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Haas holds on to Golden Shovel, besting Stanford in real estate competition

<em>The Golden Bear Real Estate team: (left to right) Bianca Doerschlag, M.Arch 19; Matt Tortorello, MBA 20; David Eisenman, MBA 20; Brynn McKiernan, MRED+D 19; and Matthew Anderson, EWMBA 19</em>
The Golden Bear Real Estate team: (left to right) Bianca Doerschlag, M.Arch 19; Matt Tortorello, MBA 20; David Eisenman, MBA 20; Brynn McKiernan, MRED+D 19; and Matthew Anderson, EWMBA 19

The Team: Golden Bear Real Estate: Bianca Doerschlag, M.Arch. 19; Matt Tortorello, MBA 20; David Eisenman, MBA 20; Brynn McKiernan, MRED+D 19; Matthew Anderson, EWMBA 19.

The Win: First Place in the NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA) Real Estate Challenge, April 30. The friendly real estate competition between Berkeley and Stanford just celebrated its 30th year, with Haas taking home the coveted James W. Brecht Memorial Golden Shovel. The team’s $2,000 prize is donated to the nonprofit Challenge for Charity.

The Challenge: The City of San Jose challenged students to create a plan for an undeveloped 159-acre site located adjacent to Highway 237 and Zanker Road in North San Jose. The two teams spent 10 weeks researching a solution to the challenge and pitched a jury of six executives from the banking, real estate development, property management, and public utilities sectors.

The Pitch: The team proposed “Zanker Yards.” Since San Jose’s demand for office space is low, the team dedicated half of the development—3 million square feet—to industrial space for businesses like food distribution, manufacturing, water technology, (the development is site is located near a water treatment plant) and medical devices. The remaining half would be divided into 2.7 million square feet of office and retail space, a hotel, and 40 acres of open space.

The Clincher: Breaking with the U.S. tradition of sprawling, single-story industrial buildings, the Berkeley team proposed an architecturally innovative, multi-story design that drew inspiration from the world’s densest cities. The development would also accommodate nearly 15,000 employees in the initial phase and have flexible zoning that could eventually double that number.

The Haas Factor: The team credited Haas’ overall strength in real estate. Competition adviser Bill Falik—reprising his role from last year—and the faculty at the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics worked to validate and challenge the team’s assumptions. They also helped connect the team to developers, property managers, prospective tenants and financiers. Leveraging these networks, the team conducted more than 60 interviews to hone their ideas and complete due diligence. In addition, this year’s team received coaching and moral support from last year’s winners, which helped the team stay inspired, refine their process, and benchmark progress.

Berkeley team wins Kellogg Real Estate Competition

Winning Berkeley team at Kellogg real estate competitionKellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition winners: (l-r) Stefan “Steve” Jeitler, LL.M 19; Kyle Raines MBA 21; Esmond Ai, MBA 20; Nithya Rathinam, MBA 21; Hind Katkhuda, MBA 20; and Julia McElhinney, MRED+D 19. Photo: Kellogg School of Management.

A team of six Berkeley students won the sixth annual Kellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition for their plan to fill vacant ground-floor retail spaces in cities with package pick-up centers and e-commerce pop-up shops.

The competition, hosted April 10 at Northwestern University at the Kellogg School’s Guthrie Center for Real Estate Research, aims to encourage entrepreneurial real estate ventures.

Nine international semi-finalist teams were asked to create a scalable, profitable real estate business—complete with supporting financials and profit projections—that would transcend traditional real estate and help solve urban and social issues.

The Berkeley team included Esmond Ai, MBA 20, Kyle Raines, MBA 21, and Nithya Rathinam, MBA 21, all students in the Evening and Weekend MBA Program. They were joined by teammates Hind Katkhuda, FT-MBA 20; Julia McElhinney, MRED+D 19, who is earning a master’s degree in real estate development and design from Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design; and Stefan “Steve” Jeitler, LL.M 19, a master of laws candidate at Berkeley School of Law.

Raines said their proposed real estate venture, named Click + Mortar, would provide secure delivery options through package pick-up centers—and help businesses that sell mostly online to benefit from small, short-term brick-and-mortar presences in key urban centers.

“We see the social and economic challenges of empty Bay Area retail spaces every day,” McElhinney said. “So we wanted to create a viable and scalable business that would address this issue locally, drive profits, and offer opportunities to expand to other urban areas facing the same challenges.”

“An incredibly creative solution”

The team spent four months researching the concept, talking to developers, property managers, e-tailers like Sugarfina and Ministry of Supply, and package locker providers. The idea includes signing discounted, long-term master leases in large, vacant retail spaces; adding package lockers to part of the space; and filling the remaining area with small, short-term retail lots.

“Our students found an incredibly creative solution to an intractable problem,” said their faculty adviser, real estate Professor Nancy Wallace, co-chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics. “Their idea is so compelling that they’ve already found real property owners and clients who are willing to sign on if Click + Mortar launches.”

