Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Jonathan Santoso, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Jonathan Santoso

University of California-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Building sustainable communities of resilient and competent leaders to address complex challenges.”

Hometown: Jakarta, Indonesia

Fun Fact About Yourself: I aced my US History class as an international student by watching Hamilton video/song clips on YouTube. No regrets.

Undergraduate School and Major: UC Berkeley; BS in Chemical Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: HPI Agro (Djarum Group), Business Development, internal consultant

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? I am and will continue to be an advocate of Beyond Yourself as I do believe in a mission of doing things for the greater good.

My mom always asked me, “If you can only choose one, do you want to be known as the smart one or the kind one?” The smart answer is to be the kind one. You’ll attract smart and kind people your way.

I have a passion for going beyond myself in both sustainability and equity. My passion for sustainability stems from my history with asthma, which developed from the constant burning of trash and pollution in my local area. Even then, I knew I wanted to tackle air pollution to not just limit the impact of global warming, but also its impact on the health of the community.

As an undergrad, I decided to learn more about science and engineering to scale up carbon removal methods. I did my research at the Carbon Removal Lab at Berkeley, where I learned that If I wanted to introduce sustainability in business, I would need to understand the language of business and the different levers that key decision makers care about. This led me back to apply for an MBA at Berkeley Haas.  While writing MBA essays, I began reflecting on the time when I was in hospital for asthma treatment. I thought of the cost of that treatment for those who are trying to live on minimum wage and have to decide between treatment or eating for another week. This is not just a sustainability issue; this is also an equity issue.

With friends from various schools, I created a non-profit startup in ed-tech focused on building competent leaders who believe in the same mission of doing things that are beyond yourself. I rekindled my joy in mentoring other people and helping them grow. I feel a certain level of fulfillment as I see them volunteer to become mentors for the new generation.

When you think of UC Berkeley, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Conscientiousness.

The wealth of projects on campus is a reflection on the diverse range of our collective interests. You see groups of people working on social impact, sustainable financing, adopting cleantech, advancing gender equity at work, and so much more.

However, what’s more fascinating is the people who are working on these projects. We all came from such diverse backgrounds (and we take pride in that!). Yet, we all invest time and effort to complete our goals. During orientation week, I was thrilled to learn of the journey and achievements from some of my classmates. It is empowering to know that I’ll be alongside them throughout this two-year journey.

We advocate for our community to strive to do the right thing; we work on projects to fix them; and we equip ourselves with the necessary skills to enable them.

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? I often told my colleagues that top MBA schools have similar qualities, but you need to choose the “unique” flavor that each school represents. For me, Haas’ unique identity lies in its strengths in sustainability and people ops. The program offers a wide range of classes in sustainability as well as conferences like BERC, competitions, and even the Michaels Certificate in Sustainable Business. At the same time, I’m proud that Haas offers DEI workshops even before orientation begins, and the opportunity to take classes centered around equity & inclusion. The school’s faculty and students also have deep roots in the topic of DEI to contribute to the curriculum.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Berkeley Haas?

I often joke with my classmates that the opportunity cost of any activity at Haas is very high as there are a ton of things that you can do, so bear with me.

I’m planning to hone in on strategies to scale up CleanTech with CleanTech to Market and integrate sustainability into existing businesses through classes such as Strategic & Sustainable Business Solutions and Climate Change & Business Strategy.

At the same time, I’d like to expand on new areas such as non-profit (Social Sector Solutions, S3), entrepreneurship (Lean Launchpad), and marketing (Strategic Brand Management). I highlight S3 class in particular as it provides an opportunity to learn about managing a non-profit while being coached by faculty and consultants from McKinsey.

One of the big pulls for me to go back to Berkeley is the strong network at Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative at Haas (BERC). Through their conferences and networking events with industry experts and alumni, I knew I’d definitely be excited to come back and join BERC.

At the same time, I plan to gain experience in handling challenges from companies of varying industries through consulting with Haas Consulting Club and Net Impact Club. They have been providing us with resources even before orientation began, as recruiting for consulting starts early in the fall semester.

One of the things I wanted to expand on is trying to be more adventurous, and I’m glad that students here are organizing Haas Vegas, and Haasemite (we do love the word Haas here). Honestly, I’m pretty anxious, but looking forward to it. I’m simply glad that my 2Y mentors and peers have been inviting me to go and explore!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Developing as a leader. Building multiple teams from scratch, I learned that I love helping my team members discover their strengths. Since my time was limited in my rotational program before I came to Haas, I needed to find a replacement before I left. When my team scouted for a replacement, I was surprised to discover the candidate’s hesitancy to move up. He told me in private that he felt he did not have what it took to be a leader. We started to dive deeper into his experiences and found that he loved building community, and we bonded over that. Once he loosened up, I tried asking him more about how he would want to lead people. We soon arranged monthly one-on-ones to work on this and within two months, he replaced me at meetings. Four months after that conversation, he replaced me in the leadership position for the project and began mentoring new talent. That year, he got the employee of the year award for his leadership and service activities.

At this point, what do you hope to do after graduation? I hope to be working as a management consultant, focusing on turnaround business and, organizational behavior in the field of sustainability and cleantech. At the same time, I hope to make progress on a start-up nonprofit focused on building the next generation of game changers of sustainability and equity in Indonesia.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard Business School

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Berkeley Haas’ MBA program?

1. Take time to reflect on your life. Focus on the values that are consistent throughout your life experiences. This really helps in trying to figure out who you are and what energizes you.

2. Take your time to reflect on the four Defining Leadership Principles. There is a good reason why we emphasized this throughout our program, events, and even application process.

3. Reach out to current students/alumni to hear their stories. It’s another way to understand the culture fit with the school and program.


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