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Dean’s Speaker Series: Reddit COO Jen Wong on her leadership journey

Growing up as a shy introvert, Reddit COO Jen Wong said she never saw herself as a leader.

“I think I assumed a leader was a person who told other people what to do,” Wong said.

It was her fascination with companies and the people who lead them, as well as a drive to solve new problems, that led her to pursue a career that has included leadership positions at Time, Inc.; PopSugar; AOL, and now Reddit.

“I’m a puzzler at heart, and when my mind starts searching for a new problem to solve, and there’s something I can learn, that propels me forward,” Wong said. “I always want to move into something that has a clear lane for me to have an impact.”

Wong, who topped Reddit’s Queer 50 list this year, shared her leadership journey with MBA students and the Haas community at a Dean’s Speaker Series talk on Sept. 21. The talk was co-sponsored by Q@Haas as part of Coming Out Week, September 18-22.

As Reddit’s Chief Operation Officer, Wong oversees business strategy and related teams.  Only four years into her tenure as COO, she has helped lead the growth of Reddit into a profitable business by scaling ad revenue to well over $100 million.  Her leadership goes beyond growing the business; she is also passionate about Reddit’s company goal that’s just as important as revenue: diversity and inclusion. In addition, Jen is viewed as an expert in the digital landscape.

Watch the full talk:


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Big jump in influence for the Haas School’s California Management Review, ranked among top journals

California Management Review (CMR)—the Haas School’s academic management journal—has for the second year in a row earned a big jump in a ranking of its academic influence, placing it as one of the most highly cited practitioner-oriented research journals in the world.

The journal earned a two-year impact factor of 11.7 in the 2021 Clarivate Journal Citation Reports, a substantial increase from 8.8 last year. That placed it at #9 in the business journal category and #10 in management.

CMR also earned a five-year impact factor of 12.2, up from 9.3 last year.

Clarivate’s journal impact factor is a gauge of academic influence among top social science journals. It’s based on how frequently a journal’s articles are cited by scholars who publish in a collection of top social science journals. CMR articles were cited 7,895 times in 2021.

“We have been able to increase CMR’s relevance by consistently attracting and publishing important and influential research,” said David Vogel, the journal’s editor and Berkeley Haas professor emeritus. “The strong upward trajectory of our impact factor also reflects our many efforts over the last several years to extend CMR’s reach through social media engagement, expanding outreach, diversifying into digital mediums, and developing new content such as our CMR Insights.”

About California Management Review

Published at the University of California for more than sixty years, California Management Review serves as a source of evidence-based research that inspires, informs, and empowers stewards of modern organizations. The journal disseminates ideas that engage scholars, educate students, and contribute to the practice of management.

More information about California Management Review’s impact factor and international rankings is available here, along with links to new research and information about publishing in the journal.

 

Right-to-repair laws have potential downsides for consumers and the environment

Stack of broken screens from smartphones
Photo: iStock

The “right-to-repair” movement scored a major victory last month when New York State passed the first law requiring companies that make digital electronic products to give the public access to repair instructions, tools, and parts.

The goal was to make it easier and cheaper for consumers to fix their gadgets, and to break manufacturers’ monopolies on the repair market, allowing independent repair shops to compete. 

Yet despite a groundswell of support from consumer and environmental groups, right-to-repair laws may have unintended consequences, according to new Berkeley Haas research. The result could be higher prices, more e-waste, or longer-term use of older energy-guzzling products. 

“Strikingly, (right-to-repair) legislation can potentially lead to a ‘lose-lose-lose’ outcome that compromises manufacturer profit, reduces consumer surplus, and increases the environmental impact, despite repair being made easier and more affordable,” according study co-author Luyi Yang, assistant professor of operations and IT management at Berkeley Haas.

The paper, forthcoming in Management Science, is the first to examine the pricing, environmental, and consumer implications of the growing international movement known as the right-to-repair. It offers insights for policymakers working to craft such legislation.

A growing movement

Manufacturers have generally opposed right-to-repair laws, often citing privacy, safety, and copyright issues. Yet what’s also at stake is their bottom line: An active market for used products reduces demand for new gadgets, and one strategy to discourage this has been to charge exorbitantly high repair prices. 

“…There is no denying that profit remains a top concern of manufacturers that oppose right-to-repair,” Yang says. 

Yet from Apple’s proprietary pentalobe screws, which require specialized screwdrivers, to tractors loaded with sensors and software that can only be fixed by authorized dealers, consumers and policymakers have grown increasingly frustrated with manufacturers’ controls on the repair market. Massachusetts first adopted a motor vehicle right-to-repair law in 2012, and it expanded nationally in 2018. Last year, the Biden Administration ordered the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enact new regulations to facilitate independent repair; earlier this year, the Senate introduced a bill to allow farmers to repair their own equipment. The movement is also active in Europe.

Manufacturers’ strategic response

Yang was curious to delve into the implications for manufacturers. He built a model to analyze how they might respond to the new regulations, and what the repercussions might be. 