The team members are currently considering how best to bring this business idea to fruition. They have seed capital from the competition’s $25,000 cash prize and an additional $75,000 to apply toward co-working space and legal and accounting professional services. In addition, several investors who attended the event have already requested pitch decks.

Before the competition, Rathinam said she believed that real estate offered a limited range of traditional career paths. “With Click + Mortar, I now have an opportunity to start off on my own and build something that is very unique and that solves an important urban issue all at once,” she said.

This is the latest in a string of Haas real estate wins. This week, another Haas team won the NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area Real Estate Challenge, dubbed the “Golden Shovel” competition, for the second year in a row. In December, a Haas team took the top prize at the University of Texas McCombs’ National Real Estate Case Challenge.

Student VC leader seeks business ethics lessons in fellowship at Nazi sites

As an entrepreneur and founder of UC Berkeley’s student-led venture fund Arrow Capital Matthew Bond, MBA 19, has concerns about the groupthink he has seen at work in Silicon Valley—such as when venture capitalists rush to invest in startups purely because other influential firms have funded them, rather forming their own views of the companies.

So when classmates Chinmay Malaviya, MBA 18, and Robert Moore, MBA 18, told him about their profound experiences participating in the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) program, he jumped at the chance to apply. He’ll be heading to Berlin May 25 for two weeks of seminars at Nazi historical sites in Germany and Poland.

Matthew Bond, MBA 19
Matthew Bond, MBA 19

“Businesses today focus on shareholder value without considering the social cost,” said Bond. “I hope the fellowship helps us spur conversations that develop people’s ethical muscles to the same extent as their intellectual ones.”

Bond is the sixth Berkeley Haas MBA student to be selected since 2015, when the program added a cohort of business students to its journalism, law, medical and seminary fellowships. Led by expert faculty, 14 business students along with journalism and law students from top universities will examine the role of German businesses in enabling and executing Nazi policies. Then they’ll be challenged to identify and confront the ethical issues facing businesses today.

Obsession with shareholder value is one of many topics this year’s fellowship explores, along with legal compliance versus ethical behavior; the ethics of technological and business innovations; and navigating loyalties to stockholders, customers, employees, and communities. The trip includes museum visits, a Holocaust survivor meeting, and workshops at the House of the Wannsee Conference, where the Nazi’s “Final Solution” was planned. Fellows then travel to Poland for seminars in Krakow’s Jagiellonian University and a tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim.

Bond hopes the experience will help him understand why most German business leaders looked the other way, when collectively they could’ve stopped the Nazi regime. “You’ve got a few people with awful views, but they couldn’t run a regime like that without support from tens of thousand of complicit people,” he said.

He’s especially excited because past participants Malaviya and Moore told him the program was a defining moment for them. Jean-Marc Chanoine, MBA 17, described it a “one of the most influential events of my professional life.”

After completing the fellowship, Bond plans to return to the Bay Area to join an early stage company. A U.K. native, he loves the entrepreneurial climate in Silicon Valley and is seeking mentors who can help him apply his fellowship knowledge to avoid the pitfalls of groupthink.

“Everything moves so quickly in the Bay Area, it’s critical to have an internal moral compass and reflect on whether you’re taking the right path,” he said.

Global Social Venture Competition celebrates 20-year anniversary

Pedro Moura and Jessica Eting, both EWMBA 18, started banking services startup Flourish Savings
Pedro Moura and Jessica Eting, both EWMBA 18, started banking services startup Flourish Savings.

Pedro Moura and Jessica Eting, both EWMBA 18,  built a rewards-based online and mobile savings account designed to appeal to people who underutilize banking services. Their hard work led to the launch of startup Flourish Savings, which has now earned a place at the April 5 Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) finals.

“It takes a lot of expertise, research, and partnerships to tackle wicked problems like helping low-income and immigrant communities learn to trust banks, save money, and build credit,” Moura said. “We’re hoping that the judges will see how our idea has the potential to change the way people handle personal finance.”

The competition, which is celebrating its 20th year, will be held during the Future of Social Ventures Conference at Haas.

Flourish, along with Respira Labs, founded by Dr. Maria Artunduaga, UC Berkeley/UCSF MTM 18, Nerjada Maksutaj, MBA 20, and Nikhil Chacko, MBA/MPH 20, are the two Haas teams competing in the finals—among more than 20 global teams in this year’s competition.

