All in: Berkeley Haas MBA club expands support for students with disabilities

Living with Lyme disease made Barbara Rion, MBA 25, aware of the toll that a chronic health condition can take. A military analyst with the CIA before she came to Berkeley Haas, Rion spent a lot of time after she contracted the infection figuring out how to relieve her symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes and physical therapy.

headshot of a woman with long hair smiling
Barbara Rion, MBA 25

Although Rion is well today, that intense journey is partly what drove her to help restart HaasAbilities, a student club for MBA students with disabilities, and their allies. 

But in reviving HaasAbilities, she and co-chair Cynthia Brzezinski, MBA 25, wanted to expand the definition of disability beyond those that are typically discussed to include less visible, but equally impactful, conditions such as infectious disease, dietary allergies, or ADHD.  

“I wanted the club to be a place for everyone and to offer resources for everyone,” Rion said. “Haas has a lot of the right resources. The challenge is getting students informed about what’s available.”

The pair developed three goals when they took over last spring: to foster a community for students with disabilities, to invite allies in to promote understanding of disabilities, and to advocate for new MBA students with disabilities. The club now has 55 members and a nine-person board, comprising students with disabilities and allies. 

UC Berkeley was one of the first college campuses in the United States to begin accommodating students with disabilities, a response to student activism in the 1960s. Despite Berkeley’s role as a leader in the disability rights movement, both Rion and Brzezinski say entering MBA students often don’t know where to go when they need help. That’s why one of the club’s priorities is to raise awareness about the UC Berkeley Disabled Students’ Program (DSP), which includes information about campus resources and support services. 

woman standing outdoors wearing a jacket
Cynthia Brzezinski, MBA 25

Brzezinski’s former roommate, for example, suffered a concussion after a car crash at the beginning of the school year and struggled to navigate classes after the accident. Recognizing the need to get centralized information out about available support, a HaasAbilties board member put together a list of resources for the Haas community. Rion also pointed to the number of students battling COVID-19 or the flu who wanted accommodations for taking their exams but were unaware of the campus’s program. “We talked to the program office about this and they started putting the DSP link into communications so that people can access it a lot easier,” she said. 

Lupe Alonzo-Diaz, EWMBA 26, BA 97 (political economy), said that serving as a vice president on the HaasAbilities board “is near and dear to my heart,” providing support to her as both an ally to her 9-year-old son, who is autistic, and an MBA student navigating her own disability.  

Alonzo-Diaz, who suffered a concussion several years ago, said she now processes information differently than before the accident, making studying and time management much more challenging than when she earned a separate master’s degree in her 20s. But as president and CEO of Physicians for a Healthy California, she said she’s encouraged by how open the younger generation is about discussing challenges with neurodivergence.

“I applaud their bravery in disclosing,” Alonzo-Diaz said. “I applaud that folks who are neurodivergent are embracing their identity and that they are actively looking to be part of organizations that embrace this and all parts of themselves.”

woman wearing a green jacket
Lupe Alonzo-Diaz

Brzezinski said her interest in allyship is rooted in watching her mother struggle with psoriatic arthritis, a chronic inflammatory condition that causes pain in joints, tendons, and ligaments. 

While at Haas, she is working at two healthcare startups and is particularly interested in caring for seniors, an often socially invisible population, with many suffering from chronic conditions. “This was an opportunity to improve my immediate environment with my friend, Barbara,” she said. 

Last spring, the club hosted a story share, which left some students in tears. “That was honestly the best and most impactful event that I went to at Haas last year,” Brzezinski said. 

Gearing up for the new school year, the club is planning to host a second story share, along with workshops that teach students how to advocate in the workplace and how to be supportive managers for people with disabilities. 

“Managers shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Rion said. “That’s why we are trying to get the future leaders at Haas educated on that before they leave.”

1st Thrive Fellows complete Latinx MBA pipeline program

Group of students under a thrive fellows sign at Haas
The first Thrive Fellows cohort gathered to celebrate finishing the program on June 8 at Spieker Forum. Photo: Jim Block.

A new Berkeley Haas program that’s helping Latinx students navigate acceptance into top-tier MBA programs celebrated its first cohort of graduates last weekend.

The June 8 ceremony capped the inaugural year of the Haas Thrive Fellows MBA pipeline program, which brought together Latinx students and professionals for a year-long deep dive into the intense MBA admissions process—everything from prepping for entrance exams to mapping a career trajectory to developing a personal narrative to applying for financial aid to bolstering interviewing skills.

“I have nothing but good things to say about Thrive,” said Amy Camacho Mayorga, BS 24, who as a 2024 Thrive Fellow recently applied to the full-time MBA program at Haas under Accelerated Access, a program that allows a two- to five-year deferment period for professional experience. “I felt like I was being seen and everything was so empowering.”

Mayorga was among a cohort of seven undergraduate seniors, like herself, and 20 working professionals who completed the program, which included free GMAT test preparation and test sitting, along with an application fee waiver for Haas graduate programs.

man wearing a suit and woman, who is holding a certificate on stage
Anthony Whitten, director of Diversity Admission at Berkeley Haas, founded the Thrive Fellows Program to encourage more Latinx students and professionals to apply to MBA programs. Photo: Jim Block

Tackling application hurdles

The program’s goal is to encourage more Latinx candidates to apply to MBA programs at a time when fewer students from underrepresented racial groups are applying nationwide. This year, less than 8% of Berkeley Haas MBA students identified as Hispanic or Latino.

 “Applying to a top tier business school has its challenges, but is a manageable process with support,” said Anthony Whitten, director of Diversity Admissions at Berkeley Haas, who launched Thrive Fellows last fall with the help of a seed donation from Adrien Lopez Lanusse, MBA 99, and two successful rounds of crowdfunding. “From test prep to interviewing to essay writing and recommendation letter gathering, there are a lot of boxes to check.” 

The benefits of earning an MBA from a top-ranked business school are profound, Whitten said. An MBA program allows students to explore new industries or functions, accelerate their career paths, increase their life-long earning potential, and expand and diversify their networks. 

Former Haas Dean Rich Lyons on a zoom screen
UC Berkeley Chancellor-Elect Rich Lyons, former dean of Haas, called Berkeley an “astonishing social mobility engine.”

UC Berkeley Chancellor-Elect Rich Lyons, former Berkeley Haas Dean, congratulated the students in a video played at the ceremony in Spieker Forum. Lyons emphasized the role an MBA plays in changing a person’s life and identity, something he said that students don’t understand before they earn the degree. While neither of his parents held a four-year degree, Lyons noted that he graduated from UC Berkeley and went on to earn a PhD. “Many of you, not all, are (part of a) first-gen advanced degree group,” he said, noting how UC Berkeley opened possibilities for him and that the school is an “astonishing social mobility engine.” 

A growing program

For Gina R. Garcia, senior associate director with the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group who helped develop the Thrive Fellows program, graduation provided a moment to reflect on the program’s growth over the past year. “It’s wonderful to think that I was a part of this important moment for our founding fellows,” said Garcia, who is also first-gen in her family to go to college and earn an advanced degree, and serves as the chair for the UC Berkeley Cal Women’s Network (CWN). “It’s a huge deal and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Jorge Rodriguez, a first-generation college graduate with eight years of career experience in public policy, said he found applying to an MBA program daunting before becoming a fellow.

“I didn’t know what it took, in terms of the year-long process of prepping for the test, crafting a story in a way that makes sense to be competitive, and to be seen as a strong candidate,” he said. “As a first-generation college student, it’s a world that I knew nothing about.” Rodriguez’s work paid off; he will enter the Berkeley Haas FTMBA class of 2026 this fall.

Mayorga, also a first-generation college student, said part of what empowered her as a Thrive Fellow was being in a room with people like her.

“It allowed us to be vulnerable with each other,” she said. “People shared very personal experiences they’d faced in the workforce or in school. I feel like that allowed us to have more authentic conversations.”

woman wearing a yellow shirt with arms around family and friends
Monica Mendoza (in yellow) celebrates completing the Thrive Fellows program. Photo: Jim Block

The Thrive Fellows program aligns with UC Berkeley’s 10-year plan to become a Latinx Thriving Institution, by enrolling and educating more Latinx students.  Whitten is now accepting applications for a second Thrive Fellows cohort. “Ultimately, our focus is centered around empowering, enabling, and really allowing people to achieve their aspirations or goals, regardless of whether or not they’re at Haas or another top business school,” he said.

Berkeley Haas dean to step down, remain on faculty 

Ann Harrison will step down as the dean of the Haas School of Business on July 31, 2024, remaining a half-time faculty member. The decision will allow her to spend more time with her New York-based family and focus on her research, she said. 

“It has been an incredible honor and joy for me to serve as dean of Haas,” Harrison said in a note to the Haas community sent this morning. “I am proud of what we have accomplished together.”

Harrison has served as dean of Berkeley Haas since January 2019, the second woman to lead the school. Her deep ties to UC Berkeley—where she earned her bachelor’s in economics and history and served as a professor in the College of Agricultural and Resource Economics for 10 years—have allowed her to make far-reaching changes in a short time, said Ben Hermalin, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost for UC Berkeley, who announced the news today.

“We thank Dean Harrison for her incredible leadership and numerous accomplishments during her term as the dean,” Hermalin said. “For anyone who has had the pleasure of working with her, Ann is wonderful to partner with. She is full of innovative ideas that go beyond Haas; hence, not only has she made Haas better, but she’s also made the campus better. Her leadership will be sorely missed.”

A sustainability mindset

Harrison said becoming a half-time ladder faculty member will allow her to spend meaningful time with her husband and two daughters, who live in New York, while staying connected to Haas and continuing her research. 

“I will be able to remain at the school I have been truly passionate about since I first set foot here as a freshman at Berkeley in 1977,” said Harrison, a renowned economist who is one of the most highly cited scholars on foreign investment and multinational firms. “I am especially excited to have more time to focus on my research into the gender pay gap and what makes industrial policy work.”

Harrison’s top priority at Haas was to embed a sustainability mindset in all of the school’s programs and operations. This resulted in the creation of a sustainability certificate and a dual master’s degree program in business and climate solutions with the Rausser College of Natural Resources, as well as a summer minor in sustainable business and policy. 

Courtney Chandler, Senior Vice Dean of Haas, said Harrison’s accomplishments have had school-wide impact—from growing the faculty, to fundraising, to growing degree programs, to infusing innovation, sustainability, and inclusion into business education. 

“She believes in Haas’ potential and strives to further strengthen the school’s reputation by setting an ambitious vision for Berkeley Haas,” Chandler said.

During her tenure, Harrison appointed the school’s first-ever chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer and the first chief sustainability officer. She orchestrated a major diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging (DEIJB) effort that broadened the profile of the school’s faculty, board, and student body, and created learning opportunities and anti-bias training for the entire Haas community. 

“Grateful for her leadership”

Professor Jennifer Chatman, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, said Harrison’s leadership over the past five years created cultural changes at Haas that have made the school “more diverse, more harmonious, and more collaborative than ever.” “Dean Harrison’s leadership style has set us up for an immensely bright future, and I am deeply grateful for her leadership,” she said.

people standing in the courtyard during the 125th event
(L-R) Ben Hermalin, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost for UC Berkeley; UC Berkeley Chancellor-Elect Rich Lyons; Prof. Jennifer Chatman,  Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Dean Ann Harrison; Prof. Don Moore and Erika Walker, Senior Assistant Dean for Instruction, attending the Berkeley Haas 125h Anniversary Celebration in the Haas courtyard. Photo: Jim Block

Harrison’s focus on innovation and entrepreneurship resulted in a new faculty group and an entrepreneurship hub—slated to open this fall.  Harrison envisions the hub as a central clearing house for students who wish to learn about all entrepreneurship activities across the Berkeley campus. The hub now has a faculty director, as well as an executive director.

In addition, Harrison expanded the school’s degree offerings with the Flex hybrid MBA cohort and worked closely with the Berkeley School of Public Health, the School of Engineering, Biological Sciences, and the School of Law to bolster their joint programs. 

Harrison, a chaired professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School before joining Haas, hired 40 new tenure-track faculty during her five-year tenure, 19 of whom are women. She also nearly doubled the number of faculty positions that are funded by Haas or by philanthropic funds. 

Stepped up fundraising

Under Harrison’s leadership, Haas has also significantly stepped up fundraising and raised $236 million since 2019. This includes the largest single gift in the school’s history—$30 million from alumnus Ned Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BS 66 to turn the upper-division undergraduate business program into a four-year program.

When naming her “Dean of the Year” in 2023, the publication Poets & Quants called Harrison’s tenure an “unimaginable and nearly breathtaking record of achievement.”

Harrison said she looks forward to the opportunity to teach in the new four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program

“What really motivates me both as a leader and soon-to-be faculty member are the transformational opportunities we provide for our students, staff, faculty, and alumni,” she said. “We provide opportunity for everyone, at a scale that is unequaled among the private schools. What a powerful mission.”

Hermalin will announce details about the appointment of an interim dean shortly. Hermalin said the goal is to begin the search for a permanent dean in early fall 2024, conduct interviews in late fall and/or early spring, and announce the new dean in spring 2025, aiming for a July 1, 2025 start date. The interim dean will likely serve through June 30, 2025, while a national search is underway.

2024 MBA grads told to never stop questioning the status quo

group of graduates in caps and gowns, one taking a selfie
The Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA classes of 2024 graduated May 17 at the Greek Theatre. All photos: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Under sunny skies, the class of 2024 Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA students were urged to never stop learning, to consider the strength of their character throughout their careers, and to stay connected long after they leave Haas.

Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the crowd of 423 graduating MBA students, along with their families and friends, to the Greek Theatre. She urged students to help each other after they graduate, give back, and draw on their resilience and determination.

