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HBX Business Blog

HBX Student Spotlight: Doug Kinsey

Posted by Doug Kinsey on February 23, 2017 at 11:24 AM

Doug Kinsey stands in front of Baker Library on the HBS campus

Doug Kinsey is a Partner at Artifex Financial Group and an HBX aficionado. We sat down with him to learn more about his experiences in some of our HBX programs, most valuable takeaways, and advice for others.

What drew you to HBX?

Doug holding a fish he caught

Although I've spent most of my career in the financial services industry, and have had the opportunity to be associated with some great companies in the field, I've never grown tired of learning more. A career in finance is at once very demanding and very rewarding, if you apply yourself and seek knowledge. My personal path has led me to the area of personal financial planning and investment consulting. I started my own firm with a partner 10 years ago and we've been fortunate to grow at a pretty rapid pace. Along the way, I've earned various industry certifications and taken tons of continuing education.

When I learned of Harvard's new educational initiative, HBX, I signed up right away. So far I've completed Disruptive Strategy, CORe, and am almost finished with Leading With Finance. All have been taught by world-class professors and an innovative technology platform that encourages participation as you progress through each course.

Why did you decide to sign up for Leading with Finance?

I want to regularly sharpen my skills in the area of finance and financial analysis, as I am responsible for managing client investment portfolios at my firm (in addition to other duties). Given my recent experience with other HBX programs, I am confident that this one will add value to my skills and perspective.

I recently participated in an HBX Live session with professor Desai and we not only discussed some of the key course concepts in a brief case study, but Dr. Desai gave us a sneak peak at his upcoming book, which incorporates finance concepts into everyday life. This hits home for me, as a lot of my work involves making finance work for everyday people, who may not have much of an interest in my chosen field of endeavor.  

What was your favorite part of the program?

Doug and his hockey team pose for a team picture

My favorite part of all of the HBX programs is the case study approach and seeing the concepts as described by people in the real world.  I learn best when applying and observing the concepts the professors are teaching.

I've worked on case studies with classmates as far away as Russia and the Netherlands. I've met others in my cohort online and at the Harvard Business School campus in Cambridge. I've communicated with professors and colleagues during the live sessions, and I feel that I've gained an immense amount by interacting with people from all over the world, not only in the classroom, but through dedicated Facebook pages and offline conversations.

How are you applying what you've learned in Leading with Finance?

Doug and his two sons

I've already found that my perspective has changed on several of the principles, like Weighted Average Cost of Capital, and that I am viewing valuation a bit differently.

I can honestly say that no other post-graduate program that I've been a part of has been as enlightening for me. I've even been able to put new concepts to use almost immediately, and the coursework has helped me see things from a different perspective. The way HBX weaves case studies and real-world applications into the concepts is truly a game-changer for those of us who haven't been exposed to it before.

Any advice for people who will be taking Leading with Finance?

Go for it! Dr. Desai has a great teaching style and the course is extraordinarily valuable for experienced practitioners and people new to finance. 

I tell everyone I know about this program, as it is an undiscovered value, and one that will return to you tenfold what you put into it.

headshot of Doug Kinsey

About the Author

Doug Kinsey is a Partner at Artifex Financial Group and has over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry. In addition, he writes about investing for Kiplinger. You can see his posts here.

Topics: HBX Student Spotlight, HBX Finance

Driven to Succeed: Emily Ashtiani's Incredible Journey

Posted by Emily Ashtiani on February 16, 2017 at 12:07 PM


What drives you? As part of our #DrivenToSucceed campaign, we asked this question of our followers. Past HBX CORe participant Emily Ashtiani shared her personal story highlighting the transformative power of education.

We awoke in the middle of the night to the roar of thunder. After touching my face and feeling the water, I turned to my mom and little brother on the bed we shared.

“The roof is leaking again.”

It was pouring rain that night and the ceiling had given way.

“Go back to sleep. It’s a school night,” my mom said. So, I turned over and drifted back to sleep.

