Angad Singh Padda graduated with Highest Honors and was the commencement speaker for the Berkeley Haas Class of 2017. He was the recipient of the Poets & Quants Best and Brightest Undergraduate Honor and the Cal Leadership Award, and attended UC Berkeley on a full scholarship as a National Jack Kent Cooke Scholar. While at Haas, he taught three top-rated and highly sought-after courses on EQ, Charisma and Public Speaking, and Leveraged Buyouts. Post-graduation, Angad worked in the Healthcare and Technology Investment Banking groups at J.P. Morgan in San Francisco and London. Tapping into his passion for affordable education and collective progress, Angad is actively involved in schooling, drug rehabilitation, and women-empowerment focused social work in North India. He is joining the Corporate Strategy and Operations team of an industry-leading technology unicorn in Toronto shortly. Angad is also a competitive golfer, ardent social psychology and oratory researcher, and international public speaker. He has more than 50 turbans of different colors and has sung Blake Shelton’s songs at Nashville’s biggest country bar! To really understand Angad, it’s important to read the below quotes, directly from his former students at Haas:
- “I won’t delve into the details but I had a very hard life while growing up. If there is anyone I’ve met who has restored my faith in people and the underlying common goodness in everyone—it’s Angad.”
- “Meeting Angad was the best thing that ever happened to me in college.”
- “The Communicating with Confidence and Charisma class led by Angad is honestly the best class I’ve taken at Berkeley. Before going to UC Berkeley as an exchange student, I thought I was going to be blown away by big shot lecturers and noble prize winners, but it was this class that amazed me the most.”
- “He makes people believe that they truly matter and can achieve their wildest dreams. He is a leader who will never acknowledge himself as one. All he does is work his magic and change lives daily, and never takes or wants credit. If you want someone in your life who will move mountains to help you achieve your goals come hell or high water, then Angad is the man for the job.”
- “He is a once in a generation type of leader who is far more concerned about the progress and interests of others, than his own. He will change this world and make it a better place, and I can’t wait to see that happen.”
- “Angad is hands down the most charismatic and powerful public speaker I’ve come across. He is also the BEST instructor I’ve had, and is genuinely invested heavily in the welfare and progress of all his students.”
- “Select any yardstick you wish to use—magnetism, competence, integrity, character, personality, confidence, charisma… Angad is the very, very best.”
- “Angad changed the perception of business majors in my eyes. He doesn’t just care about profit—he cares about mankind.”
- “I was one of over 100 students who tried to squeeze into the classroom on that first day of class. He never treated those students differently who were not officially enrolled. We even had a few MBA students who used to attend Angad’s lectures.”
- “Many people have role models or people they look up to in their life. Whether it be a superhero, sports star, or just someone you admire. For me, that person is Angad. He has always been there for me whenever I have asked him for help—Whether it was at 3 AM on the night before a final round interview, or even during Spring Break.”
- “The Art of Storytelling and Public Speaking completely changed the way I approached oratory. By the end of the class, all of us felt like Spartans from the movie 300.”
Additionally, from Senior Haas Lecturer, Holly Schroth, Ph.D.: “Angad Singh Padda is in the top 1% of students that I have taught at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley in the past 24 years. What makes him so special beyond his keen intellect, astounding work ethic, dazzling interpersonal skills, and sharp analytical ability is his genuine passion for helping people. I have never had a student like Angad who exemplifies in all parts of his life, such a strong commitment to making the world a kinder, friendlier and overall better place.”
Table of Contents:
- “Unlocking the best Haas experience.” Can you explain what that means?
- Can you describe your “rethinking the Haas approach” and how it led you to 20+ Investment Banking (IB) and corporate finance/strategy internship offers with no prior IB internship experiences?
- Your graduation speech went viral with over 100 million views across social media platforms. How did you come up with it and what was the process like?
- What’s the most meaningful relationship you’ve created at Haas?
- How were you able to achieve the highest honors without compromising your passion for teaching and the overall social Haas experience?
- You’ve taught highly popular and top-rated classes on communication and charisma at Berkeley. Why are these topics so important?
- So, what’s your long-term life goal having experienced all you have so far?
- Angad’s Concluding Remarks
- Bonus: Rapid Fire
What have been your biggest life lessons so far?
