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Berkeley Haas welcomes nine new professors

New Berkeley Haas faculty members 2022
From top row, left to right: New Berkeley Haas assistant professors Tanya Paul, Ali Kakhbod, Carolyn Stein; Sa-Kiera Hudson, Ambar La Forgia, Sytkse Wijnsma, Sarah Moshary, Matthew Backus, and Valerie Zhang.

Nine new assistant professors have joined the Haas School of Business faculty this year, with cutting-edge research interests that range from illicit supply chains to unequal social hierarchies; from financial crises to the incentives that shape innovation; and from health care management to decentralized finance to marketing and the demand for firearms.

The nine tenure-track hires are the result of a concerted effort by Dean Ann E. Harrison and other Haas leaders to expand and diversify the faculty.

“We are thrilled to welcome this wonderful, diverse new group of academic superstars to Berkeley Haas,” says Dean Ann E. Harrison. “We clearly are bringing the best to Haas, increasing the depth and breadth of our world-renowned faculty, and reinforcing our place among the world’s best business schools.”

The new faculty members have hometowns throughout the U.S. and around the world, including Texas, New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois; Iran, the Dominican Republic, China, and the Netherlands. Seven of them are women; one is Black, and one is Latinx.

“This is our most diverse cohort of new faculty ever, each one a rock star in their own right,” says Jennifer Chatman, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management. “We are very proud that we were able to lure them to Berkeley Haas.”

The new faculty members start on July 1, with most beginning to teach in spring 2023. They bring the total size of the ladder faculty to 88, up from 78 in 2020-2021.

Meet the faculty

Matthew Backus
Matthew Backus

Assistant Professor Matthew Backus, Economic Analysis & Policy
(he/him)

Hometown: Chicago, Ill.

Education: 
PhD, Economics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BA, Economics and Philosophy, American University

Research focus: Industrial organization

Introduction: I’m an economist with broad interests. Most recently, I’m interested in how we can use the tools developed by the industrial organization community to understand inequality and the distributional effects of policy.

Teaching: Microeconomics and Antitrust Economics (MBA)

Most excited about: After spending a year visiting, I’m most excited about the economics community at Berkeley.

Fun fact: I have a border collie, who is in training as a herding dog.

 

Sa-Kiera Hudson
Sa-Kiera Hudson

Assistant Professor Sa-kiera (Kiera) Tiarra Jolynn Hudson, Management of Organizations 
(she/her)

Hometown: Albany, NY

Education: 
PhD/MA, Social Psychology, Harvard University
BA, Psychology and Biology, Williams College

Research focus: I study the psychological processes involved in the formation, maintenance, and intersections of unequal social hierarchies, with a focus on empathic/spiteful emotions, stereotypes, and legitimizing myths.

Introduction: I am a social psychologist by training, focusing on the nature of intergroup relations as dominance and power hierarchies. I have studied several psychological processes, including the role of legitimizing myths in justifying unequal societal conditions, the role of group stereotypes in the experience and perception of prejudice, and the role of empathic and spiteful emotions in supporting intergroup harm. My work is multidisciplinary, incorporating quantitative as well as qualitative methods from various disciplines such as political science, sociology, and public policy.

I am a fierce advocate for building community, providing mentorship, and supporting authentic inclusion for everyone. I believe it is a moral imperative to be present as a vocal, queer-identified Black women in academe, given the lack of representation, and I’m excited to see how I can contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Haas.

Teaching: Core Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (MBA)

Most excited about: I identify UC Berkeley as my intellectual birthplace. It was during a summer internship program through the psychology department in 2010 where I first became interested in studying power structures and intergroup relations simultaneously. My overall research interests haven’t changed since that fateful summer. Being a faculty member here is truly a dream come true!

Fun fact: I love organizing and planning, so much so I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign to create my own planner. I am also an avid foodie and cannot wait to check out the Bay’s food and wine scenes.

