“Loyal, passionate, fierce, funny, energetic, responsible, intelligent, dedicated, empathetic, caring, and unique.”
Hometown: Alameda, CA
Fun Fact About Yourself: I love learning languages and am addicted to solving KenKen puzzles.
Undergraduate School and Major: Brown University, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Tastemade TV; Producer/Director
Berkeley Haas is founded on four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Which pillar resonates most with you and why? It’s difficult to choose just one because I value all these leadership principles. If I reflect on my life story, Questioning the Status Quo stands out the most. I’m a female Afghan immigrant who grew up in California. It took a lot of convincing to get permission from my parents to go to college across the country to Brown University to study of, all things, theatre. Since then, I’ve spent my career in New York and Los Angeles producing and directing documentaries and commercials. Now, I’m pursuing an MBA. Many people doubted my choices, but I’ve learned that if I want to pursue my passions, I have to step out of the norm and carve my own path.
Aside from the four pillars and your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose Haas, and why was it so important to you? Many students are attracted to Haas because of its proximity to Silicon Valley and various opportunities like Haas’ Student Seed Fund and accelerator programs like Skydeck. There are also opportunities in sustainability, cleantech, and social impact. Additionally, I’m impressed by the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership, which researches and creates playbooks for diversity and gender equity. And recently, Haas has hired a new Chief Diversity Officer and offers diversity, equity, and inclusion courses for MBA students.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Caring, brilliant, empathetic, and collaborative. The students at Haas are here to help each other succeed — from picking you up at the airport to helping you navigate your health insurance to sharing lecture notes. Students will use their talents to teach Yoga, CrossFit, or lead workshops on design thinking and dialogues on race.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: While I’ve had big and small accomplishments, the one I’m most proud of is working on a Nike Dream social media series that focused on four Muslim female athletes in England, Germany, and Turkey. This was the first time I had worked on stories that were similar to mine. These athletes were relatable to anyone who’s been the underdog, but to hear their nuances felt like I was hearing my story on the screen for the first time. Creating a social media series about these athletes and having it sponsored by an influential brand like Nike was huge.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? As a freelancer, I’ve had the opportunity to see how different companies operate. All of these companies had leaders who truly cared about their employees and the content they were making. These leaders never lacked compassion, but I could see that, sometimes, they struggled to make the right business decisions. I thought about what I would do differently if I were in their shoes and I realized that the only way I could make better business decisions was to take a step back and pursue an MBA.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? UCLA and USC.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Honestly, there weren’t any curveballs. Many schools ask, “Why an MBA?” and “Why our school?” and those are questions everyone should reflect on before investing a lot of money and two years of study.
What was the biggest factor in choosing a particular business school and why was it so important to you? My previous experience in high school and undergrad was mainly focused on my own success. I was taught that if I put my head down and worked hard, I could succeed, and that success was individualized. But my work as a producer has taught me that nothing great or meaningful can be created alone. You need to bring together talented experts to contribute their ideas to the bigger picture. I knew that I couldn’t go back to school if I was only focusing on myself. And if it weren’t for the Haas community, I may never have applied to an MBA program. It’s a community of collaboration with some of the best talents from across industries.
Additionally, most MBA students will change their career focus many times over from when they write their applications to when they graduate. Through conversations with current students and alums, I learned that Haas provides students the opportunity to explore their interests while providing the foundations to become great leaders in any field they choose.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I had just taken the risk to move from New York to Los Angeles and after budget cuts, I was laid off from my new job. Creative industries can be exciting, but they’re also extremely volatile and hard work doesn’t always pay off. I realized that I needed to stop working harder and start working smarter. I had friends who had gotten their MBAs and after learning about their experiences, I realized it was something that I wanted to pursue.
What is your favorite company and why? I don’t have one. There are many companies that I admire and that’s because they’re not afraid to question the status quo and do things differently while treating their employees with humanity. It’s amazing to see these qualities in different industries.
Look ahead two years and picture graduation. How will you know that your business school experience has been successful? The year 2020 exposed many of society’s problems. As someone who wants to help others, I would define my business school experience as a success if I’m able to walk away with the skills to tackle these problems and create effective and sustainable solutions. And I believe that at the heart of every business, we’re here to provide a service that helps solves someone’s needs.
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