2023 Haas Undergraduate, Full-time, and Evening & Weekend MBA classes toss caps

Undergraduate Commencement

Commencement speaker Elena Gomez, BS 91, chief financial officer at Boston-based Toast, told undergrad students to learn “when to take the shot or pass the ball.” Gomez said that some of her observations on teamwork come from coaching a basketball team of 10-year-old girls that had one clear star.

Commencement speaker Elena Gomez, BS 91, at the lectern.
Commencement speaker Elena Gomez, BS 91. Photo: Noah Berger.

“Part of me was excited about winning a lot of games, but what joy would that bring without getting the rest of the team involved?” she said. “As a player or as a teammate in the workplace, and more importantly as a star, because I see a lot of stars out in the audience, learn when your teammates need you to step up and take that last shot.”

As a leader, she continued, “you will have the opportunity to help others, your team, your colleagues, imagine the impossible. As graduates from Haas, you are ready for all of that. You are ready to be a star and you are ready to pass the ball and you are ready to help others see in themselves what they thought was not possible.”

Dean Ann Harrison noted that:

  • 54% of the undergraduates are women.
  • 47% have earned a dual degree.
  • 20% are the first in their families to attend college

“Look next to you–look in front of you–look behind you,” Harrison said. “You are surrounded by some of the smartest, boldest, coolest people you will meet anywhere in the world.”

Undergraduate Award Winners

Departmental Citation to the student with the most outstanding academic achievement in the field of business: Noah Oppenheimer

Question the Status Quo: Vedika Dayal

Confidence Without Attitude: Charissa Pham

Students Always: Jordan Laredo

Beyond Yourself: Vala Makhfi

Student speaker: Nina Dickens 

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching:
Lecturer Stephen Etter, BS 83, MBA 89

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Khalil Somani, MBA 23 

MBA Commencement (FTMBA + EWMBA)

Commencement speaker Frank Cooper III, BS 86, at the lectern.
Commencement speaker Frank Cooper III, BS 86. Photo: Noah Berger.

Commencement speaker Frank Cooper III, BS 86, chief marketing officer at Visa, told graduates to embrace risk, reflecting on his transition from working in a law firm to the music industry.

“The fact that life is short is precisely the reason we should take risks rather than fear them,” he said. “It turns out there’s no such thing as a no-risk proposition anyway, even along what feels like the safest and surest path. From economic recession, to industry bubbles, to political surprises—we’ve all seen immovable mountains crumble.”

Close-up of a graduate's mirrored sunglasses in which another graduate can be seen.
Photo: Noah Berger.

By taking a risk, Cooper said his varied experiences gave him the opportunity to work with extraordinary people, including Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Lionel Messi, Magic Johnson, Eva Longoria, and Forest Whitaker.

What did they share in common? “They had an idea about their purpose in the world and had the courage to push back against uncertainty,” he said.

Students in caps and gowns getting their picture taken.
Photo: Noah Berger.

Award Winners

Question the Status Quo: Alyssa Kewenvoyouma

Confidence Without Attitude: Via Abolencia 

Student Always:  Julia Konso Mbakire

Beyond Yourself: Julian M. Ramirez, Jr.

Berkeley Leader: Afraz Khan

Student Speaker: Ricky Ghoshal

Academic Achievement Award: Math Williams (3.992)

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching:
Professor Lucas Davis
Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Zia Mehmood, MS 20, PhD 24

Five students in caps and gowns getting their picture taken.
Photo: Noah Berger.

EWMBA 2023 Award Winners 

Question the Status Quo: Bob Wang

Confidence Without Attitude: Ana Martinez

Students Always: Krupa Patel

Beyond Yourself: Supriya Golas

Outstanding Academic Performance: Andrew Hurley

Student speaker: Farzad Yousefi

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching:
Evening MBA Program: Lecturer Maria Carkovic
Weekend MBA Program: Assistant Professor Ambar La Forgia
Graduate Student Instructor (GSI): Mahek Chheda

A man holding a graduation cap that says Papa with a picture of a bear standing next to a woman holding a cap that says Mama with a picture of a bear.
Photo: Noah Berger.

Wendy Guild named new assistant dean of MBA programs

photo of a woman behind a painted background
Wendy Guild

Wendy Guild has been named the new assistant dean of MBA programs, overseeing the admissions and program teams of all three Berkeley Haas MBA programs.

Guild, who begins her appointment on May 30, comes to Haas from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, where as the assistant dean of MBA programs she led marketing, recruitment, admissions, student services, curriculum, and operations of full-time, evening, and global MBA programs.

In her new role, Guild will engage deeply with students, faculty, and leadership within Haas and across the university to create a vision for the future of the school’s full-time MBA program, evening & weekend MBA program, and executive MBA program. She will champion the student experience; develop strong relationships across the Berkeley campus; and support and advance a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging.

“I know Guild will build on her outstanding work at her previous institutions and bring her academic intelligence, administrative gifts, and zeal for education to our students,” Dean Ann Harrison said. “We are very much looking forward to welcoming her and collaborating on the next great era of the Berkeley Haas MBA.”

“I know Guild will build on her outstanding work at her previous institutions and bring her academic intelligence, administrative gifts, and zeal for education to our students.” – Dean Ann Harrison.

Prior to her career at Foster, Guild served as assistant dean of strategic initiatives at UCLA Anderson School of Management, where she strengthened program development, board engagement, and strategic initiatives management. She taught leadership in executive education at the Yale School of Management and served as a program director and faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver’s Business School.

Guild is also an impressive scholar, Harrison said.  She earned a PhD in organization studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where her research focused on creating engaging experiential learning content. At Foster, she taught numerous courses, with an emphasis on leadership, strategy, field studies, study tours, and sports and entertainment management.

Guild succeeds Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA programs, who is retiring.

Matt Solowan, MBA 23, on questioning the status quo and finding a fit at Bain consulting

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

person sitting in commencement attire on Berkeley Haas sign
Matt Solowan, MBA 23, worked in marketing at L’Oréal before coming to Haas. They’re heading to Bain & Company in New York after graduation.

Matt Solowan, MBA 23, embodies the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principle Question the Status Quo in both work and life.  In this Haas Voices column, Solowan discusses their commitment to workplace inclusivity, their work as a marketer at L’Oréal, and a love of all kinds of dance. Solowan will join Bain & Company in New York after graduating this month.

“Dance has always been a passion of mine. Growing up on Long Island, I did tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, and hip hop lessons from a very young age. In high school, I was on the kickline team and we performed at football and basketball games and competed in local and national competitions. Dance was my entire life. But when I got to USC as an undergrad, I realized that it wasn’t something I wanted to do professionally, so I took it as a minor and then picked up economics, along with Italian, as a major.

As a junior at USC, looking for a summer internship, I remember this one interview I had with a bank. At that time, I presented quite femininely. I had longer hair and wore makeup. I sat down and saw this smug guy looking over my resume. I had a 4.0 as an economics major and he spent the entire time grilling me about my dance minor, correcting me that dance was my “hobby” when I called it a “passion.” That was all he could see. He didn’t care that I had a 4.0 in economics. I could tell he’d written me off the minute that I walked into the room.

I had a 4.0 as an economics major and he spent the entire time grilling me about my dance minor, correcting me that dance was my “hobby” when I called it a “passion.”

I left that interview feeling so dejected and made a point that this was the type of person that I would prove wrong in my career. Luck would have it that within the next week or two, I went to an event that L’Oréal was hosting on my campus.

At that time, I didn’t even know that you could market beauty products as a career. But when I met with the L’Oréal recruiter it was a total 180 from what I had experienced at the bank interview. Without looking back, I accepted an internship, which turned into a career working on the marketing teams across a handful of L’Oréal-owned brands, including IT Cosmetics, Maybelline, and Garnier.

Making a mark at L’Oreal

Here, I learned that having as many diverse voices as possible on work teams is so critical as it impacts everything from the makeup shades a company markets to how the company hires for its advertising campaigns. There is a pervasive culture in large beauty organizations, where beauty is viewed through the eyes of the white male gaze—white, European features, thinner, and younger women. But you have junior talent who are ready to break away from that and the old-school view of beauty.

Two models posing in an advertisement
Solowan (left) modeled in campaigns while working for L’Oreal brands.

On one brand launch I worked on I was given was a rainbow-handled makeup brush for Pride Month. I immediately flagged the launch as “rainbow-washing,” —which is when businesses use rainbow colors to suggest support for the LGBTQ community without making any tangible effort to positively impact the lives of LGBTQ people. I reached out to L’Oréal’s employee resource group for LGBTQ employees, who put me in touch with a local charity and I worked with them on a plan to have some of the sales from the brush tie back to a center for LGBTQ youth.

I was devastated when my plan was rejected by a company manager due to budget cuts. But then one of our key retailers put the brush on their website earlier than anticipated and immediate backlash from consumers started flooding in. I could have had a “told you so” moment.

