Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Sania Salaman, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Sania Salman

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Sania is a creative thinker who believes in the power of moral imagination.”

Hometown: Dallas, TX

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love animation and I sketch/paint whenever I have the chance!

Undergraduate School and Major: Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service; Bachelor of Science in Science, Technology, and International Affairs

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Dalberg Advisors, Manager

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? I love all these defining principles — each captures such a critical aspect of what it means to be a powerful, ethical leader. If I had to pick one, I would choose Confidence without Attitude. I believe meaningful change comes from stewardship and examples set by humble leaders. It takes great courage to have conviction, but it takes even greater courage to develop an accepting, empathetic environment where you welcome good-faith debate and discussion.

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? I chose Haas because of the kind, inclusive community it cultivates and its focus on social impact. Haas is known for its ability to produce social sector leaders. As someone who’s passionate about serving the social and public sectors, it excites me to meet like-minded people.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Diverse, authentic, and eager to expand their horizons — I’ve met people from diverse personal and professional backgrounds, each with a different take on what they envision for their MBA experience and careers thereafter.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: It’s hard to pick one defining moment in the world of consulting since our work is project-based. However, I would say one of the most rewarding experiences of my career has been working on Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2017-18 Mayors Challenge. We worked with over 300 cities in the U.S. to help them think creatively about tough challenges facing their people and towns. I personally had the privilege of working with over 20 mayors and their leadership teams across the United States.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have worked in different sectors within the consulting industry — management, innovation and design, social impact — for the last six years and I would like to use this as an opportunity to expand my horizons to other forms of problem-solving and hopefully begin to focus my expertise in a particular subject matter.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford Graduate School of Business

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I think the most challenging question was actually the essay prompt, “What makes you feel alive when you’re doing it, and why?” I had an opportunity to say either what I expected they wanted to hear or to answer it authentically and hoped that it appealed to the admissions team. I chose the latter, expressing my love of the outdoors and in particular scuba diving, and the rest is history!

What was the biggest factor in choosing a particular business school and why was it so important to you? The biggest factor for me was evaluating the unique opportunities available, the mindset, and values of the school and its student body. Another factor in choosing Haas was that it encourages creative thinking and entrepreneurship, which appealed to me. I’ve also found that Haas graduates are some of the most down-to-earth, generous, open-minded people I’ve come across.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I think one of the most challenging things throughout my career has been developing the ability to clearly and confidently articulate my point of view, even if it’s controversial or unexpected. Whether it’s providing honest advice and recommendations to clients or voicing my opinion on something that needs to change within the organization, it has been an invaluable life lesson, one that I’m still learning and trying to perfect even now. Building this muscle helped me be honest with myself and the admissions committee as to why Berkeley Haas was the perfect fit for me.

What is your favorite company and why? I’ve always admired Ideo for its ability to bring empathy and creativity to the forefront of business. I got the bug for human-centered design when I attended an Ideo talk in Washington D.C. Since then, I’ve been able to apply the lessons of empathetic design to my work across the private, public, and social sectors.

Look ahead two years and picture graduation. How will you know that your business school experience has been successful? To paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, I hope that I walk out of business school with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and sense of purpose to “work hard at work worth doing.” I also hope that I’ve made friends from different walks of life, around whom my views and beliefs are challenged and made stronger.


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