L-R: Nikhil Chacko, MBA/MPH 20, Dr. Maria Artunduaga, UC Berkeley/UCSF MTM 18, and Nerjada Maksutaj, MBA 20. Photo: Yizhe Gu
L-R: Nikhil Chacko, MBA/MPH 20, Dr. Maria Artunduaga, UC Berkeley/UCSF MTM 18, and Nerjada Maksutaj, MBA 20. Photo: Yizhe Gu

A vision of a better world

GSVC has come a long way since its founding in 1999 by five MBA students—Lia Fernald, Alison Lingane, and Denise Yamamoto,  MBA 00, and Nik Dehejia and Sara Olsen, MBA 01. Their idea was to provide social entrepreneurs with mentorship, feedback, and a chance to hone their funding pitches.

Jill Erbland, GSVC’s program director, has watched the program’s number of partners and its international appeal to students grow since she arrived at Haas in 2007. This year, 11 partners hosted 12 regional semi-final events—and the competition had a record-breaking 692 applicants hailing from 67 countries. To date, GSVC has distributed more than $1 million in prize money, and helped more than 7,000 teams move closer to achieving their vision of a better world.

“In 1999, creating viable companies that had social impact was a nascent idea, even for Berkeley Haas,” Erbland said. “Our steady growth has been fueled by other universities prioritizing social impact and entrepreneurship educational programs.”

Following footsteps

The competition has launched a number of Haas student-led social impact ventures, including Indiegogo—co-founded by Danae Ringelmann and Eric Schell, MBA 08—and Revolution Foods—co-founded by Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, MBA 06.

Flourish Savings’ co-founders are hoping to follow in their footsteps. Eting, the daughter of immigrants, and Moura, an immigrant himself, met in Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman’s Applied Innovation class. They soon discovered a common interest in helping people build savings habits, reduce reliance on debt, and achieve financial security. A pilot program demonstrated that participants saved an average of $192 in the first four months of using Flourish.

This is Eting’s second GSVC event. About 10 years ago, she was an attendee and guest of her boss, who had judged one of the regional competitions. “I was in awe of the people who were pitching, and I never once imagined it’s something I would be doing,” she said.

Meantime, Respira Labs aims to help people who struggle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive lung disease that obstructs breathing. The team is pitching a wearable lung-function monitor that that uses audio-signal processing and machine learning to alert patients, caregivers, and doctors when inhalers, medication, or medical care is needed. The data collected could be used to predict and prevent flare-ups of COPD, which afflicts 16 million Americans, according to the CDC.

Artunduaga met her Haas colleagues at Berkeley SkyDeck. Maksutaj said her family has been affected by COPD and was quick to embrace the startup’s mission. Chacko came to the team with a passion for solving health crises in low- and middle-income countries, to which the World Health Organization (WHO) attributes 90 percent of global COPD deaths.

“GSVC’s global focus is especially important to us because our long-term ambitions go beyond the U.S.,” Chacko said.

The full conference includes more than the GSVC final presentations and judging. This year’s sessions are organized around the theme “Technology for Good,” and sessions include “The Future of Food: A Design-Thinking Session with IDEO,” “Financial Inclusion and Technology” with speakers from Mastercard and PayPal, and “The Promise and Peril of Emerging Technologies in Social Impact.”

Attendees will also be able to watch presentations from all the finalists and meet GSVC co-founder Sara Olsen, who is serving as a judge this year.

Haas team wins national real estate case challenge

 National Real Estate Case Competition winning team: (left to right) Joe Dembesky 19, Mike Wiedman 20, Mark Trainer, MCP 19, Claire Collery 19, Matthew Hines 19, and Robert Kelly 20.
National Real Estate Case Competition winning team: (left to right) Joe Dembesky 19, Mike Wiedman 20, Mark Trainer, MCP 19, Robert Kelly 20, Matthew Hines 19, and Claire Collery 19.

A team of Berkeley MBA students took first place at the 16th annual National Real Estate Case Challenge for their creative investment strategy surrounding a new commercial property.

The prestigious finance-based competition, hosted by the University of Texas McCombs School of Business last month, charged 20 teams from the top MBA programs with analyzing a real estate investment case and presenting a recommendation before a panel of industry leaders.

For three of the six Haas team members—Matthew Hines, MBA 19; Robert Kelly, MBA 20; and Mark Trainer, Master of City Planning (MCP) 19—the win comes just months after participating on a team of students that took back the Golden Shovel real estate award from Stanford. The other National Real Estate Case Challenge team members—Claire Collery, MBA 19, Joe Dembesky, MBA 19, and Mike Wiedman, MBA 20— participated in their first competition. The team took home $10,000 in Haas’ first win since 2009.

Case sponsor Invesco asked teams of six to figure out the best way to use money generated from a new commercial real estate construction project. The options given were to keep the building in the portfolio with no change to existing financing; keep the building in the portfolio but refinance the loan on it; sell the building and return the profits to investors; or sell the building and invest the profits in building a new property.

Questioning the status quo, the Haas team came up with a different option.

“We questioned why there were only four options given, and we began to suspect there was a hidden fifth option,” Hines said. The team proposed refinancing the existing building and combining the savings with additional money in the private equity fund to invest in building a new property.