Instead, I reached back out to that charity, and got things back in motion and we officially launched the brush tied to this charity. Doing what’s right isn’t always easy, which I experienced first-hand modeling for some of the brand campaigns. These multimillion, sometimes billion-dollar brands, often have employees shoot videos and images to post on social media. I was featured in quite a few of their marketing materials that went up on our Instagram. As a model, I would get very nasty hate comments from some of our consumers. That was very hard for me to reckon with. I was an employee of this brand putting my face forward and some of the consumers of this brand had a negative reaction to seeing me. 

 Doing what’s right isn’t always easy, which I experienced first-hand modeling for some of the brand campaigns.

But looking back, it is something I’m very proud of. I helped push a brand forward. My motto has always been, if I can have one person look at that image, and see themselves represented and feel like there is a space for them, that means much more to me than a hundred negative comments from people who really do not matter to me. It’s a trade off I’m willing to make. 

Why an MBA?

At L’Oréal, I met a few people I admired for the way they spoke and presented, and the way that they tackled problems. I found out that a lot of them had MBAs and had previously worked in management consulting. It was a formula that I thought might be a good path for me.

large group of people standing in front of a curtain
Solowan (back row, middle) with Q@Haas friends at the 2022 ROMBA Conference in Washington D.C. Solowan served as VP of Careers & Alumni for Q@Haas last year.

When I came into Haas I was determined to land an internship in consulting. One of the most helpful resources to me at Haas was the second year peer advisors who had just gone through the recruiting process. They were the ones who looked at my resume, reviewed my cover letters, and were practicing cases with me during the fall and into winter break. We have a very strong pay-it-forward culture at Haas. I ended up becoming a peer advisor myself, working with both the second-years in my class who were recruiting for full-time roles in consulting and the first-years recruiting for internships. I think that was one of the most rewarding things I did at Haas.

We have a very strong pay-it-forward culture at Haas.

Heading to Bain

I chose Bain over other firms I received offers from because, even though it has a generalist model and I am hoping to specialize in retail and consumer early on, I loved all of the people that I met at Bain during the recruiting process. They were in many ways similar to the people I know at Haas: very down to earth, very kind, very warm, very supportive. I knew that consulting would be a tough job. I knew the hours would be long. It’s a rigorous role to go into post MBA. I wanted to make sure that I was surrounded by a good support system and I felt like I had met people there who would be cheerleaders for me. That carried a lot of weight.”

Pitching with purpose: Students imagine future of mobility for automaker

nine people standing on stage holding a check
Pitch winners with judges (left-right) Nick Triantos; Tafflyn Toy; Henry Chung; Victoria Marcus, EWMBA 25; Srivatsa Chakravarthy, EWMBA 25; Oleksandr Krotenko, EMBA 23;  Simeon Ryan, EWMBA 25;  Ju yup Kang; and ChangWoo Kim. Photo: Jim. Block

A student team that imagined a plan for Hyundai Cradle to build an electric-powered mobile medical fleet and market it in North America won the 2023 Haas Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBV) Challenge.

Hyundai Cradle, Hyundai Motor Group’s Mountain View, Calif.-based open innovation and investment arm, sponsored the challenge, which was held April 23 at Berkeley Haas. 

Cradle challenged students to develop novel business models for the company’s future PBV market launch in North America. Hyundai Motor Group is in the final stages of building a flexible automobile base, called a skateboard, that can be used to produce many kinds of PVBs—vehicles ranging from ambulances to passenger shuttles to delivery fleets for small businesses.

The first-place team took home $15,000 for its pitch. Winning team members included Srivatsa Chakravarthy, EWMBA 25; Oleksandr Krotenko, EMBA 23; Victoria Marcus, EWMBA 25; and Simeon Ryan, EWMBA 25.  

The competing teams, composed of graduate students from across all three Haas MBA programs and the UC Berkeley School of Information, participated in a semester-long series of training sessions, focused on the Lean Startup method and customer discovery training. The top three finalist teams were then tasked with finding and validating novel business models for PBVs that they pitched to judges at the end of the program. 

“This was a fantastic way to showcase students from across all three of our MBA programs,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). “The program also provided a perfect opportunity for our MBA students to work with top graduate students from across the campus.”

Solving real problems

The winning group pitched a fix for emergency medical services that they described as “antiquated, expensive, and ripe for technological disruption.” The team suggested that Cradle partner with industry leader AMR (American Medical Response) to capitalize on the company’s market share and need to contract with an outsourced fleet.

two men and one women pointing, wearing suits speaking at a conference
Victoria Marcus, EWMBA 25, pitches during the 2023 Haas Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBV) Challenge. Photo: Jim Block

Marcus, who works in corporate finance, said she was excited to work on solving a real problem experienced by a company outside of her industry.

“Going through the pitching process with judges was the pinnacle business school experience I’ve always wanted to try since I started my EWMBA,” she said. During Lean Launch, she said her group conducted more than 30 interviews with potential clients. “We had to pivot a couple times from our original idea to make sure we were solving problems for them,” she said. “Ultimately this led us to think hard and adapt so we could develop a detailed business plan that would benefit potential clients.”

During the pitch day, Kia’s vice president of new business planning, Ju yup Kang, a judge for the competition, outlined how KIA is transforming from a car company to a “full mobility solution provider.” Henry Chung, senior vice president and head of Hyundai Cradle, said the students had clearly put in a lot of effort to develop creative solutions to difficult problems. 

Chung; Kang; Changwoo Kim, a chief coordinator at Cradle; Tafflyn Toy, an open innovation project manager at Hyundai Cradle; and Nick Triantos, chief architect, automotive system software at Nvidia, served as the final challenge judges.

Team Ingenium took second place ($10,000) with a pitch for all-in-one fleet management. Members included Reggie Draper, EMBA 23; Michael LaFramboise, MBA/MEng 24; Matthew McGoffin, MBA/MEng 23; and Michael Yang, MIMS (master of information management and systems) 23.

Team Mobility Moguls took third place ($5,000) for a strategy that addressed a mobile future for police & security. Team members included Anmol Aggarwal, EWMBA 24; Suveda Dhoot, MBA 24; Hrishikesh Nagaraju, MIMS 24; Nithin Ravindra, EWMBA 23, MIMS 24; and Lutong Yang.

a group of students holding three large checks
The three prizewinning teams in the Haas Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBV) pitch competition with checks. Photo: Jim Block

 

U.S. News ranks the Berkeley Haas EWMBA Program #1 again

The Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program ranked #1 among part-time MBA programs in U.S. News & World Report, reclaiming its top spot.

The Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program came in at #11 and the Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives ranked #9 in the 2023-2024 Best Graduate Schools report, published today. 

The changes in the part-time and full-time MBA outcomes are largely due to drastic changes in the rankings factors. 

The Berkeley Haas EWMBA Program, which includes our evening, weekend, and Flex cohorts for working professionals, regained the top spot after four years, thanks to its improved peer assessment and an increased emphasis on the significant work experience of Haas students. Chicago Booth dropped to #2 from #1. 

The FTMBA program tied with Columbia and Duke for the #11 spot this year. Columbia and Haas previously tied for #8, while Duke ranked #12 in 2022. U.S. News increased the weight of placement success—compensation and employment within three months of graduation—to 50%, compared to 35% previously. The weighting of quality assessments, including the peer and employer polls, decreased to 25%, compared to 40% previously. 

Haas reported significant increases in career outcomes for the FTMBA Class of 2022. Starting salaries were up more than $10,000 from the prior year, and 92.7% of graduates had started jobs three months after graduation. Amazon, Bain Consulting, and McKinsey & Co. were the top three hiring firms, followed closely by Adobe, BCG, Deloitte, and Google. While many Haas graduates benefit from stock options, which do not factor into U.S. News, and some take lower salaries initially to land the jobs of their choice, their lifetime career earnings are among the top three of all business schools, according to Payscale.

“The ROI of the Berkeley Haas MBA remains strong,“ said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs. “According to the Financial Times, our alumni reported earning the fifth highest salaries in the world three years after graduating.” 

View the ranking methodologies for full-time MBA programs and part-time MBA programs.

The Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives Program ranked #9 among EMBA programs, compared to #7 last year. This ranking continues to be based entirely on peer assessment by deans and full-time MBA directors.

In the U.S. News specialty rankings, based on peer assessment, the FTMBA ranked in the top 10 in the following areas:

  • #4 Real estate
  • #4 Nonprofit
  • #5 Entrepreneurship
  • #6 Business analytics
  • #8 Finance
  • #9 Management
  • #9 Marketing
  • #10 International

Overall, the five ranked Berkeley Haas degree programs appear in the top five in key rankings:

  • FTMBA: #4 among U.S. schools in the Financial Times
  • EWMBA: #1 among part-time MBA programs in U.S. News
  • MBA for Executives: #1 in the last published Economist EMBA ranking (2020)
  • MFE: #1 TFE Times and #3 QuantNet
  • Undergraduate: #2 in U.S. News 

Pitching for the win: MBA student interest in public markets investing rises

(L-R) Xavier Jefferson, Frank Zhang, and John Graft took second place at the Chicago Booth IM Conference and Stock Competition.

