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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Local news producer Courtney Smith, EWMBA 25, on taking leaps of faith and pushing boundaries

Courtney Smith
Courtney Smith, EWMBA 25, on campus.

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

Determined to break into TV news, Courtney Smith, EWMBA 25, took a leap of faith in her 20s that led to a career in broadcast journalism.

Now a local news producer for KTVU Fox 2,  Smith aims to push the boundaries of entertainment media, opening it to new technologies and most importantly to her, more diverse voices. Before coming to Haas, Smith was a member of the Forté MBALaunch 2021 cohort, a development program that provides a road map for applying to business school. Here’s our recent interview with Smith. 

How did you get your start in TV news?

I was still a bit fresh out of college living in Houston, and applying for jobs but not really getting the response that I was looking for. One day I got dressed up, as if I had an interview, and printed out a bunch of resumes. I just said, ‘You know what? I’m going to take a leap of faith.’

I went to one of the local television stations, where I planned to drop off a resume. I met with the security guard in the lobby to drop off a resume and she told me I could probably chat with the news director. So I picked up the lobby phone and dialed. When someone answered, I got so nervous that I hung up! But then I called back, and told him I was interested in a position. He asked me curiously, “Are you in the lobby?” I laughed and said yes, and he told me to stay right there, he would come get me. It was the moment that opened doors for me.

What brought you to the Bay Area?

Around 2018, a news director from KRON-TV reached out. I initially turned down the opportunity because my mother had just had surgery and was recovering after battling kidney cancer. I thought awhile about the decision, prayed about it, and reached back out to the news director and said if the position was still available that I would love to take it. It was an opportunity that I just couldn’t refuse: to move to the Bay Area and work in this market.

Why did you decide to apply to Haas?

When I first visited the campus it felt like home, and I knew right away that this was the place that would change me for the better.  I wanted to pursue an MBA to develop my leadership skills and hone my business skills. I had given it some thought before the pandemic, but once 2020 rolled around, I knew that it was time. With the racial reckoning that our country was going through, and the host of issues that the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on, I felt a deep desire as a Black woman in media to do something that would have a lasting impact.

You are developing and assigning multiple story ideas daily with a team of 10 reporters, writers, and photographers. How are you juggling your job with your MBA program?

The life of a journalist and an MBA student is hard-work. I do keep a beautifully color-coordinated Google calendar that I swear by with alerts attached to almost every event. Notion and Goodnotes on my iPad are great, too. I also keep a written to-do list, where I jot down my top three priorities for the day, to-dos, and my wild ideas. I also write down things that went great in my day, followed by things that could have gone better. As a journalist, some of us work before most people are awake, or late into the night while others are enjoying dinner, or putting kids to bed. It’s a daily grind filled with deadlines you can’t miss. I have so much respect for the people working in my industry, as most people have no idea the sacrifices we make. I also think it’s so important in whatever your role is to give yourself grace. Life will always have its obstacle course days, so it’s important to be kind to yourself, especially as an MBA student so you can appreciate this journey and thrive.     

Life will always have its obstacle course days, so it’s important to be kind to yourself, especially as an MBA student so you can appreciate this journey and thrive.    

What is the most impactful or memorable story you have produced?

I was producing a live newscast in Beaumont, Texas, during the worst of Hurricane Harvey. I grew up in Houston so I’m very used to hurricanes, but this hurricane was devastating to so many smaller communities.  I’ll never forget the voices of viewers on air that night. I worked to have local public figures speak to my news team on-air to get critical messages out, positioned reporters in hot spots where homes and buildings were hit the hardest, and dispelled myths that were beginning to surface throughout the evening in an effort to calm the community. Even when I wasn’t producing, I took the time to answer viewer phone calls. So many were in need of being rescued from their homes due to severe flooding. I did my very best that night to connect local rescue teams with those who needed immediate help.

What are your goals after graduating?

I have many goals, but one of them is to work for a TV network or streaming service as a CEO, president, or vice president. I also have a passion for entrepreneurship. I feel like the sky’s the limit and I’m open to all that life brings.

I would love to create more lanes of opportunity for diverse voices in TV & film. While there has been progress, there’s still a long way to go. I just want to be a strong voice and to make it easier for others to enter this industry, because there aren’t many women and men in positions of leadership who look like me. Increasing diverse leadership in any workforce improves it overall.