Firstly, thank you very much for the interview opportunity. I appreciate your time. Here are seven ‘major life keys’ I’ve learned so far:
- Life is tough, and that’s okay – The perfect Haas experience will always be an imperfect experience. Don’t aim for 100% “Instagram-worthy” perfection. This is an overarching reality of life; every single person goes through hell at some point and then some. I was bullied for years as a child for being nerdy. I lost two of my best friends in high school to drug abuse. I was detained by US immigration for 6 hours in a frigid room with just a steel table and two chairs for random questioning. When my graduation speech went viral, I received death threats for supporting Muslims and African Americans, and someone threw a brick through my window. Once on my way to work, I was called “Osama” and “Sand N*****” by a skateboarder who spat on my face and whizzed away. I developed severe gastric and esophageal ulcers/lesions from working non-stop 120+ hour work weeks. I’m not trying to paint a heart-rending picture, but you get the gist, right? Life can be tough, people can wrong us, luck can evaporate and character can crumple. It’s important to remember that this too shall pass. I’ve learned the importance of giving time to time. Now more than ever, we need to go ‘Beyond Ourselves’ and practice selflessness, forgiveness, and resilience in an increasingly harsh world beset with unforgiving circumstances, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. They say we shouldn’t wish for an easy life; we should wish for the strength and compassion to confront the inevitable tough times. No matter how hard things get, I promise you they will get better—please never give up. I recommend reading ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ by David Goggins to help build mental toughness and put life in perspective.
- The Importance of EQ – Emotional Intelligence is as nebulous as a concept can be, but my definition is simple—battling ego, selfishness, and anger daily while striving to make others the genuine center of our entire world when speaking to them. Of course, that is an overly simplistic one-liner on a whole science, and there’s a lot more to EQ, such as empathizing and mindful listening. I’ve learned that the art of connecting with vulnerable honesty is the bedrock of forming meaningful relationships, which are a pivotal pillar of our happiness and contentment. This is especially true in the current era of rampant automatization and virtual bond-building on a 6-inch screen. Some EQ pointers I try to practice daily are: a) Observing someone’s eye color within the first two seconds of any interaction, and then holding and maintaining that eye-contact. b) Religiously following the rule of 70% active listening and 30% speaking. c) Using every iota of willpower to remain un-reactive and calm in the face of provocative situations which set ablaze anger and ego. d) Empathizing and walking a mile in someone’s shoes before being myopic and vehemently disagreeing with their viewpoint.
Human behavior is capricious, and adeptly navigating emotions and subtle sentiments is now more important than ever. I recommend ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman for an introduction to EQ fundamentals. My close friend Ryan Chu once said, “EQ also means you can’t reduce someone’s entire personality and life experiences to a swipe across their face on dating apps. Bio first, picture later.” Powerful stuff, no?
- Failure and journal writing – I have a confession, I’ve tried and failed (miserably) countless times in friendships, relationships, classrooms, and office desks. It hurts initially but builds character in the long run.After the initial red-faced burn washes away, I grab my leather journal and pen away everything that I learn from the setback. This simple practice helps me avoid the same mistake again, and most importantly, helps me understand myself better. Introspection is ‘clutch,’ allowing ourselves to fall forward is priceless—every human being is fallible, and that’s what makes life a perpetual work-in-progress. Let’s embrace our shortcomings; honestly write about them and try our best to get a handle on them. Learning to jettison the load of previous failures, and not carrying them around like an albatross around our necks is a prerequisite for a growth mindset. Please don’t type—leave the iPhone/MacBook and grab a pen and notebook. Journaling is an entirely different experience that isn’t intended solely for Harry Potter.
- The Importance of Oratory – “Speech is the gift of all but thought of few” – Cato the Elder. The art of humble, thought-provoking, measured yet impactful communication is the hallmark of leaders who can inspire and move to action millions of people with just words. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr.—all names redolent of history and powerful speech. Public speaking and being waterboarded may seem like the same experience, and it’s natural to feel that way! But it’s essential to work on this skill. It’s an art form that is often neglected but deserves diligence—grab a mirror and practice impromptu speeches every day to break the inertia. Challenge your best friends to do the same and give each other tough topics to speak on without allowing practice time. God knows I’ve done the same in pretty much every auditorium at Haas, and spooked the hell out of the janitorial staff. Use every platform as your personal stage and dance away—it’s an enriching experience. Plus, if Demosthenes practiced oratory by placing stones in his mouth and projecting over the sound of waves, this is the least we can do, right?