John Graft, MBA 24, admits that he went “a little overboard” competing in four stock competitions during his first year at Haas. But the hours spent paid off. His team’s stock pitch in front of judges at University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler led to a coveted summer internship offer at his first-choice firm: Harris Associates in Chicago.

“The person who interviewed me at Harris had listened to me pitch at the UNC competition,” Graft said. For Graft and a group of Berkeley Haas students focused on careers in public markets investing, stock pitch competitions are an integral part of the Haas finance experience, allowing students to synthesize stock research and network with top firms that often judge the competitions.

Public markets investing is on the rise at Haas, said Bill Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs for finance. Six first-year students seeking positions in public markets investing accepted summer internships at top investment firms including Blackrock, TCW, PIMCO, Clearbridge, Harris Associates, and Neuberger Berman. 

“A decade ago we had up to a dozen MBA students going to public markets investing roles in a year,” he said.  “Over time, student interest shifted more to tech investment banking and venture capital. While those interests remain strong, it’s great to see public markets investing bouncing back.”  

Multiple internship offers

In a particularly difficult year for hiring, Haas exceeded expectations this year, with some students receiving multiple offers, said Ryan Tan, MBA 23, a Double Bear and the Berkeley Haas Investment Club president, who has worked closely with undergraduate and MBA peers to create more finance opportunities. That included bringing an impressive array of top industry speakers to Haas like Christina Ma, MBA 01, a partner and head of Greater China Equities at Goldman Sachs; Ben Meng, MFE 03, executive vice president and chairman of Asia Pacific at Franklin Templeton, and Ben Allen, MBA 05, CEO of Parnassus Investments.

In a particularly difficult year for hiring, Haas exceeded expectations this year, with some students receiving multiple offers. — Ryan Tan, MBA 23

Wearing many hats, Tan is also a graduate student instructor for the undergraduate Financial Economics course and a principal with the pioneering Haas Sustainable Investment Fund. (Since 2008, student principals in the Sustainable Investment Fund have more than tripled the initial investment to over $4 million, learning about SRI and ESG investment strategies and practices.)

Students in the public markets investing track agree that their group is collaborative, helping each other both in class and during job searches. They’re also given the chance to participate in a half-dozen stock pitch competitions that the club enters annually.

At competitions, teams develop a thesis around a stock or bond, build a financial model to value the security, evaluate the risks of the investment, and build a Powerpoint after synthesizing the research. “You put this together and pitch the security to a panel of judges, all of whom work at the top investment management firms,” Graft said.

Navigating pitch competitions

MBA students credit Tan for mentoring teams on how to navigate a pitch competition.

“He helped us to understand what the judges were looking for,” said Austin Schoff, MBA 24, a co-president of the Haas Investment Club, who led an MBA student team at the MIT Sloan School Stock Pitch Competition last November. Haas placed second at MIT Sloan, second at Chicago Booth, and third at the UNC Alpha Challenge. 

two male students and one female holding a large check
Austin Schoff,  MBA 24, Ryan Tan, MBA 23, and Meredith Albion, MBA 24, accepting their third-place check at the Kenan-Flagler Alpha Challenge.

Schoff, who came to Haas planning to pivot from private wealth management, landed an internship this summer with the equity research team at TCW. 

“Ryan has done an enormous amount of work,” said Steve Etter, who teaches finance at Haas and is a founding partner at Greyrock Capital Group. “It’s nice to see when a student goes beyond himself for the benefit of all.” 

Xavier Jefferson, MBA 24, competed in a pitch challenge online hosted by Columbia Business School and at the in-person event at Chicago Booth.

“At Haas, we go to as many challenges as we want and that gives you exposure to all the firms and prepares you to pitch a stock or bond,” he said. “That’s a huge part of the interview process, and having the practice of pitching gives you a leg up.” A Toigo Fellow and a Haas Finance Fellow, Jefferson will intern at Clearbridge this summer. 

“At Haas, we go to as many challenges as we want and that gives us exposure to all the firms and prepares you to pitch a stock or bond.” —Xavier Jefferson, MBA 24

After participating in multiple pitch competitions—as usually the only woman or one of two women—on the team, Meredith Albion, MBA 24, noted that the competitions would benefit from having more female members. 

As a Berkeley Haas Finance Fellow in investment management Albion was assigned a female mentor, who helped prepare her to interview for summer internships. (All 12 of the Finance Fellows named each year are assigned a Haas alumni mentor.) Albion credits her mentor with helping her land an internship at PIMCO in Newport Beach this summer. Like other first-year MBA students in the Investment Club, she plans to work on the Haas Sustainable investment Fund next year and integrate sustainable investing into her career.

With Albion, Schoff, and Graft at the helm as co-presidents of the Haas Investment Club —Tan said he’s confident that Haas will continue its success.

“The message we need to get out is that if you come to Haas for investment management and sustainable investing you will be involved and plugged in, you will be given mentorship,” Tan said. “And people get jobs.”

Haas names alumni business leaders as 2023 commencement speakers

Visa’s Chief Marketing Officer Frank Cooper III, BS 86, and Toast’s Chief Financial Officer Elena Gomez, BS 91, will serve as Berkeley Haas commencement speakers this May.

Commencement ceremonies will be held at the Greek Theatre, with the undergrads tossing caps on Tuesday, May 16, and the FTMBA and Evening & Weekend MBA students graduating together on Friday, May 19. 

Cooper will speak at the combined Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement, and Gomez will speak at undergraduate commencement. 

Frank Cooper III

A branding and advertising leader, Cooper leads Visa’s marketing across all regions and functions, including brand, data and insights, social and digital platforms, content, and sponsorships. Cooper, recognized by Fast Company as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business,” describes himself as “a marketer in the broadest sense: I seek to change things—change ways of thinking but more important to change behaviors.”

Prior to working at Visa, Cooper served as chief marketing officer at BlackRock, shaping the firm’s global brand and marketing strategy. 

Cooper has also previously held C-suite positions as chief marketing and creative officer at Buzzfeed, and as PepsiCo’s chief marketing officer of global consumer engagement for more than 12 years. Cooper also served as former chairman of the American Advertising Federation and on the for-profit boards of Burlington Stores and Ogmento/Flyby Media. 

He began his career as an entertainment lawyer and was a senior executive at Motown and Def Jam. He is a four-time recipient of Billboard’s “Power 100” and AdColor’s “Legend” award. 

He began his career as an entertainment lawyer and was a senior executive at Motown and Def Jam. He is a four-time recipient of Billboard’s “Power 100” and AdColor’s “Legend” award. 

He earned an undergraduate degree in business administration at UC Berkeley, and a JD from Harvard Law School, where he served as the Supreme Court Editor of The Harvard Law Review.

Elena Gomez 

As chief financial officer at Boston-based Toast, Gomez oversees global finance, investor relations, and corporate development. Under her financial leadership, the cloud-based restaurant management software company launched its initial public offering in 2021

Prior to her position at Toast, Gomez served as the chief financial officer at Zendesk, where she grew the company’s market capitalization to more than $15 billion.

Throughout her 30-year career, Gomez has helped organizations scale through cycles of massive growth while leading in industries that have been transformed by digital transactions. 

She has held financial leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies including Salesforce, Visa, and Charles Schwab. 

Additionally, Gomez serves on the board of directors for Smartsheet and PagerDuty as audit committee chair.  She was also named to the San Francisco Business TImes’ 2017 list of “Most Influential Women in Business.”

An advocate for corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion, she serves on the Founding Advisory Council of the Center for Gender, Equity & Leadership (EGAL) at Haas, as well as the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco.

Ann Harrison reappointed to second term as Berkeley Haas dean

Woman standing with arms crossed in multicolored sweater
Dean Ann Harrison. Photo: Noah Berger

Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison, lauded for keeping the school’s six business programs ranked among the world’s best and significantly expanding the breadth and depth of the faculty, has been appointed to serve a second five-year term.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Benjamin Hermalin announced Harrison’s reappointment today. Her new term begins July 1, 2023. 

“Please join us in congratulating Ann on her reappointment and her many accomplishments,” they said in a campus announcement. “With a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, sustainability, and DEIJB (diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging), her bold and transformative vision for the future of Haas will continue to set it apart from other top business schools.”

Harrison said she is thrilled by the reappointment and the opportunity to continue supporting student learning and well-being, growing the faculty and providing them with the necessary resources to conduct groundbreaking research, teaming up with the superb staff, and strengthening the school’s finances and reputation.