You’re clearly all about persistence, having started your career as an intern at Radio One and KPRC-TV in Houston before rising to producer in a top market. Where do you think that comes from?

I think it comes from being comfortable hearing the word no. If I have a goal that I just can’t stop working on, it’s one of those things that keeps me up at night. I’m going to keep trying and trying until I get a yes. I‘m open to criticism and I’m okay with putting myself out there as you can probably see from my crazy idea to walk into a building dressed as if I had an interview. I was truly walking by faith that day and said if it goes well then that’s great, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. 

If I have a goal that I just can’t stop working on, it’s one of those things that keeps me up at night. I’m going to keep trying and trying until I get a yes.

What are some impactful classes so far at Berkeley Haas?

Data and Decisions with Professor Frederico Finan and Marketing with Professor Zsolt Katona are truly amazing classes that gave me ah-ha moments, confirming answers to questions I’ve had for many years. From day one in Data and Decisions I  became a better journalist just by learning how to identify poor quality data that many people see on a daily basis in morning headlines. In my marketing course I enjoy learning about how customers value brands/products and services along with the amount of storytelling that goes on in marketing. Leading People and Microeconomics classes are also wonderful. Leading People with Professor Ambar La Forgia  takes you on a journey of what it is like to be a corporate leader and how to handle the challenges that come along the way. I learned so much about myself from this course and the type of leader I want to be. In Professor Ricardo Perez-Truglia’s microeconomics course I gained a better understanding of why companies made certain business decisions and how to think like an economist.

What are you most passionate about in your industry?

I’m so inspired by our youth today, and I just want to be in a position to support them so they can have an outlet to showcase their creativity and grow into leaders in this space. It’s work that I’m very passionate about doing.

I’m also very excited about where media and entertainment and this whole new world of streaming is going. I just want to be a part of it, and become a leader in that industry, so that I can continue to develop storytelling for diverse voices and open more doors of opportunity for others, like how others did for me.

Celebrating 50 years of the evening & weekend MBA program

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The new class of Evening & Weekend MBA students cheer at the 2022 WE launch orientation. Photo: Jim Block

As globalization began to give American businesses a run for their money in the early 1970s, international business expert and then-Dean Richard Holton began working with faculty on ideas for how to train new leaders to compete.

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Former Berkeley business school Dean Richard Holton, who was an expert in international business.

“Strong competition from Japanese companies started to wake people up,” said Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean of instruction at Haas from 2008 to 2021. “American business leaders and business school leaders understood the need to take a different approach to training people coming into American companies.”

That realization led to the creation of a new kind of MBA program that would provide the flexibility business leaders needed to earn the degree outside of their daily work schedules. In 1972, the business school launched its first part-time program called the San Francisco Evening Program (SFMBA) at the Wells Fargo Training Center in downtown San Francisco. 

The program, now called the Evening & Weekend MBA Program, is celebrating its 50th year. 

“We’re so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the decades,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA programs at Berkeley Haas. “The part-time program has changed so many lives by opening doors for working professionals who couldn’t afford to take two years off to go back to school. It has truly fulfilled a mission to increase access to an MBA.”

A pioneering program

The part-time MBA program, one of the first of its kind in the country and the first within the University of California system, was aimed at students in their mid-20s to late 30s who had been in the workforce for an average of five years.

“The part-time program has changed so many lives by opening doors for working professionals,” Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA programs.

The first-ever cohort of 88 students hailed from local companies like Wells Fargo and Levi Strauss & Co, many of them commuting from Silicon Valley. By fall 1975, the program swelled to 229 students taking 17 courses. And by the early 1980s, the program’s success ensured that it would remain a core offering, with courses modernized and aligned tightly with the full-time MBA program to address corporate needs, Stowsky said.

photo of Jay Stowsky
Jay Stowsky

“The MBA by then had shifted from a more academic degree to what was called management science, a kind of mathematical approach to decision making focused on finance and the bottom line, in addition to marketing and other key things students learn today in business school,” he said.

Boosting career success

The program, consistently ranked in the top two in the U.S. News ranking of part-time MBA programs, has trained business leaders worldwide. Among the more than 6,000 living graduates of the program are Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93; Apple’s Managing Director of Greater China, Isabel Mahe, MBA 08; Poshmark CEO Manish Chandra, MBA 95;  Sega Sammy CEO Haruki Satomi, MBA 12; Meituan Dianping founder and CFO Shuhong Ye, MBA 05; and Dilbert creator Scott Adams, MBA 86.

