Career Profiles: Stacey Patten, Non-ABC: Private Equity Real Estate Investment

Stacey Patten

Stacey Patten is a current Haas senior who transferred from the College of Marin last fall. You may know her as the current President of HBSA and former External Cohort Liaison for the Class of 2015. She is also a member of the Undergraduate Real Estate Club (UREC).  While she was at College of Marin, she served as President of Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society and contributed over 500 hours of community service. Her past job experiences include working at Citibank and Wells Fargo as a bank teller, for an insurance firm, and most recently for Prudential Real Estate Investors as an investment analyst.  She will be returning to Prudential full-time next July as an investment analyst in the San Francisco office.

Why real estate? What was it about real estate that was interesting to you?

When I was a kid, I watched my dad, a general contractor, tear down and rebuild houses. I loved being able to watch the renovation process from start to finish.  As I got older I became interested in architecture and interior design, which was probably in part because of my early exposure to construction, and realized I could follow my interests by working in the real estate industry.   Through my various jobs I’ve been able to see many ways in which real estate affects the world.  I’ve learned a bit about how to finance it, how to insure it, and how to increase its value by renovating or redeveloping it.   I love that real estate is tangible – you can actually go visit it, and in some way, shape, or form it touches all of our lives.

How did you avoid the pressures that were ABC-related?

Well, at first I didn’t.  Coming into Haas I knew I wanted to pursue something within the real estate industry, but became uncertain over time, because it seemed everyone around me was doing something accounting, banking, or consulting (ABC) related.  I felt like the odd-one out when I told my peers I wanted to do real estate.  In fact, a few weeks into the semester I felt peer pressure to look into consulting, so I spent several weeks going to consulting related info-sessions and looking into joining consulting clubs on campus.  Ultimately, I realized that I wasn’t particularly interested in consulting.  What I came to realize was that I needed to find a career that would make me happy, listen to myself, and follow my own interests.  I wish someone had reassured me that it was okay to pursue a non-ABC career path when I first start at Haas.  If you are feeling pressure to choose one of the ABCs, but aren’t necessarily interested in any of them, take some time and explore other options.  There are so many more types of industries and jobs available out their besides the ABCS.  Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and pave your own path.

How did you land your offer at Prudential? What was the process like?

Well, I actually found out about Prudential through one of the UREC meetings.  Prudential‘s Mortgage Capital Company, the private debt side of their real estate practice, came out and talked about the work they do and their internship program.  After the presentation, I stayed and chatted with one of the associates and asked for her business card.  I sent her a follow up email thanking her for her time and asked if I could pick her brain about her experience at Prudential sometime.  We ended up grabbing lunch in the city and I had a great conversation with her.  She explained how the on-boarding process worked and I kept in touch with her throughout the recruiting process.  The process consisted of first round interviews, which were held on campus, and then a half-day super day in the San Francisco office, which involved a real estate case and talking with many of the Analysts, Associates, and VPs.   A short while after the super day I was extended an offer.  Ultimately, I accepted the offer, as I felt I fit in well with the people that worked there, was really interested in the work itself, and was excited by the opportunity to travel a bit for work.

Speaking about travel, why don’t you tell us more about your experience at Prudential and what you did there? Also what came into play when you accepted your offer at Prudential?

Sure!  I spent the first half of my internship with the transactions team, performing various analytical and due diligence tasks associated with underwriting and valuating properties the firm was looking at acquiring.  I helped put together documentation for deals we were looking at bidding on, and frequently sat in on meetings with developers, brokers, portfolio managers, and other executives to soak in more knowledge about real estate.  During the second half, I worked with the asset management team; specifically on value add fund.   I worked on lots of projects including analyzing whether rental rates for an apartment complex we owned in Seattle were too low and analyzing whether we should renovate or tear down and rebuild a mixed use space in Kirkland, Washington.   I was lucky enough to travel a few times during the internship, first to Madison, New Jersey for training, then to Chicago for an asset management meeting, and to a few towns in the bay area to tour some of the assets we owned or were interested in purchasing.

After the internship ended, Prudential extended me an offer to return.  What played a big part in my accepting the full-time offer was that I thoroughly enjoyed the work I’d done over summer and really connected with the people.  Additionally, I loved the fact that Prudential had a great reputation within the private equity real estate space, and had a great analyst program where I would receive extensive training and career development.   I’m very much looking forward to starting full-time in July.

Finally, do you have any advice for anyone pursuing real estate?

Yes, take UGBA 180 as early as you can in your academic career. It will give you a good foundation for how real estate is valuated and will prepare you for technical real estate questions that you may be asked during interviews.  I also suggest you reach out to Analysts or Associates that work at firms you are interested in – the earlier the better.  Networking is an extremely important part of working in the real estate industry, because it’s a very social industry, and ultimately receiving an offer comes down to how well you can connect with individuals at that firm, and do you have the technical skills to be able to be successful there.  Also, and be sure to leverage the Career Center.   I found reaching out the David Woodward to be extremely helpful.

Beyond the ABC’s: Summer Internships in Tech

This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern at a tech startup, and had a great summer experience. As recruiting begins, I wanted to highlight some experiences that I had and also interview other students at Haas who worked at technology companies this past summer. At Haas, it’s easy to ignore many of the jobs out there in industry companies, and because of this, I wanted to bring to light the many career options out there that are available.

Google: Michelle Leon (Business Administration, ’16)

How do you think working in tech is different from careers in the ABC’s?10557227_10203634078245003_8108318915939776023_n
Even at a large company like Google, they still maintain a very startup-like culture and environment. Tech companies, especially here in the Bay Area, tend to be younger as well, both in terms of the company age and the average age of the employees.

What were some of your most memorable experiences at the company?
I loved working at Google and loved my team. They were so supportive and made a huge effort to make sure I was having the best summer. Some favorite memories include going fishing at 5 AM and catching a rock cod, a Giant’s game with my entire department, and the intern boat cruise.

