01 Mar 2003
All in a Day's Work
On the Job with 2 from '02by Julia HannaTopics:
One lives in a Manhattan studio five blocks from Wall Street, the other on the second floor of a
triple-decker in Jamaica Plain, a culturally diverse neighborhood in Boston. Both are graduatesof the MBA
Class of 2002 in their first job after HBS. While the world of work is nothing new to either of these young
alumni, they each acknowledge the significance of this initial year in their post-HBS careers.
Although they came to Soldiers Field with different backgrounds, goals, and expectations, both left with a
new set of skills that they hoped to leverage in a less-than-encouraging job market. Both are also well
aware of their good fortune to have found specialized positions that fit their backgrounds yet offer great
potential for personal and professional growth at a time when some classmates are still seeking full-time
How applicable are skills learned at HBS for recent graduates facing real-world challenges? What are the
differences and similarities for alumni who work in the private and nonprofit sectors, in large corporations
vs. smaller organizations? The Bulletin tracks two freshly minted Class of 2002 MBAs through a day on the
job to find out: Mardie Oakes, an HBS Service Leadership Fellow at Boston Community Capital, a community
development financial institution, and Paul Sternhell, an entry-level manager at Samsung Electronics.
Cookies for Breakfast
Boston Community Capitals (BCC) offices are located on the third floor of Palladio Hall, a handsomely
renovated Renaissance-style building located in the inner-city neighborhood of Roxbury. Mardie Oakes sits
in a cubicle near high windows that let in the noise of sirens and city buses along with the morning sunlight.
Despite the commotion below BCC is located in Dudley Square, Roxburys commercial hub and the
intersection of several major streets theres a quiet hum of activity in the open, airy room where twelve
BCC staffers are beginning their day. Since its founding in 1985, BCC has invested more than $90 million in
low-income communities throughout Massachusetts, creating some 4,200 affordable homes and more than
1,100 jobs. Colorful masks made by a community cultural center decorate the office walls, and theres
good news for a Monday morning: a coworker has brought in homemade chocolate-chip cookies.
I wasnt sure that the desk part of this position would suit me, says Oakes, an Austin, Texas, native
who worked for the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation in Houston before enrolling at HBS.
In my last job, I was always out in the field, on construction sites, but I can happily sit and work here
because the people are so fun and engaging.
Oakes, who studied architecture as an undergraduate at Rice University, says shes always been interested
in the link between a projects design and its social impact. Her decision to attend HBS resulted in part from
the realization that influencing a projects direction in the early planning stages required a fuller
understanding of its financing. I also wanted to bring better management skills to the nonprofit sector,
she adds. I thought business school was going to be like taking medicine but I ended up absolutely loving
it. As an HBS Service Leadership Fellow, Oakes and nine other alumni from the Class of 2002 receive a
one-year subsidy from the School to supplement the lower salaries typically paid at nonprofit and
government organizations. All fellows are placed with the top executives of their host organizations,
allowing them to achieve real results in a short period of time.
One of the biggest surprises at HBS, Oakes remarks, was learning about the creative aspects of financing
an important tool in her current role at BCC. Part of our focus is on crafting innovative financial products
to meet the needs of low-income communities, she says. Its all about brainstorming how you can
leverage resources and market forces to spin off quality outcomes like affordable housing, new job
opportunities, and goods and services that may be missing in a community.
At BCCs weekly loan department meeting, Oakes and her colleagues run down a list of every loan in the
works, discussing risk factors, the market, and local politics. Thats always an interesting meeting for
me, since I used to be on the borrowers side at my job in Houston. Oakes says that before she heard about
the Service Leadership Fellows Program and BCC, she hadnt planned to stay in Boston after graduation;
part of her learning curve has been getting up to speed on the ins and outs of state and local government, as
well as zoning regulations and other hurdles to development that were nearly nonexistent in Houston.
Boston is a small world, so Im constantly trying to understand past histories, who is involved in what,
and how that affects current and future deals, she observes.
The meeting breaks up and its off to Somerville for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for 42 units of affordable
rental housing. Here, Oakes witnesses what can result when everyone politicians, residents, financial
institutions, and community organizations works together. Despite the frigid weather, dozens of people
have turned out to inspect the new units and listen to a parade of representatives from various city,
neighborhood, and financial organizations. DeWitt Jones, BCCs COO and Loan Fund president, says a few
words as well. Jones highlights BCCs role as an intermediary lender between Citizens Bank and the
Somerville Community Corporation and mentions another BCC project in the works: a day-care center just
around the corner that will break ground this summer.
Theres a lot of relationship-building behind a development like this, Oakes says of the housing project.
Ive always wanted to be the bridge between hard business skills and nonprofits and since I didnt
always speak the language of finance, I think Im able to communicate with others who dont have a business
How to Measure Social Good
Back at the office, Oakes reheats some leftovers for lunch before meeting with Investor Relations Manager
Jessica Brooks and Junior Loan Officer Peter Graham. The three discuss the content and design for a report
that will inform current BCC investors of the organizations goals and results and attract potential
investors with straightforward reports and graphics.
It isnt as easy to evaluate the output of our loans as it is for commercial banks, Oakes explains later,
citing the difficulty of calculating ROI when social good is a variable in the equation.
More methodological measurements are coming into use, but the nonprofit sector is still at the front end
of understanding how to quantify its results.
After the meeting, Oakes takes a quick drive to nearby Paige Academy, an independent day-care center and
school for children between 6 weeks and 12 years of age, whose philosophy is based on the
African-American principles of Kwanzaa. BCC served as the lead construction lender on a recently
completed renovation and expansion at the school that has significantly increased its enrollment capacity.
Theyre at a typical point for a small organization that is growing quickly and needs new systems and
management tools, says Oakes. And its important that whatever changes are made dont take away
from the kids experience hats the primary driver.
A tour of the sprawling Victorian led by Andrea Rosario shows off gleaming hardwood floors, carefully
preserved architectural detail, and sunny, open spaces for student performances. In one area, toddlers
crawl, play, or nap in tiny bunks. In another, students sit at tables and study quietly with their teacher. I
try to get out and see as many projects as I can, Oakes says with a smile. This is different from
interacting with spreadsheets at the office.
Class of MBA 2002, Section H
Class of MBA 2002, Section K