“Know Thyself”

“Know Thyself.” My time abroad has provided me with the necessary change in perspective to reflect on this phrase. In doing so, I have thought about one specific area of development that runs through every aspect of my life.

Delayed Satisfaction.

The idea of this is often frustrating. We, as business students, do not like to work without the notion of immediate results. But, could this delay actually be a good thing? Here are a few areas in my life where I have identified the value of delayed satisfaction. I hope that this reflection will allow you, reader searching for immediate results, to take the time to reflect on your own life. Maybe, to determine where you seek immediate satisfaction. Hopefully, to figure out how delayed satisfaction is actually valuable to you.

Track and Field:

As a student-athlete, I have continually experienced long periods of delayed satisfaction. It has helped me develop strength. During weekend training, my coach will often check in and ask about the state of our bodies. Usually, following a week of practice, I am honest and say that I feel beat.  He accepts, understands, and then we begin warm-up. Intervals come next. We are coached to push far over our level of comfort. These practices, for me, are sometimes frustrating. I, as an athlete, do not feel springy or fast or fresh. But I realize now that I am not meant to. These practices are about working in a state of discomfort in order to develop mental strength. They are not about immediate reward. I have had to learn that the reward for mental strength may not come in the next day or next month. But the value of this delayed satisfaction lies in the process. You develop the strength to practice when you don’t want to, the strength to push when you think you can’t, and the strength to compete in uncomfortable circumstances.

Haas School of Business (UGBA 100):

As a class representative for UGBA 100, I learned that delayed satisfaction is valuable training for the professional world. In this class, we were often given an assignment that had minimal direction. Yes, we knew the length, the font, and the margin requirements. We knew the ultimate goal but were unclear about how to get there. And…that was the assignment. Figure out how to get from point A to “successful pitch.” At first, I was frustrated. I asked for more instruction, more details, what exactly do I need? Near the middle of the semester, our teacher explained that there is value to be found in working “in the dark.” Working to produce a finalized, quality assignment without a blueprint. That in the working world, we will not be directed around every turn. There will be decisions we need to make for ourselves. This practice of working without robotic delivery, strengthens our confidence in our instincts as educated students.

Study Abroad at The National Theater School of Ireland:

Through studying conservatory acting, I have learned that delayed satisfaction is valuable due to the process it forces. That is, the process without immediate result. A large part of my curriculum in Ireland requires memorization. From Shakespeare sonnets (Sonnet 137) to Greek speeches (Antigone) to plays (Othello), I have had to memorize countless lines. The process of memorization involves a huge amount of delayed satisfaction. True memorization, for me, is about repetition. Memorize. Say the lines in a quiet room, say them with a beat, sing them, say them while running, say them in an elevator, say them while trying to listen to your favorite song. The process is long and frankly, it is often irritating. Often, the point of it is to put yourself in situations of mental or physical stress in order to see if the lines are truly memorized. The value is finally recognized in performance, on stage, impacting an audience. The lines are clear, the groundwork is laid, and the process pays off.

So, I know, this is my reflection, my view of delayed satisfaction. I realize that my experiences may not resonate directly with yours. I encourage you, reader still looking for immediate results,  to think of areas in your life where you have felt frustrated with a process. Where you have been  frustrated by the time it took. Search for the strength you’re building, how this might help you in the future, and what you are gaining from laying the groundwork. There is often value in delaying satisfaction, we just need to find it.

Make sure to subscribe at the top right to stay updated on life at Haas!

You’re Not a “Haas-hole”

IMG_1233

People aren’t born with corruption as their goal in life, but rather people grow and develop aspirations, and sometimes fall short of their moral compass along the way. I want to share my story, where I went through and continue to go through the process of balancing my dreams with my ethical values.

Throughout my life, I have been taught to act with integrity and consideration for others. As a business student, I am constantly reflecting on my career goals, making sure my intentions and actions are in line with my moral compass and ethics.

The “Haas-Hole”

From an outsider’s perspective, the term “Haas-hole” comes to mind. People feel that business students’ intentions are corrupt, because we are “learning to make money”, rather than a technical skill. However, this mindset fails to grasp everything the term “business” encompasses. Yes, in order for a for-profit business to survive, profits are necessary. But, there is so much more that happens before profits are realized.  Businesses have the potential to impact thousands, if not millions, of lives every day. Employees, customers, influencers, suppliers, distributors, shareholders – these are all people who are touched both directly and indirectly by the role businesses play in society. Moreover, businesses have significant power, where their actions can either benefit or hurt stakeholders. Though my intentions are to act with integrity and consideration for others, is that really enough? Or do I need to consider the repercussions of my actions?

