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Startup Spotlight: Bird plans to make banking easier for African immigrants

Startup Spotlight profiles startups founded by current Berkeley Haas students or recent alumni.

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Joe Obeto, MBA 21, co-founded Bird to make opening bank accounts and sending money easier for African immigrants.

Joe Obeto, MBA 21, co-founded startup Bird to help solve a vexing roadblock he and other African immigrants face when they arrive in the U.S.: trying to open a bank account. We recently interviewed Obeto about what led him to become an entrepreneur and his big plans for Bird.

Describe your startup in 30 words or less.

We’re building a platform to enable non-US residents to open a bank account, a checking account, and do easy and frictionless cross-border transfers. 

What was your background before coming to Haas?

My undergrad degree was in computer information science. When I graduated, I had several options: to pursue the traditional technology route as a software developer or maybe go into finance. What really shifted for me was during a summer that I went to Wall Street to intern for Credit Suisse. My experience that year was very incredible, and that really pushed me toward finance. I came to realize that not only do I like finance, I really wanted to become an entrepreneur.

What was the problem that you are solving with Bird?

When I first came to the U.S., I learned that I had to be a resident of the country for about six months minimum before I could open a bank account. With most major banks, this is the policy. In addition, sending money back to Nigeria is very expensive or it takes several days for the money to get to the final destination because there are so many intermediaries. It also costs 10 times more to send $100 to Nigeria than what it would cost you to send to a place like the U.K. or Poland because they have stable currencies.

So you decided to address these challenges as an entrepreneur?

I thought we could build a solution to solve this. So we decided to build a platform to do two things: enable non-U.S. residents to open a checking account and also enable a frictionless, low-cost way for you to be able to transfer money cross-border. There are some regulatory processes that we need to complete before we can actually go live with the banking solution, but the cross-border solution is going to be ready soon.

How does a Bird service work?

We don’t have a banking charter, so we cannot actually hold your funds. What we’ll do is partner with a local bank so when you open an account on the Bird platform and deposit money, it will be held at the bank, so it’s FDIC insured, meaning your money is going to be safe. You can do a wire transfer and have a debit card from the Visa network or the Mastercard network. You can use the card globally, anywhere that Visa or Mastercard is accepted. In addition to that, you can also transfer money.

How will transferring money work?

Right now, we’re establishing a payment corridor between Nigeria and the U.S. We want to test this corridor out. Eventually, we’re going to expand to other corridors in Africa. We’re looking into Ghana, South Africa, and Kenya, as well as Rwanda.

Right now, we’re establishing a payment corridor between Nigeria and the U.S. We want to test this corridor out.

Will transferring money using Bird be cheaper than other methods?

Yes, it is cheaper because rather than having multiple intermediaries moving money from one end to the other, we will use a stablecoin on the blockchain to move money cross-border. Essentially, we convert dollars to USDC stablecoins (a cryptocurrency). When it gets to Nigeria, that USDC stablecoin is on-ramped to Nigerian currency. The same thing will happen when somebody’s trying to send money to the US. We’re able to cut out a lot of middlemen and drastically reduce the cost of sending money internationally, especially to Africa.

Have any Haas courses helped you build the company?

New Venture Finance with Professor Maura O’Neill.  She’s incredible. I learned a lot from that course, and even today when I’m talking to investors or negotiating a term sheet, the learnings from that course have been helpful; the entrepreneurship course taught by Kurt Beyer was helpful as well, and an operations course taught by Professor Terry Taylor showed me how to run operations of any firm. We went through lots of cases, analyzing different companies and what led to their successes, what led to their failures. As somebody building a company, you need to be able to learn from failures so you don’t repeat the same mistakes.

You also placed second last spring at UC Berkeley LAUNCH after going through the accelerator program. How did that help? 