Biggest compan10430447_10203151010288606_1245245861079309894_ny perks?
Google has many company perks, which included massages, a swimming pool, awesome events (seeing Hillary Clinton and CHVRCHES played a set). The food was one of my favorite parts: 38 different cafes, food trucks, ice cream Fridays, free caramel lattes at all hours, and fresh cookies at 2:30 PM every day.

Any tips for those interested in tech internships in the future?
Be proactive about applying and spread your nets wide. When it comes to the interview, just relax and be yourself! Raymond Dang (Business Administration, ’16)

How do you think working in tech is different from careers in the ABC’s?
Working in tech is definitely different for two main reasons. One the environment is exceptionally relaxed. Your hours are pretty flexible, and everyone is pretty relaxed as opposed to the intense environment of careers in the ABC’s.

As long as you get your work done, you pretty much have the freedom you want. I worked a standard 9 to 5 every day and occasionally had the ability to work from home, which is pretty cool as an intern!

The second reason is the diverse nature of your projects. I personally worked in a business intelligence role, but I was afforded the opportunity to work on my own projects that I found interesting. I spent part of my summer exploring different areas of data science bb0cecda-0c4c-11e4-b826-22000a9ab58d-largeto explore if I really liked it (finding that I didn’t). In comparison, the ABC’s would rarely provide you time to “do your own thing.” And with this free time, many great ideas have sprouted both at Salesforce and at other tech companies.

Overall, there is a heavy focus on innovation at tech companies while the ABC’s seem driven on revenue generation due to the differing business models, but I would very much recommend working at Salesforce or any other tech company if you like this type of more relaxed environment.

What was your favorite part about working at the company or the team you worked with?
My favorite part about working at the company was hanging out with the interns. With an intern class of over 300, there was a diverse group of fun and driven people I could get lunch or go to happy hours with. I really had a lot of fun hanging out with these people, and it made my summer internship even more fun.

Biggest company perks?
Loaded snack bar that I stocked up on each day, Puppyforce, and ping pong tournaments!

Any tips for those interested in tech internships in the future?
Work hard and it will pay off in the end!

Uber: Jessica Ou (Business Administration, ’16)

How do you think working in tech is different from careers in the ABC’s?
I think the environment is very different. With accounting, banking, and consulting, oftentimes you’re working with different companies in different industries. For tech startups in particular, you’re doing work for just that one company, anuber1455market-304xx1024-683-0-9d the awesome part is you usually get to see the impact of your work to the end point.

What was your favorite part about working at the company or the team you worked with?
My favorite part about working at a startup was the execution-style mentality. Oftentimes, we would pivot ideas and have to execute them in a day or just a few days, rather than at larger corporations, where initiatives have to go through several layers of approval before getting implemented.

In terms of my favorite memories, they included marching for Uber in the San BoCIYP-IIAAE2sn (1)Francisco Pride parade and being involved with Uber Ice Cream and the Uber Hackathon.

Biggest company perks?
By far the biggest perk was ride credits. Employees also enjoy unlimited snacks, ice cream, and catered lunch every day. My favorite was the cold-brew coffee keg in the office!

Any tips for those interested in tech internships in the future?
Definitely apply for as many things as you can and whatever company you interview for, make sure you know their latest happenings.


Defying Stereotypes: Dean’s Speaker Series Event with Brigadier General Tammy Smith

Tammy 1

Tammy Smith, Brigadier General of the U.S. Army Reserve

On Monday, I attended the Dean’s Speaker Series with Brigadier General Tammy Smith, a cross-collaborative event co-sponsored by Veterans at Haas, Q@Haas, and Women in Leadership (WIL). In August 2012, Army Reserve officer Tammy Smith was promoted to the position of Brigadier General and became the first gay general openly serving in the military.

As a woman, LGBTQ member, and U.S. soldier, General Smith provides a multi-faceted perspective on identity and forces us to look beyond preconceived notions of gender and societal roles. By staying true to her core values, General Tammy Smith defies stereotypes and proves herself to be a strong, authentic, and influential female leader in a male-dominated industry and an advocate for her moral beliefs in a bureaucratic and rigid infrastructure.

Having grown up in Oakland, Oregon, General Smith joined the military as a means to escape her small town and experience more from life. She found passion and a purpose in the military and loved being able to serve her country. Yet throughout most of her service, there was a law and policy in place commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Before its repeal in 2011, DADT stated that any openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons were barred from military service. As a result, General Smith was forced to be silent and hide her personal life. Under her circumstances, she lived in fear that someone would find out and leak her sexual orientation, and felt pressure from maintaining constant awareness of her actions.

General Tammy Smith (left) with wife, Tracy Hepner (right)

General Tammy Smith (left) with wife, Tracey Hepner (right)

General Smith learned to cope by compartmentalizing her life and for years, she was okay with marginalizing herself to be able to serve. However, in 2009, after over twenty years of service and four years of dating her girlfriend, now wife, Tracey Hepner, she could not end the internal conflict between her moral and institutional values and filed paperwork for her retirement. Throughout her entire career thus far, gays were not allowed to be in the military. Her decision to retire was extremely difficult because although she loved being a soldier and an active member of the army, continuing to live two compartmentalized lives and keeping her wife a secret was too emotionally draining. She had given up hope that DADT would change and that gays would be openly accepted in the military.

General Smith’s viewpoint changed in 2010 when she attended a senior officer’s speech, where he proclaimed that no officer should feel like that their personal integrity is being jeopardized. General Smith found hope and rescinded her retirement.