The Beginning

Ever since I was the age of six, I have had a love for business. This sounds crazy, right? You’re probably thinking, “how on earth could a six-year old possibly like, let alone love, business?” It all started in my home. My younger brother and I had converted our bedrooms into operating businesses. Some days it was a 5-star restaurant, and other days it was a luxury day spa, where we charged our parents and grandparents reasonable prices, of course. Throughout high school, I continuously exercised my creative desires, organizing school dances and other events. I’d show up at 5AM just to start lining the entire school with posters and decorations in order to build spirit and unity amongst our campus community. And somewhere in between making menus for my restaurant and making signs for high school dances, I found my love for marketing.

Marketing

In my opinion, marketing is one of the fastest changing aspects of business. The ways people interact with products are constantly shifting. In the 1920’s, people would sit by the radio in order to receive information. By the 1950’s, television ads had become the next big thing. Then came the online banner ads. And now, you are exposed to product promotions on Instagram and Snapchat. Cool, so what’s the point? My point is this. Marketing is so much more than just advertising products or services. Marketing captures the art in which people communicate with each other and our surrounding environment. It’s the way businesses connect and engage with society. Sure, radio, television, internet and social media ads are all trying to sell you something, but it’s the “why” that is most intriguing to me. Marketers have to be knowledgeable of the relevant communication outlets in order to do their job effectively. Coming up with a message is easy. It’s coming up with a message that people will resonate with that’s difficult. This includes the way people are exposed to the message. Different audiences engage with different technologies and platforms at different times and places, so it is important to capture them appropriately. Now with that said, I have to ask myself, “will pursuing a career in marketing allow me to continue acting with my core values in mind?”

Career Goals and Ethics

Objectively speaking, marketing involves a variety of processes that ultimately attempt to create a demand for a product or service. However, is this really ethical? How much “stuff” do people really need. Do people really need that Kate Spade purse? Or do people really need five different colors of Converse shoes? I’m a person who considers my ethics and moral compass in every decision I make. As such, this was a conversation that I commonly had during interviews. My passion for marketing was obvious, but could it satisfy my need to make a positive contribution to society? Could I still pursue a career in marketing, while staying true to my beliefs about what I feel is right and wrong? My answer is yes, conditional to the following:

  • I believe in the company’s mission statement
  • I believe in the product and/or service the company is offering/selling
  • The company is genuine, meaning anything the company portrays itself as to the public eye is 100% accurate
  • As a member of the marketing team, I will never lie to consumers (i.e. products that consumers do not need will not be expressed as such)

Though this list is quite general and brief, it has helped me to find an amazing opportunity, where I feel I do not have to compromise on my career aspirations or personal values. And trust me, there is no better feeling than waking up to do something you love, while feeling good about doing it. So, just because you’re majoring in business, it doesn’t mean you’re an unethical person. You’re not a “Haas-hole”, despite outsiders’ negative perspectives. You’re allowed to follow your career interests and passions, while following your ethical values. Hopefully my story and thought process can help you to figure out how your aspirations will or will not align with your moral compass.

Make sure to subscribe at the top right to stay updated on life at Haas!

Racial Equity@Haas: Core Professor – Krystal Thomas (UGBA 100)

Guest Post Written by Naayl Kazmi.

This Racial Equity@Haas blog series written by three Haas students (Charlie James, Alankrita Dayal, and Naayl Kazmi) is providing the space for us to meet our core principles of being Students Always, Beyond Ourselves, and Questioning the Status Quo by opening the conversation on race, how it manifests in business, and its broader implications. We’re asking Four questions to members of the Haas community in order to illuminate how racial equity in business and Haas is conceived and to stir an open conversation.

Krystal Jalene Thomas is a lecturer with the undergraduate program at UC Berkeley – Haas, and an alumna from 1994. Her professional experiences range from change management consulting with Accenture, to strategic marketing, to media, where she helms her own content development and production company, Pooka Ventures. Professor Thomas has a BS/BA from UC Berkeley and an MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Responses have been abridged for length and clarity.

Q1) What is racial equity to you?

“Racial equity as a whole is hope, a goal. Part of the problem is that we, as a society, don’t have a common sense of what is equal.  That’s why we’re having this discussion to begin with.