LAUNCH gives you a framework for you to validate your idea. It uses the lean startup methodology to develop a very strong value proposition. You go out to talk to customers to challenge your initial hypothesis, test it, validate it. Ultimately, when you come out of LAUNCH, you realize that you have a stronger position for your customers and that you are building something that people actually want and need.

Did you always plan to get an MBA?

That has always been part of my strategy. An MBA is not going to necessarily make you a successful person or a successful entrepreneur. But it does reduce your chance of failure and increases the odds of your success. Building on that knowledge of having a structured approach to entrepreneurship, to starting a business, is what the MBA equips you with. Besides that, I think the network that I’ve been able to build here in the Bay Area has afforded me the opportunity to build something that I think will be a success.

Welcome Bears! New Berkeley Haas students begin classes

Undergraduate students in the Haas courtyard
New undergraduate students gathered in the Haas courtyard. Photo: Noah Berger

The Berkeley Haas courtyard has sprung back to life. Over the past week, new undergraduate, full-time MBA, and PhD students arrived for orientations, getting a first glimpse of life in the classroom. Students in the Berkeley Haas Executive MBA and the evening & weekend MBA program, including the first Flex MBA class, came to campus for orientation last month.

Full-time MBA Program 

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(Photos by Jim Block)

Spirits were high among the entering full-time MBA students who gathered for the traditional Week Zero orientation Aug. 15-17. School and student leaders (including Week Zero Co-Chair Dingmi Gong, MBA 23) and Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs, welcomed the group, who throughout the two days participated in sessions on diversity, equity and inclusion at Haas, productivity and time management, and an introduction to the case study method.  They also met their study groups for Teams@Haas, a program that’s celebrating its 10th year in the MBA curriculum with lessons on collaborative leadership.

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International MBA students had a separate orientation session to learn about careers, financial aid, and housing— and just ask questions. Photo: Jim Block

MBA Association (MBAA) President Jude Watson, a former chef and community organizer from Seattle, introduced Dean Ann Harrison, who emphasized how important it is for students to lead on critical issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as climate change. She noted that both innovation and collaboration that will be required to solve the world’s toughest problems.

“The issue of climate change has become visibly real, and despite the important climate bill that Joe Biden has put in place, we have a very long way to go. It’s just a down payment on the change we need,” she said. “I believe that you, as business leaders, will lead the change.”

“I believe that you, as business leaders, will lead the change.” Dean Ann Harrison.

Orientation speaker Lo Toney, MBA 97, urged students to explore, celebrate, and focus during their journeys. Toney, founding managing partner of Plexo Capital, told students that they will learn the most from their peers–not just about the diversity of where people are from, but what they have done. “Look around you,” he said. “These are people who are going to be in extremely senior positions,” who will help you along your journey. 

Undergraduate Program

Undergraduate students shaking hands in Spieker Forum
Berkeley Haas undergraduate students participated in ice breakers throughout orientation day in Spieker Forum. Photo: Noah Berger

In welcoming the new class, Dean Ann Harrison noted the sweeping changes coming for the undergraduate program, anchored by the recent $30 million gift from alumnus Warren “Ned” Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BA 66, (political science), that will be used to create the new four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program

In her welcome message, Emma Hayes Daftary, the new assistant dean of undergraduate admissions, expanded on the changes and the importance of enhancing collaboration among the students in the competitive program. “This program and our Defining Leadership Principles will challenge you to shift from what you, as an individual, can achieve, to what we, as a community, can accomplish,’ she said. “It’s for this reason that we’re focusing on culture this year, and we’re working to create a more collaborative, inclusive, and equitable culture in the undergraduate program.”

Hayes Daftary said the first order of business is to  eliminate the “Haas Curve” grading policy—which drew cheers from the students.

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Students cheered the news of a plan to eliminate the “Haas Curve” grading policy for undergraduates. Photo: Noah Berger

She said the policy of grading on a curve was adopted in 2011 across the MBA and undergraduate programs for ease and consistency. But in May 2021, the Undergraduate Program Committee voted to recommend that the policy be eliminated. Policies such as grade caps and grading on a curve are often criticized because they lead students to compete against each other, but in this case it was also deemed to be ineffective, she said.

