Turning on my laptop and taking that first sip of coffee was accompanied by a distinct feeling this morning.

It’s been less than 12 hours since landing back in São Paulo, Brazil, and I feel utterly energized. I’m sure my fellow HBS Online students have the same sense of excitement as we head back to our daily routines in our home continents, countries, and cities. Connext 2019 will certainly be in our memories for many years to come—remembered as the day we experienced what Harvard Business School has to offer, thoroughly and truly.

In my case, this journey started nearly half a year ago when I was applying for CORe. I had just quit my job as a coordinator working in the automotive industry to pursue my lifelong dream of founding a startup in social education. With a background in engineering, I had intentionally spared time to pursue further literacy in business before diving into my new venture. I recall spending almost two weeks trying to find the program best suited to my needs. As one can expect, I made up my mind after learning about CORe. I thought its curriculum and structure were unprecedented in so many ways—I simply had to take it.

A few weeks in, I found that juggling my time between the hours needed for each of the three courses and all the goals I had set for my newly founded firm proved to be a highly challenging task. I remember spending six to seven hours mastering the content of a single week’s course module, time and time again. More than once, I missed a Friday dinner with friends or a Sunday brunch with family to study. But the investment was more than worth it. The foundations gained in Financial Accounting, the strategy insights simulated by cases in Economics for Managers, and the decision-making tools taught in Business Analytics helped build the groundwork for my career as an entrepreneur and manager.

Related: Why Having a Foundation in Business Is Critical

Looking back, it’s clear that I could only go through the courses with such intensity because I had a strong network of people to support me. I could name dozens of brilliant students from my cohort who were incredibly engaged with my personal learning. We all sought encouragement from one another through peer help, text messaging, LinkedIn, and our Facebook group. To all those who assisted me along the way, I am genuinely thankful. Because of you, the whole journey extended much further than the online classes and numerous exercises. As a result of my teammates’ self-motivation and hunger for acquiring and sharing knowledge, going through the program was a vivid and aspirational experience.

As our work in the platform advanced, my peers and I received great news: We were all invited to attend Connext 2019, a day-long conference featuring faculty-led case discussions, panels with purpose-driven business leaders, and extensive networking opportunities. And it was a blast! HBS Online Executive Director Patrick Mullane, Professor Bharat Anand, and several of their colleagues and staff demonstrated why HBS stands as the one of leading business schools in the world, as students from six continents flew in for the conference.

Related: Connext 2019 Recap: Exploring "Business with a Purpose"

Registration was smooth and easy, the breakfast options were delicious, and the HBS Online staff were among the kindest human beings you can find. The opening remarks were jaw-dropping, as we were presented with facts and figures that only an institution like Harvard could make possible.

Professor Bharat Anand welcomed us in the recently inaugurated Klarman Hall and encouraged us to take a step back and think about why our educational journeys are important. He shared a thought that truly resonated with me:

“One of the solutions which everyone can agree on is the promise of education.”

—PROFESSOR BHARAT ANAND

As the founder of a firm that provides management education for Brazilian students with limited financial means, I felt reassured. His comments on the need for creativity and inspiration, as well as his remarks on the requirements for solving tough social and business problems, helped me feel certain that my company works for a greater purpose.

“Talent is located everywhere,” Anand said.

That is the exact premise upon which my firm was built. Hearing those words from a renowned HBS instructor could not have been more motivating.

Watch the opening remarks and keynote below:

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The day then continued to what was its peak, in my perspective. Each student was assigned to a classroom in Aldrich Hall for a faculty-led case discussion in the signature HBS style. Every aspect of it was exhilarating. My peers and I experienced firsthand what it’s like to be cold called. We interacted with Professor Jan Hammond as she skillfully led the session, allowing us to reflect on and learn from our individual assumptions and collective insights.

Following the case discussions, we attended panels in Batten Hall regarding diversity and inclusion, sustainability, and leading in times of change. After that, we headed back to Klarman Hall for a closing keynote by Catherine D’Amato, President and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank, who presented a special challenge to the HBS Online Community. What a day!

Watch the closing keynote below:

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As I reflect upon these past few months, the question I keep asking myself is: How fortunate are we to be part of a program like this? We live in times when a mid-career retail manager in Peru has the chance to interact with a senior partner of an investment firm in Australia and a young founder in Brazil. We have access to the best business professors in the world through a dynamic and cohesive platform. We are exposed to real problems, faced by real people, working in real companies. CORe allows us to understand different business solutions and the underlying concepts behind them, as we gain a global perspective to problem-solving.

Personally, this perspective has brought me the clarity and confidence needed to define my company’s strategy, the knowledge to choose the most appropriate financial metrics to assess its performance, and the skills to manage complex databases. Going through CORe completely changed the way I conduct my startup. And the magnitude of this transformation is not lost on me. All of the colleagues with whom I’ve interacted feel that the experience has impacted their professional lives by either helping them to accelerate their careers, transition to new fields, or get more attention from recruiters.

Credential of Readiness (CORe) - Master the fundamentals of business. Learn more.

Having said that, I leave the following recommendation to all those wondering whether they should take a leap of faith: Choose a cohort, plan your schedule, collaborate intensely, and persist. Taking CORe is going to be great. Attending Connext will be the summit. Go for it!

Do you want to gain a deeper understanding of essential business concepts? Explore CORe, and find out how furthering your education can help you add value to your organization and take your career to the next level.

For more Connext-related content, check out all of our past coverage of the event.

Lucas B. Machado

About the Author

Lucas B. Machado is a former management consultant and coordinator in the automotive industry. He is the founder of Ivy Room, an early-stage startup based in Curitiba, Brazil. His company aims to share management knowledge with undergraduate seniors coming from limited financial means who are pursuing placements at top-tier firms.