The answer depends on the type of product in question, and especially the price. In the market for cheap, low-cost products, the strategic response for manufacturers would be to lower new product prices and flood the market, thus reducing the appeal of repair and decreasing cannibalization from used products. “Motivating more consumers to purchase new products translates into higher new production volume and more e-waste,” Yang says. “As a result, the environmental impact increases.” 

On the other hand, for manufacturers of higher-end products that are expensive to produce, a continual price cut would eventually leave the profit margin too thin. If independent repair was widely available, products would have a longer lifespan, which makes them more valuable. Manufacturers would have the incentive to take advantage of that increased value and raise new product prices, which hurts consumers. And even though people might buy fewer new products,  easier repair could lead more consumers to use old, energy-inefficient products, resulting in a higher environmental impact.

In fact, the worst-case scenario could occur for products that have a high environmental impact when they’re in use—such as cars, trucks, refrigerators, or other major appliances. Manufacturers may raise prices, and with a flourishing repair market, more people might end up  buying and using old power guzzlers. 

Policy implications

The upshot is that well-intentioned policy makers should not make assumptions about who will benefit from right-to-repair laws. “Ignoring the strategic response from the product market will paint an incomplete picture and even lead to flawed conclusions,” Yang says. Instead, legislators should examine specific product categories, including their production cost and environmental impact, and avoid sweeping, one-size-fits-all policies. 

“Different policy goals of protecting consumers versus the environment may conflict with each other” he concludes. “Often, a trade-off has to be made.”

 

Read the paper:

Right to Repair: Pricing, Welfare, and Environmental Implications
Management Science, Forthcoming
By Chen Jin (National University Singapore), Luyi Yang (UC Berkeley – Haas School of Business) and Cungen Zhu (National University of Singapore)

 

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.

Do Not Disturb

Creating a more reliable supply chain

A chain link with three items, each on top of a separate link: a cargo ship, a delivery truck, and a delivery person with boxes on a dolly.

Pre-pandemic, the worldwide system of getting products where they need to go seemed to be working. Goods were produced where they could be made most cheaply: A pair of shoes might be assembled in Vietnam using leather from Brazil, polyester from China, and rubber from Malaysia before being shipped to Los Angeles and trucked to a mall in Kansas City. Businesses maximized profits by keeping the workforce lean and using just-in-time inventory management.

But as the pandemic demonstrated, that efficiency meant less resiliency. Lockdowns shuttered factories amid spiked demand for goods like bicycles and convection ovens. Millions of workers left their jobs. A dearth of employees, trucks, and drivers left goods languishing at ports.

“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” says Assistant Professor Luyi Yang. “At pretty much every step along the way, there’s potential for disruption.”

Yet the supply chain crisis, according to Haas logistics experts, offers an opportunity to put in place a more efficient and durable system over the next five to 10 years, potentially protecting us from future disruption.

At the top of the to-do list, says Saikat Chaudhuri, faculty director of the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology Program, is improving efficiency, starting with upgrades at ports—such as digitizing customs operations. “Ports need to operate 24-7 and use the latest equipment to help automate loading and unloading. That’s a no-brainer,” he says. The U.S. also needs to renovate its transportation facilities to eliminate bottlenecks. Last year’s federal infrastructure deal represents a giant step in that direction.

Beyond that, businesses must think strategically about production location, staffing, and inventory. That might mean reshoring—building a semiconductor plant in Ohio instead of Taiwan—or nearshoring—setting up in Mexico instead of China. Production locations should be diversified to reduce the risk of overconcentration in any one country.

Businesses may need to boost head count and raise pay to ensure they’re ready for emergencies. The same applies to stockpiles of components and finished products. “You sometimes want to carry a little bit more inventory than might seem optimal because there can be a rainy day,” Yang stresses.

While these fixes may fuel inflation, the long-term benefit of a reliable, sustainable supply chain is economical. “It’s inevitable prices will go up as a result of these shifts,” Chaudhuri says. “But digitization and optimization of the supply chain will bring some of those costs down, which will partly offset the additional cost of doing things locally.”

How to Build Sustainable Supply Chains

Coordinated action by business and government will be necessary to prevent a future supply chain crisis of this magnitude, say Haas logistics experts Saikat Chaudhuri and Luyi Yang. Here are some solutions.

Infographic of U.S. map with six ideas for improving supply chains: Embracing efficiency, investing more heavily in infrastructure, better locating production and warehousing to be closer to end markets, enticing workers by raising pay and improving working conditions, boosting staffing and inventory to head of emergencies, and diversifying international sourcing.

6 keys to creating a more sustainable supply chain

Trucks lined up to enter the Port of Oakland. Shipping containers and cranes are visible in the background.
Trucks line up to enter a Port of Oakland shipping terminal in November 2021. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Pre-pandemic, the worldwide system of getting products where they need to go seemed to be working. Goods were produced where they could be made most cheaply: A pair of shoes might be assembled in Vietnam using leather from Brazil, polyester from China, and rubber from Malaysia before being shipped to Los Angeles and trucked to a mall in Kansas City. Businesses maximized profits by keeping the workforce lean and using just-in-time inventory management.