“You are not just walking away with an MBA,” she told the graduates. “You are walking away with the business version of a superhero cape—power and influence. Not the kind of power that lets you leap tall buildings in a single bound. No, this is a real-world superpower: the power to change the world—one insightful conversation, one strategic hire, and one ethical decision at a time.” 

graduate walking the stage with his diploma in cap and gown
Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

Harrison introduced Monica Stevens, the 2024 commencement speaker, describing her as “a person of uncommon distinction and a great citizen of Haas.” Stevens urged graduates to dive into difficult conversations, collect “curiosity partners”—people who challenge you and open you up to new ideas—and be open to unlearning the things that we’ve learned in life.

“Please, repeat after me,” Stevens, who is an executive search consultant with Spencer Stuart and recipient of the Raymond Miles Service Award in 2017 for her work in supporting and improving diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Haas, said. “‘Uncomfortable conversations are not my enemy. They are my secret weapon.’ I hope you take that to heart because, in today’s world, I know it is hard to have uncomfortable conversations about race, politics, gender, religion, identity, or what is the best business school in the world. It is a must-have skill, and guess what? You have that skill.”

woman standing at the podium on stage at commencement
Commencement Speaker Monica Stevens urged students to dive into difficult conversations. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

EWMBA student speaker Katherine Zepeda Arreola, a double Bear who immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 7 years old, called the class of 2024 “the best class Haas has ever seen.” Zepeda Arreola, who is heading to work at Apple after graduation, gave a shout out to each of the EWMBA cohorts, including her own—the blue cohort. “Thank you for being an incredible group of people,” she said, before switching to Spanish to thank everyone who supported them during the program. 

Zepeda Arreola emphasized the importance of continuing to build character throughout their careers by showing up on time, doing what you commit to doing, and speaking up when it’s hard. “Not only is our MBA a great accolade; there’s something else that will speak volumes wherever we go: our character…it is what people will remember.”

FTMBA student speaker Xavier Jefferson, a first-generation student who came to Haas to pivot from working as a financial advisor to an investor, told the class to never stop investing in friendships. 

“We’ve laid the foundation for a long-term investment,” he said. “But we must recognize that not every investment will turn out like Nvidia. Some might even crash and burn like FTX. But that doesn’t mean you stop investing, especially after we ascend to those offices with pristine downtown views. Don’t hesitate to text that person you thought about on your morning commute, to press accept on that random FaceTime, to make time when you are in town. I might be cooking.” 

Jefferson’s speech received a standing ovation before all of the students walked the stage, tossed their caps, and headed to the courtyard for a reception. 

Diarra White, MBA 24, who is joining McKinsey after graduation, said the day was bittersweet, but she’s ready for the next chapter. When asked for a phrase to describe her Haas experience, White said, “full of love.”

two women grads in cap and gown smiling
Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

EWMBA commencement award winners:

  • Academic Achievement Award: Rajit Johri
  • Question the Status Quo: Joselyn Baety
  • Confidence Without Attitude: Emeka Ugwu
  • Students Always: Anmol Aggarwal
  • Beyond Yourself: Marissa Maliwanag
  • Berkeley Leader Award, given to the student who embodies all four of Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles: Khoa Dao 
  • Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching (evening program): Park Sinchaisri, who teaches in the Operations and Information Technology Management group.
  • Cheit Award (weekend program): Flavio Feferman, who teaches the Seminar in International Business: Brazil.
  • Cheit Award, Graduate Student Instructor (GSI): Patrick Richard Drown

FTMBA commencement award winners:

  • The Outstanding Academic Achievement Award went to Albert Deng, who will be joining AWS at Amazon after graduating.
  • Question the Status Quo: Emani Holyfield and Lizzie Hoerauf
  • Confidence Without Attitude: Kelsie Smithson
  • Students Always: Whitner Chase
  • Beyond Yourself: Caroline Patricia Jimenez 
  • Berkeley Leader Award for embodying all four Defining Leadership Principles: Anupama Tej

Dean’s Speaker Series: PG&E CEO Patti Poppe on ‘her hardest job yet’

three women on a panel with large screen behind them
(left to right) Dean Ann Harrison with Madhu Gupta and Paolo Gutierrez, both MBA 24, and Patti Poppe, CEO of PG&E. Photo: Katelyn Tucker

Patti Poppe, current CEO of PG&E and the first female chief executive to have moved from one Fortune 500 company to another, shared her extensive career journey at a recent Dean’s Speaker Series talk. 

Long before she was leading California’s largest energy corporation to reduce its wildfire risk, Poppe got her start in engineering and production planning at General Motors. After 15 years of traveling around the world to learn various manufacturing techniques, she made the transition to energy by taking a job at DTE Energy in Michigan. From there, she went on to work in operations at CMS Energy, where she became the company’s first female CEO in 2016. 

(Watch the DSS interview with Patti Poppe)

Poppe shared that, for a large portion of her career, she never imagined being a CEO. Having taken on challenging roles and working hands-on in the energy field as a front line supervisor, she was originally set on being a plant manager. In fact, it wasn’t until her own supervisor told her that she needed to aim “bigger” that she considered pursuing a career as an executive. 

“I often say there’s two kinds of careers. There’s one that’s like a destination in mind, and there’s one that’s full of interesting assignments,” Poppe said. “Imagine a soccer field, and you have the goals on one end. You’re here at this goal, and you want to get to that goal. If you’re really clear about what that goal is, and if it’s CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the shortest path is a straight line. But it rules out a lot of interesting assignments because, as I was coming up the ranks, I needed to do very important things to prepare me to compete to be the CEO.” 

She noted that this direct experience in the industry has been crucial for her to not only be able to lead successfully but gain credibility and trust among teams. But even with all of her industry and leadership experience, Poppe described PG&E as her hardest job yet.

Taking over as CEO amid PG&E’s 2021 crisis following the Dixie Fire, Poppe was faced with the challenge of rebuilding employee and customer trust in the face of negative press and feedback. By employing her own philosophy of “leading with love,” she emphasized community and invested in the workers who had stayed with the company through its darkest times. 

“The team had been under a tremendous stress…and needed healing, so I knew love was an essential ingredient,” Poppe said. “A utility is a uniquely human kind of company. People often say we’re an engineering company or an energy company. I say we’re a people company, we are people serving people.”

With love as the “essential ingredient,” Poppe adapted a tool she learned while working in the automotive industry: lean manufacturing. She has since made this methodology—which brings visibility to company problems and helps individuals take ownership of their work—to her playbook to improve PG&E’s safety and efficiency. In the face of climate change, she noted that the company’s current goals are to invest in infrastructure that will be able to withstand future conditions, in addition to lowering energy costs for customers. 

Poppe was interviewed by MBA students Paolo Gutierrez and Madhu Gupta, both MBA 24.

Read the full transcript: 

– [Dean Ann Harrison] Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Ann Harrison. I’m the dean at the Haas School of Business. Welcome to this afternoon’s Dean’s Speaker Series. We are so fortunate today to have Patti Poppe join us. She is one of 52 women Fortune 500 CEOs. This is just so incredibly exciting. Patti began her career by using her engineering degree in production planning and engineering roles at General Motors. As she rose through the ranks at General Motors, she adopted her philosophy of lean management influenced by her time on the company’s global task team, where she traveled around the world to learn lean manufacturing techniques. She started working in energy in 2005, starting at DTE Energy in Michigan, and then she became the first female CEO of CMS Energy Corporation, which supplies electricity and gas to nearly 70% of Michigan’s residents. By the way, I had this incredible opportunity to hear her speak yesterday at a rival school called, I think it’s called Stanford. Yeah. And she told us that she feels much more comfortable in a hard hat than she does in a business suit, which is hard to believe. But she was really amazing talking about being out there in the field. So Michigan, 70% of the residents. As I was saying, through all these roles, Patti developed a track record of supporting renewable energy development and implementing a strong safety culture. It should come as no surprise that, after all this foresight and determination, that led to her appointment as CEO of PG&E—after PG&E had had all those incredible crises in 2021, she was brought in. Incredible story. Patti’s current company goals are to strengthen trust in PG&E by improving safety and embracing technology to put the company on a course toward cleaner energy. I was delighted to learn yesterday that Patti has her very own defining leadership principle, leading with love, and I’m sure she’ll talk about that today. Thank you so much, Patti, for taking the time out of your incredibly busy schedule to come and speak with our students today. Some quick housekeeping before we start: You should all have a note card on your seat. If you have a question now or anytime during the event, please write the question on the card. Please be sure to include your name and the program you’re in, and my colleagues will collect them for the Q&A portion of the fireside chat. So I’m now going to turn over today’s Q&A to Paolo Gutierrez and Madhu Gupta, and they will moderate today’s discussion. Thank you so much.

– [Interviewer] Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for being here, and thank you Patti for joining us today. We were just talking to Patti in the back, and she is so much fun. So we’re going to have a great, great hour with her. We want to start the conversation today talking a little bit about your journey, which Dean Ann Harrison just talked about. So you had a fun and fulfilling career in the automotive industry when you were working for GM, and then you decided to go into the energy industry. What prompted you to make that change, and how did you align that with your passion and your interests?

– [Patti Poppe] It’s a great question. I wish I had this really sophisticated answer to give to you, but I would say, and my husband by the way, and my mother-in-law is here. The original Pat Poppe is here. I have the privilege of having the same name as my mother-in-law and my husband, Eric. And just one other introduction, Laurae Campbell is here, who is a Cal grad, so give it up for Cal in my office every day. But my husband and I both worked for GM, and he still does, actually. But at that time, we had been moving around a lot, and we were about to move to Korea, and I had a friend of mine who had left GM and went to DTE Energy, and he just asked me if I would think about DTE, and I didn’t even know what they did. I was like, “What do they do? No, I’m moving to Korea.” Next thing we know, I got a job offer from DTE, and it gave us an opportunity to… We were moving around a lot, and we had young children. We had two daughters who were in, I guess third grade, and we decided to take a decision for the family and moved back to Michigan and plant what we thought were permanent roots there. Life unfolds in different ways. We didn’t know, at the time, that that was going to be such a consequential decision in our lives, but it was truly made for family at the time. And then, it turned out to be a great professional move, and I can’t imagine not having made that decision back then.

– [Interviewer] So many of us here are graduating in about a month, which is really sad. And with that comes big career pivots. So were there moments in your transition where you were questioned, or maybe you were questioning yourself? And how did you navigate those situations and kind of building that credibility in winning over others’ trust?

– [Patti] So many times, so many times. But I do think that, and this is a really important thing as you embark on your careers and continue your careers to really be able to find it in yourself to believe in yourself. And I remember this moment, my first day in an assembly plant. These are big factories. And here I was, this girl with a ponytail and my blue jeans. And walking down the aisle, I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing. And these guys pulled up in this golf cart and they said to me, “What are you doing here?” And I was like, now just freeze-frame for a moment. Like, in my mind I’m thinking, “I have no idea. Like how do I get to column number B80?” I had no idea what I was doing, but if I had said that, I mean, I would’ve lost all respect from these people. So instead, out of nowhere, I blame it on my high school math teacher. I feel like she infused me with confidence. And so, I just look at these guys, and I said, “I got a job to do. Don’t you have a job to do? Don’t you think we should get back to work?” And these guys go, “Oh, you want a ride?” I go, “Yes, I do. Can you please take me to B80?” And I just think about, like, don’t count yourself out. You walk in the room, every person in that room is wondering what they’re doing there. I can assure you, all of us have these questions about what’s happening. We don’t know as much as we pretend to do. And you just have to be honest with yourself, and it gives you permission, then, to actually admit when you don’t know and to ask for help and get support from people that you’re working with that do know more than you. No one’s going to expect you. They’re going to know you’re smart. I mean, you went to Cal, you went to Haas, they’re going to know you’re smart. But they’re going to expect you to want to learn more and learn from them. And so, one of the best ways to overcome not knowing is by being curious and learning from those that actually do know more than you do and let them teach you.

– [Interviewer] We were talking in the back how you’re one of two two-time female CEOs, which is amazing. But also, it means we have a lot of work to do. We’re curious to know, you went from a plant manager, you always loved working in the field, which is, it’s a tough place to be in. How did you kind of know that you were going to be in that CEO track, and then, that you wanted to be a CEO?