I grew up in a shipping container on the island of Guam. My mom, an immigrant from Palau, was a flight attendant, and my dad, an Iranian immigrant, was a mechanic. We lived a simple life, and looking back, I never understood how they managed to put me through private school. Today, I see that education was revered above all else and they were determined to provide me with opportunities they did not have.

We moved to the US when I was ten years old. As they built a new business and a new life for our family, their work ethic continued to inspire me. I knew, just as they did, that I would have to work hard for what I wanted, but in a country that welcomed our enterprise.

Fast forward to today. I am joining a specialized group within Deloitte Consulting that helps shape technology strategy in mergers and acquisitions. HBX helped me get there.

I studied economics at George Mason University in Virginia. I thoroughly enjoyed my classes at GMU, but wanted more—I knew that to be successful I'd need to learn from the world too. This meant taking advantage of GMU's flexible schedule and accepting an internship at a local credit union. After my first year at the credit union, I was promoted to a full-time analyst, typically a position requiring a bachelor's degree, and became the youngest analyst in company's history. This meant undertaking a full schedule of night classes so I could work full-time during the week.

My work at the credit union inspired me to get closer to the action and sparked my passion for finance. I hoped the tools I was learning in my economics classes at GMU would prove useful in my career, but knew how competitive full-time opportunities in finance could be. If I wanted to enter the finance world, I knew I had to take a risk—so I did.

I left my salaried job at the credit union, right before I was to receive a promotion, and started an internship in private equity. I also decided to enroll in HBX CORe at the suggestion of a friend who had an incredible experience in the program. CORe was another risk, another thing to manage to juggle during an already busy final semester, but I knew that I wanted to experience something new and challenging, and would be forced out of my comfort zone.

HBX helped me rebrand myself. The four-month program exposed me to the fundamentals of business through three courses: Business Analytics, Financial Accounting, and Economics for Managers. We learned by analyzing case studies, which were a refreshing approach for me. I was able to take the concepts I’d learned and use them to improve our family business, explain what were once hard-to-grasp concepts to my peers, and excel in my final undergraduate semester by referencing HBX case studies to support points I made in presentations and classwork.

As I worked together with my CORe cohort online, I met people from places as near as Connecticut and as far as India and Italy. Our group was supportive and close-knit – like family. I would never have believed we would form such strong connections online, but many of us organized in-person meet ups to collaborate and study for the final exam—and a group of us will also be attending the second annual HBX ConneXt event in Boston this May!

I came into HBX with a desire to solidify what I had learned through my undergraduate economics degree. However, I left with much more. I now possess a refined understanding of critical business concepts that has proved useful at my private equity internship and will continue to help me as I transition into my new role at Deloitte.

When I received the offer from Deloitte, I realized that HBX helped me use my life experiences, work accomplishments, and undergraduate knowledge to become an independent woman, offering my skills to both my clients and my family. Today, I am able to help them make impactful managerial decisions for their small businesses, and, moreover, understand the global economy through differing lenses and perspectives.

I'm a first-generation American with years of sleepless nights and hard work under my belt. I have earned my place the hard way, as my parents did, in a country that took us with open arms. I am not a stranger in a strange land as they were, but opportunities are what we make of them. In the future, I plan to make it possible for immigrants and future generations to have the chance to succeed in a welcoming country. And I hope that I can start by inspiring people simply with my story.

Emil A Round-1.png

About the Author

Emily Ashtiani is a recent Economics graduate from George Mason University. She has a broad range of experience in banking technology and most recently completed a Private Equity internship covering the manufacturing and telecom sectors. She will be joining Deloitte Consulting in a technology and strategy role and is always looking for social impact opportunities.

Topics: HBX Student Spotlight

HBX Leading with Finance Student Spotlight: Eric Black

Posted by Eric Black on December 20, 2016 at 8:53 AM


Eric is a Director at Scholastic Entertainment who participated in the beta cohort of Leading with Finance. Along with his day job, he's also the co-owner of Lyla Tov Monsters, a stuffed animal company that he runs with his family.

Why did you decide to sign up for Leading with Finance?