Tammy Smith with her wife at her promotion to Brigadier General

On September 20, 2011, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed and General Smith felt an immense sense of relief. When Smith found out about her promotion in May 2012 from Army Reserve officer to Brigadier General, she felt that not coming out would be a disservice to those fighting so hard for the repeal. After twenty-five years of hiding, General Smith was afraid and proclaimed she had internalized homophobia; she worried about all the repercussions even though she knew that announcing Tracey as her wife was the right thing to do. Smith told her boss and the military before the promotion that she was planning on coming out, and the military reacted very positively and gave her unparalleled support. On August 10, 2012, Tammy Smith was promoted to Brigadier General and her wife pinned the star onto her uniform.

While General Smith does not believe herself to be an activist, she does see herself as an advocate. She argues that visibility is the first step towards advocacy. By being present, one is already breaking stereotypes.

“I appreciate my spouse Tracey Hepner”

General Smith feels that since coming out, she has become a more comfortable and effective leader. As a female leader, Smith argues she has to be extremely competent and command with a strong presence. In 2012, less than 7 percent of the General office force in the Army were women. However, instead of focusing on the current demographics and stereotypes about women leaders, General Smith focused on doing the best she could at her job and always taking care of her soldiers. With regards to her leadership style, General Smith leads with a collaborative approach and the underlying belief that everyone can bring something to the table; as good of an idea can come from someone who is junior than someone who is senior. She advises us not to judge an idea from who it came from but rather on the quality of the idea.

Ultimately, General Tammy Smith serves as a role model not because she is gay or a woman, but because she upholds her personal integrity and moral values, and focuses on doing her best and advancing her career despite stereotype threats and apparent obstacles. General Smith epitomizes the Haas core values of “Question the Status Quo,” in that she refuses to let stereotypes define her and “Beyond Yourself” because she puts her dedication to serving her country above all else. As students about to enter the workforce, where many of us will hold influential leadership positions, it is imperative that we learn from genuine leaders like General Tammy Smith the importance of being authentic, leveraging from your peers’ ideas, and believing in yourself, your beliefs, and your abilities regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

Is Business All The Same?

As a business student at Berkeley-Haas, I wonder what “business” means to my fellow classmates. After all, we come from different backgrounds, cultures, and even countries, but do we view “business” the same? What are our conceptions on business? I know my example of business is probably unique from everyone else’s, so I was curious to see what my fellow classmates had to say. Here is what I found when I randomly asked some students at Haas: “When you hear the term business, what comes to mind?”

Money. Stress. Networking. Money. Connections. Companies. Products. Deals. Money. Suits. Innovating Projects. Sales Pitch. Meetings. Analysis. Money. Financial Districts. Offices. Insider Trading. Promotions. Sales. CEO. Successful. Money. Profits. Rich. Collaborating. Management. Pressure. Money. Investment. Large Corporations. Marketing. Goals. Deals. Innovation. Capitalism. Markets. Decisions. Trips. Operations. Money.

 Yup! I got pretty typical answers. And no surprise here, money wins!


My grandfather and I this summer!

So although I have grown to associate these terms with business now, especially as I attend one of the most prestigious and sought-after business schools, I actually used to think of my grandfather anytime I heard “business.” And let me tell you, my grandfather’s business was far from suits, companies, or fancy corporate offices and meetings. In fact, some would argue that it’s not even a “real” business. At 7 years old, my grandfather had to drop out of school and go with his father to learn the family business; being a shepherd. Really! It was that simple. So for over 60 years my grandfather was a shepherd. He would get up at 3 in the morning every day- rain or shine- and commute all over the country to sell, buy, trade, and barter sheep. In the time I spent living at my grandparents, I remember two things about my grandfather. One, he was ALWAYS counting money. Two, he did a lot negotiating and sales pitches. And at that time, I thought I understood business. It was about money and convincing people. But this all changed for me when I came to the US and saw “real” business. Yes, I established very quickly business is more complicated that what I originally imaged. However, the skeleton for business is still there: to make money and profit. So as I sit in my lecture classes and discussions and go over key concepts in business, I cannot help but think back to my grandfather’s “business.” Sure, it’s very different from my corporate job someday, but in my view, business is still business. At the end of the day, we are both making money. And remember, business is all about money (at least for most of my classmates).

So as I begin my two-year journey at Haas, I want to be able to look at business from different perspectives. Furthermore, to recognize and see the ways businesses function in different part of the world. Because business is not just about suits, large corporations, or meetings.

Class of 2016 Haas Undergraduate Student Orientation

It has always been my dream to call myself a Golden Bear, a student at the prestigious UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. So with that being said, I did what I had to do and made it happen.

Hello, my name is Isabelle Lee, and I am transfer student from Santiago Canyon College, and this is my experience and takeaway from the Haas New Student Orientation held on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 for the Class of 2016.

Photo Courtesy of @thebenj

Photo Courtesy of @thebenj

The orientation started off with Dean Rich Lyons’ speech in which he kindly reminded us who we were and why we were the chosen ones accepted into Haas. Consistently reminding us to continue to have that competitive edge that makes us Haas students and never lose sight on the four defining principles of Haas: Beyond Yourself, Student Always, Confidence without Attitude, Questioning the Status Quo. Dean Lyons ended his speech on a more serious note articulating that we should be “Haasome” and not “Haasholes” because we define the culture here at Haas, as we are not defined by it. As the new incoming class, we have the opportunity to seize the day by embracing and portraying the four principles of Haas through our actions.  After that, we had the Executive Director, Erika Walker, congratulate us on our achievement of admissions that made me feel like I was on top of the world! She also brought out the Undergrad Program Staff and explained which Cohorts they represented. From there, Haas Business Student Association (HBSA) President, Stacey, along with three of her colleagues, provided three tips of encouragement and advice on how to tackle our first year in Haas. .

Photo Courtesy of @lalalanicky

Breaking into our respective cohorts!

