Rosa Montes Vaca, BS 90
Business Development Executive

Headshot of Rosa Montes Vaca.Large, established companies can be appealing when pursuing a finance position, but for Rosa Montes Vaca, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.

“I like supporting the underdog, because it makes me want to fight more,” says Vaca.  

Throughout her 32-year career in investment banking and business development, Vaca has often worked at small firms. After graduation, she joined Artemis Capital Group, Inc., the first women-owned investment bank on Wall Street, founded by six former Goldman Sachs executives. 

She started as a financial analyst and later assumed the duties of a vice president, gaining experience she never would have received early in her career had she worked at a firm with more resources, she says. Artemis’ leaders quickly promoted her to the pitch team competing for multimillion dollar deals. Later, Vaca became a VP at E. J. De La Rosa & Co., California’s first Mexican-owned investment bank.

Like the firms she grows, Vaca sees herself as a powerful underdog. She grew up in a low-income, single-parent home with six siblings in Alameda, Calif., and applied to Cal—her dream school—despite an instructor discouraging her from doing so. “I’ve walked both sides of the track,” she says. “I see opportunities other investment bankers and business development people do not—and I’m relentless with relationship building and service.”

Now, Vaca is focusing her talents on consulting for social impact and climate investing firms. It’s a change from banking, but she’ll carry the same drive she brings to all her work. “You learn about yourself building a company,” she says. “You find out just how powerful you really are.”

Boaz Ur, MBA 09
Chief Business Development Officer, Nostromo Energy

Headshot of Boaz Ur.By Boaz Ur’s final year at Haas, he knew he wanted to impact the clean tech industry. But he took an unconventional route to get there.

His first job upon graduating was at Pacific Gas & Electric, where he managed its demand response portfolio, including residential and third-party aggregator programs. The experience proved pivotal to his clean tech career. “My time at PG&E gave me an understanding of utilities, regulators, and customers and has been extremely valuable for me and the companies I work with today,” he says. 

Ur went on to become vice president of business development and partnerships at Lightapp Technologies, which develops AI bots to help manufacturers manage energy use. Meanwhile, he was working on his own invention: a device that could offer real-time response to oil spills.

The idea won the energy track of the 2012 UC Berkeley Startup Competition (now called LAUNCH). Shortly after, he established HARBO Technologies.

Six years and 350 prototypes later, the HARBO Boom—a lightweight, portable device that could slow an oil spill within minutes—became a commercial success, credited with mitigating damages including in the second largest oil spill in the Port of Rotterdam. 

Today, Ur is the chief business development officer for Nostromo Energy, a company that turns commercial buildings into energy storage assets using the IceBrick. This water-based technology stores cold energy in buildings during off-peak hours and then uses that energy to cool buildings during peak hours, reducing energy costs and carbon emissions. 

It’s one more step on his crusade to positively change the world.

John Tallichet, BCEMBA 06
Chairman & CEO, Specialty Restaurants Corporation

Headshot of John Tallichet.John Tallichet is no stranger to crisis. Just as he was finishing his Haas degree, his father was diagnosed with cancer. The elder Tallichet had founded Specialty Restaurants Corporation, of which John was serving as president. When his father died a year later, Tallichet became CEO—just as the nation was heading toward a recession.

“It was challenging, but I was confident I had the tools to take the company to the next level,” he says. “I don’t think I would have had that same confidence if I hadn’t been to Haas.”  

SRC is a pioneer in the themed restaurant industry, and Tallichet, who started out as a restaurant “salad boy,” today oversees the corporation’s 18 eateries nationwide as well as its real estate and aviation divisions.

During the pandemic, Tallichet prioritized the well-being of customers and employees, giving up to two weeks’ pay to help employees through the initial lockdown and distributing groceries from their restaurants’ inventories for months. SRC also launched a beach-focused venue—Whiskey Joe’s Bar & Grill—at five waterfront locations in Florida. “It’s outside on the sand with a tiki bar,” Tallichet says. “When businesses reopened, those restaurants thrived.” SRC continues to grow, with four new restaurants opening and more planned.

Named chairman of the California Restaurant Association Board of Directors last year, Tallichet is also helping guide his battered industry. 

“The challenges restaurants face are not over, and there are regulations coming down that will be difficult for them,” he says. “We want to defend restaurants against more costs when many are not fully recovered.”

Remembering Those Lost

In Memoriam

Robert Porter, BS 48
Rex Tolladay, BS 51
Robert LaVine, BS 52
Roderick Morrison, BS 52
John Kirk, BS 54
Peter Tovar, BS 54
Darrell Twisselman, BS 54
Fredric Rubel, BS 56
Herbert Lakritz, BS 57
Gordon Waterfall, BS 57
Ronald Peterson, MBA 58
Gary Rinehart, BS 60
Marvin Schinnerer, MBA 60
Lyle Jensen, BS 61
James Franklin, BS 62
Alec Dalziel, BS 63
Tom Hobday, BS 64
Kenneth Wilding, BS 74
John Piccardo, BS 82
Charles Koeber, MBA 84
Anthony Dragun, MBA 85
Juan Carlos Wallace, MBA 03
Grace Spiridon-Ammen, BCEMBA 12

Pay Scales

The effects of salary benchmarking

People standing on stacks of coins of differing heights.

A wave of pay transparency laws aimed at reducing inequities is giving millions of workers access for the first time to information on the pay ranges potential employers will offer.

Yet comparing salary information is nothing new for employers. While U.S. antitrust law prohibits employers from directly sharing salary information with each other, most mid-sized and large companies routinely use aggregated data from third parties to get a read on the going rates.

The effects of this widespread practice, known as salary benchmarking, have never been systematically studied—until now. Following White House concerns that benchmarking may be used to suppress wages and benefits, a new study offers the first evidence on its impact on workers.

The study, which began in 2019, looked at starting pay offered to new hires at 586 firms that gained access to a benchmarking tool between January 2017 and March 2020. The online tool is easily searchable by job title and is based on real, aggregated, and anonymized payroll records of many millions of employees.

The conclusion: Benchmarking does not have a negative effect on pay for the average employee. While some salaries decrease and others increase after a company uses a benchmarking tool, salaries overall simply move closer to the benchmark.

