Ten Questions - Liz Harrison

The MBA student says women need a dependable mentor for ongoing professional advice and support

Liz Harrison is an MBA student at Columbia Business School in New York. She is also an active board member of the Columbia Entrepreneurship Organization (CEO) and recently co-founded a new club on campus, focused on building strong business leaders.

Prior to joining Columbia, Ms Harrison studied at Stanford University and worked as a research manager at Nielsen Online, a data analysis company. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring social technologies.

Ms Harrison will be available for a live web chat on Thursday, 19th January, between 11.00-12.00 GMT. Post your questions now to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day.

1. When did you know you wanted to study for an MBA?

After working for a few years in Australia, I found that I was learning most of the business fundamentals of finance and strategy on the job, as a management consultant and I wanted to supplement this with an MBA degree. Moreover, I viewed the two-year MBA degree as a ‘gift to myself’ because it would give me the much-needed opportunity to slow down and reflect on my professional and personal aspirations.

2. Do you have a studying routine?

I am often my most effective early in the morning between the hours of 4am - 8am (I think this is largely due to my years spent waking up early for rowing practices), so when I have a lot of homework to do, I will wake up early. I’ve also discovered that I need to take breaks in between my studying sessions, which often involve heading to the gym for a workout or grabbing food with friends.

3. What would you do if you were dean for the day?

I would implement the powerful school-wide initiative that we recently rolled out at Columbia. The concept of the initiative is straightforward – students share a 10-minute presentation in front of a group of peers on the topic of “what matters to them and why,” followed by a Q&A. While simple in nature, this initiative is incredibly powerful as it allows students to get to know each other at a much deeper level. It has already made a significant impact on the CBS community.

4. What is your life philosophy?

My life philosophy is to be unashamedly passionate and determined about what matters most to me -which means full utilisation of my skills and expertise to become a respected and effective leader both professionally and in my community.

5. What advice would you give to women in business?

Women in business should practice self-reflection and engage in a thorough peer review process to understand the unique capabilities, insights and advantages they have as female business leaders. In addition, it is essential for women to find a mentor they can trust and depend on for ongoing professional advice and support.

6. What is your favourite business book?

I am fascinated by human psychology and behavioural economics and I’ve read numerous books, articles and blog posts related to these topics. My favourite to date is Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational: The hidden forces that shape our decisions because it provides thought-provoking examples of the odd patterns of human behaviour and tips for making better business decisions based on these patterns.

7. What inspires you?

I recently attended a lunchtime discussion with Lisa Baird, the chief marketing officer of the United States Olympic Committee, who spoke about her passion for sports and the struggle of balancing a successful career with a busy family life. These candid conversations with global leaders happen every day at Columbia and they are a constant reminder of the infinite possibilities that an MBA degree can provide.

8. What are your future plans?

After graduation this June, I will be joining NM Incite, a new joint venture between The Nielsen Company and McKinsey & Co. My role will be to help build the new strategy consulting practice, which is focused on working with leading corporations to utilise social technologies across the enterprise. I’m incredibly excited about this opportunity to take on a lot of responsibility within an innovative organisation with strong support from two global leaders and even more excited to be at the cutting edge of the fast-paced social media industry.

9. How do you deal with pressure?

I’ve been an athlete my entire life – playing basketball and volleyball, competing in track and then rowing crew throughout high school and eventually on the varsity rowing team at Stanford University. Athletics has played an instrumental role in my development as a leader and teammate and now physical activity has become my way of blowing off steam and dealing with the pressures of life.

10. What is your plan B?

Entrepreneurship has always been of interest to me, I would strongly considering building my own start-up media strategy consulting firm.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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