The cohort activity was an amazing opportunity for the class to network in a more casual setting by playing various games similar to speed dating and ice breakers. After the cohort activities were completed, we had a free lunch catered by Top Dog while meeting with many Haas sponsored business organizations, business clubs, and fraternities. For me, this was extremely exciting for two reasons; I got two eat two of Berkeley’s renowned Top Dogs, and I finally got to opportunity to meet face-to-face with other students of Haas School of Business.


Photo Courtesy of @itspaullee


Photo Courtesy of @yehrin

Finally, the time has come. The clock strikes 1:00PM and that meant we were allowed to get our infamous Haas backpacks. And with that came the distribution of the ‘Class of 2016’ embroidered backpack that everyone had been waiting for since 9:00AM.

Photo Courtesy of @sampersand




Lastly, something new they did this year was have a little contest to see who could capture the Berkeley-Haas moment the best. I would like to congratulations to our Undergraduate Orientation Instagram contest winner, @sampersand! @sampersand’s photo of the Class of 2016 backpack really highlighted just how #haasome the swag is. Look for her photo on Haas’ official Instagram feed (@BerkeleyHaas), and remember to tag all your Berkeley-Haas moments with #berkeleyhaas! You never know when your photo might be the next winner.

I conclude my recap of the Haas New Student Orientation for the incoming Class of 2016. After going through the orientation, I can say this: it took a lot of hard work and constant determination to get where I am today, but I know I will have to continue to beat the odds and take on more challenges. But hey, I am ready for it, and I am ready to take all that Berkeley-Haas has to offer. Go Bears!

Alumni Profiles: Shazia Virji (BS 2011), Marketing,

Shazia Virji, Haas BS 2011

Alumni Profiles is a series of posts featuring Haas alumni. It aims to provide the blog’s readers insight into work experiences in various industries and life after Haas. 

Shazia Virji graduated from the Haas School of Business in 2011. While in Berkeley, she served as Berkeley Women in Business’s VP of Finance. She was also active in the Blueprint Leadership Program where she mentored undergraduate students. Shazia currently works as an associate marketing manager for, and has joined the Haas Alumni Network’s San Francisco Chapter Board in 2012, where she is VP of the Han-SF Scholarship and Co-webmaster.

You have been with Intuit/ for over two years now. What is so unique about the company?

It was great celebrating my two year Mint-iversary recently! Mint is unique because even though it was acquired by Intuit in 2009, Mint still operates very much like a start-up. My colleagues are passionate about helping our users make money, save money, and stretch their dollar further. We’re all incredibly invested in guiding our users to reach their financial goals through a well-designed interface. It’s exciting to know that I work for a company that is a leader in the personal finance space.

What is your job title at Intuit/ What excites you most about your work?

I’m an Associate Marketing Manager on the Marketing team. I specifically work on monetization via our lead generation partnerships. What attracted me to Mint is that I am able to provide a large impact to our user base which is over 14 million users and growing. Previously, I worked in private wealth management where I was only able to help one person at a time. But at Mint, the partnerships I manage and the campaigns I create are visible to millions of people.

How was the interview process for Intuit/

From start to finish, the interview process took less than one month. I was searching for a marketing role at a financially focused company and stumbled upon Mint. I applied for the job and remembered that I had a connection with someone at Intuit through my time volunteering for the Haas Alumni Network SF Chapter. I reached out to my contact who helped refer me to the position and before I knew it, I was on the phone speaking to someone in HR. I spoke with the hiring manager the next day and was called in for an interview scheduled for the following week. On the day of my interview, I met with the 5 individuals on the team (4 in-person and 1 teleconference). Most of the questions were behavioral and geared at asking me about my previous work experience. A lot of the questions were about leadership and how I would handle certain situations. Everyone was really friendly and I was able to get a good feel for the culture. I heard back from the hiring manager within one week with a job offer! Intuit typically doesn’t hire recent grads but I guess I was an exception. Recent grads typically apply for and complete the Rotational Development Program (RDP) prior to being placed in a permanent position. Last year, 26 RDPers were selected from a pool of 2,322 applicants – that’s about 1 hire for every 100 applicants. It’s quite a competitive program, but I would highly recommend Intuit as a place to work after graduation. We did rank 8th on Fortune’s Best Places to Work list!

You received a BS in Business Administration in 2011. Have you found your degree to be very useful in your career?

I have found that a business degree does give you exposure to a network that lasts a lifetime. The Haas degree has provided me with opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I don’t know if I would be working at Mint if it weren’t for my Haas connections. From an academic perspective, the business foundation I received at Haas has helped me in my day-to-day work experiences. Being in the workforce is like having a full-time group project to work on. I used to dread working on group projects at Haas, but now I just think of group work as a commonplace occurrence – so get used to it!

You were involved with Berkeley Women in Business, Blueprint Leadership Program, and the Dean’s Team during your undergraduate career. How has your affiliation to these extracurricular activities played a role in your overall personal and professional development?

My time with Berkeley Women in Business has impacted me the most in my professional career. Empowering women in the workforce is something I’m incredibly passionate about. Since graduating from Haas, I’ve been involved with Dress for Success which is an organization whose mission is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing them with professional attire, a network of support, and the career development tools to help them thrive in work and in life. I’ve been mentoring clients of the Going Places Network which was launched by Dress for Success with the support of the Walmart Foundation. The Going Places Network helps unemployed and under-employed DFS clients gain professional skills, accelerate their job search, and build confidence through weekly training sessions, one-on-one career coaching and networking in a supportive environment. It’s a great organization and one that I’m proud to be an active member of.

Do you have any advice you would give current students about life after Haas in general? (Anything you wish you knew earlier when you were still a student?)

I wish I had been more involved in Haas alumni activities as an undergrad because it would have expanded the network I had as a student. But I’m making up for it now because I’m heavily involved in the Haas Alumni Network SF Chapter. I serve as the HULA (HAN-SF Undergraduate Leadership Award) Chairperson as well as VP Co-Webmaster. I got involved with HAN-SF during my senior year at Haas and it helped me connect with people who were able to give me helpful advice and insight about the professional world. After graduation, it was easier for me to attend events and build my network while also giving back to the Haas community.

