Q. What were you looking for in PLD?
In my role, generating revenue for the museum is an important goal. From that perspective, it made sense for me to attend a business program like PLD. But once I started the program, I realized that it's not about revenue—it's all about understanding the structure and processes of an organization and making them better, and making myself fit into that change.
While the goals of a museum and a bank may be different, the structures, people, and processes are the same. Even the need for innovation is the same. When you think about innovation, technology comes to mind, but innovation is also critical in a museum with a collection of treasures, some of which have been around for thousands of years.
Q. How did the program's structure contribute to your learning?
The combination of on-campus and off-campus modules is an incredible experience because you are thrown into and out of the real world. In day-to-day work, you deal with a lot of different things and ultimately focus your attention on what you know, what you're good at, and what you see. Your world becomes quite narrow—like moving through a tunnel. That's a natural defense mechanism that allows you to get things done.
When you come to PLD, you slow down and can see what has been invisible to you. On campus, you can tune out the day-to-day work and see everything else. It's that "everything else" that makes all the difference in what you can learn.
PLD also delivers important perspectives. The more perspectives, you have—the industries you learn about through the cases, the class discussions, the living group, the group of peers, the professors—the more you will start to think about your organization in a new and improved way. After spending so much time in PLD thinking about the problems of other organizations, you realize that we all have the same problems. PLD makes you see the paths others have taken or how they have gotten lost!
Q. How would you summarize the value of the PLD experience?
PLD was a metamorphosis. It gives you the tools to weave your prior experiences with the cohort through the classroom, the living group, exercises, and case studies. It does more than just provide content. It makes you see every element from a different perspective and most important, prompts you to view your own reasoning from a different perspective. I think that is the biggest difference between PLD and other programs.
Over the course of the four modules, PLD puts you in different circumstances and makes you address the same problems from a variety of angles. When you come out of the program, you realize that it's been an exercise in building your capacity to reason at an advanced level with respect to your own organization and your own behavior and performance.
Q. How did PLD develop your self-awareness?
I've concealed certain facets of my personality over the years—another natural tendency in a work environment. I have certain strengths and weaknesses that in certain contexts might get turned upside down. PLD helped me come to terms with my strengths and weaknesses and truly understand them—not just professionally, but also as a person, as a woman, as a friend, and as a colleague—every facet of the person that I am.
Those insights have helped me embark on a journey of change. I now understand the journey much more clearly, and I have the tools I need—the "car,” if you will—to really go on that journey.
Q. How did peers enhance the learning?
HBS created a special kind of structure that was almost like parenting. They gave us the tools—including the coaches, an environment in which we could be the best we can be, and the living group—so we could build relationships.
PLD is a little world where you can start from scratch because you're with all new people. The dynamics allow you to build on the best possible you. I've met some great people and formed relationships in which we can truly help each other grow. I now have special confidantes I can call upon. I can trust and depend on these people, not just in a professional networking sense, but also personally.
Q. What was the biggest PLD takeaway?
At PLD, I had increasingly more "aha" moments in the classroom, and I realized that was where I wanted to be—in a state of constantly building and becoming and learning. The big takeaway is that I now understand the context required for me to continue to have "aha" moments for the rest of my life—in business and elsewhere. In PLD you learn is that context for you and for your organization is everything.
Beyond self-awareness, PLD makes you more capable of effecting change. It puts you in a place where you shed the fear of your weaknesses because you're more aware of them and you're more conscious of how to resolve them. You know that you have to continue to be uncompromisingly human and yourself—a better version of yourself—but you also have to constantly address certain things to keep getting better at what you do.
Q. How has PLD changed your thinking on leadership?
The professors are not only leaders in their fields—they also teach leadership by example. They believe in questions rather than answers and want you to think in that way too, not just for yourself but also for everyone around you. That was an incredible experience.
I understand now that leadership is much more about the question than it is about the answer. I hope to continue to surround myself with people who think in that way and to try to be the change, incite debate, and be the person who can be counted upon to bring more complicated questions and topics to the table. That's going to make all the difference for me and for my organization.
Q. Do you have any advice for other executives considering PLD?
In PLD I began to understand what it really means to go from status quo to progress, both personally and organizationally. I understand the undertaking that is leadership, and that the challenges I will face will not only teach me how to become a better leader, but they will also define me as a person. I wish I could get many more women leaders in my professional community to come to PLD. PLD gives you a step ahead, it gives you the strength that we all need, especially women. So many of my friends, colleagues, and members of my community who are female executives would benefit from being part of a community like HBS and PLD to give them the tools to effect change.