Dean Ann Harrison sitting in a chair in the Haas courtyard
Dean Harrison in the Haas courtyard, where the school’s Defining Leadership Principles (including Confidence without Attitude) are etched in stone. Photo: Noah Berger

“As a public university, our mission is to transform the lives of as many students as possible and lead the world with path-breaking research,” Harrison said. “I am so proud of our faculty strengths across so many different areas—from real estate and finance to strategy, economics, marketing, and management. Haas graduates are transforming business to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”

“I am so proud of our faculty strengths across so many different areas—from real estate and finance to strategy, economics, marketing, and management. Haas graduates are transforming business to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Advancing the mission

Harrison is the 15th dean of Haas and the second woman to lead the school. Her new book, “Globalization, Firms, and Workers” (World Scientific Books, 2022), collects her path-breaking work on globalization and international trade. She is now the world’s most highly cited scholar on foreign direct investment.

Harrison earned her BA from UC Berkeley in economics and history, and her PhD from Princeton University. She held previous professorships in UC Berkeley’s College of Agricultural and Resource Economics as well as at Columbia University and the Wharton School, where she was the William H. Wurster Professor of Management.  

At Haas since January 2019, Harrison has advanced the school’s mission in a number of critical areas, including:

  • increasing the size of the faculty, which allowed for diversification and the creation of new faculty groups. Since she arrived in 2019, Harrison has led the hiring of 33 new professors; 52% are women and 52% are people of color.
  • creating the first Flex online MBA cohort at any top business school. Haas applied learnings from the pandemic, using new technology to make the MBA available to expanded groups of international students and working parents who require flexible schedules.
  • raising a record $200 million over the last four years, including a record $69 million last year. Under Harrison, Haas secured the largest single gift in the school’s history$30 million from alumnus Ned Spieker, BS 66to turn the undergraduate program into a four-year program.
  • committing to making Haas a more inclusive school by creating a more diverse Haas Advisory Board; employing extensive resources to diversify the student body; rethinking faculty and staff hiring; and incorporating anti-bias training for senior leaders, staff, and students.

Harrison said she will continue to work with her team to strengthen academics as well as the student experience at Haas. One important goal is to ensure that the school’s six degree programs remain the best in the world. In its 2023 b-school ranking, announced today, the Financial Times named the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program #4 in the U.S. and #7 worldwide, a record high for the program. US News & World Report ranks both the highly-selective Haas Undergraduate Program and the Evening & Weekend MBA Program #2 in the U.S. The Master’s in Financial Engineering (MFE) Program is also ranked #2 globally. 

In its 2023 b-school ranking, announced today, the Financial Times named the Full-time MBA Program #4 in the U.S. and #7 worldwide, a record-high for Haas. 

Three priority areas

She also plans to continue work in her three priority areas: sustainability, DEIJB, and entrepreneurship. 

“Business plays a critical role in mainstreaming everything from fighting climate change to creating more inclusive and equitable workplaces,” Harrison said. “Haas is preparing students to lead in those areas.” The school’s Accounting Group, for example, is assessing SEC proposals to increase financial disclosure requirements for climate risk, she said.

In sustainability, Harrison brought in Michele de Nevers, a top sustainability expert, from the World Bank, whose team has worked to combine the existing sustainability curriculum with new courses. By the end of 2023, all core courses at Haas will be on track to incorporate cases, topics, and assignments that will empower students to address climate change and other sustainability challenges through business. Haas is now set apart as the only school that offers depth and breadth across all of the key sustainability areas aligned with the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education: energy, food, real estate/built environment, corporate social responsibility, and impact finance. 

In diversity and inclusion, Harrison oversaw the building of a team led by Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista, which includes four full-time staff and a part-time diversity expert who is working with faculty on curriculum and teaching. This past spring, the school launched its first-ever core course on leading diverse teams.

Known for its strength in entrepreneurship and innovation, Haas will be breaking ground on a new entrepreneurship hub this spring. In partnership with UC Berkeley, which is the #1 public institution for startup founders (as reported by Pitchbook), the hub will bring together students from across campus to network and innovate. On the faculty side, Harrison oversaw the creation of the new Entrepreneurship and Innovation faculty group in 2020.

Dean Ann Harrison with Kimberly Mendez, Nicole Austin-Thomas, and Almaz Ali, MBA 21s, at the Berkeley Haas Consortium student welcome event in 2019.
Dean Ann Harrison with Kimberly Mendez, Nicole Austin-Thomas, and Almaz Ali, MBA 21s, at the Berkeley Haas Consortium student welcome event in 2019.

Cross-campus collaboration

Harrison, who has deep relationships with leaders across UC Berkeley, has also prioritized cross-campus collaboration, increasing the number of academic programs offered by Haas. She worked closely with the Berkeley School of Public Health and School of Law to bolster their joint programs and launched the Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Program with the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, the MBA/MEng degree with the College of Engineering, and the summer minor in sustainable business and policy with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. 

She is currently developing a concurrent degree program for a  joint MBA and master’s degree in climate solutions with the Rausser College of Natural Resources.  

 

Financial Times ranks Haas FTMBA #4 in U.S.

The Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA rose to #4 among U.S. schools and #7 internationally in the 2023 Financial Times Global MBA Ranking. Haas joined Columbia, Harvard, and Stanford as this year’s top four U.S. programs.

Haas raised its ranking due to improvements across several factors, including increased faculty research publications; greater gender balance in the student body, faculty, and Haas board; an improved alumni career progress rank; and a higher employment rate of 93% for the full-time MBA Class of 2022.

In addition, Haas ranked #6 globally for its efforts in lowering its carbon footprint, a new measure for the Financial Times, which is increasingly evaluating business programs based on their ability to advance environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts. Haas also improved its rating for teaching ESG concepts in its MBA program.

Alumni salaries continue to be a strong point, placing Haas fifth in the world for both average salaries and for weighted salaries that are adjusted for variations across different sectors—the two most important aspects of the ranking.

More than 50% of the ranking is based on a survey of FTMBA alumni who graduated in 2019; the remainder is based on data provided by participating schools. Last year, Haas tied for #9 in the US and tied for #14 internationally.

Read the article and full ranking.

Jann Wenner on UC Berkeley in the 1960s & the evolution of Rolling Stone

As co-founder of Rolling Stone Magazine, Jann Wenner published the first major interviews with dozens of top rock stars of the 1960s and launched the careers of generations of journalists, musicians and photographers.

AT 77, Wenner recently published a memoir, Like a Rolling Stone, which covers the launch of the magazine and the music, politics, lifestyle, and cultural change that swept America during the 1960s and beyond.

In conversation with writer author and music critic Greil Marcus last week, Wenner looked back on his time as a student at UC Berkeley, where he met Marcus and participated in the Free Speech Movement.

“The soil of Berkeley gave birth to this,” Wenner said during The Chris Boskin Deans’ Speaker Series in Business and Journalism talk. “Part drugs, part music, part student – it was out of this consciousness.”

Running a groundbreaking publication brought its share of organizational challenges, Wenner said.

“Our main task in the first 15 to 20 years was learning how to be a business and how to manage growth,” Wenner said. “Our growth was rapid. We had no experience. Anything that you did that was wrong, you don’t learn from, you just move on. It leads you, obviously, into making some pretty dumb moves and mistakes, thinking you’re better than you are.”

Rolling Stone helped pioneer narrative journalism when two of the magazine’s reporters, Hunter S. Thompson and Timothy Crouse, eschewed conventional reporting during the 1972 presidential race between George McGovern and Richard Nixon.

“We did something so brilliant and exceptional that it changed journalism forever and put Rolling Stone up into the first rank of American publications,” said Wenner.

Wenner also published Outside, US Weekly, Family Life, and Men’s Journal, and co-founded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Watch the full video.

Why the tech layoffs offer opportunity for a reset: Q&A with Saikat Chaudhuri

Portrait of a man with glasses and blue suit jacket
Saikat Chaudhuri (Photo: Copyright Noah Berger)

While tech employment remains strong, a wave of layoffs is shaking up the industry. According to the tracking site layoffs.fyi, about 137,000 people have lost their jobs since layoffs started ticking up in May. 

To find out more about what is driving this shakeup, we spoke with Saikat Chaudhuri, faculty director of the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (MET) Program and of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Hub. Chaudhuri, an expert on corporate growth and innovation, mergers and acquisitions, outsourcing, and technological disruption, says the upheaval offers the opportunity for a reset and a chance to pursue growth in emerging areas.

The economy and labor markets are going strong. So why are so many tech companies laying off workers? 

Many people are confounding two different things. We should not mix up the events specific to the tech industry with all the other issues that are going on in the broader economy due to the challenges of macroeconomic shocks, like Russia’s war on Ukraine, the aftereffects of the pandemic including supply chain problems, and the general inflationary pressures. The technology industry is also affected by those events, but there are additionally more fundamental factors at play.

