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Haas student chosen for Auschwitz professional ethics fellowship

Portrait of Danielle Dhillon
Danielle Dhillon, MBA 22

Danielle Dhillon, MBA 22, will travel to Germany and Poland this summer to participate in Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE), an intensive 12-day program for students studying business, journalism, law, medicine, or religion. 

Fellows in each program learn about the roles played by people in their professions in Nazi Germany, and explore the ethical issues facing those professions today. Daily seminars are led by specialized faculty who engage fellows in discussions and critical thinking about both the historical and the contemporary. We interviewed Dhillon about the fellowship.

What led you to apply to the FASPE Fellowship? 

I applied to the FASPE fellowship because I truly see it as a culmination of my educational journey. I’ve always enjoyed my ethics and philosophy classes in undergrad and here at Haas. In college I minored in German and had the chance to study parts of the German economy via my finance and international business major. Being part of the FASPE Business Fellows community will give me a community to share with and learn from as we examine the role of business and capitalism in making the world a better place through a lens of the harm that it once contributed to.

What do you hope to take away from the trip?

I hope to take away a renewed sense of what business ethics can and should look like, particularly given the ambiguity created by context and time. I hope to walk away with a better understanding of how systemic evil can make it impossible to make the right choices, especially for businesses. But I also am eager to hear stories of businesses that did the right thing—because we don’t tend to focus on those or have good, accessible examples of what ethical business leadership looks like.

How does the fellowship align with your career goals?

I came to Haas to pivot to a career in impact investing, where I will be responsible for advising and structuring investments that have a double or triple bottom line. In July I’ll be joining the Draper Richard Kaplan Foundation where I’ll source, evaluate, and select early stage, high impact social entrepreneurs to support via the model of venture philanthropy. This fellowship will give me an additional lens to truly become a prudent impact investor because business isn’t inherently ethical or unethical: business will always have the ability to perpetuate good or harm. An ethical capital allocator needs to be able to dissect and understand the potential harms as well as see the bigger picture if they choose to go forward.

MBA students travel abroad again on consulting projects as IBD celebrates 30th year

portrait of David Richardson standing in front of a taxi in Asia
“We’re so happy to be up and running again.” – IBD’s executive director David Richardson

For the first time in three years, MBA students are traveling abroad this month to work on consulting projects through the International Business Development (IBD) program at Berkeley Haas.

“We’re so happy to be up and running again,” said IBD’s executive director David Richardson, who runs the marquee Haas global management consulting program that is celebrating its 30th year. “This is one of the most popular electives for our students, and we were crushed when we got hit by COVID restrictions and our students could no longer travel. But we want everyone to know that we’re back.”

Lecturer Whitney Hischier, who teaches the IBD course, added that the hiatus “made us all appreciate the value of experiential classes more than ever.”

Thirteen students assigned to four teams will head to Singapore, Finland, and Guatemala in mid May. To prepare, the students began the IBD consulting course last January, which included the much-anticipated “big reveal” when the students learn where they’ll go.

Group of IBD students holding country signs
The 2022 class of IBD students will travel for the first time in three years.

In Singapore, one project team will work with a global food company. Two teams are heading to Finland. One will work with a software company that offers consumer electronics service management solutions, and another is assigned to a company that built a digital food safety and operations system for hotels, restaurants, and catering businesses. In Guatemala, students will collaborate with a social service organization that operates hospitals and vision centers that aim to eradicate treatable blindness.

portrait of Monica Shavers, MBA 23
Monica Shavers, MBA 23, will work in Singapore.

Monica Shavers, MBA 23, said she is looking forward to experiencing the culture and the food of Singapore, while working for the global food company.

“We’ve had lots of (virtual) client meetings, talking to our sponsor every week to figure out our itinerary and the ways in which we’ll learn about Singaporean food culture,” she said. “We’ve been talking through all of our ideas, and laying out what we will validate while we are in-country.”

When applying to Haas, IBD was one of the key attractions, she said. “I didn’t get to study abroad as an undergraduate,” she said. “I saw this as a great opportunity for me to get that global experience while I’m in school again.”

Kylie Gemmell, MBA 23, is heading to Joensuu, a small town in Finland, in mid-May to work with a client that makes hardware and software used to control food temperature safety.

Portrait of Kylie Gemmell
Kylie Gemmell, MBA 23, will work in Finland.

Gemmell, who worked in real estate investing before coming to Haas, said IBD has helped her explore a career change. “I’ve never had a consulting job and I wanted to experience what that would feel like—and here I am, 12 weeks into food safety regulation, an area I never knew existed,” she said. Gemmell added that her IBD consulting project has helped her learn more about herself, as the work differs from the independent nature of real estate.

“What I’ve realized is that I really love working on a team and that I get my energy from people and from working collaboratively.”

IBD has grown since JoAnn Dunaway, MBA 92, started the program after she graduated from Haas. “She saw a need for a challenging experiential learning program for MBA students to solve business problems,” Richardson said.  “JoAnn had an international background and interest and she brought that in—and the school ran with it.”

During the recent Alumni Weekend at Haas, six IBD alumni joined students for a combined virtual/in-person panel during the April 28 IBD class. The alumni shared insights on their projects and the impact the program has had on their careers. (Read more from IBD’s Associate Director Danner Doud-Martin on the IBD blog)

To prepare for the return to project work overseas, Richardson, a former Peace Corps volunteer, headed abroad last November to meet with potential IBD project clients. In recent months, he worked with UC Berkeley Study Abroad Office and Risk Services  to make sure Haas met UC Berkeley’s standards for mitigating the risk of Covid during student travel and at client sites. Over time, he said he’s updated the list of countries where IBD students were able to safely work.

Richardson said he feels great about the program’s future.

“We’re hopeful that we’re getting back into the business of sending more students overseas,” Richardson said. 

 

MBA Classes of 2020 and 2021 get official sendoff

Graduates of the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA classes of 2020 and 2021 reunited at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre last Friday for in-person commencement.

The graduates crossed the stage and celebrated with classmates, family, and friends in downtown Oakland and on campus. (The ceremony coincided with Haas’ MBA Conference and Reunion.) The in-person events followed separate virtual commencement ceremonies held in May 2020 & 2021.

Here are some highlights from Friday’s ceremony:

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Graduates from the MBA classes of 2020 and 2021 gathered at Oakland's Paramount Theatre for their belated in-person commencement. The ceremony was held on April 29, 2022. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
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Evan Wright, MBA 20, hugs a fellow classmate. COVID-19 restrictions prevented graduates from having in-person commencements for two years. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
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Members of the class of 2021 take photos outside of Oakland's Paramount Theatre. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
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Graduates take a few photos before commencement begins. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
"If you ever doubted whether you could lead through a crisis, overcome impossible odds, break through barriers, you have your answer," said Dean Ann Harrison who praised both MBA classes for completing one of the most rigorous MBA programs in the US during a pandemic. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
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Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA/JD 85, gave this year's commencement speech. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
"Haas taught me to show up as my most authentic self and to tear down my own walls and invite people in," said commencement speaker Joe Sutkowski, MBA 20. "Let's all continue to invite people into our lives and make this world a little bit smaller." Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
Student speaker Fede Pacheco, MBA 21, urged classmates to remember the joyous moments of their MBA program and to reach out to one another whenever life gets tough. Pacheco also received the Confidence without Attitude award. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
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David Brown-Dawson, MBA 21. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
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Graduates of the MBA class of 2020. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.

Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2020:

Academic Achievement Award: Brian Shain, the MBA student with the highest GPA.

Question the Status Quo: Evan Wright

Confidence without Attitude: Celeste Fa’ai’uaso 

Students Always: Nina Ho

Beyond Yourself: Benny Johnson

Berkeley Leaders: Molly Zeins & Ezgi Karaagac

Haas Legacy Award: Santiago Freyria and Francesco Dipierro

Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2021:

Achievement Award: Devan Courtois

Student always: José Ramón Avellana

Beyond yourself: Kendall Bills

Question the status quo: Fayzan Gowani

Confidence without attitude: Fede Pacheco

Cheit award for Graduate Student Instructor: Devan Courtois

Q&A with Sheeraz Haji, new Cleantech to Market (C2M) co-director

Sheeraz Haji standing in front of digital screen in Cafe Think
Sheeraz Haji is the new co-director of the Cleantech to Market (C2M) program. Photo: Jim Block

A passion to protect the environment began as a child for Sheeraz Haji, the new co-director of the Cleantech to Market (C2M) Program at Berkeley Haas. 

“My dad was working in Africa for the World Bank, and we got to see how water pollution impacts peoples’ lives,” said Haji, who directs C2M with Brian Steel. “I ended up going back to Africa in college, and the environment just emerged as something that I became interested in.”

We talked to Haji, who began his career as an environmental engineer, about his varied career and his plans for C2M, a program that matches graduate student teams with entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize their climate tech solutions. 

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?

All over the world, actually. My dad worked for the World Bank, so we lived in Washington DC, then in Algeria and then Kenya when I was between eight and 12. Africa was amazing; Nairobi was a peaceful, amazing city surrounded by stunning parks. My dad was born and raised in East Africa so it felt like discovering our roots. One of my big memories was kicking and screaming when my parents told my brother and I we had to return to DC, where I went to high school. We didn’t want to go.

How did living in Africa as a kid impact your world view?

Africa played a big role in shaping my world view. My dad’s work gave me exposure to development and sustainability projects. It hit me as a young person. I was like, ‘Oh, this is something to hold onto.’ It was a pretty strong focus coming out of college. Later I got interested in a lot of other things, including business and software.

 You’ve had an interesting career. What are some of the highlights?

There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues. I’ve had some twists and turns in my career, working at McKinsey in strategy and at startups, running software startup GetActive, which helped nonprofits raise money online. But certainly the environment and energy have been big themes. Recently, I ran a company called Cleantech Group which helps corporations and investors across the globe invest in sustainable innovation. I now focus on climate tech investing and corporate consulting through my own firm, zipdragon ventures.

There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues.

What interested you in C2M and this role in particular?

First and foremost, I’ve known Brian (Steel) for a while. We met back in 2013 when I became involved in the program as a guest speaker, a coach, and then as a judge last year. What interested me was just observing and admiring what Brian and (former C2M co-director) Beverly Alexander had built and the impact it had on the students and the entrepreneurs. They put a lot of passion into this program. When I talked to students last year it was clear that C2M was a transformative experience for many of them. Brian, Beverly and co-faculty Bill (Shelander) have also done a really nice job of also keeping other folks from Haas, from the Berkeley ecosystem, and from the industry involved. Also, I have always dreamed of teaching at a world-class institution such as Haas, which happens to be very close to my home in Berkeley.

What are some of the trends that you’re seeing as an investor in clean tech markets?

Investors have poured more money into climate tech in recent years than at any other stage in my career. Global enterprises are driving sustainability goals, and governments are seeking to adopt policies to accelerate transitions to a low-carbon economy. We have observed some big financial outcomes for climate tech startups – something we had not seen for a long time. For example, quite a few EV charging companies have been able to access public markets and provide big returns for founders and investors. In the larger picture, I see sustainability serving as a huge driver across every industry and every company. There’s a massive amount of investment and adoption of climate technologies like the ones we work on at C2M. It feels like a unique time across the globe to focus on clean tech. 

 Can you share immediate/long-term plans for C2M?

I think job number one is for me to learn the program. Job number two is to try to not to mess up a good thing. We’ve got amazing students and a great cohort of startups. We must execute. We’re definitely looking at the curriculum, trying to figure out if and where to adjust. We’ve had some interesting conversations around, ‘Okay, where could we go? Is it another cohort, perhaps? Doing a class in the spring versus just in the fall?’ Also, we’re trying to be creative, as in, ‘Okay, there’s a great set of relationships, both within and outside the university community, creating a wonderful foundation. What else could we do?’ We are very open to ideas, and would love to hear from the Haas community.

 

There’s a spider robot in the attic! MBA students help win national E-ROBOT competition

 

(L-R) Alexander Sergian, Joseph Aharon, John Aquino, all MBA/MEng 22, worked on a business plan for the U.S. Department of Energy's American-Made E-ROBOT competition as a capstone project in their program.
(L-R) Alexander Sergian, Joseph Aharon, John Aquino, all MBA/MEng 22, worked on a business plan for the U.S. Department of Energy’s American-Made E-ROBOT competition as a capstone project in their program.

A group of Berkeley Haas MBA students helped build the business plan for an attic-retrofit system based around heat sensing drones and foam-spraying spider robots that took the top prize in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2022 American-Made E-ROBOT competition.

Alexander Sergian, Joseph Aharon, John Aquino, all MBA/MEng 22, built the business plan for team RoboAttic/Thermadrone, along with Zixuan Chen, EWMBA 23, and Vincent Chang, MBA 22. The robotics project was led by Dr. Avideh Zakhor

Dr. Zakhor led the team of about 35 people, including UC Berkeley students, professionals, and consultants, who developed the RoboAttic/Thermadrone technology.  The three top winners in the multi-stage competition were announced April 7 by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).  (Watch the robot in action in the video below)

Homes lose up to 20% of their heat and air conditioning due to poorly insulated roofs. Yet just 1% of building floorspace in the U.S. undergoes a meaningful retrofit each year due to the high cost and invasive nature of construction and renovation, according to Ram Narayanamurthy, a Program Manager in the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office.

Thermadrone’s software uses thermal drone camera images to diagnose and identify opportunities for attic insulation retrofits. Once attics in need of insulation are identified, Roboattic robots clean, air seal, and apply spray foam insulation to the building envelope. This enables construction workers to retrofit previously inaccessible attics with a PS4 controller. Finally, Thermadrone software provides quality assurance by measuring and verifying the retrofit was done properly.