 “I’m not a competitive person, so I think it’s good…It will definitely help.” said Gloria Gonzalez-Serrano, a continuing undergraduate student who plans to pursue a career in digital marketing.

Other program changes include the hiring of more staff to focus on the academic and student experience, funding the Haas Business Student Association (HBSA) at historic levels, renovating the undergraduate program lounge, and upgrading the Cheit Hall classrooms. 

Browse more highlights (photos by Noah Berger):

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Evening & Weekend MBA

The new class of evening & weekend MBA students arrived on campus in July for a jam-packed “WE Launch” orientation weekend of work sessions, team-building exercises, and an introduction to the Haas Defining Leadership Principles.

A few details about the Class of 2025: More than 40% of the new students have at least one advanced degree, including 21 PhDs. More than 40% of the class was born outside of the U.S. Nearly half—47%— are married or partnered, with 22% raising kids (altogether they have 80 children.)

Browse highlights from EWMBA orientation here. (Photos by Jim Block)

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Also, some fun facts:

  • The class includes a violinist who performed at Carnegie Hall, a former professional ballet dancer, and three published authors, including the author of the “Silicon Valley Dictionary.”
  • Among the students is a professional water polo player, a Formula One race car driver, and the general manager of a minor league baseball team
  • The class boasts the youngest elected city council member of a Bay Area City, the lead singer in a band that raises money for domestic violence victims, and a volunteer for the Yellowstone Wolf Project who helps with tracking wolves. There’s also a flight controller for NASA Mission Control, a pilot instructor for the Air Force, and a paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.

PhD

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Top row (left to right): Ockemia Bean, Amol Singh Raswan, Simoni Jain, Karin Li, Edgar Sanchez-Cuevas, Jacob Moore, Analexis Glaude, and Rui Sun. Bottom row (left to right): Sylvia Chin, Bernardo Lembi Ramalho Maciel, Patrik Räty, Silvia Farina, Minghao Yang, Dingzhe Leng. Photo: Jim Block

A total of 14 students joined the PhD program this fall, with an equal split between men and women. The group hails from around the world, including the U.S., Brazil, China, Colombia, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, and Singapore.

The students’ area of study is equally diverse, including accounting, business and public policy, finance, marketing science, management of organizations, and real estate.

A record-breaking 2022 for fundraising at Berkeley Haas

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Berkeley Haas raised $69 million from more than 4,300 donors in fiscal 2022. Campus photo: Noah Berger

The Haas School of Business announced its best fundraising year in the school’s history, raising $69 million from more than 4,300 donors in fiscal year 2022. 

The banner year was anchored by a $30 million gift to transform the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Program.

This year’s efforts bring the total raised for the past two fiscal years to a record $116 million, the most ever raised in two consecutive years.

“So many alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends went beyond themselves this year, providing unbelievable support for Haas,” Dean Ann Harrison said. “Their generous gifts will be used to do important work within our community, work that will help Haas build the next generation of Berkeley leaders, stay connected to and support our alumni community, and remain a top business school. We are truly grateful.”

Fundraising highlights from the past year:

  • $69 million raised from donations by 4,339 alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends.
  • A $30 million gift, the largest single donation in the school’s history, from Ned Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BS 66 (political science). Their gift will be used to launch the four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program in Fall of 2024.
  • The addition of seven new Builders of Berkeley—donors who given at least $1 million to Berkeley—including Haruki, MBA 12, and Mikiko Satomi, Kevin, BS 82 JD/MBA 85 and Eileen Shields, John Hokom, BS 59, MBA 60, Steve Etter, BS 83, MBA 89, Roshni and Jagdeep Singh, MBA 90, Joanne and Jon Goldstein, BS 82; and the Liang-Kuo Family.
  • The 2022 one-day Big Give campaign, which raised $2.475 million from a record 911 gifts.
  • A record number of gifts of $2,500, the new gift level for the Haas Leadership Society.
  • A record $4.86 million raised for the Haas Fund, the most raised in one year. Gifts to the Haas Fund are used for scholarships and program enhancements, as well as our Alumni Network podcasts, lifelong learning, and alumni programming.

