What It Really Means To Go Beyond Yourself (An interview with recent Haas graduate and LinkedIn Professional, Yifan Gong)

Yifan

During our time as undergrads, we hear a lot about the four defining principles. We hear that our Haas culture is defined by them, but have you ever taken the time to consider how these principles will influence your life after graduation? Yifan Gong is a recent graduate and proud transfer student to Cal. During his time at Cal he was active in the campus dance community and co-led the student giving campaign for the undergraduate program. He is an active Haas alumnus and member of the Haas Leadership Society. After having the time to sit down with Yifan, I learned quite a bit about him as a person and about how he embodies these principles on a daily basis. Here are a few excerpts from our interview that I hope will encourage you to think about how the Four Defining Principles influence your life now and post graduation:

What’s an experience or memory that you have at Cal/Haas that you’ll always remember?

One day “when I got out of class, I saw a call from a 415 number. I ignored it thinking it was unimportant. They called again and this time I answered. They said that I had to come to the general hospital because my mom was in critical condition.”

Following a freak accident “My mom passed away and my dad had had a stroke.” Attempting to cope with my grief, “I posted on Facebook about the event.” “The outpouring of support from classmates to give food and support was truly overwhelming. I didn’t go to school for two months. I talked to the undergrad office and Barbara Felkins, and they told me to take the time that I needed, we will be here afterward. Without my knowing, my classmates started a “go fund me” to help with funeral costs. They gave me a check of $4000 raised from seniors and juniors. People I had met once or twice were knocking at my door for weeks. When finals came around, they would reach out and say “let’s study together.” They shared notes and had helped walk me through what I had missed so that I could take all of my finals.  The kind of people that I met here (at Haas) are so genuine, giving. They truly went “beyond yourself.”

Why do you give back as a donor to Haas? Why do you volunteer your time to Haas?

“I was interested in giving back because of my experience at the school. I also took advantage of  LinkedIn’s corporate matching program. Also, time is what I have the most of to give right now. If I can improve someone’s experience, I will. Seeing someone else succeed is fulfilling and so is helping others find success. In general, getting into Haas is hard. If I can help someone develop and fulfill their potential, I think that benefits both the school and the person. I’m really proud of my time at Haas and the reputation that comes with the name. It is easy to take those things for granted. It is easy to forget the people who came before you who that helped to launch your career. It is up to us as recent graduates to continue our Haas legacy. I want the people who come after me to have the same experience I had once I was here (at Haas). You don’t have to give $10,000 right out of undergrad. Give anything, use your free coffee machine at work, and give the $20 you save from it. Giving creates a lineage of pride.”

Do you have any advice for current Haas students and soon to be graduates?

“First, identify your strong points – those are the things you sell, highlight those. Then identify your areas of improvement. Work on those but not at the expense of improving your strong points. Second, the things you build alone are not going to be as good as things you build together. Third, your personal and professional brand are not separate.”

How have you found your experience as an HBSA alumni mentor? Why did you choose to participate in this program?

“Right now I have three mentees. It has been tough trying to balance this with time at work. I want to do more of the outreach and work on checking in more. Despite the time constraints, I chose to participate because you (the students) are the future and Haas is not the end all be all of your career. It is important to set expectations for some of the underclassmen. Even if you don’t get into Haas, you’re going to be fine and I think it is important to try and find ways to engage.

Was there anybody at Haas who was a mentor and or inspiration for you?

“My entire pre-core class.”

Do you remember when you got your acceptance letter?

“Oh yes! Berkeley is the last one to release their acceptance decisions. I was in Monterey because a friend was running a half marathon. We went to have drinks and I just looked at my phone, to see that the acceptance page had gone down to be updated. When I checked it again, I saw the seal of congrats and all the blood rushed to my head. I called my mom and it sounded like she was on the car phone, she started crying and in the background I could hear my dad saying, “Watch the road!” Apparently, my mom, pulled off to the side of the road. I felt lucky, humbled, overwhelmed, and excited.

