Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Matt Solowan, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Matt Solowan

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Recovering perfectionist working on finding joy in small things and living in the moment.”

Hometown: Long Island, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: My paternal great-great-grandfather was Wasyl Eleniak, one of the first Ukrainian settlers in Canada, which also makes me distantly related to Baywatch actress, Erika Eleniak. (Canada has the world’s third-largest Ukrainian population.)

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Southern California; Double Major in Economics & Italian, Minor in Dance.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: L’Oréal, Marketing Manager

Berkeley Haas is founded on four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Which principle resonates most with you and why? Confidence without Attitude. I found L’Oréal to be an organization that places a lot of trust in junior talent. I became a brand manager at 22 years old and was immediately thrust into situations where I was leading cross-functional teams comprised of colleagues who were much older and had far more industry and life experience than I did. I learned a lot about how to exert influence with humility and walk the fine line between confidently owning my business and knowing when to humbly ask for help.

What word best describes the Haas MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Supportive. Every Haasie I interacted with during the admissions process was willing to go the extra mile to support me in my application journey – from introducing me to classmates with similar interests to helping me prep for the big interview.

Aside from classmates and the Defining Leadership Principles, what was the key part of Berkeley Haas’ MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I chose Haas because it struck me as a program that is invested in developing students into business-savvy leaders and well-rounded people. This is evidenced not only by the Defining Leadership Principles, but also by the program’s focus on equity-fluent leadership, sustainability, and social impact. I want to dedicate my time in business school to becoming a better version of myself – one that is even more self-aware, vulnerable, and empathetic – and I believe that Haas is the place that will support me in that journey.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Berkeley Haas? Like many MBA students, I definitely have the travel bug. I studied abroad for a year in Milan during college and haven’t stopped talking about it since. I’m still on the fence about pursuing a semester-long exchange during business school, but I would definitely like to take the International Business Development (IBD) course in which teams of Haas MBA students work with international clients on strategic consulting projects, (hopefully) culminating in a trip to the client’s site.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I am most proud of the moments in my career when I pushed the brands I worked on to be more inclusive. On one occasion, I caught an instance of “rainbow-washing” before it went out the door and turned it into an opportunity for our brand to engage more meaningfully with the LGBTQ+ community. Despite COVID-related budget cuts, I convinced management to make a 5-figure donation to a local organization that provided critical programming and support for the LGBTQ+ community in NYC. The donation was particularly impactful because it came at a time when many companies were experiencing similar COVID-related financial strain and had pulled their usual charitable donations for Pride Month.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? I think that we are all still collectively processing the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic and I’m not sure that I’m able to fully articulate yet how it’s affected me personally. If anything, COVID-19 has certainly reminded me of the fragility of life and has perhaps made me less averse to taking risks in my career.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I honestly enjoyed the work I was doing at L’Oréal. As a naturally curious person, I felt like there was still so much I wanted to learn outside the scope of marketing. As a brand manager, I would interact daily with cross-functional partners across sales, finance, and supply chain and quickly realized that there were many facets of running a business that I needed to understand in order to be a successful general manager.

As my current hypothesis stands, after graduation I would like to join the Retail/Consumer Products practice of a consulting firm, ideally with a focus on the fashion, luxury and beauty industries. This cross-functional and cross-industry experience will help me achieve my long-term aspiration to lead a global fashion or beauty brand.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford GSB, Duke Fuqua, UCLA Anderson

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Berkeley Haas’ MBA program? Don’t underestimate the power of developing and articulating your story! It’s so easy to get caught up in comparisons and fall victim to imposter syndrome during the MBA admissions process. Taking the time to reflect on your life experiences and understand who you are and what you bring to the table will help you to combat this.


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