“I am not worried about the jobs coming back. What we are seeing are structural changes. The jobs will be shifting, and will grow in up-and-coming areas.”

What’s happening in the tech industry is really a natural shakeout after over a decade of phenomenal growth. It is not unlike when the dotcom bubble burst in 2001. The sector was overheated and it could not continue as it had. The same is true now, as many startup and unicorn valuations skyrocketed over the last years, especially because the pandemic accelerated the growth to record levels as the deployment of technology and digital transformation became necessary everywhere. On the bright side, it’s actually not all bad. While I recognize that layoffs are painful for many people right now, the industry as a whole needs this adjustment to bring us to a path of more sustainable economic growth in tech. Because what was happening, especially with hiring over the last few years, was just completely unrealistic.

Meta laid off 11,000 workers in November, or about 13% of its workforce. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

How did we get here?

During the pandemic, we went more digital. People worked remotely and they could work from anywhere—Hawaii, the countryside, anywhere. Tech became a big factor as the economy shifted entirely online: online retail, online banking, online instruction, online meetings, online therapy. It brought significant disruption to all industries. 

We need to keep in mind that the pandemic was a different kind of economic crisis. Usually in an economic crisis, everybody loses, but that didn’t happen here. Some industries actually gained significantly, especially most of the technology sectors. The growth rate that they experienced, whether hardware, software, e-commerce, healthcare apps, fintech, crypto—you name it—was completely unsustainable. Just take a look at tech hiring last year: Tech job postings hit their peak in March 2022 and have been declining sharply since. We hit the point where the trend reverses. It was going to happen, either now or a year or two from now. It coincides with what’s going on in the overall economy and world politics, leading to a perfect storm. 

“Once that first domino falls, it is easy for others to follow.”

This situation also poses a great excuse for employers. They say: A recession is coming. I will have to let people go.” Once that first domino falls, it is easy for others to follow.

Are you saying there was an inflation of the workforce inside the tech industry?

Yes. The reason for this is very simple: You don’t get penalized for growing your workforce while the sector is growing so fast. Everybody knows it will have to stop at some point, but there’s no penalty for riding the wave. 

In fact, there’s a loss for your firm if you don’t ride the growth. If you said, “We should be more prudent because some sort of adjustment is going to happen,” there’d be no gain and you’d be losing out on the potential benefits—profits, funding, talent. Because when the correction happens, you can simply lay people off by the thousands. Two years later, the same people who got laid off will come back to the industry (whether at the same kinds of firms or new areas that emerge), and the same VCs will invest. There are no consequences for these actions. That’s just the way of Silicon Valley and the tech world, as they go through cycles. 

 

In November, Amazon cut its corporate workforce by 10,000 people. (AP File Photo by Michel Spingler)

Is this correction just a tightening of the belt, or is the industry reorganizing itself to make room for a new wave of technologies that require new skills or a reallocation of resources?

There will be some reorganization happening, because some areas are growing faster than others. For example, Amazon decided that not all of its devices are doing so well. Companies have been carrying losses in some areas for a while. But it didn’t matter because there was so much growth overall, and they didn’t want to miss out on that wave. It is not unlike the dotcom bubble, where for instance network equipment companies were investing in an array of optical networking products that never properly worked, because regular routers and switches were minting money. 

“A re-evaluation of talent needs will also play a role.”

Moreover, re-evaluation of talent needs will also play a role. I’ve been puzzled for a while about all the anxiety surrounding the shortage of software developers, and the salaries they were being offered in the mad scramble to secure such talent. So much basic programming work has become well-defined, codified, and routine that those skills can be learned at scale by a wider base of employees. If you think about it, thousands of software developers, even at companies like Microsoft and Google, are engaged to implement enhancements to products such as adjusting fonts or updating visuals or adding simple features—not product design or creation of new functionality. Those jobs don’t require computer science graduates, as IBM realized five years ago, when they began hiring non-college graduates with programming experience, at that time out of necessity. 

In fact, there are tools now that can automate basic code writing, which are already being deployed. It won’t stop there, because we now also have algorithms which can do many sophisticated tasks; just look at Open AI’s ChatGPT, which is writing essays, poems, lecture notes, speeches, and other creative pieces at the click of a button!

Why now? Is there anything in particular that started this domino effect this year? 

Now, with increased scrutiny from investors and others who look at a firm’s financial viability, this overstaffing approach is getting reined in. There have been excesses in view of rosy projections and seemingly limitless valuations. Now the bubble has popped, as it does in every tech cycle, and it’s been a great opportunity (and excuse) for firms to make adjustments, tighten their belts, and reduce their workforce.

photo of five students who won top award at C2M
The winning Cleantech to Market (C2M) teams celebrate after making their presentations on Dec. 2. C2M is a partnership between graduate students, startups, and industry professionals to help accelerate the commercialization of leading cleantech technologies. Over 15 weeks, each team and their subject matter experts spend nearly 1,000 hours assessing these leading-edge technologies and investigating a wide range of market opportunities.

Where do you see opportunities?

The next wave of growth will come from emerging sectors, like cleantech and green tech, new materials, breakthroughs in the life sciences, and novel products and services resulting from the maturation of general purpose technologies like AI. Just like the dotcom era was about the internet and all that it spawned—cloud services, big data, the internet of things, and other advances in information technology—there will be a wave of new technologies that will disrupt a lot of different sectors. 

In many industries, the disruption has just begun and exciting new transformations are taking place that’ll unfold over the next decade—whether in education, healthcare, finance, automobiles, or aerospace, just to name a few. I am not worried about the jobs coming back. What we are seeing are structural changes. The jobs will be shifting, and will grow in up-and-coming areas. 

“If I could give one piece of advice, it’s this: Don’t get sidetracked by group think and FOMO. To become a leader, you’ll need to be comfortable charting new paths and challenging conventional approaches.”

What does that mean for the students at Haas, and those considering an MBA? 

For our own graduates, it would be healthy to see this as an opportunity. The most entrepreneurial people are the ones who look at these situations and say, “Change is good, and uncertainty has two sides. It’s what creates the opportunity for new things.” 

Instead of defining your career in terms of a particular job at a particular company, you could think about which problem you want to solve. That is where you will find the opportunity to lead and to make a real impact. 

It’s great to aspire to work your way up to an executive job at a large firm, and many of our graduates will do that and be very successful. Others will go against the grain. They will be the ones we hear about, because they actually change how Goldman Sachs works or McKinsey works or Google works for the next era. And of course there will be the entrepreneurs who will pursue startups that will redefine entire industries. 

Take Stuart Bernstein, BS 86, former Goldman Sachs managing director and partner who shook up investment banking with his passion for clean energy and the environment. A true leader by definition changes things. That’s why we pay attention to them and learn from them.

A lot of our students come in wanting to make an impact early in their careers. What does it take to get there?

If I could give one piece of advice, it’s this: Don’t get sidetracked by group think and FOMO. To become a leader, you’ll need to be comfortable charting new paths and challenging conventional approaches. Leaders have confidence, without attitude—confidence in their vision and in their ability to make it happen, and the humility to learn and acknowledge challenges and risks.

The good news is, you don’t have to be born with it. An MBA program like Berkeley’s gives you the opportunity to develop that kind of confidence. You can train yourself to see the opportunity in ambiguity, embrace serendipity, and take intelligent risks. 

Along the way you also learn key the business skills—finance, marketing, management, operations, and so forth—that you will need as a leader. All that will help you develop this vision for your path to make an impact, and the confidence and network to make it happen. 

Winners of this month’s LAUNCH Startup Accelerator Demo Day.

What opportunities are there at Haas and Berkeley to get ahead of the next wave?

As part of our strategic priorities, we are building a new entrepreneurship hub at Haas that will be a game changer for our students and students across Berkeley. It will draw people from all over the campus. The great thing about Berkeley is that it has so many top-rated departments, and we will be able to bring them to one place to talk to each other and collaborate. So many of our Haas signature programs are about this kind of cross-pollination. Take Cleantech to Market’s partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, or the Berkeley Skydeck accelerator, or the dual degree programs we have with Public Health, Engineering, Law, and that we are developing with the Rausser College of Natural Resources. 

The most pressing problems of global society today require interdisciplinary perspectives. The hub we are developing will not only allow diverse people to connect, but it will provide them with the space and resources to create community, build their ventures, and be discovered by investors. What is novel is that we will not only support those who have a good sense of the entrepreneurial path, but also those who simply would like to be exposed to what it’s all about—the “entrepre-curious,” as we call them. And anyone from around the university will be able to drop in to simply ask an expert for guidance on how to navigate the vast innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at Berkeley based on what they need.

“While the tech industry is doing a reset, it may be a great time for you to do a reset as well.”

What’s your big-picture advice?

