2017 Best MBAs: Kelly Deutermann, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Kelly Deutermann

UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

“Servant leader. Emotionally intelligent and tactfully honest. Idealistic yet realistic.  Spirited. Accepting of sensible failures.”

Age: 34

Hometown: Healdsburg, CA

Fun fact about yourself:  I grew up on a Northern California sheep ranch. Ranch life instilled the importance of hard work, humor, and creative problem-solving.

Undergraduate School and Degree: United States Coast Guard Academy: Bachelor of Science, Government – International Affairs.

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? U.S. Coast Guard: Search and Rescue Helicopter Pilot (Instructor Pilot), Aviation Safety Officer.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Berkeley Charter of Professional Accountancy

Where will you be working after graduation?  The U.S. Coast Guard’s Budget Execution Division at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Budget Execution Division receives the entirety of the CG’s budget (~$10B) from Congress and a small team of us will each manage a slice of that pie.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Gender Equity Initiative – Spring 2016 Admissions Team
  • Wine Industry Club – VP Academics, Wine Industry Speaker Series Coordinator
  • Veterans Club – VP Admissions
  • Student admissions interviewer for the classes of 2018 and 2019
  • Women in Leadership Conference – Story Salon Speaker
  • Story Salon Coach
  • Hot Topics Coach
  • Cal Triathlon Team – 2016 Collegiate Club National Championships
  • Berkeley Board Fellow – Girls Inc. of the Island City

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Coaching for Story Salon. Story Salon at Haas is a time when we share our most vulnerable selves with each other. The opportunity to work with classmates as they crafted their stories was rewarding because of the depth of reflection and vulnerability I was privileged to experience. My happiest moments as a professional have come when watching teammates and subordinates get recognized for amazing work, and the feelings of joy and pride at watching a beautiful story come together – and be shared with a roomful of supportive classmates – was no different.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Earning my instructor pilot qualification was the crowning achievement of my eight years of aviation service. I put my heart into becoming the very best multi-mission aviator and was honored to learn of my command’s decision to qualify me as an instructor. Instructor pilots are charged with growing junior pilots into seasoned multi-mission aviators in addition to evaluating the flying skills of their superiors. I was responsible for training pilots at my unit to effectively fly a helicopter while leading a crew of four into the most challenging weather and terrain conditions in the United States. I did this by developing aircrew judgment, teaching crew communication principles, and training mission-specific tactics. Coast Guard policy guides the instructor pilot selection process to designate those who have “superior judgment, patience, tact…and a personality that inspires confidence and wins the respect of others.” Learning that my unit leaders believed I had this skillset was humbling. Even though this was an immense responsibility, the challenge of instructing still excites and inspires me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I have a few:

Rob Chandra (a renowned venture capitalist and an inspiringly nice person) and Toby Stuart (an award-winning academic who taught the case method like nothing I’d previously experienced) in Entrepreneurship.

Laura Kray – Negotiations. This class was a lively and fascinating exploration of human interaction. My biggest takeaway is the concept of thinking fast and slow: being ready to engage in conversation and debate, but having the presence of mind to remain rooted to my core principles and consider the consequences as the situation progresses. I am eager to continue my study in this regard.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Entrepreneurship with Toby Stuart and Rob Chandra. This class, in many ways, was more about how to approach life than any specific company or industry we studied. Rob and Toby were obviously focused on the metrics of building scalable businesses, but the most impactful lessons were about how we conduct ourselves as individuals and teammates.

I remember vividly in one class, when Toby was concluding a case about a man who intentionally pursued a lifestyle business, and you could hear a pin drop in a carpeted room of 65 people because of his ability to intensely drive points home. It was a seemingly simple lesson he was teaching, but as with everything in that class, it was executed flawlessly and memorably.

Why did you choose this business school? When I was researching programs, I got the strong impression that, as an institution, Haas really knows who it is, what it values, and how it wants to serve the community. The school’s sense of self meshed beautifully with mine.