– [Patti] I was just thinking about this. There was a large part of my career I never would’ve imagined being a CEO. My singular focus was to be a plant manager. That was my dream. I had a great plant manager who I loved dearly, who made my life better because he was such a great leader, and I wanted to do the same for others. And so, all of a sudden, I was awfully close to that goal, and I was with one of our vice presidents, I remember, and he said, “Patti, what are your career goals?” And I said, “I want to be a plant manager.” And he said, “I have bad news for you.” I was like, “Oh, oh no, really?” He’s like, “You gotta think higher.” I was like, “Uh-oh, what do you mean?” I said, “I want to be a plant manager.” He’s like, “No, no, you’re too young. Like you’re going to be plant manager like in a year. You need a bigger goal.” And a blessing, at the time, I was in business school. And so, it gave me a time to reflect and imagine something beyond being a plant manager. And that was the first time I ever said out loud to anyone, like, “Maybe I’d like to be a CEO someday.” And I have to tell you, it’s really important at some juncture to get clear with yourself about what you do want from your career. Being a CEO is the most amazing job, but it comes with a lifestyle that you have to not think that you can skirt. I did really hard jobs to get prepared to do this very hard job. And so, being willing to make those choices, I often say there’s two kinds of careers. There’s one that’s like a destination in mind, and there’s one that’s full of interesting assignments. And I’ll just tell this real quick. When you have a destination in mind, it helps weed out choices. Somebody actually just said this today, and so, I’m going to use his story. Imagine a soccer field, and you have the goals on one end. You’re here at this goal, and you want to get to that goal. If you’re really clear about what that goal is, and if it’s CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the shortest path is a straight line. But it rules out a lot of interesting assignments because I needed to, as I was coming up the ranks, I needed to do very important things to prepare me to compete to be the CEO. Nobody ever promised me a CEO job, but to compete for that, and frankly, it happened sooner than we expected. The person I was succeeding got sick. And so, my HR person came to me and said, “You ready?” I was like, “Shouldn’t Dan do it?” He’s like, “No, you should do it, you do the job.” I wouldn’t say I knew I was ready, but I had prepared, and I had taken the tough assignments to get me prepared. But you can also have a very rewarding and fulfilling career doing interesting assignments. But it’s really important to know which you really want. And so, what I watch a lot of young people do, they make a mistake of choosing their own career paths and choosing these interesting assignments. And they may or not prepare you to compete for the job you really want. And if you all of a sudden find out you just spent the last 10 years doing stuff that isn’t getting you to where you want to go, you’ll be disappointed. So, doing interesting assignments, I had this friend Janet, who always had the most interesting jobs, but she got to this point in her career and she wanted to advance, and she didn’t have the requisite experiences, and she was disappointed. Now, if I might, my husband had no interest in being the big boss and managing a bunch of people. That was never his interest. He wanted to solve the toughest problems. And so, he always chose the roles that had the toughest problems, but that wasn’t necessarily going to lead him to be CEO of General Motors. He didn’t want that. And so, he was never disappointed with that choice. He was fulfilled by his choice of doing really interesting work all the time. I just don’t want you to make the mistake of thinking you’re on a destination path, but you’re actually setting yourself up for these kinds of interesting assignments. So my best advice on that is, study the people who have the job. If you have a destination in mind, first of all, be honest with yourself about that. Don’t apologize. Not everybody wants that job. If you are wired that you want that job, have that in mind. Then, study the people who have that job or similar jobs. and prepare like they did. Take the tough assignments, do those hard jobs that aren’t glamorous and aren’t going to get you on the cover of a magazine. They’re going to prepare you to compete for that top job that you’re really after.

– [Patti] Thank you. That’s really helpful advice for all of us graduating. I want to pivot a little bit to talking about PG&E. So you came to PG&E in 2021, and when you made that decision, you had the big task of fixing the company’s culture and operations. And in one of the interviews or speeches that I watched as I was preparing for this, you said that Larry Culp, the CEO of GE, called you the day after it was announced to say, you’re the only one with a harder job than me in America now. Which is—

– [Patti] That is a true story.

– [Interviewer] Very scary. Part of your strategy in tackling this challenge was bringing in the lean management methodologies and also your philosophy of leading with love. Why did you choose these two, and how did you get the stakeholders you coming in as a new CEO to believe in that and to take that culture and run with it?

– [Patti] Yeah, it’s such a great question. I remember thinking earlier in my career, I would look at these CEOs and wonder, “How do they know what to do?” And then I became one, I’m like, “Oh no, now I do actually need to know what to do.” But when I took the PG&E job, I did have the benefit of experience. And so, when I talk about preparing for these tough jobs, I had been the CEO of another utility. It happened to be a really wonderful utility that was performing very well but had had its own turnaround. And I had been present for it and actually led our customer trust transformation. We were lowest in customer satisfaction. And actually, in my time, we became No. 1, and I knew what that took, and I knew how to rebuild trust, and I had experienced really challenging turnarounds also at General Motors. And so, I actually knew what to do. And it’s a little uncharacteristic for me ’cause I consider myself a more participative leader. I like to engage the team in deciding the path. But we were in a crisis. We had just come out of bankruptcy. We literally had had four CEOs in the matter of a year. The team had been under a tremendous stress and catastrophe and needed healing. So I knew love was an essential ingredient. In business today, I think that’s too often we dehumanize it and turn work into a work-pay transactional relationship, and even companies as transactions, with our customers. A utility is a uniquely human kind of company. People often say we’re an engineering company or an energy company. I say we’re a people company, we are people serving people. The only difference between my utility and every other utility in America is the people who work there. We all have pipes and wires and customers. At PG&E, the only difference is the people who are there. And so, tapping into the human spirit of the people who work at PG&E and regaining their confidence in the face of a lot of negative press, a lot of negative feedback, people who had stayed at this company through our darkest days needed to believe in themselves and believe in what we were up to. So love was essential, but then let’s get some tools. Lean manufacturing is a wonderful system that I had deployed, I learned in automotive, but deployed in the utility for the 15 years or 20 years before I joined PG&E and had developed a playbook that worked to make problems visible, to bring out the best ideas, to help people own their work and their business. And we had a very important body of work to deploy. And that was our wildfire mitigation plan in 2021. We were still reeling from a series of significant fires and our bankruptcy, and an essential ingredient in the legal construct here in California is a wildfire mitigation plan. And so, I knew wildfire mitigation plan is the most important thing. And teaching lean, we can do those two things in the same way. So every time we went to the wildfire mitigation plan review, we were learning lean and doing the plan, doing the work, learning lean every time. In fact, I just had a meeting with my team today reminding us that every meeting we are in has two purposes: Number One, to teach our performance playbook; and Number Two, to do the work so that we can have a sustainable management system that teaches people at all parts of the company from the front to the back what it means to deliver excellence and improve our work every single day. And it’s working, I’m happy to report. We have reduced our wildfire risk by 94%. That is not a make-believe number. That is calculated by the risk exposure that we have. And the remaining 6% we’re improving every day and is backed up by our situational awareness, which includes, I have over 80 former firefighters who work for PG&E who help us mitigate our risk every day and respond when an ignition occurs. Cal Fire and the state of California have dramatically invested in their capabilities. We have 1,500 weather stations across our service area that’s from basically Oregon down to Santa Barbara and Bakersfield. Those weather stations have real-time data that communicates, we’ve divided the entire service area into 2-kilometer blocks. Real time, every minute of every day, we know the temperature, the wind speeds, the moisture levels. If there’s a tree in strike distance to the line, we know what color that tree is, we know how many feet it is from the line. We know the angle to the hill. We know the last time we inspected those. And we have a huge data engine that uses artificial intelligence to prevent the risk in every one of those 2-kilometer blocks. And we take operating measures and actions every single day, every hour of every day to make sure that an ignition, if it occurs, because electric equipment in fact does spark by design, we make sure that it’s not going to cause a catastrophic wildfire. That was delivered through our lean operating system.

– [Interviewer] That’s incredible.

– [Patti] Thank you from the PG&E plants in the audience.

– [Interviewer] So you are facing, day in and day out, the effects of climate change with wildfires, pressure on the grid. And as natural disasters continue to get worse, that’s putting pressure on your operations, which oftentimes means investing in better technology, better operations, safety management, and can lead to rise in prices. I think many of us here are going to be facing similar challenges as we grow in our careers and think about how do we make certain decisions. So how do you think about affordability in the utility sector while maintaining that commitment to investing in safety and sustainability? And how do you get the leaders in your company to follow your lead?

– [Patti] Well, first and foremost, it’s always about our customers, and we have to be willing to put our expertise to work, to make decisions on behalf of the people that we serve. And when we make a decision to make an investment, I’m going to make a pitch for the investor-owned utility model here for a minute. So if any of you have studied it or have questions about it, let me just tell you my perspective about this. The original formation of an investor-owned utility model was when we were building out this electric infrastructure for the first time because we were powering America and the world. And we needed to figure out how to get the most power to the most people at the lowest cost. And so, the investor-owned utility model emerged as a winning model because it spread the costs of the build out of that infrastructure over more people and more years by attracting capital from the capital markets and not expecting all customers to pay upfront for the build out of that infrastructure. And over time, as that investment and use of then, that product grew, the unit price declined. So in the original days we were building out infrastructure, and every year the unit price of electricity was going down. Well, now we’ve reached the stage that we have to replace that infrastructure for two reasons: its age, and two, our changing climate conditions. Our infrastructure was not designed to withstand the extreme drought, wind, floods, this is a worldwide problem. And so we have to, at this juncture in our nation, invest in that infrastructure, and then make it safe under future climate conditions, not today’s climate conditions, and all the while reducing carbon emissions so that we can thwart the speed and pace of climate change. Now, here’s the great news. A lot of people are worried about this. They think it’s just going to be too expensive. Well, one of the best things is the confluence of decarbonizing through electrification. While we are building out this new infrastructure, actually, we’ll grow load just like we did way back when growing load while we’re making these investments, thereby lowering the unit cost of energy as we go forward if we do it right. But annual expenses and maintenance, continuing to only do maintenance, it’s like owning a car. You can’t continue to Band-Aid the problem. There’s a point that you reach where it’s more expensive to continue trying to maintain the car than to invest in a new car payment to spread out the cost of that new car over time. It’s the same idea with our infrastructure of all kinds, bridges, roads, but particularly the electric grid. And the benefit the electric grid has is new demand. Electric vehicles, building electrification, decarbonizing our economy can in fact be done at a way that it lowers household spend on energy. Electricity is a more efficient fuel than gasoline, and we can then transition from natural gas to electrification. We’re going to be proving all this out here in California first. PG&E is at the heartbeat and the forefront of delivering this future and showing that it is possible. And thankfully, California is not going to get weak need about this. It’s going to be a major issue politically across the nation. And fortunately, California will stand our ground. And PG&E is essential to that clean energy transition, decarbonizing our economy at the lowest societal costs. And I could not be more excited to lead the team at PG&E to make that happen.

– [Interviewer] That’s incredibly helpful context, Patti. Thank you. Before we shift gears to talk about the future of energy, let’s discuss some of the challenges that PG&E is facing today. As we all know, decarbonization has been a major goal for PG&E. What is the biggest hurdle you see to achieving your goals, and how do you hope to combat these challenges?

– [Patti] That is a great question, too. I’d say there’s two big hurdles. One is our willingness to believe as a society that it’s possible. And that’s, again, why I’m excited about California. I think there’s a lot of people who want it to be true but don’t know the path. And we get to show the path, we get to show the world that it is in fact possible. And I had dinner just not too long ago with the Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, she and I go way back. It’s a very interesting twist of fate that she was governor of Michigan, and we passed really important energy legislation when she was there and I was at running a utility. And so, we go way back, but she and I were having this conversation that there’s a whole lot of people who talk about this subject, and there’s only a handful who are actually going to do something about it. PG&E gets to do something about it. You need us to do something about this. So my biggest concern is that people will back off, or get afraid, or it’ll become too politicized, and we won’t make the important investments in the infrastructure so that it’s possible. And then two, there’s going to be a lot of behavior change. We’re going to need everybody’s help to make this change. In fact, we’re mapping out our net-zero plans for the state and for when we get real and we’re like, “OK, what are we going to do to meet San Jose’s net-zero 2030 goal?” That’s a million people are going to have to have electric heat. How are we going to do that? That’s a big human behavior, actual challenge. We’re going to have to convince people that it’s in their best interest to switch fuels and to drive an electric car. And 2030, hello. Tik tok, that’s six years from now. So, all that to say, we have a lot of work to do, and so, do we—time is not on our side, but really I think when any great innovation happened and when we built this grid out in the first place, people had to have faith that building this infrastructure was going to be worth it. And I don’t know about you, but saving the planet feels like a pretty darn good reason to make a change. And so, we’re all in.

– [Interviewer] Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Now, like in any industry, utilities too needs to adapt their business model and their strategy to evolving customer preferences. And we are interested in how you are navigating such shifts. Specifically, what is your view on decentralized energy generation and microgrids, and what is the subsequent impact to your business model?

– [Patti] Yeah, well I think we have the benefit of the distributed energy resources that exist in our system, but we today are blind to them. And so, they are not optimized. Our energy system today is not optimized. We’ve got big bulk power and distribution equipment and transmission equipment that is designed for that big bulk model of delivering the highest volume at the lowest cost. It’s like the big Walmart of energy. The grid is just a big centralized system by design. Plugging in all the distributed resources has been done so far very much to the benefit of the individual at that premise. We now need to fully leverage the benefit of those distributed resources. And the only way to do that is by complementing them with storage, both bulk storage and localized storage. And if we can store that energy that’s produced, we have too much energy produced in the middle of the day today in California, it’s way more than we need. And so, adding more generation capacity at noon is a waste of money. We need to add storage resources. If we’re going to invest in something when we look at the system as a whole, invest in the storage resources so you can store that energy at noon and then start to spread out supply and demand and start managing demand for the first time ever. We didn’t have devices until now. The energy grid has been a demand taker just by definition. By definition, the grid that we’ve all lived with all our lives has been built for peak demand plus, say, 15%. We’re now at plus 22%. So peak plus 22. In California, it’s about five days a year that we come close to that peak. Every other day of the year, we have way more power, and the whole system is way bigger than it needs to be. We have the chance with increasing demand to more fully utilize those existing resources, actually optimize demand in the form of EVs. First dynamic load we’ve ever had. Air conditioning comes on when it’s hot, lights come on when it’s dark. There’s not a lot of choice to that. Refrigerators run all the time. Those are the three biggest users of electricity today. And then factories. Run when the factories run. We have the opportunity to charge cars at the right time and then discharge those cars on the peak. Today, on our roads in PG&E service area, we have 6,000 megawatts of capacity in the form of vehicles. That is three of my Diablo Canyon Power Plants of capacity driving around the roads today. If we could only turn that power around to the grid, they’re not designed for that today. But the newest EVs, the Ford Lightning, the Cadillac LYRIQ, some of the other Cadillac products, or the GM products coming out, are bidirectional. That’s going to be both a supply and a demand on the grid, but we’re going to have to optimize all those resources and optimize the grid. And I just think that’s going to take the most innovation that this industry has seen in our lifetimes.

– [Interviewer] Thank you for sharing your perspective on this topic. Now, not so long ago you mentioned that PG&E is in the people business, and I loved that. So just to talk a little bit more about that, I think one of the bigger responsibilities we have today in the transition to clean energy is to make sure we bring everyone along. Now, of course, lower-income communities may not have the same access to programs, incentives, or resources perpetuating maybe energy poverty and environmental injustice. How do you as a leader, and PG&E as an organization, empower vulnerable populations and make sure they’re not left behind in this transition?

