Alumni Spotlight – Joe Seydl SVMP ’09


An SVMP ’09 Alumnus reflects on his experience with SVMP, the working world, politics, and life in general.


If you were to ask a randomly selected group of SVMP alumni what they remember most about SVMP, my hunch is that you would hear a range of different responses. Some alums might cite the quality of the cases that were covered at SVMP, others might mention the relationships that were formed throughout the program, and a few would likely reminisce about the fine-dining experience offered at the HBS cafeteria. For me, though, it was witnessing a diversity of opinions and viewpoints clash inside the classroom.


Indeed, when I attended SVMP in 2009, I was blown away by the level of heated debate that quickly unfolded during each case study discussion. My SVMP peers had wildly different views about, for example, what constitutes proper business ethics, how important free trade is for economic growth, and, of course, whether Maria Sharapova should focus on playing tennis or becoming a beauty queen. Moreover, these differing viewpoints evoked a lot of emotional tension in the classroom at SVMP – tension that, often times, lasted long after the formal classroom discussion ended.


But, despite the strong tension, my SVMP peers always seemed to find some common ground on the issues that were presented in the cases we examined. For example, if there were disagreements about the precise causes of the 2008 financial crisis, there were agreements about the apparent need for more regulatory oversight to ensure that a similar crisis does not happen again in the future. Or, if there were disagreements about whether Airbus’ A380 would be a profitable business investment, there were agreements about the future demand for larger aircraft and the viability of hub-and-spoke transportation schemes. In essence, during SVMP I watched smart, young individuals with diverse opinions and beliefs come together and reach a compromise. It was an encouraging sight.


What is less encouraging, however, is that our nation’s leaders do not seem to be coming together and reaching a similar compromise. My job — for better or for worse – forces me to follow the political discussion closely, and I continue to witness stalemate among policymakers in terms of addressing our nation’s most pressing challenges, such as the current teenage unemployment crisis or the unsustainable growth trajectory of federal entitlement spending. If 64 rising college seniors were able reach a compromise inside a classroom at HBS, why can’t government policymakers do the same on Capitol Hill?


I have been grappling with this question for some time, and I think a crucial part of the problem is that too many young people’s beliefs and ideas are being neglected in the realm of policy discourse. And this is not just a U.S. centric phenomenon; suppression of the youth voice was a main factor that led to the uprisings in Egypt and Libya earlier this year. Of course, violence is never the answer to any problem. But young people deserve a right to be heard, if for no other reason than because many of the policies currently being discussed by leaders in government and in business are likely to affect younger people the most.


All of this brings me back to those intense debates I witnessed during SVMP. It is critically important that those debates do not end when SVMP ends each year. Rather, recent SVMP alumni – as well as the broader youth population – should be continuously urging policymakers and business leaders to make progress on the difficult decisions that lie ahead for our country. After all, young people tend to have the most creative and thought-provoking solutions when it comes to tackling complex problems, and those solutions need to be expressed through whatever means possible – including through social media platforms, blogs, and public dialog.


So my advice to those who recently graduated from SVMP is to speak up. Question what you read in the newspaper and what you hear on television with the same ambition that you used to question the cases that were covered in the classroom at SVMP. And don’t be afraid to leverage off of your peers – and especially your SVMP network – for advice about how to make your voice more widely heard.


I am hopeful that more prosperous times are ahead for not only the U.S. economy, but for the global economy as well. To secure that fate, however, requires effective leadership today. But that effective leadership need not be solely from today’s leaders in business and in government. Indeed, to tackle tomorrow’s challenges, a concerted effort from tomorrow’s leaders is required. And if there is one thing I know for sure, it is that our SVMP alumni are the leaders of tomorrow.


Joe Seydl is currently an Economic Analyst at Wells Fargo in Charlotte, NC He is a 2010 graduate of Lehigh University and Participated in SVMP in 2009.


[Back to news summary]