Cold Call with Jehan deFonseka (OB)
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. For this week’s special edition of the Cold Call, new Co-Editor-In-Chief Kate Lewis sat down with outgoing Editor-In-Chief Jehan deFonseka (OB) to reflect on fivefinger shoes, America’s two-party system, and good old Beantown.
Kate Lewis: Where are you from?
Jehan deFonseka: I was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. I stayed there until I was eighteen, when I headed up to Boston to go to M.I.T.
KL: Where are your parents from?
JD: My parents were born in Sri Lanka.
KL: Oh, so you’re Sri Lankan.
JD: Lahn-kan, like lawn, pawn, gone.
KL: M.I.A., Tamil Tigers, Colombo yogurt. That’s all I know about Sri Lanka. Care to comment on any of those topics?
JD: I’m glad that the civil war is over. M.I.A.’s “Come Around (featuring Timbaland)” lays a sick beat. Also, Raj Rajaratnam is Sri Lankan.
KL: Besides being the second most famous Sri Lankan to ever graduate HBS, you’re the outgoing Editor-In-Chief of the Harbus. Why did you decide to take on such an intensive leadership role?
JD: I was very involved writing for the paper during the RC year, and I thought there was a lot of unrealized potential. I wanted to contribute and grow the quality of the paper and its role as the campus publication. Working as the EIC was the single most valuable experience I have had at HBS. It’s taught me more about management than my classes have. When you lead The Harbus, you’re not just dealing with students. You have to answer to the faculty and staff, the administration, and the paper’s employees. Since The Harbus is an independent company that gets no funding from the school, the EIC needs to treat the paper as a real business, generating revenues and managing costs in addition to sourcing good articles.
KL: It sounds like you’ve found that your HBS extra-curricular very rewarding. Let’s pretend that you’re Mr. Miyagi and I’m Hillary Swank, about to become an EC. What would be your sage advice?
JD: I would encourage you to dedicate your time to one or two meaningful endeavors, whether that be a course, a leadership role, or a project. As long as your passionate it about it, you’ll put in the time and effort to make it a fulfilling experience.
KL: So that’s how you spent your time here at HBS. How about your money? If you could do it again, would you spend more or less of it?
JD: I would reallocate some of it. I’d spend less on random bar nights and more on travel. The international experiences I’ve had during HBS were by far the most valuable.
KL: Looking ahead, do you know what you’re up to next year?
JD: I am not completely decided yet, and I’m alright with that. I think that I a lot of people at HBS are too afraid to wait for jobs that might open up later in the year. The most interesting stuff definitely comes later. It’s the end of April, and things are just getting good!
KL: Does that excite you or scare you?
JD: It excites me and scares the crap out of my parents.
KL: You’ve been known to sport those newfangled shoes that individually wrap each toe. Shad houses some strong opinions on both sides about the scientific merit of these treads. What’s your take?
JD: Vibram Fivefingers, I love ‘em. They’re so light, and they give you better balance. Plus they develop muscles you wouldn’t otherwise in a normal sneaker.
KL: Building muscles where? in your feet? Do the ladies notice?
JD: Only when I go to the bar barefoot.
KL: You wear Fivefingers, believe in freedom of the press, and you’ve lived in Boston for most of your adult life. You must be a Democrat.
JD: I don’t really believe in political parties. People talk about parties like they talk about sports teams. You end up voting for a party not a candidate, and I think that obstructs the democratic process.
KL: Well put, George Washington. It sounds like Boston suits you. Might you want to stay here in the long-term?
JD: I love Boston. Many of my MIT friends have stuck around, and I have a good group beyond HBS. It’s also a very intellectual city, and I can get my geek fix. But I’d definitely be happy in any city like San Francisco or New York too.