A brief note from the writer: This interview occurred over breakfast, at 8 am on a Saturday morning. Yifan drove all the way from San Francisco to meet Drew Ollero, Associate Director of Development & Alumni Relations, and I for breakfast. Aside from this early commute, Yifan’s selflessness and sincerity pervaded the entire interview. His gratefulness to and for Haas and for our community was obvious. I felt honored to have the chance to speak with him and to have the opportunity to hear his story, feel his excitement, and connect with his gratitude first hand. I hope this brief glimpse into his world and time at Haas encourages you to live the defining principles on a daily basis, as Yifan does so well.

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Reflections on Course Selection

by Matthew Clagett

As we come to the end of the semester, and as I sign up for classes during my final Spring semester, I reflect on my choices of course selection at my time in Haas. I considered my choices for which semesters I took my core classes, the professors that I learned from, and how the class times shaped my routines.

Many other highly ranked business schools have four-year programs, allowing students to take core classes very early on, and specialize in their later years. At Haas, it is a bit different, as we only have two years and have to be more deliberate about the classes we take and the order that we take them in. On the other hand, our single Business Administration major provides us with flexibility to choose which direction that we want to take our focus.

We have many choices for classes to take, to fulfill our graduation requirements of 30 core business units, 8 upper division business units, and 12 upper division non-business units. I try not to go into specifics about courses as to not promote a single academic path, but feel free to reach out if you are interested in specifics about my own choices.

Course Selection

Core Classes

This past summer when I was enrolling for this semester’s classes, there was a “Special Topics” course being offered on a topic that I developed an interest in over the summer. Unfortunately, it required completion of a core class that I had decided to put off taking until later. This upcoming semester, the course is again being offered, but the time overlaps with other required courses.

If I were to go back, I would take core courses in my first semester that are the trunks of the trees of broad business topics, allowing me the ability to branch out later on. Many upper division elective courses have core class prerequisites, including 103, 104, and 106. I would have explored more of the tree trunks before determining which branches have my favorite fruit.

Instead, part of my course selection for my first year factored in whether classes would look good on my resume and teach applicable skills for the internships that I was trying to attain. However over the year, as my interests changed, so did the classes I was interested in taking. Taking more core courses during my first semester would have allowed me to more deeply explore my interests in my senior year.

That being said, I still believe that taking classes applicable in an upcoming internship is a good idea. This makes the concepts easier to learn by making them more relevant and give you the opportunity to use and improve what you learned over the semester. Looking back, I would have waited until the Spring semester to take those classes, once I actually knew what I would be spending my summer doing. Lesson learned: take classes that will help you succeed at a job, not to succeed at getting a job.

Upper Division Business Electives

If you are searching for a book on Amazon, you may notice the category “Business/Personal Development.” This is the great thing about business, many topics in business overlap very well into your personal life. I have personally enjoyed taking upper division courses at Haas that especially exemplify this – that cover topics in leadership, negotiations, and strategic thinking. The difficult part when choosing classes was weighing the personal and professional values that each class brings.

Having done the transfer student PreCore classes the summer before transferring to Berkeley, I already had six units out of the eight required units. The other units were covered by the study abroad program that I did this summer, so fulfilling the requirement was not too difficult. The hard part was weighing the different personal and professional values that taking the class would bring in the future after college.

Upper Division, Non-Business Units

Undergraduate Haas students are required to take 12 upper-division, non-business units. Deciding what to choose for these units can be difficult for those of us who are not doubling majors and especially transfer students, who have not had exposure to many of the other majors and offerings at Berkeley.

I wanted to take classes that I know will compliment my major, and I decided to take courses in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR). IEOR is full of classes related to entrepreneurship, data science, and emerging technologies, and is often a mix of business and computer science minded students.  The program even offers a certificate in Entrepreneurship and Technology with only 8 units, taking classes like Challenge Lab or Technology Firm Leadership. The true value from these classes has been the exposure to Silicon Valley’s startup and venture capital ecosystem, which Berkeley does better than any other school.