- Atomic habits – Consistency is critical in developing habits that are peak performance boosters. In the words of Mark Divine, “Consistency is the omnipotent force behind change.” Exercise, reading, meditation, clean eating, non-toxic socializing, etc., are incredible habits that translate into powerful results over time. It takes time and repetitions to reach escape velocity. The name of the game isn’t becoming a person who meditates the most; it’s becoming a person whose fundamental identity does not allow missing a single day of meditation even if it’s just for one minute. I highly recommend ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. Please see below. A classic business major move to throw in a graph, isn’t it?
- Leave the bed and embrace the study table – Studying or working on the bed simply doesn’t work—we always end up belly-first on the heavenly mattress with calves dangling in the air, eventually wasting time on the Kardashians. Leave the bed, turn the phone off, block social media and other time-wasting sites on your computer, hunker down on a designated ‘study-only’ table and finish the task at hand with maximum focus and efficiency. Cal Newport’s ‘Deep Work’ and Nir Eyal’s ‘Indistractable’ are must-reads to understand powerful principles such as the Bimodal Philosophy of Scheduling. The Pomodoro technique with 40min intervals has worked really well for me—check it out. I also recommend using ‘Upright Go,’ a posture monitoring device that prevents neck and back pain. It retails at $75, which is pricey but not Coachella pricey.
- Controversy is good (being a jerk is not) – “It’s a simple fact of life, if you want to do something incredible, something that makes you stand out above the rest, then you have to become comfortable being different—that means being misunderstood, criticized, even hated.” I love this quote by Mark Manson; it made me realize that if we follow our passions relentlessly, there will always be folks who criticize and dislike us, and that is perfectly fine. Some bigot recently slashed the tires of my car while I was teaching middle school kids at a village. It was a clear message to ‘let things stay as is’ and not educate the youth, especially the girls. I took a 3-hour bus ride home knowing the hard work was paying off. The truth is, no one has ever made history trying to be liked. That being said, facing criticism for being a square in a circular cookie-cutter world is okay, but hiding behind ‘IDGAF’ to act selfish and arrogant is not. This is indeed a newfangled theory, but a game-changer nonetheless. It’s also important to live by a code that is firmly rooted in our innermost self—a code that is impervious to external doubt but not oblivious to constructive criticism. Ray Dalio covers this extensively in ‘Principles,’ another great read.
“Unlocking the best Haas experience.” Can you explain what that means?
Absolutely, let’s dive in:
- Own who you are – Never fake it till you make it. Writing is an excellent way to reflect and introspect on who we are, and who we are gradually becoming. I was once told to change my name to ‘Andy’ because Angad is hard to say. I burst out laughing and replied—“Do I look like an Andy?” Andy Samberg does. During a casual conversation with the Global Head of Technology Investment Banking at a major competitor bank, I was told rather condescendingly—“You need to change your accent if you want to make it in America.” I just smiled and ignored the comment. Picking battles worth fighting is an important skill, sometimes it’s better to deal with naysayers by paying scant attention. This doesn’t apply only to people of color. I’m sure everyone has experienced subtle or overt pressures at some point in life to be someone they’re not. The crux is to not cave into those pressures, and express ourselves with prime authenticity. I tend to use mildly self-deprecating humor to make those of an introverted disposition more comfortable in tense situations. The alpha gorillas out there will be up-in-arms with derision because this isn’t a classic business ‘power move’. But who cares? I also don’t wear gaudy red silk ties and don’t maintain a fake death grip during handshakes. In my experience, those who do such things act more desperate than folks selling Justin Bieber concert tickets at a Ph.D. Physics Bowl.
- Haas is ultimately about people – It’s easy to get caught up in the mega-vortex of internship offers, resume-boosters, and business clubs. Embarking on a clandestine SEAL mission to get perfect grades is dandy, but having a 4.0 GPA and not 4.0 close confidants, mentors, and friends from your time at college isn’t worth it. The chance to connect with Olympians, veterans, future movers, and shakers is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I pulled a rare all-nighter ahead of the Managerial Accounting midterm because that allowed me an evening of powerful thought-provoking discussion on organizational leadership with faculty and peers. Such lessons and insights last a lifetime. For example, words from my classmate Saad Khan: “Faith and family come first brother; career comes after.” Ditch the grading curve, live for the camaraderie.
