Alumnae Share Career Lessons on Women Empowerment Day

Nine alumnae returned to Haas to inspire and prepare nearly 60 young undergraduate women for success at the second annual Women Empowerment Day April 4.

Speaking to students at small, intimate tables over tea in the Wells Fargo Room, the alumnae talked about everything from the value of mentors to their different experiences working with male and female bosses and supervising male and female employees. Students also heard about a huge variety of career paths in such fields as consulting, technology, and even the caviar business.

“What is investor relations?” undergrad Chelsea Itaya, BS 14, asked alumna Wendy Lim, BS 99, who oversees investor relations at Yelp and has had several roles at the company since it has grown from about 50 employees to 1,500.

After explaining that her main responsibility is to communicate to the investment community (current investors, potential investors, analysts, etc.), Lim estimated that community, about one out of every 100 is a woman. But Lim says she might make only slight adjustments to the way she acts in that male-dominated world. “I think there is something about projecting an air of confidence and making sure your voice is heard,” she advised.

Lim also explained how her career path didn’t lead directly to Yelp. She worked at Bain directly after graduating from Haas but felt unsatisfied developing recommendations for clients and not seeing the results of those recommendations put into action. After working at eBay, Clorox, and Yelp, and earning her MBA, she now knows exactly what she likes to do: “I like to build new functions and teams and solve really messy problems.”

After the half-day event, Jesar Shah, BS 15, who is double-majoring in business and computers science, commented on how it provided a rare opportunity to be in a room with so many women.

“A lot of my professors are male,” says Shah, so “meeting all these women in powerful roles was a great opportunity. It was really refreshing.”

One big theme, she says, was balancing family and work. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, alumna Shaoching Bishop, BS 97, CEO of Sterling Caviar, told Shah and the other students at her table. Bishop, the mother of two, had arrived at the event fresh off a plane from Asia. “She said that due to different cultures people may not accept what you are doing, but at the end of the day what’s important is what makes you happy,” Shah recalls.

“It was very inspiring to be there, and it helped me think of things a little differently,” Shah adds.

The event also featured talks by nationally renowned coach and author Valorie Burton and screenwriter and author Gina Grant. It was organized by Haas Lecturer Krystal Thomas, BS 94, and Undergraduate Program Director Erika Walker.

“Your number one job at Cal is to discover who you are and what your purpose is,” Thomas told students after Grant’s keynote talk. “Don’t have the world tell you what your story should be.”


– Lecturer Krystal Thomas, BS 94