Alumni engagement highlights from the past year:  

Alumni engagement also thrived in 2022, with a record-breaking group of nearly 1,700 alumni returning to campus for their makeup and in-person MBA reunion weekend celebrations. Together, the MBA reunion classes of 2020 and 2021 donated $2.2 million and gave 11 lead gifts. At the annual Alumni Conference, the combined virtual and in-person events allowed alumni from all over the world to tap into Haas thought leadership. In-person events fostered community-building and connections.  

More alumni engagement highlights:

  • Alumni affinity groups increased programming for women graduates as well as programming in real estate and growth industries like cryptocurrency and blockchain.  
  • Alumni sourced and shared 474 jobs with the school as part of the Hire Haas campaign.  
  • More than 3,700 alumni accepted a call to action, volunteering for Haas by assisting with admissions, meeting with students for career conversations, serving as guest speakers or panelists, or leading and arranging events and programs for fellow alumni.  
  • The OneHaas Alumni Podcast produced 42 podcasts featuring alumni in conversation about their Haas experience and career trajectories.
  • Three new mentoring programs were launched to support student career planning and help build greater alumni connections.
  • A self-paced alumni lifelong-learning management platform was launched which provides video content curated for intellectual curiosity. The first two courses focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resources for alumni. 

For more information about investing in the schools priorities and/or becoming a volunteer please contact Howie Avery, assistant dean for Development & Alumni Relations, or the Development and Alumni Relations office.

Berkeley Haas MBA team wins 2022 Net Impact Case Competition

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Clockwise: Tomoe Wang, Tomas Stegmann, Adriana Rueda, and Liz Kanovsky, all MBA 23.

A Berkeley Haas MBA student team took first place at the 2022 Net Impact Case Competition for crafting innovative ways that a leading outdoor retail company could invest $50 million to make a sustainable impact.

The March 5 competition, hosted by University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, virtually brought together 50 MBA teams from U.S. business schools, including Daniels College of Business (University of Denver), Robert H. Smith School of Business (University of Maryland), and Darden School of Business (University of Virginia). 

The winning team, Too Haas to Handle, won $10,000 in prize money. Team members included Tomoe Wang, Adriana Rueda, Liz Kanovsky, and Tomas Stegmann, all MBA 23.

This year, teams were asked to consult a leading outdoor retail company on how to allocate $50 million to address three priorities for the company: narrowing the racial wealth gap, reducing climate emissions, and strengthening democratic institutions.

The Haas team proposed creating a sustainable impact fund that would support initiatives including offering down payment loans to 7,000 employees to narrow the existing racial wealth gap; distributing grants to nonprofits focused on redistributing political and economic power; and providing loans to all stakeholders–from employees to suppliers–who initiated projects that raised sustainability standards and reduced climate emissions. Those projects included installing solar panels at the company’s warehouses. 

“What set us apart from other teams was the diversity of our team,” Stegmann said. “Each of us came from different backgrounds, grew up in different countries, and experienced different cultures. However, despite being so different, we complemented each other very well and we were able to leverage each other’s strengths to get the most out of the team.”

Q&A: Yue Chen, BS 20, MFE 23, pioneering Division 1 women’s basketball player, aims to be a Triple Bear

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Undergraduate alum Yue Chen, BS 20, is currently studying in the Berkeley Haas MFE program and plans to enter the MBA program in 2025.