 

Ali Kakhbod
Ali Kakhbod

Assistant Professor Ali Kakhbod, Finance
(he/him)

Hometown: Isfahan, Iran

Education:
PhD, Economics, MIT
PhD, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS), University of Michigan

Research focus: Information frictions; liquidity; market microstructure; big data; and contracts

Introduction: I am a financial economist with research interests in financial intermediation, liquidity, contracts, big (alternative) data, banking and financial crises. A common theme of my research agenda is to study various informational settings and their financial and economic implications. For example: When does securitization lead to a financial crisis? Why is there heterogeneity in the means of providing advice in corporate governance? How does information disclosure in OTC (over-the-count) markets affect market efficiency? My research has both theory and empirical components with policy implications.

Teaching: Deep Learning in Finance (MFE)

Most excited about: Berkeley Haas is the heart of what’s next with world-class faculty working on exciting and innovative research. Given that my interdisciplinary research interests span finance, economics and big data issues, I could not ask for a better fit.

Fun fact: In my free time, I like to ski, sail, hike, and enjoy the outdoors.

 

Ambar La Forgia
Ambar La Forgia

Assistant Professor Ambar La Forgia, Management of Organizations
(she/her)

Hometown: I was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but I grew up in Washington, DC and São Paulo, Brazil.

Education:
PhD, Applied Economics and Managerial Science, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BA, Economics and Mathematics, Swarthmore College

Research focus: Health care management; mergers and acquisitions; firm performance

Introduction: My research studies the relationship between organizational and managerial strategies and performance outcomes in the health care sector. In particular, I use quantitative methods to study how the strategic decisions of corporations to merge, acquire, or partner with other organizations can change managerial processes in ways that impact both financial and clinical performance. A secondary research strand studies how health care organizations adapt their service delivery and prices following changes in state and federal legislation. 

Before joining UC Berkeley, I was an assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. I am excited to continue to explore issues of healthcare quality, equity, and cost, while digging deeper into the management practices and organizational structures that could influence these outcomes.

Teaching: Leading People (EWMBA)

Most excited about: It is an honor to join the world-class faculty at Haas, and I am so excited to learn from and collaborate with my MORs colleagues on both the macro and micro side. Since my research is interdisciplinary, I also look forward to connecting with scholars in the School of Public Health.

As a self-proclaimed “city girl,”  I am excited to get out of my comfort zone and explore the natural beauty of Northern California.

Fun fact: My hobbies include yoga, urban gardening, adopting animals and stand-up comedy.

 

Sarah Moshary
Sarah Moshary

Assistant Professor Sarah Moshary, Marketing
(she/her)

Hometown: New York City, NY

Education:
Phd, Economics, MIT
AB, Economics, Harvard College

Research focus: Marketing and industrial organization

Introduction: My research interests span quantitative marketing, industrial organization, and political economy. I am currently working on projects related to paid search advertising, the pink tax (price gap in products targeted to women), and the demand for firearms. Before joining Haas, I worked at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and at the University of Pennsylvania.

Teaching: Pricing (MBA)

Most excited about: I am excited to get to know my future colleagues!

Fun fact: My two hobbies are running and pottery—though I am more enthusiastic than talented at either 🙂

 

Tanya Paul
Tanya Paul

Assistant Professor Tanya Paul, Accounting
(she/her)

Hometown: Murphy, Texas

Education:
PhD, Accounting, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BS, Economics, Statistics and Finance, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Research focus: Standard-setting and financial reporting; the determinants and consequences of voluntary disclosures

Introduction: After getting my PhD, I spent a year at the Financial Accounting Standards Board learning about contemporary accounting issues and understanding the types of questions that standard setters are grappling with. I hope to continue working on research that is helpful to standard setters in coming up with standards that ultimately improve financial reporting.

Teaching: Corporate Financial Reporting (MBA)

Most excited about: ​​I love how interconnected the area groups are within Haas. There are so many potential learning opportunities, especially for a newly minted researcher like me.

Fun fact: In my free time, I love to read and play the piano—I had learned it as a child and am trying to relearn it now as an adult.