I thought it would be useful for both my full-time job and my family business to understand some basic concepts of finance better. At Scholastic, I often work with other groups who are determining where and what money is being spent. For Lyla Tov Monsters, the class can help me plan for the future growth of the company.

What was your favorite part of the program?

My favorite part was definitely Unidentified Industries! That module required me to use information learned as well as common sense to puzzle out what industries were represented by their financial data. It was fun, informative, and made me think about finances in a way I hadn't previously considered.

How are you applying the skills you've learned in Leading with Finance?

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In my job at a publicly traded corporation, I have been able to change my viewpoint of daily goals and accomplishments. Instead of just completing tasks to achieve an end goal, I now look at that end goal and consider how it affects the company as a whole and if there are financial goals and benefits that will increase the value of the company. In my family business, I am able to see what aspects of the business should be prioritized in order to attain value from short-term and long-term plans and expenditures of capital.

Any advice for people who will be taking Leading with Finance?

The most important thing I would say is to schedule your time to be able to get through each module without rushing. There is a large amount of information in each module and, though you can get through it quickly if you need to, you’ll get more benefit from it if you can take the time to really consider and reflect upon the knowledge being imparted.

Interested in gaining a toolkit for making smart financial decisions and the confidence to clearly communicate those decisions to key internal and external stakeholders?

Learn more about Leading with Finance

Topics: HBX Student Spotlight, HBX Finance

Disrupting the Status Quo: Student Spotlight on Disruptive Strategy Participant Daniella Patrick

Posted by HBX on December 13, 2016 at 9:55 AM

2016-12-12 13_46_28-HBX Disruptive Strategy Student Profile _ Daniella - YouTube.png
Daniella Patrick, Accenture Innovation Lab Product Manager, STEM mentor, and HBX Disruptive Strategy Participant

Daniella Patrick breaks down barriers, opens doors, creates opportunity, empowers women, and redefines the way people view themselves and the worlds in which they live. By day, Daniella is an Innovation Lab Product Manager at Accenture—an international consulting firm working at the intersection of business and technology. As the Innovation Lab Product Manager, Daniella works with a team building digital solutions to disrupt the world of human resources. When she's not in the lab, Daniella is teaching and mentoring young women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and challenging the conventional thinking of "what an engineer looks like". 

While waitressing tables in high school, Daniella's grandmother questioned her as to what she wanted to do—how was she going to spend her life. Daniella knew she enjoyed improving processes, finding problems and employing new ways to solve them. Her grandmother suggested engineering and Daniella embraced it wholeheartedly. She made it her mission to learn mathematics and didn't stop until she earned a masters in Mathematics from New York University, adding to her BS in Mechanical Engineering. 

Daniella grew up knowing that no idea was too big and no dream was unattainable. Her mom, a single mother, was determined to succeed as a parent and still lead a successful career. Daniella points to her mom's creativity and resolve as inspiration, "When you have a life full of barriers and struggles, it's easy to succumb to it. It's easy to say this is all I can do. But for someone like my mom, she always pushed those limitations and never accepted no for an answer."

Daniella embraces and continues to build on her mother's approach to life. As a first generation college graduate, Daniella recognizes the importance of providing opportunities to people who thought they could never achieve their goals. She deems this "disrupting the status quo" and encourages us to think about the world as not just for a certain type of people—doing so, she says, will "change the way people envision the future." 

Want to learn more about disruption and other theories from Professor Christensen? Disruptive Strategy will equip you with the tools, frameworks, and intuition to make a difference.

Learn more about HBX Disruptive Strategy with Clay Christensen

Topics: HBX Student Spotlight, HBX Disruptive Strategy

Starting a Company (With Some Help from HBX CORe)

Posted by Elia Brodsky on December 1, 2016 at 12:11 PM


When I graduated from college, I started a digital advertising agency focused on video advertising, called VidAdBox. It was a first business we started with a friend and ran it without giving it much thought - we reported to ourselves and based most decisions on “gut feeling."  While projects came in and paid the bills, we struggled to grow. It was hard to find the time to work, plan, market, and use outside financing to scale our business. Several years later, I moved with my family from Israel to the US because we were expecting our second child and my wife wanted to be closer to her family.