- Put the iPhone down – In the same vein as above, approach a stranger and have a conversation every single day on campus. No, not to add them on Instagram or LinkedIn but to truly connect with them. Talk to the head of staff at Café FIFO—her life stories on perpetual struggles, morals, and values will teach you just as much as the Business Ethics course. Though I’ve graduated, I receive an education every time I call my classmates to this day.
- Rule of five – Take a full weekend and ask yourself what kind of person do you REALLY want to be? Yeah sure we all want to be Chris Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence, but what about our core personality and ideals? Ask yourself the hard questions and surround yourself with five friends who embody the values you wish to imbibe. I look up to my best friends, and I am cognizant of staying away from unnecessary toxicity and drama. Inspired by Jay-Z’s lyrics, I’ve got 99 problems but my friends ain’t one.
- Digital Detox – Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, Tik Tok, etc. are powerful entertainment mediums and some crucial for media marketing. But they also present a significant downside—world-class genius being employed for the sole purpose of developing addiction-forming UI across geographies and demographics. I’ve lived in Delhi, San Francisco, New York, and London, and the most common sight in coffee shops, public transport, every single street is—you guessed it, a deeply intimate relationship between a digital screen and a person. This takes away from a holistic approach to life. I used to spend 4+ hours on my iPhone daily, and now I’m down to <1.5 hours per day. It’s a superpower that allows more time to read, meditate, workout, socialize in person, and have a happier and simpler life. I recommend reading ‘How to break up with your phone’ by Catherine Price. Monitor your screen time, and if your daily average improves to under 2 hours, I’ll buy you a burrito.
- Teach, Teach, Teach – The rat race sucks. I grew up in a country where the education system is designed to hinge self-esteem on a ‘class rank.’ Knowledge was to be protected the same way In-n-Out protects its animal fries sauce recipe. That mindset changed completely for me during college. My classmates, along with religion, taught me that teaching our skills to others not only helps us get better at our craft but also builds selflessness which is the proven path to peace of mind. If you rock at basket-weaving or financial modeling—go teach and help your peers! Forget the rat race, and focus on sharing your natural and hard-earned talents. One of my students was autistic and we used to practice public speaking by standing on top of tables in the Haas courtyard while people watched. It helped BOTH of us develop fearlessness and confidence. I’m not going to repeat the words he said to me at the end of the course, but let’s just say they mean more to me than any award or A grade.
- Breathwork – I recommend reading ‘Unbeatable Mind’ by Mark Divine. It opened my eyes to the importance of breath control routines to build resilience and mental fortitude when feeling overwrought. In particular, I found the 1+1+1+1 box breathing technique helpful ahead of finals, recruitment superdays, national speech competitions, etc. It’s very natural to experience nervousness, and pressure is needed to turn carbon into a diamond. That being said, one must have a practical and implementable go-to ritual to combat stress and maintain a calm rationale. I encourage you to learn about Pranayama Yoga, which is also very effective. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
Can you describe your “rethinking the Haas approach” and how it led you to 20+ Investment Banking (IB) and corporate finance/strategy internship offers with no prior IB internship experiences?
“People like you don’t crack into Investment Banking especially at Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan or Morgan Stanley.” A former recruiter said that to me when I approached him for advice on breaking into finance. I represent the mother of all unique appearances—brown skin, bearded, Indian + British + California accent with a deep voice, and a bright-colored turban as a cherry on top. My mom says I’m good looking, but I don’t quite trust her on this. Here’s how I re-thought the approach:
- Approach recruitment as you approach Haas – People, passion, and relationships first; the rest you’ll figure out by burning the midnight oil. I didn’t have an IB internship, which practically rendered me untouchable compared to my competition. Plus, looking more like the IT guy than an M&A banker didn’t help either. I knew I had to think outside the box—then came the 2000+ cold emails and 200+ coffee chats. I wanted to connect with prospective employers better than anyone they had ever met before. I wanted them to see the work ethic and drive in my eyes, rather than judging me on an A4 resume sheet. I followed-up when I didn’t hear back—nothing to lose, right? The point is, recruitment for me wasn’t a mechanical process. It was a people-based process much like most things in life.
