Faculty Bring Top Execs to Class

Paul Crandell had them at “Go Bears!” The room erupted into cheers as the senior vice president for global marketing at GoPro began his nearly two-hour presentation this month on the rapid rise of the company behind the wildly popular mountable cameras.Businesses succeed when there’s passion behind them, Crandell told the 60 or so Berkeley-Haas MBA students. GoPro, which started in 2004 and is based in San Mateo, taps into not just the passion of its founders and 1,000-plus employees, but also the enthusiasm and sense of adventure felt by its customers.

Millions of people have bought GoPros, he said, “because they wanted to share their story.” And in return for giving them the means to express themselves, GoPro gets a marketing team of millions. “We’ve got users building our brand every day,” continued Crandell. For Lynn Upshaw, Crandell’s message was exactly what he wanted his students to hear. Upshaw, an author and founder of Upshaw Marketing, has taught the core first-year MBA course Marketing Management at Haas for five years. Guest lecturers like Crandell, he says, have always been an important component of his teaching.

He’s not alone. Every semester, Haas faculty members bring in dozens of guest speakers as a way of complementing their course instruction with real-world examples.

This fall, for example, a wide range of outside experts, including Haas alumni, passed through the lecture halls, including:

  • Peter Boland, senior vice president of brand and advertising at Charles Schwab & Co.
  • Angela Loeffler, chief people officer at the Lending Club
  • Curren Krishnan, chief of staff to Stacy Smith, Intel’s chief financial officer
  • Scott Kucirek, MBA 99 and CEO of Five Star Organics
  • Jennifer Sey, global chief marketing officer of the Levi’s Brand at Levi Strauss

Guest speakers aren’t limited to the Haas classroom. The Dean’s Speaker Series, for example, regularly hosts high-profile speakers, which recently featured guests ranging from former Vice President Al Gore to Alice Waters, the famous food activist and chef behind Berkeley’s Chez Panisse. The school’s various centers also spotlight outside speakers. For example, the Clausen Center earlier this year brought in John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

In Upshaw’s marketing class, Paul Crandell of GoPro helped drive home one of the course’s key takeaways: that marketing in the digital age is built on word of mouth. GoPro is an outstanding example of a company that has convinced its customers to market to each other, Upshaw says. (Its users have uploaded more than 3.9 years’ worth of GoPro videos to YouTube.)

John Moore, MBA 17, and one of Upshaw’s students this semester, says that the 25-plus guest speakers he’s been exposed to in his first semester at Haas have helped give him a “360-degree perspective” on the business world. What’s more, students know to arrive early to class when there’s a guest speaker they want to network with (Some of Upshaw’s students have landed internships through these interactions).

For Moore, what stood out from the GoPro presentation wasn’t so much what Crandell had to say about the company, but how clear it was that Crandell and GoPro were right for each other. “It can seem a bit abstract at times to hear business school career advisers talk about the importance of finding the right cultural fit with a future employer,” says Moore, an avid outdoorsman who exudes GoPro-like passion and enthusiasm.

Guest speakers get something out of their time at Haas, too, says Upshaw. “Because Haas is a prestigious business school, a lot of people want to come and speak,” he says. “They like to give back and they enjoy the conversation.”