At first glance, I seem like the last person to ever consider taking a course like HBX CORe. I am deeply rooted in arts and social justice, most of my peers critique capitalism at every turn, and financial documents make me yawn. However, I do love learning, and have a philosophy of signing up to anything that seemed interesting - and HBX CORe seemed intriguing enough to try. To my surprise, I found HBX CORe far more engaging than I anticipated, and I was able to find many ways to connect my background and my values with my learning experience.
Understanding analytics can protect you from being exploited by misleading information and fine-tune your knowledge in an area of interest.
Statistics of all kinds are commonly used to persuade or advocate for any position - this group is correlated with high crime rates, or this diet change correlates to massive weight loss, for example. It’s easy to be confused by a random p-value or the use of a different kind of “average” (mean, mode, median) than expected - and unfortunately many take advantage of that confusion to present false information.
Being able to read and understand analytical data helps you be more discerning: you are able to recognize when someone is misusing data to push an agenda, know what the results actually say, and can draw more solid conclusions. On the flip side, understanding basic analytical skills – such as linear regression or surveying – can help you better understand your topic of interest and be able to communicate your findings accurately: from community opinion polls about a recent Governmental measure to what you should sell at your next Artist’s Alley booth.
Accounting is really all about organizing how money comes in and goes out in a business.
At first I found the whole concept of financial accounting daunting and dreadful; I could never make sense of all these profits and losses, and actually shied away from starting various projects because I didn’t think I could handle the financial paperwork. However, through HBX CORe I learned that all those documents are really just different ways of recording and organizing financial transactions that happen in a business: every purchase, sale, loan, investment, even tax and depreciation.
Start with a record of every transaction, organize them into categories (“accounts”), and from there group similar accounts together to see where the money is going. Once all that data is organized, the ratios to figure out things like profit margins or cash conversion cycles become very straightforward. How quickly are you going through your inventory? How much profit are you earning relative to the costs of your business? When do you pay off your debt, when do you get paid by your customers, and how long does this take?
Even if you don’t plan to start a business, knowing what those terms refer to can help make sense of big financial news, such as a company's IPO or prospectus release. You get a sense for where those companies’ priorities lie and which areas are stronger than others.
Understanding economics concepts can really strengthen your political/social justice position (and HBX CORe is a welcoming space for it)!
Through my strong involvement in intersectional activism, I’ve learned a lot about how capitalism and mainstream economics can become oppressive forces for marginalized communities. Certain parts of the Economics module in particular became very challenging and somewhat frustrating because it felt like they did not really dive deeper into the socio-political implications or critiques of those theories.
I decided that, rather than be silenced for fear of jeopardizing my grades, I was going to take this opportunity to bring my passion and experience to the program. I drew connections between what we learned in class and how they applied to the wider world outside our HBX bubble. I spoke up about the real-world impacts of minimum wage and illustrated the connection between Willingness to Pay and sex worker rights. While these conversations were sometimes very heated, I found that my coursemates and even the professors were open to my critique, with many appreciating the varying perspectives I brought to the table.
Our work and perspectives have value.
As artists, activists, change makers, community builders, creatives, and others with more alternative life paths, we are often surrounded by messaging telling us that our work is not worth as much, that it’s frivolous and not as important as being rich and successful. While we may not seem like the target market for a business course like CORe, there’s actually a lot of material within that we have every right to adopt, make our own, and benefit from understanding – from being willing to price ourselves by our true value (rather than undersell ourselves), to tracking concrete measurements of the value we give and receive. There will be plenty of people in your cohort that are more than willing to listen to your point of view and respect you for sticking to your values.
You may not ever need to make profit and loss statements or set up a multiple variable linear regression in Excel, but at the very least you’ll understand another powerful language to navigate the world - and make it more like the world we envision.
Interested in learning Financial Accounting, Business Analytics, and Economics for Managers?
About the Author
Tiara Shafiq earned a Pass with High Honors in the January 2016 cohort of HBX CORe. She is passionate about liminality, identity, and community, and has over five years of experience in the arts, media, community cultural development, tech, education, and activism. Tiara has recently relocated to Melbourne, Australia, and is busy seeking out opportunities for work, creativity, and community. Visit her at creatrixtiara.com.