My Story: From Sesame Street to Berkeley

In December, a team of classmates and I won the 2010 Innovation Challenge. We got the question sponsored by Jiffy Lube International, ‘How can we better attract and retain Gen Y customers (18-29 year olds)?’ We got into the customer’s head, tried to live a day in their life, and to think about how the company can work from the perspective of the customer and create something totally different. We created an online, personal car management system concept – one central system for taking care of all your car needs, including text alerts reminding you to get your oil changed, and a pre-pay method allowing parents to pay for a car service on behalf of their kids. It was a great demonstration of what we’d been learning.

We split the $20,000 prize money, and I applied it toward tuition and housing. It was also good timing, because it arrived right before our treks. I went to China and Japan. A few Chinese students came up with a packed and organized itinerary. The trip was mainly tourism, but we also visited a few companies to get a perspective from industry. Haas is very student run. A lot of programs, some classes, and most of the clubs and events are organized by students.

It’s busy when you add up schoolwork, clubs and activities, and especially recruiting, which is heavy at this time (January-February). In a typical week, you have two classes (about four hours) a day from Monday to Thursday. We average about three hours a day of homework. It’s definitely difficult. In undergrad, you can rely on the curve. You always know that if you took a hard test, everyone else bombed it, too. Here, everyone does well. You see the caliber of the students (at Haas), and realize you’re among people who also did well in undergrad. So it’s a lot more demanding to keep up with what’s expected.

There are also multiple meetings with the clubs that you’re interested in. I’m part of the Digital Media & Entertainment Club; DISC: Design and Innovation Strategy Club; and the Entrepreneurs’ Association. Most weeks there are a couple of presentations, perhaps by a leader of a company, and perhaps a workshop on starting your own business.

It’s heavy, but manageable. At least two to three nights a week, there’s some sort of social activity. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, everyone goes to a bar that someone chooses. On Friday, there are optional review sessions, but the majority of students don’t go. It’s a time to have meetings, go to conferences, or just start the weekend early. Everyone is very active. This week, I’ve run in the hills around Berkeley, I went swimming outside, and I’m going to Tahoe, where it’s a Haas tradition to share house rentals for the ski season. This year, there’s one first-year house, and four among the second-years.

My most inspiring class was Marketing, with Professor Rashi Glazer, who unfortunately just retired this year, with a big send-off by his students. We find ourselves quoting him or referring to that class all the time. We learned a framework for tackling any marketing problem that has proven invaluable since, including in interviews. He also taught us the importance of innovation, always, always, always focusing on the customer, establishing a unique value proposition (for both your company and yourself), and sticking to a well-defined strategy.

(Associate Professor) Terry Taylor, who teaches Operations, is a great professor who lives and breathes efficient operational practices. He is a really funny teacher, so class is always entertaining.

I’m really excited about my first elective, Entrepreneurship, which I’m taking this term. We form teams and work to develop an idea for a company, with entrepreneurs acting as mentors. We pitch the ideas to real venture capitalists and many of the (companies) launch. Previous ones have gone on to become successful businesses.

My least useful b-school experience was a “Find Your Focus” workshop. I thought it was going to help me narrow down the type of role I wanted to pursue, but it was more generally for (finding your) personality type. Haas had already had us do that before arriving and during orientation.

Thirty percent of the class is female. But don’t let the ratio fool you. The women here are so capable and impressive. Sure, it’s noticeably pretty low, not relative to other business schools, but after undergrad, where it was at least half. But I don’t mind. Women thinking about B-school should talk to the students. Learn as much as you can. That will give you a much more telling perspective. There’s an external image we get from not knowing, but that image doesn’t apply at this school. Women have great experiences.

I’d tell a Haas applicant to try to distinguish yourself. Convey why you’re distinctive and why you’d be a great addition to a school like Haas. That means understanding what Haas is about, its culture and focus, and how that fits with your goals.

On campus, be open minded to new opportunities, new types of people and areas you might not have realized you’re interested in. Make the most of it.

What would I change about Haas? It’s not as well known as it could be. Haas can work on broadening its career and student recruiting reach beyond the West Coast and Bay Area. There’s a big focus on California and then internationally. I don’t think the Haas brand and the strength of the school are communicated well to the East Coast.

My internship interviews start next week. I’m interviewing with digital media and technology companies, such as Amazon, Microsoft and Apple. I’ve applied for internships at Google and Facebook, too. It’s apparent that Haas is strong in this area because all these companies are coming to campus, and if they’re not, they’re nearby.

Haas perfectly fits my personality. And it’s on the West Coast, which is a new place for me. It’s nice to be able to wear a t-shirt in January!