 

Carolyn Stein
Carolyn Stein

Assistant Professor Carolyn Stein, Economic Analysis & Policy
(she/her)

Hometown: Lexington, Mass.

Education:
PhD, Economics, MIT
AB, Applied Mathematics and Economics, Harvard College

Research focus: Economics of science, innovation, and applied microeconomics

Introduction: I study the economics of science and innovation. My research combines data and economic theory to understand the incentives that scientists face and decisions that they make, and how this in turn shapes the production of new knowledge.

One thing I love about economics is that it’s less of a narrow subject area, and more a set of tools and principles that apply to a stunningly wide array of topics. I’m excited to work with Haas students to help them understand how economic principles can improve their decision-making, both in their careers and in other areas of their lives—maybe even in ways that surprise them!

Teaching: Microeconomics (EWMBA)

Most excited about: I’m excited to be part of a large and superb applied microeconomics community—at Haas, and more broadly at Berkeley as a whole.

Fun fact: I am an avid cyclist and skier, and I was on the cycling team at MIT. Since moving to the Bay Area, I’ve loved the hills and mountains in the area. I’m working on taking my riding off road (gravel and mountain biking) and skiing off-piste (backcountry).

 

Sytske Wijnsma
Sytske Wijnsma

Assistant Professor Sytkse Wijnsma, Operations and IT Management
(she/her)

Hometown: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Education:
PhD, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
MPhil, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
BSc & MSc, Economics and Finance, VU University, Amsterdam

Research focus: My primary research interest is designing supply chain and policy interventions that help solve real-world challenges with social and environmental impact.

Introduction: I am very excited about my projects on illicit supply chains and how they undermine social and environmental goals. The context of these projects spans a wide range of areas, from illicit waste management to illegal deforestation. I am also excited to deepen and expand ongoing research collaborations with governments and industry to investigate these issues.

Teaching: Sustainability in Business (Undergraduate)

Most excited about: Many things! Berkeley Haas, being at the forefront of sustainability, has a unique position that combines the same ideals that drive my research with opportunities for collaborative research with serious impact. The amazing colleagues and close connections to industry make it even more exciting to join this community!

Fun fact: My first and last name originate from Fryslân, a northern province in the Netherlands, where it is still tradition to name your children after family members. So although my name is quite rare in the rest of the world, in our family it crops up in every generation!

 

Valerie Zhang
Valerie Zhang

Assistant Professor Valerie Zhang, Accounting
(she/her)

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Education:
PhD, Northwestern Kellogg School of Management
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BCom, Finance and Economics, University of Toronto

Research focus: Information dissemination; information cascades on social media; retail investor behavior; decentralized finance

Introduction: I am passionate about doing research or working on personal projects that can express my creativity. I enjoy merging disjointed ideas and working on interdisciplinary research. My dissertation combines two literatures: one in computer science on information cascades on social media, and another in finance and accounting on the effects of disseminating financial news. I am also very curious about emerging technologies that are reshaping the financial industry. Since I work on areas that are new to the research community, I sometimes feel like a lone traveler exploring completely new territories. It is terrifying but also extremely rewarding!

Teaching: Financial Accounting (Undergraduate)

Most excited about: I look forward to inspiring my students to be entrepreneurial and to come up with creative business ideas or projects.

Fun fact/hobby: I write short stories. The one I am working on has an alien and a squirrel in it.

Open innovation maestro Henry Chesbrough awarded Viipuri Prize

Berkeley Haas faculty member Henry Chesbrough, whose open innovation paradigm has had a significant impact on modern business thinking, has been awarded the Viipuri Prize by Finland’s LUT School of Business and Management.

Chesbrough, who is an adjunct professor and faculty director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, will receive the award in June at LUT University’s Lappeenranta campus in Finland. The award comes with a 10,000 euro prize.

“Professor Chesbrough is widely known as the father of open innovation. Two decades later, the paradigm remains relevant,” said Sami Saarenketo, Dean of LUT School of Business and Management (LBM), in the announcement.

