Aaron Allison: April Blog
My name is Aaron Allison, and I am 12 days, 5 classes. 3-20 page papers and 2 projects away from graduating from The Harvard Business School. I am honestly a typical guy from the Midwest. I was born and raised in the small town of East Palestine, Ohio with my Mom, Dad and two sisters. As a child, I liked playing sports and working on cars with my Dad. And I especially loved going racing. When I am walking around the Harvard Business School Campus, oftentimes I think “How did I even get here?”…
How I got where I am
I would say my path to Harvard was a lot different than most. Ever since I was a teenager, my goal was to work as an engineer for General Motors. Racing, and the technology and mechanics behind it, have always fascinated me, and I knew that working for GM would be a fitting profession. I had a successful high school career, both academically and athletically, and made the decision to attend Kettering University based on its emphasis in the field of engineering. During my second year in college, I was able to obtain a co-op job at the GM Service Parts Operations World Headquarters in Grand Blanc, Michigan. I worked at GM-SPO all through college and ended up working for the GM Performance Parts group my last year. After receiving a degree in Mechanical Engineering, I accomplished my goal and received a full-time job at GM Performance Parts.
I had a great time working at GM, but knew that I wanted to get a Master’s degree in Business Administration at some point in my career. In the fall of 2007 GM wasn’t doing well financially and they were laying off a large number of engineers. It was a perfect time for me to apply to graduate schools. I decided that I would apply to local schools and a couple great stretch schools (Harvard) just to see what would happen.
Honestly, I wasn’t even expecting an interview. But, about a month after I turned in my application I received an email saying that the admissions committee at Harvard wanted to meet me. So I flew up to Boston, interviewed, and then next thing at knew I received a call saying that I was officially a student at Harvard Business School.
The Last 2 Years of My Life
My time at Harvard has been amazing. I have had so many experiences that I am grateful for. Living in Boston has been fun. I have had the opportunity to go to a Yankees-Redsox game at Fenway Park, and I have seen the Celtics play, too. My family helped me move in, and we went around to all the historical sites on the Freedom Trail and even went to the real Cheers. Tons of famous people come to speak at Harvard, and I always try to go to these presentations. I have had breakfast with Jeb Bush, ran into Tyra Banks, and been in the same room as Bill Gates, and Rick Wagner, the former CEO of GM. One of my first few days at Harvard, I was 3 feet away from MC Hammer. During my first year, I went on a school trip to China, and this year I went on school trips to Colorado and to the Bahamas. Next week I am going to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in Nebraska. I sit in classrooms with the children of men who are on the Forbes Top 500 Richest. I play basketball with guys who drive Porsches, while I drive my 1997 4wd Chevy Pickup Truck.
While I have had a great two years here, at times it is intimidating to be at this place (as you can tell from above). The classes are really hard and the competition is fierce. Your grades are determined based on how well you perform against your classmates and you are not guaranteed to graduate. Your grade is based on class participation and performance on a final written exam. At times I was worried that I had nothing to offer to class discussions. I have people in my classes who are surgeons, military experts and former NFL players. Over time I have become more comfortable in my surroundings and have met a lot of great friends and learned a lot. People here are also intrigued that I drag race. Most people have never even heard of it, so while I am here, I take the time to educate my peers about what a great sport it is. Last year, my section had a charity auction and I volunteered a “Day at the Races” where classmates could come watch me race and understand a little more about my passion. It went over well, and I think that some people here now think that drag racing is cool.
Me in front of Baker Library on the HBS campus
This summer I had a marketing internship with a company called Danaher. This company owns 90 small companies across the world. I was offered a full time position, and upon graduation I will be a marketing manager at the Danaher subsidiary Matco Tools. Matco is located in Stow, Ohio. I had a great time there this summer, and I am excited to go back
My Life Relationships
I couldn’t be where I am today without the help of my amazing family and friends. I just wanted to introduce you to some people that I’m sure I will continually write about in my blogs.
Misti: My fiancé Misti has always been a huge help and is the love of my life. She is the one who convinced me to apply to Harvard, and she has provided me with continuous support throughout this whole journey. She has helped me more than I could have ever asked, and I think we make a great team. I knew I couldn’t let her get away, and at the beginning of March I got down on one knee and proposed. When Misti isn’t planning our wedding, she is finishing up her classes in the Master’s of Public Health program at Ohio State. Her concentration is in Health Management, and she will be graduating in August. Misti also goes to almost every race with me, and helps keep stats and run the weather system.