An earlier round of the E-ROBOT Competition challenged participants to design and build robot prototypes that could be used to retrofit buildings to improve energy efficiency. For the second and final phase of the competition, 10 finalists were tasked with building viable business models for their respective startups.

Sergian, Aharon, and Aquino worked on the business plan for RoboAttic/Thermadrone for both the competition and as their capstone project, a required component of the MBA/MEng Program. 

Their work included estimating the total market size, sales, marketing, channel partners, and go-to-market strategy. “As MBA/MEng students, we were brought on as folks who were not only technical enough to understand the technology, but also strategic enough to put together a compelling business vision,” Aharon said. “It’s an example of the sort of cross-disciplinary collaboration that we constantly see around UC Berkeley.”

To be successful, the team had to prove the energy consumption and cost reduction benefits as well as worker safety potential. 

To be successful, the team had to prove the energy consumption and cost reduction benefits as well as worker safety potential.

“We were presented with an exciting technology,” said Sergian. “It was our challenge to figure out how to commercialize the product and make it a market success.”

Photo of Zixuan Chen, EWMBA 23
Zixuan Chen, EWMBA 23, worked on the business plan with UC Berkeley Professor Avideh Zakhor.

The students said they applied lessons from their MBA coursework in research and development and finance to the project. They calculated a total market size for building envelope retrofits in the US at about $1.25 billion, estimating that contractors would be willing to invest about $10,000 per robot. The value of the robot is that it can access places in attics that are hazardous and foul for construction workers to crawl through, Aharon said. 

Chen, who also worked on the project while in the evening & weekend MBA program, helped with marketing research, identifying potential user groups and conducting interviews with facility managers, utility companies, and government agencies.

“In the business plan stage, I worked with Avideh to identify critical cost components and revenue sources,” she said. She also developed profit and loss statements, cost performance models, and a manufacturing and scalability analysis.

The other  competition winners included a semi-autonomous flying quadcopter air duct inspection drone and a robotic retrofit tool used for caulking, aerosol sealing, and foam insulating buildings.

Consulting job acceptances rise for Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2022

More Berkeley Haas students in the Class of 2022 accepted jobs at top consulting firms this year, a trend fueled by a need for more corporate help with everything from staffing challenges to brand positioning.

About 28% of graduating full-time MBA students in the Class of 2022 have taken consulting jobs this year, an uptick from 25% for the last several years. Students also accepted more job offers earlier in the cycle, and acceptances are up at top firms including McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), said Chris Gavin, a relationship manager in consulting for the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group“Consulting firms have been going all out with hires,” Gavin said.

Kim Ayers
Kim Ayers, MBA 18, worked at McKinsey for two years before moving to DocuSign.

Consulting is a top industry for MBA grads—second only to tech—for many reasons. Beyond the prestige of working at a top firm, the pay is excellent, with starting salaries averaging $158,000 plus sign-on bonuses that averaged $31,331 last year. Consulting firms also interview and hire on a predictable schedule—taking some of the stress and uncertainty out of the job search. They offer challenging assignments in great locations around the globe, and often serve as a springboard to careers in strategy and operations at big firms. 

“Consulting is a great way to get high-level experience across a number of industries, be connected to the company at the C-level, and continue the MBA learning journey,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA Career Management and Corporate Partnerships. “You are thrown a lot of high-level, challenging assignments early in your career, there is a lot of variety in the work, and the compensation is fabulous.”

Kim Ayers, MBA 18, was recently promoted to strategy director at DocuSign, a position she said she would never have been offered if she hadn’t worked at McKinsey & Company first.

“My time at McKinsey gave me the external validation that was needed: People could see McKinsey (on my resume) and see that I had the right business skills and knowledge. It also gave me internal validation,” said Ayers, who came to Haas after working for nonprofit organizations.

“Going all out with hires”

The consulting industry is also unique in that it’s open to people from so many different career backgrounds, Scott said. “They love people who come from non-traditional fields, from the military to not-for-profit organizations to banking,” she said.

Brandon Ehlert, MBA 22
Brandon Ehlert, MBNA 22, will go to Deloitte.

Brandon Ehlert, MBA 22, arrived at Haas thinking that he’d pursue real estate and perhaps return to the Four Seasons, where he worked before the MBA program, for a corporate job scouting new real estate prospects for the hotel chain.

But during his first year, he participated in Kearney, Deloitte, and Microsoft case competitions, which led to an interest in consulting and a career pivot. In those competitions, students tackle “a case that’s like a distilled version of a consulting project and provides a taste of what I would do in consulting.”

While interviewing for jobs during the pandemic felt uncertain, Ehlert said consulting, which schedules interviews and hires on a predictable schedule, offered a way to “minimize the uncertainty.” For Ehlert, the case competitions led to recruiting efforts, and an internship at Deloitte, where he accepted a job as a senior consultant in New York City.

“The hotel industry was narrow,” he said. “I thought consulting would open doors to other industries.”

Broadening a career

The appeal of a broader career also drew Shane Wilkinson, MBA 22, toward consulting. 

Shane Wilkinson
Shane Wilkinson, MBA 22, will work at BCG Digital.

Before coming to Haas, Wilkinson, who also holds a master’s degree in data science and predictive analytics, was a “Moneyball-style quant” who worked for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff. “My draw towards getting an MBA was to get a broader business foundation because I was so focused in my career on the technical aspects,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t see that as my future.” 

Meeting fellow MBA students who worked in consulting sold him on the industry. “They have a certain level of professionalism,” he said. ”I admired their willingness to get things done.”

During the interview process, Wilkinson connected with a Haas alumnus who worked at BCG and helped him land an internship last April. “He passed my name along to the San Francisco office, which had a digital branch that aligned with my background,” he said. That led to a job at BCG Digital starting in January. 

International appeal

For international students, consulting holds global appeal—whether they plan to stay in the U.S. after graduating or return home.

Crystal Ang, MBA 22, who accepted a consulting job with McKinsey after interning there, worked for the Singapore government before coming to Haas. For an international student, the visa sponsorship of a consulting firm is appealing, Ang said.

Crystal Ang
Crystal Ang, MBA 22, will join McKinsey in San Francisco.

While attending coffee chats and case preparation workshops offered by the Haas Career Management Group and the student-run consulting club, she met Ehlert. The two began case prepping for interviews together during fall semester, and Ang ultimately received two offers from top firms.

She will join McKinsey’s San Francisco office as a generalist, apprenticing in different practice areas.  “I’m so excited about this job and that I will be able to stay near the Haas community.  I know my Berkeley MBA has prepared me for this next phase, and I’m excited to tackle whatever is next.”

Haas team honored at Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition

MBA students hold large checks.
MBA teams from top business school around the world competed in EGAL’s Investing in Inclusion Pitch.

MBA teams competed for top prizes at the 5th annual Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition last Friday, pitching ideas to address issues of exclusion, marginalization, and belonging at the workplace and beyond.

The event was held in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum and was organized by the Center for Equity, Gender and Leadership (EGAL).