– [Patti] This is one of the things that we spend a lot of time on. Another pitch for the investor-owned utility model, our obligation to serve, which is the law is actually a privilege. It’s a privilege to serve and assure that no one is left behind. If we had, whether it’s small local companies that don’t have the scale or profit maximizing companies that are purely motivated for maximizing profits without an obligation and a privilege to serve, you can imagine that people would be left behind. So when we advocate for the right kind of pricing for distributed energy and specifically rooftop solar, when we are advocating for the right price, this is why we are doing that. I think, a lot of times, we get painted with a brush that we’re anti-solar, we are anti-solar, we are anti-no-one-left-behind. We are anti-cost shifts. Today, there’s a $34 a month cost shift from people who don’t have solar to people who do. So people who don’t have solar, most likely apartment dwellers, people who can’t afford the upfront cost to invest in distributed solar. They are getting left behind, and we are fighting hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. And the CPUC made an important proposed decision in the last week to add a flat rate to the bill to more accurately distribute the costs, not new costs, but the existing costs to people equally so that anybody who uses the grid should pay for the maintenance of the grid and pay their full freight. We would’ve argued that might have been more, should have been applied, but it’s a good starting point to try and get the cost allocated properly so that no one is left behind.

– [Interviewer] Thank you. It’s really encouraging to hear PG&E’s efforts toward a more fair and just transition. Looking ahead, of course the world overall is changing at such a rapid pace, and for businesses to tackle climate change effectively, it needs to be a concerted effort that requires collaboration. However, one might argue that the energy ecosystem is not set up for collaboration, starting with the fact that we have such a fragmented power grid. So I’m curious, Patti, how do you see collaboration between public, private, and cross-sector entities evolving as we continue to put pressure on our grid?

– [Patti] It is one of the most important ingredients. You’re completely right about that. When I knew I was coming out to PG&E and started imagining my time at PG&E, I was so excited about the access to the innovation and technology that exists here and the privilege to serve the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. I mean, any utility in America would be proud and excited to serve the customers that we get to serve. And so, I started engaging in the innovation ecosystem here. And I got very resounding feedback. And it was this, “Patti, PG&E is killing us death by pilot.” They would say, “Wait, how many pilots do we have to do?” Like, it’s crazy. We’re a little company, we can’t afford to do all these projects to prove ourselves. We don’t have the funding to do that, so we took a completely fresh look at how innovation can plug into our system. And what we realized is that often people have a solution, and they’re hunting for the problem as opposed to having a problem and finding the right solution. So we came at it to say, my team looked at our 10-year strategy and our clean energy plan, and they came up with 70 problem statements that defined the gap from where we are today to where we want to be in 10 years that we can’t solve by ourselves. And we held an innovation summit last year, and we invited the world to come help us solve these very specific 70 problem statements in a variety of areas. Wildfire was one, but 24/7 decarbonized energy was another one, how to transition the gas system was another area, full utilization of EVs. And so, we put out all these problem statements. Three thousand people joined us that day, which I was so stunned and excited. We limited the in-person to 300, and that filled up in like a day. And Elon Musk spoke at our event, which people really felt like that was the big news that he makes news everywhere he goes, which was fine with me ’cause we wanted to make news that day. But the real news, what actually happened that day that was so important in addition to all of these innovators getting access to PG&E and being able to realize, “Here are the problems that need to be solved” and matching their technologies, their ideas to the problems that we had, we made an announcement with Schneider Electric and Microsoft that we were launching the first distributed energy resource management system on the cloud with these incredible technical partners and would be the first company in the world to be able to optimize all these distributed resources. That was actually the news that mattered that day. And since then, we had 300 submissions and 60 finalists, and we’re narrowing down to 50 to figure out how to partner with each of these technologies that are ready to scale. And we’re not going to invest in the companies, but we’re going to be their No. 1 customer, which every startup needs both. They need seed capital, but then, they need a great customer. And so, it’s a really great role for PG&E to play.

– [Interviewer] Awesome, thank you. And now, as our final question. Given the context in which we’re living in with the shift toward sustainable energy systems, the need for resilience in the face of climate change, and of course, the imperative to address equity along the process. I’m sure you see both innovation and setbacks on a daily basis. So with that, what keeps you up at night? What keeps you going, and what are you most excited about as you think about the future?

– [Patti] Well, there’s no doubt safety is what keeps me up at night, the safety of my workforce, and the safety of the communities that we serve. And so, we put a lot of effort around that. And I think about it all the time, and we have systems that have dramatically improved the safety. But of course, I think about it all the time. What was the second one?

– [Interviewer] What keeps you going?

– [Patti] Oh yeah, what keeps me going? Oh, the people of PG&E that I have the privilege of working with and the customers that we serve. I mean, I just love what we’re doing. We know that we are changing and changing that culture and leading with love has been such a galvanizing force for us. And it’s been just a real challenge, but a lot of fun. And then, I’m excited about being able to deliver on this clean energy transition for the world. I truly believe that we are at ground zero here in the Bay Area in California to show the world that it is possible. And there’s a lot of people who have been working at it for a long time, and maybe they’re getting tired, and there’s a lot of opposition that’s drumming up, and we just can’t lose our faith. And I am thrilled to be able to be at the place where we’re going to do something about the world’s existential challenge.

– [Interviewer] Thank you so much.

– [Ann] Thank you so much, Patti. Thank you so much also for being willing to take questions from the audience. So the first question that I have here is, “What sacrifices have you had to make in your personal life? Do you ever question or wonder if prioritizing your career is worth it?”

– [Patti] So I get this question often in a variety of forms. I’m not going to let my husband answer it, by the way, but I will give you my version of the answer. And we were talking about this in the green room a little bit. I subscribe to a Japanese philosophy called Ikigai, and if you haven’t seen it, study it, because I wish I had studied it in my early days. But yeah, I’ve made choices in my career that have been very demanding on my time. But the four elements of Ikigai is, first, you obviously want to do work that you can sustain your family. So you want to get paid for that work. I think a lot of people, and especially many of you at this juncture in your life and in your career, please don’t stop at the place that pays you the most. You will surely miss by just focusing on getting paid for what you do. You want to get paid for what you do, but it doesn’t matter whether it’s the most, what you want to combine it with are three other elements. So yes, get paid for what you do, but do something that you’re good at. Do something you love, and those two things might not be the same. You can often be really good at something, and maybe you don’t love it, but that will parlay into and open doors for you to do what you love, and then do something that the world needs. And so, for me, I can look at my career in all my years. I was always doing something that I got paid for but that I was good at, and I learned new things and discovered new things. But I had the privilege of loving being in an operating environment, seeing the daily heartbeat, seeing what we could deliver, just really doing something important and knowing at the end of the day that we did it. And then, especially now at this point in my career, to do what the world needs means that my minutes at work and my minutes at home have full value all the time. I’m fulfilled in all my minutes. And what a blessing that is. And I would wish that for each and every one of you that you find your path, and it’s not going to be anybody else’s definition of that path for you, only, and you have to study yourself. What do you love? What do you do in your discretionary time when no one has asked you to do it? What kind of articles are you clipping? Which podcasts are you drawn to? Pay attention to that, know that about yourself, know what you love, bias your career choices to that which you love and that what you can be good at. And then, please promise me you’ll find something that the world needs, and you’ll throw yourself at it. You’re too smart and too talented to not make a difference in this world. And so, I really have high hopes that you, too, can live the blessing of a career that I have had that has not felt like a sacrifice but has felt like a continual opportunity to grow and learn and make a difference.

– [Ann] Thank you so much for that. Absolutely wonderful advice. This question, you mentioned a career of interesting assignments. Can you speak to some of your more interesting or assignments that may not have seemed so at the time?

– [Patti] Oh, that’s really good. Yeah, I can think of one in particular that comes to mind. First line supervisor. It was interesting, that’s for sure. I tell people it was the second-hardest job I’ve ever had. The job I have is the hardest job I’ve ever had. But second-hardest job was first line supervisor. And I had a career choice. I had an opportunity for a promotion, and a company car, and daylight hours, and all these things, get out of my boots and get into a suit, and maybe that would be good. And I had a boss who pulled me aside and said, “Patti, wait, wait, wait. You haven’t been a first line supervisor yet, and if you want to be a plant manager on that soccer field, you’ll have gone around a key experience.” And he said, “And someday you’ll be standing in front of a room full of people that you are leading, and they will know you didn’t do it. And you might get the job somehow, but you won’t be good at it.” Plant manager. I was like, “Oh, dang it.” So I turned down the company car, and I took the second shift trim shop supervisor job. It really sucked. But I learned so much about people, and about leading, and the union tricked me and all these things. I learned so much. And so, yes, it was very interesting, and no, there were moments I did not love that darn job. But I look back now, and it was a key pivot point. And so, don’t take the easy route. Take the tough jobs where you’re going to learn the core business that you’re in. Understand that whatever business you are in there is a core business about it. Building cars at General Motors was core business. And now, in a utility, having operational experience and understanding what it’s like to lead people, I just stood yesterday in front of a group of first line supervisors who had just graduated from a yearlong development program, and I could swap stories with them. Do you think that gives me credibility as their CEO to be able to talk shop with these guys? Yes, it does. And when I say guys, it was men and women, gender neutral there. But I think that, sometimes, you take the tough job on the pathway to a destination because you have to learn the business, and you need to know how it works and why it works on the ground floor, so you can lead it well.

– [Ann] Thank you for that. How do you handle the daily stress, the wildfires, the CPUC, the unions, the shareholders, the employees, the budget?

– [Patti] There is joy in the journey. No, I do have coping mechanisms. One of the things, this did happen, I was probably six months into this role, and the big difference about this role versus all the roles I had had before was truly the life and death aspects of it. And how, in the early days when I had just arrived here, how uncontrolled it felt, and the risk of another catastrophic wildfire was real. And it was scary. And I was about six months in, and I just was trying to come to terms with the, as I called it, the death and destruction of all of it. This isn’t like a normal quarterly earnings update CEO job. And it occurred to me, it was more military, and we have a four-star admiral on our board. And so, I thought, “Why hadn’t I called Mark?” So, I called Admiral Ferguson, and I said, “Mark, what am I supposed to do with this, all this destruction and risk?” And he said this, he said, “Oh, Patti darn it, I should have given you this talk earlier. I give it to all my young commanders.” I’m like, “Good, I’m not young, but please give me the talk.” So he gave me the talk, and the talk went like this. Two key elements. Number one, the standard is not perfection. He said, “do you know it is safer today because you are there. And because we were implementing this lean operating system and creating visibility to the key wildfire mitigation elements, and we were making progress every day and we had brought order.” I knew I had brought order to what felt like disorder. I knew it was better. It didn’t have to be perfect, it just had to be continually improving. That was a big relief. And then, he said, “Every great mission in history,” and he had studied all great military missions, and he had studied them all, he said, “had one key thread. They had a leader who refused to give up. You cannot give up. You will have setbacks, things will go wrong, bad things will happen.” And there are things that have happened on my watch that I would definitely wish had not happened. “But the standard is not perfection. The standard is progress, and you have to be tenacious, as we say, we cannot give up.” And I don’t know what it was about that talk, but it took the weight of the world off my shoulders. And he also said, he said, “In that environment, when you know you’re making a difference, and you don’t give up, that’s when real leaders thrive.” I thought, “OK, this is me thriving. I am thriving.” And I had to remind myself that I was thriving. And some days are harder to thrive than others, but you just have to believe that you matter, and I have to believe that we can do it.

– [Ann] Wow. Thank you so much. That’s great advice. So this question, and I think you already answered it, so you feel free to skip to the next one if you’d like. “How do you prepare PG&E for the massive infrastructure investments in the future while still delivering satisfactory returns to shareholders?”

– [Patti] Oh, I don’t think I’ve answered this. Let me answer this one because I think this is a really commonly misunderstood feature of investor-owned utilities. Our customers deserve better service. And again, like I said, we get to spread the cost of that service out over time by attracting capital from the markets. But one of the things I didn’t mention about our investors, who are the investors? Our investors, and investors in a utility, are not like high-rolling, fat cat profit-driving, maximum return investors. These are pension funds, teachers, firefighters, police. They turn over, they’re nest egg to a fidelity, or a J.P. Morgan, or whomever, American Funds, and they choose us to invest in, and then we shepherd their dollars by investing in this infrastructure and promising a reasonable return, not a maximum return. it’s a regulated return. We have oversight. People decide what is that return here California, we have formulas that determine what that return is. So there’s no shenanigans associated with it. It’s formulaic, and it’s designed on a reasonable return for the risk of investing in this infrastructure and doing the work. And it’s on a very actual small portion of the elements of a customer’s bill. Only about 10% of the bill is actually our profits. And so, that return to that investment community, those moms and pops, I am unapologetic about keeping our promise to those investors. They’ve entrusted to us their life savings. Of course, we’re going to provide a return that we promised, and at the same time, improve the service to our customers by making the right infrastructure investment choices and reducing the cost of doing that, improving our performance with our lean operating system and our performance management playbook. We reduced costs out of our business in a dramatic way. We’re starting to set ourselves apart from other utilities, and our ability to extract cost out of the system and accelerate our investment and make the system safer, faster. And so, there, for me, there’s no land where there’s a conflict between delivering for customers and delivering for investors or shareholders. The system is designed to deliver for both. It’s actually a unique place in the world where you can have win-win. And I find it very fascinating, there’s a lot of people who are trying to make this into a win-lose discussion. It’s not win-lose. I don’t have to pick one or the other. I can pick both every single day and know that we’re doing right by both.

