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Jan Rivkin '88, Associate professor, Harvard Business School

Chemical Engineering

Why I chose chemical engineering

Engineering was a natural choice for me: the training ran in my family, and I had always loved to understand how things worked. During freshman year, I took the introductory chemical engineering course and fell in love with the subject matter. Moreover, the faculty members in the department took an immediate, personal interest in me and my peers. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

Choice of career

The path that led from engineering to teaching business strategy involved a summer of volunteer work in Ghana; a consequent interest in poverty and economics; a couple of years in England studying economics (about which I knew nothing); an emerging interest in the private sector as an engine of growth; a stint at a consulting firm to get a grasp of the private sector (about which I knew nothing); an emerging interest in business strategy as the key component in that engine of growth; a Ph.D. in business economics from Harvard; and an appointment to the Harvard Business School faculty after graduation.

Impact of a Princeton education on my career

Boy, it's hard to know where to begin. It probably starts with the example set by the professors in the small chemical engineering department and elsewhere at Princeton. Their commitment to teaching set a high standard that has been extremely helpful to me as I've learned to teach. Those professors had an enormous impact on me, which has helped me understand my potential influence on students.

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