2018 Best MBAs: Adrian Williams, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Adrian Williams

University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“A creative spirit with an affinity for finding novel ways to impact experiences and culture.”

Age: 29

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Fun fact about yourself: I used to produce music and have worked with a few semi-well known recording artists.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Brown University, BA in Economics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Barclays (Sales and Trading Analyst), Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Investment Management Analyst), AppNexus (Engagement Manager), Kapor Capital (Summer Associate)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Credit Suisse in New York. (Financial Sponsors Group)

Where will you be working after graduation? Credit Suisse, New York, Financial Sponsors Group

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • VP Social
  • Editor of Right Angles
  • Facilitator for Dialogues on Race
  • Co-lead of the Consortium Alumni Initiative.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The publication of Right Angles, a print magazine intended to highlight the creativity that exists within the Haas population, was an incredible experience. It was fun to take a kernel of an idea and see out the vision (with the help of some really talented classmates) to create something completely unique for the community. Since I’ve arrived on campus, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I can impact the culture at Haas, particularly how to draw out the creative energy that exists within us all. Right Angles represented a physical, tangible manifestation of that energy.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While I was at AppNexus, I identified an issue with the pricing of one of our product offerings and was tasked to come up with a solution that was later rolled out across the platform which, at the time, saw over $1 billion in advertising spend flow through the system annually. It was a unique opportunity to work cross-functionally with almost every business unit within the organization.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Ross Levine, who teaches Macroeconomics. Ironically enough, I had Ross for an economics course when I was in undergrad at Brown, so I was excited when I learned that I’d have another chance to take a course with him. Ross really creates stimulating conversation in the classroom and does an incredible job facilitating open discussion.

What was your favorite MBA Course M&A with Peter Goodson was my favorite MBA course. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to TA the course this semester. It’s tough to nail down one specific insight from this course that I found most valuable, but one thing that resonated with me is the value of critical qualitative discourse that is not dictated by, but rather guided by, quantitative analysis when deal-making.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Haas because it’s the place that fit me best culturally and ideologically. I really loved my undergrad experience at Brown and I found that the Berkeley and Haas communities valued many of the same principles. Also, having spent my entire life east of the Mississippi, I thought it would be a great opportunity to live on the West Coast before deciding where to start the next phase of my life.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be true to yourself. I find that a lot of prospective students that I speak to are trying to fit the mold of what they perceive as the “perfect MBA candidate,” but Haas is more concerned with finding students that believe in and exhibit our defining principles, which I think makes us a bit distinct from many other programs culturally.

What is the biggest myth about your school? “People at Haas are more relaxed and chill than their counterparts at other top programs.” There’s some truth to this, though I would add that Haas students are also extremely sharp, ambitious, and demanding (of themselves and each other), all of which I am grateful for.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not taking more courses outside of Haas. One amazing thing about UC Berkeley is that there are dozens of world-class programs on campus with some really interesting course offerings. I wish I would’ve taken more advantage of that access.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My classmate Clarissa Berman is truly a force of nature. I’m convinced that she somehow has more hours in her days. She is one of the most ambitious people that I’ve encountered, and, more importantly, an incredibly thoughtful and kind person.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mother has always been the biggest influence and inspiration for everything that I’ve done in life. She is an amazing businesswoman and entrepreneur in her own right which I’ve had admiration for from a young age.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…in architecture school! My life almost went in a completely different direction, but when I was starting my architecture school applications, I realized that my inadequate drafting skills were going to be a major blocker.”

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1. Have a beer with Barack Obama; and 2. Have coffee with artist Geoff McFetridge

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as someone who had an exceedingly positive impact on the Haas community and on their personal MBA experience.

What is your favorite movie about business? Wall Street (the original). Most of the lessons from this movie are actually probably things not to do, but I do think it highlights the need for constant self-monitoring and reflection to ensure that your successes and failures don’t dislocate you from your core tenets.

What would your theme song be? “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar or anything on this playlist.

Favorite vacation spot: Tokyo or Rome.

Hobbies? Consuming music in all formats, visiting museums, watching, playing, and debating basketball, watching indie films, taking in new cultures

What made Adrian such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“I had the opportunity to work with Adrian in his role as VP Social. Adrian, a self-described introvert, stepped outside of his comfort zone to take on this role, in which he was responsible for producing and executing no eight 300-person social gatherings, a talent show, and several other small to large social events that are a core part of the MBA experience. This was no easy feat.

Adrian conceptualized and executed every event with quiet mastery and grace. During the wine country fires, a large outdoor event that we intended to have a festival-like quality had to be moved indoors to a smaller space. Adrian was unfazed by the task and managed the event move—and the uncertainty of the situation—with poise, positivity, and creative problem solving. From the start, Adrian recognized the opportunity that came with the VP Social role to impact the Haas culture and experience for his classmates. To help build a more inclusive social culture, he collaborated on movie nights designed for MBA student parents and their families.

In addition to being one of the most creative students I’ve worked with, Adrian has a talent and deep interest in fostering and showcasing the creativity of others. Right Angles was conceived very early on in Adrian’s time at Haas. He immediately recognized that many of the students at Haas are astoundingly multi-faceted and talented. Right Angles shined a light on the artistic side of these students and encouraged the community to celebrate and appreciate students for their creativity. Aside from being a creative person who approaches everything from a unique perspective, Adrian is also a mindful leader. To affirm community values and reinforce social norms prior to a large event, he reached out to all students with an email that reiterated Haas’ Defining Principles and culture of shared responsibility, empathy, and respect. His email was eloquent, powerful and inspiring and exemplified our four Defining Principles. It was essential Adrian: uplifting and beautiful.”

Julia Rosof

Associate Director of Student Affairs


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