Yue Chen, BS 20, MFE 23, is the first-ever Chinese national to play on a NCAA Division 1 Women’s basketball team. At 6’6” and the daughter of professional basketball players, Chen played center for the women’s team at Cal for five years before returning to China to play professionally for 18 months.

Now, the pioneering athlete is back at Berkeley with sights on becoming a Triple Bear. Chen is studying in the Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) program, among a record 32% women in the Class of 2022, along with a diverse group of students from 17 different countries. This fall, Chen will intern as an associate at

After Chen finishes the MFE degree, she plans to begin the full-time MBA program in 2025, accepted under Accelerated Access, which allows students to apply as seniors and defer for several years. We talked to Chen recently about her basketball career and why she chose to do three degrees at Haas.

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

Yue Chen: I was born in Beijing and spent my first 18 years there. Both my parents met in college. They used to be professional basketball players in China so I was born into a basketball family. I started playing basketball when I was a little kid and it was a big part of my life. During high school, I was facing the decision of either going to play pro or going to college. It was always a dream for me to come to the States and to play ball and also pursue academics simultaneously.

When was the first time that you visited the U.S. ?

I was fortunate to attend a Junior NBA camp when I was 12. Three teams played each other from Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. The winning team got the opportunity to come to the States and watch the All Star Games. I played for Beijing, the winning team, and we came to the States to watch the All Star Games in Dallas. That was my first time in the US. Kobe Bryant was there and people were truly enjoying basketball with others and celebrating. That was really a culture shock, and I was like, “Oh, I want to stand on this course one day, and also play here.” So that’s always been a dream, a goal, from then on.

How did that experience lead you to Cal?

In high school, I needed to choose a college. I looked at places like Berkeley, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and did official visits as an athlete. Of these three schools, Berkeley was my first choice. While the others are definitely great universities, I felt like the culture, the people here are just awesome. The coaches and players were warm and welcoming. I said, “Oh, I’m coming here.” I still keep in touch with a lot of the staff and coaches.

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Yue Chen played center for the Cal Women’s Basketball team for five years as an undergraduate before playing professionally in China.

You were among the first group of students to apply for the Accelerated Access Program at Haas in 2020. Then you decided to do an MFE degree before the MBA. What led to that decision?

Berkeley has one of the top MFE programs in the world. As an undergrad, I was a double major in statistics and business administration and those subjects have been a passion for me. I’ve loved math since middle school and I’m really good at it.  The MFE is a really interesting intersection of mathematics, statistics, and finance. So that’s how I came to the program. It’s a perfect combination of my interests.

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Yue Chen (right) with Cal Women’s Basketball teammates at senior night.

How are you finding the MFE program so far?

The class material is really hard. The professors are great and you are surrounded by talented, smart students. So it’s just awesome to be with them, to learn with them, and to learn from them. Every day I’m improving at something and that feels really great.  This semester, I am taking a class on Fixed Income with Professor Richard Stanton, who has won Haas’ Cheit Outstanding Teaching award three times. He is enthusiastic and engaging, sharing not only his knowledge about knowledge but his experience in the financial industry. 

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Yue Chen meeting a role model, Alibaba CEO Joseph Tsai. “He’s someone I really look up to when I envision my future.”

A great mentor for me at Haas is Stephen Etter, a finance lecturer for 10 years. He respects the potential of all students from diverse backgrounds.I met him when I was 17 when I first visited Cal and he’s been a great support both on and off the court—with my professional career, my Haas application, and career development.

Why did you choose to combine the MFE with the MBA degree?

It’s really hard for undergrad students to say what they want to do in the future. We’re really young. So the deferred MBA program gives us time to try out different things, and to gain different experiences to be sure about what I really want to do for the future. This gives an option to come back to Haas and make more connections and improve my skills and see how business is run from a leader’s perspective.

What kind of career are you thinking about?

