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HBX Business Blog

A Student's Journey from Disruptive Strategy to The Capitalist’s Dilemma

Posted by Farsh Askari on June 22, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Clay Christensen filming in the HBX Studio with his Disruptive Strategy Team

I’m definitely more the “English major type,” but I understand why having some business acumen is important. So, rather than always perusing the fiction bestseller list, I sometimes opt for books by lauded economic scholars and business leaders imparting new financial concepts and theories.

I try to grasp as much as I can, but these works tend to be data heavy and pedantic, packed with graphs and economic statistics supporting prescriptive mechanisms to achieve financial targets, so after a few chapters my mind starts wandering. Then I discovered Professor Clay Christensen’s work.

Professor Christensen is one of the world’s top experts on innovation and economic growth—so I decided to read his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. I was captivated. Professor Christensen’s ideas were both novel and highly practical. After reading The Innovator’s Dilemma, I wanted an even more refined understanding of disruption theories, so taking Professor Christensen’s online HBX course, Disruptive Strategy, seemed like a good idea. It proved to be that and more.

Disruptive Strategy not only afforded me some of the most insightful and exciting business knowledge I have gained to date, but did so in a digestible and compelling way. Professor Christensen infused his course with a lot of what other business materials and teaching tools lacked – stories. He presented his theories of disruptive innovation (which are innovative and compelling in and of themselves) through stories with protagonists that have applied his theories to disrupt and improve their industries—ultimately benefitting both consumers and the economy.

In taking the course, I gleaned a strong sense of the possibilities for good social impact that smart business application can yield. This was the business story I had been looking for and it compelled me to seek greater involvement with Professor Christensen’s work.

That led me to my current position working with The Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School. The Forum for Growth and Innovation is a research initiative funded by Harvard Business School and guided by Professor Christensen. The purpose of the Forum’s research activities is to develop and disseminate sound, actionable, and prescriptive theory that general managers can apply in their most critical growth and innovation decisions. In Clay’s words:

"We launched the Forum for Growth and Innovation with the goal of pushing innovation and growth research in new directions, all while keeping an eye on the practical implications for people running actual companies.

Our goal is not so much to teach our community what to think, but rather to continually better understand how to think."

The Forum is currently engaged in the active research phase of collecting insights from alumni and industry experts to produce The Capitalist’s Dilemma book, which will be an expanded an updated iteration of the Harvard Business Review article of the same title. The book is an examination into why capitalists aren’t investing in the kind of innovations that lead to long-term economic prosperity and job growth. 

With the current economic and political climate, the ideas and theories in the book have acquired even greater relevance and urgency. As someone who loves a great story, my hope is the book will serve as a catalyst for re-igniting and re-telling the story of inspiring entrepreneurship that leads to robust economic growth and social good.  

About the Author

Professor Mike Wheeler

Farsh Askari is a Community Manager for the Forum for Growth & Innovation at Harvard Business School—a research project guided by Professor Clay Christensen. Prior to joining FGI, Farsh served as a Faculty Specialist in the Division of Research and Faculty Development at HBS.

He took both HBX CORe and Disruptive Strategy and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Law and Society from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Topics: Student Bloggers, Disruptive Strategy

Why Your STEM Career Requires Business Skills

Posted by Kyle Rosenmeyer on April 27, 2017 at 9:46 AM

STEM Blog_Sewer Pipes.pngFrom a very young age, I was interested in design. Toys that could be infinitely reconfigured like Legos and SimCity captured my imagination for hours. Interests at home influenced my interests at school, and by age 13, they had coalesced into the goal of becoming an engineer. This drive grew, and propelled me for over a decade, to graduation day at Boise State University. I had done it. I had become a Civil Engineer and had landed a job in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Discovering STEM

Looking back at my childhood, I can’t remember how old I was when I first heard the acronym STEM, although today it's a difficult word to miss in the education world. In a day and age where technology moves the world forward by leaps and bounds and cities are larger than ever in history, the demand for both STEM professionals and innovation is increasing exponentially. STEM programs and messaging have increased in schools to help meet this demand. However, spending time in the workforce uncovered another message for me that hadn’t been drilled in: understanding business is critical to success in STEM. 

Why an Engineering Degree is not Enough

I loved working as an engineer, but in order to prepare myself for future jobs, I needed business acumen. Senior engineers and division and department heads all use more business skills in day-to-day work than engineering skills. My STEM education gave me a way to solve problems and think logically, but I needed to understand accounting tools, financial reports, and markets to compete. I hadn’t studied business in school, so I started looking. Free workshops to six figure master’s programs, I found HBX CORe somewhere in the middle of the range, at 12 weeks and a fraction of the price of a master’s degree. For me, it was a great fit to learn business fundamentals as a busy professional.

The Impact of HBX CORe

I took CORe in 2016 and I have great things to report. I am more confident in my current role and tackling the jobs that I want. I was even able to turn my photography hobby into a side business. HBX CORe offered an amazing opportunity to learn from the experts at Harvard Business School, interact with students all over the world, and, in my case, reconnect with my local university.