Constance Moore, who graduated from the SF MBA evening program in 1980, recalled attending classes in downtown San Francisco, near her office at BRE Properties.  “I wanted to go to the evening program because I had recently started at BRE as an asset manager and knew I would likely learn as much at work as I would in school,” she said.  “I could apply what I learned at work to my school work, and what I learned at Haas I could apply to my work. It was perfect.”    

Attending class on Monday and Thursday evenings allowed her to travel for work in between and then study all weekend, she said. “It didn’t leave much time for anything else but it was so worth it,” said Moore, who became CEO of BRE after getting an MBA. “Haas made me fearless.”

While relatively few women enrolled during the part-time MBA program’s earliest days, that changed over the years as women were recruited or encouraged by their employers and each other.

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Lesley Keffer Russell’s boss encouraged her to enroll in the part-time MBA program in 1999. Photo: Christina Gandolfo

Lesley Keffer Russell enrolled in the program in 1999, at the encouragement of her boss at St. Supéry Winery, Michaela Rodeno, who graduated from the part-time program in 1980.

“She became a great mentor for me. She asked me one day during lunch, after I had done a three-month work stint in France for St. Supéry, ‘So, when are you going to go to biz school?'” she said. “I had mentioned that it was on my mind for a while and there was nobody else who was going to push me to apply, so she did. I got right on it.”

Russell said classes she took that help her today in her job as general manager of Saint Helena Winery include microeconomics, negotiations, and real estate development, for which she completed a final group project on assessing two Napa Valley vineyard purchases. “This led to understanding about aspects of the wine industry that have been critical to my career advancement,” she said.

A name change, and even more flexibility

While San Francisco served as the part-time program’s hub for years, student demand to be closer to UC Berkeley led the school to move the program to campus in 1995.  In 2002, then-Dean Laura Tyson added a weekend option for students. 

Juliana Schroeder, professor in the Management of Organizations group, teaching a class
Associate Professor Juliana Schroeder (middle) teaches a class during EWMBA orientation this year. The entering class of 2022 is 38% women. Photo: Jim Block.

The expanded program, renamed the evening & weekend program, split students into evening or weekend cohorts, depending on their schedules. It now attracts a wide breadth of students from around the world— engineers, general managers, sales and marketing managers working in high tech, computer services, banking, fintech, and biotechnology, among other industries.

This year, about 36% of the entering class is from outside the Bay Area, and 59% of them were born outside of the U.S. Nearly 40% of the students are women.

 “We’ve always had a fairly rich body of applicants to draw upon given our geography, Berkeley’s name, and the Haas reputation,” Breen said. “Those factors have served us well.”

The flexibility of the program has also increased. Spurred by the success of virtual learning, Haas developed the Flex option, a hybrid online/in-person MBA, which was in the works for three years. Flex is popular with working professionals who can take core courses online and opt to come to Haas for electives. The first cohort of 69 students began in August.

“With the launch of Flex, we’re looking forward to what the next 50 years will bring for the program and our students,” Breen said. “It’s an exciting time to be offering innovative business program options to working professionals.”

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 [email protected], 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

portrait of new PhD students
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.

Faculty, Graduate Student Instructors honored with 2022 Cheit Awards

Collage of the Cheit Award winners from 2022 commencement
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

MBA grads at the Greek Theatre
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.  

MBA students behind stage in cap and gowns at the Greek Theatre
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:

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.

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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. 

 

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.

Berkeley undergrad student team wins global venture capital final; EWMBAs take 3rd

Undergrads holding check at VCIC finals.
The UC Berkeley Undergraduate student team took first place at Global VCIC: Victor Li, David Wang. Carol Xie, Allen Wang, and Blair Wu.

A group of UC Berkeley undergraduate students’ stellar startup-vetting skills netted them first place against a field of 120 teams at the Global Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) finals.

Members of the winning team that competed at University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School on April 8-9 included Berkeley Haas student David Wang, BS 22, (Business & Chemical Engineering); Victor Li, BS 22, (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science), Carol Xie,  BA 22, (Computer Science & Statistics); Allen Wang, BA 23, (Economics & Data Science);  and Blair Wu, BA 24, (Economics & Biology).