Silicon Valley is our backyard. While the tech industry is doing a reset, it may be a great time for you to do a reset as well. Beef up your skills, develop your leadership potential, build your network, and embrace your inner entrepreneur.

Three teams honored for innovation at Cleantech to Market Summit

students holding large checks on stage at Haas for winning at C2M summit.
Three teams were honored at the annual C2M Summit. Photo: Jim Block

Three teams that included Berkeley Haas MBA students won top awards at the annual Cleantech to Market (C2M) Climate Tech Summit last Friday.

C2M is a partnership between graduate students, startups, and industry professionals to help accelerate commercialization of cleantech solutions. Over 15 weeks, each C2M team spends nearly 1,000 hours assessing leading-edge technologies and investigating market opportunities.

Last week, teams presented their findings, followed by an audience Q&A. Dean Ann Harrison also took the stage, interviewed by Financial Times correspondent Dave Lee about the school’s work to put sustainability at the core of business education.

This year’s winners of the MetLife Climate Solutions Awards included:

Niron Magnetics: The team won $20,000 for working on powerful, low cost, and environmentally-sustainable permanent magnets to free electrification from dependence on rare earth elements. The team included Andrew Cahill, EWMBA 23, Ben Brokesh, JD 24, Campbell Scott, MBA 23, Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23, and Sepideh Karimiziarani, MS 22, Development Engineering.

Five students who won top honor at C2M summit
Team Niron Magnetics. Photo: Jim Block

GenH: The team won $10,000 for working on a rapidly deployable, fully modular hydropower system to electrify non-powered dams and canal heads to generate clean, stable, and cost-competitive renewable energy. Team members included Emily Robinson, EWMBA 23, Hon Leung “Curtis” Wong, MS 23, Development Engineering, Maelym Medina, MBA 23, and Santiago Recabarren, MBA 23.

four students standing in Chou Hall
Team GenH: Photo: Jim Block

Quino Energy: The team won $5,000 for working on scalable, non-flammable energy storage made possible by a proprietary zero-waste process that transforms coal and wood tar into designer flow-battery reactants. Team members included Dongwan Kim, MBA 23, Ingrid Xhafa, MS 23, Development Engineering, James Wang, MBA 23, Kennedy McCone, graduate student researcher, UC Berkeley College of Chemistry, and Noah Carson, EMBA 23.

four students standing in Spieker Forum
Team Quino Energy was the audience favorite. Photo: Jim Block

The Quino Energy team also won the Hasler Cleantech to Market Award as audience favorite based on online polling throughout the day. 

MetLife is a corporate sponsor of the C2M Program; The Financial Times served as an event partner.

New Conflict Lab walks MBA students through the toughest workplace conversations

student in Conflict Lab roleplaying with instructor
Pearly Khare, MBA 23, role plays with his ‘boss’ and course instructor Bree Jenkins, MBA 19 during a class session. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Pearly Khare, MBA 23, was in a difficult spot. His ‘boss’ was confronting him about taking off early for vacation, leaving his colleagues “in the dust.” “I definitely understand how that impacted the team,” he said, adding that he gave her and his team advance notice. Then he apologized. 

Afterwards, MBA students who had watched the interaction discussed Khare’s apology to Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, who played the role of his boss.

 “If we apologize, and we’re not even sure of what we did or we are not genuinely sorry for what we did, it can be another form of conflict avoidance,” says Jenkins, co-instructor of the new Berkeley Haas MBA pilot course Difficult Conversations: Conflict Lab, where students roleplay tricky situations that are dreaded at work. “We should ask ourselves if it’s just because we want to move past the discomfort.”

From delivering a poor performance review to providing a critical work project assessment to firing an employee, things often got “spicy” during the 10-week session, says co-instructor Francesca LeBaron, MBA 19. But the class isn’t about right or wrong or about debating morality. “It’s about maintaining connection, even when we disagree with the person,” LeBaron said. “What is your objective? Is it to make this person feel heard, to problem solve, or to share your own needs? And how effective were you at achieving that objective?” 

The new Conflict Lab extends learnings from longstanding Haas School MBA offerings including Teams@Haas, which delivers a common framework for teamwork across MBA programs, and the core Leading People course. It also compliments experiential learning on conflict management included in the class Leading High Impact Teams and the new core course Communicating in Diverse Environments. 

Do you want to be promoted?

Jenkins and LeBaron kicked off their new class with a speed conflict session (similar to speed dating) where students role-played a back-to-back series of conflicts to get a sense of the discomfort they would experience in the class. The exercise helped students to assess if this style of experiential learning was right for them. 

two students talking during class about having difficult conversations.
The class asks students to address the hardest parts of receiving difficult feedback. Photo: Brittany Hosea Small.

Ten undergraduate UC Berkeley students and a group of Berkeley Haas alumni—ranging from PWC partners to a Google exec to an NYU professor—also joined the class to play roles that would put students in the hot seat. 

In one session, alumna Kelly Deutermann, MBA 17, confronted Mridul Agarwal, MBA 23, about why he wanted to get off a project. Deutermann aggressively questioned Agarwal. “Do you want to be promoted? Do you want to be taken seriously? This is your chance.” When Agarwal explained that “it might not be the best project for me at this time,” Deutermann responded with, “This project needs to happen. Do you just not want to work hard to do it?” In this role play, Agarwal had to balance his own bandwidth and need for support with Deutermann’s demands for project management. 

After the difficult talk, Agarwal took a deep breath, and the two of them laughed and shook their heads. 

Friends coming up with solutions

Jenkins and LeBaron met in their first year at Haas. They were in the same cohort and found they shared a lot in common: They were both Consortium Fellows, student instructors for the Leadership Communications course, and board members for the Haas Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership (EGAL). After graduation, LeBaron went to work as an executive coach and mediator for startups at UC Berkeley’s accelerator SkyDeck; Jenkins runs leadership training courses as a senior leadership development associate at Pixar Animation Studios.

 “I noticed themes and trends with what we were doing at work,” Jenkins said. “There was conflict avoidance and harm from conflict that’s not dealt with effectively. We talked to friends in other organizations and we realized quickly that everyone is dealing with workplace conflict.” 

For example, LeBaron had recently coached startup founder and former Haas classmate Fahed Essa on how to fire someone. “Fahed is brilliant—has three masters degrees and has started three companies,” she said. “If he is still struggling with this, I bet many people are. I want Haasies to have this skill set that balances being compassionate with being honest and clear.”

After discussing the problem, Jenkins and LeBaron did what they were known for doing at Haas: they came up with a solution. With sponsorship from the Center for Social Sector Leadership at Haas (CSSL), they designed a syllabus for a pilot course completely devoted to managing difficult conversations. The class enrolled 32 MBA students, with a waitlist. 

To track their progress throughout the class, students provide one another with feedback, write papers addressing their own conflict styles, and identify conflicts in the media and how they can be improved using lessons from the course framework. “It’s really important that the students find ways to continue to practice this work after the class is complete,” Jenkins said. “They should have a clear understanding of where they are in their conflict journey and what they want to do to continue to grow.”

During their final class, Jenkins and LeBaron took on a role-play with each other. Jenkins played a manager criticizing an employee for botching a critical client presentation. “I expected more of you,” Jenkins said. “I’m hearing that my actions didn’t meet your expectations. Can you tell me more about what that looked like for you?” LeBaron said. After more back and forth, they drilled down to the core issue: Jenkins was frustrated and disappointed because she wanted to appear competent in front of the client. The two decided to review all future presentations together before going to a client.

LeBaron asked the class to consider what Jenkins felt. “I don’t know if I made typos, but in her mind I made those mistakes,” she said. Her objective, she said, was to better understand her boss’ experience and unmet needs. “I can still hold my experience as true for me, while being curious about understanding her experience,” LeBaron said. 

Student gives feedback during conflict lab
Students practice giving and receiving feedback after role-playing a difficult conversation. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Working past fear through practice

After the 10-week class ended, students who identified themselves as conflict-avoidant at the start of Conflict Lab said they were starting to work past it.

Daryl Pugh, MBA 23, an executive recruiter before he came to Haas, said he’s learning to be “comfortable with discomfort” and was already using what he learned in class to help a friend through the difficulty of laying off employees. “I tried to talk to her through having that conversation and processing other people’s feelings, understanding what was happening and her interpretation of what was happening. We had a couple of sessions.”

What Pugh said he found most surprising over the weeks was understanding how inaccurately he can interpret the actions of others. “We need to focus on not ascribing emotion to people that could be just wrong,” he said. “That’s how we are trained our whole lives, even in social settings, is to interpret other people’s feelings. The only way to know how a person is feeling is to ask. This class taught me how to get others to express their feelings, then I can move past my observations and interpretations to a new level of understanding.”

