2016 Best MBAs: Sarah Tait, UC-Berkeley Haas

Sarah Tait Berkeley

Sarah Tait

UC-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Here is why Sarah is such a powerful leader:  She asks smart, great, clear, concise questions and there is no way you cannot answer. She collects data, presents it clearly, analyzes, and develops the best strategy moving forward. She understands the problem, but spends far longer on developing a fleet of solutions. She presents these solutions with so much gravitas, data, and logic- and mixes it with emotional intelligence, grace, charm and persuasive communication acumen. We will see her on a national ballot some day.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Education: New York University, Stern School of Business, B.S. Finance and Management and Organizational Behavior (Magna Cum Laude)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Bloomberg- Analytics Team Leader; Kiva – Kiva Zip Marketing Intern; HotelTonight- Market Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Branch International, Nairobi, Kenya

Where will you be working after graduation? Branch International, Operations Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Leadership Roles: Co-Chair, Week Zero (MBA Orientation); Co-Leader, Gender Equity Initiative; VP Finance, Net Impact Club; Berkeley Leadership Fellow; Graduate Student Instructor; Team Lead, Haas Impact Investing Network (HIIN); Berkeley Board Fellow; VP Social, Latin American & Hispanic Business Association

Awards: Haas Leadership Fellow Scholarship; MBA Impact Investing Network & Training Program (MIINT) “Best Due Diligence”

Community: Reading Partners tutor

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While I have had a number of meaningful experiences at Haas of which I am very proud, I am most proud of my work with the Haas Gender Equity Initiative (GEI). We have reached university leaders, faculty, staff, and students through a model that was so effective that it is being adapted for other initiatives now, such as an initiative for underrepresented minorities.

In the Spring of 2015, I worked on a team with two other student leaders to analyze how gender played a role in social programming at Haas and in our learning culture. In response to survey and focus group data, we collaborated with faculty and staff to launch a new learning culture component during first-year MBA orientation week. We also worked with Challenge 4 Charity to reconceive our November fundraising events to make them more inclusive. For example, we turned “No Shave November” into “No Limits November” to invite all students to fundraise in creative ways. The semester culminated in a presentation to the Dean and Chief Strategy & Operating Officer of our work and suggestions for next steps.

In Fall 2015, I worked with two other student leaders on gender equity within the context of admissions, as well as with our academics team (there was a great deal of overlap with learning culture and the academics work). We focused our work on producing strategies and potential solutions for the admissions team to implement in order to bring even more high-achieving women to Berkeley-Haas. At the end of the semester, I presented our work related to academics with two other GEI members to tenured faculty. We continue to make Haas a stronger and more inclusive environment, in and out of the classroom.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my work in Kenya during my MBA internship with Branch International, a mobile micro-lending startup. For three months, Branch trusted and believed in me to launch the Nairobi office and operations, hire and manage a team, and reconceive and design the features of our product.

Who is your favorite professor? This question will get me in trouble! 🙂 I have many favorite professors, including Kellie McElhaney, Yaniv Konchitchki, and Richard Sloan. They are experts in their field, lead breakthrough research, are warm and inspirational in the classroom, and support me in extracurricular projects and research outside of the classroom.

Favorite MBA Courses? Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Financial Information Analysis, New Venture Finance, Business Case for Investing in Women

Why did you choose this business school? Haas was my first choice because of its well-renowned social impact programming (Institute for Business and Social Impact, Center for Responsible Business, Center for Social Sector Leadership, etc.), its small class size, and the global reputation of Berkeley academics.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I most enjoyed the spirit of personal development among my peers. I was constantly impressed by their healthy, respectful debate in and out of the classroom. In addition, we push each other to grow in terms of interpersonal skills and self-confidence.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? MBAs are more than just generalists. Certainly, business school provides a well-rounded skill set. However, you get two years to go very deeply into new fields that might not have been readily available to you before. It’s your chance to break into a new industry, build a network of mentors and allies, and develop expertise that is valuable immediately.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? My classmates must be the most thoughtful, caring, and inspiring group of MBAs in the world! I was surprised – and delighted – to learn how much Haasies help one-another. We share notes, help each other prepare for exams and interviews, and generally lift each other up.

What was the hardest part of business school? There are many challenges in business school, including the academic rigor, job search, and competing extracurricular opportunities. The hardest part was acknowledging that I would not have time to do it all, and then prioritizing all of the amazing opportunities Haas has to offer. In order to make tough decisions on how and when to participate, I reflected often on why I came to business school. I prioritized experiences that would increase the breadth of my knowledge of social impact and round out my skillset. I found ways to socialize with my classmates that allowed my partner to be included in the friendship-making. I asked staff, faculty, and alumni for advice when I felt overwhelmed or needed direction.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that the purpose of business was to invest in the future, and that I could marry social impact with financial sustainability.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…less confident, less well-rounded, less satisfied, and less networked!”