Soon after we moved, I got involved in a project where I had a chance to work on a research project and see the power of high throughput molecular data. While the project was short-lived, the experience turned my attention to molecular data and its applications in personalized medicine – precision diagnostics, clinical trials, and drug repurposing. My father, who has been working in bioinformatics research most of his life, encouraged me to take a closer look at this new dynamic and use my business experience to build a company.

So we started. One of the first things on our list was obtaining equity financing. I was full of energy and creativity, but my previous small small business experience gave me limited tools to produce the necessary analysis of market trends and financial models that would be convincing to investors. I felt that I wasn’t prepared, but did not have the time or money to quit everything I was doing and go back to school to get an MBA. I decided to search for an alternative program that would give me some practical skills and introduce me to key ideas in business and finance. I also hoped to keep on working on this idea while gaining these critical skills. 


After some research, I decided HBX CORe was a good fit. The program was a good mix of flexibility and accountability and provided a relevant set of topics for what I was trying to do. It turned out to be a great decision.

While a lot of information about investor pitches can be found online, most of the time the process involves lots of conversations. Sometimes, you have to be ready to walk an investor through your financial projections and demonstrate your ability to build an accurate budget in a short amount of time. I had to learn how to summarize data and business metrics and then present them in meaningful ways—harnessing the power of excel and its associated tools was key. Equally as important was knowing the language of business to describe our models, because, as you may know, presentation matters. 

While introducing me to the “language of business," HBX CORe also provided me with tools I put to work immediately. It gave me a platform to discuss my ideas and difficulties with peers who had different experiences. Finally, I received a credential that was validation for my new skills.

While enrolled in the program, I worked hard on my pitch and business summary that was to be presented to an angel investor. As I learned about product pricing, we received market data and a convincing picture started to clarify. The numbers finally started making sense – we had a product that could be ready for market in time for it to mature. Compiling this information into a series of presentations, we were able to successfully raise the needed seed capital for our new company, Pine Biotech. A big part of it was negotiating a licensing agreement for the technology for our platform. But a plan is never enough—it is all about the execution. In our case, that meant growing our team and involving ourselves in projects where we could showcase the power of our technology.

Today, I am the CEO of our company. We are headquartered in Boston and New Orleans and have six people working on different aspects of the business. Our key product is a SaaS hybrid cloud platform, T-BioInfo, that provides easy access to analysis of molecular data for diverse teams, including biologists and bioinformaticians. The T-BioInfo platform enables researchers to analyze genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and other types of biomedical big data using an intuitive graphical user interface.

In addition to making multi-omics analysis accessible to non-bioinformatician biologists, the platform includes a wide range of machine learning tools and user-friendly visualization. By placing these advanced tools into the hands of clinical researchers and pharmaceutical R&D, we envision revolutionizing the way improved personalized healthcare is developed in the coming years. We are working on multiple projects to enable molecular profiling for matching patients to clinical trials, discovery of small molecules for therapeutics, vaccines, and identification of new cellular pathways as target candidates. 


While we are just at the beginning, we are starting to see the hard work pay off. We were able to apply for research grants and establish collaborations to develop the platform further. This year, we scored our first contracts. In October 2016, the Pine Biotech pitch won the grand prize at The Pistoia Alliance competition. We had to pitch in front of companies like Astra Zeneca, Merck, and Thomson Reuters. In December, we will be finishing the Propeller accelerator program.

I am excited to see how things will develop from here – it’s been a hard, but exciting journey. I am thankful for the HBX CORe team for making their educational content available online in a format that helped me develop some of the essential skills I needed.

The CORe community consists of a rich and diverse group of learners. Want to learn more about other students who've participated in the program?

Read Additional Student Profiles

About the Author

Elia Brodsky participated in the September 2015 cohort of HBX CORe and took the program to learn the business skills necessary to run his company. He currently serves as the CEO of Pine Biotech.