Professors

Everybody knows about RateMyProfessor, the website that reviews the quality characteristics of professors and the courses that they teach. Many people use this website, available course times, and advice from peers when they are selecting which professor to take the course with. I have found that although student opinions are great, everybody has a different set of criteria for how a teacher is evaluated, as some of my favorite teachers were ones that I was warned about.

To determine whether you will like a particular teacher’s class, I have it found it very beneficial to do a little research for myself to understand who the professor is, and where their perspective and teaching style comes from.

Here are some great resources that I have found that help out:

  •         Past class syllabihttps://haas.berkeley.edu/Undergrad/courses/Syllabi/
  •         Find the professor’s Haas faculty bio, and ready their publications. Reading their research really helps you understand who they are as a professional. LinkedIn is also a great tool.
  •         Email the Professor and perhaps schedule a coffee chat to get to know them a little more – the faculty at Haas is here for us, yet people rarely fully utilize their knowledge and experience.

Anchoring a frame of context and credibility around the professor makes the subject more engaging, and helped me decide if this it was really the person that I wanted to learn from. Despite some background knowledge, I am always surprised by the amazing experiences that professors have when they decide to nonchalantly mention their awesomeness in class. We are truly fortunate to have such a great undergraduate faculty.

Times to Take Classes

8 a.m. Classes – The obvious thing to address first, is the dreaded 8 a.m. classes. To be honest, I think that people only find them difficult because they continue to tell themselves it is. This semester, I endured an 8am class, and it takes me an hour to get to school. Get over the “just woke up syndrome” that is often experienced by waking up earlier. Your natural body energy cycles will ensure you are primed by 8AM. In fact, because classes are curved, you have the grade advantage if you are alive and competing with a bunch of zombies.

Days off – If you are careful with class selection, and lucky with timing, it is possible to have a schedule with no Friday discussion sections, or better yet, classes that are just on Mon/Wed or Tue/Thu. For example, the core classes for UGBA105, UGBA106, and UGBA100 do not have Friday discussions, and taking those together could score you a free day each week. Oh, what I would do with an extra free day a week… probably find an internship or some way to fill up my time.

Gaps in the days – Personally, I like to have large gaps in my days at school, having classes spread between the mornings and late afternoons. On days when I am feeling great, this gives me plenty of time to get focused and knock out a few hours of studying between classes, which is especially great for last minute exam cramming. On days when I am not feeling great, this allows enough time for a nap. I have found that I can do either just as effectively with an hour and a half gap between classes.

Final thoughts/disclaimer

My opinions expressed here are limited to my own experiences. If you are a student deciding on classes, we have some great academic and career advisers that are available just for Haas students. I would recommend to always consult them if you are still undecided.

Projecting into my future after graduation, I am still using these considerations for my course selection. Which skills and in what fields should I spend my time learning, in what order makes sense to order them in relative to my short term and long term goals? Who are my teachers and mentors that I should seek out in learning how to reach my long term goals?

At Haas, you’re given the responsibility and control of your education path. So, what will your path be?

 

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What The Countries Taught Me

During the Spring of 2017, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Dublin, Ireland at Ireland’s National Theater School. This door was opened for me largely thanks to the Haas School of Business. I applied and received the Thomas Tusher Scholarship to study abroad. This scholarship is available to Haas Undergraduates and is sponsored by Mr. Tusher because of his belief in the value of an education abroad.

As I write this post, I reflect on the the fact that I made the decision to go abroad about one year ago. During my semester studying in Europe, not only did I learn in the classroom, but I also learned from the experiences I had in the 8 other countries I visited. While not in an academic setting, these experiences have influenced my worldview, and so in this post, I would like to share what a few of  these countries taught me:

Dublin, Ireland: Be Kind and It’s No Bother

My time in Ireland was largely influenced by the people I met and the theater I saw. Throughout all of these interactions, I noticed a pervading truth and genuine kindness. When acquaintances, teachers, or even the front desk receptionist at my school asked, “How are you?” or “How was your weekend?”, they really wanted to know. They weren’t interested in a cursory “good, you?” This was a genuine, 15 minute conversation. Ireland taught me to only ask if you truly want to listen and take the time to listen when you do.