– [Ann] Thank you so much for that. This is the last question. “Do you find that you have leveraged your non-PG&E and field experience as the CEO of PG&E and how have you done that?”

– [Patti] I think so because I love the work that we do, and I love being with our crews who do that work. And so, I love going out to our power plants, and our hydro facilities, our distribution teams, our gas teams, our electric teams. It’s my happy days when I get to go out and be with the team in the field. And I think it does two things. It gives me credibility with our team, so they can, I would say, for the first time in a while, trust the leadership of the company and be willing to adopt a change in their culture because they can trust their leader again. And so, because I think, in fact, my board chair when I took this, or when he was talking to me about joining the company, and I asked him, “Is this like a financial turnaround? The company just went bankrupt, is this like going to be a lot of bankers and spreadsheet turnaround, or is this like a fundamental culture and safety turnaround? Because if it’s a finance turnaround, I’m actually not interested. If it’s an operational turnaround, and if we get to change the way we do our work, and if we need to, and the case is that we need to build a safety culture, then I’m in.” And he assured me it was an operational and cultural turnaround, and he was right. The money follows. When we perform, the money follows. But I just think that the idea that I can do this kind of work, and my team knows that I love the work that we do for the sake of the work and serving our neighbors, our friends, and our families, I think I get a lot of street cred with the team because of my true demonstrated experience and passion for what they do.

– [Ann] Thank you so much for that. So there are going to be refreshments at the back, but first, I just want to thank you so much for coming here to Berkeley Haas.

– [Patti] Thank you for having me at Berkeley Haas.

– [Ann] Yeah, we’re just so impressed.

– [Speaker] Working? Can you hear me? Before you guys go for the refreshments, Patti did want to take a selfie.

– [Patti] Thank you. Thank you.

– [Speaker] Everybody in the back, kind of like…

– [Patti] Come on. Come to the middle. Come to the middle. We’re going to do an aussie. Come to the middle. Get right in here. You stand in front of me. Stand in front of me. I didn’t want you to fall off the stage. OK. Everybody ready? Say Berkeley Haas.

– [All] Berkeley Haas.

– [Patti] Thank you so much. Go there. That’s right.

Arnaud Paquet, MBA 24, wins top campus sustainability award

man wearing a suit jacket with arms crossed
Arnaud Paquet, MBA 24

For Arnaud Paquet, MBA 24, winning a top annual UC Berkeley sustainability award was the culmination of two years of climate leadership and sustainability initiatives on campus.

Paquet, one of four winners honored last month by the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability (CACS), received an impressive 16 nominations—including recommendations from former Berkeley Haas Dean Laura Tyson, Professor Severin Borenstein, who is faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas, and Danner Doud-Martin, director of Haas Campus Sustainability.

Paquet has been “instrumental around everything at Haas that pertains to sustainability,” Doud-Martin said. “He is everywhere. He is always connecting with people, always talking to people. Everyone knows Arnaud.” 

“He is everywhere. He is always connecting with people, always talking to people. Everyone knows Arnaud.” – Danner Doud-Martin

Proof point: When Paquet attended the annual ClimateCAP conference two years ago as a Haas fellow, Doud-Martin said the organizers ran a contest to see who could track the most connections made during the conference on their phones. “He won the whole thing,” Doud-Martin said. 

Paquet, who grew up in Brussels and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in energy engineering, has spent his career working on the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. He came to Haas planning to make new connections and go deeper into solving climate change. 

One of his first moves was to join the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative, (BERC), the largest on-campus organization that unites students, alumni, faculty, and industry leaders seeking to turn research toward solving energy and environmental problems. He quickly dove in, helping to organize their annual Energy Summit. Then, he took on the role of co-president, winning the Chancellor’s award, in part, for his work with BERC, which is entirely student-run and spans 11 colleges and 28 departments across UC Berkeley.

“BERC is special because it’s campuswide,” he said. “You can’t assume that climate change can be solved only through business. It’s going to be a cross-functional problem to solve. And so you need all disciplines—business policy, law, engineering, and so on.”

Paquet also spearheaded the inaugural Women in Climate event at UC Berkeley to create a platform for underrepresented members in BERC and the industry. Borenstein said Paquet showed a strong commitment to diversity by launching the conference, “giving diverse voices a platform in the climate crisis.”

seven people standing with Chancellor Carol Christ who is wearing a large scarf
Arnaud Paquet, third from left, with UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, received the top UC Berkeley sustainability award last month, awarded by the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability (CACS).

Paquet, along with Angelina Donhoff, MBA 24, became the first co-vice president of Sustainability for the Haas MBA Association (MBAA). The pair, both members of the Haas Sustainability Task Force, helped create the new VP role by empowering fellow MBA students to vote for the change. 

Now, they are working with Doud-Martin on a grant-funded pilot program studying the climate cost of airline travel—using an MBA course that requires students to travel to Denmark as a study subject. Arnaud plans to write recommendations addressing the challenge of sourcing high-quality carbon offsets for air travel and the risk of greenwashing.  

He also served as a researcher and co-author for former Dean Tyson and venture capital firm Angeleno Group in a forthcoming article on innovations in climate finance for the California Management Review.

A startup plan

Outside of Haas, Paquet has worked for multiple Bay Area climate-focused startups, including Twelve and Granular Energy, the latter of which he still works part-time as a business development lead. After graduation, he plans to join a startup tackling the challenge of decarbonizing the hard-to-abate sectors, which account for a third of global carbon emissions. 

He said he’s enjoyed much of what makes Haas a unique place. “We have a lot of folks coming to Haas who are mission-driven and want to have a positive impact. And you will see a lot of students either starting their own company or going into climate tech, sustainability, and impact investing,” Paquet said. 

“It’s an exciting time for Haas. The school is launching a new MBA/MCS (master of climate solutions) degree with the Rausser College of Natural Resources and Haas is hosting ClimateCAP next year. I feel like UC Berkeley really prepared me well for what’s next, and I’m grateful for it.”

U.S. News ranks Berkeley Haas FTMBA Program #7 in 2024

The Berkeley Haas Full-Time MBA Program claimed the #7 spot among full-time programs in the 2024 U.S. News & World Report Best Business Schools ranking.

The FTMBA program moved up four slots to tie for #7 with the Yale School of Management and NYU’s Stern School of Business. Except for 2021 and 2023, the FTMBA has ranked #7 since 2019.

Meanwhile, the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program ranked #2 this year among part-time MBA programs. The Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives Program placed #7 among EMBA programs and is now the top executive MBA program at a public university in the nation. This ranking is based solely on ratings by business school deans and directors. 

The 2024 FTMBA ranking, released today, reflects positive changes that U.S. News made to its rankings methodology, said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. 

The ranking reflects all of the work Haas is doing to strengthen its programs and reputation, she said. “There are many different ways of evaluating a school, and rankings go up and down for all of us,” she said. “The change in the U.S. News methodology, with less emphasis on starting salary upon graduation, is a positive step.”

A few details on the rankings methodology used this year:

  • Employment rates at graduation – 7% weighted  (previously 10%)
  • Employment rates three months after graduation – 13% (previously 20%)
  • Mean starting salary and bonus – 20%
  • Ranking salaries by profession – 10%
  • Peer assessment score – 12.5%

Haas ranked #5 in salaries, which were ranked this year by profession (tied with Chicago Booth). Harrison noted that alumni accept jobs in a variety of industries, which logically means a variety of pay scales. 

“This is true for Haas, as well, where graduates prioritize where they can make the biggest impact, whether that is in consulting, product management, fintech, or by founding a new company,” she said. “I applaud U.S. News for taking into account the reality of the wealth of opportunities for a b-school graduate and comparing apples to apples across all the schools it surveys.”

Assessment by the school’s FTMBA peers was strong this year, at #7 (tied with Columbia) and the school ranked #9 for its recruiter assessment. Haas also had the highest GMAT score, tied at #1 with Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, and Columbia.

In specialty rankings, based solely on peer assessments, U.S. News ranked the full-time MBA program:

  • #4 in nonprofit
  • #4 in entrepreneurship
  • #4 in real estate
  • #7 in business analytics
  • #7 in management
  • #8 in finance
  • #10 in marketing

Berkeley Haas names 2024 commencement speakers

Berkeley Haas has named alumni leaders in C-suite talent recruiting, investment platform innovation, and novel gene therapy commercialization as the 2024 commencement speakers this spring. 

Monica Stevens, MBA 96, an executive search consultant in Spencer Stuart’s San Francisco office, will serve as commencement speaker for the graduating full-time and evening & weekend MBA classes. Jasvinder Khaira, BS 04, a senior managing director at Blackstone, the world’s largest alternative asset manager, will be the undergraduate commencement speaker. Richard Wilson, EMBA 15, senior vice president and primary focus lead of genetic regulation at global pharmaceutical company Astellas, will serve as the commencement speaker for the executive MBA class.

Commencement ceremonies will be held at the Greek Theatre for undergraduates on Wednesday, May 15, at 9 a.m., and the FTMBA and Evening & Weekend MBA combined classes on Friday, May 17, at 2 p.m.. The MBA for Executives Program graduates will celebrate a few weeks later on Saturday, June 1, at 3 p.m. at Hertz Hall. 

Monica Stevens

portrait of a woman wearing a suit
Monica Stevens, MBA 96

As a member of Spencer Stuart’s Financial Services and Boards practices, Stevens focuses on executive search, leadership advisory, and succession planning work for C-suites and boards across corporate and commercial banking, payments, real estate, and risk. A seasoned banker and nonprofit board member with more than 25 years of experience in general management, customer relationship development, talent acquisition, and learning and professional development, Stevens is a champion of diversity and inclusion in business and in her community.

Before joining Spencer Stuart, Stevens spent more than two decades at Wells Fargo, where she held multiple sales, credit, and leadership roles in commercial real estate, capital markets, and global banking. Most recently, she was senior vice president and chief credit and risk officer in the company’s Merchant Services division.

At Wells Fargo, she co-founded the company’s first Black/African American employee resource group, and more recently, she served as co-chair of the Wells Fargo Merchant Services group’s Diversity Council. A champion of talent development, she ran, repositioned, and doubled the size of a program that recruited talent at various levels of the firm.

A veteran, Stevens is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. She started her career as an officer in the U.S. Navy,  before eventually coming to Haas, where she received an MBA with a concentration in real estate finance. 

Stevens is a member of the Haas School Board, and she was awarded the school’s Raymond A. Miles Service Award in 2017 for her contributions in supporting and enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. She was also previously a trustee for the Redwood Day School in Oakland, where she led the Diversity Committee.

Jasvinder Khaira

Jasvinder Khaira, BS 04

Khaira is a senior managing director and founding partner of the Tactical Opportunities Group, or Tac Opps, at Blackstone.  Tac Opps was founded in 2012 to invest across private investment opportunities outside of traditional private equity and private credit. Today, Tac Opps has $34 billion of assets under management.

Khaira was born in Singapore and raised in the Bay Area. He joined Blackstone in 2004 in the Private Equity Group after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from UC Berkeley with degrees in Business Administration and History. In 2007, he joined a small team within Blackstone that eventually led the firm’s initial public offering. Before the IPO, he accompanied the firm’s founders on a roadshow that raised more than $7 billion.

Since helping found Tac Opps, Khaira has led more than 40 transactions for Blackstone totaling over $10 billion of equity invested. He was named the 2023 TMT Investment Leader of the Year and is a founding sponsor of the Berkeley Changemaker program, and a board member of the Berkeley M.E.T Program and the New York Philharmonic. Khaira is married and the father of three boys and lives in New York City.

Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson, EMBA 15

As senior vice president and primary focus lead of genetic regulation at Astellas, Wilson is responsible for a portfolio of novel gene therapies designed to treat life-threatening genetic diseases.

Wilson has more than 30 years of experience in research, development, and commercialization of small molecules, biologics, and gene therapies. 

Prior to Astellas, he held leadership positions at a range of organizations, including BioMarin Pharmaceutical, Glaxo Wellcome (now GSK), BioChem Pharma, Theravance, and Innoviva. He has also delivered new medicines to market for diseases such as asthma, COPD, and PKU (a rare disorder that causes an amino acid called phenylalanine to build up in the body), in addition to leading R&D programs in anti-infective, cardiovascular, rheumatology, and urology disease areas. 

Wilson has served on a variety of advisory committees and boards, which include Berkeley Executive Education and the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, and currently teaches at San Francisco State University on lifecycle management in the pharmaceutical industry.

Wilson earned a BSc in chemistry from the University of Manchester before making his way to Haas, where he received his MBA in 2015. 

Berkeley Haas to host 2025 ClimateCAP Summit

two women with their arms folded. They're smiling
From L-R: Dean Ann Harrison and Executive Director of Sustainability Michele de Nevers.

Berkeley Haas has been chosen to host the prestigious 2025 Global MBA Summit on Climate, Capital and Business, or ClimateCAP, which prepares MBA students and business leaders to understand and respond to the business and investment impacts of climate change.

Haas was named host school during the 2024 ClimateCAP Summit held last month at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. At that event, the largest summit to date, Haas Dean Ann Harrison participated in a virtual Dean’s Roundtable on Climate and Business Education.

Asked by Professor Stuart Hart, a visiting lecturer at Michigan Ross, whether sustainability is “here to stay” or “something that you don’t want to bet the company on,” Harrison said:

“Business has to accelerate the transition to net zero. It has to reckon with the impact of climate change and shift away from fossil fuels. That is not a fad, it is not niche, and it is clearly, in my opinion, going to be a part of the business curriculum now and way into the future.”

“Business has to accelerate the transition to net zero. It has to reckon with the impact of climate change and shift away from fossil fuels. That is not a fad, it is not niche, and it is clearly, in my opinion, going to be a part of the business curriculum now and way into the future.” – Dean Ann Harrison

With more than 41 partner schools across the world, ClimateCAP hosts a summit every year at a different partner school. The event will bring up to 500 MBA students and business leaders from across the world to the campus for one weekend. 

woman standing at podium at conference with a large screen behind her
Haas was named the 2025 ClimateCAP host during the 2024 summit at Michigan Ross.