The Berkeley Haas team spent nearly three months preparing for the competition during an independent study course taught by Lecturer Bill Falik, a managing partner with Westpark Community Builders, and Abigail Franklin, an investment banking and real estate student adviser. Students in the class practiced solving sample cases each week and presented to guest judges, including former competition participants and local finance and real estate professionals. The format helped build competence, cohesion and confidence, Dembesky said.

Judges said they were impressed with Berkeley’s presentation, which called for role playing, creativity and financial acumen.

“I was playing the role of the fund manager, and Matthew [Hines] burst onto the scene from the development team and pushed for funding the second building,” Collery said. One of the judges told the team that the performance felt like being in a real investment committee meeting, Dembesky said.

Haas team tops at Tech Challenge

Cori Land, Max Kubicki, Bryan Chiang, and Catherine Hsieh, all MBA 19s. Photos: Benny Johnson, MBA 20
(Left to right)  Cori Land, Max Kubicki, Bryan Chiang, and Catherine Hsieh, all MBA 19s. Photos: Benny Johnson, MBA 20.

A team of Berkeley MBA students bested groups from seven schools to win the annual Berkeley Haas Tech Challenge for their plan to educate city government officials on how new technologies can support initiatives that improve quality of life and efficiency.

The 2018 Berkeley Haas Tech Challenge, called “Big Data and the City of Tomorrow,” was held Nov. 8-10.

The winning Haas team included Bryan Chiang, Catherine Hsieh, Max Kubicki, and Cori Land, all MBA 19s. Haas took home the $5,000 first-place award for the second year in a row.

The challenge called on students to come up with a plan to entice city government officials to adopt Amazon Web Services (AWS) to create smart cities. Smart cities use data and communications technologies to increase efficiency, share information with the public, and improve the quality of government services and public safety. Example projects include monitoring and managing traffic signals remotely, using a software platform that tracks the real-time availability of spaces in parking lots, and implementing a lighting-management system that allows cities to monitor energy efficiency and maintenance needs.

The Haas team began the Tech Challenge case by asking: Who are the customers, what do they care about, and how can AWS meet them where they are?

“We tested each of our ideas against whether or not it ultimately solved a problem for people,” Land said. “If not, we rejected the idea, and it helped us focus our recommendations.”

The Haas team made recommendations for a website redesign that would provide easy-to-understand smart cities information to non-technical city planners, as well as new certification programs to educate government officials on how they could use AWS.Max Kubicki, Bryan Chiang, Cori Land, and Catherine Hsieh prepare their presentation. Photos: Benny Johnson

(Left to right)  Max Kubicki, Bryan Chiang, Cori Land, and Catherine Hsieh prepare their presentation. Photos: Benny Johnson.

The team also proposed a dashboard tool to help city officials compare their city services to others that have adopted smart cities technology—and measure the potential return-on-investment for their proposed projects.

Confidence without attitude may have been what set the Haas team apart from competitors. “One judge kept thanking us for admitting we still had some work to do when we better understood some gaps in our plan,” Hsieh said. Another Haas strength was leveraging broader perspectives by assembling a team with different areas of expertise, ranging from finance and energy to design thinking and change management.

Evan Cory and Charlie Cubeta, Tech Challenge co-chairs who organized the competition for the Haas Tech Club, said they received 108 team applications from 15 schools for the competition, a 25 percent increase over last year.

Competing teams included Yale, Kellogg, Columbia, Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, UCLA, and Wharton. Eight Amazon executives served as coaches and judges.

Annual World Open Innovation Conference to explore digital transformation

Henry Chesbrough will welcome attendees to the fifth annual WOIC conference next month.
Henry Chesbrough will welcome attendees to the fifth annual WOIC conference next month.

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers and Xiaomi Chief Architect Baoqiu Cui will be among the industry leaders to speak at the fifth annual World Open Innovation Conference (WOIC), which will explore how business leaders can collaborate to digitally transform their organizations.

Speakers at the Dec. 13-14 conference, “Digital Transformation for Sustainability,” include Chambers, chairman emeritus of Cisco and founder and CEO of JC2Ventures;  Cui, Xiaomi’s chief architect and vice president of artificial intelligence and cloud platform; Melissa Schilling, professor of management and organization at New York University’s Stern School of Business; and Scott Stern, professor of technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategic management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. The conference will be held at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront.

Henry Chesbrough, faculty director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, will welcome the nearly 200 attendees expected this year. The conference is unique in that it unites industry leaders, innovators, and academic experts to discuss open innovation, a concept first defined by Chesbrough. Open innovation acknowledges that not all of the smartest people work internally at your company—and provides strategies to engage with experts worldwide outside of your organization to advance an innovation agenda.

