The Power of a Cup of Coffee

One student’s experience with the Berkeley Haas alumni network

Personal View

During the orientation for the undergraduate Class of 2016, I recall Dean Lyons reiterating the importance of giving back. Here, giving back was beyond monetary support. Giving back was about the cultivation and development of a strong Berkeley Haas network where alumni help current students and current students continue paying it forward when they become alumni themselves. At that time, I still did not fully understand the importance of an alumni network.


Fast forward a year later from that orientation, I entered my last summer internship, with Apple for digital marketing. As a huge advocate of personal branding and networking, I knew that I wanted to use this internship to meet as many people in marketing as I could. The one resource that I never thought to consider was our alumni network. During the first week of my internship, I met with Jeffrey Lo, MBA 11, who warmly introduced me to the company. Jeff became one of my first mentors at Apple. In one of our chats, I told Jeff about my summer goal of meeting and networking with other marketers at Apple. Later that week, Jeff forwarded me the current directory of Berkeley Haas alumni who work at Apple recently sent to him by the school.

The list was impressive, with alumni spanning all departments within the company. I quickly glanced through the marketing list and found a handful of marketing directors and managers. The next step was to reach out—something easier said than done. Fears of rejection and not knowing what to say when I met with these seasoned alumni made me reluctant. But after thinking hard, I realized that an internship should be much more than just a summer job. It should be about the people you meet and the relationships you build. In mid- June, I took the leap of faith and contacted nine alumni.

The Response: Plenty of Positivity and Willingness to Help

The response to all of my outreach emails? No cold responses, just plenty of positivity and willingness to help. This was the opportunity of a lifetime where I got to meet with people who were industry veterans and thought leaders.

For the last two months of my internship, I spent a lot of my time meeting and chatting with alumni across marketing teams within the company. Entering these chats, I had one simple goal in mind: to listen and absorb. The conversations I had were unique and thought-provoking. Each alum had their own story to share and advice to give. I can’t do every conversation its justice, but from these alumni, I learned the importance of finding a good manager, discovering my drive in life beyond just a salary, giving back to the younger generation, and developing soft skills that will help propel my career mobility.

Despite their hectic calendars, alumni made time for me. In one case, an alumnus rescheduled multiple times until we could meet. We sat down for half an hour toward the end of my internship, and he shared that his experience at Haas had tremendously helped shape what he is currently doing at Apple. Before we ended the meeting, he reiterated that he was only an email away if I had any questions regarding my career as I entered my last year at Berkeley Haas.

Parting Thoughts

Unlike other past internships, this one was unique and enriching because I did not experience it alone. For the first time in my undergraduate career, I felt that I was part of a community beyond myself. A community that is the Berkeley Haas network, a family that extends beyond our physical campus.

Thank you to all the amazing alumni who made my last summer internship the most memorable experience I have had in my undergraduate career (Go Bears!): Aaron Ackermann, MBA 05; Vivian Cheung, BS 02; Kaiann Drance, MBA 08; Mahta Eghbali, BS 04, MBA 09; Bhavina Gopal, MBA 07; Blake Holland, MBA/JD 12; Della Huff, MBA 11; Jeff Lo, MBA 11; and Meredith Scurci, MBA 10.

A different version of this article previously appeared on LinkedIn.

Tai Tran, BS 16

Tai Tran, BS 16, was named the top marketing and social writer of the year on LinkedIn’s inaugural “Top Voices” ranking, based on engagement and other criteria. At 22, he’s also the youngest person on the list and was noted for “breaking down the future of marketing, all through his own lens as a Millennial.” The ranking was part of LinkedIn’s top 90 writers of 2015, which included Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Tran was also the youngest person named to the Forbes’ 2016 “30 Under 30” list in the marketing and advertising category. At Berkeley- Haas, he teaches an undergraduate course on digital marketing and publishing that has become one of UC Berkeley’s most-demanded student- facilitated courses.