Game Changer

Fellowship proves crucial to career success

Ladder being constructed by three Black men working together.

In 2005, John Fernandez, MBA 07, was considering his next career steps and whether earning an MBA would help him get there. “I’d just gotten married. I was having a kid. I bought a house,” says Fernandez. “So an MBA meant a lot of sacrifice, and I didn’t know if it made more sense to just keep moving up at my current company instead.”

He decided on Berkeley Haas largely because he received the Torres Family Fellowship. “The Torres fellowship was a game changer for me,” Fernandez says. “It made me say ‘I’m going to go do this.’”

The decision to pursue an MBA turned out to be a good one for Fernandez, who today is CFO at Forge Rock. He’s seen the company grow from 80 employees and around $4 million in revenue to nearly a thousand employees and around $250 million in revenue.

Foundations of Success

Once at Haas, Fernandez was impressed with the strong sense of community at the school. Michael Torres, BA 82 (architecture), MBA 86, CEO of Adelante Capital Management, a registered investment advisor, and founder of the Torres Family Fellowship, was a focal point of that community.

Fernandez recalls gathering at Torres’ office with other fellowship recipients. “We were all sitting there with this very successful individual at his beautiful office, and he talked about creating a network among people and among Torres fellows to help each other be successful,” he says.

For a first-generation MBA student like Fernandez, who didn’t have a built-in network of business contacts, the connections Torres created through the fellowship were a crucial foundation for his career.

Setting an Example

Torres has long been an active Berkeley alumnus, including as a member of the UC Berkeley Foundation, for which he’s now a trustee emeritus. He created the Torres Family Fellowship in 2005 in part to serve as an example to other foundation members and alumni. Since that time, 16 students have benefitted from the fellowship.

Torres continues to connect with current and former fellows. He’s also the proud parent of a current Haas MBA student. Fernandez and Torres stay in contact, including the occasional round of golf. Both unequivocally agree Torres is the better golfer.

Torres says it’s always fulfilling to hear about the success of fellowship recipients, a testament to the community he’s fostered. “Giving back pays dividends in life,” he says. “You just don’t know when and how. It isn’t necessarily monetary.”