Which Haas Defining Principle do you identify most with?

I define most with the principle “Beyond Yourself.” This is something that I’ve actively practiced even before Haas. I strive to help others and volunteer because I always learn a great deal about myself and others when I participate in those types of experiences. I’m able to learn about other people and challenges that I hadn’t even thought of, such not having something professional to wear to an interview. Working in tech and living in Silicon Valley can make you numb to the real issues that are going on all around us. We need to make the conscious decision to lend a helping hand and put our Haas education to good use in order to improve the lives of others.

Denice Sy
Class of 2014

Alumni Profiles: Kathryn Cicoletti (BS 1999), Finance & Entrepreneurship

Alumni Profiles is a series of posts featuring Haas alumni. It aims to provide the blog’s readers insight into work experiences in various industries and life after Haas.

Kathryn Cicoletti graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the Haas School of Business in 1999. She started her career as a Hedge Fund Research Analyst at Meritus Research in New York, and later took on a Senior position at Bank Julius Baer. She was Director of Institutional Sales at GAM, a global asset management firm in Los Angeles for seven years before pursuing her own startup. Cicoletti is currently Writer and Founder of – “The Money Site For Non-Finance People. Finance People Are Annoying.” Kathryn has 13 years of experience working on Wall Street prior to launching the website.

Kathryn Cicoletti, Haas BS 1999

Kathryn Cicoletti, B.S. 1999

You graduated from the Haas School of Business in 1999. What was your first job post-graduation and how did your foot in the door?

My first job was at a hedge fund research company. It was a dot-com, and we went out of business one and a half years later, so don’t get too excited about my first job! I met the founder of the business through a friend. When we met I had no idea what a hedge fund was (not kidding). I don’t even think I understood what the business was. We met a few times and it became clear to me that I wanted to work for this woman. My role was very undefined, meaning, I accepted the job to basically “do anything”.  The founder was very impressive and someone who I knew I could learn a lot from. I wasn’t at all focused on what my specific role was, I was more focused on learning everything I could about hedge funds and I always asked to take on more projects. I think she liked that.

What got you interested in the finance industry in the first place?

Well, I would be lying if I said that I had an epiphany one day and said, “I LOVE FINANCE!” That didn’t happen. I wanted to go abroad my junior year at Berkeley and I knew you had to declare a major to go abroad. I had several conversations with my parents and since I didn’t have any pull towards any other specific major, I thought “business” was a safe route. After getting accepted to Haas, getting a job in finance seemed like the next step. Once I started working in the finance industry for a few years, I realized how it is such a great place to learn so much about business. Finance is such a broad term. I worked for a start-up out of college, but it was focused on “finance.” But you can get “finance” experience pretty much anywhere you work. I realized pretty early on that understanding finance would be something I could take anywhere with me, even if it means making fun of finance like I do now!

Your work experience appears straightforward. You started as a Hedge Fund Research Sales Associate at Meritus Research, moved on to becoming Senior Hedge Fund Analyst at Bank Julius Baer, to serving as Director of Institutional Sales at GAM. How has your Bachelor’s degree from Haas been helpful in your career?

I am convinced I got my job at Julius Baer because 1) I went to Berkeley and 2) I went to Haas. The CEO who interviewed me went to Berkeley and we talked about CAL for basically the entire interview. Beyond that… having Haas on your resume gives you instant credibility with anyone you’re talking to. While my career has taken me in a different direction since I quit my job in asset management, having gone to Haas opens the door for conversations with people who might not want to talk to you otherwise. When you quit your job and take a leap of faith, you need all help you can get!

You were at one point the youngest Senior Hedge Fund Research Analyst at Bank Julius’ Baer’s senior team. What do you think contributed to the quick promotion? How did you make yourself stand out?

I always just wanted to learn as much as I could.  I asked a lot of questions. I was the nerd. I stayed late. I raised my hand in meetings when I didn’t understand something. Most people in the room didn’t understand either, but they were too afraid to ask. I think those qualities made me stand out.

What made you walk away from your very secure and stable job in finance to pursue MakinSense Babe?

I got to a point in my career that I knew I wanted to do something that I really really enjoyed. I had a great career in finance but I just knew I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I like doing, and figured out a way to marry what I like doing with the skills I built over the last 13 years. It was a gradual process for me, it wasn’t like I just woke up one day and said, “I’m quitting! I hate all you people!” It wasn’t like that at all.  I realized what I wanted to do and made a plan as to when the best time to quit would be. “Plan” being, lining up my finances, giving myself a timeline for my new career, etc.

What is MakinSense Babe? What is your vision for the website?

MakinSense Babe is a financial news site for non-finance people. You can sign up for the weekly MSB Roundup,, and get the most important money and finance news for that week. I cut out all the crap and just tell you what you need to know and what you don’t need to know. I also create weekly video episodes where I talk about something in the news that everyone is talking about, and often point out a key thing that people are missing in a comedic way. The concept is similar to what The Daily Show does, but just focused on money and finance for now. My vision for the site is to grow viewers as much as possible. I would love to be the destination that people know they can come to for no BS commentary on money and finance news.

You only recently launched MakinSense Babe. Do you have any general tips so far for others who are interested in entrepreneurship/founding startups?

Meet with as many people as you can. Networking is huge. But make sure you are spending your “networking time” wisely.  You need to make sure you are making it clear what you need from somebody when you schedule a meeting or a coffee date. If you ask someone to meet with you who you think can help you, make it clear from the beginning why you want to meet them so they can come prepared to help.