Paris, France: Read and Discuss…It’s Important

During my time in Paris, I learned through a simple experience. One evening around 5pm I went to a bar just down the street from my friend’s home. As I waited for him, I read. As the evening went on, a number of people sat in the bar, ordered a drink, and read by themselves. They were not on their phones or taking pictures of their drinks, but rather, they were simply enjoying a good read. That evening, around 11 pm, I sat with my friend, and others from Japan, Brazil, and Paris and we discussed current events, the political situation in America, and topics like architecture and fashion. The simple act of discussing without phones and reading for enjoyment is a lesson I learned in Paris.

Madrid, Spain: Family is Most Important

Spain taught me that honoring family and grandparents should come before everything else. Often I feel that in America, aging is looked down upon. That society often forgets to honor and respect age and subsequently, grandparents. In Spain, meals were never eaten alone. Families gathered to listen to stories told by grandparents and held them as figureheads of families. While school and education was important, I felt as if family was the absolute priority. Being in Spain helped me reflect on who and what should be considered a priority.  
Athens, Greece: Hospitality!

Greece taught me about hospitality and relaxation. When I traveled to Greece, one of the most memorable experiences I had was a dinner in Athens. During this dinner, there was no rush. The waitress was not ushering us out after 2 hours. In fact, she would sit with a glass of wine in between taking orders and sing with the band during the evening. As the band played live music in front of us, our table, full of strangers and friends all rose to dance together. People I didn’t know joined our dance circle and let me lead the dancing line. We sat, and ate, and drank and danced and talked for over 4 hours enjoying the moment and taking our time. So did all the other families in the restaurant. Greece taught me to relax, enjoy what you have right in front of you and not rush on to the next activity.

Rome, Italy: A city can romance you

As part of my thought process while writing this post, I read over my journal entries from each country. During one of my days in Rome, I jotted down what I ate because it was so delicious.From the espresso to the mozzarella di bufala to the gelato, every meal was an experience. The city, the gardens, the food, and the pride of the people in Rome completely romanced me. I learned that streets, people, menus, gardens, and the feeling of a city can be as much of an inspiration as the study of the city itself.

While these brief stories were merely excerpts of my experiences, I would encourage you to look for the places in your life that teach you, outside of the classroom. Consider how and what you’re being taught by the people, places, and settings around you.

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Everyday is Earth Day

I hope everybody is surviving midterm season! The only thing keeping me going is Thanksgiving break. This week I want to touch on the importance of sustainability.

Sustainability can mean different things for different people. For some, it’s becoming vegan. For others it’s taking shorter showers. To me, the definition of sustainability is simple. It’s about preserving and improving the environment for future generations. Sustainability is also an issue that Haas has been working hard to address, especially with the new Chou Building! Zero Waste by 2020 is an admirable and achievable goal. HBSA also has a new committee on sustainability, led by VP Sylvia Chen which I’m also a part of – the dream team! We are working on projects that involve working with the Haas facilities team, looking at energy reports and brainstorming ways Haas events can go green. It’s an amazing new addition to the Haas student government.

But, it can be hard to stay sustainable. I think it takes a really conscious but important effort. So, I want to highlight some of my unsustainable guilty pleasures, and how I am working to mitigate them. Here is my list.  

Shop Till You Drop

I love shopping. I can shop for hours and hours without eating or using the bathroom. Some people read for fun or watch Netflix, but I go shopping. The first place I visited in San Francisco was Westfield Mall. However, this isn’t the best for the environment or my wallet. Fast fashion has led to devastating environmental impacts from generating tons of plastic and waste to demoralizing factory conditions in Bangladesh.

