Cary Williams

Cary Williams

Class of 2016, American Studies
Associate Consultant, Bain & Company
Cary Williams

Thesis Title: “At Least We Have Our Name”: Free People of Color and the Struggle to Survive in Antebellum Louisiana and Mississippi

What Now: Associate Consultant at Bain & Company in San Francisco, CA

What Next: Heading back to Harvard to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School

Follow Me: @urcarygodmother (Twitter), @carywilliams (Instagram)

When I tell people that concentrated in the humanities and am pursuing a career in business, they wonder what the connection is. Hist & Lit prepared me with two things in particular that I’ll carry with me into my professional life: 1. I learned how rewarding it is to work hard at something I’m passionate about; 2. I learned how to think. My thesis was an opportunity to spend about a year thinking and writing about something that I am now rather obsessed with. There were many long nights of research and drafting, but I was so passionate about my topic that I didn’t mind spending hours and hours writing until I felt like I got it right. In fact, I’d often lose track of time as I worked my way through a primary document or puzzled through revising a draft. Writing a thesis is a huge opportunity for personal growth, and it taught me a lot about being resilient and following through on work that I find meaningful. While I won’t be writing a thesis for work, I will undoubtedly have to persevere through a stressful time or a heavier workload. I now know just how hard I can work when I believe in and am excited by the end product.

The other big life lesson I learned in the concentration is how to think in complex, deeply analytical ways. It might be hard to wrap your mind around understanding how a concentration can teach you to think, but I believe one of Hist & Lit’s  strongest assets is a shared philosophy amongst the teaching staff regarding the importance of learning from peers and faculty in small group discussions. My junior fall, I took Prof. Timothy McCarthy’s HL90, “Stories of Slavery and Freedom.” That class, and my peers in it, forever changed me because they challenged my thinking and made me a better scholar, citizen, and person for it. I came to class with ideas, and the moment I voiced my opinion, I was invited into dialogue by students with various perspectives and analyses of the text we were discussing. Hist & Lit fosters opportunities for conversation and intellectual exchange that proved to me, time and again, that some of my very best teachers at Harvard were my peers in my Hist & Lit cohort. I learned how to think and ask good questions and engage with peers in our concentration’s seminars, and I will carry that analytical thinking into my work as a consultant. Being able to think and articulate those thoughts in a crisp and concise manner is a skill rehearsed around seminar tables every day in the concentration, and I look forward to applying those skills in my post-grad context.