Topics: HBX CORe, HBX Student Spotlight

Military to Medical School

Posted by Marc Zavarella on November 10, 2016 at 12:53 PM


Past HBX CORe participant Marc Zavarella spoke to us about his transition from the military to Columbia University, as well as his plans to pursue a career in medicine.

What role did you serve in the military?

I was an Airborne Infantryman stationed with the 173rd Airborne and deployed to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. I was also part of an experimental team engaging in counter-insurgency asymmetric warfare to protect the construction of new infrastructure.

Why did you decide to transition out of the military?

Initially, I intended to transition to an officer from the infantry as I enlisted with a college education. However, during my deployment, I applied to several highly-ranked schools and received positive replies. Although my Commander gave me the keys to any avenue I could dream of pursuing in the military, I could not refuse the offer to attend a university like Columbia. 


How did you think about your transition to the private sector?

At first, my transition to a rigorous education program proved difficult as my studying routine and memorization skills were a bit rusty, and limited resources existed for veterans transitioning to the private sector. However, since that time, a number of organizations have popped up to help transitioning veterans find employment and apply to school. Thankfully, Columbia University offered a wealth of veteran support through their in-house liaison.

What forms of education did you consider, and why did you choose HBX?

My main goals were to learn science, understand and employ the scientific process through pre-medical coursework, ready myself for the MCAT examination required for medical school applications and employment in the healthcare industry. A neurosurgical mentor of mine suggested I explore the business side of healthcare which is how I discovered HBX. He suggested that having a business skill set will be valuable as I work to move healthcare forward and deliver the best possible healthcare to patients at affordable prices. 


What was your HBX experience like?

My experience with HBX was incredible. It was a rigorous program and I highly recommend Harvard Business School's transformational pedagogical model. There were times in the program where I struggled with the material, but the collaborative framework created an incredible sense of belonging and partnership between the participants. This program's structure also drove us to ask questions and search for the answers, instead of having them presented right to us. The active learning model allowed us to better understand the material and engage with eachother in meaningful ways.

What are your plans now?

I intend to complete my healthcare management program at Columbia while I apply to medical schools. I am at a “crucible moment” as I enter a wonderful and supporting marriage and face the decision of carrying on towards medical school or fully committing to physician training. However, I am extremely excited at the possibility that medical school holds. I find myself being happiest with the idea of being a physician executive employing a cost-friendly approach to patient-centered healthcare.


What advice would you have for others beginning their transition?

I would advise all transitioning veterans to reach for the stars. Do your research and work hard on your applications. Don't be afraid to ask your superiors for a recommendation and take every move you make seriously. Research the functionality of the GI Bill and how it can help you get to where you want to go. Ask questions—if you are interested in a school, call or visit to find out more. It is okay to ask for suggestions. Lastly, don’t sell yourself short. America is the land of opportunity, and if you seek an opportunity with the heart and desire that you put into volunteering for the military – you are bound to find happiness and a fulfilling career.

The CORe community consists of a rich and diverse group of learners. Want to learn more about other students who've participated in the program?

Read Additional Student Profiles

Topics: HBX CORe, HBX Student Spotlight

Q&A with HBX CORe Participant Jonathan Rossi

Posted by Jonathan Rossi on October 20, 2016 at 1:05 PM


We recently invited six past CORe participants to the HBX offices to participate in an upcoming ad campaign featuring real HBX students. Between shots, undergraduate financial aid representative Jonathan Rossi sat down with us and explained how CORe helped define his future education and career goals in data analytics.

Tell us how CORe inspired you to get into data analytics.

For the past three years, I’ve been working in an undergraduate admissions office doing financial aid work. I’ve always wanted to get back to my math-oriented background so that’s part of what drove me to CORe in the first place. As I was going through CORe, the Business Analytics course really sparked my interest. I went down this path of wanting to get back into statistics and data.

How did CORe complement what you studied in college?