Personally, I think the promise of racial equity is what MLK talked about – the moment where all people will be ‘judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.’  I don’t want to be solely defined by race, gender, or other labels we are so quick to impose. I’d rather be seen for my contributions, my humanity, my actions, my spirit. Labels reduce individuality to stereotypes. Once typed, you’re left with one of two positions:  assume the stereotype or fight the stereotype. Either way, a typed person never gets a fair chance to fully express who they are in the world. So, to sum up – I see racial equity as an abstract concept, best expressed in Dr. King’s hope of an equity that transcends superficial markers.”

Q2) In your perception, how is Haas on matters of racial equity?

“As a student at Cal in the 90’s, the diversity of the campus was the most transformative aspect of my college experience. I used to say it was like ‘going to Howard in the middle of Harvard’. The numbers spoke for themselves back then: around 15% Asian (depending on how you define Asian), 8% African American, 4-6% Latinx, and international students comprising 25% of the student body. I have friends now in Uruguay, because I met someone from that tiny South American country back in undergrad. So, it hurts my heart as a professional faculty member today to not see that kind of representation, or to see certain populations be the only face in class. At my time at Haas, I was never the only African American student in any class. The reason it hurts my heart is because people come to Berkeley, specifically, on a journey to figure out who they are and define themselves as individuals. You can’t fully walk that path if you’re not exposed to the world you are defining yourself in.

In my own life, I was one of 13 African Americans in a high school of 3200 in Huntington Beach, California.  During that time in my life, I always felt out of place because I was constantly considered an exception. In school, I was ‘the articulate black girl’ but my extended family felt I ‘acted too white.’ Berkeley was the first place I ever felt like a whole person. And then to discover courses like African American Studies 1A, my world just opened. I would’ve never had that opportunity if I hadn’t been at Berkeley when Professor Roy Thomas could call up Angela Davis and say ‘Hey, come talk to my class!’ – those were the kind of Berkeley experiences that shaped me. As the daughter of an international businessman, I spoke multiple languages. So, the opportunity to just go hang out in a Chicano class – and hear from my Latinx contemporaries about the politics of language, for example, wouldn’t have happened at any other college. Today, I try my best to bring diverse perspectives back into the classroom to pay forward the Berkeley experience.

Moving back to your question in regards to Haas, many of those shaping the vision of the undergraduate program today were connected to Berkeley in the 90’s and saw the impact of Prop 209.  I’m very confident in Haas leadership because it’s made of individuals who understand how we’ve evolved. We can’t solve a racial equity problem, as you’re terming it, without understanding how we got there. Programs crafted by leaders like Dr. Erika Walker, or Dean Lyons are rethinking what it means to be diverse. Consider a simple act like the defining four principles of Haas. Such an innovative move cultivates the seeds for emphasizing individuality, content, and character, allowing for a more holistic assessment of the kinds of people associated with Haas without discrediting the experiences shaped by anyone’s gender, race, age or socioeconomic status.

Like many alumna from my era, I held emotional scars from racial debates impacting California educational policies. I distinctly remember an incident at Berkeley, when an Asian male student told me that I’d likely taken the place of his more qualified Asian friend because of affirmative action. But when I actually listed my accomplishments and qualifications from high school, his response was like ‘oh, well maybe you do belong here.’  I share this not to debate affirmative action or Prop 209, but more to express the emotional impacts of policy. For many of us, it felt like they didn’t want us here – that we hadn’t earned the right to be here. For quite a few years after graduation, my attitude towards Berkeley was – ‘Don’t call me for money, don’t reach out for my support; if you don’t believe in my value, then – deuces!’  It was my best friend from Cal, also an African American who said to me, ‘if you feel that strongly about it, go back and work to change things.’ So, when you talk about how things are today, you can’t ignore the emotional impacts. Our Haas leadership today recognizes the pain of that period and is demonstrably committed to creating a culture where everyone is respected and belongs.”

Q3) How do you find racial equity important to business? 

“Businesses are microcosms of the society and the environments they operate in. Today’s world is more global and connected than ever before. To stay competitive, businesses have to be exposed to diverse environments and ways of thinking.  Race, gender, and age are elements that form our reality, and shape our perspectives as individuals. Differentiation in product, brand, positioning, culture, and market comes from distinct perspectives. Native understanding of problems, gaps and opportunities generate stronger business solutions.  You can’t grow by staying static, or unearth the next product or disruption if everyone in an organization thinks the same way or shares only one similar experience. In short, companies that reflect the world they serve, win.”