After interviewing at Haas, my interviewer went out of his way to connect me with two of his classmates who, he believed, shared my interests and passions. He thought they could help me better explore the potential in the Haas experience. My conversations with those students left me inspired and challenged! It felt very authentic and personal to be offered this vantage point. They each spent a significant amount of time with me, and I wasn’t even admitted yet! In those students, I found kindred spirits who shared my passion for social and public sector leadership. Before I even received an offer of admission, I was made to feel a part of the Haas family.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Learning to balance a meaningful social life with my family and professional commitments.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? My life in the military was my only professional reference before coming to business school. In one respect, my experiences were vast. But in another, my field of view was quite narrow. My expectation coming to business school was that I was just going to learn yet another technical skill (financial management). I could not have been more wrong; this program coupled a world-class business education with significant personal development. Business is not just about managing spreadsheets, it’s about the relationships you make along the way and the leadership you bring to the table. Haas’ approach to this is unquestionably intentional. In this respect, I’ve had the time of my life.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be your authentic self. There’s only one you, and trying to be someone or someone else will most assuredly sabotage your prospects.

What was your biggest regret in business school? That I have to graduate. This experience has been so refreshingly positive. While I’m excited about my future, my gratitude to this institution for these two years with my spectacular classmates cannot be overstated.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Nancy Cao: She is a wise soul. At every interaction we’ve shared, she says something so thoughtful – even about the simplest of things.

Alvaro Silberstein: A man who has overcome tragedy with grace and grit. He is the definition of inspiring. If Alvaro can reach the granite horns of Torres del Paine, Patagonia in a wheelchair, then there is literally no excuse for any of us to think there is something we cannot accomplish. His trekking feats aside, watching Alvaro in action in everyday life makes me want to be a better person.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I decided a life in the private sector (rather than the Federal Government) was the right post-military career for me.”

I’ve seen many senior military officers appear to feel lost as they rejoined the civilian sector. I think of business school as a professional incubator. It gives you two years to explore your options and try new things while you’re learning a whole new skill set. This is a no-threat environment to test your wings and explore your lifelong passions.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…pursuing a Masters of Public Administration.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To serve others in a meaningful way.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My entire family. There have been incredibly complex periods in my family life and with each new challenge, we, as a team, found resolution through an unwavering commitment to honoring each other and our principles. Life can be so, so messy. But there is tremendous positive to be gleaned from the muck, if only we can allow ourselves to see it.

My partner, Dan. We often call ourselves ‘Team Deutermann’ to remind us that we function as a team no matter what. We lean on and push each other. And we are raising two beautiful kids together.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who inspired thoughtful decision-making.

Favorite Book: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and literally anything by the Notorious RBG

Favorite musical performer: Prince

Favorite vacation spot: Playing in the surf and sand with my babies on Lanikai Beach.

Hobbies: Doing craft projects with my kids and participating in athletic events (running, triathlon, team sports of any kind)

What made Kelly  such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Kelly was a student in my Negotiations course, which presents cutting-edge, scientific evidence-based approaches to working effectively with others in interdependent situations involving conflict. The class involves weekly role-play simulations involving face-to-face interactions with peers. While these rich experiences offer ample opportunities for learning, they can also produce feelings of vulnerability and frustration that can pose barriers to learning.

Kelly adopted a growth mindset that enabled her to reap the benefits of her experiences even in the face of setbacks. She had an intuitive understanding that learning is best realized through hard work, practice, humble self-reflection, openness to receiving feedback, and by participating in a respectful yet critical exchange of ideas in the classroom. A critical insight is that negotiators who weigh relationships and reputations on par with economic gains tend to be the most successful in achieving win-win deals that stand the test of time. Kelly demonstrated these skills admirably, as evidenced by her stellar performance across all assignments, including top-notch ratings by her peers who listed her as among the most highly respected negotiators in the entire class.

Kelly sought out every possible opportunity to hone her interpersonal and analytical skills so that she could effectively implement a principled approach to both her classroom role-plays and to “real world” negotiations. She regularly sought feedback before assignments were due so that she could maximize her chances of success. Importantly, she stayed on track even when negotiations did not go her way—her first instinct was to identify what she would do differently next time to achieve a better result. With these “unsuccessful” experiences and outcomes it would be understandable if she became grumpy about the class or the material but she continued to be engaged, thoughtful, and positive in class and in her assignments, which demonstrates her determination to grow and apply the skills she’s learning, irrespective of the immediate outcome.”

Professor Laura Kray

Warren E. and Carol Spieker Chair in Leadership


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