This post first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

I'll be the first to admit it, for the last 22 days I've been nervous. On Friday, April 21, 2017, I entered a freezing testing center at 2pm. In precisely three hours, I answered 135 questions on Business Analytics, Economics, and Financial Accounting. Today I learned I passed the exam.

Insert sigh of relief.

Why I Joined HBX CORe

Like many folks in the Boise cohort, I first heard about the Harvard Business School HBX CORe immersion program at Boise State University on NPR. In December, I discovered I could earn nine college credits while learning skills needed for a burgeoning startup. Don't get me wrong though, I knew about business operations before joining HBX.

My business education prior to HBX came from hands-on experience, running a community preschool, dabbling in real estate development, non-profit board governance, and managing rental properties. I've always been impressed with the expertise a well-versed MBA graduate brings to the table. But I didn't want to dive into an MBA program following two grueling years of engineering school. That would just be YUCK!

My plan is to work, build, solve problems and eat well. Not get an MBA.

HBX covers the fundamentals of an MBA in just 16 weeks (or less!). In fact, many learners use HBX as a litmus test to see if they have what it takes to pursue an MBA. I personally would hire someone on the spot if they passed HBX. I joined HBX so I could avoid common business mistakes and learn accrual accounting.

What was it like?

First, HBX was not easy. But don't just take my word for it. If you want to join HBX do your homework first. There are several years of HBX graduates all over the globe. Google them. Connect.

HBX CORe is a significant time commitment. For me, HBX occupied 15 to 20 hours each week. You will fail if you think you can swoop in after a long day at work or school and take a couple of quizzes and pass in-between dinner with the kids and a little R&R time. There are faculty and protagonist videos, practice questions, interactive learning tools and peer-to-peer learning and engagement. 

I was particularly shocked by my first "cold call," as I had to answer a tricky, and rather long question, in one minute. The cold call lasts one minute, including response time, and, at the end of the minute, your response is automatically submitted. Then your classmates review and comment on your quick witted thinking. Just like real life...or Twitter.

My cohort was comprised of roughly 300 participants from around the globe. The diversity of the group was tremendous, ranging from fortune 500 executives to college freshman. Through the HBX platform and social media, we were miraculously fortified, across national borders, as one body of learners. I also got to connect with my equally brilliant "local cohort",  as others in Boise were enrolled in the same program .We were all working to exhaustion but we were in it together—and together is an awesome movement.

I thrive on stress and deadlines. HBX did not disappoint. Some weeks overlapping assignments were due. The project manager in me loved this aspect. It proved to be an exhilarating challenge to meet demanding deadlines.

Five reasons why HBX is CrossFit for the brain:

My arms were getting squishy and my husband suggested I join CrossFit with him. So I did. I've been working on my outside and inside self, I thought I'd share similarities:

1. CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. HBX is intense work, questions from quizzes are not like the test, you learn to solve problems from the variation. With CrossFit, you develop a balanced physique. With HBX you develop a balanced understanding of business management.

2. CrossFit is made of the best workouts from gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. HBX brings in world renowned subject matter experts who teach the most critical aspects of running a business.

3. CrossFit is data driven, individuals use their own statistics to improve physical performance over time. HBX uses data to show student's baseline scores so that they can improve with vigorous study.

4.  CrossFit is a sport that becomes magnetic when a community comes together to do workouts. I can't imagine HBX without learners connected to each other via the platform. The camaraderie that developed with the crew on Facebook was simply organic after initial connections were made. Without multiple touchpoints to other learners, HBX would just be another (boring) online course. Even my CrossFit group has a Facebook page, it's good for the FOMO's.

5. CrossFit was developed for universal scalability making it an ideal workout for any committed individual. You will get out of HBX what you put into it, my brain feels gigantic, but I still know I have a lot of learning ahead to mastery. Fortunately, I'm able to further my studies on my own time, building on the great platform HBX has helped me form.

Fun CrossFit Fact: RUTH BADER GINSBURG CAN BENCH PRESS 70 LBS AT AGE 84!

Huge hearty thanks to HBX for giving my brain a workout and connecting me to a community of internationally acclaimed thinkers and doers. I'll forever be grateful for this experience.


Interested in learning more about Business Analytics, Economics, and Financial Accounting?

Learn more about HBX CORe
Erin Sorensen

About the Author

Erin Sorensen is an entrepreneur, student, mom and community advocate. When she’s not dreaming and doing, she is working on an Engineering degree at Boise State, volunteering in her neighborhood or enjoying the outdoors with her family. In 2016, Erin received a Dorothy Richardson Resident Leadership Award from NeighborWorks America, which is bestowed annually to eight citizens across the nation in recognition of outstanding community leadership.