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Building an interdisciplinary career with Christina Wallace, entrepreneur and HBS professor

August 9, 2023

Building an interdisciplinary career with Christina Wallace, entrepreneur and HBS professor

Christina Wallace

Entrepreneur and HBS Professor

A self-described human Venn diagram, Christina Wallace sat down with Willy Walker to discuss her interdisciplinary take on life.

Christina Wallace is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, where she is co-course head for The Entrepreneurial Manager. At HBS, she also teaches launching tech ventures and leads the MBA start-up boot camp immersion program. On top of her work at Harvard, Christina is also an author. Her most recent book, called The Portfolio Life, is a guide to help readers future-proof their careers, avoid burnout, and foster a balanced lifestyle. Christina is also an active angel investor, investing in early-stage tech startups and commercial theater productions on Broadway.

Christina often describes herself as a “human Venn diagram” because of her interdisciplinary take on life, work, and her personal and professional interests.

The cult of ambition

During her time as a student at Harvard Business School, Christina interacted with countless other students and would always inquire about their plans post-business school. Most of them told her they wanted to be the CEO of a multinational company. However, few had any idea of the industry they would want to work in, let alone the company they would want to be CEO of.

Unfortunately, these people found themselves in what Christina has dubbed “The Cult of Ambition.” The cult of ambition is a mindset that many fall into in which they focus solely on achievement in one aspect of their lives (typically their own careers). Once these people achieve something, they are immediately looking for what they would like to achieve next, directing all of their energy to the next bigger and better achievement. While being ambitious and looking to achieve goals is important, Christina believes that having a diverse, well-balanced lifestyle with achievements in each area of your life is even more important.

Building an innovative operating system

As corporations have grown larger and larger over time, it’s become increasingly difficult for them to innovate in their respective spaces. Christina has found that it often takes borderline acts of God to push large corporations to pursue innovative ideas, which is not how a business should work. While companies should not focus all of their efforts on innovation, it should certainly be a core, continuous focus.

However, building an innovative culture requires a bit of a system reset, especially for some of the largest companies in the world. Building an innovative operating system starts with building a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship amongst your employees. Real innovation is often the product of many successive failures, which is problematic for most large corporations, as they have long lead times for product rollouts.

Work-life balance is a myth

“Work-life balance” is a term that has been thrown around for quite some time. Christina, however, does not believe in work-life balance as it is usually understood. The very nature of the term assumes that there are only two things to balance, work and life. In reality, there is much more depth to everyday living than just time spent at work versus time spent outside of work. Work is actually a subset of your broader life, and as much as you would love for everything to be perfectly balanced, it never will be. There will be times throughout your life when certain things are much more important and take up much more time than others.

Perfectly balanced

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