CORe provided a new lens to understand the world that I didn’t experience while studying engineering. Regular tasks in work are now easier to navigate: requesting budgets, managing expenses on construction projects, using data to drive decision making, and communicating with coworkers in finance. Business fundamentals helped me contribute more to my organization, during meetings, and in general communications—it helped me do better work and stand out in my field. 

Business is important to any STEM career. The blend of skills between business and STEM educations are formidable in today’s market place. Companies need to think differently to solve today’s problems and this requires increased versatility and innovation at the employee level to move the organization to the next level. Even if you don’t want to be CEO or CFO, you will need a business skill set. You must work with money, budgets, and financial teams to be effective and impactful. However, regardless of your career, most paths ahead of you involve business. The higher you work up the org chart, the more business skills you'll need to lead people and teams, and effectively run organizations. 

If you’re working in STEM, I'm confident you want to change the world. Use my story as an example that knowing and understanding business significantly helps. Use business skills to compliment your education and stand out for the job you want. I’ve had great opportunities in my career to work in both private and public sectors—building the same sewers and roads that I simulated building 20 years earlier in a video game. And working for my hometown, the City of Boise, has proved to be an incredibly rewarding place to make an impact and the most satisfying time of my life. Thank you HBX for giving me a new tool to build and shape my life.

About the Author

Kyle Rosenmeyer is a practicing engineer in Boise, Idaho. He Headshot of Kylereceived his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from Boise State University and has spent over 10 years working on infrastructure in transportation and waste water collection systems. Kyle is an advocate for mentorship and community involvement, leading the professional development programs for the Boise Young Professionals Network and volunteering on a regular basis. 

Topics: HBX CORe, Student Bloggers

4 Ways Managing Your Career Development Made an Impact on Me

Posted by Dr. Nupur Kohli on March 2, 2017 at 2:02 PM


Participating in the pilot cohort of Managing Your Career Development was a whole new experience for me. When I got selected, I was enthusiastic about the topics we'd be covering and excited to take part in a course held entirely in the HBX Live virtual studio, but the course far exceeded my expectations.

Here are four ways the course prepared me to navigate my career more effectively:

1. It Moves You!

This is not just a class where you show up to just sit and listen. It spurs you into action. You are asked to work together with other students and to reflect on your own life experiences. You come across many familiar situations in the cases you study, but also new ones that encourage you to problem solve in an intelligent way.

2. The Real Class Experience

Despite being held in a virtual classroom, Managing Your Career Development gives you a real classroom experience and face-to-face interaction with a number of top-notch Harvard Business School faculty members.

From absorbing insights from different professors, to interacting with your fellow students in discussions and always being prepared for the possibility of a cold call, it is an exciting and engrossing way to learn! It's important to give the class session your full attention, because it's easy to miss valuable information otherwise.

3. Diversity in a Nutshell

Each session is taught by a different professor with their own style of teaching and topic of expertise. This diversity in a short time span makes the experience unique. It also forces you to broaden your mindset and to take all different aspects of each class with you to the next one.

4. A Network to Build Upon

Most students from my cohort who participated in Managing Your Career Development are at a certain point in their career where they want a change or are ready to take the next steps. This is a powerful network. Not only do you interact live with each other in class, but there are also discussions outside of class to prepare for the next session. You learn a lot from the others and also about yourself. It's challenging but fulfilling.

This was a valuable experience, and I'm so glad to have had it. I apply all that I learned time and time again, and the course has enabled me to take the next steps in my career.


About the Author

Dr. Nupur Kohli participated in the September 2015 HBX CORe cohort. She is author of the upcoming book Chill! How to Survive Stress and Improve Personal and Professional Productivity. Symptoms and Solutions to Chronic Pressure and is setting up a company, Lead In Shape, to guide organizations on how to manage corporate stress and increase productivity. She is an aspiring MBA student with a focus on medical entrepreneurship.

Topics: Student Bloggers, Managing Your Career Development

Starting an NGO with Skills Gained from HBX CORe

Posted by Azizjon Azimi on October 11, 2016 at 11:19 AM


My name is Aziz and I am a recent New York University graduate who enrolled in the June 2015 cohort of HBX CORe. Since completing CORe, I have nurtured my entrepreneurial skills to a new level and have successfully launched a start-up NGO, TajRupt, in my home country of Tajikistan.

TajRupt works on three fronts: renewable energy (providing solar lanterns to tens of thousands of underprivileged children), subsidized financing (allocating grants to gifted students to pursue university education), and anti-corruption (launching an online platform for reporting of bribery cases in universities). I have extensively used my HBX CORe skills to define the operational business model and effectively work on grant proposals with my peers. 

Business Analytics - Drawing conclusions from conducting randomized audits and analyzing data samples 

We were initially planning to launch a microfinance institution that would provide low-interest student loans modelled after the UK Student Loans Company system. To gauge public interest in the program, we posted surveys on Tajik social media groups and sent them out electronically in a randomized manner – exact steps taken in one of the course examples. After receiving survey results that pointed to low public interest in the microfinance venture, we were convinced that the student loan program would be tough to launch in a country where public trust in financial institutions is at an all-time low due to a stiff financial crisis. Thus, we decided to focus our efforts on strictly non-commercial aspects in the beginning in order to build a proper reputation that would then increase public confidence in the organization and strategically differentiate us (a concept from Economics for Managers). This strategy will allow us to launch a microfinance program in a period of one to two years.