And be prepared for hard days. Taking a leap of faith isn’t easy. The uncertainty of “how everything is going to work out” can make you go crazy. So for sure, know that the biggest challenge is managing the uncertainty in your head.

Do you have any last advice you would give current students about life after Haas? (Anything you wish you knew earlier when you were still an undergraduate student?)

I would try to focus as little as possible on what other people are doing. Meaning, I know when you graduate everyone is talking about who got what job and what person got this job or that job. I can’t stress this enough, the jobs that everyone want out of Haas right now aren’t usually the same jobs that everyone wants in 10 years. It’s hard to see this when you graduate though. All I’m saying is try to take some pressure off of yourself because I know it can feel very competitive. Focus on getting a job that is good for you, and just work hard and I guarantee you will get where you want to be. This is a long-winded way of saying, your first job out of Haas isn’t what determines your whole career AT ALL, but it feels like it when you’re graduating.

Which Haas Defining Principle do you identify most with? How did your identification with this principle(s) help you in your personal and professional development?

Haas definitely taught me to question the status quo. If you can always make sure that you’re not just buying in to whatever everyone is doing, you will do very well in your career. There will be many, many, many times that you will need to stick your neck out and give an opposite opinion or question even whether what your boss says is right. It is okay to do this and you should do it (in the right way), and I guarantee you it will move you farther in your career than if you just go along with the pack.

Finally, if a Cal undergrad is interested in interning for MakinSense Babe, where should they go to apply?

They can email me at!

Denice Sy
Class of 2014

Haas Graduation – Class of 2014

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And just like that, my two year residence in the Haas Undergraduate Program is over. On Monday, May 19, 2014, I joined 384 other Haas students as we bid farewell to the prestigious business school at the Greek Ampitheater in UC Berkeley.

Dean Lyons’ Opening Remarks

The event began with Dean Rich Lyons welcoming everyone to the Haas undergraduate commencement ceremony. In his opening remarks, Dean Lyons referred to Haas undergrads as an “energetic and high-performing” group, and commended Haas students for being some of the most outstanding students in UC Berkeley. He shared that getting into Cal was already difficult in general, and being admitted into the Haas undergraduate business program was yet another challenge. Dean Lyons exclaimed that after graduating, we will be joining the ranks of successful alumni and business leaders who have affected the world profoundly through our shared ideals of the four defining principles, namely Question the Status Quo; Confidence without Attitude; Students Always; and Beyond Yourself.

Stephen Etter’s Introduction of Commencement Speaker

Stephen Etter, founder of Greyrock Capital Group and Haas School Lecturer in Corporate Finance (UGBA131), who earned his Bachelor’s Degree and MBA from the Haas School of Business, and whose dedication to students is reflected in three teaching awards he has received as a GSI and Professor, walked up to the podium next to introduce this year’s graduation speaker. It is one of Haas’s traditions to choose an alumni to speak at commencement, ours was Mark DiPaola (BS ’99), co-founder and current Chairman of the Board of inMarket. DiPaola was one of Etter’s most memorable students. During his time as an undergraduate, DiPaola had been chosen by Etter to participate in the Texas Case Comp team because of his innovative leadership and ability to question the status quo. Nonetheless, Etter says it was not obvious to him then that DiPaola would “assemble an unbelievable record of achievement at a very, very short time.” DiPaola had founded a company with his brother Todd, a fellow Cal alum who also took Etter’s UGBA131 class, called Vantage Media, before selling it to launch their second venture, inMarket. Outside the entrepreneurial world, Mark and Todd set up the DiPaola foundation to give back to education, environment, and other non-profit services. Mark Dipaola was deemed as one of Haas’s youngest innovative leaders.

Mark DiPaola, Class of 2014’s Alumni Commencement Speaker

Mark DiPaola, BS 99, Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of inMarket, Commencement Speaker

Mark DiPaola, BS 99, Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of inMarket, Commencement Speaker

Mark DiPaola began his speech by sharing his own experience as an undergraduate during his Haas commencement day. He pointed out to the seat he vividly remembers sitting at, talked about providing horns and pans for his family to bang, and stitching “Hi Mom!” on the back of his cap. DiPaola was just like the students of Class of 2014. He had a plan for post-graduation; he had just landed his dream job at a strategy consulting company and imagined flying around different parts of the country to meet CEOs and give his “nuggets” of advice for his clients’ approach to pursuing “new verticals” and increasing their business’s efficiency, among others. He would work their for maybe 8-9 years, become a partner, then relocate in “rustic Italy” or “sunny south of France” where he would put up a new office. While DiPaola enjoyed his job as a consultant, he never made it to his end goal (Italy), as he got laid off after his second year at the firm during downsizing.

While losing his employment hurt, he later joined a startup that sought to change the world. The startup would also “fail spectacularly,” causing DiPaola to consider returning to school for an MBA. Unfortunately, none of the graduate schools he applied to offered him admission. Hence, to save money and make his new company work, he moved back with his parents at age 25. It was all good until the company he started fired him. DiPaolo states that business authors call these events “pivots.” DiPaolo laughingly shares his conversation with Etter earlier that week who thought otherwise, “in my days, we didn’t call those pivots. We called them failures.” DiPaolo acknowledges that Etter was right, but affirms that the failures were the best things that happened to him. His failures pushed him to build Vantage Media, a $100 million company, which he sold. His failures pushed him to start the DiPaolo family foundation, which gives millions back to great causes, like UC Berkeley. His failures continue to help him today as he aims to develop his new company and potentially set new records. DiPaolo adds that “in fact, I can directly trace each of my pivots to creating the awesome life that I’ve enjoyed since leaving your seats back in 1999.”

DiPaola’s talk was an exploration of what went wrong over the last fifteen years since he graduated that allowed him to speak in front of us and back at Haas. He also gave pieces of advice to help students maximize our odds for success when everything is going “wonderfully wrong.” DiPaolo outlined two characteristics that assisted him through his journey: focus and flexibility. By this he meant focusing on one or two things that were really important and could make a difference to us; and by flexibility he refers to being able to roll with life’s “little hints” if our first plan does not work out.

