Cold Call Interview Series: Charlotte Taylor (NI)
Cold calls. Your professors love them. You fear them. Your ed rep crushes them. We think it’s about time that this HBS staple gets the rebranding it deserves. Each week, The Harbus will chat with a randomly-selected member of the student body. This week, Katie Peek sat down with Charlotte Taylor (NI) to talk about growing up global, who would win in a smart-fight between Tim Geithner and Barack Obama, and the best damn granola you’ve ever had.
KP: In class, you often have many “strong opinions” about “almost everything.” Unfortunately these are often extremely difficult to refute because you claim to have lived in 90% of the places we’ve discussed thus far. Please walk me through your background!
CT: So I was born in England because my father was getting his PhD at Oxford. I was in Southampton for the first few years and then moved to Williamsburg, VA… then we moved back to England when I was 5, and then came back again when I was 7. We were in Williamsburg through 5th grade when my linguist father, determined that all his kids grow up bilingual, moved us to France.
KP: Did you know any French when you moved?
CT: None. We were enrolled in French primary schools, without any French training. Somehow, after three months of braindead doodling in the back of the room things just started making sense.
Later, I went back to France at 16 for School Year abroad, and then I loved that so much that after I got into Dartmouth I deferred for a year to go live in China.
KP: Looking back on all the international experiences you had, where would you choose to raise your family?
CT: I would love to live in London for myself. That said, I think I would have a family in America, but give them study abroad opportunities too.
KP: Good shoutout to the red states! The Texans will be so pleased.
CT: Hey I’m patriotic! Just cause I’m liberal doesn’t mean I’m not patriotic!
KP: To that point, many of us are familiar with your strong political beliefs. What originally drew you to your work on the Obama campaign?
CT: Around the winter of ’08 I read Dreams of My Father, which was just a total GAMECHANGER. My whole background was so focused on international affairs, and for the first time I really felt inspired by an American political leader and domestic politics.
So before you know it I’ve decided I’m going to drop everything to go join this campaign. I drove out to Ohio with no idea what my job was going to be, and in a few weeks I was basically given a huge turf of land, and they were like “Go run the campaign. Do what you need to do.” I started day 1 with three volunteers and by the end I had around 100 in my area.
KP: Ok, I’m feeling marginally less cynical about your blind love for Obama. Once he was elected, what came next?
CT: Winning the election was just, by far, the most moving day of my life. Being in that room, surrounded by my volunteers, it was just a very pivotal moment for me. Having felt that, I felt like I had to follow the movement and go to DC, and eventually I wound up in the Chief of Staff’s office for Tim Geithner.
KP: So if you had to rate the following people, how would you do it: Obama, Tim Geithner, Jesus, and Katie Peek?
CT: While Katie Peek clearly embodies some divine characteristics [Author’s note: Smooth talk, CT!] I think I have to put Jesus, purely from a historical standpoint, first.
KP: Historical standpoints seem a little backward-looking…
CT: And then, between Obama and Geithner? I probably actually say Geithner – he’s just the most brilliant person I’ve ever been in the same room with.
KP: What made you decide to leave this amazing job with Geithner to come to HBS?
CT: It was a really tough decision, but it was very clear to me from my time at Treasury that I needed to understand US business better, and then honestly it had a lot to do with the elections. I knew real policy wouldn’t be as interesting around the election cycle as it would be again in 2013 and 2014.
KP: If there’s one misconception about HBS women you would want to clear up, what would it be?
CT: That’s a really tough question—I think it’s hard to try and generalize around HBS women because what I’ve loved the most about being at HBS is finding the diversity of opinion around women. I mean, there are women from finance who believe it’s better to work within the structure of a male-dominated workplace and work your way up and then try to change things, and there are other women from the same background who believe that when you’re looking for a job outside of HBS you should specifically target organizations with women at the top because then you know you’re not going to have to deal with a lot of those issues.
KP: Favorite unexpected thing about HBS and least favorite of the same?
CT: To be honest, the least favorite is that I thought all the stereotypes of business school as being very sexist would not materialize, and that it was an outdated stereotype, but I have to say I’ve found somewhat more of it than expected.
My favorite unexpected experience so far has been the myTake presentation on resilience the other day. I thought that was one of the most valuable things I’ve done at HBS since I’ve been here—for me, in terms of learning lessons I hope to take with me for the rest of my life, I learned more there than I have in any class by far.
KP: Last question, want to plug your FIELD 3 team?
CT: Absolutely! If anyone’s interested in delicious, natural granola with 7 ingredients you can pronounce and only 180 calories per convenient, single-serving packet, come to Granola Thursdays! Aldrich 110, only $2 a packet, Granola Thursdays GRANOLATHURSDAAAAAAYS!