After just finishing my basketball career, I’m trying different things right now and the MFE is preparing me to enter the finance career path. I’m looking forward to gaining more experience in the finance world and eventually, maybe, doing some business involving sports. Someone I really look up to is Joe Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba, who owns the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Liberty basketball teams. He was a student athlete at Yale and played lacrosse, and he’s a really successful businessman. So he’s someone I really look up to when I envision my future.

Do you still play basketball?

Although I’m not playing sports anymore I am still close to Cal Athletics. I hope I can help out and offer support to young student athletes. I want to use what I’ve learned on my journey, and what I’ve gained here at Berkeley, to help young people who are facing challenges—so that they will be able to celebrate their journey at Cal long after they graduate.

Faculty, Graduate Student Instructors honored with 2022 Cheit Awards

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Clockwise from top left: Cheit Award winners Ricardo Perez-Truglia, Panos Patatoukas, Veselina Dinova, Richard Huntsinger, Eric Reiner, Ned Augenblick, Max Auffhammer

Seven faculty members and five Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) were honored at 2022 commencements for excellence in teaching.

Students in each degree program choose faculty each year to receive the Cheit Award, named after Dean Emeritus Earl F. Cheit, who made teaching excellence one of his top priorities.

This year’s winners include:

  • Evening & Weekend MBA program: Max Auffhammer (evening cohort), for Data and Decisions, and Ricardo Perez-Truglia (weekend cohort), for Macroeconomics
  • Full-time MBA program: Associate Professor Ned Augenblick, for Strategic Leadership
  • Undergraduate program: Distinguished Teaching Fellow Richard Huntsinger 
  • PhD program: Accounting Professor Panos Patatoukas 
  • Master of Financial Engineering (MFE): Finance Lecturer Eric Reiner
  • Executive MBA program: Distinguished Teaching Fellow Veselina Dinova
  • Graduate student instructors (GSIs): Paige Wahoff (undergraduate)  Griffin Grail-Binghman (FTMBA), Kimberlyn George (EWMBA), Nicolas Corthorn (MFE), Jonathan Wong (EMBA)

Solve the world’s seemingly insurmountable problems, Berkeley Haas MBA grads told at 2022 commencement

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MBA students gather behind stage at the Greek Saturday before commencement. (Photo: Natasha Payes)

Exuberant grads tossed beach balls and danced salsa in the aisles of the Greek Theatre at Saturday’s commencement ceremony for the Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening and Weekend MBA Class of 2022.

It was a moment of unfettered joy, as speakers rallied the graduates for the challenges ahead.

“The world right now has lots of  huge unsolved problems—from political polarization to climate change to artificial general intelligence to augmented humanity to disease to inequality—so you have lots of big problems to choose from,” commencement speaker Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, told about 600 graduates, who gathered under blue skies and sunshine. “Pick one that you have passion for, that you can’t help but want to spend all your time day and night on even if others think it’s too idealistic, too big, or too unsolvable. You’re Berkeley MBAs now. You don’t need to settle.”

Jagdeep Singh, MBA 90, speaks at MBA commencement at podium
Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, speaks at MBA commencement. Photo: Jim Block

Dean Ann Harrison welcomed Singh, an entrepreneur who in 2010 co-founded battery technology company QuantumScape. She acknowledged how special it was to be together for the first in-person MBA commencement in two years. 

“This felt like the best closure for a two-year process that has been life changing,” said Ignacio Solis, MBA 22, an international student from Chile.

Harrison praised the students for their resilience during their program, noting that those experiences will serve them well throughout their careers. “Because of who you are—your fierce intelligence and your deep understanding of the forces that drive business– you will have power,” she said. “Power is not always about how many people report to you or whether you have the CEO’s ear or whether you are the CEO. Power is the ability to make a difference—one day at a time; one project at a time; one function at a time.”

Evening & Weekend grads: “Pause and savor”

Noting how many life events happened for the EWMBA class during the program, Harrison said that 32% of the class was promoted, 41% of the students changed jobs, 13% got married, and 30 babies were born.  

