U.C.-Berkeley, Haas School of Business
“Intensely committed to my goals, adventurous to the point of recklessness, and deeply loyal.”
Hometown: Chino Hills, CA
Fun fact about yourself: I hiked the 221-mile John Muir Trail in seven days.
Undergraduate School and Degree: BA in economics, Stanford University
Where did you work before enrolling in business school? United States Marine Corps, aviation intelligence officer
Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Bain and Co., Los Angeles
Where will you be working after graduation? Bain and Co., Consultant
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Redwoods@Haas Co-President; Consulting Peer Advisor, Veterans Club Vice President; Social Sector Solutions team lead; HaasBoats 2016 Co-Planner; Student interviewer; BERC Innovative Solutions; Team Lead, Steel@Haas; Haas Soccer Club
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my decision to become a team lead for Social Sector Solutions, a hands-on consulting class that called on us to exercise core business skills to provide clients with structured and data-driven solutions. The role was a stretch for me coming into the spring of my first year at Haas. But it was one of those opportunities to take calculated risks, fail, learn, and take more risks. Despite my military leadership background, leading as a project manager was a completely different animal. It opened my eyes to the challenge and the reward of becoming a competent and ethical business leader. I gained some key insights about my leadership skills—including realizing that different people are motivated by different things—and I developed close professional relationships I maintain to this day.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of my performance and decision-making in my second Afghanistan deployment in 2014. My first deployment was a trial by fire, but I developed much more confidence in my abilities during my second deployment. As a more senior officer, I was comfortable leading my Marines and giving them the resources to succeed. I worked closely with our pilots to reduce the risk during high-threat missions and offered our battlespace allies additional capabilities to defeat the enemy. In one case, I utilized my air crewman experience and pilot’s perspective to manually photograph helicopter landing zones on general support mission. The photos were used for tactical missions that would occur within 24 to 48 hours. In another instance, I led the squadron’s defensive response to an attack on the base and was proud to see months of squadron training pay off. No one was injured and we minimized the impact on our operational mission. Most importantly, I had a real impact on the mission and remained steadfast in my leadership values towards my Marines. Honor, Courage, and Commitment are somewhat cliché, but to me they are more than just words because I lived them.
Why did you choose this business school? Haas is a unique institution with a culture dominated by the four Defining Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. The values I developed in the Marine Corps of selfless leadership, true impact on the mission, and perpetual growth are embedded in Haas’ foundation. It was an easy decision because Haas has all the capabilities to set me on any career path, but also gave me the space and resources to find my leadership voice by combining structured reflection of my past experiences with new tools and business skills.
What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Haas’ small class size and warm culture were true blessings. Business school is a very challenging place, not just cognitively, because most people are seeking some deeper sense of fulfillment and there can be a lot of pressure to “find your true passion” in a short two-year experience. The classmates I met along the journey made this experience special and without them my time at Haas would be worth little.
What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? In my application essays, I postulated that business school would help me discover my calling. That’s true for some people, but more importantly, I learned that there are several paths that would provide me with the leadership challenge, intellectual rigor, and fulfillment I desire. I can use the principles taught at Haas to test and learn from each path to design my own life. Haas has also given me the resources, skills, and confidence to vigorously pursue any path of my choosing. Where I saw one closed door two years ago, I now see many open doors and can walk through them as I please.
What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? It’s no secret that Haas selects on culture. If you qualify for a top-tier program, you should seek to relate your own experiences and values to the Haas Defining Principles. I’ve seen this done in a contrived and explicit format and it usually doesn’t end up well. I’d seek to first understand who you are as a person and what you want professionally. Coaches, mentors, and friends should be heavily involved in this process because who you think you are is sometimes different than what your actions have demonstrated. Then seek to draw a through-line from your values to Haas and your career. If you find that your values are aligned then you’re probably on to something.
What was your biggest regret in business school? I regret not having my wife more involved in my business school experience. She is a general surgery resident at UCLA and didn’t have the travel time to invest in the program. Business school is a transitional experience by nature and I wish she could have been closer to help ground me. She’s known me since I played soccer at Stanford and through the challenges of the Marine Corps. I wish she could have understood the business school perspective and helped me contextualize Haas.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Derek Kenmotsu, former MBA class president and Army Special Forces. We competed against one another during the Week 0 orientation cohort olympics in the championship flag football match. He’s a fierce competitor and I initially saw him as the enemy since my Oski cohort competed against his Gold cohort (Oski won that match and the Golden Egg competition two years in a row, mind you). As I got to know Derek more through the program and the Haas Veterans Club, I realized he’s a deeply positive person and embodies the Defining Principles so well. Derek faced several incredible personal challenges while he was at Haas, but he always brought an infectious energy to a group. I admire his ability to rebound and maintain resilience in times of crisis.
“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I woke up in a cot in Kyrgyzstan next to my commanding officer after not having seen my family for seven months and realized I wanted a career focused on building organizations and developing people.”
“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a proud and competent Marine Air-Ground Task Force Intelligence Officer and future Intelligence Battalion Commanding Officer.”
If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would fund and create a task force comprised of students, faculty, and staff to design an international experience requirement that includes Haas’ existing menu of options in addition to several international academic trips. I’d like to offer Haas students in-country immersions and outdoor leadership expeditions as a way to enhance classroom leadership curricula and further deepen the resolve of Berkeley leaders who redefine how we do business.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I’d like to seek purpose through impact. I define impact in two ways: 1) Helping people and organizations reach their professional goals and 2) Developing people. I need to have a strong connection to an organization’s mission and be in a role where selfless leadership is the norm, not the exception. In 10 years, I envision myself leading a mid-size company or a division of a larger company where I can integrate my perspectives from the Marine Corps and business school to unify a team and drive toward a shared goal.
Who would you most want to thank for your success? Success is not a static concept and I’m not satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. I’m still hungry to develop further and have an impact beyond myself. But I would like to thank my wife for my success up to this point. Throughout the transition from the Marine Corps to Bain, she was always there for me and is an example of the type of compassionate, strong-willed, and frustratingly competent leader I’d like to be. Her ability to display empathy to any patient while having the drive to be the most technically competent surgeon is inspiring and knowing I have her in my corner is comforting.
In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? That intense guy who was devoted to the mission and our team’s success, but also cared deeply about me as person.
Favorite book: Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
Favorite movie or television show: Aspen Extreme (Movie)
Favorite musical performer: Taylor Swift
Favorite vacation spot: Bareboat catamaran sailing in the British Virgin Islands
Hobbies: Middle-distance fast-packing and trekking, four-season peak-bagging, 6am full body workouts, California wine, organizing adventures.
What made John such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?
“The best way to describe John is “all in.” As a first year, John was selected as one of 10 team leads in a rigorous experiential consulting course in partnership with McKinsey. John was one of few in the course who was new to consulting. He not only led his team, bringing along students who were struggling, he also helped other team leads. He provided useful feedback to the instructors and team leads throughout the semester and at the end of the course, when we all met to debrief, he provided a written list of recommendations to improve the course.
But it didn’t stop there. In his second year, I met with almost 20 first years applying to be team leads. Because of the unusually high demands of the position, I wanted to make sure they knew what they were getting into, so I asked them to speak with a former team lead. I wasn’t surprised that they had all heard of John. As one student said: “He’s the one who has done everything here.” John was approachable, and he spoke with many potential leads and served on a recruitment panel, and then circled back to see how we were doing. That’s John. He took on a challenging task, jumped fully into it, helped others along the way, and gave back to help the next class of leaders.”
Adjunct Professor and Director of the Center for Social Sector Leadership