Haas Sponsored Fun: The Berkeley Group: Consultants for the Social Sector

Every month the Haas Undergraduate Blog and Haas Sponsored organizations will bring you new insights about the social atmosphere at the Haas School. You’ll hear about what it’s like to be part of the many organizations on campus and what great events they host.

This week’s article is brought to you by Jodi So of The Berkeley Group.

I have a confession to make. I was late to my first team meeting as a new consultant with The Berkeley Group.

I remember the incident clearly: my project leader had scheduled the meeting for 5 PM in Main Stacks, and I had just left my Southside apartment at 5:07 PM (for reasons that may or may not be related to an ill-timed afternoon nap). As I sprinted toward campus, I felt both simultaneously excited (I’m finally starting work as a consultant with The Berkeley Group!) and apprehensive (Oh my GOD I’m so late) about meeting my team.

My primary feeling, however, was one of dread. Business majors are incredibly punctual people and, as I ran towards Main Stacks, I began to fear that I would be unceremoniously booted out of The Berkeley Group for deviating from the norms of business-student culture. I am, after all, a Molecular and Cell Biology and English double major, a far cry from the suit-wearing, spreadsheet-wielding undergraduate Haas student.

It came as a great surprise, then, when I finally arrived at that eventful first project meeting (at 5:19 PM, no less) and discovered that my colleagues were also not business majors. Instead, the team that I would come to know and love over the course of our semester-long consulting project had an eclectic mix of academic interests, including Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Economics, and Bioengineering.

This broad mixture of academic backgrounds proved incredibly valuable as we worked with our client, an Oakland-based health nonprofit that wanted to more effectively market a tool to reduce osteoporosis risk. As we worked closely with our client, we communicated with numerous individuals, including practicing physicians, marketing specialists, and medical device engineers.

Because my colleagues possessed such unique academic interests—our resident bioengineer was spectacularly handy when we conducted research for our client on similar medical devices—we were able to provide our client with a comprehensive final marketing strategy that, in the words of the nonprofit’s Executive Director, combined both “sound research and thorough analysis” to generate “actionable strategies… [that helped] focus [their] organization on the right path”.

My experience as a new consultant with The Berkeley Group—that is, working on a team with individuals from incredibly diverse backgrounds—is not an isolated one, due largely to the fact that our organization is not just another business group geared towards Haas students and economics majors.

Instead, we are a collection of students from every corner of Cal’s campus bound together by a common passion for serving the Bay Area in meaningful and impactful ways. Thus, while the work we do is necessarily business-centric—we are a student-run business consulting group, after all—our focus as an organization lies primarily in addressing the needs of local nonprofits by providing high-quality, high-impact solutions to issues facing the Bay Area nonprofit community.

We are able to consistently attract and recruit an exceptionally diverse student base from myriad academic backgrounds, due to the widespread appeal of social sector work. Our experience serving nonprofits also results in our strong brand within the nonprofit community, with 30-40 nonprofits applying for our services each semester. Moreover, past clients—including the Oakland-based health nonprofit I worked with—often reapply for additional services, serving as a testament to our clients’ high satisfaction with the professional quality and effectiveness of our work.

Another direct consequence of the student diversity within The Berkeley Group is the opportunity for valuable professional development given to our members. As an organization, we hold weekly trainings and seminars to equip our consultants—individuals with a broad spectrum of academic interests and backgrounds—with the practical business skills necessary to both effectively meet our clients’ needs and succeed in life beyond Berkeley.

It is perhaps at this intersection of business and social service that The Berkeley Group holds the most value: as a Haas-sponsored organization, it allows students from all academic disciplines to expand their professional horizons by engaging in real, hands-on business consulting while meaningfully contributing to their local community. I know I’ve definitely found my experiences as a consultant with The Berkeley Group to be both informative and illuminating.

And now, as The Berkeley Group wraps up recruitment for this coming semester, I look forward to meeting our new class of consultants and seeing the overwhelmingly positive impact I know they’ll make on the Bay Area nonprofit community. We have some fantastic clients this semester, and I’m really excited to see what my colleagues will do to address the needs of our community.

If there’s anything I’m worried about for this coming semester with The Berkeley Group, it would be my propensity for late-afternoon naps. I just hope I’m not too late to the first project meeting of the semester again.

Have a great semester everyone, and Go Bears!

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