Women’s Empowerment Day – Educate, Unite, Inspire


Some of you may have seen the email in your inbox with the subject line, “Women’s Empowerment Day”, otherwise known as “WED”. Because spots were limited, I wanted to share my own personal experience during this day, encouraging all females interested in business to attend this event next year. And men? You, too, should read this post, so that we can take a step closer towards coming together as people.

I walked up the stairs to Memorial Stadium with Emily Luna and Elyse Weissberger. We were on our way to the top floor – the club house. As we exited the elevator, we were greeted by one the of the most spectacular views of the entire Bay Area, as you can see in the picture above. It was a clear and sunny day, setting the tone for the rest of the afternoon. It was Women Empowerment Day.

I’ve never been ashamed of being a woman. In fact, I’ve honestly never given too much thought about the disparity in equality between men and women. I’ve always just focused on being the best version of myself without much consideration of my gender. Now, not only do I feel “self-powered” as a woman, I also feel honored to be associated with such a remarkable group of people. With accomplished and ambitious women surround me, I felt inspired.

Challenging the Status Quo

After grabbing a cup of coffee, I took my seat at one of the many circular tables. Our first keynote speaker was Krystal Thomas. Some of you may know her as your UGBA 100 professor, but I know her as a graceful and strong woman that has continuously challenged the status quo. She spoke about her own personal struggles as a black woman fighting to follow her passions in the entertainment industry. My favorite quote from Krystal is, “Quantity is about sales. Quality is about relationships.” One of the most basic frameworks in business is prices x sales = revenue. In order to increase revenue, you can either increase the price or the quantity of your sales. Nevertheless, it is essential that the quality of your work and character is never compromised. Krystal is now the executive producer for Pooka Ventures, which is a branded entertainment and media consultancy that creates content at the intersection of entertainment and purpose. After listening to her speech, we were invited to engage in dialogue amongst those sitting at our table of about six to eight women. With a mix of students and Cal alumni professionals at my table, we discussed the idea of closing the gap between racial groups on campus. Tackling heavy and controversial topics allowed us to open our minds and engage in priceless conversation that I will never forget.

Closing the Gap

Our next keynote speaker was Hilary Weber, founder and CEO of Opportu, which is an innovation coaching and consulting company seeking to enable leaders and teams to build high-impact creative cultures. She is also co-founding a second company, based in India, focused on entrepreneurial excellence and women’s self-empowerment. Hilary stressed the importance of the Haas core values and the difference between “empowerment” and “self-powerment”. She pointed out that women who are struggling to survive on a daily basis need empowerment. As women who have or are about to graduate from Haas, we need self-powerment. We already have the power and opportunity to be who we want to be in the world. We just need to believe in ourselves to fight the obstacles that come our way. Though the issue of inequality between men and women needs to be addressed, the issue of inequality amongst women shouldn’t be undermined either. As women, we shouldn’t treat each other differently because of the color of our skin, differences in beliefs or the clothes we wear. We have so much more in common than we do different. Unfortunately, society seems to focus only on the differences, completely neglecting different groups from supporting each other as a whole.

For five hours, I had the honor of listening and conversing with some of the most amazing women I have ever met. It wasn’t about distinguishing ourselves from one another. It wasn’t about putting blame for inequality on men or any other group for that matter. It was about uniting ourselves together as women. It was about educating each other about an issue that truly does exist in society, and more specifically, in the business world. It was about inspiring each other to support one another, so that we can fight for the equality that is long overdue. I encourage any woman who has the opportunity, to attend Women Empowerment Day next Spring. It’s an unforgettable experience.

Special thanks to Dresden John and Erica Walker for organizing this amazing event!

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Racial Equity@Haas: Blog Series Purpose, Reflection, & Impact

Charlie James is a senior at the Haas School of Business with a minor in Food Systems at the College of Natural Resources. He studies the intersection of business and food and enjoys learning of food businesses and venturing to understand what social, racial, cultural, historical, and economic circumstances provided their growth. With like-minded Haas students, Charlie began a food justice consulting student organization called FEED (Food, Equity, Entrepreneurship, & Development) to provide space for business students interested in pursuing a career in socially grounded food businesses. As the Chair of the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) Undergraduate Advisory Council, he is working on developing a space for the undergraduate food community with student food organizations while nurturing room for their collaboration and ensuring their voices are heard at BFI. After studying at Haas, Charlie plans to study abroad in Japan and move in with his Grandmother and Uncle who own and manage a farm in the rural urban mix of the city of Odawara. He’s driven to learn the Japanese language fluently and understand the culture intimately in order to communicate with his relatives there and support his Grandmother and Uncle with their farm. For fun, he loves watching anime with close ones, experimenting with cooking recipes, and engaging in uncomfortable but important conversations.