“When we started the conference five years ago, we had no idea how quickly and enthusiastically our open innovation ideas would be embraced by both theorists and practitioners,” Chesbrough said. The open innovation concept has evolved over the years through new research, and has been adopted as a key pillar of European Union Commissioner for Research, Science, and Innovation Carlos Moedas’ agenda for EU innovation policies.

Open innovation applies to digital transformation—the shift of analog processes to digital—because it can be used to help reconstruct how business operates, Chesbrough said. In the analog world, processes were based on a “push” strategy for sharing information on the business’ schedule. In contrast, the digital world enables the on-demand “pull” of the right information to the right people at the right time. Conference attendees will consider how open innovation can solve real-world challenges businesses face when moving from the push to the pull flow of information.

A global focus will be reflected during the conference’s planned Corporate Challenge sessions, featuring companies from the U.S. (Allergan), China (Xiaomi), India (Wipro), Japan (Fujitsu), and Spain (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria). Each company will pose a challenge—organizational culture, business model, intellectual property policy, or research-and-development—that will be solved hackathon-style. The challenge matches academics with industry professionals to form teams of approximately eight with an assigned moderator for most teams. The session’s conclusions will be published as white papers.

In addition, the call for academic papers for the conference produced more than 100 submissions. A total of 55 of these papers—all representing new research in the field of open innovation—will be presented at the event. Topics include blockchain, artificial intelligence, business model innovation, product development, digital transformation, ecosystems, platforms, and intellectual property.

Registration for the conference is required.

Berkeley Haas team wins Duke’s Energy Case Competition

Left to right: Case Competition Chairs Mike Penansky and Caitlin Maggio, Joe Swartley, MBA 19, Chandler Sherman, MBA 20, Hao Shen, MBA 19, Felix Schadeck,MBA 20, and competition judge Jim Rogers.
Left to right: Case Competition Chairs Mike Penansky and Caitlin Maggio, Joe Swartley, MBA 19, Chandler Sherman, MBA 20, Hao Shen, MBA 19, Felix Schadeck, MBA 20, and competition judge Jim Rogers.

Should a growing East African solar power provider choose Benin or Nigeria as its foray into the West African market? That was the question a team of MBA students (and one UC Berkeley PhD student) answered to win the Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition hosted Nov. 6 by the MBA Energy Club at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

For the challenge, 34 competing teams from around the world pitched a go-to-market strategy that PowerGen Renewable Energy could use to decide where to expand its business. The competition required a team of three to five graduate students to compare the electrical infrastructure, regulatory environment, and competitive landscapes in Benin and neighboring Nigeria and recommend a strategy for one of those nations based on their findings.

The UC Berkeley team included Isa Ferrall, a PhD student in the Energy & Resources Group; Felix Schadeck, MBA 20; Hao Shen, MBA 19; Chandler Sherman, MBA 20; and Joe Swartley, MBA 19.

PhD student Isa Ferrall, MS 18, was on the winning team.
Engineer Isa Ferrall was on the winning team.

The team credits its win to assembling a diverse group. Understanding that primary research and real-world data on energy access in West Africa would be a challenge, Shen and Swartley selected a team of people with complementary backgrounds and broad networks.

“Our final presentation stood out because we did so many interviews with people working in the space, and we were able to test and evolve our strategy instead of sticking something speculative against a wall and hoping the judges would go for it,” Shen said.

In total, the team tapped more than 30 experts from their professional and UC Berkeley network—including contacts at Tesla, Facebook, Google, nonprofits, regulatory agencies, professors, and others.

Each team member also offered unique expertise.

Shen previously worked as a consultant at Deloitte’s power and utilities division and spent his MBA summer internship working in energy access in Uganda, while former impact investing consultant Schadeck had worked in energy and education in emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa. Sherman brought regulatory knowledge from several positions at Tesla and SolarCity. Swartley, a former Bloom Energy senior marketing associate and d.light design intern, spent several years looking at financial models for renewable energy and examining customer willingness to buy electricity for the first time.

Ferrall, an engineer who has worked in renewable energy in Kenya and Tanzania, said it was fascinating to work with team members who understood how to finance solar projects and assess market potential.

“Their valuable feedback guided all of our recommendations,” Ferrall said.

“For me, this felt like a five-week master class in energy access for emerging markets,” Sherman adds. The team had to consider a very granular degree of detail during the competition: how material would be sourced; how solar equipment would be ferried to the ports; how workers would be hired; and what currency would be used, she said.

The team, after conducting its analysis, recommended Nigeria, concluding that an established regulatory environment and access to capital would have the most significant impact on PowerGen’s success in West Africa.

A panel from Cypress Creek Renewables, Duke Energy, Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business, NextEra Energy, PowerGen Renewable Energy, Plotwatt, Schneider Electric and Southern California Edison judged the UC Berkeley team the winner in the final round of four presentations. The team received $10,000.