“If there was a negative effect on salaries, it would be suggestive of anti-competitive effects,” says Associate Professor Ricardo Perez-Truglia, who authored the new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper with Zoe B. Cullen and Shengwu Li, both of Harvard University. “That’s not what we found. If anything, we see some small salary gains for low-skill

The researchers used aggregated data from the nation’s largest payroll processing firm to see how much employers paid new hires in hundreds of job categories before and after they used the payroll firm’s salary benchmarking tool. They found that employers paid new hires much closer to the median wage after searching the market rates for those job titles.

As a result, some new employees earned more and some earned less than they would have otherwise. “For the most part, they sort of cancel each other out,” says Perez-Truglia.

Giving a Lift

Flexing a philanthropic muscle

Outstretched hand holding a small globe with a graduation cap on top of it. Photo: JD8/Adobe Stock.

Before coming to Haas,  Julia Nechaieva, MBA 18, worked in the tech industry in her native Ukraine and later in Russia. She loved the field—although the pay wasn’t great and she yearned for bigger opportunities. Being accepted at Haas was thrilling but also daunting. “The idea of coming to a new country with no money and a huge loan was scary,” she says. But then she was awarded the Ulatowski Fellowship, which would cut her expenses in half. “My future instantly became brighter.” Nechaieva has since worked at Google, YouTube, and now as director of product management at Twitch in San Francisco. 

Nechaieva’s fellowship was funded by Tomek Ulatowski, who earned his MBA at Haas in 1973 after emigrating to the U.S. from communist Poland. His time at Berkeley launched him on a successful career, first in the U.S. and later, after the Berlin Wall fell, in Poland where he invested in the country’s newly private companies. 

“I was extremely grateful for the encouragement and support I received from Haas as a student and afterwards,” Ulatowski says. “I was a foreigner with no money, no visa, no work permit, and they gave me opportunities that produced all kinds of good things for me in life.” 

Fearing the cost of Haas was deterring international applicants, Ulatowski established the fellowship to attract talented students who’d done their undergraduate work in Poland. Later, the scholarship was broadened to include students from Ukraine as well. His generosity speaks to the transformative nature of fellowships to uplift entrepreneurs worldwide.

Karolina Wezyk, MBA 20, a fellowship recipient from Poland, said the funding significantly reduced her anxiety about attending Haas. “A lot of my friends in the U.S., because of the credit card culture, are less sensitive to taking out loans, but in Poland people are very nervous about signing such a long-term commitment.” Not having to live under that stress has been a great gift, she says.  

I was a foreigner with no money, no visa, no work permit, and [Haas] gave me opportunities that produced all kinds of good things for me in life.

In addition to funding the fellowship, Ulatowski has supported the construction of Chou Hall and recently made a generous gift to the EconHaas4Ukraine fellowship, an academic grant funded by Haas and the Department of Economics to help Ukrainian scholars continue their work amid the war. For Ulatowski, whose wife is Ukrainian and whose brother-in-law is in the Ukrainian army, the gift has deep personal resonance. 

Giving meaningful gifts is a lesson Nechaieva has taken from Ulatowski, who has become a role model for her. “The fellowship has unlocked my ‘giving back’ muscle,” she says.

Strong Division

On the growing distrust between political parties

Overlapping blue head and red head yelling at one another.

During World War II, Americans—Republicans and Democrats alike—were willing to sacrifice on behalf of the country’s interests against a common enemy. They ate less meat, planted victory gardens, and rationed gasoline. Fast-forward 80 years to a political climate rife with partisan animosity.

“Intuitively it makes sense that common enemies unite people,” says Assistant Professor Douglas Guilbeault. “Given the state of polarization today, the question is whether we can get Republicans and Democrats working together in the face of a common threat.”

In new research published in Nature Scientific Reports, Guilbeault and six co-authors found the opposite to be true. Their series of experiments found that exposing partisans to information about a common enemy instilled in Republicans a deeper distrust of Democrats than they started out with. The same was not true of Democrats in the study.

The researchers recruited about 1,700 Republicans and Democrats between October 2019 and January 2020 and had them read one of three articles from Reuters: one with a patriotic bent about Fourth of July celebrations nationwide; another evoking a “common enemy” about how Russia, Iran, and China were conspiring against the U.S.; and a third neutral piece on early human drawings discovered in South Africa.

Next, participants were offered financial incentives to answer the question: “What percentage of immigrants between 2011 and 2015 were college educated?” After responding, participants were given an answer supposedly generated by a member of the opposing political party. (In fact, it was generated by a bot programmed to give a “guess” that differed from the participant’s by roughly 50 percentage points.) Participants were then given the chance to revise their guesses and told that their compensation would increase according to the accuracy of their response.

“The extent to which someone used information from the other party to update their estimate gave us insight into cross-party cooperation,” Guilbeault says.

What they found was that reading the “common-enemy” article appeared to increase animosity rather than bringing people closer. Specifically, Republicans who had read the article were less willing to use information provided by Democrats. The effect was stronger among those who described themselves as more conservative.

The different parties’ views of what it means to be “American” may be what drove the different reactions, the researchers theorize. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that Republicans were significantly more likely than Democrats to view the other party as un-American and a threat to the nation’s well-being (36% of Republicans versus 27% of Democrats). 

One example of this was the finger-pointing each party did with COVID-19. “Intensely polarized societies seem to create this backfire effect,” Guilbeault says. “Rather than bringing groups together, exposure to a common enemy makes them more likely to accuse each other of being on the enemy’s side.”

Ruse Control

Busting the myth of ‘sadder but wiser’

Woman on a balance board juggling a happy face and sad face emoji in either hand. The board sits on a neutral face emoji.

Are depressed people simply more realistic in judging how much they control they have over their lives while people without depression believe they have more control than they do?

That’s the general idea behind “depressive realism,” a theory that has held sway in science and popular culture for more than four decades and has been cited more than 2,000 times by scholars.

The problem is, it’s just not true, new research finds.

“It’s an idea that exerts enough appeal that lots of people seem to believe it, but the evidence just isn’t there to sustain it,” says Professor Don Moore, the Lorraine Tyson Mitchell Chair in Leadership and Communication and co-author of the study. 

The concept of depressive realism stems from a 1979 study of college students examining whether they could predict how much control they had over whether a light turned green when they pushed a button. The original research concluded that the depressed students were better at identifying when they had no control over the lights, while those who weren’t depressed tended to overestimate their level of control.