Economics for Managers - Fixed and variable cost breakdown 

While my team and I were preparing our grant proposals for the Ministry of Finance, we conducted extensive contrastive fixed and variable cost analyses and adjusted the metrics several times in order to yield the least operationally expensive model by bringing down the variable cost to minimal levels. In our case, renting space for offices and Educational Resource Centers (ERCs) produced variable costs that were too high. To curb this, we transformed the office variable expense into a fixed cost by opting to purchase a small headquarters office as opposed to continuously paying rent. We also eliminated the variable cost associated with ERCs by formalizing an agreement with the Ministry of Education and Science to host ERC activities at administrative offices of the Ministry in five districts of our operation.

Financial Accounting - Cash flow analysis 

Due to the fact that we receive $3.3 million in international grant funds in continuous annual payments from the Ministry of Finance as opposed to one single transaction, we had to properly amend our income statements for annual categorization to prevent over-spending. This prompted us to use a number of course concepts including operating expense ratio (OER) to gain insights into our financial standing and ensure project sustainability.

Thank you, HBX CORe!

By utilizing the network of amazing individuals that I had the pleasure of meeting through HBX, I was able to pursue my dream project and secure over $3 million in grants from the Eurasian Development Bank and OPEC Fund for International Development. Thanks to CORe, I was able to make my dream of launching a start-up NGO come to life.

Interested in learning Financial Accounting, Business Analytics, and Economics for Managers?

Learn more about HBX CORe


About the Author

Azizjon Azimi participated in the June 2015 cohort of HBX CORe. He is a recent college graduate whose experience with CORe helped him to launch his education-focused NGO, TajRupt.

Topics: HBX CORe, Student Bloggers, Student Spotlight

What Artists, Activists, and Other Alternatives Can Get Out of HBX CORe

Posted by Tiara Shafiq on August 30, 2016 at 1:05 PM


At first glance, I seem like the last person to ever consider taking a course like HBX CORe. I am deeply rooted in arts and social justice, most of my peers critique capitalism at every turn, and financial documents make me yawn. However, I do love learning, and have a philosophy of signing up to anything that seemed interesting - and HBX CORe seemed intriguing enough to try. To my surprise, I found HBX CORe far more engaging than I anticipated, and I was able to find many ways to connect my background and my values with my learning experience.

Understanding analytics can protect you from being exploited by misleading information and fine-tune your knowledge in an area of interest.

Statistics of all kinds are commonly used to persuade or advocate for any position - this group is correlated with high crime rates, or this diet change correlates to massive weight loss, for example. It’s easy to be confused by a random p-value or the use of a different kind of “average” (mean, mode, median) than expected - and unfortunately many take advantage of that confusion to present false information.


Being able to read and understand analytical data helps you be more discerning: you are able to recognize when someone is misusing data to push an agenda, know what the results actually say, and can draw more solid conclusions. On the flip side, understanding basic analytical skills – such as linear regression or surveying – can help you better understand your topic of interest and be able to communicate your findings accurately: from community opinion polls about a recent Governmental measure to what you should sell at your next Artist’s Alley booth.

Accounting is really all about organizing how money comes in and goes out in a business.

At first I found the whole concept of financial accounting daunting and dreadful; I could never make sense of all these profits and losses, and actually shied away from starting various projects because I didn’t think I could handle the financial paperwork. However, through HBX CORe I learned that all those documents are really just different ways of recording and organizing financial transactions that happen in a business: every purchase, sale, loan, investment, even tax and depreciation.

Start with a record of every transaction, organize them into categories (“accounts”), and from there group similar accounts together to see where the money is going. Once all that data is organized, the ratios to figure out things like profit margins or cash conversion cycles become very straightforward. How quickly are you going through your inventory? How much profit are you earning relative to the costs of your business? When do you pay off your debt, when do you get paid by your customers, and how long does this take?

Even if you don’t plan to start a business, knowing what those terms refer to can help make sense of big financial news, such as a company's IPO or prospectus release. You get a sense for where those companies’ priorities lie and which areas are stronger than others.

Understanding economics concepts can really strengthen your political/social justice position (and HBX CORe is a welcoming space for it)!

Through my strong involvement in intersectional activism, I’ve learned a lot about how capitalism and mainstream economics can become oppressive forces for marginalized communities. Certain parts of the Economics module in particular became very challenging and somewhat frustrating because it felt like they did not really dive deeper into the socio-political implications or critiques of those theories.


I decided that, rather than be silenced for fear of jeopardizing my grades, I was going to take this opportunity to bring my passion and experience to the program. I drew connections between what we learned in class and how they applied to the wider world outside our HBX bubble. I spoke up about the real-world impacts of minimum wage and illustrated the connection between Willingness to Pay and sex worker rights. While these conversations were sometimes very heated, I found that my coursemates and even the professors were open to my critique, with many appreciating the varying perspectives I brought to the table. 

Our work and perspectives have value.