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MBA students at the Greek Theatre. Photo: Natasha Payes

Evening & Weekend program student speaker Paulina Lee, a marketing director at Procter & Gamble, told graduates to stop and consider how much they’ve changed at Haas.

“What Haas has afforded us is the opportunity to redefine ourselves, to explore the edges of our comfort zone, and that’s why as we end this chapter and start our new paths to our own definitions of success we are faced with so many different emotions,” she said. “Joy, anxiety relief, excitement to move on to the next thing, get on with it, but perhaps we shouldn’t. At least not right away.”

Lee asked students to pause for a moment and savor, after spending the last three years on a sprint. “The first ask (from me) is to pause, really pause, and see the space that school used to take up and protect it,” she said. “Now that you have become the person you are today, reevaluate, sit down with yourself and honestly seek to understand who you have become.”

Full-time MBA: The opportunity to “fail and learn”

The 2022 full-time MBA class is the most diverse ever,  Harrison told the graduates, including 39% women, 50% U.S. minorities,  8% veterans, and 10% first-generation college students. 

Kokei Otosi, MBA 22, student speaker at MBA commencement speaks
“For two years we had the opportunity to try and fail and learn and try,” Kokei Otosi, MBA 22. Photo: Jim Block

Full-time MBA student speaker Kokei Otosi, who will join IBM as a senior consultant in August, opened her speech by thanking her classmates. She also expressed thanks for the time that the MBA program gave her to explore. 

“What I know now is that the MBA is a sandbox,” said Otosi, a Bay Area native-turned-New Yorker whose parents are Nigerian immigrants. “When you leave you may still not know what you want to do, but for two years we had the opportunity to try and fail and learn and try. We may not get that kind of freedom again.”

Throughout the ceremony, speakers paid tribute to classmate Nadeem Farooqi, who died in fall 2020.

Otosi said the shock and grief the class experienced over his death was palpable. “Nadeem, we cannot believe you aren’t here with us celebrating today, but we haven’t forgotten you,” she said. “We miss you.”

Honors for both MBA programs

Dean Ann Harrison hands a student an MBA diploma
Dean Ann Harrison congratulates an MBA student. Photo: Jim Block

Harrison asked all students with GPAs in the top 10% of their classes to stand and be honored for their achievements. 

Here are the EWMBA program honors:

Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Laura Jacobson

Defining Leadership Principles awards:

Question the Status Quo: Eleanor Boli   

Confidence Without Attitude: Cheick Diarra   

Students Always: Steve Odell

Beyond Yourself: Nana Lei 

The Berkeley Leader Award: Nana Lei  and Frances Ho

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, weekend MBA program: Ricardo Perez-Truglia, for macroeconomics

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, evening MBA program: Professor Max Aufhammer, for data and decisions

Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Kimberlyn George

MBA grads sitting in the Greek Theatre during commencement
Photo: Jim Block

FTMBA program honors:

Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Jon Christopher Thompson

Question the Status Quo: Aliza Gazek  

Confidence Without Attitude: Casey Dunajick-DeKnight  

Students Always: Mathilde De La Calle  

Beyond Yourself: Kevin Hu

Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Griffin Grail-Binghman

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Associate Professor Ned Augenblick for Strategic Leadership

PhD commencement

Earlier this month, seven Phd candidates participated in a hooding ceremony. 

2022 Berkeley Haas PhD graduates
PhD graduates, left to right: Alexey Sinyashin, Daniel Stein, Shoshana Jarvis, Kristin Donnelly, Łukasz Langer, Young Yoon, Petr Martynov

The PhD program at Haas stands out among all six academic programs, Harrison told the graduates. “It is our smallest, but it’s also the program nearest and dearest to the hearts of our faculty, all of whom are PhDs and are deeply committed to training the researchers and professors of the future,” she said. “This is a core part of my mission, and of all of our faculty’s mission.” 