Q4) Parting thoughts?

“As a school and a workplace, Berkeley is one of the most committed organizations to diversity I’ve ever encountered. Although discussions about this topic can be challenging, Berkeley and Haas remain committed to having the conversations, which is half the battle. In fact, I think a role of Cal in the world is to talk about these kinds of things and spark meaningful dialogue.

The movements on this campus are often decades ahead of the mainstream zeitgeist, from the civil rights and free speech movement, to sexual identity and gender equity, to the myriad of conversations happening today. Diversity, of all kinds, is something people care about here, and that authentic spirit creates a culture where the fullest expression of personal identity has a chance to be realized.”

Thank you.

 

 

Building Community with NextGen Consulting

There’s a new consulting club at Berkeley! What makes this club different from other consulting groups? Their mantra says it’s “inclusivity” and “transparency” – something that seemed to resonate with its impressive 70+ student membership pool, recruited in just its initial launch this semester! They’re calling it “NextGen Consulting,” and they’re striving to question the status quo of on campus business culture. To learn more about NextGen, we have with us Daniel Sheperd, the Executive Vice President and one of the seven founding members.

Let’s start with why your team decided to create NextGen Consulting?

FullSizeRender
Daniel Shepard. Haas Undergraduate. NGC Founder. Life Changer.

D. Shepard – We created NextGen because we saw a gap between student needs and current consulting club culture at Berkeley. Although there are a ton of consulting clubs, we saw that overall there is a lack of access for those who are interested in the industry, but currently have no experience. The design of the current system seeks the “best of the best” candidates, which results in familiar faces in club leadership and hundreds of capable applicants out of the picture. This rejection can have career implications too–if people aren’t able to get into business clubs as a student, it is nearly impossible for them to land an interview in the real world. This culture also reinforces the common “Snake” narrative on campus, which has its own deep, ulterior effects on Haas students. We’ve found a way to deliver the consulting experience to everyone, because we know that there is a lot more impact possible than what is currently out there.

 

 When starting this new organization, was it challenging competing for clients or members against more entrenched business clubs?

D. Shepard – It’s difficult to measure whether or not other clubs are having an impact on our ability to land clients. And while we do have “traditional” clients like the clubs you mentioned, we focus more on our own NextGen projects, where we reverse the traditional process and proactively reach out to companies after we decide to work on a problem they already have. Thinking about the overall student candidate pool, there doesn’t seem to be a need to compete since there is so much demand out there. This semester was our soft launch and we only expected about 20 people–but then we turned around and had 80 applicants! We’ll find out next semester during our hard launch whether or not there is some measurable competition between us and other business clubs.

So the demand is there, is NexGen using it to focus more on building client relationships or student development?

ngc1
NextGen founders seen building community one meeting at a time!

D. Shepard – While we do take pride in the NextGen process and the work we do; we feel that there is a much more important mission in developing our members to be ready for the business world. We help them by giving everyone Analyst-level training, and the opportunity to work on a NextGen project. Beyond that, we have a rotation of professional development events like Excel training, networking/resume workshops, and career panels. Also, we try to open these events up to non-members (if they are willing to pay a fee), so that everyone can have access to this experience.

How else does NextGen differ from other consulting groups?  Like through culture for example?

D. Shepard – That is a dense topic! The one thing I’ll say about other consulting clubs is that, objectively, there is a current perception of exclusivity and pretentiousness that has given business and Haas a bad reputation (e.g. Snakes). This environment has resulted in the inherent (and understandable) partiality to familiar faces in the recruiting process, and a lack of willingness to change when things are already going so well. As founders we recognized this problem, and made inclusivity and transparency  the core values of what we believe in as an organization. Again, thinking about the current business club culture—it doesn’t have to be this way!

Is there anything you want people to know about NextGen?

D. Shepard – We’d just like to emphasize that we are not here to throw salt at anyone. Knowing that quite literally all Cal students are very capable individuals, we simply disagree with how business is currently being done on campus. Part of our long-term mission is to eliminate the negative view of business on campus while making it more positive and accessible for everyone. We are working with (not against) other clubs to hopefully make this vision a reality!

Thanks a lot for your time today Daniel and for sharing your team’s perspective on inclusivity and transparency! NextGen is sure to set a great example to future students for how an organization can exude several of the Haas pillars while also giving back to the student community!

