MBA Students Expand Networks, Explore Cultures over Winter Break

If you ever find yourself stranded by a labor strike in a remote part of South America, hope that you're stuck with a team of Berkeley MBA students. Fifteen students who ended up in just such a position successfully innovated, negotiated, and strategized their way out of it, all with a “Beyond Yourself” approach.

The group was just one of many to fan out across the globe on a quest to expand career horizons and absorb culture during winter break. Iris Shim, MBA 12, led a trek to Chile’s Patagonia region, where 15 students planned to backpack in Torres del Paine National Park and finish with a few days in Buenos Aires.

Well-laid plans went awry, however, when a proposed tax hike on natural gas sparked a transportation strike, with buses, cars, and even kayaks blocked from travel. The Berkeley MBA trekkers quickly recognized that they needed to relocate to a less remote region, with access to food and possible ways out of the country. “We drew upon a lot of our MBA skills to put ourselves in a position of maximum flexibility,” says Shilpah Shah, MBA 12.

The team set end goals, developed a plan, analyzed the urgency of each task and the optimum division of labor, exercised negotiation skills with reluctant drivers, and pooled all available resources such as food, cash, and physical stamina to ensure that the entire group was taken care of. In the end, everyone made it home safely and in time for the start of school (or within a half day). “The whole experience really showed that the Haas culture is about thinking beyond yourself,” says Shah. “Everyone shared, trusted, and was always thinking of the entire team.”

Patagonia Trek

While the Chilean trekkers contended with labor strife, Berkeley MBA classmates explored employment opportunities in other corners of the world, expanding their knowledge and networks on career treks. Students interested in investment banking went to Hong Kong and Wall Street, visiting with alumni and such firms as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Fidelity, and Citigroup.

Forty-one students went to China, taking in the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, along with visiting the Shanghai World Financial Center, Disney China, and Internet service portal Tencent. “Shaghai alumni came out in force to interact with us at a Haas alumni event,” says organizer Darryl Lau, MBA 12.

China Trek

Across the globe, thirty students on a trek to Brazil made time to meet with prospective students and visited companies including mining giant Vale; cosmetics firm Natura; and Bradesco, one of Brazil’s largest banks.

Brazil Trek

Members of Global Initiatives at Haas visited Kenya to learn more about organizations that contribute to the social and economical development of the region. “One of the highlights was our visit to Mathare and Kibera, the two largest slums in Africa, where we had the opportunity to visit several resource-constrained schools supported by Dignitas Project and interview some microentrepreneurs supported by Acumen Fund,” says Ramon Alvarez, MBA 12.

Closer to home, members of the Haas Technology Club hit the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January. “Tablets and 3D were clearly all the rage,” blogged Tim Potter, MBA 11. Potter noted that one of the students used the Sin City visit to network with potential partners and investors for a company he’s founded.

Sentiments around a trip to Colombia – which included Bogota, Cartagena, and Tayrona National Park – summed up the winter trek experience: “This was an amazing trip and the highlight of my time at Haas so far," says Rachel Sherman, MBA 12. “I made incredible friendships that I’ve brought back to Haas and that enrich everything I do here.”

Stay up to date on the latest student activities on the school's new Haas Achieves blog.