Facebook reviews

Here are some of the Facebook Reviews of Ahead of the Curve:

Liked it. Nice mix of first person narrative and overview of basic business school concepts. Was interesting to read in light of current economic crisis. Ending got a little preachy. But overall, I liked the story.

Good book. Great account of PDB’s time at HBS.Quote-right

Wow… this was perfect timing for the financial crisis. I liked it.

“I really enjoyed this book. The author discusses his experience at HBS from an outsider’s perspective and shares his insights of the struggles many people have between buidling a career and buidling a life. Having recently jumped off the corporate Hamster Wheel I found it easy to relate to his frustrations, anxieties and concerns of what to do with”all that education”. I would suggest this as interesting read for anyone contemplating pursuing and MBA or struggling with a decision as to whether the investment will ultimately be worth all the time, hardwork and money. The best parts of the story seemed to definitly collect towards the back third of the book. Very relevant in light of all the has gone on in the US capital markets over the past year.

“An interesting read for an inside look at the B-school ivey league. The book is composed of three intertwined threads.”

“The first thread is, the narrative of the author’s story: rising quickly through the ranks as an international journalist, reaching a plateau as the Paris bureau chief for a major European newspaper, and then deciding to toss it all and go (with his wife and kid) to B-school. He describes the decision process and then walks the reader through a variety of his life experiences at Harvard. The second thread is a debrief on each of the classes he took at HBS. Throughout the book, the author will diverge from the main narrative and describe the classes he was taking — the professors, the way the class was conducted, and a summary of the core content of the course. A nice refresher for those have been through B-school, and a good look into the curriculum and subject matter for those yet to do so. The final thread is the author’s own internal monologue as he struggles with the value system presented to him at HBS. He is surrounded by students who want to get rich, alumni who come to the school to talk about how they got (and are continuing to get) rich, and a school environment that expects the same from its graduates. At the end of the day, the author feels HBS is asking him to make a “bad trade” in life — exchanging time with his family and friends for wealth and status.

This was a great look at the two years of Harvard Business school. After I started the book I wanted to pick up and head to Cambridge and start my Harvard MBA.

PDB writes with candor and clarity about his experience at HBS. The overall message about the school is a positive one, but his commentary on American society and its capitalistic striving (which to some extent is distilled into an essence at HBS) is devastating.

It makes you wonder if getting an MBA from Harvard is worth it. Is the HBS “brand” name value worth having to endure two years of apparent academic mediocrity, recruiter-sponsored alcohol binges, and inane pranks? Maybe that was just the author’s experience, but the tale of his two years at Harvard should be required reading for anyone considering attending HBS, or any business school.

I could put this book down. Ive been considering going for an MBA, but not sure Im competitive enough, “A-type” enough, disciplined or single minded enough to make it through and make something of it afterward. Here’s a guy who felt the same way throughout 2 years at Harvard Business School with the most competitive of MBA students. Delves Broughton was cheif journalist for Paris branch Daily Telegraph before going to grad school; his perspective is insightful and informative. He doesnt miss the bigger questions of how these MBA students and gradutes fit in the world, the choices to be made between family life and work, the role of business (vs government or the public) as a globe changing force.

First, some disclosure: Philip and I were classmates at HBS, did a project together (which he doesn’t directly mention in the book), I’ve had dinner at his house, and I consider him a friend. If you choose to ignore my perspective because of the above bias, I wouldn’t blame you, but I want to make sure that myths (generated by some press coverage) of what this book is about are dispelled: by no means is Ahead of the Curve a tell-all insider-guide bashing of the HBS experience. In fact, I suspect that some of the negative reviews are written by folks who either didn’t read the book or didn’t read it all the way through.

What the book is instead is a rather touching introspective memoir on Philip’s personal experience at HBS as an outsider – someone who, because of his age, career background, nationality, but most of all personality did not fit into the traditional HBS mold. Despite that, the reader comes away clear on the fact that Philip learned a great deal from HBS, respects its educational method tremendously, made some very good friends, and overall came away a bigger person after it. I want to elaborate on that last point – Philip was already a fully formed individual before coming to HBS: a father, a husband, a successful journalist, a well-traveled man. To feel growth after HBS, where the average age is ~5 years younger and the average experience is much more junior is a BIG DEAL.

The book really has two elements to it. One is a witty description of the HBS stereotypes, fun stories about interactions, and, ultimately, a fascinating tale of what it’s like to be immersed into the HBS experience. The second (one that I didn’t find as exciting having gone there) is a reasonably in-depth description of the cases and educational method. The first element is a joy to read and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Moreover, it’s quite an experience to observe Philip’s thought process and see how life touches him. Highlights include getting stuck in a white wedding limo in the parking lot at the Google headquarters and frantically taking notes on a loose-leaf sheet of paper during a McKinsey interview. The second element is geared to the book’s main target audience: potential b-school applicants. To be honest, I was shocked by how well Philip recollects the cases and formulae from HBS. I certainly got quite a refresher!

In the end, Philip chooses to opt out of the post-HBS grind, having fully opted into the experience while there. Funnily enough, too many people do the opposite. They float through HBS, barely read cases, sign up for courses on Tue-Thu so they can travel all second year, and then opt into a grueling i-banking or hedge fund job. Personally, I think Philip has come out a better person having learned much from what HBS has to offer and still chosen to pursue life in his own manner. He’s the type of graduate HBS should be proud of – I certainly am proud to have gotten to know him while there!

Despite everything I wrote above, I must point out that PDB is a writer and as such, he left plenty out that didn’t fit his theses. For example, I was a part of a team of three with him on a first-semester project in our second year. Of the three of us, exactly zero has jobs we accepted after graduation. Of course, all of us has unusual ambitions, but comparisons are driven by one’s choice of peer groups. Philip stands out dramatically when compared to i-banker types, but he may not be so unusual amongst others, albeit smaller, HBS groups. One of his section-mates, for example, joined a record label in a creative role after school for a salary of at most 1/4 of what he would have gotten had he gone back to his investment banking career.

Overall, Philip gives a balanced perspective on HBS. He gives an even more balanced perspective on himself and it was a joy to follow his personal travails. Yes, he does omit descriptions of some of the more “out there” folks from HBS, but no, he doesn’t break any sacred bonds of the HBS classrooms. If you went to HBS and are fuming based on the press coverage of this book, please read it first before forming an opinion. And if you think about going there, PLEASE READ IT!


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