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Section A — a place to call home

In a previous post I mentioned my HBS section, Section A, and promised to go into a bit more detail in the future. Well to be true to past Jesse, here it is.

At HBS each first year class (called RC for those who have been following) is divided into 10 sections of roughly 90 students. For the entire first year we do everything together; every class, every day. On top of that we sit in the same seat in the same classroom for each semester. This routine has been constant over many decades and the result of very deliberate planning.

This consistency and frequency of interaction means that I will become incredibly close with the 92 other souls in the section. We learn together, laugh together, drink together and suffer 3 case days together. But who is Section A?

As with all sections, our section is an incredible melting pot of people from different geographies, industries, cultures, and philosophies. Here is just a quick snapshot of our incredible diversity;

From military veterans, NASA engineers and rocket scientists to not-for-profit leaders. From hordes of consultants, investment bankers and finance professionals to entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley tech stars. From doctors-in-training and medical engineers to fashion enthusiasts, winemakers, and media mavericks. From political staffers to real estate developers.

As you can see below, on top of the large amount of domestic US students we have a wonderful spread of people from around the world.

The amount of diversity in the classroom is both impressive and daunting.

It is incredible how you can take a bunch of strangers and go from obscurity to a family within 2 months.

In many ways HBS is a big old social experiment. It takes people from all walks of life, sticks them together and sees what happens.

The first big experience as a section was a ‘field day’ that occurred during our first weekend. During the day, Section A competed in a series of challenges against the 9 other sections. These included limbo, dizzy-bat, and corn-hole. To prepare for the day some sectionmates decided it would be fun to develop a war-cry to use on the day. Since our section colour (yes this word contains a ‘u’) is black, we took inspiration from the New Zealand All Black’s haka. After a quick preparation that morning we were ready. As people entered the auditorium, our venue for the first event, we lay in wait. Once all sections had arrived but just before the organisers began to speak, our chieftain screamed out “1–2–3” and we conducted our dance — a formal challenge to the other 9 sections. Needless to say, the other sections were quivering in their chairs (although eyewitness reports claim it was actually that the air-con was set to freezing).

My contribution was competing in the egg toss, a game in which you and a partner take turns to throw a raw egg between the two of you. The pair that throws the egg the furthest without it breaking is the winner. We did ok, coming slightly above average in our heat — at least we didn’t end up with egg all over our faces.

What was so incredible about the field day is that many of the best performances were performed by the partners of section students. From the outset Section A has had an implicit assumption that partners are welcome to anything that we do. This has now been formalised in our section norms. From now on assume that when I say sectionmates this means both students and partners.

At the end of the day we had many hard-fought wins and losses but overall came out on top. Number 1 section is A!

Keen to hear your thoughts. If you enjoy the blog please like it or share it.

Until next time, cheers


Written by

EdTech entrepreneur, passionate about improving education impact through tech and research-driving practice. Former consultant and engineer. Harvard MBA.

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