The COVID-19 pandemic played havoc with this process, triggering a global shortage of supply. Factories were shuttered by lockdowns. People cancelled vacations and stopped eating out, while demand for goods like bicycles and convection ovens spiked. Millions of workers left their jobs to stay safe or find something better. The ports were short-staffed and there weren’t enough trucks or drivers to move containers to their destinations. Automakers couldn’t get the computer chips cars depend on, and stores were empty of thousands of items—from refrigerators to Italian wines and even cream cheese made in the U.S.

“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” noted Luyi Yang, an assistant professor in the Operations and IT Management Group. “At pretty much every step along the way, there’s potential for disruption.”

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. —Luyi Yang

 

The pandemic has exposed deep-seated vulnerabilities in global supply chains that were long in the making and not quickly resolved. Yet the supply chain crisis, according to Haas logistics experts, offers an opportunity to put in place a more efficient and durable system, potentially protecting us from future disruption.

“What has happened has been a perfect storm,” said Saikat Chaudhuri, the Grimes M.E.T. Chancellor’s Chair and faculty director of the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology Program. “But over the next five-to-ten years, once we make the changes we need, this will accelerate a dramatic upgrading of the entire supply chain.”

What has happened has been a perfect storm. But over the next five-to-ten years, once we make the changes we need, this will accelerate a dramatic upgrading of the entire supply chain. —Saikat Chaudhuri

 

Chaudhuri and Yang stress coordinated action by business and government is necessary to fix the supply chain and prevent a future crisis of this magnitude. Here, in brief, is their to-do list.

  1. Modernize and digitize port facilities: The top priority is making the supply chain more efficient, starting with the ports—now plagued by inadequate staffing and antiquated systems. For example, customs operations must be fully digitized. “Ports need to operate 24-7 and use the latest equipment to help automate the loading and unloading of goods. That’s a no-brainer,” Chaudhuri said.
  2. Invest more heavily in infrastructure: The U.S. needs massive renovation of its transportation facilities to eliminate bottlenecks. The infrastructure investments approved by Congress in 2021 represent a giant step in that direction.
  3. Put more production and warehousing close to end markets: Businesses have maximized profits by putting factories where production is cheapest. But such practices are risky and may be costlier in the long run. “The economy is always trying for efficiency. But as you move toward efficiency, you lose resiliency,” Yang said. Strategic overhauls may include “re-shoring,” by building a semiconductor plant in Idaho instead of Taiwan, or “near-shoring”—that is, setting up in Mexico instead of China. “People are rethinking cost and benefits,” Chaudhuri noted. “They’re saying, ‘To have a little more reliability in the supply chain, I’d rather have a local production site instead of having things shipped.”
  4. Diversify international sourcing: Production locations can also be diversified to reduce the geopolitical risk of over-concentration in any one country
  5. Make jobs along the supply chain more attractive by raising pay and improving working conditions: Businesses may need to raise pay to ensure they have the personnel they need in emergencies.
  6. Boost staffing and inventory for a rainy day: The same applies to headcount and stockpiles of components and finished products. “You sometimes want to carry a little bit more inventory than might seem optimal because there can be a rainy day,” Yang stressed.

These fixes may fuel inflation, the experts acknowledged. But the long-term benefit of a reliable, sustainable supply chain is ultimately economical. “It’s inevitable prices will go up as a result of these shifts in the supply chain,” Chaudhuri said. “But I’m not pessimistic. Digitization and optimization of the supply chain will bring some of those costs down, and that will partly offset the additional cost of doing things locally.”

 

Laila Tarraf, MBA 97
Chief People Officer, Allbirds

Head and shoulders shot of Laila Tarraf, MBA 97, smiling.

Human resources expert Laila Tarraf knows how to cultivate talent. She was a founding member of Walmart.com, adding 250 employees in one year, and handled HR for Peet’s Coffee and Tea as it redefined its values as a national brand. But it wasn’t until she embraced her own vulnerability that she truly understood how to lead.

Tarraf’s leadership journey, however, was not an easy one. Her husband then her parents died in quick succession, sparking the self-discovery that led her to find compassion and authenticity, experiences she recounts in her recently published memoir, Strong Like Water (She Writes Press, 2021).

“I was afraid I would be judged with this book,” says Tarraf. “But actually, it’s breaking down walls and bringing me closer to others.”

Currently, as the chief people officer for Allbirds, a sustainable footwear and apparel company that seeks to impact climate change and make a profit, Tarraf prioritizes genuine connection to develop company culture.

She led Allbirds through the pandemic and social unrest by establishing working agreements, essentially guiding principles for how employees connect with each other, like choosing courage over comfort in conversations and practicing gratitude daily. “If you commit to having the hard conversations with an open mind and an open heart, that’s really what builds greater connection and ultimately creates a stronger culture,” Tarraf says.

Her approach is working. Allbirds was named America’s best startup employer of 2020 by Forbes. “A strong culture acts as the glue in an organization,” she says. “It can propel, unite, and connect you.”

linkedin.com/in/lailatarraf