Mariam Al-Rayes, MBA 23, said the course provided a set of tools that she plans to use at work and beyond. “I wish we’d learned this earlier in life,” she said. “The role playing was so useful—like when alumni talked to us as our managers. It was realistic and we applied what we learned in class first-hand.” 

On the journey to create a new class of conflict-embracing leaders, LeBaron and Jenkins are well on their way—and plan to offer the class again in Fall 2023.

 

Headspace Health COO Karan Singh, BS 05, on finding purpose

Karan Singh, BS 05,  said his career purpose didn’t become clear until a life-changing event 13 years ago.

“I was on the other end of a phone call after a loved one had tried to take their own life,”  said Singh, COO of Headspace Health, during a recent Dean’s Speaker Series talk. “I’ve always thought of myself as a good read on people and a good judge of character, and I had no idea at all. I realized in a lot of communities of color—my family’s originally from India—that mental health is just the no-go zone. It’s the topic that no one talks about.”

That realization set Singh on the path to founding Ginger, a digital therapy platform that takes a preventative approach to mental health, in 2011. The company merged with Headspace, a meditation and mindfulness app, to form Headspace Health in 2021, a time of global need for mental health care services as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified behavioral health challenges.

During the DSS talk, Singh discussed the increasing level of investment in mental health care, and his excitement that more young entrepreneurs are joining him in mental health innovation.

“I want to say that mental health has made it into the forefront…I think we’re on that journey now. We’re having these conversations in rooms in government, in boardrooms, and in other settings that historically would never have been in the dialogue. So, we’ve come a long way, and still, there’s just a whole lot more we’ve got to do.”

The DSS talk was held with Google, part of a collaboration for The Haas Healthcare Association John E. Martin Mental Healthcare Challenge. The event marked the start of this year’s Challenge, which invites graduate student teams from around the world to develop creative solutions for improving the quality of and access to mental healthcare.

‘Magic’ disruption in the transportation industry lures MBA grads to jobs

Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23
Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23, co-president of the Haas Mobility Club, interned at Zoox.

As a strategy manager at self-driving car startup Zoox last summer, Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23, spent a lot of time thinking about the challenges of rolling out robotaxi fleets in cities. 

“Watching self-driving cars navigate the complex streets of San Francisco is pure magic,” Vakis said. “But to commercialize at scale, the industry has big strategic questions to work on that no one has fully solved so far.”

Vakis, co-president of the Berkeley Haas Transportation and Mobility Club, is among a growing number of students drawn to the rapidly-changing and fast-growing transportation/mobility industry. At Berkeley Haas, interest in the sector reflects that growth, with eight students in the Class of 2022 taking full-time jobs in the industry, (up from previous years), and 15 students in the 2023 class accepting internships. One lure, aside from the fun of being immersed in new technology, is the impressive pay. Mean base salaries for the 2022 FTMBA grads reached the higher end of the school’s employment report, coming in at $152,000 with a mean $23,000 bonus.

The Haas Mobility Club is hosting its annual Haas Mobility Summit 2022 Saturday, Nov. 5, at Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum.

Doug Massa, a relationship manager in the transportation and mobility sector for the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group, said the rise in interest comes at a time when companies that spent years on the technical aspects of building their products and services are looking to scale.

Doug Massa
Doug Massa, a relationship manager in the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group.

 “That’s why these companies are recruiting strong MBA talent,” Massa said. “MBA roles like corporate strategy, product management, and operations are what get our students excited and these are the types of roles that they’re landing.”

Many current students are meeting and networking through the Haas Mobility Club, which is hosting its annual Haas Mobility Summit 2022 Saturday, Nov. 5, at Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum. The summit, UC Berkeley’s largest transportation-focused conference, focuses this year on “reimagining sustainable and accessible mobility,” with senior executives from Zoox, Rivian, General Motors, Spin, Autotech Ventures, and others joining. The student-run Haas Mobility Club, now more than 175 members strong, welcomes graduate students from beyond Haas—in the Engineering, Data Science, and Urban Planning programs. 

Disrupting industries

As the market has heated up, Massa said he’s fielding about 20 calls a week from first and second-year students who want to talk about job opportunities in transportation. In addition to Uber and Lyft, Massa helps students recruit for roles at upstarts as well as big automakers like GM and Ford, electric auto leaders like Tesla and electric adventure vehicle maker Rivian, and autonomous vehicles like Cruise.

Minjee Kang portrait
Minjee Kang, MBA 23, interned at Rivian.

Haas Mobility Club member Minjee Kang, MBA 23, landed an internship in strategic operations at Rivian. Kang, who worked in operations at Air Korea before coming to Haas, said her goal and her reason for getting an MBA is to be part of sweeping industry-wide change.

“I believe the airline industry is going to be disrupted soon, just like Uber and ride sharing disrupted the traditional auto industry,” she said. “I think the transportation and mobility industry is facing a variety of opportunities as a whole, and I want to be a part of it.”

Sarah Thorson
Sarah Thorson, MBA/MEng 23 and co-president of the Haas Mobility Club, interned at Nvidia.

Sarah Thorson, MBA/MEng 23, who studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate, landed an internship in product management at Nvidia, where she worked on autonomous vehicle development tools.

Thorson said she’s always been pulled to the technical side of the auto industry and knew she could study both business and engineering in her dual degree program. “I wanted to come to Haas to explore a product role in tech and to learn about the impact of technology innovations on transportation and mobility,” said Thorson, co-president of the Haas Mobility Club.

Investment opportunities in transportation also lures MBA students. Logan Szidik, MBA 23, pivoted toward early stage venture capital investment at Haas, working as an intern at Menlo Park-based Autotech Ventures.

Logan Szidik, MBA 23
Logan Szidik, MBA 23

 “With companies staying private longer than ever before, private capital has an outsized impact on the future of the automotive industry,” he said. “As someone with a deep interest in technologies addressing the climate crisis, I wanted to better understand how investors approach start-ups focused on emerging spaces like vehicle-to-grid and fleet electrification.”

Alumni ecosystem

As more Haas grads move into transportation, the alumni community has expanded, with about 180 members of the Haas Mobility Network’s WhatsApp group.

That community includes transportation industry entrepreneurs like Ludwig Schoenack, MBA 19, co-founder of Kyte, a cars-on-demand service, and Arcady Sosinov, MBA 15, CEO of FreeWire, which makes fast electric vehicle chargers and battery generators. Both Bay Area companies have found success in raising $239 million and $230 million respectively, to expand their businesses.

This rich alumni network will continue to serve students well, Massa said. (Carlin Dacey, MBA 22, for example, recently joined Kyte as a market manager)

“The network has led to internships and full-time jobs,” he said. “It’s become a really nice ecosystem.”

Afraz Khan, MBA 23, blends business strategy and social activism

Afraz Khan, MBA 23, has led a life driven by faith, community engagement, and social activism. Prior to business school, Khan served as an outreach coordinator for the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program and wed interracial and interfaith couples within the Muslim-American community as owner of Muslim Wedding Service. In this interview, Khan, an LA native, discusses his journey to memorize the Quran, his activism and social enterprise work, and why he decided to study business.

What brought you to Haas?

I joined Muslim Wedding Service in 2017 as an officiant. Our focus is providing qualified officiants who work alongside interracial and interfaith couples to craft culturally inclusive wedding experiences for all those in attendance. In 2018, I took over the enterprise and have built it out to a team of about 25 officiants. We conducted 120 weddings last year across the U.S. and, given our business is a social enterprise, we successfully donated $50,000 to nonprofits and social services over the past three years.  My thinking was, “Let me come to business school to get a better sense of how business strategy and revenue models are used to build sustainable funding streams.” The hope is to incorporate that type of approach into social enterprise work, where we can sustainably fund the types of initiatives that would help tackle some of our current social issues.

My thinking was, “Let me come to business school to get a better sense of how business strategy and revenue models are used to build sustainable funding streams.”

Tell us about your family background.

My parents immigrated from North India in the 1980s to Los Angeles, where I was born and raised with an older sister. Growing up, we were pretty attached to the local Muslim community, which was primarily immigrant and South Asian. My parents prioritized faith and building connections with immigrants from that same background.

Afraz Khan weds couples with interfaith backgrounds as owner of Muslim Wedding Service.

How did you connect to America and LA from that space?

Until Kobe and the Lakers, my family had little attachment to American culture. However, we really started getting into basketball in the early 2000s when the Lakers were winning championships. I have a lot of memories of watching games with my family and listening to them on the radio. It helped me feel more connected to the broader American culture claiming the Lakers as a piece of our own. Also pivotal was 9/11, when I was in second grade. After 9/11, there was a push for us to demonstrate more of our patriotism. It was understood that you had to have an American flag in front of your house. I remember people in our community not sending their kids to high school because there were instances of racial targeting and Islamophobia.

How did 9/11 change your life?