As artists, activists, change makers, community builders, creatives, and others with more alternative life paths, we are often surrounded by messaging telling us that our work is not worth as much, that it’s frivolous and not as important as being rich and successful. While we may not seem like the target market for a business course like CORe, there’s actually a lot of material within that we have every right to adopt, make our own, and benefit from understanding – from being willing to price ourselves by our true value (rather than undersell ourselves), to tracking concrete measurements of the value we give and receive. There will be plenty of people in your cohort that are more than willing to listen to your point of view and respect you for sticking to your values.

You may not ever need to make profit and loss statements or set up a multiple variable linear regression in Excel, but at the very least you’ll understand another powerful language to navigate the world - and make it more like the world we envision.

Interested in learning Financial Accounting, Business Analytics, and Economics for Managers?

Learn more about HBX CORe


About the Author

Tiara Shafiq earned a Pass with High Honors in the January 2016 cohort of HBX CORe. She is passionate about liminality, identity, and community, and has over five years of experience in the arts, media, community cultural development, tech, education, and activism. Tiara has recently relocated to Melbourne, Australia, and is busy seeking out opportunities for work, creativity, and community. Visit her at creatrixtiara.com.

Topics: HBX CORe, Student Bloggers

5 Ways I Grew My Network with CORe

Posted by Dr. Nupur Kohli on August 23, 2016 at 5:07 PM

Students meeting in person at HBX Connext

When I got my acceptance letter for HBX CORe, I did not know what to expect from the program. Aside from significantly enhancing my knowledge about the fundamentals of business, CORe also grew my personal network. Don't underestimate how powerful this is! Here are some ways I was able to meet new people thanks to CORe:

1. Getting social

After you get accepted into CORe, you have the opportunity to join your cohort's Facebook group. Not only do you get to share knowledge with your peers, but you also get to know your classmates from all around the world on a personal level. You will learn how everyone lives and works all over the world, what opinions they have, and they will definitely make you laugh from time to time!

2. On the course platform

Facebook isn't the only way to reach out to your peers; the CORe platform is set up in such a way that everyone fills out a profile with professional and educational details. You can also include social media handles as well as personal information - everyone is free to choose how much they want to share. Apart from that, there is significant interaction on the course platform with fellow students - you're even graded on your participation! You quickly get a sense for what others are good at and how they can help you, and vice versa.

3. Face-to-face meetings

I had the wonderful opportunity to travel all the way from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Harvard Business School for HBX ConneXt - an event with past HBX participants as well as the HBX faculty and staff. Meeting fellow HBX students face-to-face helped me to make better connections with my peers as well as to grow my network even more.

There weren't many students from my cohort in the Netherlands, so I hadn't had the opportunity to have any face-to-face meetings with my peers prior to coming to ConneXt. However, if there are HBX peers in your area, make sure you meet them. People who are part of HBX CORe are intelligent and have incredibly interesting backgrounds that you might only get to know about if you meet up in person.

4. Reaching out after the course

Even though I took CORe a year ago, I am still in touch with the friends I met through the program and am still growing my network. After working intensively together for months online, we are still just a click away if we want ask our cohort for help or just share a nice experience or success.

5. Past and future students

My network has continued to grow in the past year as I have connected with more and more people who took, are taking, or will take part in an HBX course. HBX offers multiple cohorts every year, and I've heard from a number of past participants and prospective students who want to know more about my experiences, share knowledge, or set up partnerships.

There are plenty of informal groups that have formed in order to connect with participants across different cohorts of CORe and I've even heard from some companies who saw my connection with HBX and wanted to share professional opportunities with me.

When you take CORe, you show that you are taking an extra step beyond your busy job, school work, and life to expand your knowledge or help make a decision about your future. People see that and connect with you. I am happy to tell everyone who asks that HBX CORe is not just another online course, but a great one that simulates a real-life class experience online!


About the Author

Dr. Nupur Kohli participated in the September 2015 HBX CORe cohort. She is author of the upcoming book Chill! How to Survive Stress and Improve Personal and Professional Productivity. Symptoms and Solutions to Chronic Pressure and is setting up a company, Lead In Shape, to guide organizations on how to manage corporate stress and increase productivity. She is an aspiring MBA student with a focus on medical entrepreneurship.

Topics: HBX CORe, Student Bloggers

My HBX Journey: Why I Took CORe, and You Should Too!

Posted by Sam Campbell on July 19, 2016 at 11:19 AM


This post is from The Bitter Student, an online multimedia forum started by past HBX CORe participant Sam Campbell. Click here to see the original article.

In early May, I traveled to Boston, MA to attend the HBX ConneXt conference at Harvard Business School. The institution invited students who completed the online educational platform, HBX. I was a participant in HBX CORe and was part of the June 2015 cohort (shout out to my fellow classmates!).

CORe provides the fundamentals -- the ‘core’ concepts -- of business (accounting, analytics, and economics) from leading Harvard Business School faculty, who use the renowned case-study method.

In this post, I hope I can not only discuss my experience and journey with HBX CORe last summer and my trip to HBS, but hopefully, I can also provide some valuable insight and also inspire others to take these or similar courses.

As with any story, there was a beginning. That beginning was in June of 2015. At that time, I thought there would be no end. I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, as you might say. Note: this is not where my inspiration or jollification starts.

