Kellogg and HBS

For everyone who knows anything about business school reputations, you know that Kellogg and Harvard Business School (HBS) have something in common–they’re often seen to be the “soft skills” schools. This has both positive and negative connotations. On the positive side, both schools are praised for teaching interpersonal skills, teamwork, and leadership ability. Conversely, both schools are also considered programs where you don’t need to take any real finance courses or have quantitative skills to get through, despite the number of folks who actually do go into the finance industry.

Recently at a Bain recruiting event I went to, one of the firm’s senior managers made a pretty funny comment during a panel. He was facilitating a session where we were chatting about how to get into the consulting industry, and he asked, “So how many of you out there are going to HBS or Kellogg?” A good number us put our hands up. Then he told us, “My best advice to you is, please, try to take a lot of finance classes. Because you won’t get them otherwise” Everyone in the room chuckled.

Admittedly he was joking with us a bit, but he was also definitely serious. While he told us that we didn’t necessarily need the classes to land a consulting job, he also said that the classes would be the most beneficial courses in the long run. He told us-—and it’s something we’ve all heard before—-that finance is the language of business. And if we ever want to move to the top floor, then we’d better understand every aspect of finance. He then talked a bit about the CEOs close relationship with the CFO and compared it to the CEOs relationship and trust level with other top executives. He seemed to have a pretty good point.

Despite a pretty persuasive argument, I also think it’s fair to note that Bain is pretty finance-oriented compared to some of the other major firms, so his opinion was probably a bit biased. Bain has the biggest private equity arm (by far) of the consulting firms, and it also has things such as the Bain Capital investment spin-off and a turnarounds/restructuring group, both which operate based on financial analytics.

That said, I still think it’s solid advice. While I don’t consider myself to be a finance person and am not going to b-school specifically for that reason, I do think someone with his experience has really valuable insight, and I’ll probably pick up some extra finance courses more than I might otherwise have taken. Kellogg’s most famous class is Entrepreneurial Finance, which I will definitely take.

The comment also shows that despite the strong brand of both these schools and the caliber of the students, reputation will play a part in how we are perceived in the workforce, good and bad. And conversely, despite the fact that dozens of other schools teach the soft skills very well (too many to name), those school don’t get the reputation for it that Kellogg and HBS get.

Personally, I really value the “soft skills,” so as an applicant I really liked the brands of both HBS and Kellogg. I am excited to be headed to Kellogg and the JD-MBA program this fall.

Thursday, July 30th, 2009 Business School

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7 Comments to Kellogg and HBS

Olive Tree Guitar Ensemble
July 30, 2009

Hi, it's a very great blog.
I could tell how much efforts you've taken on it.
Keep doing!

July 30, 2009

@ Olive Tree – Thanks for reading and thanks for the nice words about my blog. I plan to post regularly, so hopefully you will keep reading.

July 31, 2009

Great blog you have! Keep up the good work.
I visited Kellogg last fall and sat in on the Entrepreneurial Finance class. I wasn't surprised to see alot of ex-consultants in the class. Anyways, my advice to you is to take as many finance classes as possible. A solid understanding of finance, econ, accounting, and investments combined with your JD degree will make u stand out during interviews.
Best of luck!

August 1, 2009

@Tiger23 – Thanks for the comment. I also sat in Entrepreneurial Finance and really enjoyed the class, and Prof. Rogers. Finance definitely seems to be an inevitable part of my future.

August 9, 2009

Hey Jeremy,

Nice post. Here's my 2 cents:

I think Kellogg has an advantage over HBS as far as teaching hard skills. I am doubtful of HBS's case study all day everyday method. I spoke to a HBS student recently and he pretty much confirmed what I had imagined: it is a challenge to learn the basics (of say finance) by reading and discussing cases.

Also, I had a friend who was at HBS and who had a bulge bracket investment bank fellowship. She was a career switcher even though she had been in finance before b-school. When she started at bulge bracket firm, she was getting her butt kicked. She said she had a lot to learn. I wonder if that had to do with the fact she went to HBS and not Wharton or Chicago. I don't know for certain but it likely contributed to a steeper learning curve.

August 9, 2009

@ Anonymous–Thanks!

Another advantage Kellogg has is that students have more flexibility in their class choices during the first year. This is especially important for career changers who may want to pad their schedules with a few extra finance courses. I have no doubt that this will help students to perform in their first internship and afterward.

That said, I'm still a big fan of the general management curriculum at HBS. Personally my plan at Kellogg is to try to take as many different types of classes as possible, rather than specializing too much.

[…] past few years in my career. In an old post last year comparing HBS and Kellogg, I wrote about a Bain recruiting event where I heard this from a Senior Manager at the firm. He said “That finance is the language of […]

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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