2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Victoria Williams-Ononye, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Victoria Williams-Ononye

U.C.-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

I am passionate about all things food and equity.”

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Fun fact about yourself: I worked for Tartine (the delicious San Francisco bakery turned multi-location sensation) during my spring semester!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Washington University in St. Louis, B.S in Urban Studies and Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? CEO of OpsSolved LLC, the operations consulting firm I founded.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Starbucks, Seattle, WA, in Food Innovation Strategy

Where will you be working after graduation? Kraft Heinz, MBA Leadership program in Chicago

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Consortium Fellow
  • Race Inclusion Initiative, co-chair
  • Food@Haas, co-vice president of careers
  • Freshman to Alumni Outreach Program, mentor for undergraduate underrepresented minorities (URMs)
  • Berkeley Board Fellows at Alameda Point Collaborative
  • Haas Student Leadership scholarship recipient
  • Diversity Admissions Council, student representative, founding member
  • Graduate Student Instructor, Edible Education class

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my work leading the Race Inclusion Initiative (RII) team with my co-chair Michelle Boyd. Over two semesters, we led a team of 18 of our peers in researching the role of race in four different facets of our MBA program: admissions, academics, student culture, and career. Through that work, we developed and presented recommendations to Haas leadership in all four of these areas. Our recommendations led to a school-wide conversation about how systemic racism had impacted our school and how we could change it.

This conversation led to the administration’s publishing of the Haas Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Action plan. Many of the steps in that plan stemmed from the work of the RII team. In addition to influencing this plan, my team made a larger impact on the university by launching a speaker series about diversity, equity, and inclusion, continuing to host small group dinners focused on race-related topics in the news, and organizing roundtable discussions on how URM students experience the recruiting process.

RII’s mission is to “promote racial equity by advocating for a racially diverse and inclusive environment at Haas while equipping students to lead diverse and inclusive teams beyond Haas. I truly believe in the importance of that mission and am proud to have spent much of my time at Haas leading a team that was dedicated to fulfilling that mission.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of starting my operations consulting business. It was a great experience to start something from scratch, and I believe I was able to provide real value to my clients. One of my clients was Farmer’s Fridge, a company that sells salads and other healthy meals out of vending machines in Chicago. I worked with the company’s production team on maintaining product consistency, which meant making sure that every meal looked and tasted the same every day. To be able to contribute to the rapidly scaling business was exciting. It was a great accomplishment to be able to not just start a business but to also have actual paying clients in a short period of time.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor was Omri Even Tov. He took a subject that I had previously found boring—accounting—and created a class that was interesting, engaging, and interactive.

Why did you choose this business school? I had two reasons for choosing Berkeley Haas: (1) I knew that this school would help expand my knowledge and experience in the food space because I’d be learning from world-class professors and industry leaders; and (2) The people I met at Haas made me feel at home. From the minute I first stepped foot on campus, I met so many wonderful people who encouraged my passion for food and a career in the food industry.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Prospective Berkeley Haas applicants should know and live the Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself! They are not just for show. They truly are embedded in our school’s culture.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Many think of Berkeley as an incredibly liberal and progressive place. To some extent this is true, but I was surprised by how much the school needed to grow in the area of diversity.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish that I knew how consuming the program would be and how it completely takes up your calendar and headspace. It took a lot of time for me to figure out how to balance being a student while still being a present wife, daughter, sister, and friend.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? I think the MBA is so transformative because it’s an intense period of both professional and personal growth. My understanding of business strategy, the startup world, and finance have expanded, and my view of the world has grown through travel and connecting with my classmates who are from all over the world. The business school experience has made me a more strategic thinker, heightened my curiosity, and made me a better leader.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Paola Blanco absolutely blows me away. Throughout our first year, I knew her to be a fun person and a hard worker. She was always busy working part-time for a startup. While we were competing together in the National Black MBA Association Case Competition, I learned that she had also started a business on the side! The startup, embiei, is dedicated to providing native Puerto Ricans (where Paola is from) with the resources to understand the value of an MBA and connecting them with resources to help with the application process.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My boyfriend, now husband, did a program that enabled him to complete a bachelor’s degree and an MBA in 5 years, so I started to get an idea of what an MBA was all about through his experience.

What is your favorite movie about business? The documentary Fyre Festival is my current favorite. What’s interesting to me is that all of the people who were working on the project saw that things were off, but they didn’t do anything to stop it. It’s really a cautionary tale of what happens when greed and ambition get the best of people. It’s the Enron case of my generation.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? The goofiest MBA term I encountered was Haasboats, which refers to the annual Labor Day trip that is spent on houseboats on Lake Shasta.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school….I would be working at a food startup in Chicago doing operations work. My passion for food would have continued even if I hadn’t gone to business school, but it would be without the broader understanding and skills that I now have.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? That’s a hard question. I’m open to my life taking a lot of different directions, each which would have a different value in terms of salary. When I think about the value of my MBA, I have to take into account my personal growth, in addition to any increased earnings. In that sense, it’s been worth it. I like to think that the market value is correct, which is about $150,000 plus the opportunity cost.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I most want to explore the wine regions of France with my husband and attend a week-long yoga retreat.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope people remember me for upholding one of Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo.

Hobbies? My hobbies include hot yoga, mentoring, baking, cooking, going out to restaurants, and talking about food.

What made Victoria such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“In my inaugural year at Haas, Victoria was one of the first students that I met and continued to work with throughout this past year. As co-chair for the Race Inclusion Initiative (RII), Victoria demonstrated all four of our Haas Defining Leadership Principles. She embodies Confidence Without Attitude, sharing her clear vision and ideas rooted in both personal experience and data. She remained open to feedback, input, and collaboration, embracing Student Always. The Race Inclusion Initiative became a vehicle for Victoria to Question the Status Quo to explore what was impacting our ability to attract underrepresented students, always with the intention of contributing to a stronger and better Berkeley Haas. Victoria didn’t just question, but also went above and Beyond Herself to meet with deans, administrators, and staff, providing concrete recommendations and evidence. Her poise under challenging circumstances, and her ability and willingness to illustrate with her experience, was a gift to staff and administration in service to their learning and growth. Through all of her efforts, Victoria has been instrumental in continuing the conversation of racial diversity and inclusion at Haas at a deeper level. The effect of her leadership will be felt into future Haas generations.”

Élida Bautista

Director of Inclusion & Diversity at Berkeley Haas



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