- Keeping it real – I was pretty upfront about not knowing much about IB given my lack of experience. I did my thorough homework and asked a few complex finance-based questions, but most of the talk was real talk. “Hey, when you’re at your desk at 5am with 6 red bulls in your system and the client on your back, what still motivates you to stay in the gig?” Of course, my language wasn’t as colloquial and cavalier with senior execs, but the core of keeping it honest and asking the genuine questions I wanted to be answered remained intact. That set the tone from the first conversation—transparent and inquisitive while still asking well thought out and hard-hitting technical questions. When I got an offer letter from J.P. Morgan, I signed the same day because I gave the Managing Director my word that I would do so—no shady politics, just real talk. You will hear of people finagling dream job offers, but remember that deception is morally wrong and it’s also just pointless in today’s hyper-connected world. Be honest and operate with integrity—Goldman Sachs knew I signed with J.P. Morgan within an hour of putting pen to paper. The world is getting smaller, and information travels fast.
- Playing to your strengths – I enjoy playing golf and Tabla (Indian drums), have a massive turban collection, and can’t go to bed without reading. Because of these interests, I knew I could easily handle a fun conversation on these subjects and let my personality come across. I made it a point to add these to my personal introduction—why flex hard about finance courses that everyone and their cat has taken when I could talk about my unique interests? Long story short, owning your personality and strengths (never brag, be humble) is very powerful in ‘vibing’ with an interviewer across the table. One of my interviews with a Vice President involved me holding his back (he asked) and guiding his body through the motions of a golf swing. Pretty intimate, huh? Fun first date topic too.
- Technical knowledge and due diligence – You could be princess/prince charming on steroids, but if you haven’t prepped hard on valuation, case studies, financial statement analysis—you’re not getting that IB, Consulting, Accounting offer. Shoutout to Rocky Yip, one of the smartest people I have ever met, who sent me all the interview study material for IB. You the man, Rocky.
- Smile – Why so serious? Flash those pearly whites! I was so excited/grateful before every conversation/interview that I couldn’t help but smile. Even if I got shot down, I still smiled and asked for feedback. Asking for feedback and seeking constructive criticism is an integral part of a growth mindset. The modern workplace is stressful and we as people haven’t been this unhappy before. In these times, everyone appreciates an authentic warm smile. Plus, when it comes down to opportunities, we will always win some and lose some. What’s the big deal? At the end of the day, if we hustle, we will get what’s meant for us—I really do believe that. Don’t adopt a draconian or serious monolithic approach to life, buy some Oral-B merchandise and smile away, partner!
- Four Interior Empires – No matter how intense recruitment gets, please do not neglect Mindset, Heartset, Healthset, and Soulset. It’s critical to be in rock-solid mental, emotional, and physical health during the interview season. This concept is directly from ‘The 5AM Club’ by Robin Sharma, another book I strongly recommend. The below chart is self-explanatory:
- Pursue your bliss – I read that if going conventional corporate seems too heavy a price to pay, and we think of it as the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle of hell, then it’s probably not the way to go. There are way too many miserable accountants and junior consultants out there, living someone else’s dream. Even Socrates said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. If you’re an artist, writer, musician, etc. and that is your true calling, then chase it like there’s no tomorrow (as long as there are no pressing financial constraints). Can you imagine Drake being Dwight from The Office? My point exactly. My classmate and very close friend Elin Delgadillo is a Latino rockstar turned real estate investor. He almost became a Forensic Accountant after Haas but ended up following his core instincts and truest passions. Today both his happiness and income are 5x that of the road most traveled by. In his words, “Hermano! I can live with failure, but I can’t live with what if.”
Your graduation speech went viral with over 100 million views across social media platforms. How did you come up with it and what was the process like?
Taking a step back, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity of speaking at graduation. It means a lot to my family and me. Public and impromptu speaking has been my passion for many years. I won’t get into details, but this passion helped me overcome childhood trauma which had crippled my confidence and ability to connect with others. When I see a stage and microphone, something sparks up and child-like effervescence comes about—it’s like playing golf while dancing ballet, meditative yet delightfully expressive and artistic. The process was one hell of a ride!
- Shoutout to my classmates – Initially, my approach was to make this speech my Magnum Opus. Upon further introspection, I realized this isn’t about me at all. It was never supposed to be ‘mine’—it was always ‘ours.’ This approach took a 180-degree U-turn and I began asking my classmates what they cared about and wanted to hear, what truly mattered to them. Every conversation trickled into the speech content and by the end of it, I was just a mouthpiece for the class-wide sentiments.