I mainly studied theoretical math in college, so this was a new aspect and way of applying my math background in an impactful way. In the future, I want to apply the skills I’ve learned as a data scientist or data analyst, and that was very much spurred by CORe and my experience with Business Analytics.

How has CORe inspired you to continue your learning?

I just finished doing a data science bootcamp where we covered all of the statistics that I had learned in Business Analytics, but we also went into machine learning, model building, and coding. I learned to use Python and various machine learning packages and how to apply statistical knowledge to actual problems.

I’ve actually begun to apply this at work. I work a lot with Federal Pell grants, and we’re trying to get a sense of what populations of students are getting those grants and how that shifts from year to year. I’ve also been doing a few different side projects too – using Twitter data to predict when the Red Sox would win vs. lose based on the sentiment of the tweets, things like that.

What's next for you?

I hope to leverage the knowledge I gained in CORe to ultimately pursue data science full-time and eventually go back to school for an MBA or PhD.

The CORe community consists of students from many different backgrounds and career fields. Want to learn more about other students who've participated in the program?

Read Additional Student Profiles

Topics: HBX Student Spotlight, Student Spotlight

Q&A with HBX CORe Participant J. Holden Gibbons

Posted by J. Holden Gibbons on September 22, 2016 at 3:52 PM


Army veteran and past HBX CORe participant J. Holden Gibbons talks about how CORe allowed him to understand the language of business and help grow his non-profit, Veterans Combating Child Hunger.

Tell us a little bit about your organization.

When I was serving in Afghanistan with the Army, I saw how it had little arable land and lacked a lot of core assets, making it hard to support life. It made me see the United States in a new light; we live in this bountiful nation but don't value the land, water, or natural resources in the way we should. There are a ton of areas where we can improve efficiencies and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and technology.

I asked myself, how can we sustainably reuse this land, reduce greenhouse gases, get veterans involved in their community, and improve certain communities that oftentimes have poor nutrition? So, upon returning home, I founded Veterans Combating Child Hunger, an organization that seeks to involve the veteran community in sustainably farming undervalued real estate assets in communities throughout the United States.

How has CORe has helped with this venture?

HBX CORe is the type of program that helps you make a quantum leap and take what's in your head and translate it into real world success. One of the really nifty things about CORe is that the skill set they give you is directly applicable to what you are going through as an entrepreneur or a small business owner. On a day-to-day basis, I'm literally astounded by how often I use the coursework.

For example, with Economics for Managers, I'm constantly weighing how to utilize the farm's assets. Is it worth me spending a few hundred dollars to take a flight? That might not seem like the best short-term expenditure, but if I can expand the network which then amplifies later on, that may be a good decision to make. I am asking myself questions like what's the cost basis of this? What am I giving up to pursue that? Would I be better off not pursuing that?

Financially speaking, I really wanted Veterans Combating Child Hunger to be a self-sustaining corporation. We want to offer value added, we don't want to consistently be asking people for funds to get started. In accounting, we learned about “going concerns” so now I ask myself, what is the best way we can use our time, use our assets, to be able to bring sustainability and add more value to society?

What advice would you give entrepreneurs considering CORe?

Before you sign up or apply for CORe, I’d suggest you do a gut check and ask yourself whether you have the time to dedicate to mastering the material and building a network. To truly be successful in the program, it takes a lot of effort, it takes a lot of proactive decision-making, and you're really going to be expected to bring a large amount of focus. Not only that, you're also expected to integrate with your cohort and to help them through the platform.

You're expected to be a member of a community, and you are expected to put in a healthy amount of work. You need to look within yourself and ask, “Am I prepared to take three very intensive courses that require me to be the fulcrum of my learning?” In CORe, you’re conducting your own train. That train can take you as far as you want to go, and if you're on board all the way, there's really nowhere that you can't go.

The CORe community consists of a rich and diverse group of learners. Want to learn more about other students who've participated in the program?