Moore and his colleagues set out to replicate those findings as part of a broader effort to restore trust in scientific research. As for depressive realism, its decades-long infusion into science, culture, and even potential mental health treatment policy makes it important, Moore says. “A lot of people are building theories or policies premised on this effect being true,” says Moore, who co-authored the study with Amelia Dev, BA 17 (psychology), who served as lead author; UC Berkeley psychology professor Sheri Johnson; and Karin Garrett, BA 21 (psychology).

The authors studied two groups of participants—one drawn from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk online service and another comprised of college students—and incorporated more modern and robust measurements for the study. For example, they measured bias and experimentally varied the amount of control participants actually had. People in the online group with a higher level of depression overestimated their control—a contradiction to the original study. In the college student group, depression levels had little impact on their view of their control.

While depression may not improve judgment, the issue of how to accurately gauge our level of control in various situations has broader implications throughout life, Moore says.

“We live with a great deal of uncertainty about how much control we have—over our careers, our health, our happiness,” says Moore. “What actions can we take that really matter? If we want to make good choices, it’s helpful to know what we control and what we don’t.”

Brain Trust

Revolutionizing legal disputes

Box of Crust toothpaste with the branding of Crest toothpaste.

Imagine you’re browsing the toothpaste aisle and see next to Colgate a new brand called Colddate, packaged in a box with similar colors and design. “You might think this is clearly a copycat brand,” says Associate Professor Ming Hsu, the William Halford Jr. Family Chair in Marketing.

Yet in a real-life trademark infringement case involving these two brands, Colgate-Palmolive lost the suit—the judge deemed they were “similar” but not “substantially indistinguishable.”

Judges and juries in trademark cases often disagree about how similar the brands in question are, leading to inconsistent rulings. Evidence frequently takes the form of consumer surveys, which have been shown to be susceptible to manipulation—for example, through the use of leading questions. Many judges end up ruling based on gut instinct.

Hsu and colleagues propose a more scientific measure through the use of brain scans—employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) along with a specialized technique called repetition suppression.

In Hsu’s study, participants in fMRI scanners were rapidly shown pairs of images consisting of the main brand and a supposed copycat. Previous research has proven that when presented with two similar images, the brain suppresses activity for the second image, perhaps out of efficiency, thinking it’s already seen the image. By measuring the amount of repetition suppression in brain activity for the second image, the researchers determined how similar a person found the two images. 

Participants are blind to the goal of the study and don’t need to be asked any questions, which further reduces bias. 

When comparing neuroimaging against survey results intended to be either pro-plaintiff, pro-defendant, or neutral, the brain-based measure reliably matched the more neutral survey results—indicating that the brain scans can improve the quality of legal evidence in these cases.

With a cost comparable to presenting survey data, neuroimaging could be provided as a supplemental “spot check” to survey evidence, giving a judge or jury confidence the surveys are accurate, Hsu says. It also holds promise for a range of legal applications involving people’s mental reactions—for example, determining music copyright infringement or how a “reasonable person” would judge obscenity, negligence, or other legal issues.

“While we are not there yet,” Hsu says, “one can imagine a future where we ask the brain to help us answer these difficult questions.”

Pricing Strategies

The value of subscription services

Women's hands holding a credit card and choosing a subscription service on a tablet.

The market for online subscription services accounted for roughly $70 billion in 2021—a figure that could reach $900 billion by 2026. New research co-authored by Prof. J. Miguel Villas-Boas explains the benefits of the model. Subscription services, he finds, often permit companies to reap the most profit from a product or experience.

Consider a luxury handbag company that could either sell or rent its bags. “Renting would be more profitable,” says Villas-Boas. If a customer buys a bag then realizes that she would gladly have paid a higher price for it, then the company has lost money. A subscription or rental program, however, allows for a larger profit over time.

The research, which is rooted in a mathematical model of consumer decision-making, also found that when consumers can learn deeply about a product or service prior to purchase, they’re both slower to buy and more loyal; repeat purchases account for a larger share of their value. When most of the information about a product or service is instead gathered post-purchase, then the opposite is true: Value is generated by the first purchase, which is less likely to be repeated.

Counterintuitively, companies that can’t offer a subscription can use high prices to defer consumer purchases. This forces people to research before buying, which makes it more likely they’ll be satisfied and become repeat customers.

Pep Talk

Diane Dwyer’s pro tips for managing media interviews

Silhouette of a person made from reporters microphones.

So you’ve been working on an exciting project or product, or maybe you’ve developed deep expertise in a specialized area. A reporter is interested in what you have to say. Now what?

A media interview can be a great opportunity to showcase your company or personal brand, but if you’re new to interviewing it can provoke anxiety. Even more so if you’ll be appearing on camera. Knowing what to expect is key, says Diane Dwyer, BS 87 (shown far right), a Haas professional faculty member and former broadcast journalist.

“There are two main tips I always start with when preparing someone for a media interview,” she says. “First, know your audience: Who is the interviewer? What do they want? And second, practice—a lot.”

Dwyer, who created a course called Innovations in Communications and Public Relations at Haas and runs her own media consulting firm, advises her clients that “no matter how great a public speaker they are, they have to spend serious time preparing if they want to accomplish their goals.” 

 But you don’t have to hire a trainer to get results. Here are Dwyer’s top tips.

Play “baseball.” Determine your goal for the interview—that’s your “home plate.” Then decide on two or three stories or facts that support the goal—those are your “bases.” Use the “bases” no matter what you get asked.

Record yourself answering potential questions at least three times. You must watch yourself to make it worthwhile. Even if you’re not on camera for the actual interview, you’ll catch things you wouldn’t notice otherwise. 

If you don’t know an answer, say “I’m not sure, I’ll get back to you on that.” And always get back to the reporter. 

Always answer the interviewer’s question first, then bridge to one of your “bases.”

Drink warm or room-temperature water before and during the interview. Cold water constricts vocal cords. 

Use body language: Lean in, smile.

Wear solid colors and nothing distracting. 

Use a prop, if you have one, like a graph or object. Visuals are always more memorable than words.

Keep your answers between 15 and 45 seconds.

Use the reporter’s name whenever you’re saying something you want them to use. It makes reporters feel important! 

Ice Ages

Middle-age stereotypes affecting working women

Actor Meryl Streep on the phone with a dour look on her face.

Middle age may bring wisdom and experience, but for women, there’s something else: the misperception that they are less warm—a stereotype causing them to be judged more harshly than their male contemporaries.