Graduating students included Kristin Donnelly, Shoshana Jarvis, Łukasz Langer, Petr Martynov, Alexey Sinyashin, Daniel Stein, and Young Yoon. The Cheit award for excellence in teaching in the PhD program went to Professor Panos Patatoukas of the Haas Accounting Group. 

Watch the MBA commencement video here:

Two Berkeley Haas students chosen for Auschwitz professional ethics fellowship

Kanyinsola Aibana and Danielle Dhillon, MBA 22
Kanyinsola Aibana and Danielle Dhillon, both MBA 22

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

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

We interviewed both students about the fellowship.

What led you to apply to the FASPE Fellowship? 

Kanyinsola: I applied to the FASPE Fellowship because it would allow me to go beyond my core Ethics course and explore practical ways to address ethical issues as a business leader. I was intrigued by the structure and setting of FASPE, which provides a unique opportunity to delve into topics in business ethics, both historical and contemporary, and a forum to engage and learn from fellows from different graduate programs to create a genuinely enriching and impactful experience. FASPE will serve as a great capstone to my MBA.

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

What do you hope to take away from the trip?

Kanyinsola: I hope to take away tools to help me resolve, avoid, or prepare for the nuanced ethical issues I will face as a business leader. In addition, I hope to leverage the multidisciplinary discussions and different perspectives of other fellows to examine and better understand the actions and complicity of business executives during Nazi Germany and other contexts to reinforce my professional responsibility to promote ethical and moral decision-making.

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

How does the fellowship align with your career goals?

Kanyinsola: I aspire to be a business leader in the sustainable food and agricultural space. I am driven by a desire to promote individual well-being by facilitating access to nutritious food products while minimizing the detrimental impact of large-scale food production on the climate and environment. While I hope to be an innovator in this arena, I anticipate tension will sometimes arise in balancing my ultimate mission with the fiscal responsibilities of running a business. I want to be a business leader who continuously reflects upon and confronts ethical issues in all aspects of my business operations. FASPE will provide a great foundation to accomplish this goal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

MBA Classes of 2020 and 2021 get official sendoff

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

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

Here are some highlights from Friday’s ceremony:

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

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

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

Question the Status Quo: Evan Wright

Confidence without Attitude: Celeste Fa’ai’uaso 

Students Always: Nina Ho

Beyond Yourself: Benny Johnson

Berkeley Leaders: Molly Zeins & Ezgi Karaagac

Haas Legacy Award: Santiago Freyria and Francesco Dipierro

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

Achievement Award: Devan Courtois

Student always: José Ramón Avellana

Beyond yourself: Kendall Bills

Question the status quo: Fayzan Gowani

Confidence without attitude: Fede Pacheco

Cheit award for Graduate Student Instructor: Devan Courtois

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What interested you in C2M and this role in particular?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consulting job acceptances rise for Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Going all out with hires”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broadening a career

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

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

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

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

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

International appeal

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

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

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

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

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

Haas team honored at Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition

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

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

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

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

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

Other winning teams included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MBA Chile Conference 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BERC Energy Summit Conference

Carla Peterman
Carla Peterman, PhD 17

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

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

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

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

Africa Business Forum

Martha Saavedra, PhD 91
Martha Saavedra, PhD 91

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

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

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

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

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

Speakers include: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 in Real Estate

#5 in Entrepreneurship

#4 in Nonprofit

#6 in Business Analytics

#8 in Finance 

#7 in Executive MBA

#9 in International (tie)

#9 in Management (tie)

#11 in Marketing

#15 in Information Systems

#16 in Production / Operations (tie)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sí se Puede,

Élida

Resources for further learning:

Promoting an Equitable Learning Environment

Stop AAPI Hate

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

National Domestic Workers Alliance 

Male allyship at work

81cents Pay Equity Advisors

Equal Pay Day 2022

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