Why did you decide to earn a degree at Harvard Extension?
During a decade of working as a software developer, I had always been drawn to business strategy and management. When I transitioned into a new role in product management, it became clear that I needed an integrated knowledge of strategy, finance, marketing, and organizational behavior to effectively launch customer- and business-focused products. I believe that pairing this knowledge with technical experience offers a better understanding of how the business world meshes with technology for a larger impact.
After evaluating many management programs, I decided to apply at Harvard Extension because this is the only program that offered an exceptional education and the flexibility to balance it with my family and professional life.
How has/will this experience help you in your career or personal development?
It was extremely intellectually stimulating, and I grew both personally and professionally. Since I was pursuing the management degree while working full time, I benefited from the ability to continue to develop my product management skills while augmenting my education and applying it real-time. As a software developer, I am naturally detail-oriented. The exposure and experience I received at Harvard helped me visualize the “big picture” and truly understand the customer, business, and financial implications of an organization’s technical decisions and strategy.
What was the most challenging aspect of your time at Extension? What was the most rewarding?
The most challenging aspect was to continuously meet the rigorous academic requirements and keep up with the fast pace of studies, all while balancing it with personal and professional facets of my life.
The most rewarding aspects were the relationships I built with the exceptional Harvard faculty, staff, and many passionate and determined fellow students. Most of the students come to Harvard Extension with vast backgrounds and work experiences to enhance their already developed lives. They recognize that education and hard work are vital to achieving their goals and it is inspiring to study alongside them. The depth of knowledge and experience I received at Harvard Extension surpassed all my expectations.
What was your online learning experience like? How did you ensure success as a distance student?
It is important to recognize that Harvard has presence across many modes and extends beyond the Harvard Yard and its buildings. Harvard Extension has mastered the virtual and hybrid teaching format over decades and has an unwavering commitment to making higher education possible for anyone willing to put in the effort. Success requires time management, ability to multitask, and most certainly, late-night studying with carafes of coffee.
The flexibility associated with online experience allowed me to select relevant courses with schedules that made it possible to strike a work, life, and school harmony. I preferred evening online classes that I could join remotely after work, joined groups that were in my time-zone for group projects, and planned the on-campus intensive weekends well in advance. While mechanisms like required pre-reading, case studies, assignments, and participation grades acted as forcing functions to stay on top of things, it was really the teaching and insightful class discussions that made the online experience engaging and meaningful.
How did you manage to balance your studies with work and family responsibilities?
The flexible structure of Harvard Extension allowed me to plan and manage my schedule in a way that was conducive to success in all aspects of my life. I was accepting of the fact that this program might take longer than other part-time management programs—which is actually a good thing.
Given that I had a full-time job and two kids, I decided to be flexible, and only take one course at a time. I also developed some helpful tactics such as downloading all the required readings, converting the text-to-speech, and listening on my phone during long work commute hours. I also saved most of my vacation time to prepare for midterms and finals.
Above all, it was possible because of the incredible partnership with my husband who helped, supported, and encouraged me throughout this long journey.
What types of student resources and special options did you take advantage of as a student at Harvard? How did they help?
I am grateful for my academic advisor, Lynn Larson, for her deep commitment and passion to help her students succeed. Not only did she support me with course selections and student services through the program, she was also always reachable and available to talk. She listens to the challenges, empathizes, and offers the right encouragement and push to reach higher.
Describe your Extension School experience in one word.