VIDEO: Wall Street pioneer Margo Alexander on thriving against the odds

As one of the first female leaders in the global financial services sector, Margo Alexander, BS 68, spent four decades achieving exceptional success on Wall Street in the face of pervasive sexism. Now, she’s using what she learned as a financial powerbroker to cultivate entrepreneurs who serve the world’s poorest people.

“The social problems of the country are not just for the government to solve. And corporations have the levers…they can make that decision to improve [society],” says Alexander, who spoke candidly about her experiences with Interim Dean Laura Tyson in the final installment of the 2018 Dean’s Speaker Series this month.

Alexander retired in 2003 after 30 years at UBS/Paine Webber, in equity research, sales, trading and asset management, serving as chairman and CEO of UBS Global Asset Management 1995 to 2000 and chairman from 1999 to 2001.  She then spent almost a decade as board chair of Acumen—a nonprofit committed to changing the way the world tackles poverty—where she continues to serve as chair emeritus.

She’s focused on helping entrepreneurs doing business in impoverished regions of Africa and South Asia—applying many of the same tactics she used to spot talent in the corporate financial sector. “I think being an entrepreneur is hard work anywhere. But imagine in a place where there’s no electricity, the water is intermittent, the workforce is uneducated…all of the resources that you would pull together as an entrepreneur to build an organization are somewhat rickety to start with,” she said.

“What we have found about our successes over time is the most important variable is the character of the entrepreneur. They’re operating in very difficult circumstances; there’s an enormous amount of corruption; and, if these people don’t stand up in an honest, ethical way, we’ll [withdraw our support].”

Alexander, who was recently honored with a Haas Lifetime Achievement Award, exemplifies the Defining Leadership Principle Question the Status Quo. Each time she entered into a new assignment and wanted to make changes, she took care to communicate to employees what would be in it for them. She would start by saying, “Here’s what I’ve learned about our group. Here’s what we need to do better. And here’s how we’re going to do it.” Then came the benefit: “It will improve our bonus pool.”

Her strategy was to link “the broader goals with the individual performance and what that would do in terms of the firm, the team, the individual.”

Alexander was one of just 27 women in a class of 800 to graduate from Harvard Business School in 1970. It took her two years to get her first job in finance. In her last semester, she signed up for several interviews. “You’d go in, and, frequently, they would say, ‘oh, I’m sorry, we don’t hire women.’ I said, ‘Oh, okay.’ So, then you leave. I’ve had women say to me, ‘What did you say to them?’ Nothing. I mean, it was just how things were.”

Alexander persevered through years of gender discrimination, and she believes strongly that women bring tremendous assets to corporate finance. “I actually think women can have an advantage in dealing with people. I think women are generally more open, more inclusive, and warmer.”

She had lots of advice when asked how to attract and retain top talent, especially entrepreneurs. First, she advocates for offering robust training programs and fellowships.

“When you get involved in hiring people, you’re not always right, but you get a feeling for what is it that motivates this person. Do they have ethical standards?,” she said. “I would say we do not have a magic box. But, when you find out you were wrong, we don’t sit around. We’re done.”

Watch Alexander’s full talk:

VIDEO: Veterans Day 2018—Student vets reflect on going beyond yourself

This Veterans Day, we thank our Berkeley Haas student veterans for their service and for all they they contribute to our campus community.

“We’re delighted to have one of our largest classes of veterans studying at Haas this year,” said Interim Dean Laura Tyson. “Those who volunteer to serve their country feel a calling to do something beyond themselves. It makes veterans a perfect fit for Berkeley Haas since they embody our Defining Leadership Principle ‘Beyond Yourself.’ We are grateful for the leadership skills and the global perspectives our veterans bring to the Haas community, and we thank them for their service.”

We asked four student veterans to share what “Beyond Yourself” means to them:

  • Poga Ahn, EMBA 18, former U.S. Army captain
  • Rodrigo Flores, EWMBA 21, former U.S. Navy submarine officer
  • Cassidy Nolan, BS 19, former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence chief
  • Katie Rentz, FTMBA 20, former U.S. Navy unmanned underwater vehicles department head

Here’s what they had to say:

 

More Resources

Haas Veterans Club

Veterans in the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program

Veterans in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program

Veterans in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program

Haas Undergraduate Program

More videos about veterans at Berkeley Haas

From improving safety to installing solar: social impact interns make change

As a social impact fellow, Claudia Luck, MBA 19, worked at Yellowstone National Park.
Claudia Luck, MBA 19, worked to improve visitor safety at Yellowstone National Park last summer.

Last summer Hugh G. Martin, MBA 19, made his inaugural trip to Africa, where he worked to equip off-the-grid homes in Tanzania with solar power.

“A highlight for me was seeing the looks on families’ faces when they used a TV in their homes for the first time,” says Martin, who worked for ZOLA Electric, which aims to bring solar power to one million homes in Africa over the next few years.