The Berkeley Haas team, Firstly, pitched a virtual mentorship program that aims to help first-generation college students with on-campus recruitment and internship placement. The team tied for second place and won $5,000 in prize money.

Team members included Kevin Hu, Divya Vijapurapu, Elle Wisnicki, all MBA 22; Austin Long, MBA 23; Stacey Li, BA 15, and Leanne Do, BA 19 (both from UC Irvine).

Other winning teams included:

First place: Innerlytic
Innerlytic offers an online assessment tool that helps people detect their inner-biases. The team included Jordan Rose, MBA 22, (Yale School of Management) and Vernae Rahman-Smith, MSW 20, (Howard University). The team won $8,000.

Second place: Firstly and Paraventures
Paraventures provides outdoor excursions for people with disabilities. Team members included Yosuke Ochiai, Cassandra Christian, and Vincenzo Morla, all MBA 22, from IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. Firstly and Paraventures each won $5,000 in prize money.

Third place: Nema
Nema is an AI and natural language processing (NLP) tool that aims to help businesses better understand and reach multicultural audiences. Team members included Mbere Monjok, Keyaira Lock Adewunmi, Braylong Gurnell, Carmen Del Valle, all MBA 23, from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. The team won $2,000 in prize money.

The competition truly embodies the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles, said Genevieve Smith, associate director of EGAL. “Our hope is that this competition will help move the needle forward in creating a more equitable society for all,” she said.

“Competitions like these are changing the way people are valued at work and how they show up at work,” said Ulili Onovakpuri, who served as one of the judges and is a partner at venture capital firm Kapor Capital. “Companies are beginning to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion issues and are changing organizational structures.”

Three student-led conferences to check out at Haas in April

Three student-led conferences scheduled at Berkeley Haas in April kick off Friday with the 10th annual MBA Chile conference, followed by the BERC Energy Summit Conference and the Africa Business Forum.

MBA Chile Conference 2022

Chile’s former President Ricardo Lagos will kick off the MBA Chile Conference, on April 1-2.

Lagos will join virtually, but the event will be held in person at Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum starting Friday. MBA Chile, an association that unites Chilean MBA students worldwide, encourages networking and generates a call to action around Chile’s social, economic, political, and environmental conditions. About 120 people are expected to attend the conference.

The event is hosted by different top business schools each year; Northwestern’s Kellogg and MIT’s Sloan School hosted the conference virtually during the pandemic. Tomás Jiménez, MBA 22, head of the 2022 MBA Chile conference and vp of careers with the Latin American and Hispanic Business Association (LAHBA), said it’s been a pleasure planning this year’s event and an honor to host at Haas.

Photo of Tomas Jimenez
Tomás Jiménez, MBA 22, is head of the 2022 MBA Chile conference

“Working with our talented Chilean Haasies to organize this conference has been a great management experience,” said Jiménez, who worked in private equity before coming to Haas and will work at Snap after graduation.

Each year, former Chilean presidents are invited, along with heads of executive departments and ministers, CEOs and C-level executives of Chilean and Latin

American firms, Chilean business group leaders, and successful entrepreneurs. A total of 25 speakers are signed on to participate this year.

Part of MBA Chile’s mission is to encourage more Chilean women to apply to MBA programs. Currently, about 13% of Chilean applicants to MBA programs are women, the group estimates.

Four sessions will be held on Friday on Sustainability and CSR; Doing Business in Chile and Latin America; The Fintech Revolution; and Chile: Challenges and Opportunities.

A happy hour will follow at Tupper & Reed on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley.

Saturday’s agenda includes sessions on Unconscious Bias, presented by Woman MBA Chile and VC & Entrepreneurship in Latin America, followed by lunch at the Faculty Club, and a social event at UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.

The event organizing committee at Haas includes: Felipe Covarrubias, Martin Pavez, and Tomás Campos, all MBA 22, and Nicolás Mora, Felipe Bosselin, Matias Pavez, Santiago Recabarren, all MBA 23.

BERC Energy Summit Conference

Carla Peterman
Carla Peterman, PhD 17

Carla Peterman, PhD 17 (Energy & Resources), executive vice president of corporate affairs and chief sustainability officer at PG&E, will kick off the upcoming annual Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative (BERC) Energy Summit.

The conference will be held Monday, April 11, at UC Berkeley’s Pauley Ballroom from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. followed by networking until 7 p.m. 

Sessions include Empowering the Energy Transition through DEI;, Women in Energy; Carbon Pricing: Does it work?; Venture Capital: Investing for Impact; Solutions for a Nuclear Future; What’s Next for Rooftop Solar; and EV Charging: Powering Electric Mobility. 

On Wednesday, April 13, the BERC Innovation Expo will be held at Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum from 9 a.m. to noon, including research poster presentations and innovation expo awards, followed by a UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate career forum. The expo connects energy and cleantech companies to students pursuing a career in energy. Tickets available here.

Africa Business Forum

Martha Saavedra, PhD 91
Martha Saavedra, PhD 91

The 7th Annual Africa Business Forum will explore the innovation landscape in Africa, challenges and opportunities the continent faces, and how talent development in Africa will contribute to a changing world.

The event will be held Friday, April 15, from noon to 5 p.m. at Spieker Forum in Chou Hall at Berkeley Haas. 

Martha Saavedra, PhD 91, (Political Science) and associate director of the Center for African Studies at UC Berkeley, will kick off the event with welcome remarks, followed by a keynote talk by Chukwuemeka Afigbo, director and developer of experience at Okta and a former manager of developer programs at Meta. During his time at Meta, he worked on partnerships in both Africa and the Middle East.

Speakers will address the future of fintech in Africa, the rise of AI technology, and how entrepreneurs and investment are shaping the future of Africa and the world.

A panel on Innovation in Healthcare in Africa will be moderated by Bioengineering Professor Delphine Dean of Clemson University. 

Speakers include: 

  • Adegoke Olubusi, founder & CEO at Helium Health
  • Anu Parvatiyar, founder & CEO at Ananya Health
  • Emilian Popa, CEO & co-founder at Ilara Health
  • Dr. Murisiku (Muri) Raifu, CEO & founder at Talamus Health
  • Kevin Doxzen, researcher at the World Economic Forum

Forum organizers include Ismail Aberki, Sk Alabagda, Nuvi Njinimbam, Candy Jiawen Xiao, John Bolaji, Konso Mbakire, Nebo Iwenofu, all MBA 23. 

U.S. News ranks all three Berkeley Haas MBA programs in Top 10

All three Berkeley Haas MBA programs ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. News & World Report 2023 Best Business Schools rankings, published today.

U.S. News ranked the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program #8, tied with Columbia Business School. The Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program ranked #2 for the fourth year in a row. And the Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives Program rose one spot to #7 among exec MBA programs. 