Make sure to subscribe at the top right to stay updated on life at Haas!

So you want to be an investment banker? (Or accountant, or consultant)?

As the summer nears, many juniors at Haas are beginning to worry about their summer internship and how to do well. I know there were many instances in which I freaked out before last summer, and I’m sure many of you have the same questions:

How do I get an offer? Are the hours as long as people make them out to be? Am I going to sleep under my desk? Are people going to be mean to me?

So, I thought I would shed some light on my summer internship experience – keep in mind that because I did banking, this will be more relevant to ABC (accounting/banking/consulting) internships, but I think all of these tips can be applied to any job! Here are what I think are the few most important things you should keep in mind going into this summer:

  1. Get the offer.

Your job this summer is to get a return offer. There are a few reasons why this is true. First, if you decide that you want to continue doing investment banking, or consulting, or accounting after graduation – then you will have a job lined up one year in advance. That is an amazing proposition, and will make your senior year an absolute blast.

However, beyond that, getting offer is crucial to proving to future employers that you performed well enough that a company wanted to hire you back. Remember, the internship is essentially a 2-month interview. If you don’t get the offer, it signals to future employers that perhaps there was something wrong with your work quality, or that you simply did not perform well – that’s definitely something you want to avoid! Getting an offer, even if you decide you want to work somewhere else after graduation, is highly important.

  1. The little things matter.

This is so cliché. But it’s absolutely, 100% true. Being on time, being presentable, communicating effectively. These are the things that will get you an offer. You were hired because you are a good culture fit for the firm, and because they believed that you were capable of doing the work. And at most firms, the offer is yours to lose. However, if you become known as the “habitually late” intern, or are a poor communicator and your boss has to hunt you down for his work, then you will surely not receive a great review for your internship.

Over-communicate. Ask your boss if there is a hard deadline when they give you an assignment. ALWAYS take notes when they are explaining a project or task to you. And be on time – I cannot stress punctuality enough.

  1. Relationships matter.

People don’t believe me when I say that being a good culture fit is equally as important as being a good worker. At Berkeley, you already know how competitive it is. Most of your peers are capable of doing the work of an investment banking analyst, or an entry level consultant. At the end of the internship, your colleagues are going to sit in a room together and decide whether you should return for a full-time position. It will surely reflect well on you if:

  1. Everyone in the office knows you because you’ve worked with them/grabbed coffee with them/had a friendly conversation with them
  2. People in the office genuinely like you

Therefore, make sure that you talk to your co-workers! Don’t bury yourself in your work all the time. Walk around the office, ask people to grab coffee, ask questions, and try to make friends among your intern class and your colleagues. It will not only make your experience more enjoyable, but also help you come home with that offer.

And at the end of the day, remember that this is just an internship, and the path to a return offer shouldn’t be ambiguous. As long as you are diligent, communicative, and friendly, it should be yours.

Good luck everyone!

Racial Equity@Haas: Dean – Richard Lyons

This Racial Equity@Haas blog series written by three Haas students (Charlie James, Alankrita Dayal, and Naayl Kazmi) is providing the space for us to meet our core principles of being Students Always, going Beyond Ourselves, and Questioning the Status Quo by advancing the conversation on race, how it manifests in business, and its broader implications. We’re asking Four questions to members of the Haas community to illuminate how racial equity in business and Haas is conceived and to stir an open conversation.

Q1) What is Racial Equity to You?

“When we think about all people being created equal, which in this country is sort of line one, what does that mean in terms of justice societally, how we think about, and how we organize the society? When I first read your question, the actual thought that came to mind was from a Bob Marley song where he sings, ‘Until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes.’ Phrases like that I think help us to understand what racial equity is, which is recognizing that all people are created equal; it’s actually hard to find somebody who disagrees with that phrase. Racial equity is also about recognizing that implicit bias is all around us, which it is if we’re going to be honest. The ideal of the color of one’s skin having no more significance than the color of one’s eyes is what we’re shooting for.”

Q2) How do you find Racial Equity Important to Business?

