Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we spoke with Angelo Ignacio, EMBA 22, an email marketing manager at 23andMe, who’s committed to mission-driven work. He shares his story below.
Social impact work and storytelling have been at the heart of everything that I do. As a marketing major at Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit private college in Los Angeles, I envisioned working at a big advertising agency after college. But the 2008 recession forced me to shift gears and be open to other possibilities. It was a sobering moment for me because I learned that life doesn’t always go the way you plan, but if you approach life with a half-glass full mentality—something that I inherited from my parents—you can overcome anything. The recession, in my view, was a shortcut to finding my purpose and pursuing a mission-driven career.
After college I joined Invisible Children, a nonprofit humanitarian organization whose mission is to stop the use of child soldiers and reunite children with their families. That work opened my eyes to the impact of storytelling and marketing to get people to rally for a good cause.
One of the projects that I worked on was building a marketing campaign to raise funds that were then used to charter helicopters. The helicopters would fly over Kiliwa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nzako in Central African Republic, drop compostable flyers with directions to safe zones, and use loudspeakers to play recorded messages from parents whose children had been abducted. To see this project come to life and help children flee their captors was incredible. Seeing actual cell phone footage of reunited families from our partners on the ground was one of the proudest moments of my life. I went on to work at other nonprofits including World Vision, and Seattle Children’s Hospital.
While I found working in the nonprofit sector incredibly rewarding, I realized that the nonprofit world could benefit from having more leaders with business backgrounds—leaders who push for operational efficiency and consumer-driven segment marketing campaigns. These are big stretches for even large companies like World Vision, but they are necessary steps for growth and sustainability. I felt like if I was going to continue on in this career field, I needed to bring a business skillset to the nonprofit world.
While I found working in the nonprofit sector incredibly rewarding, I realized that the nonprofit world could benefit from having more leaders with business backgrounds.
Just like in 2008, I found myself grappling with a world filled with uncertainty in 2020. Despite the challenges brought on by the global pandemic, I decided to enroll at Haas because I believed that there was no better time to go to business school. The world was changing rapidly and I figured if I waited any longer, I wouldn’t be able to learn in an environment where things were happening in real time.
Since coming to Haas, I’ve taken classes that have shaped me into the business leader that I want to become. One class that has left the biggest impact on me is Executive Leadership taught by Harris Sondack. At the heart of this class is figuring out who you want to be and the kind of leader you want to be. Lecturer Sondak asks ethical and philosophical questions that truly make your brain hurt, but in a good way.
Since coming to Haas, I’ve taken classes that have shaped me into the business leader that I want to become.
Another invaluable class that has left a profound impact is Leadership Communications taught by Lecturer Mark Rittenberg. This course focuses on how to effectively tell your personal story, how to show up and be present for others, and how to lead teams and organizations. The biggest takeaway from that course was learning and proudly accepting that I’m also a storyteller. I don’t have to choose between being a business leader and a storyteller, I can be both at the same time.
I now have a new outlook on my career path. I’ve realized that I don’t need to remain in the nonprofit world to positively create change, but I do know that whatever I decide to do, it has to connect back to impact and mission-driven work.