2018 Best MBAs: Chen Song, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Chen Song

University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Thoughtful connector of people. Energized by supporting others to reach their goals.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Flemington, NJ

Fun fact about yourself: One of my favorite ways to spend weekends at Haas is playing 12-hour long board games with classmates.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Rutgers University, BA in Psychology and Biology

University of Oklahoma, Master in Education, Administration, and Curriculum Supervision

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Prior to Haas, I led and supported a cohort of 30 teachers as a manager of teacher leadership development with Teach for America in Tulsa, OK.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? I worked at Cisco Systems in San Jose as a human resources leadership program intern. As part of the People Planning, Design, and Analytics team, I collaborated with HR, engineering, and business team leaders to design a global strategic workforce planning program.

Where will you be working after graduation? To be determined. I am eager to pursue a career in leadership development as a consultant or as part of a people development group.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Co-president, Consortium for Graduate Study in Management
  • Haas Student Ambassador—Collaborated with Haas Admissions to organize all prospective and admitted student programming for the class of 2019
  • Storytelling Coach—Coached peers on story arc and delivery in preparation for Story Salon and Coming Out Monologues, 15-minute-long stories to 100+ classmates
  • Peer Coach—Worked with undergraduate and MBA students on career and leadership development
  • VP Deep Dish Dinners, Food@Haas — Organized monthly dinners for 100+ classmates and partners to foster a sense of community and build deeper ties over home-cooked meals
  • Chair, MBA Class of 2018 Philanthropy Committee
  • VP of Learning and Development, General Management & Strategy Club
  • Manbassador Council, Women in Leadership

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?I am most proud of the role I played in helping to shape the inclusive culture at Haas through the leadership positions I have taken and the new opportunities I created for people to connect. Whether I was organizing randomized student dinners at the start of our first year or planning Days at Haas with my fellow (amazing!) Haas Student Ambassadors, I always looked for ways to bring the Haas community closer together. I am most energized by forging deep connections with others and few things are better than hearing my peers say I have made them feel like part of the Haas family.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the impact I had on my students’ lives, in particular DJ. I met DJ on my first day of teaching and we immediately got off to a bad start. We clashed every day for weeks before I finally approached DJ with a desire to understand him instead of a desire to maintain control in my classroom. When I approached him with genuine curiosity, he finally opened up to me. Over the next three years, I spent countless hours before, during, and after school with DJ and we managed to turn his academic trajectory around. Through our relationship, I gained a willingness to focus on addressing the actual needs of the people I am leading instead of sticking to plans that aren’t working. I will never forget the feeling the pride and joy I felt when DJ walked up to me after graduation and said, “You’re my favorite teacher. Thank you for helping me get here.”

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor at Berkeley is Michael Katz (People Development; Pursuit of Meaningful Work). His passion for developing others and changing how we pursue purpose through work led him to found the Interpersonal Development Program at Haas. I have personally benefited greatly from the opportunities he has created for students to explore the role of and possibilities for people development in business. As a teacher, mentor, and coach at Haas, he helped me identify my path to meaningful, fulfilling work.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Haas because I wanted to surround myself with people who share my passion for positive change at work, at school, and in society. As I connected with current students, I was excited to learn about the many ways that students are leaders on campus—founding the Race Inclusion Initiative to address racial inequity at Haas and launching startups to transform special education (shout out to LiftEd and Andrew Hill). These stories convinced me I was joining a community where students are expected to lead and drive change. I came in with lofty expectations and certainly have not been disappointed since coming to Haas.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I highly recommend spending time reflecting on what your passions are before you even start your application. Then, let whatever you are super stoked about come through in your application, interview, and conversations with Haasies. If you can clearly communicate your goals, then it’s much easier for current students to put you in touch with the right people who can get you moving in the right direction. Haasies will push and support you to achieve whatever crazy dreams you have so let your passions show!

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth I hear about Haas is that the Defining Principles really, really matter—and it’s true! Beyond Yourself, Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, and Students Always are more than just catchy marketing. I see them play out in interactions in the Haas community every day. The Defining Principles are the foundation of our community and culture at Haas, so if you vibe with them you can be confident Haas is the right place for you.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Natalie Osterweil. Her loyalty and excellence as a friend are only matched by her brilliant sense of humor and ability to dance all night. Natalie has been an inspiration for me throughout business school to always push farther and take risks. I know my experience and that of many others wouldn’t be the same without her.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Karla Martinez (Yale SOM, Class of 2017) was my manager and coach with Teach for America, and seeing her tireless pursuit of new ways to expand her impact inspired me to apply for business school. Karla introduced me to the possibility of using business to drive societal change.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in Tulsa as a school leader to improve educational outcomes for students.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? If I were dean, I would create more structured opportunities for peer mentorship and coaching at Haas. Being able to effectively develop team members is critical for business leaders and I would have loved to get more practice to develop my skills in that area as part of my MBA experience.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Powder skiing in Hokkaido, Japan, and heli-skiing in Alaska. I have a lot of training to do!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as a great listener, committed friend, and someone who was genuinely interested in their stories.

What is your favorite movie about business? It’s a Wonderful Life. The people and lives you touch through business are just as important as the bottom line.

What would your theme song be? Childish Gambino—Telegraph Ave / Sober (Cover) by Daniela Andrade.

Less for the lyrics, more for the vibe.

Favorite vacation spot: Les 3 Vallées, France. It’s hard to beat the amazing skiing and the locals are super friendly.

Hobbies? Extremely long board games, organizing dinner parties for old and new friends, listening to people’s stories

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

“The essential quality I see in Chen is his sense of curiosity. His curiosity goes beyond exploring careers, skills, and professional networks to encompass self-transformation. He is quite literally concerned with how he and other individuals might grow as human beings. This deep, overriding concern committed him to every opportunity at Haas for developing skills in coaching and facilitation. It committed him to a job search that pushed him to overcome his fear of uncertainty and to craft an identity not based on his job but on his principles.

It is for these reasons that his fellow students have sought him out as a peer coach, that our admissions team employed him as a Haas Student Ambassador, and that he became a facilitator for our Story Salon program. Likewise, it is for these reasons that I have invited Chen to coach undergraduate students in my course The Pursuit of Meaningful Work. Who better to demonstrate such a possibility than Chen, a student who has given his all to the process of self-transformation and is living to tell the story and help others along their own journeys?”

Mike Katz
Founding Director & Lecturer
Interpersonal Development Program at Haas

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST: CLASS OF 2018