“This is a really big question. I’m going to take this one back to first principles in asking, ‘What problem is business trying to solve?’ Organizations, companies succeed in this economy not by being the same as other organizations. They succeed by being usefully different. When they are the same, they don’t last very long; so if you are a leader of an organization, or designing one, or just thinking about what fit organizations look like in an evolutionary sense, you need them to produce this useful differentness faster. How do they become usefully different faster? You don’t become usefully different faster by hiring a bunch of like-minded people and putting them in a room and hoping that you’ll get a different, creative solution. That’s not the right way to do it. This isn’t about race per se; it’s about making sure that different perspectives — that people coming at different opportunities or challenges from different angles — is the way you get great solutions. It’s really non-discretionary. You have to do those things and there’s research that backs that. The most fundamental value-creating thing that groups, organizations, people in the business world do is to become usefully different faster, and race plays — as other elements of difference do — a fundamental role. Another element of that is people: if consumers can’t see representations of themselves in the organizations they do business with, they’re going to be less likely to do business with them. We’re getting more and more of that sentiment, and that’s a trend I believe will continue. The economic pain of not running business this way is going up, and that’s a good thing.”

Q3) In Your Perception, How is Haas on Racial Equity?

“I think modern institutions of all kinds have a long way to go if we’re going to be honest. That’s a very general statement, but I believe it to be true. To give you a small example, we were talking about a case that one of our faculty teaches; we actually got together, the tenured faculty at Berkeley-Haas got together for an hour and a half about three weeks ago, and the topic was race and gender in the classroom. How do we manage those discussions and how do we get better at having those conversations? Because students want it, they deserve it, and it’s hard. So it was peer-to-peer, tough topic, let’s have the conversation. One of the examples that was used in that session – one of the faculty members in the discussion said, ‘I teach a case where one of the protagonists is African American,’ and for that protagonist there was a little section, like three sentences, where there is a group or club or an affinity group of black Americans in that company that would get together for various things. The case has this protagonist going to another meeting with some of these other folks who they just had a prior meeting with, but they felt uncomfortable walking through the lobbies as a group of black men and women. Some took the elevator, some took the staircase, they distributed themselves. If you are white, that idea never crosses your mind. The faculty member said, ‘The first time I taught it, I didn’t discuss that, and the next time I taught it, I raised it, and somebody said I feel that way in my company today.’ (This was a case that might’ve been ten years ago.) Then somebody else in the class said, ‘I feel that way at Haas.’ You have a conversation like that and the scales come down off your eyes; you hear people say that, chills down your spine, and you say, ‘thank you for saying that ‘cause I don’t see that.’ The person wasn’t saying that Haas is a massively discriminatory place. It was just a thought that enters your mind if you’re from one of those identity groups and people not from one of those identity groups don’t ever have to think that way; but we need to know that other people do and that it’s natural.

Long answer to a good question, but if you asked me about specific improvements, I’d add that we joined the Consortium for graduate management education, which basically doubled the percentage of people of color in our full-time MBA program. In the time of my deanship, we added about a million and a half dollars a year for fellowships that went into the Consortium, but that’s just money; there are many other things you have to do. We launched for undergraduates something called SIEML (Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders) with five other UC business schools (UC has 10 campuses but 6 business schools), and all of the students in the first class or two in the program were all from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Now there are HSIs (Hispanic Serving Institution) and others involved, but the focus was HBCUs initially. The idea was that these were undergrads at HBCUs, Freshmen and Sophomores who were not business majors, and we were introducing them both to business and the UC system, hopefully to get them to choose to come to California to get an MBA. It was valuable in its own right, but part of what we hoped to do was to open the pool even wider for our own schools. Anyways, that’s one initiative, and joining the Consortium is one initiative. When you add it all up, I believe that we’re very clearly more intentional now than we were, 10, 15, 20 years ago, and we still have further to go.”

Q4) Please Add a Personal Anecdote on Racial Equity.

“There are two quick ones that I’ll offer. One is of when I first became acting Dean for one year before becoming the Dean officially. The prior Dean — absolutely terrific person and Dean — he and I had different views on Proposition 209 (amended to the California Constitution in 1996 to prohibit public institutions from showing any preference for anybody based on race, sex, or ethnicity) in a particular way, on what we call Affinity Calling Programs. If we’ve admitted an African American to our undergraduate program or to our MBA program, or anyone from an under-represented group, we would have somebody from that same identity group who’s a current student call that person and say, ‘you’ve got to come,’ if there’s still a choice on the table. That’s part of our recruiting effort. My predecessor again, outstanding man, he felt that the Affinity Calling Program was inconsistent with Proposition 209 and he didn’t feel comfortable doing it. When I became acting Dean, I looked at that and said at worst, that’s in a grey area, but it’s a very light shade of grey, so I said, ‘I’m re-instituting the Affinity Calling Program.’ I felt it was in this institution’s and in California’s best interest  — you’ve got to make the call; if you have a point-of-view, you’re the Dean, what are you going to do? I came in, I changed it. Anyways, that’s anecdote number one.