The Viipuri Prize is awarded biennially to an internationally acclaimed top researcher whose work has had a significant impact on the research and teaching at LBM. The first prize was awarded to another Berkeley Haas professor, David Teece, in 2003.

That was the same year Chesbrough published his first book on open innovation; his work has since been cited nearly 100,000 times. The central idea of open innovation is that companies should use both external and internal ideas and paths to market and advance their technology. According to Chesbrough, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research but should instead buy or license processes and inventions from other companies. In addition, business ideas that are not used internally should be taken outside the company through joint ventures or spin-offs.

At the Viipuri Prize ceremony June 3, Chesbrough he will deliver a lecture on “The promise and limits of open innovation after the pandemic.” For more information, see the full press release.

 

Inside Edge

In navigating the opportunities and challenges of innovating within large corporations, alumni build on decades of trailblazing Haas thought leadership.

Innovation is often considered synonymous with startups, but when it comes to developing groundbreaking products and services, company size doesn’t matter. Intrapreneurs, or those innovating within a large corporation, are just as inventive. Case in point: Nick Caldwell, MBA 15. The product development and engineering leader has ascended the ranks of the tech industry and is now the general manager of core technologies at Twitter. But he didn’t cut his teeth at a startup.

Instead, he honed his entrepreneurial skills from within the Microsoft Corporation, where he worked for 15 years. During his time there, he founded many product efforts, including the company’s business intelligence software, Power BI.

Caldwell says that when it comes to innovation, large firms have some distinct advantages over startups. “Big companies have magnitudes more resources and an existing business ecosystem of products they can leverage,” says Caldwell. “You can take more shots on goal because you’re building on the back of existing businesses.”

Adjunct Prof. Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97 (left) and Prof. David Teece (right).
Adjunct Prof. Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97 (left), is known for his paradigm of open innovation. Prof. David Teece is known for his dynamic capabilities framework.

The idea of corporate innovation is ubiquitous these days, but Haas is central to its origin story. Two key figures are Professor David Teece, known for his theory of dynamic capabilities, and Adjunct Professor Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97, known for his paradigm of open innovation.

Chesbrough’s inspiration came from his work as a product manager at hard drive company Quantum. Most of the company’s business was in selling drives to other companies, but in 1984, Chesbrough joined a new venture to sell them directly to end users. The new company, dubbed Plus Development, was 80% owned by Quantum and 20% owned by the employees themselves.

“We were only allowed to hire five engineers from Quantum—everything else we had to do ourselves,” he recalls. Having the backing from the parent company gave him and his fellow intrapreneurs the resources they needed to get the business off the ground. The internal startup eventually blew open an entirely new market. “We ended up with revenues over $100 million and gross margins of over 40%,” Chesbrough says.

He went on to earn a PhD in business and public policy at Haas, where he focused on how companies could successfully innovate new products. One of his mentors was Teece, who was strategizing how companies could retain their competitive edge and resist losing out to new disruptors.

The groundbreaking theories of dynamic capabilities and open innovation led Haas to become one of the nation’s top business schools in teaching principles of innovation, catalyzing the field of study. Gary Pisano, PhD 88, a professor at Harvard Business School, experienced this firsthand as one of Teece’s doctoral students. “Today we take innovation for granted but Haas really was a pioneer,” says Pisano, who remembers not just the academic rigor but also the guest speakers from business and government who visited campus. “Haas started to become an intellectual hub on the serious work of innovation management and strategy—an influence not just in the form of papers but also PhD students who went off to teach at various business schools nationwide.”

A woman in a red and blue blouse sitting at a conference table resting her chin on her clasped hands.
Alex Levich, MBA 09, a product management lead at Google, frequently presents publicly on best practices for corporate innovation. Photo: Christina Gandolfo.