Last year, DiPaola went heli-skiing with his brother. He only had two goals in mind: “don’t die” and “don’t be the slow one that makes everybody else wait for you.” Their first run was steep, deep, and filled with trees with only a couple narrow snow paths in between. To ensure he doesn’t die, he asked their guide for tips to avoid hitting the trees. The guide’s response, “Don’t look at the trees, if you look at them, you will hit them. Focus only on the white space, and that’s where you’ll end up.”

“As human beings,” DiPaola said, “we can’t not think something.” Thus, focusing on “avoiding trees” would almost basically means focusing on getting squashed. Consequently, he urged that the graduates focused on what we want versus avoiding what we don’t want. Furthermore, he reiterated the need to have only one area of focus instead of doing everything. This focus was what helped make his first company, Vantage Media such a success. DiPaola had started the company during the time when the Internet was just in its early stages. He was passionate about matching students up with colleges of their interest, hence his firm focused on education. Nonetheless, he remembers receiving many criticisms, “Mark, why focus just on schools? Cash for gold is the future!” or “My uncle knows a lot about adjustable rate mortgages, now that’s a business!” However, these did not deter DiPaola on the one thing he cared about, and he eventually got better and better at it each year. His company later introduced three million students to schools, and was approached by private equity firms six years later due to the recent explosion of online education space. DiPaola asked the audience who we thought the private equity firms would call first, “the company that did ten things so-so, or the company that did one thing exceptionally well?” He insisted that having expertise at the one thing we are passionate about is key to standing out.

So how does one identify his passion? It is difficult to recognize whether our passion is the right one for us, especially if it is uncommon, not something our classmates are pursuing, not what our parents want, or not the ABC’s (Accounting, Banking, Consulting)! For DiPaola, Vantage Media was emerged as a passion, not a business idea. It was, for him, a means of experimenting with new technology, and tinkering and figuring things out. He posed thus the important question that we should all be asking ourselves, “What do I have a hard time stopping myself from doing?” Nonetheless, being passionate about something doesn’t diminish the risk of failure. DiPaola, himself, hit a lot of trees since graduating from Berkeley fifteen years ago. When this happens, learn to be flexible. Vantage Media had been successful during its first six months of existence, there were new schools added to the platform regularly, students were being helped, the company was making a difference! However, DiPaola had left all their sales operations to a sales agency. Therefore, after significant disagreement between Vantage Media and the sales company, their partnership was dissolved and Vantage Media ended up with zero customers and many bills to pay.

DiPaola had never done sales before. However, the experience forced him to be flexible and pursue activities and operations outside his comfort zone. He was terrified he would not have the correct answer to questions, or that he would say something stupid on voicemail. It took him three months to close his first deal, but it ended up being worth more than his whole business before. He sold a couple million dollars of Vantage Media’s services over the next few years. Thus, he recommended that the audience do something once a year that really scares us; something we can actually fail at. In this way, hopefully we maximize our odds when we will actually need it in life. When we overcome something we have felt accustomed to failing at, we will become much more fearless and confident.

Finally, he shares resourcefulness as an important characteristic in flexibility. People often blame lack of resources whenever something goes wrong, when in reality, there is plenty! Resourcefulness, not resources, thus is what constrains us. One of Vantage Media’s clients who purchased services from DiPaola’s competitors for instance, never responded to any of his calls or voicemails over three years. One morning in December, he decided to be resourceful and flew to the client’s corporate headquarters in Chicago. The meeting turned out great! The client loved what Vantage Media had to offer and began working with DiPaola’s company within six weeks after his visit. DiPaola doesn’t know why the client never picked up his calls, but he learned that resourcefulness was key to his success.

DiPaola ended his speech by wishing the graduating students of Class of 2014 lots of challenges, right decisions, and wrong ones; follow our passion; and have as many opportunities to learn from our mistakes and turn each pivot around into being one step closer to our true passions.

Nishant Budhraja, Undergraduate Student Speaker

Nishant Budhraja, Undergraduate Student Speaker

Nishant Budhraja, Undergraduate Student Speaker

Before proceeding to the student walks, Nishant Budhraja, Haas Undergraduate Commencement Speaker for 2014. While at Cal, Budhraja was an active member of Berkeley Consulting, where he served as President this year. He also built a startup with fellow Berkeley students that one first place at the Berkeley University Mobile Challenge in December 2013. After summers interning for Deloitte Consulting and Microsoft, he will be joining Bain & Company full-time as an associate consultant.

Budhraja thanked the parents of the graduates for their love and support at the beginning of his speech. Graduations are an important milestone. Budhraja shared that it is difficult to come up with messages that match the momentousness of the occasion. Since he is not old or experienced enough to provide sage life advice, he has opted to look back to the great times we had together in the class by presenting the “Top 8 Things Only the Haas Class of 2014 Will Understand”. Read the list and see GIFs here.

Congratulations, Haas Class of 2014!

Denice Sy
Class of 2014

Top 8 Things Only the Haas Class of 2014 Will Understand

“Top 8 Things Only the Haas Class of 2014 Will Understand”

by Nishant Budhraja, Haas Undergraduate Commencement Speaker, Class of 2014

1. Getting a 95% on a UGBA 10 exam, but still ending up with a B on the curve



“This is a real thing that can happen to you in Haas’s famously competitive Introduction to Business class. Rumor has it that the curve is much more lenient now. So I say let’s take our urban legend to the next level: ‘You know son, back in my day, if you missed a question on a UGBA10 exam, they would just slice your finger off. And get this, they even made you buy your own Scantrons! Crazy, crazy.'”

