2022 Best & Brightest MBA: London Swift, UC-Berkeley (Haas)

London Swift

University of California-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“I am a queer, Latinx woman. I am an organizer, a community builder, and an advocate.”

Hometown: It’s so difficult to pick just one! I spent a third of my life in Oakland, CA, Corvallis, OR, and Washington, DC. I love them all.

Fun fact about yourself: I am a potter and I almost went to art school for college.

Undergraduate School and Degree: I attended American University and received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree Public Policy.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Most recently I worked at Deloitte as a senior consultant.  

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I stayed in Berkeley this summer and focused on my startup, Et al, Inc., a platform for women and gender-diverse creative freelancers.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am sponsored and will be returning to Deloitte as a senior consultant.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I am a Consortium, Forté, and Reaching Out MBA Fellowship recipient. Through my work on Et al, Inc. I also received awards from the Trione Student Venture Fund and the Haas Social Impact Fund; won the Berkeley Center for Equity Gender and Leadership Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition; and was the recipient of the Blackstone, Techstars Launchpad, and Hansoo Lee Fellowships.

During my time at Haas, I served as the MBA Association’s VP of Academics and a Student Advisory Board Member for the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership. I also worked on the Race Inclusion Initiative and served as a graduate instructor for the Core Curriculum Leadership Communication course. Through this work, I focused on representing student interests and working with faculty and the program office to make the classroom experience more inclusive and reflective of the diverse student body.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Over the past decade, Haas has increased diversity and representation in the student body, but like every institution, there is still work to be done to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at Haas. In my role as VP Academics, I was an advocate for students and worked with faculty members and the program office to improve the academic experience at Haas, including adjusting pre-MBA workshops and the facilitation of cases in the classroom. Thanks to faculty members and the program office, key committees are now positioned to proactively address challenges and include student representatives moving forward. This work helped me to find my voice and leadership style, and I believe it lays a better foundation in the classroom for future generations of students at Haas.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my professional career, I’m most proud of co-founding my startup Et al, Inc. While women make up 53% of creative freelancers globally, they earn 32% less than men do for the same work, a number that is further compounded for BIPOC and queer individuals. At Et al, we are changing that by building a platform that provides 1) community-driven business resources; 2) network building; and 3) simple, affordable creative portfolio hosting. Through our platform, I’m helping build a world where women know their worth and are compensated fairly for their labor.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose to attend Haas because of the people. Classmates play a huge role in the business school experience, and I wanted to be surrounded by people who would push me and challenge me to grow into the best version of myself. Since coming to Haas, I have become a better listener, I have a better understanding of my own core values, and I have made friends who I will have the rest of my life.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Many professors have stood out and helped me on my journey, but Erica Peng’s  Interpersonal Skills and Embodied Leadership class helped me grow more than any other course at Haas. Erica is brilliant and incredibly kind. She draws on her own personal experience navigating identity to facilitate the class. In the course, she helps students understand themselves, connect with each other, and build a foundation for effective leadership and interpersonal communication.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back on my MBA experience, I wish I had taken more time to rest before my first year. I took a week off between leaving Deloitte and starting at Haas, which was not enough time to come into school with the energy I needed to thrive.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Haas is that it has the same culture as the broader UC Berkeley campus. Haas is a business school first. The culture at Haas is distinct and different from the rest of the campus. As a student, I was glad to have the opportunity to take classes outside of Haas and experience both environments.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? The Haas application was the easiest business school application for me, in part because I didn’t second guess myself while I was writing it. I had spoken to several students, understood the Defining Leadership Principles, and I focused on being my authentic self.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire so many classmates, but Casey Dunajick-DeKnight is someone who from day one has blown me away with her empathy, care for community, and work ethic. We served together on the MBA Association as Leadership Communication instructors, experiences that challenged both of us in different ways. In difficult moments, Casey is someone who I look to for leadership and guidance. She has an incredibly good heart and is one of the best teammates I have ever had.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My dad influenced my decision to pursue my MBA. He was my soccer coach for years and taught me about work ethic, sportsmanship, and team dynamics. My dad grew up in East Los Angeles and was a first-generation college student. In his generation, people consistently underestimated him and his potential because of where he came from, but he worked incredibly hard and is now an entrepreneur with a biotech startup. Seeing his path helped me realize that private sector leadership matters and that I can serve my community and make a difference through my work in business.

