken). As for the cultural attitude towards the country, a person from France or Spain differs from a native American much more considerable than an ethnic Japanese, Chinese or Latin American whose family has lived here for several decades or even years. Once we made an interview with graduates of Berkeley Business School. There are many Chinese now in California, and the graduates said that the number of those coming from Asia was growing, thus provoking serious competition in application and studies. They also invest a lot of money in it. Have you felt the same tendency in Harvard? Harvard is actively investing into the balance among its students from different countries and, to a certain extent, among various races. In other words, I’m sure that Harvard doesn’t have any certain quotas. So you didn’t feel any domination, didn’t you? No, I never felt it. In fact, looking today at how big are China and India and how fast they are developing, it is always pleasant to have in your group people from this countries. because you get a good idea of their mentality; for my studies this situation was much more interesting than having 60-70 Americans in my class. You’ve got a very interesting combination of MBA and MD degrees. The first question that immediately comes to mind is how you managed to withstand this (because I can imagine this burden). The second question is what for, as it is much more difficult and expensive Since my studies at college, I have been interested in healthcare as a system, how pharmaceutical companies function, to whom (Healthcare Ministry or Medicaid in the USA) it belongs, how hospitals function, and how to make their work with patients more efficient. And I think that for the doctors the division between medicine and administration only harms both the medical specialists and the patients because it leads to strained relations and the quarrels in which the doctors finally lose. In this case, my opinion is that to become a good doctor and to do all for your patients, it is necessary for you to understand both healthcare system and business. So, did you focus on medicine as on management in medical business as they have such a major (Healthcare Management) in Duke or on medical practice as such? In Medical School it is 100% medical practice, and in a few weeks I’m starting my residency training as a practitioner. However, I, after finishing the residency training, hope to combine several directions as a Medical Director (or something like that) and to find a possible balance (for example, 2 days a week in medical practice and 3 days a week on an administrative position in a hospital or in the town). Taking into consideration the last reports that the doctors in the USA earn more than anybody else, I think that this is a very good continuation of your career. Regarding your burden, how different was it from that for those guys who went to MBA Program only? Not very much. Undoubtedly, the burden in a medical school is considerably bigger than that in a business school. Nevertheless, what is very pleasant is that the majority of such programs divide the courses by times. For example, one year is for the Medical School only… It is year-by-year division, right? Yes. For example, while I was here in the business school, the only issues that I had from medicine were night shifts in hospitals in Boston, but that was my initiative, as I wanted to keep up my clinical experience. And then, in the morning, “Hi, everyone, I’m solving cases…” (Laughing) It happened sometimes, but not often. Jaw-dropping! Do the tests for MD programs differ from those for MBA programs? Are they the same (GMAT, GRE, etc.) or are there any separate tests? Separate tests In other words, two separate applications, right? Right. And here there are two variants for application. My process was a bit more standard: first, you enter an MD program; then, a year after, you apply for an MBA program, and if you are admitted, you become a Joint Degree student. So, one must enter two programs (Yes); in case you managed to get to MBA program but failed your application to MD program, you study only in MBA. Yes, that’s right. Interesting enough. What was your way of preparation for the tests for two programs. From my 15-year experience, I know thousands of people who failed to pass GMAT for a business school. How did you manage to prepare all this for two programs (of course, I understand that Yale is Yale)? First of all, for me the application process was divided by one year time (first I prepared for the tests to Medical School and then to GMAT). As the exams differ from each other (GMAT and GRE for example), I recommend to make a pause between preparations for the exam to recollect yourself before starting a new application. So, you were preparing one application for two-three months and then you started the second one, right? Yes, this is first of all. Second, what helped me a lot is to take mock exams for practice several times both for the Medical School and… How many times did you take GMAT? I just bought a book with GMAT simulation tests and, while having a spare time in summer, I was doing the tests section by section. And as for the real test? How many times? From the first attempt? The official one? Yes, from the first. What was the score? Trying to recall… I assume that it was higher than 700, wasn’t it? Yes, 770 as I remember. Clear enough. Guys, I hope that you understand it: Yale, GMAT score 770…a standard applicant from Belorussia (laughing). Everything is clear. I’ve recently read about the changes in the application essay topics at HBS. During your application, what were the topics of the essays (if you remember) and how did you ‘fight’ with essays? GMAT essays or MBA application essays? MBA application essays. As far as I remember, there were two essays and then it was possible to write additional information as a separate part. I don’t remember clearly the exact topics of the essays, but I recall that I wrote in one of the essays about my experience in McKinsey, how I saw there the problems of healthcare systems in Russia and in the USA, and how it contributed to my desire to become a doctor (that’s for my MD program) on the one hand. And, on the other hand, how it influenced my desire to understand the functioning of the healthcare system. For that moment, had they already introduced the essay in which they, without any word limit, asked you to tell about everything you wanted? Yes, there was such an essay. Because many people can’t figure out how to approach essays like this or like one in Stanford (‘What matters to you and why?’). So, how did you work on your essays? I’m not sure whether it’s right or not, but my approach was as