This post originally appeared on the HBS MBA Voices admissions blog.
Charlie Hernandez – JD/MBA Candidate
My name is Charlie Hernandez. I grew up in Los Angeles, California, where I attended Loyola High School, a Catholic, all boys high school located in downtown LA. I attended Harvard College, and after graduating in 2011, I worked in international hotel development in Latin America and the Caribbean for two years.
During this time, I spent approximately three weeks out of every month traveling to Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and other countries throughout the region. This was a tremendous opportunity for me as I enjoy traveling, but also provided me with the opportunity to learn how to conduct business in other languages and cultures.
While both law and business were of interest to me in college, the importance of an integrated, multidisciplinary approach became clear in my first job after graduation during a meeting in Mexico City with a group of real estate developers. I met with the team in an office building on the city’s main thoroughfare, Paseo de la Reforma, to discuss a proposed hotel development. As the developers introduced themselves, I quickly realized we were beginning negotiations not only with their team of senior executives, all with extensive business experience, but also with a team of lawyers specializing in transactional and real estate law.
To compete at this level, I realized I would need a more in-depth understanding of both sides of the equation: taxes, regulatory issues, the distinctions between international legal systems, and the different leverage points within contracts, as well as the accounting, finance and business strategy skills taught at business school.
I believe the synergies of the JD/MBA program – the courses, philosophies, and teaching styles – create an unmatched forum to develop this multifaceted skill set and balanced understanding. The two schools together offer a unique opportunity to learn from diverse perspectives of other students with different cultural, academic, and professional backgrounds. I believe there is no better academic training ground than Harvard’s JD/MBA program, and this education is one that can be applied in almost any business scenario.
Throughout the four years in the program, you have the opportunity to pursue three different summer internships and explore various business and law opportunities. While the schools provide advice and counseling, they leave the decision entirely up to you as to how to spend your summers. Amongst the current JD/MBA’s, I think we had someone on almost every continent and in almost every major industry last summer.
My personal goal with my summer internships was to complement what I had learned in the past year and help me further identify a path to achieve my professional goals and interests. Following 1L year, I wanted to see how private equity and M&A transactions were conducted from a legal standpoint. Following RC year, I hoped to apply the technical financial skills I had learned at HBS in a setting that related to my interests in real estate. Importantly, students should use the opportunity of multiple summers to hone down their interests, while making sure to set clear expectations with their employers regarding what their plans are for full-time employment after graduation.
My first summer was spent at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, a multinational corporate law firm headquartered in New York City. While there, I divided my time between their Private Equity/Mergers and Acquisitions group and their Capital Markets group. I had the opportunity to work on an IPO and several acquisitions, and see what the process looked like from the legal side. As a JD/MBA, I am often asked whether I intend to pursue a career in law or in business. I feel that spending time inside a law firm is a crucial component not only to answering that question, but also to gaining a more wholesome appreciation for legal work in general and how what we study at HLS applies in a transactional setting.
For my second summer internship I worked at Goldman Sachs in their Real Estate Investment Banking group. My passions are real estate and finance. Working at Goldman gave me the opportunity to take a close look at some very interesting deals in that space, and work alongside some extremely smart and experienced people. I am glad I did this internship after my first year at HBS because I was applying what I learned in my Finance courses and FRC (Financial Reporting and Control) on a daily basis.
As I write this I am in the midst of the recruitment process for my third summer internship. As with last year, HBS has made available a phenomenal amount of recruitment opportunities, and nearly all of my interviewing has been through the campus recruiting system. This summer I hope to learn more about real estate finance and continue to prepare for a career in real estate investment and development.
By the time I began the JD/MBA program, I was certain my long-term career goal was to start a socially-minded real estate investment and development firm through which I could have a positive impact on the Los Angeles community. Knowing this has let me spend my summers in ways that will help me determine the best path in the near term to achieve my long-term goals.