Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Nadia Abbasi, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Nadia Abbasi    

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“A first-gen Bengali techie yogini at the intersection of social impact, technology and spirituality.”

Hometown: Hicksville, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a certified vinyasa yoga instructor and open-water scuba diver.

Undergraduate School and Major: City University of New York – Queens College with a major in Mathematics and minor in Business and Political Science.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Summer Venture Capital Intern at Necessary Ventures

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? Beyond yourself underpins all of the other principles in my view. As a first-generation Bengali immigrant from a low-income household, I inherently understood socioeconomic disparities from a young age and that fueled my dedication to service, professionally and personally. Here are some examples: starting my career in philanthropy, volunteering in hospice care, and joining an employee resource group as an early member to create a safe space for women and BIPOC in technology. All of those experiences remind me that I am the best version of myself when I am lost in serving a purpose or person beyond myself!

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. My first impression was that “these people are smart and they care.” I didn’t have a name for how I felt nor did I realize it was one of the leadership principles in action (confidence without attitude).

My best Haas story would have to be a fortuitous “beyond yourself” moment when I learned my former coworker provided application support to the first-year providing me with application advice in November of 2021. There is this duty to pass on the knowledge and support you’ve received each year, and I was on the receiving end of generations of Haasies going beyond themselves quietly. And now I’m paying it forward. This week, I spoke with a reapplicant from Mexico City. Beyond yourself is not something you analyze or talk about, it’s something you do. I look forward to all three of us (and perhaps the reapplicant) sharing the same alma mater. Let’s see what happens!

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? Proximity matters in the venture game! It behooves me to share that despite COVID accelerating the adoption of doing everything digitally, in-person meetings with founders, prospective investors, and impressive operators blew my mind about the Berkeley Haas community and the wealth of resources to pursue entrepreneurial aspirations sealed the deal for me (e.g. applied innovation courses, Skydeck, BHEP, and more). If you’re remotely curious about technology, social impact, innovation, and entrepreneurship, Berkeley Haas has this unique values-aligned community of people ideating and thinking deeply about (and building) the future.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Berkeley Haas? Applied innovation courses. I learn by doing and look forward to the lean launchpad course, international business development consulting course, and Haas at Work for honing design thinking skills.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: During COVID, at a time when advertisers were cutting spend across the board, I led a team at Meredith that generated eight figures in new ad revenue from two of our largest retail clients by building a new online shopping experience. I coordinated design, engineering, sales and reporting efforts to launch and test new shopping cart features required for the campaigns and shifted how our teams collaborate internally. In the process, I bridged gaps between our Innovation and Digital Ads teams. I achieved this by being transparent about coordination challenges, scheduling learning sessions from each function, and building consensus around process change. This personally helped groom softer managerial and people management skills. It was gratifying to see colleagues who customarily didn’t talk to each other, now collaborate and share knowledge as we prototyped and went to market with new features for other campaigns.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I’ve made an industry pivot from social impact to tech, moving from the world of philanthropy to an early stage supply chain and sustainability startup called Sourcemap. I made a functional pivot from account management to product development. On the side, I taught yoga, volunteered in hospice, and practiced my mindfulness journey. These transitions in my life revealed two things:

1) Pivots can be significantly easier with an MBA, with the network, resources and supportive community behind me versus doing this solo. I look forward to testing my career hypotheses across consulting, venture capital, and startups focused on consumer healthcare over the next two years and beyond.

2) Leadership skills are helpful to learn in a safe academic space alongside peers from different geographies, industries and functions. I love that I’m refining my own unique leadership style among Haas’ tight-knit community.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? The Center for Humane Technology’s podcast called “Your Undivided Attention.” If technology is the one industry disrupting all other industries, I think it’s particularly important for future business leaders to gain a critical view on the second-order effects technology has on our wellbeing, state of our democracy, and access to information. At Berkeley (or any other MBA program), I hope MBAs everywhere become responsible builders, investors and leaders of our tech-enabled future. Tristan Harris is a gift to learn from!

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Too many to list as my MBA journey spans 16 applications to 9 different schools over a span of 2+ years. My criteria for ultimately choosing Haas (above any other school) was a desire to try the West Coast given I’d been on the East Coast most of my life, where I could test entrepreneurial goals and cultivate my strategic thinking and leadership skills in an intimate, values-aligned setting.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Berkeley Haas’ MBA program? I’ll give one strategic piece of advice and one tactical. On the strategic piece, the greatest advice would be to value your work, identity, and life experience and believe that you deserve a seat in the classroom. This process of applying to the MBA requires deep introspection and valuing and honoring the life you’ve lived and the choices you’ve made. You have to own your story and narrative (especially if you’re a reapplicant like I was). When you own who you are, professionally and personally, the essence of who you are will shine through in your essays, recommendations, and informational calls you join with admissions.

On the tactical side, I’d pressure test this quote from Hamlet “to thine ownself be true.” I’d do a holistic review of your completed application to make sure that your essays (especially optional essays for reapplicants), extra-curriculars, and recommendations (hopefully you’ve supplied your recommenders with skills and specific stories to highlight) build upon your narrative. Does it reflect the inner, true you? Assuming you land an interview, use that opportunity to tell stories that support your core narrative and weave in the defining leadership principles whenever possible if you’re going to interview at Haas.

As a special note to reapplicants at Haas, I want you to know I went from a rejection one year to a full-tuition scholarship the following year. Keep going!


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