The finding is part of research co-authored by Haas Professors Jennifer Chatman, PhD 88, and Laura Kray, among others, and published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Chatman, who is associate dean of academic affairs, notes that at a time when women are only just beginning to approach parity in business schools and still make up only 6.4% of S&P 500 CEOs, the implications can be deadly to career ambition. “Middle age is a make-or-break time, when people are being groomed and considered for the top jobs,” says Chatman, the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management and co-director of the Berkeley Culture Center. 

Perceptions of “warmth” and “agency” are two fundamental measures for judging others. “The first thing we notice about someone is whether they’re warm or cold,” explains Kray, the Ned and Carol Spieker Chair in Leadership and faculty director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership. “It tells you whether they have good or bad intentions toward you. ‘Agency’ addresses the question of how capable we perceive them to be in achieving those intentions.”

Past research has established that women are typically stereotyped as being warmer than men, while men are perceived as having greater agency or capability. This is a legacy of historical divisions in which women were charged with child-rearing while men worked. “The stereotypes have outlived their utility,” Chatman says, and friction can emerge when women contradict stereotypes by achieving greater agency at work. 

Friction can emerge when women contradict stereotypes by achieving greater agency at work.

In one study analyzing a large dataset of university professor evaluations, Chatman and Kray found that male professors’ evaluations remained consistent over time. Meanwhile, evaluations for female professors quickly declined from their initial peak in their 30s, hitting a low point around age 47. After that, they steadily increased again, achieving parity with men by their early 60s. “At that point, there are different stereotypes of women, and they may benefit from being seen as more grandmotherly,” says Kray.

In student comments, words such as “caring,” “nice,” and “helpful” declined for women along with their scores. “When women were getting their lowest teaching ratings, there was an uptick in complaints about their personality,” Kray says.

The researchers caution, however, against women being more careful about how they present themselves. Instead, they hope to create awareness that bias may affect how women are considered for promotions versus men. “We need to create systems and standardization for how we discuss and evaluate candidates,” Kray says, “and either exclude feedback on personality or make sure it is considered equally for men.”  

Meaningful Business

The future of purpose-driven branding

Two women walking by a Dove ad with a curvy woman on a Boston street.

This is a remarkable time for business organizations. The purpose-driven revolution is leading firms beyond a focus on growing sales, profits, and shareholder returns to having a business purpose that is meaningful, admired, and worthy of respect. It is a time of opportunity, even a time for dramatic change. It is not a time to stand still and drive toward irrelevance. My new book, The Future of Purpose-Driven Branding, discusses the role of branded signature programs that impact real societal challenges and advance a business strategy.

Why are signature programs critical?

Consider Dove, the “beauty bar” brand, which in 2003 launched the Real Beauty program after learning that less than 3% of women regarded themselves as beautiful. One of the program’s vehicles, having an artist sketch women based on their self-descriptions, showed that “You’re More Beautiful Than You Think” and led to the most viral ad ever run up to 2013. This program, together with the Dove Self-Esteem program directed at teen girls, has elevated the self-confidence of hundreds of millions as well as formed the heart of the Dove brand for nearly two decades.

Another example is Barclays, a major UK brand. After losing public trust in 2009, Barclays created an employee signature social program called the   Digital Eagles, now with 17,000 employees, that helps people thrive in the digital world. Emotional stories from the program moved the trust needle, which had not happened with conventional efforts.

Firms large and small are putting substantial resources into efforts to address societal challenges that are increasingly visible and threatening. They recognize that their resources, insights, and agility are needed. Further, businesses, particularly those with “taken-for-granted” offerings, need the energy burst, the image lift, and the engagement opportunities that social programs can create.  

Branding, however, is crucial. The social efforts of a business can be a financial dead weight unless they are designed and employed to advance a business strategy. Then the business becomes motivated to provide its endorsement to a social program, fostering much-needed credibility and access to substantial resources. They become partners, which helps a social program thrive.  

The challenge is to communicate that partnership. When the social effort is based, for example, on a sprawling set of grants and volunteer efforts plus some energy conservation and carbon dioxide emissions goals, the result is an incoherent message of sameness and sometimes tokenism. What is needed are branded impactful signature social programs that can touch people emotionally, provide visibility, and inspire both the employees and customers of that business. 

Side-by-side pencil drawings of the same woman.
Drawing of a woman describing herself to a sketch artist (left) versus a stranger describing her for a Dove campaign.

Signature social programs can be internal branded programs such as Dove’s Real Beauty program. Or they can be with external partners having a proven record and established brand. Costco, for example, has a “visionary partner” status with Feeding America, one of its signature programs. 

The signature program brand will signal that the program is important, merits commitment, and has a long-term time horizon. A brand guides the program as it evolves. It will inspire because of the visible need and stories that surround its impact. It also aids communication by providing a memory structure and story source for employees and customers. 

Five potentially game-changing and often underused “branding must-dos” that I discuss in the book can make a brand-building difference. They include creating a social purpose, using stories to bring the program to life, finding “silver-bullet” brands that can provide differentiation or credibility to the signature social program, creating and leveraging brand communities, and scaling the signature program so that it reaches more people with a deeper offering.

But there is a catch. The signature social program must avoid being perceived as a self-serving, token effort or greenwashing. The solution is to be authentic by demonstrating passion, professionalism, depth of understanding of the social challenge, thought leadership, and a long-term commitment.

Lisha Bell, BCEMBA 12
Co-Founder, BLXVC; Economic Opportunity Fund Manager, PayPal

Headshot of Lisha Bell.Having worked in tech for many years for the likes of Wells Fargo and Kohl’s, Lisha Bell was struck by the continued lack of diversity.

“I sat with engineers all day, and in 15 years I was usually the only Black or the only woman,” she says. “I realized nothing would change unless I did my part to change the system.”

So Bell co-founded BLXVC, an angel investing firm that provides capital to women of color entrepreneurs. Since 2020, the firm has invested in startups producing everything from cruelty-free cosmetics to platforms that connect Black women with culturally sensitive healthcare providers. 

“I started BLXVC because few women of color have a substantial amount of assets to distribute or invest in,” Bell says. “Ninety percent of our cap table is people of color and 90% is women. We’re funding our own movements,” she says. 

Besides running BLXVC, Bell also manages PayPal’s $100 million Economic Opportunity Fund—part of the company’s $535 million commitment to strengthen minority communities nationwide. The fund is the brainchild of Bell and colleagues who proposed the idea to PayPal executives in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on minority-owned small businesses.