Here is how Haas fared in the Business School Specialty Rankings:

#3 in Real Estate

#5 in Entrepreneurship

#4 in Nonprofit

#6 in Business Analytics

#8 in Finance 

#7 in Executive MBA

#9 in International (tie)

#9 in Management (tie)

#11 in Marketing

#15 in Information Systems

#16 in Production / Operations (tie)

The full-time MBA rankings are based on data provided by participating U.S. schools and on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs, as well as surveys of corporate recruiters and company contacts. The peer and employer polls account for 40% of the score. The other 60% consist of placement success and starting salary (35%) and student selectivity (25%).

The score for the part-time MBA rankings is calculated from the peer polls (50%), student selectivity (27.5%), work experience (10%), and percent of MBA students who are enrolled part-time (12.5%). The specialty and the executive MBA rankings are based entirely on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs.

Viva la mujer: A Women’s History Month message from Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista

This month, as we celebrate Women’s History Month and prepare to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, we are called on to imagine a world where women across all intersectional identities have equal access to opportunities, income, safety, political representation, and choices.

Viva la Mujer image by Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes
“Viva La Mujer” graphic image credit: Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes

Throughout our history, despite seemingly insurmountable barriers, women across the globe have strived and sacrificed to be seen for our capabilities, and fairly valued for our contributions. Women of all intersectional identities have organized and been a part of many movements to gain equal rights, and to advocate for reforms that impact everyone, including safe working conditions and labor practices, improved accessibility for people with disabilities, obtaining and protecting voting access, and other civil rights. However, women—here in the U.S. and around the world—continue to face epidemics of sexual and gender-based violence and harassment.

Yesterday, President Biden signed the Ending Forced Arbitration Act, a landmark piece of legislation spurred by the #MeToo movement, ending the use of hidden language in contracts that prevented employees from suing in the case of sexual assault or harassment. It is a victory, with so many more battles ahead.

March 24 is All Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how far into the new year women must work to be paid what men were paid the previous year. On average, women are paid 82 cents for every dollar men are paid. Disaggregating the data shows a deeper disparity.

Asian American women are paid 85 cents for every dollar white men earn, making March 9 their Equal Pay Day. For Black women, Equal Pay Day doesn’t come until August; for Native American women, it’s September. For Latinas, the date comes near the end of October, with their average pay being 57 cents for every dollar paid to white men. The disparities do not stop there.

Women with disabilities make 72 cents for every dollar paid to men with disabilities; but as a whole, people with disabilities make only 68 cents for each dollar earned by able bodied people. Mothers earn 75 cents for every dollar fathers make.  There is not precise national data on equal pay for lesbian, bisexual, queer, or trans women, indicating our need to advocate to include all of our sisters in the data.

Important research insights uncovered by our faculty point to real-world solutions to pay inequity. In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Professor Laura Kray and post-doc scholar Margaret Lee highlighted their findings that women are given smaller teams to manage on average than men, which contributes to the pay gap; Kray is working with Dean Harrison to dig into why the pay gap between men and women MBA graduates increases over time. Assistant Professor Solène Delecourt is studying inequities in business performance; three of her recent studies have pinpointed the factors that cause women-owned businesses to underperform men’s around the world, and how that can be fixed. Former Dean Laura Tyson was the co-author of a key UN report on women’s economic empowerment. Kellie McElhaney, founding director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) and EGAL Assistant Director Genevieve Smith co-authored a teaching case focused on the importance of pay transparency in closing the gap.

We know the progress toward equity took a giant step backwards during the pandemic. By the end of January, men in the U.S. had regained all of the jobs they had lost since February 2020. But 1.1 million women who left the labor force during the same time had yet to return, pointing to long-standing structural inequities (with caregiving responsibilities topping the list) that make it harder for women to return to work. Recognizing that women in heterosexual dual-career couples, with or without children, still do most of the household/care work, EGAL developed 7 evidence-based ‘plays’ to support dual career couples. 

Burnout brought on by the pandemic has pushed many women to reevaluate and identify new approaches to career and personal life. That re-evaluation is the focus of this weekend’s “Re:set, Re:imagine, and Re:build,” the 26th annual Women in Leadership Conference at Haas. Conference organizers intentionally have integrated intersectional identities throughout the program. The conference will be held tomorrow, March 5, in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum. You may register here.

We have incredible representation of women in senior leadership roles at Berkeley Haas, including our Dean, our chief operating officer, our chief financial officer and several assistant deans and program directors. Yet we have more work to do to achieve balanced gender representation among our faculty and students. Our senior leaders are working to continue to foster a climate of belonging, and strategizing on outreach, recruitment, and yield to increase representation of women among our faculty and students.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day and its theme #BreaktheBias, I treasure all of the accomplishments of women around the world and I am grateful to have benefitted from the progress achieved by those who came before me. I also realize that “la lucha sigue” (the struggle continues), as we say in my community. Women with multiple marginalized identities often have even longer, bumpier roads to travel.

We each have the responsibility to continue unlearning the gender bias we have absorbed throughout our lives and we must hold ourselves accountable at an individual level. We have the power to use our leadership to create structural changes at all levels. Collectively, working together, let’s #BreaktheBias.

Sí se Puede,

Élida

Resources for further learning:

Promoting an Equitable Learning Environment

Stop AAPI Hate

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

National Domestic Workers Alliance 

Male allyship at work

81cents Pay Equity Advisors

Equal Pay Day 2022

“Viva La Mujer” image credit: Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes

Two Haas programs ranked in top five by TFE Times

The Berkeley Haas MFE Program ranked #1 again among financial engineering programs in The Financial Engineer (TFE) Times for the seventh year in a row. In a separate ranking TFE Times also ranked the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program #5 among MBA programs in the U.S.

TFE Times’ MFE ranking methodology is primarily based on data provided by participating schools and its ranking weighs admissions components (55%), career outcomes (40%), the number of courses available, and research expenditures (2.5%). 

The full-time MBA program has ranked #5 for the last two years of TFE’s Best MBA Program Rankings. The methodology for the MBA ranking is similar to that of the MFE ranking and applies 60% to admissions components and 40% to career outcomes.

Haas MBA students win UNC Real Estate Development Challenge

Winning MBA students in the UNC real estate competition.
Winners of the UNC Real Estate Competition: (left to right) Alijah Talley and Vicky Li, both MBA 23, Timothy Werby, MBA/JD 22; and Santiago Recabarren, MBA 23.

A team of Berkeley Haas MBA students won the 2022 University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School Real Estate Development Challenge for a plan to transform part of an historic Washington D.C. neighborhood.  

“It’s great to bring this home for Haas and for Berkeley,” said Timothy Werby, MBA/JD 22, whose teammates included Vicky Li, Alijah Talley, and Santiago Recabarren, all MBA 23. Haas last won the competition in 2011.

The UNC Real Estate Development Challenge,hosted annually by the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies at Kenan-Flagler, convened 12 teams from the country’s top MBA programs on February 18.

This year, the teams had to plan, design, model financials, and create an investor presentation for development of a 9.25-acre site in Washington D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood, south of the U.S. Capitol Building. To be successful, plans had to incorporate  “the highest level of sustainability, embrace the surrounding neighborhoods, and deliver attractive risk-adjusted returns to investors.”