Misti and I at HBS Formal Event
Terry: This is my Dad and he has, been racing over 35 years. During this time, he has won several big races, including the 2003 IHRA Boston National Event and a NHRA points meet at Martin, MI in 1996. Terry has built and sold numerous race cars for NHRA and IHRA competition. Without all of his help and guidance I would not be involved in the sport of drag racing. I have been very busy during the past few years and my father has always been there to do whatever it takes to get the car ready and to the track. My Dad still lives in East Palestine, Ohio with my Mom, Sue, and dog Scout.
Friends: Over the years I have met numerous friends’ drag racing and without their help this sport would be much tougher and less fun. I would especially like to call out a few friends that have gone over and above to help in the past few years. Ron Traupman has been a great friend and has helped me in so many ways. He has hauled my cars all over the country, lent me race cars to drive, worked on my cars, and so many other things. Jerry Coblentz, two time Division 3 Bracket Racing Champ, lives in my home town and helped me develop in to the racer that I am today. Also over the years he has helped me get my cars ready for more events than I can remember. I met Alex Miller at Kettering University and he has become one of my closest racing friends. Over the years we have drove each other’s race cars, talked about strategy, and helped each other work on our stuff. Without all of these great friends and many others it would be very hard to get to the race track let alone win races.
Now on to the important stuff, what will I be racing this summer? This summer I will be driving to cars in NHRA, IHRA, and bracket competition. I have actually not seen my cars since Christmas, but hopefully my father and I can get them uncovered and ready for race season in the next few weeks.
1990 SS/BM Chevy Cavalier: My father built this car in 1989 out a body and white car given to him by GM. The car has been in our family ever since and I have run the car in Super Stock since 2003. It currently has a 341 inch SB2.2 Small Block Chevy backed by a powerglide transmission. The engine was originally a Craftsman Truck series engine that after 3 seasons we decided to get rebuild over this past winter. The freshened engine with a few changes should put the car in the 8.80’s range, which will put me about 4 tenths under the NHRA SS/BM index.
1976 B/CM Chevy Vega: I will be using this car in IHRA Stock Eliminator, Local Brackets, and NHRA Super Street. The car is powered by a GMPP 350 inch Small Block Chevy crate engine backed by a powerglide transmission. The car has gone a best of 9.91 at 132 mph.
I am graduating in few short weeks from school and have the majority of the summer off before I am able to start my full time job in August. Last summer I was fortunate enough to attend a few races when I could sneak away from my summer internship. This summer however I plan to do something that I have always wanted to try. I am going to race full time for 3 months and then part time after I start my job. I have put together a full schedule that includes NHRA Nation Events, NHRA Divisional Events, IHRA Pro-AMs, and several other bracket races.
I will run my Cavalier in Super Stock and the Vega will do battle in IHRA Stock, NHRA Super Street, and local brackets events. I have not had much success in the last two years driving my Cavalier in Super Stock, but I am hoping that will change. We have made a few changes on the car that should make it much more durable and consistent. Now all I need is a little luck. In 2007 and 2009 I was fortunate to win the IHRA Division 3 Stock Championship and my goal is to keep my every other year streak going and win the division which will gain me entry into the IHRA Tournament of Champions. I have never run Super Street with the Vega, but I figured that I will try it out at a few NHRA Divisional Events since the car will already be there. I am looking forward to the challenge and hopefully I will not embarrass myself to bad on the pro tree.
Another area that I will focus both my blog and my racing enterprise on is the finances of racing. In the past I have never done a very good job keeping track of expenses and at the end of the year had a hard time calculating how much money I had made or probably more often lost. Budgets are tight for everyone these days and I am no different. With the aggressive racing schedule that I have planned I have tried to keep this in mind when selecting which races to attend. I will strive to save money where I can and hopefully along the way I will be able to win a few race too.
I would like to thank Luke Bogacki for giving me this opportunity along with APD, K&N, Nitroplate, and J and J Engine Diapers for their support. I can’t wait to get back racing and I am looking forward to a great summer. I am also looking forward to writing this blog and meeting many of you at the races.