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

1) I would like to increase access and opportunity for historically excluded groups through all my work. In particular, my time at Haas has helped me realize the importance of mentorship and teaching. I would love to teach at some point in my career.

2) I would like to grow my company, Et al, Inc. in an ethical and sustainable way that serves the community.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? My partner Sophia is a dual US/EU citizen and she has always advocated for a strong work-life balance for both of us. The pandemic helped me see more clearly what matters outside of work—physical and mental health, family, and understanding who you are. It has also helped me see some of the rifts in our society, including lack of trust across political lines and increasing economic inequality. Thinking about my career, I would like to maintain a healthier work-life balance and also help address these society-level challenges.

What made London such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“I am not exaggerating when I say that London is the most deserving student of all of the 2,000 students at Haas I have taught. As with many students, she is academically gifted and works hard in class. But what sets her far apart is her dedication and hard work in making Haas (and the world!) a better place for everyone. I know that everyone is writing wonderful things about all of the applicants, but London is special – please do not overlook her application. She is truly a great representation of Haas and the principles I would hope to see in all MBAs. You should absolutely give her this honor.

I met London in my Strategy class in 2021. She was a wonderful student and I was very happy to have her in class. But that is true with many students. What sets London apart is what happens outside of class. In fall 2022, London contacted me to discuss some of the pressing (but fixable) issues she sees at Haas that stop everyone from having the best experience. We met and started to talk about feasible strategies to improve both student and faculty experience. A one-hour conversation turned into weekly conversations about these issues. As with many big programs, students have complaints. What makes London special is that she wants to work together to find feasible solutions. Rather than pointing out what is wrong, she is willing to work (very) hard to find and implement feasible solutions. Importantly, we disagree sometimes, but we continue to find compromise and work together. She is tirelessly working to push the (sometimes unmoving) bureaucracy to change for the better. I knew that there were various problems that needed to be fixed and I can genuinely say that she inspires me to work to fix them. She is a great agent and leader for change.

As an example, students sometimes are unhappy with the non-inclusive examples and cases taught by professors. But this is a complicated issue. Professors often believe that their examples are reasonable and don’t understand the student perspective. Other professors are so worried that they will offend the students that they just avoid any sensitive topic. This is not ideal for anyone. How to fix it? After talking for a long time, London and I realized that there is a lack of empathy on both sides: students don’t understand the challenging position of professors and professors don’t really understand how and why students react. And talking through abstract principles often leads nowhere. Our solution – to be enacted at the next faculty meeting – is to present professors with actual negative and positive examples taken from class and simply to discuss amongst themselves how students might feel about these examples and how the examples might be changed to serve the same pedological purpose without the unnecessary distraction of alienating some students. I really believe this is a great and needed step in the right direction.

There are many more examples, from getting better math preparation for students to modifying class schedules so that students are not overwhelmed at certain parts of the year. These are boring topics, but truly impact the experience for both MBAs and professors. It takes a lot of effort (which is largely unrewarded) to make these changes. London is willing to drive change on these and many other issues.

Of course, this is just my personal experience with London. But, whenever I talk with other professors or administrators or deans, her name comes up as an agent of positive change. For example, in her two years at Haas, London served as the MBA Association Vice President Academics; a Student Advisory Board Member for the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership; on the Race Inclusion Initiative; and as a graduate instructor for Leadership Communication. In these roles, London showed up consistently for her peers as an effective advocate for historically marginalized groups. She is seemingly everywhere! I will be sad when she graduates and moves on to new challenges, but I am happy knowing that she will drive real positive change in the world.

In summary, London is persistent and courageous in questioning the status quo and helped open my eyes to the opportunity at Haas. London is someone who embodies what she believes in inside and outside the classroom. I am glad that there are leaders like her in business, and I look forward to seeing what she accomplishes through her startup, Et al, Inc., and in her consulting career at Deloitte.”

Ned Augenblick
Associate Professor
Economic Analysis and Policy
Haas School of Business
University of California, Berkeley

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