Hugh Martin worked for ZOLA Solar in Tanzania as a fellow.
Flanked by ZOLA Electric office managers Ana Uronu (left) and Jane Mercy (right), Hugh G. Martin (middle) brought power to homes in Tanzania.

Martin, who also traveled to Kenya during his internship, was among 13 students, all MBA 19s, who received summer internship stipends from the Haas Social Impact Fund (HSIF). Since launching in 2004, the fund has helped students interested in the social-impact sector close the gap between what they could have made at a corporate internship versus what they would make at a social-impact internship. Each applicant received $500 to $7,000 that could be used to pay salary, living expenses, or travel expenses.

Each spring the HSIF holds a fundraiser asking peers to donate one day of pay that they’d expect at a corporate internship, according to Kevin Phan, MBA 19 and the MBA Association’s vice president of community. Students raised about $25,000 this past spring.

Claudia Luck, MBA 19, spent her summer at Yellowstone National Park as a consultant, analyzing the impact an increasing number of guests are having on visitors’ safety within the park. Her project required the use of four park databases and interviews with dozens of stakeholders to help the park determine how to best organize the 100-plus members of its Visitor Resource Protection division.

Luck, who worked at Adobe as a client training manager before coming to Haas, said she interviewed rangers, emergency medical technicians, justice center specialists, detention center workers, and entrance station attendants to understand how an increase in visitors would impact the park workers’ time and resources.

“I just loved the idea of spending three months way outside of my box—pursuing my passion for hiking, seeing Yellowstone, and working for the government,” Luck says.

Hannah Levinson (third from left) with part of her Third Plateau team.
Hannah Levinson (third from left) with members of Third Plateau, which worked to refresh the SF Unified School District’s arts education curriculum.

For Hannah Levinson, MBA 19, an internship kept her closer to Berkeley. She worked for consulting firm Third Plateau on a mission to refresh the San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Education Master Plan. For part of her work, she held focus groups with underrepresented minority students in the Bayview and Mission districts to better understand their arts education needs.

Levinson said she took away a lot about how to conduct unbiased interviews and construct questions through her Third Plateau consulting experiences. “For example, asking a leading question gets a biased response,” she says. “I made a point of getting feedback after every interview, and it helped me to shape my questioning.”

 

More HSIF student internship stories are available on ImpactMBA, the Center for Social Sector Leadership’s Medium channel.

Fundraising and applications for the Haas Social Impact Fund will open in April 2019, headed by Midori Chikamatsu, MBA 20, incoming vice president of community. Donations to the fund are accepted year-round here.

MFE team advances to national data competition

Pierre Foret, Li Cao ,Teddy Legros and Hosang Yoon, all MFE 19
Pierre Foret, Li Cao, Teddy Legros and Hosang Yoon, all MFE 19

A team of Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) students took first place in “The Data Open” this month, besting 25 teams who competed across UC Berkeley in the regional data science competition.

The winning team—Li Cao, Pierre Foret, Teddy Legros, and Hosang Yoon, all MFE 19—won $20,000 in the competition semi-final, sponsored by Citadel LLC, a global asset management firm, and operated by data scientist recruiting firm Correlation One.

The Berkeley Haas semi-finalists will travel to the New York Stock Exchange later this fall to compete against top universities for a $100,000 grand prize.

The Sept. 8 competition asked teams to solve a complex problem by analyzing complex data sets.

More than 400 students across UC Berkeley applied to participate, and 100 were accepted. Event organizers grouped the contestants into teams, many of whom—including the winners—had not worked together before.

Choosing a question

<em>Teddy Legros, Pierre Foret, Li Cao, and Hosang Yoon, all MFE 19</em>
Teddy Legros, Pierre Foret, Li Cao, and Hosang Yoon, all MFE 19

The night before the event, the teams were given a description of data sets—data that applied to everything from 311 calls in New York state to restaurant inspection data. The teams were challenged choosing a question and finding the answer in the data.

“Most data science competitions focus on achieving the best possible score for a predefined metric,” Foret said. “In contrast, we had to come up with our own question, which is a lot closer to the type of problems a data scientist has to tackle in the industry.”

The team outlined two goals: identifying the top factors that influence public health in New York state and providing local government officials with policy recommendations based on their analysis.

Working through the night, they prepared code that allowed them to test their hypotheses quickly, so they were able to spend most of the competition time running experiments, analyzing the data, and choosing the most relevant problem to solve.

Legros said their data analysis tracked factors that affect residents’ health, including both traditional socioeconomic ones and several lifestyle considerations—such as smoking habits, eating habits and living conditions—that evolve over time. “Next, we identified clusters of regions where some of these determining lifestyle factors are more dominant. This can help policymakers develop regional proposals to improve the health of residents.”

“It was one of the most intense 24 hours I have spent,” Yoon said. “While the competition itself was short, I really learned a lot from our preparation.”