Bell’s work these days is precisely the kind of difference she was hoping to make.

“My daughter will have a little less weight to carry, a little less fighting to do because of some of these barriers that I’ve been trying to break for Black women,” she says. “Those are the kinds of things I fight for.”

Out of the Blues

Haas alumni work to destigmatize mental illness and improve well-being.

In the fall of 2020, deep into the pandemic, Newton Cheng, MBA 08, was working harder  than ever. By early 2021, he knew something was wrong. He was spent, exhausted, unable to feel happiness or joy. One morning upon waking he was filled with so much dread that he couldn’t get out of bed.

As the director of health and performance at Google, Cheng oversees programs that promote well-being in Google’s global workforce. But despite his job description and an appreciation of the importance of physical and mental health, he wasn’t immune to his own mental health challenges. So in January 2022, he opted to take a three-month leave to address his depression and anxiety. “My therapist called it ‘overwork syndrome,’” Cheng says. It was affecting all aspects of his life, including his most important relationships. “I was ashamed of the way I was showing up as a husband and father.”

Time away gave him the space to recalibrate, yet he knew his situation was hardly unique. According to Microsoft, over 50% of us globally are burned out at work. Another survey by McKinsey says that 59% of the global workforce reports having at least one mental health challenge.

After returning from leave, Cheng decided to publicly share his story. Doing so didn’t come naturally to him, but he put aside his discomfort and posted about his experience on social media. He got positive responses on Facebook and Instagram, but by far the largest response was within his professional network on LinkedIn. “The post received roughly 2,000% more engagement than my previous posts,” he says. 

Indeed, if the COVID-19 pandemic has any silver lining, it may be the way it’s revealed some of society’s long-simmering ills, one of which is the state of our mental health. Long a taboo subject in general—and in the workplace in particular—the trauma and disruption of the pandemic brought mental health out of the shadows and positioned it front and center. 

Fortunately, members of the Haas community have long recognized problems in the way we talk about mental health and in the systems we use to provide care. And they’ve put their energy into trying to solve them. 

Changing the culture

Ian Shea, BCEMBA 07, learned firsthand how important it is to tend to one’s own mental health when a company he started didn’t pan out. The experience was emotionally taxing, and he was dogged by fear, anxiety, and doubt. “To get through that, just for my own personal survival, I really had to develop my own emotional and spiritual practice,” he says. But like Cheng, Shea knew his experience wasn’t unique and that others had gone through similar trials—or would at some point. He realized that creating space at work for more emotional support and open dialogue would be a good thing for people and for businesses. But they needed guidance. 

So Shea created I M Human to provide that guidance to companies that have decided to make well-being a strategic priority. This is more than simply implementing a program, he says. “It’s a practice. Culture is at the heart of it. It’s how leaders treat their employees, how they give feedback, and how they create space for self-care.” The goal is broad culture change within companies, so well-being becomes a core part of their values. 

Shea’s company was brought in by global law firm O’Melveny & Myers after the American Bar Association reported high rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness in the legal profession and created the ABA Well-being Pledge. The firm, says Shea, has since been awarded the #1 well-being program in the legal industry, in part because of its work with I M Human.

A challenge to find new ideas

Smiling emoji faces spilling out of a cell phone. According to Gallop’s 2022 State of the Global Work Force, a mere 21% of employees said they were engaged at work, and just 33% said they were thriving in their overall well-being. While no field has a monopoly on unhappiness, Michael Martin, MBA 09, discovered that construction workers have one of the highest suicide rates across all industries. Martin works in energy, infrastructure, and sustainability at Google, and he regularly visits construction sites, so the issue was more than academic. 

He shared what he’d learned with senior leaders at Google. “Clearly,” says Martin, “if we’re dealing with these issues on site, this was going to result in project delays and money lost. But beyond that, there’s a moral imperative to make the sites a better place to work.”

By way of a solution, in 2020 Martin founded the John E. Martin Mental Healthcare Challenge at Haas, seeded with his own money and sponsored by Google. The annual case competition aims to develop solutions to improve the quality of mental healthcare and access. In its inaugural year, 12 teams from top MBA programs proposed ways to use data to better support construction workers facing anxiety, addiction, depression, and suicide. The winning solution—from a Berkeley Haas team—featured an AI-powered app that addressed prevention, assessment, and intervention. 

Martin had already made a commitment to improving mental health via his Berkeley connections. In 2015 he founded the John E. Martin Fellowship in honor of his father, a Vietnam veteran who overcame his own mental health struggles and became a counselor to fellow vets. The Martin Fellowship provides financial support to students at Haas, the School of Public Health, and/or the School of Social Welfare. The Healthcare Challenge further elevates the importance of addressing mental health for all members of society.

Julia Cohen, MBA/MPH 24, was a member of the prize-winning team at the 2022 Mental Healthcare Challenge, when the focus was adolescent health. Cohen and her teammates developed an intervention designed for rural transgender youth called Y’ALL. Says Cohen, “Y’ALL seeks to build community and foster resilience through both digital technology and a rotating in-person neighborhood pop-up event.”

According to Microsoft, over 50% of us globally are burned out at work. Another survey by McKinsey says that 59% of the global workforce reports having at least one mental health challenge.

Cohen’s team focused on transgender rural adolescents because the unmet need in that population is so great. “Rural trans youth have higher mental health incidents. Suicidal ideations are higher, and access to mental health resources is limited,” Cohen says. Y’ALL’s emphasis is on building community, with a focus on preventing mental health issues rather than waiting until serious problems take root.  

One hand grasping another to pull out of a hole.Reaching young people

Transgender rural youth face unique challenges, but the incidence of anxiety and depression among all young people has been on the rise. Rates were increasing well before the pandemic, but COVID’s disruptions and enforced isolation only made things worse.  

Addressing mental health issues as early as possible is key, says Anjali Menon, BS 11. “The majority of mental illness begins by age 24 or before. So you really have to start early,” she says. In 2021, Menon co-founded tbh, a resource that partners with schools—both K-12 and higher ed—to supplement the mental health services available to students. Menon was motivated to start tbh when she saw the inadequate options available to a college-age friend who was struggling with mental health issues.  

