At 31, journalist Philip Delves Broughton was burned out after six
years of running the New York and Paris bureaus for the London Daily Telegraph.
But while most of us would cope by calling in sick for a few days or
vacay-ing someplace with no BlackBerry reception, Broughton (who is
married with two children) joined the 2004 class of Harvard Business
School (HBS) with dreams of becoming an "entrepreneur." He figured he'd
learn how to run a company, then launch one, but he ended up back where
he started: as a writer. The two-year MBA adventure led to Broughton's
first book, Ahead of the Curve. Here, he shares what goes on at one of the most elite B-schools in the world — keg stands and all.
MC: In the book, you tell some wild stories of bankers behaving badly. Was HBS one big frat party? PDB: For those who had a guaranteed job after graduation, it was
a two-year vacation with hot-tub parties and trips to the Caribbean.
Most students were very conscious of building their personal brand and
of how they appeared to their future business partners, but come
Saturday night you'd see them on all fours, guzzling from the booze
luge and getting violently drunk as a result of the stress. And these
are not kids — the average age of a master's student is 27.
MC: Where were the female students? PDB: The financial world is still extremely male-dominated.
Women still make up only 35 percent of the student body, and a lot of
them had to fight for opportunities. We'd have lectures from so many
men in suits, and then Meg Whitman from eBay would come and talk about
juggling the roles of perfect wife/mother/businesswoman. The men would
roll their eyes at questions about the work-family balance, while the
women would be falling out of their seats to hear the answer.
MC: That obnoxious master-of-the-universe mentality — does the school offer classes in it, or what? PDB: You're paying a lot of money — all told it's around $80,000
a year — to go there, so you want to hear that you're part of a line of
great people who have gone on to do amazing things and make lots of
money. But it encourages the notion that you have the right to rule,
and that's not very healthy. A lot of HBS grads who aren't exactly
shrinking violets to start with think they can run companies, when
they're just another guy with a degree.
MC: Best piece of advice? PDB: My entrepreneurship professor said, "There is more money
chasing good ideas than there are good ideas chasing money." Which is
much more useful than being told, "Live like you're going to die
tomorrow," or anything you can find on a needlepoint pillow.
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