A team of Berkeley Haas evening & weekend MBA students took third place, including Andrew Celin, John Eastman, Shenshen Hu, Terrence Tse, and Georgia Wright-Simmons, all EWMBA 22.  

Photo of EWMBA team
The Berkeley Haas EWMBA team, left to right: Georgia Wright-Simmons, John Eastman, Terrence Tse, Andrew Celin, and Shenshen Hu, all EWMBA 22.

“I’m blown away by these wins,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). Shrader, who accompanied the students, said she was pleased that VCIC returned as an in-person event this year. 

More than 120 university and graduate school teams compete at VCIC. The competition has a two-fold mission: to make students VCs for the day and allow startups to jumpstart their fundraising. Since the competition’s inception in 1998, more than 800 founders have received 1,500 practice term sheets from student investment teams.

At the finals, the Berkeley undergraduates performed due diligence on three startups. After writing up term sheets, the team recommended a $5.25 million investment in agriculture technology startup Atira. Atira is developing an indoor system that promises to grow vegetables 40 percent faster without energy waste or pesticides. 

“The business has a lot of potential,” said Wu, who took a gap semester off to work at a venture capital firm last year and met her teammates through Berkeley’s Association of Chinese Entrepreneurs (ACE). “They’d already acquired patents and had a strong team. Their product was solid and there’s strong market demand.”

Photo of the undergrad team at worka
The UC Berkeley undergraduate team at work during the competition.

David Wang, BS 22, said he believes that two key factors helped with the win: team dynamics and mentorship. “We purposely looked for folks with diverse functional and industry experience ranging from energy consulting to healthcare investment banking to tech entrepreneurship,” he said. 

“We purposely looked for folks with diverse functional and industry experience ranging from energy consulting to healthcare investment banking to tech entrepreneurship.” —David Wang.

Wang also credited Haas MBA alumnus Elan Tye, a principal at JAZZ Venture Partners, and Matt Kirmayer, a partner at law firm Perkins Coie, for spending “countless hours preparing us for the competition…We could not have done it without them,” he said.

Shrader said the team “crushed” its partner meeting round, nailing both the startup valuation and the Q&A session.

“Everybody had a role and everybody spoke at the finals and you could see that their emphasis was on team work,” she said.”This team definitely had confidence without attitude.”

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. 

Three alumni business leaders named as undergraduate & MBA commencement speakers

QuantumScape CEO and Co-founder Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, will speak at the combined Berkeley Haas Full-Time and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement ceremony, and corporate leader, entrepreneur, and author Aaron McDaniel, BS 05, will address undergraduates at commencement.

Both ceremonies will be held at the Greek Theatre, with the undergrads tossing caps on Monday, May 16, and the FTMBA and Evening & Weekend MBA students graduating together on Saturday, May 21. 

A makeup commencement for the full-time MBA classes of 2020 and 2021—who had to forego in-person ceremonies during the pandemic—will be held Friday, April 29, at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA/JD 85 and a senior vice president of sales for the East, Canada, and Latin America regions at ServiceNow, will address the graduates.

Additionally, the PhD hooding ceremony will be held May 6, and Executive MBA commencement will be held June 4. Laura Adint, EMBA 14, an operations and strategy executive, is the commencement speaker.

Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, to speak at FTMBA/EWMBA commencement

Jagdeep Singh headshot
QuantumScape CEO Jagdeep Singh

Singh is co-founder and CEO of QuantumScape, an energy storage company that supports the global transition toward a lower carbon future.  

Prior to founding QuantumScape, Singh was co-founder and CEO of Infinera Corp, a telecommunications equipment company and developer of the first large-scale, photonic integrated circuit. He led the company from startup through an IPO.  

Previously, he was founder and CEO of Lightera Networks, acquired by CIENA Corp. Before that, he founded and led several communications companies, including OnFiber and AirSoft. 

Singh is also founder and CEO of Deep Valley Labs, a venture laboratory and incubator focused on a hypothesis-driven approach to founding, validating, and spinning out high-impact technology companies. 

He holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, an MS in Computer Science from Stanford University, and an MBA from Berkeley Haas.