“We are so pleased that Berkeley Haas has been chosen to host ClimateCAP next spring,” said Michele de Nevers, executive director of the Office of Sustainability and Climate Change at Haas. “The conference will provide a terrific opportunity to bring hundreds of climate leaders to our campus to showcase Haas and California’s leadership on climate change.”

ClimateCAP aims to give students a deeper understanding of markets with the biggest financial and operational risks due to the climate crisis, and introduces them to promising innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities, de Nevers said.

The Office of Sustainability and Climate Change will organize the event alongside a planning committee consisting of faculty, staff, and students.

 

Classified: What Uber (and others) teach MBA students about smart online marketplace design

“Classified” is an occasional series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons being taught in classrooms around Haas.

woman holding a microphone in front of classmates and team
Marissa Maliwanag, MBA 24, pitching Tables Together during the Online Marketplace and Platform Design course. Photo: Jim Block

 

It’s a recent Tuesday evening at Berkeley Haas, and Marissa Maliwanag, MBA 24, has just five minutes to pitch her team’s idea for Tables Together. It’s an online marketplace that big corporations like Google could use to donate surplus food from their employee kitchens to organizations that feed people in need.

“There are matches that need to be made and we want to create a marketplace and solve the problem,” Maliwanag said, ticking off the amount of food that goes to waste in the United States each year.

After a few quick questions for the team, the rapid-fire pitch slam—part of the MBA class called Online Marketplace and Platform Design—continues. Students pitch ideas, among them a private plane rental marketplace to a community for matching skiers and snowboarders with coaches to a marketplace for tailors of bespoke clothing for events like weddings.

four students standing in front of a classroom pitching an idea
MBA students have just five minutes to pitch JetJunction, a private plane rental marketplace, during the night’s pitch slam. Photo: Jim Block

All of the pitches serve as practice for the students who are working toward final projects, says Assistant Professor David Holtz, who teaches the class, an elective that enrolls 68 students. The group is a split of mostly full-time and evening & weekend MBA students, on a journey that covers all aspects of online platforms—from A/B testing, network effects, and platform monetization, to reputation systems and discrimination in online marketplaces.

The class aligns with Holtz’s career experience as a former Silicon Valley data scientist. Most recently, Holtz worked for Airbnb, where he first became intrigued by online marketplaces. “I was exposed to a lot of interesting problems including reputation-system design, algorithmic pricing, and experiment design,” Holtz, a member of the Management of Organizations (MORS) and Entrepreneurship & Innovation Group at Haas, says. “To this day, these topics form the backbone of my research, because, in addition to being extremely interesting, they’re also extremely difficult to solve.”

Taking apart the case

During the first half of a recent class session, Holtz asked students to split into groups to discuss one of the week’s assignments: Pick a company on the a16z Marketplace 100 list—Andreessen Horowitz’s ranking of the largest and fastest-growing consumer-facing marketplace startups and private companies—and come up with a new market mechanism that the company might trial using A/B testing.  

One MBA student team wrote about the online specialty food marketplace Goldbelly, suggesting that the company might add a feature that prompts site visitors to indicate that they’re trying to buy a gift. Then, Goldbelly could customize searches and provide a more personal message option at checkout.

students sitting in classroom working on laptops
Students share their ideas for a new market mechanism that a company might trial using A/B testing. Photo: Jim Block

Holtz then runs students through a business case called “Innovation at Uber: The Launch of Express POOL, a case directly related to some of his marketplace research that examines experiment design in two-sided markets. Set in March 2018, the case follows Uber through the launch of a new product called Express POOL, which offers carpooling riders a cheaper ride if they agree to walk a short distance to and from pick-up and drop-off points and wait a few minutes before being matched to a driver. 

In this case, Uber had to decide whether to keep rider wait times at two minutes or change the Express POOL wait time to five minutes mid-experiment. The big dilemma? Uber benefited from a cost-per-ride reduction with a five-minute wait time but didn’t want to make a change that could hurt the user experience. “Even if the company did decide that a longer wait time was preferable, what did that mean for the ongoing experiment the company was running?” Holtz says. “Should they change the product mid-experiment or let the experiment continue running as originally intended?”

In this case, Uber had to decide whether to keep rider wait times at two minutes or change the Express POOL wait time to five minutes mid-experiment.

Holtz then shifts to a whiteboard, where he outlines different types of experiments (also called A/B tests) that marketplace companies like Uber use to test new features. 

First is the “bread and butter” user-level test, which Uber could have used to compare the behavior of riders with access to Express POOL to the behavior of those who did not have access to Express POOL. The second kind of test, a switchback experiment, would give all riders and drivers in a given market access to Express POOL for randomly selected 160-minute-long chunks. Over two weeks, Uber would switch Express POOL availability back and forth to compare behaviors.

The third type of experiment Holtz describes, which Uber did use with Express POOL, is a synthetic control experiment. It is the most accurate form of testing, Holtz says, but also the most complicated to run and the “noisiest.” Using the synthetic control experiment, Uber identified two sets of markets that, in aggregate, were as similar to each other as possible. The company then launched Express POOL in one set of cities, but not in the other. By comparing behavior in the two sets of cities, Uber could estimate the impact of both.

man in classroom teaching
The class aligns with Holtz’s career experience as a former Silicon Valley data scientist. Most recently, he worked for Airbnb, where he first became intrigued by online marketplaces. Photo: Jim Block

Holtz’s knowledge of how to apply A/B tests comes from deep research. He has conducted multiple large-scale experiments analyzing the effects of marketplace design choices on Airbnb. One study examined whether coupons would lead more Airbnb bookers to write more reviews—with the eventual aim of facilitating better matches on the platform and increasing revenue. Comparing behaviors of buyers who received coupons to those who didn’t, he found that the coupons led to additional reviews that were more negative, on average, and that the reviews didn’t affect the number of nights sold on the site or total revenue.  

In a separate, widely cited study, he and his co-authors examined the effects of remote work on collaboration among information workers at Microsoft. They scoured anonymized, aggregated data describing emails, calendars, instant messages, video/audio calls, and workweek hours of more than 60,000 U.S.-based Microsoft employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to estimate the causal effects of firm-wide remote work on collaboration and communication. Results showed that under firm-wide remote work, collaboration patterns become more static and siloed, with fewer bridges between disparate parts of an organization. 

Impressive guest speakers

For Lena Corredor, MBA 25, knowledge gained in Holtz’s class is providing an opportunity to explore the challenges of building a successful entrepreneurship marketplace, which is her startup idea.

“This class is really eye-opening for me because it’s not as straightforward as it seems,” she says. “When you think about the different sides of a marketplace, one would think if you build it, they will come, but it’s not the case. The design elements he talks about are very important to business success.”

During most classes, Holtz opens with a guest speaker, and his roster includes an impressive industry bench of leaders including Sudeep Das, head of Machine Learning/AI at DoorDash; Martin Manley, co-founder of Alibris and former U.S. assistant secretary of labor; Ania Smith, CEO of Taskrabbit; and Briana Vecchione, a technical researcher at Data & Society’s Algorithmic Impacts Methods Lab (AIMLab); among others.

man sitting in classroom gesturing as he speaks
Roberto Pérez, MBA/MEng 24, said they were drawn to the class in part because of the impressive guest speaker roster. Photo: Jim Block

Roberto Pérez, MBA/MEng 24, an entrepreneur in Mexico before coming to Haas, said they were drawn to the class for two reasons.  “First, I knew that the professor had a great background and first-hand experience on this topic,” they say. “Second, I knew that the class would have a lot of guest speakers and that was interesting to me as this level of exposure is very valuable.”        

Looking toward the future of online marketplaces, Holtz said he’s excited to see where entrepreneurs will take new technologies, such as generative AI, AR/VR, and blockchain-based tech. To that end, he said he expects the students will hear more from a group of investors and VCs who are guest judges at the last class—Raphael Lee, Vickie Peng, and Lindsay Pettingill.

“They weigh business pitches all the time and will have a better sense than anyone of where we are headed,” he said.

28th annual Women in Leadership conference to celebrate resilience 

At a time when the world—and especially the job market—is full of uncertainties, it can often seem impossible to rise above the challenges many women face, from the workplace to their personal lives. 

The 28th annual Women in Leadership conference aims to shed light on these challenges—and more specifically, the resilience that women exhibit. This year’s theme, “Leading with Resilience,” features speakers who will discuss their experiences in maintaining strength and overcoming adversity as women, from the personal to the professional to the physical. The conference will be held Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Haas School of Business, with an additional optional event the preceding evening at Ivy Room in Albany. 

“Thinking about the theme for this year, we wanted to focus on what was happening in the broader world and physical environment,” said conference co-organizer Jillian Geary, MBA 24. “And this topic of resilience kept coming up for a lot of us in the room.” 

Organized by the Women in Leadership club, the conference is one of the longest-running and highly attended events at Haas. 

The conference will feature speakers such as Yasi Baiani, co-founder and chief product officer at Raya; Shripriya Mahesh, founding partner at Spero Ventures; and more.

closeup of a female student
Jillian Geary

Geary, who worked for a diagnostics startup amid the pandemic, discussed how her background in health care helped inspire the conference themes of leadership and resilience. She noted that, especially during such a time of uncertainty, she discovered the importance of collaboration.“I think of this conference in a similar manner—that we are smarter when we come together and create an atmosphere for people to share the challenges they’ve been through, rather than solely share their biggest successes.” 

Co-organizer Alyssa D’Cunha, MBA 24, likewise noted that she hopes that the conference will help normalize difficult conversations surrounding hardship through a mixture of keynotes, a fireside chat, and panels on topics ranging from navigating male-dominated fields to living a balanced life.

She added that their ultimate goal is for attendees to leave the conference with a toolkit, having discovered their own resilience. 

close up of female student wearing blue shirt
Alyssa D’Cunha

D’Cunha, who has a background in mechanical and materials engineering, highlighted the significance of addressing how women can navigate and succeed in male-dominated industries. Kellie McElhaney, Haas lecturer and founding director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership, will lead a conference workshop on the topic.

“I remember having a less than ideal conversation about having reached parity already, and how there is no longer this equality or equity problem that we need to address going forward,” she said. “We want to talk about how you navigate conversations like that with your superiors and what it means to be equity fluent.” 

On Friday, Feb. 23, there will be a pre-conference “Story Slam,” inspired by Haas tradition of Story Salon, where students share their lived experiences with storytelling.

Conference tickets are available now.

2023 FTMBA grads land record number of VC jobs

two guys standing in front of a sedan
Will McKelvey, MBA 23, (right) met with 43 founders in five days on a cross-country trip to Berkeley in 2021 with his college roommate. McKelvey was planning on pursuing venture capital at Haas. He now works at VC fund Lerer Hippeau.

Before Will McKelvey arrived to enroll in the full-time MBA program at Berkeley Haas in 2021, he and his college roommate drove cross-country to California. Along the way, McKelvey, who was planning a career in venture capital, met with as many startups as possible—a whopping 43 founders in five days. McKelvey, an Ohio native, even launched a blog sharing his impressions of venture opportunities from Dayton to Detroit to Chicago.

“You can’t dabble in VC,” McKelvey, MBA 23, who became interested in the economic power of startups while working for Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna for four years, said. “If you decide it’s your thing, go all in. It’s not a space for tourists.” 

At Haas, McKelvey didn’t let up, interning at multiple venture firms and serving as co-president of the Haas VC Club. Now an investor at early-stage VC fund Lerer Hippeau, McKelvey is among a record number of 2023 Berkeley Haas MBA graduates working in the field of venture capital.

Will McKelvey is now an investor at early-stage VC fund Lerer Hippeau.

“VC is the second-biggest sector for finance jobs among our MBAs,” said William Rindfuss, a member of the Haas Professional Faculty who leads strategic programs for the finance faculty group and manages financial services recruiting at Haas. “Only investment banking drew more recent grads.”

Fourteen of the 2023 FTMBA graduates accepted employment in venture capital, a record high. Of that group, half work for venture funds, and half have joined venture arms of tech, health care, and financial services companies, Rindfuss said. 

Rindfuss attributes the growth to the support of the Berkeley Haas alumni network, comprehensive courses in venture capital, including New Venture Finance, an increase in campus resources for VC, and the school’s Bay Area location. 

Proximity to venture firms gives students the ability to explore VC through both in-semester internships and summer internships over the course of the two-year MBA program. Such a portfolio of experiences can lead to full-time offers. But as Rindfuss notes, landing a job in venture capital differs widely from investment banking.

Proximity to venture firms gives students the ability to explore VC through both in-semester internships and summer internships over the course of the two-year MBA program.

That’s where the students’ hard work comes in with landing internships and jobs. While big banks recruit on campus through a structured process, VC firms expect students to get their attention and come to them, which might mean writing whitepapers on emerging subsectors or reaching out to firms with project ideas in order to build their networks.

Just as the Haas Finance Club has long been a major source of support for Haas students pursuing investment banking, the VC Club has grown into a similar resource, Rindfuss said. The club leads an annual VC Speaker Series course, drawing senior partners and associates from Bay Area VC funds, who offer both big picture and tactical advice.

A pivot from tech to VC

For Aparna Chaganty, MBA 23, breaking into venture capital meant landing an internship with Bessemer Venture Partners. An engineer from India with a master’s in information systems (MIS) degree from Carnegie Mellon, Chaganty was a data scientist and product manager at Salesforce when she started exploring a career pivot.

Aparna Chaganty, MBA 23, works for Bessemer Venture Partners in India.

“I really enjoyed building new technology, but I also wanted to know what other paths there were out there,” she said.