What are your long-term professional goals? I aspire to launch and run a social enterprise focused on women’s empowerment, food security, or financial inclusion. I also want to be a farmer.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I want to thank my partner, Mark, for his unending support. He encouraged me while studying for the GMAT, moved to Berkeley with me, helps take care of our home and our dog, participates in Haas events (on class treks and in costume), encouraged me to intern in Kenya, and listens patiently and actively.

Fun fact about yourself: I co-founded the Innovators Network Bay Area, a networking and fundraising group that supports the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and, in particular, Project Violet. Project Violet is best known for “tumor paint”, a molecular flashlight derived from scorpion venom, which chemically adheres to cancer cells and causes them to light up (currently in Phase II clinical trials).

Favorite book: Harry Potter series

Favorite movie: The Princess Bride

Favorite musical performer: Eric Tait, Jr. (my brother, Owner/Engineer/Producer at The Farm Recording & Production Services)

Favorite television show: South Park

Favorite vacation spot: Cape May, NJ

Hobbies? Walking my dog, playing and watching football, cooking

What made Sarah such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Sarah was in my Business Case for Investing in Women course.  I ask the students to go around and say why they chose to take this class. Sarah’s response: “Because I’ve been a bad ass feminist since I was born.”

For one assignment in which they were simply supposed to “role play” a debate on the value of investing in women, Sarah engaged an ACTUAL former boss in an ACTUAL situation to convince him to invest in women in their supply chain. She doesn’t wait one minute to make change. As she got engaged in the middle of the semester, for her final assignment she developed her wedding web site…except she called it Our Feminist Wedding.  Even writing about it gives me chills. It looked like a traditional wedding web site. Under VOWS she included real discussions and pacts that she and her partner had made about career choices, childcare choices, and making the last name decision.  Under LOCATION she talked about a world in which women and men were equal.  Brilliant. Sarah went on to lead the Gender Equity Initiative and took it to a new level, including a presentation to all faculty. Students RARELY get to present to all faculty, and they are in no way an easy crowd. Sarah was undaunted, and wowed the audience. Here is why Sarah is such a powerful leader:  She asks smart, great, clear, concise questions and there is no way you cannot answer. She collects data, presents it clearly, analyzes, and develops the best strategy moving forward. She understands the problem, but spends far longer on developing a fleet of solutions. She presents these solutions with so much gravitas, data, and logic- and mixes it with emotional intelligence, grace, charm and persuasive communication acumen. We will see her on a national ballot some day.” — Kellie McElhaney, Adjunct Professor, Faculty Director, Institute for Business and Social Impact, UC-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“I had the pleasure of partnering with Sarah on planning Week Zero, Haas’ week-long orientation program. From day one of working with her, she blew me away with her determination, grace and creativity. Sarah’s approach to Week Zero mirrored her approach to her own MBA experience – innovative, intentional, and flawlessly executed.

Sarah was instrumental in making our orientation the most successful to-date by shaping and influencing the programming so that the themes and messaging were seamlessly integrated and reinforced throughout the week. This was exemplified by her work on co-creating a session on learning culture. She evaluated the feedback from the previous orientation to identify why this session had not been successful. She pulled in the work she had done for the Gender Equity Initiative to highlight the key issues that needed to be addressed to help the first years create an inclusive and supportive learning environment. Sarah helped lead the design/creation of the session and then ensured that each component and detail adhered to our objectives, by providing feedback, creative solutions and leveraging her work and knowledge from the Gender Equity Initiative. This resulted in our first-year students having buy-in to our learning culture and making them committed to creating an inclusive and supportive classroom experience for each other.

Sarah’s persuasive and charming communication style was in full-effect during the creation of Week Zero, and through the week itself. The first year students fell in love with her and respected every word that came out of her mouth from immediately quieting down when asked to listening with rapt attention while she spoke about how she navigated her first year. She is warm, authentic, so funny and wickedly smart. I wanted to end this by naming her biggest power. She’s so versatile and possesses too many outstanding qualities to just pick one. So I’ll say that her biggest power is being herself, Sarah Tait. And we were so lucky to have her!” — Julia Rosof, Associate Director of Student Affairs, Full-Time MBA Program, UC-Berkeley, Haas School of Business


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.