- Shoutout to the custodial and janitorial staff – I snuck into any and all empty rooms at Haas after class hours to practice my speech. The in-house staff kindly allowed me to use the facilities and I always took their feedback to make further changes. One day after an MBA networking event at the Wells Fargo Auditorium, the entire cleaning team was present, and I asked them all to take a seat and listen to the speech draft. Once they heard it, the head janitor got up and said the following verbatim: “Ay man, you definitely got that fire! Now drop the paper and that fancy English.” That was a watershed moment; I realized the speech did not have to be overly proper and eloquent—it had to be real and honest. No paper or memorization, just remembering the core themes and letting the rest be natural and impromptu. This approach also allowed a lot more outside the box/quick on the feet oratory. Someone yelled, “I love you” in the middle of my speech. Because I wasn’t strictly committed to paper and was simply having a conversation with the audience, I was able to quickly reply back with an, “I love you too.” Pretty smooth, right?
- Shoutout to Former Dean Lyons – I wanted to play the Tabla before starting my speech to capture the meteoric passion and raw energy that defines the UC Berkeley spirit. I asked Dean Lyons to hold the mic while I played the Tabla—he sat down next to me, cross-legged, and held the mic. That was a huge confidence boost and a lesson in servant leadership. Having his support added the strut in my steps on stage—when the Dean has your back, you bring the fire. I also asked him for more time—I simply couldn’t do justice to my class in the earlier allotted speech time. He looked dead-straight into my eyes and said, “Make it worth it.” After the speech, I asked Dean Lyons if it was worth it, and he replied, “Damn Straight.”
- No, I wasn’t high – When you’re really passionate about an art, the risk-taking comes very naturally. I knew I didn’t want to use the podium; I wanted to walk the stage and face the entire stadium. I told my non-Haas friends about the plan and they were convinced I was on some top-shelf drugs. I just knew that even if the approach blew up in my face, it would still be worth the bold attempt. This was an unbelievable opportunity and I wanted to have a blast and push the archaic perceptions linked to a graduation speech. Now and then, during social events, I’m still asked if I’m that “viral Berkeley speech dude.” I do blush a little bit when this happens, but thankfully my beard covers it.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’m not in ‘graduation speech mode’ 24/7. I feel reticent on several occasions and allow myself to feel that way because it’s perfectly natural and healthy. However, we do need to push ourselves for the right opportunities. Opportunities that scream ‘Go Big or Go Home.’
What’s the most meaningful relationship you’ve created at Haas?
Every person on campus I had the privilege of speaking with was a powerhouse with industry-defining genius and caliber. That being said, two relationships come straight to mind.
- Professor Holly Schroth – Holly’s instruction, guidance, endless support, and mentorship has legitimately changed my life, and I promise this isn’t hyperbole. If my entire Haas experience just consisted of taking Prof. Schroth’s UGBA 105 class on leadership, it would still be worth my body weight in gold (that’s 175lbs of gold, just for reference). Words cannot describe the profound impact every single conversation with Holly has had on me. She further opened my eyes to the quintessential skillsets of EQ, organizational behavior, and social psychology. Prof. Schroth has the ability to inspire and evoke a previously dormant sense of effortless confidence and high self-esteem in every student. Even if you’re taciturn, you’ll feel like a titan after speaking with Holly. She’s a visionary with mastery over anything and everything related to the ‘people’ side of business. Her method of instruction is selfless, and her passion for educating a more emotionally evolved generation of business professionals is evident by the tremendous respect she garners from faculty, students, and C-suite leaders. Please do yourself a huge favor and never drink the night before Prof. Schroth’s class. You don’t want to miss out on a world-class education being delivered on a silver platter.
- Vansh –My best friend and chief business consultant. Vansh delivers daily inspiration in kindness, humility, and a never-ending pursuit of knowledge. We’ve bonded over breakups and business strategy, and pretty much everything in between. Indian weddings don’t have a ‘best man’ concept, but mine will have Vansh breaking that social convention. One of the brightest minds in any classroom during my time at Haas and an apostle of self-improvement, Vansh’s brilliant business acumen represents a Stephen Schwarzman in the making. If anyone wants a lesson in corporate strategy and structured thinking, I’m happy to connect you with Vansh in exchange for tickets to Augusta Masters 2021. Kidding! The British Open would be fine too if you could pitch in for airfare.