The judges, announcing the winner, said they impressed by the originality of the team’s question and the strategy to focus on comprehensive view of the factors involved.

Don’t blame the machines: New business analytics summit focuses on people

Berkeley-Fisher Center Summit for Business AnalyticsWhile developing a sophisticated algorithm requires technical expertise, leading a successful business analytics project can’t be done without paying attention to people. That’s the theme of the inaugural Berkeley-Fisher Center Summit for Business Analytics, to be held at the California Memorial Stadium on Sept. 27.

The new event, which is free and open to the Haas community, will explore how data-driven technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) affect people in the workforce, and how organizations can align people with processes to drive the success of analytics initiatives.

“Many business analytics initiatives fail, and our research shows it is due to misalignment with people in the workforce, rather than issues with the technology,” says Gauthier Vasseur, executive director of the Fisher Center for Business Analytics, which is part of Berkeley Haas’ Institute for Business Innovation. “Part of our mission is to educate management, finance and operations leaders on how to help their people become supporters of business analytics projects.”

The event, which kicks off with a dinner gala and awards ceremony on the evening of Sept. 26, is expected to attract an audience of about 100 students, industry leaders, alumni, and faculty to share experiences, learn from the latest research and real-world case studies, and network among peers.

“This summit is Berkeley Haas’ first big event around business analytics, and it matches thought leaders from the private sector with academic researchers and talented students who can join together to solve the biggest business challenges,” Vasseur says.

Why people affect the success of business analytics initiatives

Gauthier Vasseur is executive director of the Fisher Center for Business Analytics, which is part of Berkeley Haas’ Institute for Business Innovation.
Gauthier Vasseur

Vasseur shared an example of what happens when an organization overlooks the importance of people. A manufacturing company wanted to use AI and ML technology to solve a very expensive problem: the lost time and productivity that occurs when a machine stops working due to a broken or worn-out part.

The company built a highly sophisticated predictive-analytics platform to assess when parts needed to be replaced. The technology worked very well, but the maintenance workers didn’t trust the predictions and opted against replacing the recommended parts. The problem was that no one had considered their expertise and input, and the company had not shared enough information to earn their confidence in the new technology.

“In the end, the platform provided no benefit to the manufacturer, despite the significant investment and the accuracy of the technology,” adds Vasseur. “Our goal is to give businesses the research findings and tools to avoid these situations.”

Business analytics evolves beyond IT

Launched this year, the new summit reflects how Berkeley Haas has evolved its focus, research and curricula to address one of today’s most urgent business needs: analytics expertise. Formerly known as the Fisher Center for IT and relaunched last February, the center has held conferences for the past six years, focusing on the changing role of the chief information officer (CIO) and recognizing innovative CIOs with an award. This year’s event continues the tradition of presenting the Fisher-Hopper CIO Lifetime Achievement Award and introduces two new award categories: Excellence in Driving Transformation Award and Business Analytics Woman of the Year.

Awards recognize business analytics achievements

David E. Smoley is the chief information officer at AstraZeneca.
David E. Smoley
Ted Colbert is chief information officer at The Boeing Company.
Ted Colbert
Beena Ammanath, Global Vice President for Big data, AI, and Innovation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Beena Ammanath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year’s Fisher-Hopper CIO Lifetime Achievement Award goes to David E. Smoley, CIO of AstraZeneca, a global, science-led biopharmaceutical business. At the summit, he will share how he led a performance turnaround that reduced drug development cycle times while reducing IT spending by more than $800 million (48 percent) over three years.

Other awards include the Excellence in Driving Transformation Award, which recognizes The Boeing Company’s CIO and Senior Vice President Ted Colbert, and the Business Analytics Woman of the Year Award, which honors Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s  Global Vice President for Big Data, AI, and Innovation Beena Ammanath.

Demystifying business analytics through research and case studies

Vasseur says the goal of the summit is to put data analytics into an actionable context that comprises data, people and processes for business success. Speakers will help unpack what AI and ML are, and how these technologies can be most effectively applied when including people’s support in their design.

Speakers include Haas faculty members Thomas Lee, associate adjunct professor and director of data science at the center; Andreea Gorbatai, assistant professor in the Management of Organizations Group; and Gregory La Blanc, distinguished teaching fellow with the Finance Group. Additional presentations by industry leaders include:

  • Sabrina Menasria, Chanel’s head of business intelligence and master data governance
  • Todd Wilson, Clif Bar’s senior vice president of IT
  • Robert Brown, Cognizant Technology Solutions’ associate vice president for the Center for the Future of Work
  • Alexandre Robicquet, Crossing Minds’ co-founder and CEO
  • Matteo Melani, Ellipsis Company’s CEO
  • Maik Henkel, Global Foundries’ senior manager and deputy director of finance

Tickets for the Sept. 26 dinner gala are still available here for a donation of $250 or more. The Sept. 27 summit is free to all who register at the bottom of this page.