I was still an underclassman in college, and had just concluded my first year. I was completing a full-time internship on top of the twelve hours of course work a week. The courses started right when school ended, and the program spilled over into the start of my sophomore year.

I remember groggily working on these courses after being brain dead from work or while at the beach with friends. The silver lining in all of this though was that I was not alone. There were multiple students who were completing this program during an internship, a 40+ hour work week, or other time-consuming commitments.

A takeaway here is: do not go into these courses thinking you can wing anything, or that the time commitment will be easy to juggle with other responsibilities. It’s possible to pass, but nearly impossible. We learned at the HBXConneXt conference that procrastinators were more likely to fail CORe, while those who focused their efforts more efficiently were more likely to reach high honors. Those who do not put work off and get ahead of their tasks are more likely to be successful in the long run (see chart below).


During the conference in May, there was a session titled: “What’s Next for Online Learning: A Conversation” featuring Anne Dwane (Partner & Co-Founder, GSV Acceleration), Larry Culp (former CEO of Danaher Corp. and senior lecturer at HBS), and Chip Paucek (CEO & Co-Founder at 2U, Inc.). The guest speakers mentioned a couple of thoughts (of which I, of course, took note) about what they think when they see HBX CORe on someone’s resume. I am paraphrasing here; nonetheless, the speakers noted:

  1. Desire. Hunger. Self-motivation. Bias to invest in oneself.
  2. Lead & win potential.
  3. Talent in plain sight.
  4. Risk takers because they had confidence in an organization's newly founded program and confidence in themselves to complete the program.
  5. Real results. Hard work. Not superficial.
  6. Aspiration.

Why persist, you might ask?

I can’t speak on behalf of my cohort, but I persisted for three reasons:

  1. I believe knowledge is more than the timeless idiom, “knowledge is power.” Knowledge isn’t just power. Knowledge can be used to empower. It equips us with the tools to help us make a difference in the world.
  2. As Michael Priest tells us this in his book 101 Things I Learned in Business School, "Those most likely to be successful in business in the long run have the broadest and most open understanding of it.” 
  3. We are at a time in history and live in a world where we need leaders now more than ever.

Community and connection

The platform also requires you to connect and interact with peers. One aspect of the grading is participation. My advice: answer others’ questions as much as possible! Not only are you increasing your grade, but also, as you explain these perplexing concepts to peers – you are learning the material better. Your knee-jerk reaction is to speed through the course, but go ahead and spend the extra hour. This is another great way to make lasting connections because you are investing in others’ education, not just your own.

Once you’re signed up for the program, you have the opportunity to join your classmates in one large Facebook group, as well as cohort-specific Facebook groups. As you start to browse their profile, yep, Facebook stalk, your section mates, you’ll quickly realize how unaccomplished you are. No, really. These accomplished adventurers you will meet are CEO’s of Silicon Valley startups, aids in Washington, DC, and interns at Facebook. They are world changers, to say the least. So, don’t just grow your LinkedIn profile – communicate with these people. Network. Establish relationships.

Putting it all together

The question I have been asked the most, “So what else did you get from this program?” The course taught us the language of business, and it also taught us how to take a case and apply the principles we learned. It challenged us mentally and intellectually, to think critically and analytically. And it taught us how to visualize problems and solutions through a different lens.

After 11 weeks of a rigorous work load – there were three finals to prepare for, that we took at one time at a testing center, that is timed, where there is a whole thirty second break, so you have just enough time to breath (maybe).

Reflecting back to the beginning, I never thought I’d finish. It was a dark tunnel for the longest time, and I still cannot believe I passed. I told myself the entire way, even if I failed the entire thing – I was going to make it to the very end. I could forgive myself if I failed; I could get back up from failure, but I could not forgive myself if I gave up.

These courses were an uphill battle. It was an incredibly difficult journey to get from point A to point B. But does anything actually worth having come easy? Experience CORe, or similar courses – it’s worth the challenge; challenge yourself (in ways you never thought possible) make connections, and use this knowledge to change your world and the world around you.


Thank you, Harvard Business School and Professors Bharat Anand, Jan Hammond, and V.G. Narayanan for this incredible and enlightening journey.

Sam Campbell

About the Author

Sam Campbell participated in the June 2015 cohort of HBX CORe. He is a college student and manager of an online multimedia forum called The Bitter Student.

Topics: HBX CORe, Student Bloggers

Gaining a Competitive Edge in the Job Hunt: HBX CORe Students Share Their Experiences

Posted by HBX on June 14, 2016 at 3:15 PM


We launched our first cohort of HBX CORe in June 2014. Two years later, we checked in with a few members of our pioneer cohort to see how CORe has made a difference in their lives.

Opening Doors in the Building Industry


I study Architecture, Construction Engineering and Management at Illinois Tech in Chicago. I also work as a design and construction intern at the Duchossois Group. CORe was instrumental in my decision to study construction management and helped me to better understand the potential roles I could play within the building industry.

A plethora of possibilities started to open up after taking the course. Previously, I had only truly imagined myself practicing the technical aspects of my education but CORe helped me see and start to work towards my place as a leader within the building and infrastructure industry.