Read Additional Student Profiles

Topics: HBX Student Spotlight, Student Spotlight

CORe Student Spotlight: Sheneka Balogun

Posted by Sheneka Balogun on July 28, 2016 at 2:42 PM


Sheneka Balogun is a Program Manager at Western Governors University who enrolled in the April 2015 cohort of HBX CORe in order to advance her career. She will be beginning an Ed.D. in Entrepreneurial Leadership at Johns Hopkins University School of Education this fall.

What do you do for work?

I am Program Manager in the College of Business at Western Governors University, one of the largest non-profit universities in the country that has been featured in Money Magazine, MSNBC, U.S. News, TIME, and even CNN for low-cost education that measures learning rather than seat time.

I performed consistently in the top 20% in the Mentoring Department and was promoted within a month of receiving my passing scores at HBX CORe.

Why did you decide to sign up for CORe?

I took CORe for several reasons. I wanted to advance in my career in higher education, and in order to do that I needed to better understand the core principles of business that would match my work ethic and high performance. I was eager to enroll in an MBA program and later pursue a terminal degree. Completing CORe, I thought, would position me to be a more competitive applicant during the admissions process.

What was your favorite part of the program?

Because there were so many facets of HBX CORe that I enjoyed and that were beneficial in me grasping an intricate understanding of the content, it's hard to single out just one part.

If I had to choose, I would say the interactive text throughout each module was my favorite part. Learning came to life! The videos from the professors, the interactive cold quizzes where you were randomly selected to participate (those gave me chills by the way!), the case studies that enhanced and often captured the essence of objectives and learning goals were all embedded in each module. This made learning fun, engaging, and student-friendly.

I think it's important to mention that the amount of support I felt during the CORe program was incredible! HBX CORe was much more than a tripod of rigorous courses. The sense of community that developed from all the various social platforms that were unique to HBX that provided me the platform to interact with other students from all over the world in various industries were instrumental in my application and understanding of the concepts.

See! I told ya it was hard to name just one favorite part!

How are you applying what you've learned in CORe?

At Western Governors University, measuring learning as opposed to seat time is at the core of what we do to improve student outcomes. As a Program Manager, I am constantly evaluating the current practices the College of Business, and even my individual team of graduate faculty have in place and seeking out innovative strategies that will reduce attrition, increase the number of graduates, and improve learning outcomes for our students.

"HBX CORe has provided me a dynamic understanding of how to measure and understand those outcomes. I can now confidently translate statistical data into a graphical presentation or employ different statistical techniques to help me better understand the pulse of student progress."

HBX CORe has prepared me so well that I was able to quickly matriculate through a number of courses in my MBA program because I understood the basic tenets of both accounting and economics. I also plan to carry those skills over into my newest academic pursuit as I begin working toward an Ed.D. in Entrepreneurial Leadership at Johns Hopkins University School of Education this fall.

The CORe community consists of a rich and diverse group of learners. Want to learn more about other students who've participated in the program?

Read Additional Student Profiles


Topics: Student Profiles, HBX CORe, HBX Student Spotlight

CORe Student Spotlight: J. Holden Gibbons

Posted by J. Holden Gibbons on October 6, 2015 at 4:18 PM

While a member of Combined Joint Special Operations Task-Force Afghanistan, Holden had the pleasure of serving alongside various international allies, including the Swedish Army, pictured here.

Holden Gibbons is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who returned home with a commitment to social change. He enrolled in the June 2015 HBX CORe cohort to realize his entrepreneurial ambitions and gain a strong business skillset. 

What prompted you to sign up for CORe?

I am the quintessential entrepreneur whose creativity and ambition is boundless. Yet I lacked some of the (no pun intended) core competencies to be able to bring my ideas to fruition. My first tech start-up failed in 2008 due to lack of financial and managerial discipline, and I joined the Army to be able to afford to go back to school and realign myself.

I told myself that before I would try to start another non-traditional business, I would do myself a favor and seek an educational foundation to allow me to understand, and converse, with the more corporate/fundamental side of the business world, on their terms. When I heard about CORe, I knew I had found the right program.

What was your favorite part of the program?