“I’m trying to model a different way of leading. I’m showing up more vulnerably, and I’m creating space for others to share their stories.”
—Newton Cheng, MBA 08 

Her company facilitates online skills-based, therapist-led groups that help students build a social-emotional toolkit. As with Cohen’s project Y’ALL, the emphasis is on prevention, giving young people the skills to tend to their own well-being. Menon says the groups allow students to connect with mental health experts in a way that feels friendly. And she says students really appreciate the group format. “It helps them see their problems reflected in other people, and they feel less alone,” she says.

Stigma and other barriers

Attitudes concerning mental health issues are gradually changing, but stigma persists and often serves as a barrier to seeking care. This is particularly true in communities of color, says Karan Singh, BS 05. “My family’s originally from India, and this is definitely not a topic you talk about in many brown communities,” he says. “It wasn’t in our house.” Looking back, Singh suspects this is why he was blindsided when a family member tried to take their own life some years ago. “None of us knew this person was struggling,” he says.

Yet even in the absence of stigma, problems of access remain. “Most people trying to see a provider wait weeks if not months,” says Singh. And once you find someone, the quality of care varies dramatically. And then there’s the issue of cost. Many providers are out of network, so payment is out of pocket, putting help out of reach for many. To address some of these problems, in 2011 Singh and his partners founded Ginger, one of the first online clinics to provide on-demand mental healthcare. 

In 2021, Ginger merged with Headspace, the popular mindfulness meditation app, to become Headspace Health. Singh says that adding mindfulness to Ginger’s other clinical services has allowed them to provide a full care continuum and now touches the lives of more than 100 million people in 190 countries. Their solutions Headspace for Work and Ginger are distributed through more than 4,000 enterprises, including Starbucks, Adobe, and Mattel, and through health plans such as Cigna—a true sign that mental health treatment has moved from the back room to the boardroom.

Like Singh, when Brad Kittredge, MBA/MPH 09, looked at the mental healthcare landscape, he saw lots of problems. One of the major issues he’d identified in healthcare delivery was routinization. “Our healthcare system has been treating depression or anxiety as one thing when in fact they’re complex, heterogeneous conditions,” he says. “And the reality is that the traditional care model hasn’t gotten good outcomes that way.” 

In 2017, Kittredge co-founded Brightside Health, which provides evidence-based and personalized online therapy and medication management from licensed practitioners. One of Brightside’s innovations is using data to understand each person’s unique presentation then analyzing that data to make targeted prescribing suggestions to doctors. Kittredge says they’re getting measurably better outcomes. One study comparing Brightside’s approach to treatment as usual found that close to 80% of Brightside patients experienced a reduction of five or more points on a depression assessment, compared to 52% of patients treated as usual.

Last December, in response to rising suicide rates, Brightside launched a first-of-its-kind telehealth program to treat people at an elevated risk for suicide. The program is rolling out nationally, and Kittredge says they’ve begun collaborating with health systems and health insurance companies on suicide risk-reduction programs.

The public good

While some in the Haas community are creating new ways to deliver mental healthcare, Alyssa Zachariah, MBA 22, is helping to implement existing public health services for thousands of San Franciscans. Zachariah works for San Francisco’s Department of Public Health and manages the budget for the Mental Health Services Act. 

The MHSA, passed in 2004, levies a 1% tax on incomes over $1 million and distributes those funds to counties for mental health services—which cover everything from prevention to treating serious illness. The $50 million fund currently supports 87 programs in San Francisco. But because funds are tied to income tax, there’s a lot of volatility, which makes Zachariah’s job complex. 

Initially Zachariah wanted to be a mental healthcare provider, but she found she was more interested in the systems that help deliver services. “I felt like I was contributing toward a larger system that was doing incredibly important work for a population that other institutions aren’t necessarily motivated to serve,” she says.

Developing better ways to provide mental healthcare and enabling people to tend to their own well-being are enormous challenges. But solutions are out there—many devised by Haas alumni. Admittedly, some are easier to institute. Google’s Cheng, for example, is continuing to use his experience with depression and anxiety to help spark change. “I’m trying to model a different way of leading. I’m showing up more vulnerably, and I’m creating space for others to share their stories,” he says. 

But Cheng and others agree that more is needed. “Change isn’t going to happen unless we change the systems around us,” Cheng says. And that includes not only our systems at work but the way we treat mental health more broadly. Cheng sees this as a challenge for the Haas community, for whom doing good is woven into the culture. “What do we want to do as a community to address this?” he asks.

Work in Progress

Haas experts on what to expect in the ever-evolving arena of work.

Change has long been coming for the world of work.

Automation and artificial intelligence technologies have been on the horizon or among us in their rudimentary forms for years—we’ve grown used to customer service conversations with chatbots, for example. Online hiring platforms (such as Upwork for freelance gig workers) have been complementing more traditional approaches to hiring for roughly a decade. And even pre-pandemic, the proportion of remote-capable U.S. workers in fully remote arrangements was inching up slowly, by 2019 climbing to 8%, according to Gallup.

COVID-19 kicked these slowly evolving trends into a turbo-charged rate of dizzying change. By mid-2022, nearly a third of remote-capable U.S. workers were fully remote. A survey by Upwork found that 53% of businesses said the pandemic increased their willingness to hire freelance gig workers. And the pandemic-induced imperatives to social distance and to adapt to fluctuations in demand spurred new investment in and utilization of automation technologies. 

Several Haas thought leaders are focusing their research on the questions many of us are asking ourselves as we reel from the rapid changes imposed on our work lives and work identities. For whom is the shift to remote work a net-positive change, and for whom is it a detriment? In which situations might these newly pervasive work arrangements be narrowing inequalities among workers—and where are they creating new ones? What does the newest research suggest about the likelihood that cutting-edge AI tools will render obsolete whole sectors of workers? And, perhaps most importantly, how do we define “good jobs”—and how can we, as a society, ensure that they don’t go extinct? 

The Haas thought leaders featured here don’t have all the answers, but they do have research-backed predictions, policy recommendations, and reasons for both concern and optimism as we chart our way through the end of work as we knew it—and orient ourselves in the world of work that’s emerging in its place. 

The remote future

Man floating on an island in a water cooler.Assistant Professor David Holtz signed the papers that made official his doctoral research internship at Microsoft in March 2020—timing that would prove portentous. He’d been invited into the technology firm’s Redmond, Washington, offices to study online marketplaces. Soon, however, Holtz found himself working not from Microsoft’s campus but remotely from his East Coast apartment—and on an altogether different research question: How was the swift decampment to remote work affecting communication and collaboration within Microsoft? 