Economics for Managers was influential in helping me understand how leadership within various industries could make strategic decisions to create value. It was incredibly fascinating to finally understand the constant balance of proactive and reactive decisions and strategies business leaders used to understand markets and as a result people.

Rounding Out Liberal Arts Educations 


CORe enabled me to become more business-focused; I always knew that I wanted to enter the business world, but coming from a liberal arts background I needed to expand upon my experience to understand what that really meant. Competing against undergraduates from business institutions can be intimidating, but understanding even basic terminology can help put your mind at ease.

CORe gave me the background and confidence to pursue a business career after college. It even helped shape an independent study that I conducted during my senior year at Bowdoin, looking at Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives at four major banks in the United States. I do not think I would have applied this interest to corporate banks had I not had an introduction to the foundations of the business world from HBX CORe.

As I began interviewing for full-time positions during my senior year, HBX CORe definitely helped me stand out among my peers. I truly understand the value of a liberal arts education, and that is something that I would never replace. However, coming out of a liberal arts institution with some sort of an introduction to the business world is unbelievably valuable.

Since HBX CORe was still so new when I completed the program, I really caught the eye of many interviewers and companies interested in learning more about it. The knowledge that I gained helped me tremendously as I interviewed and looked into different companies to join upon graduation.

I know that CORe has set me up well for a future in the business world and I would love to pursue an MBA in the future.

Giving Engineers a Competitive Edge 


When I took HBX CORe, I was in my sophomore year of college and had begun actively thinking about my future career. I had heard of all of the great advantages of having both a science and business background but I was worried that I would struggle if I took business classes in school.

CORe really broke down all of the business concepts I had vaguely heard of and introduced new material in the clearest way with unique examples. My experience with the CORe program gave me the confidence to pursue my Business Administration minor and I plan to apply for an MBA in the future.

Having CORe listed on my resume has really helped me stand out to potential employers. Every internship interview I have had since participating in this program has involved me explaining this program and its benefits. Most employers are surprised to find an engineering student with a background in business so it usually makes me seem more impressive and gets me closer to getting through the door.

I plan to become an Industrial Engineer and explore how to improve complex systems and processes. I know that pursuing knowledge of business with my background in engineering will shape my career path in unexpected ways.

Instilling Confidence to Pursue Careers in Financial Consulting


CORe helped me solidify my knowledge of financial analysis and introduced me to the world of business analytics. Coming from a primarily non-finance background, HBX definitely provided me with the confidence needed to continue pursuing a career in financial analysis and consulting.

HBX has been discussed in every single interview I’ve had since completing the program and I’m fairly certain that the HBS brand helped me land a few of those interviews. A few times the program has been met with skepticism, but when you begin to explain how the structure of the program and the platform itself are unique compared to traditional online coursework people begin to warm up to it and ask more questions. It really boils down to it being the best online replication of a real-life classroom that I’ve ever experienced. When I reflect upon the experience, it actually feels like I was in a real classroom.

Creating Relevant Conversations with Prospective Employers


I took CORe for an introduction into the language of business that would complement my STEM education. I was doing mostly technical classes at school, but I was interested in business as well. After the program, I realized I wanted to pursue a career in technical management and business.

I actually decided to apply for my upcoming position partly because of CORe. I got interested in Amazon after the case study about them in one of the program modules. Learning about some of the principles behind their operations motivated me to do in-depth research about the company.

The case study was part of the conversation when I first connected with recruiters during a career fair and CORe also came up during an on-site interview. I explained how the certificate would help me transition from a very technical background into a more business oriented position, and it must have worked because I got the job!

What can CORe do for you?

Learn more about HBX CORe

Topics: Student Profiles, HBX CORe, Student Bloggers, HBX Insights

The 5 Most Inspiring Moments From HBX ConneXt

Posted by Kayla Lewkowicz on May 12, 2016 at 1:16 PM


When I think of a traditional residential college, I picture ivy-covered brick buildings, stately Greco-Roman facades, and checkered-floor libraries filled floor-to-ceiling with books. Essentially, I picture Harvard’s stately campus.

When I signed up for HBX CORe, Harvard Business School’s online-only cohort focused on business fundamentals, I didn’t think much about community. After all, it was “just something I was taking online.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Hundreds of HBX past participants gathered at Harvard Business School this past Saturday for HBX ConneXt to celebrate exactly that. After engaging in spirited online debates, e-meeting people from Bangalore to Baltimore, and messaging directly with my fellow cohort, I was able to put faces to names, hear their stories, and make real, in-person connections with people I had interacted with for months.

Between student panels, a campus tour, and faculty sessions throughout the day, I felt inspired—and ready—to take on the mission of HBS: making a difference in the world.

Here are a few of the moments that inspired me the most from HBX ConneXt:

“With [online education], the constraint is only the motivation and talent of individuals looking to better themselves.”  

--Professor Bharat Anand

Professor Bharat Anand opened the day by discussing the transformational power of education. He explained that traditional education is a privilege because of scarcity, and that scarcity comes only from the literal, physical constraints of a college campus. With online, that’s completely changed.

