2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Olaséni Bello, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Olaséni Bello

University of California-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Naturalized U.S citizen, Army combat veteran & Bronze Star recipient, New York attorney, Co-founder of Carpemedtravel.com.”

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria / Savannah, Georgia

Fun fact about yourself: Tae Kwon Do Junior Olympian, winning a silver medal in my first appearance and a gold medal in my second.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Mercer University, BA in English/Communications); Vermont Law School, JD.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Wells Fargo. I served as senior legal counsel of Global Capital Markets (Foreign Exchange).

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Google. I served as a product support manager.

Where will you be working after graduation? Currently, I’m in the process of finalizing my decision.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: (Include school awards and honors)

* Before the pandemic, I served as a Cheetah Tank mentor. Cheetah Tank is an entrepreneurship program for elementary students that teaches them to empathize and define problems that others face such as homelessness. After my students selected a problem, they were mentored via group-led activity and encouraged to create product-based solutions. It was a unique opportunity to teach students that they can have a direct impact on issues in their community and their perspectives and solutions matter.

* Bear2Bear Mentor:  Discussed best practices and strategies on scheduled calls with undergrads interested in business, finance, and entrepreneurship.

* Haas Veterans Club: Served as the point of contact for prospective military applicants interested in entrepreneurship and startups. Led an hour-long webinar fielding questions on the student experience at Haas.

* Consortium and veteran applicant interview preparation: I coordinated and administered mock interviews with five applicants, three of whom received and accepted admission offers.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I came to business school with a PowerPoint deck and a vision to launch a startup. During my first semester at Haas, I launched CarpeMed, a travel medical companion and mobile app that makes it easy to find and book best in class care that speaks your language while ensuring your medical infrastructure and support travels with you. CarpeMed went through a new first-stage startup program on campus called StEP. Subsequently, my co-founder and I competed and advanced to the final round in UC Berkeley’s leading accelerator, LAUNCH. We’re currently participating in the Berkeley Skydeck Accelerator Program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2016, I was part of a pro bono legal team at Morgan Stanley that represented a 76-year-old Navy veteran who was exposed to asbestos on a Navy ship before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in D.C. His previous claims had been denied and he was on portable oxygen waiting for a lung transplant. He was awarded $140,000 in retroactive benefits and monthly payments, which would vest to his wife. The gratitude we received from my client’s family and spouse was truly a heart-warming experience. I’m passionate about veterans and healthcare equity issues and this experience was a rare opportunity to have an impact in both areas.

Why did you choose this business school? My visit to Haas in January 2019 sealed the deal for me. The energy and impact-driven vision of Haasies coupled with a dynamic presentation by Dr. Kellie McElhaney, executive director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership at Haas, helped me make my decision. She talked about the personal and professional need for increased diversity and inclusion awareness while acknowledging the institution’s areas of improvement. Dr. McElhaney’s level of authenticity was so refreshing that it painted Haas as an institution that was aligned with my ethos.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor at Haas is Yaniv Konchitchki who teaches accounting. His passion and love for his students is simply unmatched. Every class commenced with a resounding cheer of “This is Accounting!!!” While corporate financial analysis and reporting may cause some eyes to gloss over, Yaniv’s unique ability to dissect the traditional jargon while applying concepts to real time and emerging corporate failures made this an exceptional class. Additionally, his breadth of knowledge beyond accounting is astounding. Here, you have a professor whose passion for accounting is only paralleled by his love for meditation. If you come to Haas, take Yaniv!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? There is nothing I would do differently. When I was researching and applying to schools, I asked several second-year students if they had any regrets about their business school experience. The majority responded they had an entrepreneurial idea that they wanted to pursue, but never did. That takeaway informed my bullish approach to launching and recruiting talent for my startup early during my first year.

What surprised you the most about business school? The speed of the quarter system at Haas was the biggest surprise. While business school can be a marathon, the quarter system turns core classes into seven-week sprints.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I chose to be a proactive applicant by connecting with affinity groups, admissions, and professors on campus. My outreach, communications, and visits provided additional texture beyond my application. Every email exchange and phone call were opportunities to advocate for my admission.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Akon Mubagwa is the classmate I most admire. He is a fellow entrepreneur and African with a mission to provide USB power, lighting, and internet to the most rural regions in Africa. Akon embodies our Defining Leadership Principle, “Beyond Yourself”. He frequently shares resources to assist other entrepreneurs on their journey and has created a weekly “Entrepreneurs Coffee Chat” to facilitate the exchange of ideas and troubleshooting.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? My classmates and I were fortunate to have about seven months of normalcy before the pandemic. There is no perfect substitute for in-person engagement and from that perspective, the pandemic was very disruptive. However, a large part of business school is adaptability and navigating uncertainty, skills that will be required of newly-minted MBAs irrespective of industry. COVID is both an accelerant and disruptor depending on your industry and perhaps the most consequential case study of our time.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My uncle Dr. Funsho Fagbohun supported and influenced my decision to pursue an MBA. From the first time I mentioned the possibility of pursuing an MBA after returning from Afghanistan, he saw value in the pursuit. When I revived this vision years later while working on Morgan Stanley’s fixed income trading floor in New York, he was immediately supportive. His encouragement never wavered even with multiple application cycles.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

1) Raise early stage funding and scale CarpeMed

2) Learn and speak German fluently

What made Olaseni such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“A Black executive once described to me the “underground railroad of Corporate America.” Black senior leaders spend innumerous hours triaging their companies from losing Black talent by building and managing internal networks of shelter, support, sponsorship, and advocacy for underrepresented employees.

This is what Olaseni runs inside of Haas. His railroad supports any underrepresented Haasie in need (including a female professor here and there) as we have navigated these past months of turmoil in our country. Though Haas is a close-knit and supportive community, it is of course, a microcosm of our society.

While watching murders by police, divisive and hate filled speech in the daily wires, and COVID 19 ravage Black and brown communities, simply learning and excelling in class, contributing to group projects, and focusing on job interviews was for many a Herculean task. I watched as time and time again struggling Haasies turned to Olaseni for strength, wisdom and guidance. And I watched as time and time again Olaseni took action. He fearlessly used his voice to develop and find solutions to the struggles of those underrepresented at Haas. He sought strategies for change and for healing not by dividing our community, but by engaging our leadership, our faculty and his peers through respectful dialogue and debate. Olaseni was a leader as we strived to develop a more compassionate, empathic, and understanding Haas community. In many ways, it felt like Olaseni was a central figure in strengthening and amplifying the soul of Haas in this past turbulent year.

As happens in the corporate world, running this railroad was a fulltime gig for him.  It piled on top of Olaseni earning his MBA, founding and building his startup, seeking venture investment, and working a summer internship to underwrite it all. Olaseni himself even survived COVID, having spent time in the ICU and on breathing machines.

Perhaps most remarkably, all this was done in the backdrop of an undeniably tragic year in which being Black in America had to be more painful than most of us can possibly imagine.  Olaseni’s strength is bar none something to revere.”

Professor Kellie A. McElhaney
Founder, Center for Equity, Gender and Leadership



Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.