My favorite aspect, by far, was the truly astounding variety of students that HBX drew together for our cohort. I have met several of them in person, often resulting in significant gains for me intellectually and personally. I really cannot underscore the ability of HBX to use the power of the Harvard brand to bring together a truly impressive mix of individuals, who are motivated to impact the world around them, in a myriad of ways. Even though our cohort is all wrapped up, I am still meeting people, or deepening my connection with them, via social media and personal interactions.

How are you applying the skills you learned in CORe?

As a recent Honorably Discharged Veteran of the war in Afghanistan, I am working feverishly to use my life experience, and intellect, to create a more empathetic and sustainable world. To that end, I am currently completing my undergraduate education on the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

I am working with my University at the highest levels to increase Veteran enrollment, as well as catalyzing the Veteran community to better understand progressive issues that could use authentic Veteran support such as gender equality, civil rights (on many dimensions), financial reform, and access to quality education and employment.

Holden with fellow ROTC members and 40 of the 78 living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor gathered for a private memorial service in Cambridge, MA.Holden with fellow ROTC members and 40 of the 78 living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor gathered for a private memorial service in Cambridge, MA.

CORe has helped me make the business case for one of my main initiatives, Veterans Combating Child Hunger, which utilizes volunteer labor to sustainably farm vacant and delinquent land in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland, OH) for the purpose of engaging more stakeholders in the community, reducing government budget waste, reducing society's carbon footprint as it relates to food supply, and reducing government food subsidy reliance by replacing it, slowly, with locally scaled/owned/operated/sourced food.

Kevin, Lewis, China, Nicole, and Arzell during an impromptu outdoor classroom session covering urban agriculture, environmental awareness, and healthy nutrition.Kevin, Lewis, China, Nicole, and Arzell during an impromptu outdoor classroom session covering urban agriculture, environmental awareness, and healthy nutrition.

I have utilized all three courses taught in CORe to make the case, from Opportunity Cost (Economics for Managers), Ethics/concept of a “going concern” (Financial Accounting), to being able to identify and quantify hidden/significant variables via regression analysis (Business Analytics). We are now one week from our inaugural harvest, which will go to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland!

Recently, I have begun work on my first post-Army tech startup. My ability to not only have an amazing concept, but make the business case for it to potential Venture Capital/early stage investors, would not be holistic were it not for my newfound knowledge base, thanks to CORe.

I won’t pretend to be a perfect student, but since our cohort has finished, I have found myself continuously referencing my notes and ‘take away bundle’ to reaffirm my understanding of a concept, such that I can properly utilize it for my real world activities.

"CORe has been my Rosetta Stone in helping me to translate my ideas and visions for the world around me into empirical reality.“

KarmaBoard.com, a jobs board/social media platform that connects businesses/employees/customers that share the same values, (and mobile app versions) will be launching in Spring/Summer of 2016, and CORe helped me communicate effectively with stakeholders necessary to make that happen. In the Army, as a member of the Infantry we had a saying, “jack of all trades, master of none.” With the help of CORe, you can be a “jack-of-all-trades,” and the master of your own trajectory.

Any advice for people who will be taking CORe?

I have two suggestions: First, try to look at the course syllabus beforehand and try (your best) to set aside appropriate time to be able to digest material, and be able to interact with others in the discussion tabs, complete the modules/weekly assignments thoughtfully. It is important to offer help to those who might not be as quick as you, for you may be in the same boat down the line! This will also help save you undue stress as technical issues and last minute time crunches will inevitably crop up.

Second, reach out to as many people, from as many different backgrounds, as possible. Often times, “birds of a feather flock together,” holds true, but that would strip CORe of one of its primary features: the diversity of your fellow cohort members. I shamelessly ‘added’ everyone in my cohort on social media, and don’t regret it, at all. I have been challenged, supported, and enriched by all of them, and I know this will only continue as I maintain and grow these personal relationships.


The CORe community consists of a rich and diverse group of learners. Want to learn more about other students who've participated in the program?

Read Additional Student Profiles


Topics: Student Profiles, HBX CORe, HBX Student Spotlight