If you’re motivated to make yourself better and to learn, you’re able to more than ever. He reminded us that it’s ok to never have done something before. HBX ConneXt was “the first time we’ve had a gathering of students we’ve taught…but never met.”


“Trying to understand the customer is the wrong unit of analysis. You need to understand the job that needs to be done.”

--Professor Clay Christensen

As a marketer, I constantly focus on customer demographics: who are they, what they care about, and their daily habits. Professor Christensen flipped this on its head during his faculty session and spoke of instead the job that needs to be done. What problem does your product solve?

Rather than focusing on differentiating by product, differentiate by solution. Ultimately, our characteristics don’t cause us to buy something—the flow of daily life does.

“As much as I love math and analysis, the hard stuff is what we traditionally call the ‘soft stuff’: managing people.”

--Professor Jan Hammond

HBX CORe provides a common language of business: how to understand your finances, analyze trends and performance, and bring your product to market. But the next step for all of us is the soft skills.

Professor Hammond emphasized learning how to lead an organization in skills like analytics, but also in mindset. She also encouraged us to push ourselves and each other to be the bestwe can be, and to gather people around us who will always ask why.


“Be substantive, not superficial. It’s real results that matter.”

--Larry Culp, Senior Lecturer of Business Administration at HBS and former CEO of Danaher Corporation

As a former CEO, Larry’s advice gave great insight into what real business leaders care about day-to-day. He focused on education as an important self-investment and the sense that people are more important than numbers. Encouraging us to take the long view on issues and on our careers, he talked about maintaining a “continuous improvement” mindset.

We can no longer pretend that doing things as we’ve always done them will be successful. By building a culture where you can say, “I don’t know—but I’ll go find out,” and positioning problems as opportunities, not failures, makes a difference in the success of your company, but also of your career.

“Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.”

--Anne Dwane, Partner & Co-Founder, GSV Acceleration

For the closing panel, Anne emphasized the opportunity education provides us to become more knowledgeable, but also to become better people. She encouraged us to “create more value than you take,” and to continually give back to our communities. 

Today’s workforce is changing, and traditional ways to select for talent aren’t working. We all need to remember that it’s not just about doing everything correctly, but about seeking a path forward—particularly as we start to co-work more frequently with machines.

The real value of HBX was the ability to learn and meet new people completely different from me. I met a fellow from Singapore raving about his first-ever lobster roll, a native New Yorker visiting Boston for the first time, and an intelligence officer from D.C who couldn’t really talk about what he did every day.

Alumni traveled from as far as Australia and as close as Allston, from all walks of life, work experiences, and backgrounds. Together in one room, you could really see how much we had to learn from one another.

As Professor Anand told us in closing, “The story of HBX is still being written—and you will shape that narrative.”

The success of any training program isn’t what happens during it; it’s what happens after. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the completion of the program—and the start of my “after.”


About the Author

Kayla Lewkowicz participated in the January 2016 cohort of HBX CORe. She is the marketing coordinator for a tech start-up in Cambridge, MA who took CORe to better understand her company. Her reflections on the program can be found on her blog.

Topics: Student Bloggers, HBX ConneXt

HBX CORe and Business School Applications

Posted by Ryan Dumlao on May 3, 2016 at 10:51 AM


Taking HBX CORe while working is akin taking up a second job, moonlighting in the glow of your computer screen on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, frantically trying to absorb as much information and contribute enough discussion to stay ahead for the weekly quizzes. Throw in the unforgiving business school application cycle, and you have quite the challenge! The CORe pre-Round 1 crunch of applying to business school, which forces you to truly evaluate your life’s journey and future intentions, transforms itself into yet another full-time job for your already overworked brain to handle.

During the June 2015 cohort of HBX CORe, I jumped into all three – helping a freshly FDA-approved product ramp up for launch at work, preparing applications for five Top-15 business schools, and completing the 2.5-month commitment to enhance my knowledge through HBX CORe. I apparently wanted more stress, and had inadvertently pre-planned a solo trip to Europe right before my HBX final. Through trial by fire I gained a great deal through the process. Here is what I learned about how to best approach applying to business school at the same time as taking HBX CORe.

1. Strategize and know what you’re getting into, early

Applying to business school properly is a grueling, multi-step, multi-month process, and that’s after you get past soul-searching, career-building, and the wonderful GMAT. Starting early made all the difference for me; for Round 1 deadlines in September/October, I began hashing out my application strategy in April. This gave me enough time to thoroughly think about my career and life, read up on application strategies, listen to admissions podcasts, truly consider where and if the MBA would strengthen my path, and figure out my career goals. Having a concrete end-game that I was both excited about and could speak to made the application process far easier. Being prepared early also allowed me to feel comfortable taking on HBX in the middle of the process.

I felt up to it because I was prepping well for applications and learning to prioritize my time. Based on the 10-week course, I knew I’d have to tackle at least two quizzes per week, with variable lengths of time for each module. Since we were only the third public cohort, there wasn’t much previous experience to tap into; one advantage now, however, is more statistics, knowledge and advice floating around from HBX CORe alumni on how to do well in the course. Regardless, juggling multiple commitments like these will never be a cakewalk, so be prepared.

