Meet The Berkeley Haas MBA Class Of 2020

Katie Rentz

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

I am a former naval officer who loves to swim, surf, run, and eat pizza!”

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have been a motor scooter rider since 2012 and currently own a 150cc red Vespa Sprint named Delilah 2.

Undergraduate School and Major: United States Naval Academy/Oceanography

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: United States Navy/Naval Special Warfare Unmanned Underwater Systems Department Head

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Completing a six-month deployment to Baghdad, Iraq, with SEAL Team Five was something I never thought I’d do when I was commissioned as a Naval officer in 2011, and it stands out among my three deployments as the most uniquely challenging. I was commissioned as a surface warfare officer (ship navigator) and completed my first two deployments aboard navy ships, so when I re-designated as a meteorology and oceanography officer in 2015, I never imagined my next assignment would entail a boots-on-the-ground deployment! Rising to the challenge of training for and completing something I never thought I would be called upon to do was transformative for me both as a leader and personally.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The culture at Haas is so tangible—it’s absolutely what set Haas apart in my mind and solidified my decision to come here. Inclusivity, open-mindedness, and a passion to make the world a better place are traits everyone here seems to share, and it’s really special to feel like I’m surrounded by such ambitious, kind people.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The culture was the biggest reason I chose Haas, but I also absolutely love the city of Berkeley. It always seems to be alive with people meeting up at cozy coffee shops, a huge variety of very authentic restaurants, dusky dive bars, and plenty of craft beer and cocktail spots. The campus itself sits beside Tilden Regional Park, which boasts gorgeous bay and ocean views and miles of tree-lined trails and roads that are ideal for running, hiking, and group road bikes. Berkeley is also a short, inexpensive BART ride to San Francisco, where there is infinitely more exploring to be done, and Tahoe, Yosemite, and wine country aren’t far away either. Beaches with surfing and coastal camping are also less than an hour away—it’s everything I love about California all in one place!

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m looking forward to being active in the veterans’ club, which is a great resource both for active duty or veteran applicants and current student vets alike. I’m also thrilled that within our class we’ve already started multiple group chat threads for like-minded students to meet up. I’m a member of the swimming, bikes and brews, surf, board games, runners, tailgate, and ski/snowboarding groups. It’s been a fun way to meet new classmates, explore, and organize some great group workouts.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career?  The Navy was an excellent springboard into the workforce. The experiences I had during my time on active duty were incredibly unique and special. I was challenged beyond what I ever thought I could handle, learned more across more areas than I ever imagined I would, travelled the world, and worked alongside the most tenacious, good-natured people I can think of. However, I knew the point I’d reached in my Navy career warranted a career shift. I felt I’d done the most exciting, rewarding jobs I could in the Navy, and was ready to develop new skills that will serve me well in my next career. The basic finance, business operations, accounting, and process optimization skills I will learn in business school will fill the knowledge gaps I have as a science undergrad, and the top-notch career services and networking opportunities at Haas will help me refine what I want to do upon graduation. It made sense for me both from the perspective of gaining the knowledge and benefiting from the full-time MBA experience.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Haas’ yearly employment reports are publicly available on the MBA website, and reading through them gave me a sense of what I can reasonably expect to earn in a job post-MBA, broken down by sector. While there are many viable paths in life, I knew this path would pay dividends down the road—and it’s something I am genuinely excited about doing. It’s not only a wicket to hit, it’s two years I think I will really savor!

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford GSB and MIT Sloan.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Attending admissions events was the single best way to determine my fit within various programs, something I took very seriously. While location matters quite a lot to me, my fit at Haas was what ultimately led me to choose it over the other programs. Aside from attending as many admissions events as I could, I connected with the vets clubs at each school and spoke on the phone with as many current students as I could. They were very generous with their time and advice, and even helped read over my resume drafts before I applied. I recommend reaching out and connecting to the schools you’re interested in on as many levels as you can. After I’d been accepted, I expanded my reach and spoke with not only current students, but also alumni from each program to see what their perspectives were and if they’d changed several years out. When you’ve fully done due diligence in researching school cultures, you’ll know, because you’ll have a strong sense of each one.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I think I have had many defining moments; choosing just one is difficult! What stands out, though, is my first six-month shipboard deployment to the Arabian Gulf on an aircraft carrier. The thought of six months at work on a ship was not only daunting, but sad! I had so much to leave behind. I couldn’t help but think about all the family events where I’d be missing out: friends’ weddings, birthdays, and even just running on the beach or surfing—doing the things I love. It was really difficult for me to accept my fate, but I had no choice. The ship was deploying, and the entire crew was going with it. Instead, I shifted my mindset and decided to focus on the growth I could undergo during that time. I focused on personal goals and practiced bettering myself instead of thinking about what I’d be missing out on, and found that there were many ways to find happiness, fulfillment, and grow friendships on that deployment. In hindsight, it was really good for me to have to face something I was afraid of and find ways to turn it into a positive experience.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I’d like to pursue a job as a project manager in the tech industry. However, the next two years will be an opportunity to learn more about what’s out there, to network, and to refine which sector within tech excites me most. While my background in optimizing and deploying unmanned underwater vehicles on a SEAL support team certainly drives my interest in tech, I’m not set on a specific company or sector at this point.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I hope to be performing well at a fulfilling job alongside enthusiastic, ambitious coworkers.

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