Before the pandemic descended, 18% of Microsoft’s U.S. employees worked remotely. By April 2020, the firm had instituted a mandatory work-from-home policy for all of its non-essential U.S. employees.

To investigate how remote work reshaped communication practices among Microsoft’s more than 60,000 U.S.-based employees, Holtz and his co-authors analyzed anonymized data summarizing individual workers’ time spent in meetings and on calls, the number of emails and instant messages they sent, the length of their workweeks, and the patterns of their collaboration networks. 

Their data covered December 2019 to June 2020—so, the several months before and after the firm-wide work-from-home policy took effect. Access to this before-and-after data was important, Holtz emphasizes, because it allowed the research team to compare the working patterns of those 18% of employees who’d been remote pre-pandemic to the patterns of those who shifted to remote work because of COVID-19.

“We took really seriously the matter of trying to separate the effects of remote work from the effects of the pandemic,” Holtz explains. Already in 2020, many were speculating that a wholesale return to offices might never happen. “We wanted to understand, if that were the case, what would the effects of remote work be once the pandemic had subsided?”

Overall, the picture of remote work that emerged in their findings was not one of an arrangement particularly conducive to innovation. One of their main findings was that working remotely was associated with a decrease in the number of (and amount of interactions with) a person’s “weak ties”—that is, those colleagues with whom you don’t work directly but with whom a casual interaction can prove helpful or illuminating in surprising ways.

“There’s all this research that shows weak ties to be really important for the diffusion of new ideas and the propagation of information through an organization,” Holtz says. 

Relatedly, they found that the rate of change within employees’ networks fell considerably when working remotely. “The network kind of ossifies and starts to freeze in place,” Holtz says. “Research shows that creativity is associated with fresh teams, working with new folks.” 

Inequalities, old and new

A three-person shell with a one-person shell on either side, with all people rowing in sync.Research from Associate Professor Aruna Ranganathan adds a more positive dimension to this picture of remote work’s effects—especially when it comes to creativity. For some individuals within an organization, her research suggests, the adoption of a remote setup may actually act as a booster shot for creativity and performance.

Ranganathan has always been a scholar of work and employment, with a particular focus on individual-worker outcomes. “I’m interested in understanding how remote work perhaps exacerbates some preexisting inequalities, creates new forms of inequality, and also has the potential to mitigate some inequalities that existed in more traditional forms of work,” she says. She points to research indicating that women have long been held back from performing to their full potential at work, given that they experience more interruptions in team discussions and generally face lower performance expectations. Of course, this previous research has presumed a traditional synchronous team environment (imagine employees chatting in real time around a conference table). But as many of the world’s workers moved remote during the pandemic, asynchronous collaboration (via email, say) shot up.

For some individuals within an organization … the adoption of a remote setup may actually act as a booster shot for creativity and performance.

In one project, Ranganathan and her co-author studied folk music ensembles (consisting of a singer and a few instrumentalists) in eastern India performing traditional songs, each having many versions and interpretations largely determined by the singers. In these groups, gender roles are prescribed. When women are members, they typically only sing. Because each ensemble member has a distinct role, songs can be recorded either live as a group or solo and later combined digitally.

Ranganathan and her co-author found that working alone afforded women singers greater freedom of creative expression than when working within a group of men in a more traditional synchronous environment. But tempting as it may be to conclude that remote work is the magic salve in addressing the problem of unequal treatment in the workplace, Ranganathan cautions against it. 

“If we just embrace remote work, we’re not solving the root problem, which is that when these teams come together, certain members are not making other members feel included,” she says. “Embracing remote work shouldn’t mean we don’t try to continue also reshaping the synchronous work environment to be more inclusive of women and other minorities in the workplace.”

Protecting workers

Distinguished Professor Laura Tyson, who has written extensively about the future of work, technology, and trade policy (and who formerly served as an advisor to President Clinton), looks further ahead as she considers the disrupting force of technology on workers. In particular, her books, columns, and papers have lately focused on automation and AI and whether “good jobs” will be able to proliferate as these technologies—which perform tasks more cheaply, faster, and often better than humans—assert greater influence. 

Her prognosis is not hopeful for those blue-collar jobs one might reasonably consider “good”—that is, those that offer middle-class incomes, safe conditions, legal protections, career advancement, and benefits. She’s written that she fears any economic growth spurred by advancing AI technologies will not be widely shared and will further fuel economic inequality. 

“AI will automate many tasks, change existing tasks, and create new ones. There will be both winners and losers in this process,” she wrote in her recent article, “Automation, AI & Work.” 

Firms investing more in AI were also the ones with higher employment rates. … When firms adopt AI technologies, it actually creates the need for new types of human expertise.

Tyson says diverse communities across the U.S. will need to devise “tailored strategies” to meet the changes wrought by technologies still on the horizon. For instance, she points to the need for more affordable housing in major cities and better digital infrastructure to support remote work in rural areas. “All communities can expect to face challenges relating to workforce redeployment and mobility, skills and training, economic development and job creation, and support for those undergoing occupational transitions triggered by automation.”

A string of connected paper people with one of the people being a robot.

Research from Assistant Professor Anastassia Fedyk offers some optimism on how AI could enhance employment in some areas. In one study, Fedyk found that the firms investing more in AI were also the ones with higher employment rates. She says this suggests that when firms adopt AI technologies, it actually creates the need for new types of human expertise.

“What the data show is that the main effect of AI in most industries is not replacing human labor,” she says. “Instead, AI is allowing firms to innovate and grow.” 

Where her findings align with Tyson’s concern is on the topic of inequality. Fedyk’s other research has found that firms investing more in AI go on to hire more-educated workforces. “It seems that firm investments in AI are conducive to greater demand for college-educated and technical workers,” she says. “These findings suggest that it’s important to invest in upskilling the workforce as firms adopt new technologies such as AI.” 

Investing in education

Haas Dean Ann Harrison places similar emphasis on the importance of schooling and worker training in countering inequality as the nature of work transforms. One of the leading scholars in trade and development economics, Harrison points to educational programs as one of the most important public provisions in countering inequality. 

“A school like UC Berkeley, and all of California’s public universities and community colleges, play a key role in leveling the playing field,” Harrison says. “But we could do even more. What scares me most is that significantly less than half of our young people get a four-year college degree—we need to change that by increasing public educational opportunities and scholarships.” 