Haas as trailblazer

Yet it wasn’t a given that learning to lead innovation would become an essential part of business education. In the ’80s and ’90s, Pisano says, the common belief was that corporate structures were poorly suited for innovation. “But the Haas way of thinking of it was that firms matter, that organizational structures for certain kinds of innovation can be incredibly helpful,” he says. It’s that perspective of innovation as essential, not just for scrappy startups but for established companies as well, that has minted graduates who have pushed innovative products and ideas at places like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and many others.

Alex Levich, MBA 09, a product management lead at Google who presents publicly on best practices for intrapreneurialism, is one of those graduates.

At Google, she worked on the creation of the Chromebook to extend cloud computing to individual users as well as the USB-C connector as a universal power connector that has become the industry standard—an example of open innovation at work. “We wanted to create a future where no one ever worried about missing a particular cable to charge a device,” she says, “so we set out to create a new standard by joining forces with the [nonprofit] USB Implementers Forum and users across the country.”

Dynamic capabilities

Teece contended it wasn’t enough for companies to innovate—they also had to profit from those ideas, arguing in an influential 1986 paper that access to manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and other complementary assets on favorable terms was just as important to success as R&D. Over the next decade, he developed the framework of dynamic capabilities, which insists that companies need to constantly sense, seize, and transform to take advantage of both internal and external opportunities for growth. The pursuit of efficiencies and even “best practices” sometimes got in the way.

“Dynamic capabilities really put the management team front and center in the innovation process,” Teece says. “It’s not just about having the best engineers and scientists; you also need good entrepreneurial managers to succeed.” Without them, he says, companies too often become bogged down in administrative processes or, worse, focused on efficiency to build value. “You can’t build a company to greatness on cost cutting—that’s a short-term game,” he says. Companies must also overcome what Teece calls the “persistence bias” of continuing to do things the same way. Apple under Steve Jobs is a classic success story. “He really saw an opportunity for a phone of the future that would be first and foremost a computer with a phone and internet connectivity built in rather than a phone with a few smart features, which is what Nokia was doing,” Teece says. More recently, companies such as Amazon and Netflix have shown a constant ability to pivot and launch new products and services, even as they grow very large.

Gary Pisano PhD 88.Pisano (shown right), a co-author of the 1997 article on dynamic capabilities, says that Teece’s brilliance lies in his ability to synthesize ideas from across fields. “Organizational economics was historically separate from work on strategy, which was historically separate from work on innovation,” Pisano says. “David brought together three very different fields and that created some new paradigms and ways to think about a whole range of problems.”

Open innovation

Chesbrough’s concept of open innovation stems from field research with Xerox in Palo Alto in the 1990s. He examined 35 innovative projects within the company, finding that all but 10 of them failed. “The ones that succeeded were those that found a way to make them attractive to external partners and make money for themselves in the process,” he says. For example, when engineer Robert Metcalfe created a smart cabling system to connect printer components, he realized it could have much broader uses and negotiated a royalty-free contract for the technology for $1,000. He used his new Ethernet cable to connect IBM computers to HP printers, eventually spinning out the company 3Com, which eclipsed Xerox in value.

Five people in a semi-circle. Two of them appear virtually, on screens.
Google has new meeting room concepts like Campfire to put virtual attendees on the same footing as in-person attendees. Photo: Cayce Clifford/New York Times.

Now faculty director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, Chesbrough says that companies succeeding in innovation today often similarly look beyond their own business to find collaborations with outside partners—sometimes even with competitors. That’s what Amazon did in the mid-2000s when they realized that other firms might also have difficulties managing servers as they scaled. So they sold to other companies—including their competitor Barnes & Noble—the ability to host their websites on Amazon’s infrastructure. Out of these experiments the company created Amazon Web Services, an innovator in cloud technology. “Amazon has fostered a culture that allows people to try these experiments,” Chesbrough says. “They key is you’re learning from your interactions with customers and the market.”

“Companies with successful intrapreneurs break new ideas down into manageable building blocks and assign cross-functional teams that aren’t afraid to experiment and fail.”