follows. I’ve got a CV and a number of things that I’ve done during my career. I used an opportunity to tell in my essay a story on the basis of these facts. In other words, why, for example, I was working a lot in laboratories during my studies in Yale (doing researches). Sorry to interrupt you. What was your major in Yale? Microbiology (OK), so there was no any economic or business experience there So, at that time it was more about medicine than about business Then it gradually transformed into the work in McKinsey. Both in science and in consulting you need to make different hypothesis, test them, and analyze received information. And then it went from McKinsey to MBA and business school. That was the story about where I would like to be. Didn’t the AdCom, while considering your application, tell you that they would not invite you because you were too smart (laughing)? (Laughing) No, I never heard this. Recommendations are another interesting issue. Who were your referees, and whom should you ask (or not to ask) for the recommendation? It’s clear that the recommendations to the Medical School and those to the Business School are absolutely different issues. My referees for the MBA program were two people from my job, i.e one of the partners at McKinsey who was senior and with whom I had good relations. And one more recommendation was from the Project Manager with whom I had more informal relations as we were working together on different projects and he knew me very well. As far as I remember, there should be three referees (Right), so the third recommendation was from a professor in the Medical School. We were collaborating not on a purely medical topic, but on the global issue of comparing the healthcare system of the USA with those in other countries. The prospect of this issue was a bit of a medical one; however, it was also very important. So it is very important to have references from various places of your work. I’m afraid to ask you about your GPA during the application (after Bachelor’s program). 4.0? (Laughing). I mean high, low, or average? Rather high…something like 3.9 Did you apply only to one program (one business school) or to several ones? I applied only to Harvard because for those studying at JD Program there was a possibility to complete it at Harvard in five years. Four year MD Program is combined with two-year MBA Program, making five years totally. Had I applied to other places, it would have taken much longer. So the reason for you not to apply to Yale, your native college, was that there was no such a short-term program, wasn’t it? Had I studied at a Medical school there, I would have applied there. But you had studied there for four years in college
Had I studied there for MD, I would have probably applied there. OK. Now the question that is always asked by many applicants. This MBA is for smart guys from,say, McKinsey There is an opinion among the consultants and entrepreneurs that MBA is associated with guys from, let’s say, McKinsey, who are very smart but will destroy any business they will manage. This opinion exists. Taking into consideration your two-year studying at MBA, what is true and what is not true here? How is Harvard dealing with this problem of green guys with outstanding education but who, after graduation, face with real life situations? Well.. (A provocative question, right?)..No, it’s ok, it is really so that there are a lot of consultants with working experience at McKinsey, BCG, Bain, or in an investment bank. How is Harvard dealing with this? First of all, there are more and more people coming here from ‘non-traditional’ places. They used to say that there were three “M” in Harvard: Mormons, Military, and McKinsey. There still remains here a lot of Mormons, military people, and guys from McKinsey, but now the public has become more diverse and people are coming from everywhere. So the first way Harvard is dealing with this issue is to avoid the situation in which there will be a lot of people from one and the same place in one section. For example, in our section there were both consultants and other specialists…
Splitting into cohorts… Yes, and these cohorts are very well balanced. It’s not a random choice: someone served in army, someone was working in the Coca-Cola factory in India, and somebody was doing VC in China.So this is issue one. Issue number two is that Harvard is trying more and more to provide their students while they are here with certain practical experience. That can be a field project in which the team is sent for one week to do some practical work in a certain area.For those interested, there are numerous resources for start-ups here. Even the attempts to give a right answer in the class are usually considered through the prima of how you can say it. It’s like a role play, and this is really great as you are always asked how you will tell this to a certain person in this class. And weren’t you sick and tired of this Harvard method to teach through the case studies? You can’t study everything through cases, can you? For the majority of classes no, for certain classes yes.
For example for Operation’s Management, Leadership, or Marketing it is no. Any case is a very limited practical situation happened with a certain company, and if the Professors conduct classes well, they will tell you how to get this case from this situation. The classes, in which case studies are not so useful and you’d rather concentrate on additional resources like Investopedia, are Finances and Quantitative classes. When the first part of the course is based on theoretical discussions (it’s great just to understand what is going on), the case method is not so helpful here. And what was the ‘brightest’ class that you remember? The class after which you were in excitement? (Laughing). Interesting question. I think that the most memorable cases mean much more than classes. Of course it’s impossible that any case in any class is interesting. although some professors manage to do so. For example, Theresa who taught Negotiation Classes highlighted the most interesting cases for me (e.g. how much to pay to a certain soccer player). So she worked with cases successfully. However, it is more often that we considered a certain case. For example, an interesting marketing activity of a company (Bud’s sales of beer or fighting between Viagra and Seales). Did you take Disruptive Innovation class read by Christenssen? I took it and was really amazed with the depth of knowledge of this professor. Unfortunately, I didn’t because of my schedule.It was in a different section, so I didn’t manage. Underload with two more sections (laughing).
(Laughing) Yes, I definitely needed more. Clear enough