2. Be organized

Once I had my business school goals set, I had to tackle the essays - and everything you've heard about each school’s prompts being drastically different is true. In parallel with all this, I had developed an overly complex spreadsheet to track my goals, brainstorms, school research, essay outlines, and most importantly to manage my time. Because I had HBX CORe mixed in right in the middle of this process, I had to be very efficient with my hours spent after work and during my weekends to make sure I kept everything in line without tearing my hair out. My spreadsheet kept an ideal schedule of when I’d complete the multiple essays per school, fill out each application, and when I’d hit the “Submit” button for each, and even accounted for my vacation. Just having this written down helped ease my mind and keep me on track, even though I didn’t follow it as well as I’d expected.

3. Put yourself out there and interact

I spent time attending MBA networking events and visiting schools in both California and New York, an essential effort to take for the application process. The strongest encouragement and most helpful feedback I received during this process was often from current students. You’ll find that the MBA community is eager to help potential applicants as much as they can, because the whole sphere you’re getting into is a true pay-it-forward type of community. Learn to put yourself out there, meet people, and harness this energy and spirit as much as possible. I was able to get great essay feedback, resume input, interview prep, and decision advice all from current students, who became my best resources.

Not surprisingly, I found the same to be true about my fellow HBX CORe cohort; all of the people I met online or in person were willing to help even the most remote strangers pull through this experience and come out the other side together. The local San Francisco HBX group I set up met once every few weeks to grab drinks and blow off steam, and some of us ended up exchanging questions and answers paired with late-night camaraderie for the rest of the course. It made the experience that much more fulfilling and constructive, especially during the final exam.

4. Be flexible, and be prepared to sacrifice

You will end up sacrificing a lot during this process. For each person it could be different aspects: time, money, sleepy, or sanity. Both applying to business school and HBX CORe will test the limits of how much you can stretch yourself. The last month or two before submission was a chaotic blur. It was a humbling process, as I had to juggle my HBX CORe final, essay drafts, my trip, and an increasingly busy work schedule. I cut my Round 1 school list to five in order to save some sanity, and more importantly to make a better quality application to the schools I truly wanted to target. I took days off work to do school visits and study up for the HBX CORe final, because weekends simply weren’t enough. I also said goodbye to my weekends for two full months.

5. Manage your time

With HBX CORe, even my best time predictions of module length and difficulty would go awry and I’d spend hours marching towards dusk working to advance my module completion percentage bit by bit. Approaching 10-20 hours of lectures and quizzes prior to the Thursday deadlines forced me to budget ample time to avoid a Wednesday night panic. If it was Monday night and I wasn’t at least 75% done with my modules, I learned quickly that I needed to shift into overdrive and later readjust my habits. I set a rule for myself that I would finish everything by Tuesday night, to account for any unforeseen issues - work travel, getting sick, Wednesday happy hours, etc.

For my essays, I set an (admittedly ambitious) schedule of finishing two essay drafts per week, based on three drafts to completion and two to three essays per school. I quickly fell behind on this and learned to re-adjust and prioritize. My scheduling lessons from HBX kicked in and I became efficient with my time, especially after I finished my HBX final. As a result, after September I had completed a decent set of written, peer reviewed, peer destroyed, and rewritten essays for all five schools in time to submit for and conquer Round 1.

6. Maximize the HBX experience and its benefits

I give HBX a great deal of credit for whipping my business school application process into shape. Aside from time management, the constant reflections and discussions within the HBX modules generated a stronger ability to gather my insights and put them into words, which proved especially useful for brainstorming my essay topics and plans of attack. The collaborative nature of the HBX platform fostered a unique community that allowed me to flex my networking chops. Through this, I gained a good snapshot of the diverse field of HBX students and their industries as well, a unique factor to a global course.

HBX also strengthened my application directly. Going through a well-developed course by HBS will catch any adcom’s attention; it shows initiative and interest in the business field, as well as attests to quantitative strength and conceptual understanding of what one would be presented with in the opening months of the MBA program. It gives a stronger basis of knowledge for those of us not from a business or accounting background; being an engineer, I had zero experience with accounting and only a basic ecoryan-acceptancenomics foundation. HBX presented information in these areas in such an effective way that I came out with a confident understanding of not just the concepts, but the applications of accounting and economic principles.

7. Push towards success!

As is evident, the HBX experience began to pay off even in the middle of the program, working my hard and soft skills to develop myself into a more well-rounded person. It continued paying dividends after completion; it gave me much more confidence going into applications and interviews, and all the interviewers who questioned me about HBX were genuinely intrigued and impressed by both the program and that I had taken the initiative to complete it as a personal and professional experience. I was proud to have completed the rigors of HBX CORe, and I made sure it was known. In the end, I was admitted to my top two choices of programs with scholarships, and am extremely excited to join the UCLA Anderson School of Management, Class of 2018 in the fall!

About the Author

Ryan Dumlao participated in the June 2015 cohort of HBX CORe. He is an electrical engineer working in the pharmaceutical industry and a freelance web developer in San Francisco. He will be starting business school full-time at the UCLA Anderson School of Management in August 2016, pursuing a new path in product management, and has a blog to chronicle his journey before and during school.

Topics: HBX CORe, Student Bloggers