—Alex Levich, MBA 09

Winning big

What does it take to achieve intrapreneurial success? In Caldwell’s experience, it’s essential to have backing at the highest level. “Teams responsible for innovation must be well-protected and have top-down support,” Caldwell says. “The worst thing is your new innovative bet is killed by internal antibodies that don’t want the disruption and are incentivized toward stability. Leaders often have to reinforce strategy and make sure it is broadly communicated.”

At the same time, he says, you must reassure stakeholders that incremental improvements are valuable and will pay off down the line.

Recently, Caldwell helped spearhead a reimagined Explore page for Twitter that relies on algorithms to recommend new posts based on users’ changing interests over time rather than people they follow. To move quickly, he secured support from other executive leaders and assembled a “virtual team” of engineers, product designers, and marketers rather than creating a new department. After a lightning-fast three months, Twitter rolled out the page to users in a select geographic area and is now monitoring time spent engaging with the app. “We carved out a safe space for experimentation, and now we can tie it back to specific metrics,” he says. “It’s important that you have key results or objectives you want a team to achieve by a particular milestone, and hopefully a team can make an honest assessment of whether they are achieving those targets.”

Culture of innovation

Google’s Levich stresses that companies with successful intrapreneurs create a culture of innovation that starts with hiring and recruiting people with the right mindset. “For the company to have that culture in its DNA, they must believe that this is what delivers the most value to the company,” she says. From there, the company must break new ideas down into manageable building blocks and assign cross-functional teams that aren’t afraid to experiment and fail. “If teams are filled with people who have not failed, that probably means they didn’t aim high enough,” she says.

Uday Tennety MBA 13.Often, corporations develop their own specialized processes to organize innovation efforts. At Amazon, any employee can propose a new product or program by submitting a document called a PRFAQ, says Uday Tennety, MBA 13 (shown right), who spent over four years at the company leading product and go-to-market strategies. The document, he says, explains customer problems and how the proposed product or program solves them. Employees also detail the plan to complete it. This allows good ideas to come from anywhere within Amazon while also subjecting them to rigorous analysis before pressing go.

“Companies that succeed in innovation today often…look beyond the four walls of their own business to find ways to collaborate with outside partners—sometimes even with competitors.”

—Adjunct Prof. Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97

“It enables you to think very deeply and gather valuable feedback to solidify the idea,” says Tennety. At Amazon, he used the company’s innovation process to lead new product AWS Panorama to market. AWS Panorma allows companies to combine cameras and computer algorithms to improve processes such as employee check-in, inventory or cargo management, and food services operations. He recently left Amazon for Nile, a new startup offering secure connectivity as a service.

A woman sorting through items in a yellow bin at an Amazon warehouse.
At Amazon, any employee can propose a new product or program. What eventually became known as Amazon Prime stemmed from an idea for a free shipping service posed by a software engineer, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Photo: Geoffrey Robinson/Alamy Stock Photo.

While companies like Google and Amazon make innovation look easy, other companies have struggled to put together the right combination of leadership, culture, and processes to make innovation work. After years of innovating under CEO Bill Gates, Microsoft struggled from 2000 to 2014 during the tenure of his successor Steve Ballmer, who’s been criticized for focusing too much on the core software business at the expense of new offerings. That’s turned around under new CEO Satya Nadella, however, says Teece, as the company has made up for lost time in entering cloud computing through its Azure portal.

Juhi Saha, EMBA 15.Juhi Saha, EMBA 15 (shown right), had a front-row seat to that transformation in positions including global director of strategic startups and director of financial services. Saha ran a program to provide high-profile, VC-backed startups with white-glove onboarding into Microsoft’s ecosystem, which enables them to sell through Microsoft’s sales channels. Rather than supporting companies just through their cloud migration, Microsoft shifted to supporting customers through their entire cloud journey to increase top- and bottom-line revenue for these companies.