Number two, I grew up in the Bay Area, Los Altos, and I came to Berkeley as an undergrad. The high school that I went to, Los Altos High School, was a public high school, but suburban in a relatively affluent community. There was one African American in my class of four hundred. I grew up in that environment; I didn’t know how skewed that was. She, Joanne, was a friend of mine; we did stuff together, but you don’t realize until your world widens sometimes just how narrow your prior world was; and then you come to Berkeley and then your world widens and you start to realize, ‘Wow, in some dimensions I had it about right, but in this dimension there was a lot of stuff I didn’t see.’ That’s one of those moments when you kind of reflect on, ‘Alright, I have some updating to do; I have some seeing to do,’ and so that was one of the things I sometimes mention when people talk about having honest conversations about race. I realized that I come from a history where this is not a natural conversation, and I completely agree that we need to have the conversation.”

Accounting, Banking, Consulting, and … Conservatory Acting?

When I say that I am double majoring in Business and Theater, my words are usually met with confusion and a number of questions. Namely, “Why?”, “How?”, or even “Really?” Realistically, I’m not surprised. This unlikely duo seems, on the surface, to be wildly unrelated. It is true, that Business and Theater have a number of striking differences ( I don’t need to tell you that), but it is also true that there are a number of ways in which these two subjects connect.

Studying at Haas and at Ireland’s National Theater School, the Gaiety School of Acting, has allowed me to recognize how these vastly different realms collide. Here are a few ways in which my studies in Theater have helped me develop skills for the business world.

Reading people

The success of any business endeavor relies heavily on team dynamics. Consider Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks or Henry Ford and Clarence Avery. These teams were successful largely because of the way their members connected. On a smaller scale, think about group projects in UGBA 100. You make your first choices about success or failure when you pick your group. On a larger scale, think about starting your own business. Your initial success will be highly dependent on the way in which you and your co-founders work.  As such, reading people is a skill that I have learned is vital in business. Being able to distinguish sincerity from insincerity or flattery from honesty is integral to picking partners. As existential as it may sound, studying conservatory theater has taught me new ways to read people. By studying film acting, I have learned to identify how and when people lie. By participating in movement classes, I can recognize the importance of breath patterns as they relate to emotion. Moreover, by practicing improvisation, I have learned to analyze eye contact in order to determine intentions. Yes, right now, I am using my skills to better inform my characters and my acting style, but these skills are applicable in every situation in which it is integral to read people.

Targeting your audience

In my first week of drama school, my ensemble and I studied theater of clown. “The Clown” as we know it is meant to entertain. But the clown also does much more. The clown is meant to represent all facets of a human being:  good, bad, stunning, and ugly. On stage, the clown receives signals and energy from the audience to inform his or her performance. As such, the clown must constantly be in tune with the audience’s reaction to their performance. If the audience seems disconnected or uninterested, it is up to the clown to edit their approach in order to engage the audience. The same goes for any investment pitch, job interview, or group presentation. If your audience (teacher, class, or investor) is disconnected, it is your job to recognize, reset, and retry.

Being Creative

Want to be an entrepreneur? One of the keys to success is creativity. Haas encourages us as students to challenge standards because we aspire to improve our creative and entrepreneurial brains. When I came to drama school, my brain was challenged in a completely different way. In one class called “Manifesto” where students are encouraged to create their own art, we were given an assignment. It wasn’t the usual problem set or product pitch but rather, the prompt read “Make me feel something.” Pause. What? I could use any art form I desired (dance, singing, or poetry) and my art installation had to operate for 15 minutes. That was all. This work was something that stretched my mind in emotional, artistic, and generally unusual ways. I know that I can incorporate these aspects into my business education. From marketing to how I pitch ideas, these activities in creativity will positively inform business experience.

So I know that you as a reader may not study conservatory acting or even anything in that realm. But, I do believe that there are ways in which your interests outside of business can influence your Haas experience. I hope this post brings your attention to the connection between these two seemingly unconnected areas and encourages you to explore these three basic skills in the way that best suits you.

Make sure to subscribe at the top right to stay updated on life at Haas!