Sustainable Fix: Window shopping – really good for my wallet! Thrift shopping and donating your old clothes are all ways to mitigate fast fashion effects.  Also, shop at brands that are known to be environmentally conscious like Patagonia, Levi’s and Everlane.

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Starbucks and Coffee Cups

I get a pumpkin spice latte every Wednesday. Also, Starbucks has the best holiday drinks. Peppermint mocha? Gingerbread latte? Chestnut Praline latte? Sign me up for all of them, especially because of the BOGO free deals. But, with all of these drinks comes the cost of coffee cups.

Sustainable Fix: BYOC – Bring your own cup! Even though mobile ordering can save time, it’s better for the environment to get to Starbucks 5 minutes earlier to wait in line with your own cup. It can even save you money because they charge you for the smallest size to fill your cup! Also, Starbucks tumblers are even cuter than its holiday cups.

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Food in my Fridge

Grocery shopping is a must because eating out can get really expensive. I love grocery shopping especially at Trader Joes because it seems to have the best snacks. I always end up over buying and overestimating how much I’m going to eat. So, I end up with wasted food that ends up in the trash. This is quite terrible for the environment because it leads to wasted resources.

Sustainable Fix: Now, I go into grocery stores with a recipe in mind. I try to meal prep and organize my weekly meals a little bit more so I can save food. Not wasting food means not wasting the environment!

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What are you doing to be more sustainable?

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Optimizing Mornings

When was the last time you thought about your morning routine? Whether you realize it or not, you have one. Some people wake up and go straight for the coffee machine, while others go straight for the snooze button. Not everyone is a morning person but having a well-designed plan to optimize your morning can make a positive change in your life.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Most successful people have a well-designed plan for their mornings that helps get them both mentally and physically ready for the day. Billionaire John Paul deJoria, co-founder of Patrón Tequila, starts every day with a bit of meditation and reflection. Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, has a 3-hour morning routine that includes catching up on the news, communicating with his followers, and talking with family. Barack Obama wakes up at 6:45 every morning to workout, read the news, and spend time with his family.

I know what you’re thinking, not all successful people have morning routines, and not everyone with a morning routine is rich and famous. Warren Buffett isn’t waking up to at the buttcrack of dawn to drink his detox tea and meditate. Regardless, it’s something worth considering if you’re looking to make the most of every day and actually learn something in those 9AM lectures.

Some Things to Consider

Image result for morning routine memes

Avoid:

Hitting the snooze – I know it’s tempting to sleep just 5 more minutes, but trust me on this one, it does more harm than good. You set a goal of waking up at a certain time; follow through with your goal. Dedication is committing when it’s hard, not when it’s convenient. The quality of sleep that you’ll get in those extra 5-10 minutes is not worth it.

Negative thoughts – This is a general rule of thumb for living a good life, but especially in the morning. Some people wake up stressed out or anxious because they know they have a full day ahead of them. This stress or anxiety will carry on throughout the day setting you up for failure. Spend some time meditating or being grateful in the morning and it will have a profound effect on your attitude.

Social media – I am a personal advocate for this one. I avoid social media in the morning because I’ll often get trapped into scrolling down my feed or looking at the latest and greatest memes. Before I know it, I’ve wasted 30 minutes of my morning…you’ve all done it too. If you feel the need to be entertained in the morning, try keeping a book next to your bed and reach for that instead.

Must Do:

Eat a healthy breakfast – My go-to breakfast is scrambled eggs, avo toast, and greek yogurt. Its quick, easy and has lots of nutrients to feed my brain and body. I used to skip breakfast when I didn’t have time, or just grab a banana and breakfast bar out the door. This works for some, but it’s not sustainable for long periods and will eventually lead to burnout. Dave Asprey, founder of BulletProof Coffee, is a proponent of intermittent fasting, which consists of a high-fat diet in the morning to enter into ketosis (fat-burning state). It’s something worth looking into for those who don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning (and want to shed some pounds). 