How were you able to achieve the highest honors without compromising your passion for teaching and the overall social Haas experience?
- Structured routine – It’s hard to follow an early to bed, early to rise routine in college given the academic load and extracurricular activities. But there still has to be some sort of structure—it’s inefficient to have an erratic sleep cycle and haphazard routine. The best performers at Cal were the ones who were disciplined, committed to a structured routine, and never awake after midnight. Pen down a realistic routine with mandatory 7 hours of sleep, meditation, workout, and socializing slots. Consistent exercise especially cardio is a life hack for increased mental sharpness—I neglected my health in college and wish I hadn’t. I’ve only recently understood the importance of clean eating and working out—it’s a superpower hidden in plain sight.
- Social media fasting – Increasingly, I’ve been hearing from most of my friends and colleagues how toxic social media can be, if not used in moderation. Without delving into the proven psychology research, it’s important to note that social media thrives on, “I have and will show to the world,” or “I did and will show to the world.” When left unchecked, social media leads to self-worth being measured by likes, comments, shares, views, etc. The goal is to use social media to enhance our lives by sharing what matters with people who matter for the right reasons. If you see someone riding a Ferrari in Italy with a gorgeous modelesque looking person sitting next to them, while flaunting a six-pack, I promise they have their own battles to deal with. Internal struggles, trials, and tribulations are integral to being human. It took me quite some time to learn this, and I finally began looking inwards rather than outwards for peace. This was instrumental in exponentially boosting the quality of life and focusing on the bigger picture. Social media fasting released previously imprisoned time, built a positive and centered mindset, and galvanized real-world relationships building efforts. Deactivate Instagram and Facebook for a few weeks pre-finals and change my name if you don’t see a marked improvement in outcome. Also, an hour before bedtime, turn off all technology and put the devices in a distant closet. Never wake up staring at the phone screen, use an old school alarm clock—I’m looking at mine as I’m speaking right now.
- Study groups – United we stand, divided we fall. Enough said.
- Wish I had – Being frugal is one thing; being cheap is another. I had a full scholarship and yet pinched pennies wherever I could. I did not go to Cabo for spring break, enjoy nice dinners, or go skydiving/snorkeling with friends. If I had, my grades would’ve still been the same, internships and jobs the same, nothing would’ve changed academics or career-wise. Don’t repeat my mistakes—experiences are far more meaningful than possessions. Don’t be financially irresponsible, but do save up for that monthly nice dinner and annual trip with friends. It’s well worth it and doesn’t hurt the bank balance much if planned well. I’m headed to Colombia and Peru as soon as COVID-19 comes under control. Shhh, let’s keep this between us—my employer doesn’t know yet.
You’ve taught highly popular and top-rated classes on communication and charisma at Berkeley. Why are these topics so important?
Master Excel and PowerPoint, but more importantly, master the tongue.
Teaching these classes has, hands down, been one of my best life experiences. As I alluded to earlier, the workplace is changing radically. Major Investment Banks have digital divisions designed solely to automate number crunching and deck pumping. Being an on-desk computer champion in business won’t cut it in the future, given automation is coming to steal our lunch. This further underscores the importance of warm, humble, persuasive, and influential communication skills.
Now, let’s take a look at people who have changed the tide of history. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Churchill inspired British farm lads to fight in Germany during World War II with just three words: “Never give up.” Lincoln commenced a paradigm shift with, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We even bought the iPhone because Steve Jobs wowed everyone and sold the idea of a revolutionary technology that we just couldn’t live without. Powerful communication has and always will deliver in business, politics, relationships, and every facet of human life.
Charisma, EQ, and effective communication are also widely misunderstood. Let’s bust three major myths:
- Sell me this pen! – Life isn’t Wolf of Wall Street. Selling the pen shouldn’t feel like we’re stabbing someone with it. Ease up—first understand what kind of pen the client needs. Then after actively understanding the need, provide the pen which the client can genuinely benefit from most, not the most expensive pen that ejects unicorns and rainbows. Powerful communication has absolutely nothing to do with manipulation, deception, or strong-arming someone. ABC does not equal ‘Always Be Closing,’ you’ll just permanently close every other door you knock on. Try ‘Always Be Considerate’ instead. Keep trying till it becomes quotidian—I am with you on this journey.