Venture capital piqued her interest as a perfect way to combine her tech background with entrepreneurship. “I have always found the growth story of startups extremely inspiring,” she said. “In VC, you can be really close to bringing about change and creating new value in the economy.”

Chaganty ended up accepting a full-time role as an investor at Bessemer Venture Partners in India, an opportunity to return to her home country. Though it hadn’t been her plan at the start, she said she was thrilled by the opportunity to join after Bessemer raised its first India fund. “There is so much entrepreneurship coming out of India,” she said. “Being part of that zero-to-one story is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and being a VC at Bessemer gives me a front-row seat to witness and contribute to that change.”

Crafting your own opportunities

Alex Rohrbach, MBA 23, came to Haas after several years working as a consultant at McKinsey and at an on-demand staffing startup. 

portrait of a man in a blue shirt
Alex Rohrbach, MBA 23, is at Thomvest Ventures.

He discovered that both experiences were applicable in VC. “Very quickly, I could add value to busy VCs who needed extra help,” he said. By doing projects with multiple VC firms during the school year in his free time, Rohrbach got exposure to various funds and VCs, helping him learn how they think and structure deals. 

“Many MBAs don’t realize that they have a lot of skills they can apply on day one with a VC firm,” Rohrbach said. “Aspiring VCs can develop a thesis about an industry, source companies on campus, and help organize events. If you figure out what you’re good at, you can craft your own opportunities.”

Rohrbach graduated with a job at Thomvest Ventures, a 25-year-old San Francisco fund. He spent his summer internship with Thomvest but says it was never a direct path to full-time employment. 

“Each fellowship and internship was a stepping stone, but I didn’t know exactly where I would end up,” he said. In his first year at Haas, he got a fellowship at Pear VC, an early-stage venture firm. He also received a Haas Entrepreneurial Finance Fellowship, providing a $5,000 cash award and mentorship with a Haas alum. “Even more valuable than the money was the access to a mentor – in my case, Andrew Krowne at Dolby Family Ventures,” Rohrbach said. 

Rohrbach also consulted during his first year with Union Labs, a VC firm that past Haasies worked for. 

“I started to build a portfolio of work so that by the time I was interviewing for summer internships, I had a lot I could talk about,” he said. 

Rindfuss and others at Haas hope the number of students pursuing venture capital will only continue to grow as Haasies find homes at more VC firms and bring their experience and advice to future students. 

“As more of our graduates succeed in venture capital, we are developing a stronger pool of alumni that will support our students,” Rindfuss said. “It’s an exciting time.”

Berkeley Haas to offer new master’s degree in business and climate solutions

many students sitting in a classroom wiht professor at the front of the room
Senior Lecturer Andrew Isaacs teaches the Climate Change and Business Strategy class at Haas, which just launched a concurrent MBA/Master in Climate Solutions degree. Photo: Jim Block

The Haas School of Business and the Rausser College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley have launched a concurrent MBA/Master of Climate Solutions (MCS) degree program to prepare the next generation of sustainability and climate leaders.

The new program, enrolling for fall 2024, will allow full-time MBA students to earn both a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Climate Solutions degree in five semesters, or two-and-a-half years. The application deadlines for the first MBA/MCS cohorts are January 4, 2024, and March 28, 2024.

The MBA/MCS degree is designed for early-career professionals who plan to take their careers to a higher level of business leadership, grounded in understanding of sustainability and climate change challenges and opportunities. 

Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison said the new program will draw from the strength of both schools, allowing students to learn from some of the world’s top minds in climate change, sustainability, and business. 

“Future business leaders will require a depth of training in both business and climate change to work across disciplines and execute competitive strategies,” Harrison said. “This new program will provide a breadth of skill sets, equipping our grads to lead in building a sustainable, low-carbon future.” 

“Future business leaders will require a depth of training in both business and climate change to work across disciplines and execute competitive strategies.” — Haas Dean Ann Harrison.

The program aims to develop critical skills and knowledge in climate data science, carbon accounting, and lifecycle analysis, as well as technological and nature-based solutions.

Students in the MBA/MCS cohort will spend the first year completing MBA core coursework at Haas before moving to classes at Rausser.  The rigorous MBA curriculum includes courses in leadership, marketing, management, finance, data analysis, ethics, and macroeconomics, along with sustainability courses. 

Doubling down on sustainability

Under Harrison’s leadership, Haas has doubled down on sustainability through the creation of the Office of Sustainability and Climate Change and by revamping all of the MBA core courses to incorporate thinking about climate change and other sustainability challenges.

The new MBA/MCS degree program follows Rausser’s launch of its new Master of Climate Solutions degree. MCS courses will translate the fundamental science and groundbreaking discoveries of UC Berkeley experts, enabling professionals to learn how to evaluate technologies, develop just climate strategies, and remove barriers to implementing practical climate solutions. The MCS core curriculum includes teaching in the climate and environmental sciences, climate economics and policies, technological, business and nature-based solutions, training in analytical and quantitative skills, and applied exercises and engagements that emphasize adaptive thinking and problem-solving.

“The Master of Climate Solutions represents a critical step forward in expanding the interdisciplinary and highly interconnected community of practitioners needed to solve the climate crisis,” said David Ackerly, dean of UC Berkeley’s Rausser College of Natural Resources. “Students in the concurrent program will be able to leverage the critical climate knowledge and tools taught in the MCS, as well as the leadership and business skills that are core to Haas.”

“Haas and Rausser both have such impressive track records in climate research,”  added Michele de Nevers, managing director of the Office of Sustainability and Climate Change at Haas. “This program combines our offerings at the master’s level, with a keen focus on professional students, who are clearly positioned to make an immediate impact, and who serve a critical role as translators of academic insights and enacting these insights in the world.”

Addressing the Climate Challenge

All MBA/MCS students will participate in a semester-long capstone program that gives students the opportunity to partner with organizations operating across the business, government, and non-profit sectors. A unique leadership course on organizational, political, and societal change for climate solutions will prepare students to be change agents and leaders in businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies. 

“New research on climate solutions is still critical, but we already know many of the things we need to do to address the climate challenge,” said James Sallee, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and faculty director of the MCS program. “What we really need are people spread throughout society and the economy who are in a position to take action on climate, and who are equipped with the tools to make the right choices. Educating those students is the vision of the MCS program.”

Summer internships are also crucial to the MBA/MCS program. Students will complete two summer internships, which will allow for deep immersion in different disciplines and more time to build relationships.

Haas now has four dual degree programs, including the MBA/MPH (public health), the MBA/MEng (engineering), and the MBA/JD (law).

A look back: Top Berkeley Haas moments of 2023

Gearing up to welcome a new year is the perfect opportunity to look back at highlights from 2023 at Berkeley Haas. A toast to 2023 wouldn’t be complete without marking the big celebrations, distinct milestones, grand achievements, and more than a few welcomes (alongside some farewells). In no particular order, here are our Top 10 picks for 2023.

    1. 125 years of reimagining business: We celebrated a BIG milestone with a big party on the 125th anniversary of the day that Cora Jane Flood announced the gift that launched the College of Commerce—now the Haas School of Business. Students, staff, alumni, campus and Haas senior leaders, and founding donor Flood’s family member gathered to honor the school’s trailblazers —and our ongoing impact on business and society
    2. Dean of the Year: Dean Ann Harrison was recognized by the business school publication Poets & Quants, which lauded Harrison for leading a major diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and belonging effort; broadening the profile of the Haas faculty, school board, and student body; and helping fundraise a total of $227 million for the school, among other successes. She also made the cover of our fall issue of Berkeley Haas Magazine. Harrison returns from sabbatical in early January.
      Photo of Dean Ann Harrison on campus.
      Harrison gracing the pages of Berkeley Haas Magazine. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

       

       

    3. More major milestones: Berkeley Executive Education (BEE) celebrated its 15th anniversary and Cleantech to Market (C2M) turned 10. Exec Ed has provided top programs to thousands of individuals in leadership, entrepreneurship, and strategy and finance, as well as customized programs for companies, government, and university partners. Promising climate technologies that addressed everything from water desalination to Earth element extraction to lightening-fast battery charging took center stage at a bigger and better than ever December Cleantech to Market (C2M) Climate Tech Summit.

      large group of masters students on stage at Haas
      Students in the Cleantech to Market program at the 2023 C2M Summit.
    4. Our generous community: The Berkeley Haas Development and Alumni Relations team (DAR) team reported a record three-year period in the school’s fundraising history, raising more than $171 million from alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends. The funds raised this fiscal year—about $56 million—brought Haas to the finish line of its five-year campaign. 
    5. Student walking in front of Haas sign in front of campus
      Photo: Noah Berger

      5. Undergrad’s big shift: We began to bid farewell to our incredible two-year undergraduate program as the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Program Office received its first round of applications from prospective first-year students for our inaugural Spieker class. The first class of four-year students will enter in the fall.

      Woman and man talking animatedly.
      Dean Ann Harrison with Ned Spieker, BS 66, who with his wife, Carol, funded the undergraduate program’s transformation.
    6. The rise of the Flex cohort: As part of the evening & weekend MBA program, students in the Flex cohort completed their first year of live remote courses, demonstrating an innovative educational model that will serve a greater range of students. Flex provides what many students say they need most: schedule flexibility in a top program. MBA student group gathered at Haas
    7. New brain power: Eight new ladder and 22 professional faculty members joined Haas in fall, bringing their intellect, passion, and unique perspectives to the school. With the new tenure-track arrivals, the ladder faculty—at 96 members—is now the largest it’s ever been and is closing in on Dean Harrison’s goal of 100. 
      A photo collage of all 8 new professors.
      From top row, left to right: New Berkeley Haas assistant professors Eben Lazarus, Cailin Slattery, Shawn Kim, Antoine Levy, Sam Kapon, Erica Bailey, returning professor Alexandre Mas, and new assistant professor Rachel Gershon.

    8. Making headlines: Our faculty were featured in national media outlets more than 500 times this year, bringing expertise to everything from the rising price of gas, to the Silicon Valley Bank fallout, to tech layoffs, to the future of AI.

      Image: AdobeStock

    9. Growth space: Construction continued on the new Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Hub, which will allow entrepreneurs at Haas—and across the university—to meet, brainstorm, and invent new startups. The Hub is expected to be completed in fall 2024.

      new entrepreneurship hub at Haas (rendition)
      A photo illustration of the home of the new hub, a Julia Morgan designed building under renovation. The building was constructed in 1908.
    10. Chart toppers: All of Haas’ degree programs once again performed well in key rankings. U.S. News & World Report ranked the EWMBA program #1 (again) and the undergraduate program #2; The Financial Times ranked the FTMBA program #7 globally and #4 in the U.S.; and the MFE program was ranked #4 by QuantNet.

Cutting-edge climate tech takes the stage at 2023 C2M Climate Tech Summit

The C2M summit, held at Spieker Forum in Chou Hall on Dec. 1, brought together eight UC Berkeley graduate student teams (including many Berkeley Haas MBA students). All photos: Jim Block

Promising climate technologies that address everything from water desalination to Earth element extraction to lightening-fast battery charging took center stage at the 2023 Cleantech to Market (C2M) Climate Tech Summit.

The summit, held at Spieker Forum in Chou Hall on Dec. 1, brought together eight UC Berkeley graduate student teams who presented their findings from a year’s work on entrepreneurial projects for C2M company founders. Each team spent nearly 1,000 hours working with founders, assessing new technologies, and investigating paths to commercialization. 

Brian Steel, co-director of the C2M program, which is part of the Energy Institute at Haas, called this year’s summit the most successful to date and reflected on C2M’s growth since its 2008 founding. 

“One of the things that’s so energizing for us as faculty is that the students come to us now with such wonderful depth and breadth of knowledge because cleantech has been around for so long. We feel so fortunate that the world has caught up with the sustainability work we have been doing for 15 years.”

One of the things that’s so energizing for us as faculty is that the students come to us now with such wonderful depth and breadth of knowledge because cleantech has been around for so long. — C2M co-director Brian Steel.

A total of $70,000 in MetLife Climate Solution Awards was awarded to three startups, who were supported by three C2M teams. The three teams honored during the summit were:

  • ChemFinity Technologies, which produces high-performing, highly modular porous polymer materials, won $40,000. The team included Chris Burke, MBA 24; Ethan Pezoulas, PhD 26 (chemistry); Kosuke “Taka” Takaishi, MBA 24; Matt Witkin, MBA 24; Mingxin Jia, PhD 24 (mechanical engineering); and Peter Pang, MBA 24. (The team also received the annual Hasler Cleantech to Market Award, given to the audience favorite.)

    Left to right: Kosuke “Taka” Takaishi, MBA 24, explains the catalytic converter recycling process alongside PhD student Ethan Pezoulas and Matt Witkin, MBA 24.


    The students worked with Brooklyn-based ChemFinity co-founders CEO Adam Uliana and CTO Ever Velasquez, both PhD 22 (chemical engineering). Uliana described the membrane filters the company built as “atomic catchers mitts that are designed to capture just one type of molecule and can be used to tackle water desalination or mineral recovery.”

    Witkin, who worked in economic consulting on decarbonization projects before coming to Haas, said that he mentioned Cleantech to Market in his application essay, as “the perfect course where I could help these innovative climate companies find and scale their impact.”