Aaron McDaniel, BS 05, named 2022 undergraduate commencement speaker

Aaron McDaniel headshot
Aaron McDaniel, founding partner at Grow Scale.

McDaniel, BS 05, is a former AT&T sales executive, serial entrepreneur, and has been an entrepreneurship lecturer at Berkeley Haas for the past five years.

He began his career at AT&T and rose to regional vice president of sales at age 27, among the youngest at the company to do so. In this role, he managed a team of more than 60 people and oversaw all sales operations, IT support, and data and mobility solutions for small- and medium-sized companies. He graduated from AT&T’s flagship Leadership Development Program and was a member of AT&T’s Diamond Club for the top 1% of sales leaders worldwide. 

McDaniel went on to found and sell three companies, including Pong360, an e-commerce company that sells college and tailgating products; Tycoon Real Estate, a real estate crowdfunding platform; and Velocity Capital Group, a real estate private equity firm. 

He is currently  a founding partner at Grow Scale, a commercial real estate private equity firm, and co-founder of 10X Innovation Lab, a Silicon Valley-based consulting agency that offers entrepreneurship programs and services to government and corporate leaders.

Tapping his expertise as a sales executive and entrepreneur, McDaniel has authored three self-help books, including The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World, The Young Professional’s Guide to Managing, and Global Class, forthcoming this fall. It explores how the world’s fastest-growing companies expand globally.

Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA/JD 85,  will speak to MBA classes of 2020 & 2021

Laura Clayton McDonnell photo
Laura Clayton McDonnell, senior vp at ServiceNow.

McDonnell is senior vice president of sales for the East, Canada, and Latin America regions at ServiceNow, and serves on the board of directors of Zuora.

With extensive sales management, global experience, and legal expertise, McDonnell has held executive positions at leading companies in the high-technology industry as vice president of Microsoft’s New York region; senior vice president of North American sales at at Aspect Software; vice president of strategic services at IBM; and vice president of business development at Rational Software. She’s also held various senior sales and legal roles at Sun Microsystems, Cisco, and Apple and practiced private, corporate, and securities law.

McDonnell received a BS with distinction from San Jose State University, and an MBA/JD from Berkeley Haas. She was admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and the State of California.

She received the 2008 YWCA Silicon Valley Tribute to Women Award and serves on the board of directors and membership committee of the Women’s Forum of New York and is a member of Women’s United of the United Way of New York City. She’s also an advisory committee member of the 92Y Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The passion for investing

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

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

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

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

Making alumni connections

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

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

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

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

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

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

MBA team wins 2021 UT Austin Real Estate Competition

Group of male MBA students and woman faculty advisor holding big check
The Haas MBA team wins first place and $10,000 in prize money. (From L-R: Ian MacLean, Alex Dragten, Abby Franklin (faculty advisor), Carson Goldman, Andrew Johnson, Fukang Peng, and Travis Kauzer.)

Converting an office building into a life science center to lease to medical and biotech companies landed a team of Berkeley Haas MBA students a first place win at the 2021 UT Austin Real Estate Competition. 

The competition was held Thursday, Nov. 18 and hosted by the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business. 

Team members include Carson Goldman, Andrew Johnson, Ian MacLean, Alex Dragten, all MBA 22, Fukang Peng, and Travis Kauzer, both EWMBA 22.

Haas bested 19 other teams from top U.S. business schools including Columbia, Yale, Wharton, NYU Stern, and University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and won $10,000 in prize money. This is Haas’ third first place win at this competition in the last four years. 

MBA teams were tasked with creating a business plan for a building with a single tenant whose lease was about to expire. They had to consider maximizing risk-adjusted returns and demonstrate an understanding of macroeconomic trends, including the effects of inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Haas MBA team decided to convert the building into a life science center to attract multiple tenants and maximize high returns.

Team lead Carson Goldman credited the team’s win to practicing case presentations every week this semester and to work they did with their faculty advisors.

“Our coaches Bill Falik and Abby Franklin provided constant feedback and guidance and were wholly committed to this competition,” Goldman said. “Our alumni were just as important as they had volunteered weekly to judge our practice cases and offer constructive criticism,” he added.

“It’s very gratifying to see our students progress over the semester and to win first place,” said Haas Lecturer Bill Falik. “We’ve had victories, but to win first place in three out of the four years at this national competition–this has never been done before.”