Set goals for the day – I usually set goals for my day the night before. I don’t like the idea of a “to do list” because it puts too much pressure on having to do those things. Planning your day the night before also makes it a lot easier to wake up and just do it.

Exercise/ stretch – Doing something physical in the morning is a good habit. If you have a house pet, you’ll know that cats and dogs always stretch right after waking up. In fact, most of the animal kingdom stretches as part of their morning ritual. Waking up your muscles, raising your heartbeat, and getting your blood flowing increases mental acuity and keeps you sharp throughout the day. If you don’t want to go to the gym, consider biking or walking to wherever you’re going. Julius Caesar would walk 5 miles every morning as soon as he woke up!

My morning routine:

6:30AM: Wake up, take my heartbeat, and immediately make my bed. I use an app called Sleep Cycle, that I learned about from Tim Ferriss, which tracks my sleeping patterns and heartbeat in the morning. I know I’ve had a good night of sleep if my heartbeat is around 55 BPM when I wake up. My dad always taught me to start the day by making my bed because it’s an easy task to complete that makes you feel good.

6:30AM – 7:00AM: Drink a tall glass of room temperature water, review my goals for the day and meditate while I do oil pulling. Some people like to add lemon to their morning water because it boosts metabolism. I have daily goals, monthly goals, and life goals – all of which help frame my choices for the day. Something new I’ve been trying is called ‘oil pulling,’ which is an ancient Ayurvedic technique that promotes healthy teeth and gums. It takes very little effort and is the perfect excuse to just sit down and relax a bit in the morning.

7:00AM – 8:30AM: Go to the gym. I like to work out in the morning because the gym is typically empty and I don’t have to fight for the equipment. It’s also a habit I’ve developed that makes sure I actually go to the gym. My days are always packed, so mornings are the best time to fit in my exercise routine. Exercising reduces stress, increases blood flow, wakes up the body, and boosts confidence.

8:45AM – 8:50AM: Take a cold shower. Cold showers have many health benefits – increased blood circulation, boosted immunity, reduced depression, and much more. It also encourages me to get in and out of the shower as quick as possible without wasting any more time (or water).

9:00AM – 9:30AM: Chef up a big breakfast and be ready for my day no later than 10AM. I’m mentally and physically awake, I’ve worked out and excited to conquer the day!

Disclaimer: It’s traditionally recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Not everyone needs 7 hours and there are some interesting new studies that show that 4-5 hours of high-quality sleep is better than 7-8 hours of mediocre sleep. For those night-owls who are up until 2-3AM, you can have a morning routine whenever you wake up. This is just my way of trying to make the most of every day.

Improving the routine

My morning routine is not perfect, and I’m always trying to make it better. I know when I enter the workforce I’ll have to adjust my morning schedule to get to the office on time. Morning routines are not about perfection; they’re about finding a balance that’s right for you.

If you found this post helpful or if some aspects of my morning routine caught your interest and you want to know more, feel free to reach out to me. I’d love to hear if you have a morning routine and what you do to optimize your mornings!

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Your “Proficiency in Microsoft Excel” is Not Going to Cut it.

“Job Qualifications: Analytical proficiency. Able to process large amounts of quantitative data. Comfortable with statistical analysis and data visualization.”

Sorry, the “Proficient in Microsoft Excel” listed on your resume is just not going to cut it.

Jobs that are geared for business students are increasingly demanding applicants to have strong analytical skills and a data-geared mindset. Many roles that business people play are being simplified, automated, or improved by machine learning and analytical processes.

The Increasingly Data-Driven Business Skillset

Finance positions are becoming more quantitative and even automated with machine learning. Great marketers (and especially analysts) understand how their customers are segmented and how to identify customer needs with data. Data science is even pioneering development of historically qualitative and behavioral fields like human resources. Even as a manager, salesperson, or consultant, it is increasingly important to be able to communicate with the growing number of data analysts, software engineers and “numbers people” that you will encounter.