    “It was an honor working alongside Adam from ChemFinity and my C2M classmates as we considered how ChemFinity could apply and grow its impressive separation technology,” Witkin said.

    six haas students wearing suits in front of a large check
    The first-place ChemFinity team: (left to right) Chris Burke, MBA 24, Kosuke “Taka” Takaishi, MBA 24, Mingxin Jia, PhD 24 (mechanical engineering), Peter Pang, MBA 24, Matt Witkin, MBA 24, Ethan Pezoulas, PhD 26 (chemistry).
  • REEgen, which works to reduce the environmental impact of rare Earth element production, which won $20,000. The team included Carlos Vial, MBA 24; Francisco Aguilar Cisneros, MPP 24; Jeffrey Harris, MBA 24; Kelly McGonigle, MBA 24; Orion Cohen, PhD 24 (physical chemistry); and Sho Tatsuno, MBA 24 (MBA Exchange Program, Columbia Business School). The United States now imports more than 80% of its rare earth needs from China, said Alexa Schmitz, CEO of Ithaca, NY-based REEgen. REEgen is creating a new kind of rare Earth element production using bacteria to leach, recover, and purify rare Earth elements domestically.

    six students wearing business suits holding a large check
    Team REEgen: (left to right) Francisco Aguilar, MPP24, Sho Tatsuno, MBA 24, Orion Cohen,  PhD 24, Kelly McGonigle, MBA 24, Jeffrey Harris, MBA 24, and Carlos Vial, MBA 24.
  • Tyfast, a battery technology startup, which won $10,000. The team included Ankita Singh, EWMBA 24; Erik Better, MBA 24; Nicholas Landgraf, EWMBA 24; and Sterling Root, EWMBA 25. Tyfast builds high-performance lithium ion batteries “to make diesel engines obsolete in construction equipment,” said Tyfast CEO GJ la O’, BS 01, (materials science & engineering). San Mateo-based Tyfast uses a raw material that enables a new class of rechargeable battery, promising to deliver 10 times the power and cycle life with energy density exceeding commercial lithium iron phosphate (LFP) technology.
four students wearing business suits holding a large check
Team Tyfast: (left to right) Erik Better, MBA 24, Nick Landgraf, EWMBA 24, Ankita Singh, EWMBA 24, Sterling Root, EWMBA 25.

Steel said he’s grateful to all of those who support the program, in particular the C2M alumni who return to Haas to serve as coaches, mentors, judges, or speakers—or just to enjoy being a part of the audience.

This year’s event kicked off with speaker Ryan Hanley, C2M 10 and MBA 11, the founder and CEO of Equilibrium Energy, a 100-employee climate technology startup. Barbara Burger, MBA 94, energy director, advisor, and innovator, and former president of Chevron Technology Ventures, also joined a fireside chat with Harshita Mira Venkatesh, MBA 11, who participated in C2M in 2020 and is one of the first business fellows at Breakthrough Energy, founded by Bill Gates in 2015.

“It’s always gratifying to have alumni who were on stage last year come back to support this year’s teams,” Steel said. “People who have been coming to the summit for years appreciate that we keep raising the bar: that our students’ presentations keep getting better and better. It’s very rewarding to have that acknowledgement and appreciation.”

Ginny Whitelow, a director at MetLife, worked with the C2M program as a mentor. “These UC Berkeley students have been so amazing to partner with and have given me an added sense of purpose in my work at MetLife that goes beyond my day to day job,” she said. 

Salaries jump to record levels for 2023 FTMBA grads

Salaries for FTMBA grads continued to increase this year.

Setting a record, annual base salaries for the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Class of 2023 increased to an average of $162,831. That’s about $10,000 more than last year, with nearly 70% of the class nabbing signing bonuses averaging $36,777 as well. Notably, 39% received stock options or grants, adding significantly to total compensation. 

“We’re thrilled that starting salaries and compensation packages have continued to grow, reinforcing the strong return on investment on a Berkeley Haas MBA,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA Career Management & Corporate Partnerships.  “These outcomes are a testament to the high caliber of our students. Our alumni and career management team also play an instrumental role in helping them navigate paths to reach their goals.”

View the 2023 employment report.

Of the total class of 294 graduates, roughly 90% received job offers within three months of graduation, and even more secured opportunities within six months of graduation. Similar to previous years, more than half of the students accepted roles in the technology industry and consulting. A few more highlights from the Career Management Group (CMG):

  • Technology remained the largest industry employer, with about 30% of the class taking positions in the sector. Amazon was the top tech employer.
  • Nearly 28% of the class accepted consulting jobs; the largest number of graduates went to McKinsey (26 hires), followed by Bain (14 hires), this year’s two top employers overall.
  • Financial services hiring increased from 13.7% to about 14.5% of graduates; health care and biotech jumped from 5.1% to 7.5%. Energy-industry roles among grads jumped to 6.6% of graduates from 2% last year, reflecting the increase in climate tech. 
  • About 22% of graduates embarked on “impact careers,” defined as jobs in sustainability, climate tech, healthcare, edtech, and some areas of finance and real estate.
  • A growing number of students (4.4% of the class) accepted positions in real estate, typically in development and investment roles.

McKinsey, Bain top employers

This year’s top employers for Haas—companies that hired three or more graduates—included Amazon, Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company, Deloitte, Bain & Company, EY Parthenon, PayPal, Apple, Evercore, Microsoft, TikTok, and Tesla.

Matt Solowan, MBA 23, is now a consultant at Bain & Co., after interning there while at Haas, finding the people at Bain similar to the people at Haas: “very down to earth, very kind, very warm, very supportive.”

Portrait of MBA grad Matt Solowan
Matt Solowan, MBA 23,  is a consultant at Bain.

While at Haas, Solowan said they worked closely with Julia Rosof, a career coach in the Career Management Group, to prepare for early recruiting opportunities scheduled during ROMBA, the annual LGBTQ+ MBA conference. “After that, I really leaned on the second-year peer advisors who provided me with on-the-job insights and helped to improve my casing and behavioral interview skill,” Solowan said.

In addition to consulting, the tech sector remained a top area of interest for FTMBA graduates, “so we were particularly pleased to see so many land roles this year, given all the churn in the field,” Scott said. 

Highlighting the power of the alumni network, Henry Gordon, MBA 23, landed a position as strategy and planning manager at drone startup Skydio, after chatting with classmate Harrison Zhu, MBA 23. Zhu, a product manager at Skydio, had interned there while at Haas. “I knew he really liked the company and when I was looking for roles this one popped up in my LinkedIn,” Gordon said. “I texted Harrison to ask about it, and three weeks later, I had a job.” 

man wearing a collared shirt in front of a tree
Henry Gordon, MBA 23, is a strategy and planning manager at Skydio.

Since joining Skydio, Gordon said he’s helped guide the company’s strategy as it pivoted from its consumer drone business to the enterprise market. “I was attracted to Skydio because of the enormity of the problems that they are trying to solve”—by providing drones to utilities, fire departments, and other industry customers. “About 30% of my job now is familiar, and the other 70% is totally new.”

Grads land in multiple regions

Lecturer Abigail Franklin, managing director of a program for careers in real estate who works with the Fisher Center for Real Estate & Urban Economics, said alumni working in real estate are particularly critical to her students’ success in finding roles. “Our 2023 graduates did so well in many geographic locations with the best compensation that I’ve seen in my 12 years here,” Franklin said. “It’s really a testament to the real estate alumni we have.”

One example, she noted, are the Haas alumni at privately owned real estate firm Hines, which hired two 2023 Haas MBA graduates this year—one in Chicago and another in Seattle, she said.

A number of 2023 graduates held out until the fall for the right opportunity, based on their specific career criteria—and the Career Management Group continues to support graduates until they find the right role, often reconnecting during future job transitions.

Before coming to Haas, Megan Nelson, MBA 23, worked for Uber in Australia. When she started in 2015, she was one of 20 employees in Sydney, a number that swelled to 400 people by the time she left as senior regional operations manager in 2021.

photo of a woman with long blonde hair
Megan Nelson, MBA 23, is chief of staff at JOLT.

Nelson decided to take a few months off after graduating from Haas before beginning her search for strategy and operations roles last August. With a goal to move back to Australia and work at a startup or scale-up, she jumped to apply for a position as chief of staff at Sydney-based startup JOLT, a company working to support the transition to electric by providing free, fast, and clean EV charging. 

Her new role at JOLT aligns with her love for working for a company at an early stage. “I am focused on a bit of everything, including expanding our CEO’s capacity so he can steer the ship. I’m supporting both Australia and our international markets, and helping build the internal operating structures to enable our teams to sprint.”

Classes at Haas provided a professional lens that Nelson said she applies in the workplace. 

“Haas built my confidence,” she said. “I realized that my background was really valuable. Hearing the perspectives of my peers in the classroom, the courtyard, and over drinks—the people were the best part of Haas. It’s having those rich experiences and interactions, and being able to share my own…it’s these types of learnings that have helped me the most.”

Berkeley Haas ranks #7 on LinkedIn’s inaugural “Best Business Schools” list

Photos Copyright Noah Berger / 2019

The Berkeley Haas full-time MBA program ranked No. 7 on LinkedIn’s inaugural list of the 50 best business schools in the country.

The list is built on exclusive LinkedIn data that examines career outcomes of MBA alumni, including job placement rates, advancement to senior-level positions, and network strength.

“As LinkedIn notes, MBA graduates benefit from the “career-boosting power of the MBA,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of the Haas Career Management Group. “This ranking captures the depth of our network, recruiter interest, and notably both the C-suite track and entrepreneurial experience.”  

“Going to the Haas School of Business was a transformative experience for me,” Daniel Feldman, MBA 10, said in the LinkedIn article. “Yes, it is possible to acquire the knowledge in other ways. What cannot be replaced is the collaboration experience with some very smart people.”

The ranking is based on the following five pillars, including: 

  • Hiring and demand, which tracks job placement rates and labor market demand, focusing on recent graduate cohorts from 2018 to 2022. This assessment is based on LinkedIn hiring data and recruiter InMail outreach data.
  • Ability to advance, which tracks promotions among recent cohorts. It also traces how quickly all past alumni have reached director or vp-level leadership roles. This assessment is based on standardized job titles.
  • Network strength, which tracks network depth, or how connected alumni of the same program are to each other; network quality of the recent cohorts (2018-2022), measured by average connections alumni have with individuals in director-level positions or above; and the network growth rate of the recent cohort—before and after graduation. This assessment is based on member connection data.
  • Leadership potential, which tracks the percentage of alumni with post-MBA entrepreneurship or C-suite experience.
  • Gender diversity, which measures gender parity within recent graduate cohorts.

 

Berkeley Haas veterans reflect on service and journey that led to Haas

This Veterans Day, we asked some of the many veterans in our community to share their stories. 

Phil Ickes didn’t come from a military family. But a desire to explore the world—and make it a safer place–drew him to join the U.S. Army.

man with white shirt wearing a blazer and tie
Phil Ickes, MBA 24

Ickes, MBA 24, began his military career as an undergraduate in the ROTC program at the University of Pittsburgh. Between his junior and senior years, he studied Arabic in Jordan and volunteered at Syrian refugee camps, which he describes as a turning point.

“One weekend, I met a family that had been severely wounded by a car bomb while they were still living in Syria,” said Ickes, who grew up outside Pittsburgh. “Meeting that family made me feel compelled to do something about it.”

After graduating, Ickes joined the U.S Army, training in the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), a school jointly run by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Working as s a platoon leader, his team supported the U.S. Secret Service, protecting several presidents, vice presidents, and foreign dignitaries. 

As an EOD operations manager, he later directed an operations cell that supported more than 600 soldiers in full-spectrum bomb disposal.

In 2021, Ickes traveled to Syria and Iraq as an EOD company commander. “That experience definitely left me feeling like I left the world better than I found it,” Ickes says. “The act of disarming bombs and rendering explosive devices safe and leaving communities overseas safer than I found them was definitely very rewarding.”

Man in sunglasses wearing camouflage jacket and pants and green helmet
Phil Ickes helped to detonate bombs around the world while serving in the U.S. Army.

Working with robotics and machine learning in the military piqued his interest in tech, and drew him to apply to Haas, where he’s working toward a career in technical product management. 

Last summer, he interned at San Mateo-based drone startup Skydio. He said he believes drones have the potential to benefit fields including law enforcement, infrastructure inspections, mapping, and commercial delivery.

“I like products that make people or businesses’ lives easier or more efficient,” he said. “Usually these products are at the intersection of software and hardware.”

On making the transition from military life to an MBA program, Ickes said he immediately found a collaborative spirit and welcoming environment at Haas. 

“Everyone is ambitious yet laid back,” he says. “Nobody takes themselves too seriously.”  

“Join the Navy, see the world”

Just after turning 30, while working as an accountant in Santa Barbara, Emily Hawkins decided she wanted something more in life. 

“It was a great job, but it kind of felt like I was lacking purpose, and it was at that time in your life where your friends are settling down and having families,” said Hawkins, MBA 24. 

Emily Hawkins went from boot camp to an aircraft carrier and a seven-month deployment off the coast of Japan in 2010 and 2011.

She’d always been interested in the military and, after some research and inspired by the slogan “join the Navy, see the world,” she decided to enlist. 

“My plan was to enlist for one term, which is four years, learn some new skills, have an adventure, be part of something bigger than what I had been doing, and then return to what I thought of as my normal life,” Hawkins said.

Adventure is what she got. Hawkins went straight from boot camp to an aircraft carrier and a seven-month deployment off the coast of Japan in 2010 and 2011.

Hawkins and her team were called in to help with the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. “I had a chance to participate in the humanitarian operation, and it was amazing, and it kind of broadened my perspective of what a career in the military could be, and I was hooked,” Hawkins says. “And that was about 14 years ago.”

Hawkins is still serving in the Navy while earning her MBA, but her role has shifted from working on an aircraft carrier to serving as an officer in supply, logistics, and financial management. 

While she was accepted to three MBA programs, she chose Haas due to the support of the school’s Veterans Club. “They were by far the most engaged in terms of helping you with your resume, reviewing your essays, talking to you pre- and post-interview,” Hawkins says. “They were so engaged and so supportive that I knew there would be a good community for me.”

Veterans Day, for Hawkins, is a time to reflect. “It’s a time to think about how we as a society view military veterans and the programs we provide for them in terms of education, transition programs, and medical care.”