Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Jake Justice, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Jake Justice

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“A Midwest boy, thriving in big cities, with big goals and a broad range of interests.”

Hometown: Decatur, IL

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once modeled for Abercrombie and other brands after getting spotted by a talent scout when performing for my high school show choir in LA Nationals.

Undergraduate School and Major: Boston University; Major: Psychology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: sparks & honey – VP, Strategy & Human Intelligence

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? Much to the chagrin of my parents, I was a rather rebellious teen – so naturally ‘Questioning the Status Quo’ instantly stood out among the four Defining Leadership Principles. What was once a youthful drive to own my adulthood and embark on risky adventures evolved into a sense of autonomy, calculated risks, and a desire to improve myself and my surroundings – driving me directly to Haas.

Frequently frustrated with antiquated approaches, from outdated processes in the office to suboptimal social or political systems, we all often question the impact of one individual to inspire experimentation, stimulate social change, and Question the Status Quo. This, along with the deep-rooted teenage desire for a level of influence and oversight, led me to the far-too-familiar concept of macro and micro scales.

Micro-level impact – what each of us is capable of and hardly give ourselves enough credit for – is the consistent behavior and intentional action of one person that shapes the values, attitudes, and cultural expressions of their immediate surroundings. Arguably the most important, micro-level impact yields results daily, driving small steps of social change underneath the surface of each meeting, gathering of friends, and raising of a hand or voice, within their direct sphere of influence and can take place daily.

As I embark on my journey here at Berkeley Haas, I look forward to learning how I may harness this innate proclivity to Question the Status Quo to drive more macro-level change and impact for people and organizations.

What has been your first impression of the Haas MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Haas story so far. Every brand, business, organization, and institution has their own defined guiding principles – and far too often do these only come to life when listed on a website, recited in a presentation, or leveraged as a sales tactic.

At Haas, the way in which the diverse population of students and academics truly embodies and embraces the four Defining Leadership Principles is palpable. Berkeley’s holistic admission process has curated a distinctly stimulating environment overflowing with unique individuals – collectively sharing these principles as a North Star.

Aside from classmates and the Defining Leadership Principles, what was the key part of Berkeley Haas’ MBA curriculum programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? By pursuing an MBA at Haas, I can practice different communication and decision-making approaches; share and receive feedback in a diverse, supportive environment that encourages learning and experimentation; and refine the leadership style that will continue to serve me, my future companies, and broader society.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Berkeley Haas? HaasAbilities: I’m looking forward to the opportunity to contribute to this newer affinity club on campus supporting people across the ability spectrum. As a person living with severe ADHD and Tourette Syndrome, I’m a strong believer of fostering neurodivergent environments that are inclusive and mindful of everyone’s physical and cognitive abilities. My recent experience establishing an employee resource group for those living with disabilities, caregivers, and allies within the vast Omnicom network stirred a rewarding sense of connection within the company community, It also and provided valuable lessons for launching these initiatives that I hope to leverage in support of the HaasAbilities club.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Prior to the pandemic, I was invited to introduce and develop a new service of practice at sparks & honey: Human Intelligence. In this role, I expanded the bounds and applications of consumer research by creating new methodologies capable of blending insights from new and traditional research with a tactical approach to trend predictions and social-focused strategy. Tailored to each organization tapping into the expertise of this new team, these techniques were designed to help stakeholders navigate current and upcoming cultural change to prepare for an increasingly, volatile future across industries. Within three years, Human Intelligence became a multi-million-dollar discipline for the organization.   feel incredibly fortunate to have been on the frontlines of this idea maturing from inception into a cross-functional, high-performing team that continues to deliver value for our end-clients.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? My experience at sparks & honey revealed my passion for building – constructing new teams, practices, methodologies, or products. My background in psychology and client-facing consulting experience has provided a solid foundation for me to continue building upon. There’s still – and will always be – a lot to learn when it comes to understanding and repurposing core business fundamentals and taking a more holistic approach to tackling unique, management and enterprise-level challenges. Post-MBA, my Haas education will allow me to more effectively pivot from people to product – elevating consumer research into consumer solutions via tech innovation and product management.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? It might sound unorthodox, but I would highly recommend reading (or even re-reading) some novels from your favorite genre of fiction. I’m an avid fantasy and sci-fi writer and these novels helped me as a prospective MBA in two ways. First, it helped manage the stress of the overall MBA application process by giving my mind a much-needed break. Second, they were great inspiration for essay writing – helping me detach from everyday business writing and surround myself with prose that lends itself to crafting a more compelling story.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Having lived on the East Coast for the past decade, I was ready to make the 3,000-mile leap to the West Coast – so I was incredibly focused on the UC university system. More specifically, my eyes were set on the California public schools as I’m a firm advocate for effective public schooling. I applied to Berkeley Haas, UCLA Anderson, and USC Marshall.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Berkeley Haas’ MBA program? Embrace authenticity and vulnerability.

In my Haas application, I put it all out there: my dreams, my successes, and my failures – all of course neatly packaged with self-explorations of how they’ve shaped me and what I’ve learned from each accomplishment, aspiration, or error.

This personal, honest approach felt natural with an institution that unquestionably ‘practiced what it preached’ – clearly prioritizing the character of their classes and giving every strange skill, quirky quality, and ambitious aspiration the opportunity to shine.

I would highly encourage future applicants to engage in in-depth introspection to understand and interpret the influential elements of your life across professional, academic, social, and community areas. It’s easy to overlook, or even ignore, all the micro instances that have had macro impact on defining your present and future. Don’t skip out on the opportunity to learn more about yourself through this process, and don’t underestimate actions or accomplishments that may seem tiny, but are in-fact transformative.


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