Although you might not be the one doing the data analyses, it is important to understand what data is needed for business decisions, and lead teams that include data scientists. You need to be able to speak intelligently about what does and does not make sense for specific types of business decisions and analyses.

Haas’s Evolving Curriculum

Haas and Berkeley in general continue to develop the curriculum to prepare students for this ever-changing business environment.

The core Haas analytics course, UGBA104, attempts to ingrain students with an analytical way of thinking and a set of tools to help them make better decisions across multiple business disciplines. This course, over time, has itself been increasingly changing, adding discussion topics and changing teaching methods to accommodate additional material. The problem with only teaching an analytics class like that is applicable across multiple business verticals is that there is too much information to teach in one class.

New courses for undergraduates looking to gain more analytical experience are being added, such as UGBA147: Business Analytics, which is offered next Spring. According to UGBA104 Professor Thomas Lee, there are also plans to offer an undergraduate marketing analytics course, which is currently only taught at the MBA level.

Innovative Courses Outside Haas

Students looking to gain even more experience can look outside of Haas. The Industrial Engineering and Operations Research department, offers many interesting data science and entrepreneurship courses, such as “Machine Learning and Data Analytics,” which I am taking this semester. Although it is a bit tough and not specifically geared for business, I thoroughly enjoy the course. Similar courses can be found in the statistics department. A new Data Science major is also planned to be available within the year as well, for interested students. Introductory courses, such as Data 8 and DS100 are already available.

The problem is that much of the material is not directly related to what the average business student will need to know how to do. Methods learned in these classes have countless applications in business, but require students to make the connection or do tangential readings. Moreover, Haas graduates are not typically going to be the ones building complex models. What is important is that students understand the vocabulary, opportunities, and limitations of what is possible in data.

You can find more business-related courses taught on websites such as Coursera, which offers courses from universities and organizations from around the world. For example, you can take a “Strategic Business Analytics” course, which is offered from Accenture and ESSEC Business School. The website, as well as numerous others on the internet also offers courses that teach specific tools like SQL and Tableau, which are widely used by companies today.

Moving Forward…

Data and business go hand in hand. The purpose of a business is to solve problems. Data is essential in identifying problems, prioritizing among problems, creating solutions, and evaluate decisions. When you can understand data, you can make quicker, and more confident decisions. There will always be an increasing demand for those who can interpret, analyze and communicate data in an effective manner. Do not become obsolete!

On a final note, it is probably best to not restrict the need for understanding data to just business decisions. The future of humanity is a very complex mix of mind and machine, of which we are just starting to explore. An ability to look at different situations through a highly analytical lens is an increasingly important way of thinking. Being students at Berkeley, we are in such an opportune position to gain these skills and get ahead of the curve.

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Haas School of Business & Track and Field

On the lineup for Haas’ Homecoming Weekend Schedule of Events was Professor Stephen Etter’s lecture. His talk in Anderson Auditorium was titled, “Students or Athletes, Can You Be Both.”

As a Student-Athlete studying at Haas and a Heptathlete on the women’s track and field team, I found this talk particularly interesting. Around the same time as Homecoming weekend, my track and field coach, Nick Newman, MS, published an article called  “Developing the Multi-Event Athlete.” My thoughts about Professor Etter’s talk coupled with my opinions on this article, helped me develop this post.

I think it is particularly relevant in a number of ways: Firstly, it reinforces the point that Professor Etter made as part of his talk- that it is possible to be a Student-Athlete at Haas. Secondly, it gives you, the reader, a unique glance into the world of Track and Field from a psychological standpoint. Thirdly, I believe it is valuable in the sense that it will encourage you to look more deeply into the purposes of your extracurricular activities. We all have passions that help inform and contribute to our business education. My hope is that by reading a bit about mine in this article, you will consider the places in your life that help inform and guide your business school education.