One moment comes back from eighth grade. I was sitting in class and the clock struck noon and the teacher was in the middle of his lecture. My watch started beeping and this student yelled from across the room, “Watch out! He’s [Afraz] got a bomb.” Most of the kids were laughing. The teacher didn’t really say much, and I was frozen, not knowing how to react. But there wasn’t much addressing of the comment or an acknowledgement that it wasn’t appropriate. In high school, I was one of maybe five or six Muslims in a school of over a thousand kids. It was hard to understand how I, as a Muslim American, was supposed to integrate into this larger society. Islam felt foreign to the American experience, and there was not really a place for my faith identity to exist. This othering continues to persist.

It was hard to understand how I, as a Muslim American, was supposed to integrate into this larger society. Islam felt foreign to the American experience, and there was not really a place for my faith identity to exist.

You began memorizing the Quran in fifth grade and have continued religious work as a teacher and advisor. What drove that commitment?

A big part was this general desire to build a closeness with my faith and take ownership over my relationship with the divine. I spent eight years memorizing the Quran, which also included taking a gap year before college. As an undergraduate student at NYU, I found for the first time a large community of native Muslim Americans also trying to understand their journey with faith. I started delivering sermons and facilitating classes at our Islamic center on campus and unexpectedly fell into a role in providing the community with something I hadn’t had while growing up: a person who possessed the lived experience of growing up Muslim in America and could draw upon deeper sources of knowledge of the faith in demonstrating how Islam can actually serve as a source of empowerment. 

I found for the first time a large community of native Muslim Americans also trying to understand their journey with faith. 

Where did you work after your undergrad program?

I spent a year in New York City government conducting community affairs work, and then the next three years at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, focusing on advocacy and outreach. I was doing some organizing work around changing the disorderly conduct statutes in the South. These were policies designed to provide law enforcement broad discretion in criminalizing students of color for typical youth behavior—like when a kid purposely burps in class or doesn’t sit in an assigned seat. Law enforcement was charging these kids with disorderly conduct. We were working to help dismantle that policy, starting a lawsuit and organizing. But we had to shift our priorities at a certain point based on the desires of our funders to focus on a different issue within criminal justice. It’s tough when you know the on-the-ground realities, but the folks providing the funding have a different view. So, there was that lack of agency plus the reactionary way in which a lot of nonprofits understandably need to behave that pushed me to think more about business as a potential force for good. 

What relationship does your faith have with your activism work?

In 2016, our country bore witness to the continued murder of unarmed Black bodies at the hands of the police as well as a spike in xenophobic and anti-Muslim sentiment and attacks. In organizing several university-wide rallies alongside various allied minority groups, I started to learn how the same white supremacist institutions that govern this country uniformly and uniquely impact different marginalized communities. In learning from organizers and advocates who have dedicated their lives to social change, I sought to utilize my own lived experience of being Muslim in America to focus on dismantling broader systems of oppression. As activist Lilla Watson says, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

What’s a principle of your faith you seek to incorporate in your day-to-day work?

In 4:135, the Creator commands me “to uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly—if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do.”

This verse pushes me to reflect on justice as a universal principle that exists outside of ourselves. A commitment to justice actually starts with a willingness to interrogate our own unjust behavior. This requires a strong development of humility and self-awareness which I believe is key to any movement work. 

How have you continued your activism work at Haas?

I’m focused on leveraging the clout and influence of Haas to bring light to issues that otherwise aren’t discussed within elite institutions and circles. Through Haas Hearts, a student-led non-profit consulting program, I got to work with and now currently serve on the board of Urban Compassion Project, an Oakland-based grassroots organization dedicated to empowering unhoused populations. Over the past few months, we’ve organized volunteer events for Haasies to attend as well as hosted an on-campus discussion on the current housing crisis in the Bay Area and what our role as MBA students is in supporting those fighting for change. 

Additionally, I’m working to expand Haas’ engagement with the broader UC’s union organizing efforts. Currently, a few of us student workers here at Haas are phone banking, tabling, and canvassing to build people power within our program to support the 48,000 UC student employees across the state who are fighting for a more fair and equitable contract. 

Afraz Khan began rapping his student government speeches in grade school.

You recently performed a rap at Haas that highlighted the disconnect between how history is taught in the U.S. and the realities that shaped your heritage under British colonial rule. When did you start rapping?

 In third grade I wanted to run for student government vice president. I wrote a first draft of my speech and my teacher told me that the presentation was boring and that I should rewrite it. My sister suggested rapping the speech and came up with a very simple rhyme and I was like, “What the heck?” and performed it. I was so nervous that I didn’t look away from my paper. I ended up winning. I ran for VP twice more and for president and just kept rapping all my speeches throughout middle and high school. At the end of high school, I started getting more into spoken word and slam poetry, using rap not just as a tool to have a fun experience but to also share more about my own narrative and experience.

For those who are curious, here’s my original rap:

Vote for me for VP/ — I’ll be the best, you can put me to the test/ — Yyou won’t regret and that’s a bet, it’s a promise that will be kept/ — Iif I win, I’ll put a spin to the school year that’s bright and clear/ – Sso don’t forget and put a check, next to the best… Afraz!

Watch Afraz Khan performing “Colonization of the Mind” last month at UC Berkeley’s Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL)’s annual EGALapalooza event.

 

Meet the 2022 Berkeley Haas Finance Fellows

Berkeley Haas Finance Fellows
(L-R clockwise from back row) Teo Gumusoglu, Yining Yan, Elias Mufarech, Nick Goomer, Adebola Adeniyi, John Graft, Xan Wood, Didi Pritakinari, Daniel Billostas, Xavier Jefferson, Meredith Albion, Hoi Wong. Photo: Jim Block

Xavier Jefferson, MBA 24, worked as a general analyst in wealth management before arriving at Haas, where he planned to narrow his focus to land a job as a securities analyst concentrating on stocks and bonds.

“When I looked in the mirror, I saw a capital allocator, someone responsible for making investment decisions,” Jefferson said, “And I came to a point in my career where I needed to find ways to be exposed to the next level of investors and thinkers outside of books, podcasts, and blogs.”

That ambition led him to Haas, where he is now among the 2022 Finance Fellows, first-year, full-time MBA students pursuing careers in finance fields that include investment banking; private equity and investment management (including quantitative finance); and entrepreneurial finance (which includes VC, fintech, and impact investing).

Students receive a $5,000 cash award, and are assigned mentors, who are Haas alumni working in finance, including recent graduates and senior executives.

William Rindfuss of the Haas Finance Group

“The one-on-one mentoring by alumni in the field provides high-level perspective and advice, which the Fellows capitalize on in seeking opportunities, and then succeeding on the job in these fields,” said William Rindfuss, executive director of strategic program for the Haas Finance Group.

The 2022 Fellowship recipients, all MBA 24, include:

Investment Banking: Nick Goomer, Didi Pritakinari, Daniel Billostas, Adebola Adeniyi

Private Equity & Investment Management: Xan Wood, Xavier Jefferson, Meredith Albion

Entrepreneurial Finance: Yining Yan, Elias Mufarech, Hoi Wong

C&J White Fellows (selected in the spring before matriculating): John Graft and Teo Gumusoglu

The mentor edge

The Finance Fellowship program launched 17 years ago, expanding over the years as more MBA students pursued finance careers. All Fellows are chosen based on their experience and preparation in their stated area of interest, the clarity of their goals and career plans, and interviews. They all receive priority enrollment for finance electives.

Finance Fellow Nick Goomer said the program has given him the opportunity to learn directly from his Morgan Stanley mentor. 

“Despite his busy schedule and responsibility, he has taken a hands-on approach to help me curate my unique story, and learn about how the tech world is shifting in our new market landscape,” Goomer said. “He is a force of nature within the tech investment banking industry, and I am incredibly grateful to have him as my mentor.”

Yining Yan photo
Yining Yan worked in blockchain venture capital in Singapore before coming to Haas.

Yining Yan, who worked in blockchain venture capital in Singapore before coming to Haas, said that a mentor will play a critical role in her career development in the Bay Area.  

“Having a mentor who is deeply rooted in the industry will be the most effective approach for an international student to plug into the local entrepreneurship and VC investing ecosystem,” she said.

Making venture capital more equitable

Fellow Hoi Wong, who was a business operations manager at fintech startup Bluevine before he arrived at Haas, is driven toward entrepreneurial finance for reasons that hit close to home.

“My parents were immigrant small business owners who leveraged a loan to start and grow their business, despite only having a grade-school level of education,” Wong said. “Entrepreneurship was one of the major levers that helped my family rise from poverty.” 

Wong plans to pivot from the operating side of fintech to the investing side by joining a fintech-focused venture capital firm. He’s also exploring venture capital investing within major financial services firms.

“As a first-gen student, I believe one way to make venture funding more equitable is by changing who is in control of the money, and one way to do that is to become a VC investor myself,” Wong said.