Focused on the community

Split across four presentation rooms, each team presented to a group of local real estate experts in 20-minute rounds, followed by five minutes of questions from the judges. Four finalists were then selected to present again in front of all of the judges, UNC students, and other competitors.

The Haas team’s presentation was designed thematically around the Nacotchtank, or Anacostans, an Algonquian-speaking, indigenous people who lived along the southeast side of the Anacostia River. Their design included a circular plaza to host pop-up farmer’s markets, an outdoor event space to be called the Frederick Douglass Pavilion, a new neighborhood grocery store, renovated school space, and a jazz stage that could be used for outdoor block parties and community events. 

The team also pushed to include new multi-family housing and additional community spaces in future phases, including 43% more affordable housing units than was required. 

“We all had our superpower”

Recabarren said the team excelled in part because it covered the project’s central issues comprehensively.

“We decided to pay more attention to the conceptual aspects of the project, which we defined as the four core values of our development: honoring local culture, health and wellness,  sustainability, equity and inclusion,” he said.

The team had just four days to develop the whole project. “We were very fortunate to have Tim, who had a lot of experience in these competitions,” Recabarren said.  “He convinced us on where and how we should use our resources.”

Talley said the team’s power was in its diversity, which enabled team members to tap into each of their strengths.

“Each of my teammates have different professional backgrounds, varied levels of real estate experience, and different lived experiences,” he said. “I think that we all had our own superpower and something tangible to bring to the table.”

Finally, Li said that the team was highly motivated to “do what it takes to take home the grand prize.

Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management took second place while Rice University’s Business School and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business tied for third place.

Haas community turns unity into action in support of Ukraine

The shock and disbelief that rippled through the Haas community after Russia attacked Ukraine last week is turning into unity and action by the many students, faculty, staff, and alumni with deep connections to the region.

Fiodor Otero holding a sign at a rally for Ukraine in San Francisco City Hall.
Fiodor Otero, MBA 23, shows his support for Ukraine at a rally at San Francisco’s City Hall last Thursday.

Today, the student-led European Business Club held a “Haas for Ukraine” forum for Ukrainian and Russian students to share their perspectives on the conflict. Others are launching fundraisers, and a faculty member has begun organizing a collective of fellow Ukrainian economists to brainstorm how to help the country both short- and long-term.

“We hope we can be of help, because the feeling of helplessness watching the situation unfold from afar has been among the worst parts of the emotional rollercoaster,” said Assistant Professor Anastassia Fedyk, who was born in the Ukraine and immigrated at age 10 when her mother Tatiana Fedyk, PhD 08, began her doctoral studies accounting at Berkeley Haas.

The violence is taking a huge emotional toll. Like many Ukrainians, Fedyk’s family has been preoccupied with checking in on their close family back home, some of whom are now leaving for Romania. Dima Okrimchuk, MBA 17, calls his parents in Kyiv every few hours to make sure they are okay, anxiously waiting to hear their voices. 

“Watching live reports of my country torn apart by the Russians is just devastating,” he said in an interview from Lisbon. “This is something I will never forget.”

“We hope we can be of help, because the feeling of helplessness watching the situation unfold from afar has been among the worst parts of the emotional rollercoaster.”  -Anastassia Fedyk, assistant professor of finance

A startup disrupted

Okrimchuk said he feels some guilt for leaving family and friends in Kyiv two weeks ago, relocating to Lisbon with his wife. But he said he’s now focused on raising funds for the Ukrainian army and spreading awareness of the conflict, while he continues work on his online game startup Organization.GG. He started the company while at Haas before moving back to Kyiv, where he recently received seed funding. 

Dima Okrimchuk, MBA 17 with his startup team at Organization.GG
Dima Okrimchuk, MBA 17, (fourth from left) with his team of Organization.GG employees who left their Kyiv headquarters after the invasion.

Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, worked with Okrimchuk when his company placed third in the fall 2020 LAUNCH accelerator competition at Haas. Last year, Okrimchuk served as a mentor in a class that Shrader taught online for Ukranian entrepreneurs as part of GIST Innovates Ukraine, a U.S. State Department-sponsored program. Shrader taught students the Lean Startup methodology. 

Having developed relationships with so many of the country’s entrepreneurs, Shrader says she is devastated by the Russian invasion. “I loved working with these students,” she said. “I’m in tears.”

Before deciding to leave Ukraine, Okrimchuk asked his Organization.GG team whether they planned to leave Kyiv as well. “Everyone else had their own plan on what to do,” he said. “Out of the five of us, one remained in Kyiv, and four headed for different parts of Ukraine. They took their cars or found cars and left. A lot of people were running out of gas and there were huge traffic jams.”

Okrimchuk said he’s unsure when or if he will be able to return. “I can only hope that this won’t last long and we find a diplomatic solution,” he said. “There can’t be winners in the war. At the end of the day Ukraine is not only fighting for its own independence, but for peace and stability globally. I urge everyone to put pressure on their governments to help Ukraine with financial, military and political support before it is not too late. We are fighting for you, too.”

“There can’t be winners in the war.” -Dima Okrimchuk, MBA 17

Lives left behind

Fiodor Otero wears a "Stand for Ukraine" mask
Fiodor Otero, MBA 23, shows his support at the Haas for Ukraine event Monday. (Photo: Mary O’Connell)

Fiodor Otero joined a rally for Ukraine in San Francisco’s City Hall Plaza Thursday, which left his throat sore from shouting. A Russian classmate who supports Ukraine came along with him, moved to tears by the speeches.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” said Otero, MBA 23, whose mother is Ukrainian. He has an aunt and cousin living in Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine, where conflict between Russian separatists and Ukrainian government has continued since 2014. His voice cracks as he discusses the past week of worrying about his family as the Russian forces advance. 

“For them, war has been a normal part of life for eight years,” he said. But now, on her way to the market, she’s noticing the bombing is getting closer and louder. At 68, she is now considering leaving the same apartment complex where she’s lived her entire life.

“I was talking to my cousin last night, asking what it was like for them,” said Otero, who grew up in his father’s native Panama. His aunt and 33-year-old cousin are now talking about fleeing to Panama, where his mother is living. “It’s just so hard. My aunt is saying she will be a refugee for the rest of her life. She’s going to leave their entire life behind.” 

She now talks about giving away her things before she leaves, including her fine china and her nice glasses.“My cousin said something that struck my heart: ‘We’ve been saving these nice glasses and china to celebrate the good things in life, but those good things will never come,’ he said. ‘It’s time to start drinking from these every day before we leave.’ It’s so hard for me to emotionally process that.”

Global fears

Dimitry Livdan (Photo: Jim Block)

Dmitry Livdan, a Berkeley Haas associate professor of finance, grew up in Kharkiv in Eastern Ukraine before immigrating to the U.S. at age 24. He lost his mother to COVID last year, and wasn’t able to return to say goodbye. She was the last of his close family there.

