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Thriving at HBS as an Introvert

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Jigya Bhagat (MBA ’24) interviews RCs on how they manage their energy.

Jigya Bhagat, Campus News Editor

HBS is an intense place, there’s no doubt about that. When you’re shelling out $200,000+ for an education that is built largely on the network of people around you, the need to capitalize on that investment by networking and constantly meeting people is real. For a place that can even be a bit much for extroverts, I came into HBS half expecting to be friendless and ready to bounce to my sister’s place in New York if things got lonely. Here were (and are) some of the thoughts running rampage in my head.

  1. “Small talk … Gah.”

  2. “Should I be speaking to my section mates in the 20 mins between BGIE and LCA?”

  3. “Damn, I barely get invited to stuff and I still missed that birthday dinner.”

  4. “Just smile and nod along – this too shall pass.”

  5. “Who decided that drinking at 8 am before a football game is fun

I suspected (and secretly hoped, really) that I was not the only one feeling this way. So I collected thoughts from fellow RCs at HBS on how they manage their energy.

Sam Perez (MBA ’24), the gentlest giant and product engineer from Microsoft:

Oh, I’m 100% an introvert and I can see that play up in my social life at HBS in both big and small ways. One time, I was having a great conversation with a section mate and a third person came in to say hi to my section mate, inadvertently interrupting the conversation. Feeling frustrated, I thought, ‘how do I pick up the conversation now?’

A few things have helped me over the past year. First is to not take such things personally. When 2000+ students are trying to network and make the most of their two years and $200,000, we’re bound to find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. The second is to constantly pace myself. Gigantic events like the RC Gala are not my thing. I prefer small group settings, partner-friendly events, and events that wrap up at a sane hour. My favorite event was the cultural potluck dinner! Each of us got dishes from our respective countries and shared stories about why we like the dishes and what they mean to us. And finally, know that there is always someone to spend time with. In a section of 90+ students and a broader class of 1000 people, finding your people can be a challenge. But know that that road will 100% lead to the right people for you.

Srishti Gupta (MBA ’24), the quiet VC/PE maestro (hello, TEM WSA session!):

I just do what feels natural and interesting to me. I’m a big badminton enthusiast. So I book the court and let people know that I am ready for a game. Different people come in to play and I don’t necessarily have big conversations with them. But sharing a smile with your doubles partner, apologizing for a poor serve, and learning a skill – all are beautiful ways to create special bonds. Overall, I do find that bonding over activities is a much better strategy for me than attending 3-way-section mixers or approaching strangers for coffee chats.

Shivani Jatia (MBA ’24), the budding entrepreneur revolutionizing bags for working women:

Being introverted is great. But sometimes I think my introversion keeps me in my comfort zone. It is a subtle, albeit important distinction that can enable you to simultaneously feel energized and experience the growth you want to see in yourself.

I’ve been journaling at night and when I do that, I put down mini goals for myself, doing one thing every week or month that takes me out of my comfort zone. So for March it was a MyTake and pitching my brand to my section. Another was meeting one new person I haven’t spoken to. Some of these experiences are big and immersive and cathartic, and some are, well, just experiences. If you

consistently feel unhappy doing something, then perhaps that activity is just not for you. And sometimes you surprise yourself by trying something new. So I’m constantly learning and growing bit by bit, while staying true to myself.

***

Having spoken to these wonderful and accomplished people, I also see the benefits of introversion. Focus. Prioritization. Self-awareness. And a love for your own company. In life, these traits are everything. So what if I’m not ‘fun’? Per my therapist, “Do you even need to be?” Our social interactions are not a barometer of our impact and there are many ways to make our presence felt. Folks sense good vibes, cherish thoughtful conversations, respect boundaries, and always always remember a kind touch.

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Jigya Bhagat (MBA ’24) hails from New Delhi, India. She did her bachelor’s in Economics from Delhi University. She then spent 3 years at McKinsey & Company as a management consultant and then as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence responsible for setting up new businesses for a mid-stage tech venture, UrbanCompany. She loves to dance and watch Korean dramas.

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