- Ms./Mr. most popular in the room – The need to be the most ‘alpha’ will only breed discontentment and contempt. Even if someone with the personality/physique of Charlize Theron or Hugh Jackman enters the room and parts it like the Red Sea, the goal is not to one-up them. It is to be unfazed, comfortable, and treat them the same way we would treat anyone else—with kindness, confidence, and our unabashedly true self. Yeah, they sometimes hog the limelight—let ‘em! Our job is to own our personality and enjoy being our true selves during the limited time we have on this transient stage of life. Additionally, when we’re not being ‘real’ it’s only a matter of time before people see through the façade. If you find yourself at the receiving end of cacophonous chest-beating monologues from emotionally charged egos, politely excuse yourself and walk away. Trust me on this.
- Talk first, listen later – Dominate the conversation and dictate terms to the plebeians! This is puerile. Histrionic dominating outbursts seldom work. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to listen first and speak later. I try my best in every conversation to follow the 70-30 rule as I mentioned earlier. Listen with mindful dedicated focus 70% of the time and speak 30%. I can be verbose, so these days the mission is to make brevity my ally. What goes around comes back around—kind listening begets kind actions. We should never aim to dominate or subdue, the goal is to affectionately listen and ask for clarification if we don’t understand. This practice begins first and foremost at home: start with parents and siblings; the ripple effect is organic and gratifying.
Bottom line – people skills boil down to battling our deeply ingrained demons: hubris, anger, selfishness, and getting 1% better than the previous day. This battle does not spare anyone. It’s a battle I struggle with and fight every single day.
So, what’s your long-term life goal having experienced all you have so far?
My deceased friend’s mother called me a future ‘neta,’ meaning leader in Hindi. She said she saw her son in me, and it was my responsibility to set a better example for the youth. I’ve been trying my best to do the same ever since, always pushing myself to dream bigger and work harder. Of course, I’ve faltered numerous times along the way, but I’m firmly committed to the grind and sharing the fruits of my labor with others. The long-term goal is the same as years ago—world-class pro-bono education for the underprivileged and building the world’s most transparent, accountable, and impactful non-profit with global outreach and billions in funding and lives improved. Affordable quality education holds the key to salvation. My friend would’ve never held a syringe if my local government had done a better job of giving him a book instead. Every permutation and combination takes me back to the same goals I set for myself years ago. I’ve just taken small baby steps so far and have a long, tortuous road ahead—further education, global work experience, roles in government, etc., but all paths lead back to my roots. As they say, you can take the boy out of the village, but you can never take the village out of the boy.
Angad’s Concluding Remarks
Attending Haas was a privilege and an honor for me. I cherish the memories and visit campus first thing whenever I’m in the Bay Area. I learned a lot about myself at Haas and thank the Lord regularly for giving me the opportunity of wearing that blue and gold sweatshirt. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” Haas helped reinforce my Why and that’s the greatest gift I’ve received so far.
I’ve given a lot of advice (unsolicited almost!) in this article. Please know that by no means am I an expert who has it all figured out. On the contrary, I’m just a simple guy trying to navigate this existential quagmire we call life. I graduated three years ago and you’ve read some of my learnings that I try to put into practice day-to-day. I’m sure I have a lot to learn from you; please feel free to email me at email@example.com, if you have any questions or insights you’d like to share. Thank you very much for reading—I appreciate your time.
Bonus: Rapid Fire
What building on campus would you say you are?
- Cheit, simply because I always found empty rooms there to practice my public speaking and I held all my classes there.
What’s your go-to order at Cafe Think?
- Cafe what? Cafe Think came about after I graduated. Cafe FIFO was the cool kids’ spot back in my day. It was typically tofu and rice, with some juice (and sometimes a Mars Bar).
Favorite study space at Berkeley?
- Those plush purple sofa chairs in the Haas library where I thought of Microeconomics and the cute girl who sat next to me during Microeconomics.
- Main Haas Library, always. Free printing! Why go anywhere else and suffer the opportunity cost?
Favorite dining hall?
- No dining halls, I was loyal to Artichoke Pizza on Durant Ave.
Party person or nah?
- More of a deep-conversation-over-coffee-and-golf person. Once in a while, eccentric party person.
- Leading People taught by Holly Schroth. It was an absolute belter of a class.
Guess this wraps it up—Go Bears!
Angad Singh Padda
By Michael Xia
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