It’s not too late for policies written by humans, for humans, to help determine the ways in which rapidly advancing technologies will shape workers’ lives.

Harrison also says increased social protections need to be considered as well as incentivizing firms and innovators to grow in ways that employ more of America’s labor force. “In other words,” she says, “we need to encourage labor-using innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Indeed, worker training is one of the policy interventions Tyson emphasizes, too. She also recommends tax policy reforms to lower payroll and other payroll-related taxes, increasing social benefits and protections for gig workers, and introducing measures to enshrine workers’ ability to collectively bargain and unionize. 

The upshot? Harrison and Tyson agree that it’s not too late for policies written by humans, for humans, to help determine the ways in which rapidly advancing technologies will shape workers’ lives.

“How the benefits of automation are shared among workers from a diverse array of backgrounds is not technologically predetermined,” Tyson has written. “It is entirely up to us.” 

In fact, it’s even possible that AI tools can help clarify some of the most human parts of our work lives—such as allowing for a deeper understanding of how people are experiencing organizational life. Haas professors Jennifer Chatman and Sameer Srivastava developed a machine-learning method to integrate data from an employee survey with eight years of emails from a mid-size technology firm, giving a longitudinal look at “culture fit”—and how it’s formed and maintained within workplaces. 

The results gave them valuable insight into what draws people to certain workplaces and sours them on others.  “We found that two types of culture fit really mattered,” Chatman says. One type was “value congruence”—that is, the alignment between an employee’s personal values and the dominant ones within their organization—and the other was “perceptual congruence”—the extent to which an employee accurately perceives a workplace’s culture and behaves in accordance with it. These two distinct types of culture fit impacted different outcomes at work: Value congruence predicted how long people stayed with the organization, and perceptual congruence was closely tied to workers’ performance success.  

As the workplace and the nature of work itself continue to transform in ways both predictable and less so, understanding workers’ motivations and the drivers of their performance will only grow more important. After all, for the time being at least, humans are still the most complicated machines keeping the world of work running.


How two alumni took crowdfunding mainstream

As co-founders of Indiegogo, one of the world’s first crowdfunding sites, pioneers Danae Ringelmann and Eric Schell, both MBA 08, along with Slava Rubin, democratized access to capital and entrepreneurship—all while navigating the industry through unchartered regulatory waters. What started as a funding mechanism for independent filmmakers is now the leading crowdfunding site for tech products and a full-lifecycle platform for art projects and social-impact campaigns. The San Francisco-based company has raised over $2 billion for 800,000+ creative, entrepreneurial, and altruistic ventures worldwide. What’s more, Indiegogo is roughly half women and two-thirds non-white employees—diversity unmatched in the tech industry. Schell, the sole developer during Indiegogo’s first three years, served as CTO, head of data, and head of product during his tenure at the company. Ringelmann served as COO, CFO, and chief development officer during her tenure and remains an active board member. Here’s a look at Indiegogo’s evolution.

Eric Schell and Danae Ringelmann. 2008

Indiegogo launches (a year before main rival, Kickstarter). Due to federal rules regulating equity investing, donators are given perks (like objects or acknowledgement), not equity. Over the next three years, 92 venture capitalists decline to invest, but Haas profs and classmates introduce the co-founders to advisors and customers.


Forbes reports that crowdfunding is an $880 million business.


Indiegogo raises a $1.5 million seed round and joins President Obama’s Startup America Partnership as the funding site for the entrepreneurial initiative.


The co-founders help the Obama administration pass the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, which (eventually) allows for equity crowdfunding. The company raises another $15 million in funding.

Overhead shot of an arrow made from individual people.


Crowdfunding is now a $16 billion industry. Indiegogo Life, which raises funds (fee-free) for charity-based campaigns and personal appeals, launches. A $40 million infusion brings total funding to $56.5 million. Business luminaries, including Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson, also support the company.


Indiegogo Life is rebranded as The company launches InDemand, which allows successful campaigners to continue funding a project after its campaign period ends. Ringelmann and Schell receive Haas’ Leading Through Innovation award for improving the financing ecosystem. 


A partnership with hardware maker Arrow Electronics offers broader support for entrepreneurs and aids in mass production. Thanks to federal reforms, Indiegogo becomes the first major platform to launch an equity crowdfunding arm.


Revenue is up 50% over 2016, and the company is close to turning a profit. Indiegogo launches an education center and directory of experts. A new marketplace sells successfully crowdfunded items.

2018 is acquired by GoFundMe, allowing for better focus on hardware startups. Ringelmann steps down and moves to Norway, where she owns a lodge and farm.


Schell leaves Indiegogo, eventually landing at another company co-founded by Rubin.

Indiegogo logo.


Global crowdfunding is now valued at $13.64 billion and is expected to double by 2028. Indiegogo starts the Crowdfunding Trust Alliance with rival GoFundMe to establish best practices and crack down on fraudulent campaigns.

Michael Smith, MBA 86
Chief Marketing Officer, NPR

Headshot of Michael Smith.When Michael Smith earned his MBA in 1986, there were no podcasts or internet. The cable boom was still a few years away. Yet, throughout his career, he’s helped major media companies stay current, from selling the Disney Channel to cable distributors in the ’90s to bringing Food Network into the digital era. Now he’s jumped to public media.

As NPR’s chief marketing officer, he’s working to attract a younger and more diverse audience. “The average age of the NPR broadcast radio listener is 58 to 59 years old,” says Smith. “So that’s obviously not reflective of America, especially when you look at Gen Z and Millennials, who are 40% to 45% people of color.” 

The solution, says Smith, entails NPR building a diverse workforce in editorial and executive leadership, as well as adding more diverse content and voices. 

Another challenge is brand recognition. Only 30% of Americans—and 26% of people of color—know about NPR, says Smith, and the company hadn’t previously made significant investments in advertising or marketing. “I’ve been lucky that they’ve been willing to provide a budget to increase awareness,” he says. So far, Smith’s marketing campaigns are working. Awareness is up 9 percentage points since 2020 among the targeted Black and Hispanic audiences.

Smith himself deals with the evolving media landscape through constant education. And he gets others to embrace change by opting for a quietly inspiring leadership approach. “People talk about leading from the front. I’ve always been more about leading from behind,” says Smith. “Great servant leaders get satisfaction from amplifying and lifting up others.”