He takes a dim view of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s prospects for success​ and hopes he will fail quickly.​ “I hope this is just for show, and he gets slapped in the face in two weeks,” he said of Putin. 

With Russia’s wealthy elite losing billions already, he believes any support for Putin will erode quickly as the economic sanctions hit hard.​ ​Livdan says his big worry is that Putin’s invasion will embolden China to make a similar move. “I worry most about what this means for Taiwan,” he said.

‘The unimaginable’ has happened

Photo of Anastassia Fedyk
Anastassia Fedyk
(Photo: Copyright Noah Berger / 2019)

Fedyk, a Berkeley Haas assistant professor of finance whose research focuses on behavioral biases and in individual and group decision-making, said her reaction on Wednesday night and Thursday morning was anger, panic, and “the understanding that the unimaginable had happened, and that things will never be quite the same again. I taught on autopilot while inwardly feeling like my world was coming apart and could not say a word about the situation in class lest I start crying.”

By the end of the week, Fedyk said, her emotions shifted to a mix of “pain, hope, determination, and of course pride in my compatriots. Like the entire world, I am inspired by the resistance of the Ukrainian people—but I am worried whether the newly mobilized global support will be enough.” 

The stakes are high, she says, eight years into the conflict that has been simmering since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. If Ukraine falls, “Putin would very likely not stop there, and there is a security risk to other parts of Europe; by contrast, if Ukraine succeeds in pushing off the aggression, it might have positive spillovers in Belarus and perhaps even in Russia.” 

As an economist, she believes that “letting Putin win would effectively plunge Ukraine into the economic dark ages together with Russia. And if we succeed in fighting off the invasion, there will still be much work to do on reconstruction, but at least there will be something to reconstruct, and we will have global support.”

That’s why she is organizing with other Ukrainian economists at U.S. schools to brainstorm solutions both for the immediate term and in the months and years to come. At the same time, she is glued to the news alongside her parents and her grandmother, who has been visiting from Ukraine since September. She is also trying to parent her three-year-old son, who refers to Putin as “the bad guy,” and talks about throwing him into a prickly cactus bush.

“We have been trying to teach him to use his words rather than fighting, but it’s very hard when we are watching this unfold,” she said. 

Financial Times ranks Haas full-time MBA No. 9 in US

The Haas School of Business again ranked #9  among U.S. peers in the 2022 Financial Times Global Full-time MBA Ranking, and #14 globally (tied with NYU Stern). 

Haas alumni achieved the 4th highest salaries in the world, reporting a weighted average annual salary of  $207,853 three years after graduation. 

The ranking is based on a survey of full-time MBA alumni three years after their MBA (Class of 2018) and on data provided by participating schools. Data on alumni, especially current alumni salaries, accounts for more than 55% of the ranking. 

The Financial Times introduced a new metric in this year’s ranking: overall satisfaction based on a variety of inputs from the alumni surveyed. Haas scored 9.51 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the highest satisfaction.

In 2020, Haas ranked #8 among US peers and #12 globally. Haas did not participate in the 2021 ranking due to the pandemic.

Haas Voices: ‘There’s no excuse but to be great’

Black man in a navy suit with orange tie.
Portrait: Jordan Bell, MBA 23.

Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.

In honor of Black History Month, we spoke with Jordan Bell, MBA 23, an Oakland native who’s determined to rise to the C-suite and open doors for younger generations of Black youth interested in finance careers.

Bell is the community engagement officer for the Haas Black Business Student Association; a “manbassador” for the Women in Leadership Club; and a fellow of the Robert Toigo Foundation and the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. He’s also one of 11 Finance Fellows at Berkeley Haas. This summer, he will work at Amazon as a senior product manager.

Tell us about your family and upbringing?

I was born and raised in East Oakland, California, the second oldest of three sons. My parents are college-educated, working-class people. They strongly believed in the value of getting a quality education as the way to change the future. They scraped every extra dollar they had to send my brothers and me to private schools. I went to St. Mary’s College High School in Berkeley, and after graduation, I went to Morehouse, a historically Black, all-male college in Atlanta, Georgia. To this day, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere other than Morehouse.

What led you to go to a historically Black college (HBCU)?

I wanted to go to a college outside of California where I could grow and learn more about being a Black man. I also wanted to study in a place where I was not a minority. For many Black people in the U.S., there’s this extra thought process that we go through whenever we leave our homes and enter public places. Things like, “Do I belong?” “Am I doing enough?” “Do I fit in?” “Am I assimilating into a society that is not really built for me?” All of these questions are burdensome. Studying at Morehouse alleviated that stress because almost every other person around me was an African American man. There is literally no place in America where an African American of any sex can see so many Black professionals in one setting other than at an HBCU. 

Black male students line up to form the letter M
Bell attended Morehouse College, a historically Black, all-male college in Atlanta. Pictured left, second student from the bottom.

I chose Morehouse specifically because it has an amazing history and legacy of producing Black leaders. I think about the alumni who came before me—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., actor Samuel L. Jackson, civil rights activist Julian Bond—and I think about all of the barriers they broke through to lay the groundwork for future generations of young Black men. They inspire me to be the greatest I can be. There’s no excuse but to be great.

What led you down a career in finance, and why did you choose Haas?

During sophomore year at Morehouse, I attended a speaker series featuring former CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein. He spoke about how going to college and choosing a career in finance changed the trajectory of his life. His speech convinced me to explore the world of corporate finance and capital markets.

After college, I landed a full-time job at J.P.Morgan as a capital markets research analyst. There, I learned the importance of networking and honed my technical, presentation, and client-facing skills that are transferable to any industry. Two years later, I moved west to work at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco as a financial regulator. I worked my way through the ranks from a junior to a senior examiner. After seven years, I was at a crossroads: Should I keep going down the financial regulator path, or should I go to business school? I chose the latter. Haas was one of the best decisions I ever made. I appreciate how collaborative Haas is. While business schools can feel very competitive or cutthroat, there’s a different kind of competition at Haas. We bring out the best in each other. We rise together is how I see it.

While business schools can feel very competitive or cutthroat, there’s a different kind of competition at Haas. We bring out the best in each other. We rise together is how I see it.

 

Two older black women and one Black man. The women wear Berkeley shirts
Bell with his grandmother and mother.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month means recognizing the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans. It allows us to tell our own narrative on our own terms. Black people were brought and enslaved here. We didn’t come here voluntarily like other cultural groups. And yet, we survived and are thriving. Our collective stories make me feel so proud to be a Black man. I wouldn’t want to be anything other than a Black man. During the month, I celebrate by reading a story daily about a historical figure, or I talk to the elders in my family to soak up their wisdom, especially the Black women in my family. They’re the strongest people that I know and the structural glue of my family.

Our collective stories make me feel so proud to be a Black man. I wouldn’t want to be anything other than a Black man.

What are your goals, and what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?