So before I begin, I’ll start with a bit of background. The multi events in track and field include the decathlon, heptathlon, and pentathlon. Each of these events include some combination of sprinting, hurdling, jumping, and throwing (along with a few others). As with any athletic endeavor, there is an entire science dedicated to the psychology behind the sport. But, the nature of the multi-events requires a unique approach to training. As such, my coach Nick Newman, MS recently published an article that includes a fascinating section titled, “Recommendations for Psychological Preparation.”As I was reading it, my mind immediately drew parallels between the psychological preparation for a multi-event and my studies at Haas.

Here is the link to that article for your reference: Developing the Multi-Event Athlete

Coach Newman’s first assertion was that, “Psychological adaptability- the ability to re-evaluate, re-focus, and re-energize almost instantaneously- is an essential attribute of a multi-event athlete”

During open event competitions, often coaches will intentionally enter athletes in closely scheduled events to test and develop this quality of re-focusing. During my sophomore year season, I ran the 100 meter hurdles almost immediately before throwing the javelin. The finish line of this event was directly next to the throwing runway. As soon as I cleared the last hurdle and crossed the finish line, I kept a jogging pace, checked into javelin, changed spikes, and threw my first attempt in less than 90 seconds. This ability to shift mindset and focus at a high level is not dissimilar to the way in which entrepreneurs  must re-focus attention when attempting to raise initial capital. In NPR’s edition of “How I Built This” featuring Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx, this skill of re-focusing direction is highlighted. When Blakely was pitching her idea to the buying offices of Neiman Marcus, she recognized that her chances were waning. After that realization and in an instant, she refocused her attention and adapted to her audience. She asked Neiman Marcus’ female representative to accompany her to the bathroom so that she could physically show her how Spanx worked. This immediate and vital refocusing of energy at a high level paid off. She convinced her audience and was allowed to initially introduce her products in seven stores.

“Intentionally frustrating sessions can be useful.”

Coach Newman will often set up hurdle practice to include random hurdle heights and spacing. He will train us using suboptimal sessions and purposely provide limited coaching feedback. This method forces athletes to adapt and not merely rely on physical ability.

Recently, during one of my hurdle practices, Coach Newman intentionally set the hurdles at a sub-optimal length and spacing. Without much consideration I attempted to run this set of hurdles as I had done all the others. My rhythm and timing was drastically off. I dodged the hurdle and did not successfully complete the set. Being in the frame of mind that I was, I looked at my coach with frustration. No athlete wants to dodge a hurdle, especially in hurdle practice. He looked back and said simply, “It’s okay, I wanted to see what you would do.”

It was not until after I read his article that I understood that he was testing me, not only physically but mentally and strategically. We readjusted the hurdles. I readjusted my approach pattern and successfully completed the next set. As I write this article, my mind is filled with examples from my Haas education that directly relate to this experience. Consider Krystal Thomas’ UGBA 100 class. During the first “memo” assignment, we were given a set of instructions. We turned in the assignment. Even if we followed the instructions to a tee, we received feedback that included markdowns. As class rep for this class, I noticed a large part of the feedback was rooted in student frustration. Because we weren’t given enough instruction, we couldn’t get the ideal grades. Professor Thomas explained her reasoning. In the real world, we aren’t given step by step instructions. Just like the sub-optimal hurdle spacing, our professors are intentionally challenging and frustrating us. They want us to help craft our own instructions and re-adjust our thought-patterns.

Athletes should be ready to implement proven, personal coping strategies. Creating a culture of self-reflection … helps manifest this.”

After returning from a semester abroad, Coach Newman and I had a meeting. We discussed my “why”- that is, the reasoning behind why I wanted to pursue training for the heptathlon. He provided me with honest feedback and we set a path to move forward. I believe that this process of self reflection should be implemented regularly. Whether you are considering applying to Haas, beginning a job, taking a class, or planning your next career step, it is vital to self reflect and define your personal “why.”   

While Coach Newman’s article included a number of other fascinating points, these three connected most strongly with my studies at Haas. I would encourage you to consider the ways in which your extracurriculars help inform and improve your work as a business student.

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