Thursday, December 13, 2012

Classroom vs. Real Life

I'm going to be spending some time in an aircraft in about a week. PIT -> LAX -> BNE (that's Brisbane Australia. Yes, I'm going home :)). The flight from PIT to LAX is quite long - about 5 hours, and we leave early evening. Normally, I would have a book with me, but it tends to put me to sleep (and I don't want that yet), so my other activity, cross-stitching, is going to be pulled out. It's rather tough for me to cross-stitch solely, I usually need some kind of aural entertainment.

When I went to Seattle/San Francisco at the beginning of the year, I had uploaded some podcasts about the life of consultants onto my iPod and listened to them while cross-stitching. Ultimately, it was those podcasts that showed me that I am not a good fit for Consulting. Remembering that I liked to listen to those podcasts, I spent some time looking for podcasts on the iTunes store. I bounced around the different categories - I went straight to Games and Hobbies first, then Careers, then just the Business section... and discovered the HBR podcasts.

Merrily, I started to download all the ones that sounded interesting. Career building was a must; there were a bunch around leadership, innovation, a few from HR-viewpoints... and then one caught my eye.

It's podcast "139: Is transparency always the best policy?" It was not the title that caught my eye, but rather the author - Paul Levy. Interestingly, in my last Power class, we had a case on Paul Levy and his role as CEO of the Beth Israel Deacon Medical Hospital. While the case itself was pretty dry, the last ten minutes of the class become quite lively when one of my classmates brought up the fact that he had had an intimate relationship with a female consultant he had brought on board. This was not covered in the case, and we started to talk about whether moral deficiencies had a right to be considered when studying the work of a leader (she was complaining that his having the affair was grounds to not talk about the case in class since it exemplified that sort of behavior).

In my opinion, what someone does in his or her private life has no bearing on that person's competence on the job. Now, this consultant did gain from being in a relationship with him, but had the relationship not been intimate, there would have been little to no outcry of favoritism - it's a given that in the business world, the adage "it's who you know" runs very true. And she seemed to be very competent in her job. It's very well known that if a new high-ranking person steps into a position in a company s/he will fill the lower ranks with her/his own people - VERY relevant for CEOs since they tend to clear out the executive suite when coming in. Is the presence of sex really that much of a difference? Or is it more that the consultant was female and that's the trope we as a society tend to fall on - that she slept her way to her position.

Regardless, I could go on forever about this since it's something that I have strong feelings about (being assessed on factors other than job competence and performance not sleeping to the top), but I'm not going to. I mention this situation to my partner, explained my position, and he makes this comment that for a business student, he's surprised at my lack of ethics. This made me scratch my head, because I had thought the relationship-benefits was a morality choice and the only thing that was unethical was that he had kept this potential conflict of interest from the Board.

While this post seems to ramble, it's highlighting three important things for the week:
- I'm less than a week away from going home - this is the first time in 2 years
- HBR, their podcasts, and other similar auditory experiences are worth investigating
- I can't really vocalize the difference between morality and ethics, or at least the difference in my mind.


  1. I like to think of morality as self imposed boundaries and ethics as society imposed. Polygamy is an example. Certainly permitted and ethical in many cultures but not morally right for members of some faiths.

  2. Hi Julianne, I'm trying to ffind a contact form on your blog but can't find one. I'd love to get in touch with you and interview you for our blog series on current MBA student bloggers. Love your blog and would love to feature you! Can you please email me at Thanks so much!

    Sarah Pritzker

  3. Hi Julianne,
    Do you care to share the links you to the podcasts about life as a consultant?



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