In the short term, I hope to become a senior product manager or fintech strategist. My long-term goal is to be in the C-suite. I want to be a chief executive officer for a technology or financial services company. I want little Black boys and girls to see that there are Black people performing at the highest levels in executive positions. I want to show them that it’s possible to occupy these spaces.

“Collaboration is the key word:” Venture capital’s rise at Haas

Stanford and Haas students came together at Haas in November for a first of a kind founder-investor mixer.  Left to right: Atusa Sadhegi,  EWMBA 22 (Berkeley Haas), C.C. Gong (Stanford GSB), Alon Dror (Stanford GSB), Alejandra Vergara, MBA 22 (Berkeley Haas), and Dogakan Toka, EWMBA 22 (Berkeley Haas). Photo: Jim Block

On a recent rainy night, more than 100 Berkeley Haas and Stanford GSB students convened in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum for a first-of-its-kind Founder-Investor Mixer.

Haas MBA students Atusa Sadeghi and Alejandra (Ale) Vergara, along with Dogakan Toka, EWMBA 22 and co-president of the Berkeley Entrepreneurship Association (BEA), were behind the event. As co-presidents of the Haas Venture Capital Club, they decided it was time for students from the two programs to get to know each other in the tight-knit industry, where they’d inevitably run into each other post-graduation. 

“I think collaboration is the key word here,” said Sadeghi, EWMBA 22, a former mechanical engineer who transitioned into venture capital over the last two years. If we’re going to be in the same industry, let’s be united.”

VC Club mixer with Stanford and Haas MBA students
Stanford and Berkeley Haas MBA students getting to know each other at the founder-investor mixer in Spieker Forum. Photo: Jim Block

A new fund

That shared vision for unity among investors and entrepreneurs is something Sadeghi and Vergara, full-time MBA 22, have emphasized since taking on their roles amid the Covid pandemic. Under their watch, they organized the event with Stanford, landing the support of sponsor First Republic Bank and Andrew Liou, a senior relationship manager at the bank, who “didn’t think twice before supporting the collaborative effort,” Vergara said.

Membership in the student-run VC club, founded in 2018 by evening & weekend MBA students Chris Truglia and Scott Graham, has increased from about 100 to more than 500 students, split 50-50 between the evening & weekend and full-time MBA programs. Since its founding, collaboration and networking among students from both the programs has been critical to the club’s success, Truglia said.

Alejandra Vergara (left) and Atusa Sadhegi are co-presidents of the Haas VC Club. Photo: Jim Block

The club hosts popular pitch nights, often partnering with other UC Berkeley clubs, and has built a database with answers to the most common questions students ask about the venture capital industry. This past fall, venture capital club leadership also helped spearhead the creation of Courtyard Ventures, a new venture fund led by Haas MBA students that provides an opportunity for Cal students and alumni to invest in early-stage Cal startups. The fund has recently begun deploying capital, after exceeding funding goals and closing its first two investments in early January, Sadeghi said.

“These women are amazing—they’ve done an incredible job,” said Deepak Gupta, an investor and venture capital industry advisor with the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group.

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta, venture capital industry advisor with the Haas Career Management Group.

While entrepreneurship is a well-established career path at Haas, Gupta said he’s seen a shift in student interest and effort in venture capital over the past three years, as the number of Bay Area VC funds has proliferated. “Now, these funds are coming to Haas to recruit for associate and principal roles,” said Gupta, who is also managing partner of his own pre-seed fund Blue Bear Ventures started at UC Berkeley. By next year, Gupta predicts Haas could double its number of full-time offers.

That growth would be significant. For each of the past two summers, about 15 to 20 full-time MBA students interned at venture capital firms, up from just a few in 2015, said William Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs in the Haas Finance Group. While there’s a longer track record of students studying finance going into investment banking, a total of around 10 grads took full-time jobs in venture capital over the past two years. “We’ve had more students doing VC internships, and that will likely lead to more full-time VC job offers,” Rindfuss said. 

The passion for investing

But increased hiring comes down to overcoming challenges endemic to the venture capital industry. VC funds can be insular, they don’t hire on a predictable schedule, and entry-level pay can be low compared to other finance jobs—with a big payoff delayed until you make partner, Gupta said.

“Venture is so ‘just in time’ and when people hire you you start immediately. It’s not like consulting  where you get your offer and start next July,” said Jeff Diamond, MBA 22, a VC Club officer and a general partner at Courtyard Ventures. But Diamond, who came to Haas to switch from a career in the entertainment industry to early-stage investing, said he’s committed to a VC career. “It’s a lot of work but it’s rewarding,” he said. “It’s what I liked about working with artists, writers, and directors. You want to be the person who works with them. The idea of being with these companies for the long haul is what interests me.”

“The idea of being with these companies for the long haul is what interests me.” — Jeff Diamond, MBA 22

There’s clearly passion for investing in the Haas alumni network, which is expanding to include graduates like Sydney Thomas, MBA 16, a principal at seed-stage fund Precursor Ventures; Matthew Divack, MBA 19, an investor at Moment Ventures, and Champ Suthipongchai, MBA 15, who co-founded Creative Ventures, a tech VC firm investing in startups that address the impact of increasing labor shortages, rising healthcare costs, and the climate crisis.

Making alumni connections

An earlier success story in venture capital, Michael Berolzheimer, MBA 07, founded Bee Partners in 2008. An internship at pre-seed fund Bee Partners piqued Vergara’s interest last year, but she worried she lacked a technical background. Then Vergara met Kira Noodleman, MBA 17, a partner at Bee, through the Berkeley Female Founder and Funder’s summit last year. “Kira encouraged me to apply,” said Vergara, who landed the internship. That led to a full-time job offer with the fund when she graduates in May.

Looking for more investment experience, Sadeghi found her internship as a senior venture associate at Blue Bear Capital (separate from Gupta’s fund, Blue Bear Ventures). She first met Carolin Funk, a Blue Bear partner invited by the 2020 Haas Venture Capital Club to speak at the school. Interviews at Blue Bear led to an offer. She then learned that recent alum André  Chabaneix, MBA 21, already worked at Blue Bear as a senior associate.

“André is just amazing,” Sadeghi said. “We have a lot in common in terms of our background and industry interest so we bonded pretty quickly. In our overlapping year at Haas we participated in the 2021 Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC)  where we ended up representing Berkeley at the global finals together—and now we’re great friends and colleagues.”

Left to right: Alejandra Vergara,(Berkeley Haas) Alon Dror (GSB), C.C. Gong (Stanford GSB), Dogakan Toka (Berkeley Haas), Atusa Sadeghi (Berkeley Haas), Paola Retes (Stanford GSB).

While students continue their internship and career recruitment this spring, the VC Club already has many events planned, including club-sponsored workshops, student-alumni mixer events and more collaboration with peer MBA programs. Vergara and Sadhegi encouraged students “who are just interested in learning more about VC or are fully committed to this career path,” to check out the club.

“It’s been such a pleasure running the 2021 VC club year with Ale, and we can’t wait to welcome the 2022 leadership team to carry us forward,” Sadhegi said.