“Access to Microsoft’s marketplace where they can transact deals has been a game-changer for fast-growing companies, enabling them to take their business to the next level,” she says. “I’ve seen a company close a deal in six weeks that would typically take nine months and quintuple the deal size—simply because they worked with Microsoft sellers to transact through this marketplace.”

Saha says a change in culture made all the difference. Leaders began rewarding risk-taking employees who weren’t afraid to fail, overcoming a previous culture of fear. Departments such as marketing and business operations became more decentralized. “There was freedom to experiment,” says Saha, who recently left after five years to join marketing technology firm Clearbit as vice president of partnerships and alliances. “It was refreshing to work with some amazing sales leaders who were fearless about providing an innovative, customer-centric culture.”

Different strokes

Companies that struggle to innovate within their existing framework can take advantage of other models to help them create new products and services. As a venture build director at BCG Digital Ventures, the corporate innovation and digital-business-building arm of Boston Consulting Group, Julia Felts, EMBA 15, works with corporations to manage the whole innovation process, from ideation to incubation to execution of ideas. She is inspired by the design-thinking process she learned at Haas from Teaching Professor Sara Beckman. Companies often reach out, she says, “when they see there is a space for something in their industry, but they don’t think they can get there fast enough with their current teams.” Felts assists companies in creating separate fully or partially owned startups and supports the recruitment of executive leaders with startup experience who might be looking for the stability a large company can provide.

A woman standing next to a purple wall decorated with triangles.
Julia Felts, EMBA 15, a venture build director at BCG Digital Ventures, helps to facilitate the entire corporate innovation process for companies. Photo: Christina Gandolfo.

Sometimes, companies have assets available to generate new business. Recently, she helped UPS create Ware2Go, a digital marketplace connecting small and medium-sized companies with available warehouse space nationwide, which allows for faster delivery times and optimized transportation costs. Felts sees her job as the best of both worlds, being able to build something new with industry leaders without having to worry about raising venture cash. “I get to build a business that’s already funded with the best resources and the best people—it’s really impactful to build something at the forefront of innovation when there’s so much support.”

Julia Felts, EMBA 15, sees her job as the best of both worlds, being able to build something new with industry leaders without having to worry about raising venture cash.

Phil Puthumana, BCEMBA 07.Not all innovation is conducted with profit in mind. As edtech lead for corporate social responsibility at Verizon, Phil Puthumana, BCEMBA 07 (shown right), spearheads the company’s efforts to help bridge the digital divide and improve education through technology. His group works with nonprofits to bring tablets and other technology into high-need schools and to train teachers how to integrate technology, such as virtual or augmented reality, in classrooms.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, the team moved to create Verizon Innovative Learning HQ, a free next-gen education portal with resources that include innovative learning apps, tailored lesson plans, and professional development courses as a remote resource for educators nationwide. As schools have dealt with continuing uncertainty, those tools can be available in both remote and hybrid learning formats, Puthumana says. Since launching in August 2021, the program has already reached some 500,000 students with a goal of reaching 10 million in 10 years.

Puthumana’s group has succeeded, he says, by aligning its goals with the larger goals of the company. In addition to helping students, the initiative provides an opportunity to test and explore apps that can take advantage of newer 5G networks. At the same time, it creates a halo for the brand in its sincere attempts to go beyond just writing philanthropic checks to fulfilling the needs of students and teachers in new ways. “We work with great intentionality to be genuine and respectful of our audience,” Puthumana says. “At the same time, customers have a lot of choices, and we hope that they feel better about choosing us because of the positive impact we’re making in our communities.”

Entrepreneurial culture

When it comes to questioning the status quo—from both an academic and practical perspective—Haas plays a key role in the evolution of bringing novel ideas to market. And innovation continues to be a lens through which the school operates.

“A key concept at Berkeley Haas has to do with ‘new thinking,’” says Caldwell. “Both in the way we identify and solve problems and in the way people and organizations create networks of ideas we can tap into and contribute to.”

It is this emphasis on innovation as a worldview rather than a watchword that allows faculty, students, and alumni to constantly redefine how the world does business.