2. The ethical dilemma posed by the infamous Haas backpack given to us upon our acceptance to the school


“I mean, are you supposed to use the thing or not, right? Wear it and risk the eyre of your non-Haas classmates, but forego it and risk missing out on that Haas backpack swagger. I’ve seen many a great friendship ruined by this debate.”

3. The intense fear that we develop for Professor Alan Ross’s cold-calling


“If you come to class unprepared, Professor Ross will call on you and he will make fun of you when you have no clue what you’re talking about. I occasionally see Professor Ross outside of class walking around campus, and I’m still afraid he will find a way to call on me. So I typically just walk the other way.”

4. The pros and cons associated with the Haas courtyard reconstruction during our junior year


“Studying in the library with jackhammers going off in the background wasn’t particularly nice, but the same jackhammers did keep us awake during those late afternoon lectures. It’s all about those silver-linings. All about the silver-linings.”

5. The deeply spiritual bond that you develop with your fellow UGBA 104 classmates


“For context, UGBA 104 is Haas’s mandatory spreadsheets and modeling class. In which students learn that a class titled ‘Spreadsheets and Modeling’ is just as terrifying as they would imagine it to be. People like to say that Haas students are extremely competitive, but clearly none of those people saw the Haas Computer Lab ten minutes before a 104 assignment was due. So much collaboration and so much profuse sweating. I mean seriously, is it possible to put some of our class’s senior gift towards some air conditioning for that computer lab. Not even a little bit? No? Just checking!”

6. The Haas email celebrities, including, among others, Barbara Felkins, Renee Camarena, Jennifer Cherniss, Karren Bautista Tanisaki, and of course, HBSA President Rosemary


“These are the people that you may have met only once or twice in your life, but who will live on forever in your inbox. Just know that we students appreciated your diligent messaging even if we never opened your e-mails.”

7. The myth and legend that is Dean Rich Lyons


“Dean Lyons is like the Haas version of the most interesting man in the world. Rumor has it that when Dean Lyons drives a new car off the lot, it increases in value. Dean Lyons also had an awkward moment once just to see what it would feel like. I’ve seen Dean Lyons’ business card, and it has no text on it except ‘I’ll have my people call you.’ I mean, it’s the stuff of legend.”

8. Finally, the fondness that we will carry for that beautiful little campus tucked in right below Memorial Stadium


“Being a Haas undergrad is a unique experience. One marked by ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and a constant underlying fear that our older MBA counterparts are having way more fun than we are. We leave this school, however, having accumulated great knowledge, great friends, and most importantly, a set of unique memories that we collectively, the Class of 2014, will cherish for the rest of our lives.”

Open Innovation Leveraging IBM Watson

Working with Professor Solomon Darwin has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my college career. After taking his UGBA190T Business Models & Open Innovation course in Fall 2013, I was invited to serve as Prof. Darwin’s Undergraduate Student Instructor for the UGBA193i Emerging Market version of the same course this semester. Prof. Darwin’s classes have always been structured in this way: Consultation project/challenge assignments; Lectures on relevant concepts applicable to the projects; Mid-term exam geared towards gaining groundwork for projects; Ongoing teleconferences and in-person projects advisory from corporate executives abroad and in the U.S.; and a Final Presentation to challenge sponsors, among other corporate judges.

Prof. Darwin has been teaching on the subject for over five years now, and has guest lectured worldwide, such as Peter Drucker School of Management in Claremont; Stanford University Graduate School of Management; EM Lyon School of Management and Euro-med School of Management in France; Wuhan University, East China Normal University, International University of Business & Economics in Beijing, and Jiao Tong University in China; Lancaster Unviersity in the UK, Korean University in South Korea, University of Zurich in Switzerland, University of Turku in Finland, and BI Norwegian Business School in Norway.

In an e-mail from IBM’s Jim Spohrer, Director of Global University Programs, and Pamela Induni, Manager of Watson Academic Engagement, they expressed their admiration over Berkeley-Haas students’ presentations on unique sponsored challenge solutions. They state that they “have been impressed with the quality of your student projects pertaining to Open Business Models taught by Professor Solomon Darwin during the past two years.” Prof. Darwin has actively engaged with IBM over the past few semesters, inviting corporate executives to judge student presentations, and even tackling IBM’s consolation project on Education for his Open Innovation in Emerging Markets course this Spring. Consequently, IBM has selected UC Berkeley, among less than a dozen universities, to participate in IBM Watson’s cognitive computing course to be offered in Fall 2014.

According to Spohrer, Watson can be built for any discipline, whether it is for business discovery, financial advice, retail, or medicine. The class is an opportunity for innovative students to utilize their creativity and go beyond oneself to help people through the Watson computer. Spohrer hopes this kind of cognitive computing will allow more flexibility in communication to be incorporated in one’s daily life, versus the current form of programming which necessitates expertise in special or unique languages.

Prof. Solomon Darwin, who spearheaded the Haas Emerging Markets Open Innovation course this Spring and co-instructor to “Open Innovation Leveraging IBM Watson”, cites that Watson could be especially beneficial to emerging economies. Watson can be accessed by anyone with access to Internet, the technology thus is powerful in its unprecedented ability to increase the reach of cognitive computing.

This course is limited to 26 students (Seniors and Juniors from the following schools will be accepted: 10 Business, 10 Engineering and 6 Information). Students need to apply to be selected at our course site provided below. Instructors, Don Wroblewski and Solomon Darwin, of the course are looking for a special pool of talent to form four groups that have the potential to gain national visibility. The students will compete against six other top schools to win $100,000 to seed their venture. Most importantly, the group gets to own the IP they created.

APPLY on the course website: UGBA198 Course Web Page LINK. The course will not be listed on the Tele-bears system and will be independent from the regular enrollment system.

Application Deadline: June 10.

You will be notified by June 17th through and email that you provide and not through the Tele-bears system.

Denice Sy
Class of 2014