When I first started teaching at HBS I found the last class of the semester to be the most difficult. While many of my colleagues shared their life lessons or communicated big, important messages, I felt I didn’t have much to offer my students. So I used the last class to wrap-up the important concepts we had learned throughout the semester.
But after my first two years, I started wanting to do more. So, as I did before almost every class, I knocked on the door of my great colleague Kent Bowen and asked for his advice. And as he always did, Kent started asking questions. Why did I want to do something different? What did I want to communicate? Why? And at the end of our meeting, Kent gave me a case about the life of Jai Jaikumar.
After reading the case, I knew exactly why Kent shared it with me. The case described how Jai was saved by a shepherd woman after a tragic accident while climbing the Himalayas. And it provided an opportunity to communicate something I truly believe in: luck plays a big role in our success and success brings an obligation to serve others. Since 2008, I have been teaching this case on my last class. And thanks to Kent, the last class has become one of my favorite classes.
I just taught the Jai Jaikumar case in my supply chain elective course. But this was not just the last class of the semester but also my last class at HBS. This summer, I am joining the Sloan School of Management at MIT. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with world-class researchers in my field, teach Sloan students, and have time to write my book.
But I will miss the HBS classroom. Teaching at HBS was an incredibly rewarding experience for me. During the first years, my objective was simply surviving in the classroom. I can’t tell you how many bad dreams I had in which I did not know the material or I was not able to control the 90 bright students. I had nightmares about chaos in the classroom with students dancing, yelling, and walking in and out. Surviving in the classroom was a lot more difficult than I had predicted. Luckily, I had a great set of students and colleagues like Jan Hammond and Roy Shapiro who helped me get better everyday.
I still have nightmares, especially in the beginning of the semester, about teaching. But my objective is no longer surviving in the classroom. Rather, it is sharing with my students my research, and most recently, my point of view on business and life. As I started connecting my teaching with my research, I began seeing my students as collaborators with my research. They challenged my ideas, offered alternate explanations, and asked great questions that forced me to think deeper about issues I was studying. I am grateful for all that they taught me.
As I started sharing my point of view with students, I began having big hopes. I hope that my students will be more likely to start or join companies with strong values and priorities and make operating decisions that are good not just for profits, but also for employees and customers. I hope that my students will be less likely to give into the temptation (or pressure) to make short-term decisions at the expense of their employees and keep focusing on the long-term. I hope that my students will define their success not just by how much money they make, but how they made the world a better place by their presence.
It was an absolute privilege to take part in the development of leaders who will make a positive difference in the world. Thank you HBS for the opportunity! And thank you my students this term who made my last class one I will never forget.