Blog Series Purpose, Reflection, and Impact

Diversity is often mistaken for racial equity, especially in most business schools. Diversity resides in representation of people of various backgrounds. While diversity is important, it is surface level. Racial equity calls forth reparations to unequal beginnings through not only representation but also social, political, legal, moral, economic, and cultural rectification. Racial equity runs deep as it necessitates a change of thinking and acting to nurture an inclusive culture for people from all racial backgrounds where conversations on race are not neglected but encouraged.

However, before we can begin to address the misunderstanding of racial equity as diversity, it’s important to begin conversations on race, which are hard to come by at most business schools. They are especially hard to initiate. It is for this reason that I began a blog series aimed at opening the culture of the Haas School of Business to conversations on race. While the end goal runs much deeper in developing a social justice consciousness that includes more identities than only race to inform actions and decisions, talking about race honestly and openly is a start.

To maximize the impact, I joined forces with another Racial Equity Fellow for Net Impact, Alankrita Dayal, and a fellow Haas student dedicated to our mission, Naayl Kazmi. We began a blog series called Racial Equity@Haas, which we were able to publish through the Haas Undergraduate Student Blog thanks to its open and considerate leaders, Katherine Krive and Lexa Gundelach.

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Collectively, we created a game plan to interview the professors of core classes Haas students are required to take in order to illuminate the professors views on racial equity; we thought students would be more prone to read interviews from people in power they already know, core professors. However, only a few professors agreed to undergo interviews, leaving our plan at a loss. In recovery, we opened up the blog series to hold interviews of anyone in the Haas community as to shed light on the diverse perspectives of community members, students, staff, professors, and even the dean, on how racial equity is perceived at Haas.

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We’ve since interviewed three professors, three students, and the Dean of Haas. Much of the learning came to me during interviewing the different community members. The Dean illuminated how the history of Haas has shifted to being more diverse over the years, and an interview with one of the professors by Naayl revealed the impact of Proposition 209, which nullified affirmative action, on the few Haas students of color at the time. Seeing the school from a historical perspective, there was much improvement in fact. Still, race is not something openly talked about, is hard to talk about, and often triggers students to change the topic.

I remember engaging students on conversations on race and having them look the other way, change the topic almost immediately, or even look at me as though I’m racist for even talking about race. While these reactions will persist among certain groups, there are students who encourage me to continue.

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I share all the blog posts we make on Facebook while tagging members of the blog in them and my small team of Naayl and Alankrita to reach a larger audience, and there has been thankful, empowering, and even revealing feedback. One student who was interviewed wasn’t comfortable in having the person’s name referenced in the blog post, so we posted it as anonymous. Once on Facebook, another Haas student said she would have done the same.

While conversations often still focus on diversity instead of on nurturing an inclusive culture that would encourage conversations and consciousness building on race, this blog has began a conversation on race that’s heading in the direction of a more inclusive business culture. Although there’s a long way to go, I am happy we are going.

Something to Smile About: SmileyGo Facilitates Corporate Philanthropy 

SmileyGo CEO and Founder Pedro Espinoza on Capitol Hill with other inspiring CEOs

“I don’t eat dessert,” Pedro Espinoza joked, explaining his success. Kidding aside, Espinoza runs SkyDeck’s newest and most promising start-up: SmileyGo. Described as a ‘Yelp meets Salesforce’ data platform, SmileyGo is a desktop analytics tool for corporations to find, partner with, and fund nonprofit organizations. Its index of over 1.7 million tax exempt entities allows businesses to focus on their specific philanthropic interests. Espinoza wants to use the digital world to help millions of people through connections that lead to new laws, programs, and partnerships.By eschewing on dessert, Espinoza successfully juggles finishing his Haas degree, traveling to Chamber of Commerce meetings, presenting as a keynote speaker, working with Congress to change business, leading/pitching/and growing SmileyGo, golf and tennis meetings, and somehow getting nine to ten hours of sleep every night. All of this was sparked in 2014 by Professor Ross’ business-ethics description of the back and forth between Congress and top corporations. Espinoza was inspired and saw an opportunity to use corporate social responsibility, lobbying, and politics to support philanthropic partnerships, laws, and regulations.

Now Espinoza has been successfully funded by SharkTank investors, established offices at SkyDeck, hired a new team of technical operators, and is this year’s UC Berkeley winner of the statewide ‘I am a UC Entrepreneur’ competition. The young CEO spoke at Berkeley’s Post-Doctoral Entrepreneurial Program this past Wednesday and will be flying to Peru later in the month to address executives at Toyota Latin America. Big accomplishments perfect for someone motivated to help take on life’s biggest challenges.

Espinoza emphasizes the importance of young entrepreneurs pursuing professional endeavors that help solve national or global problems. He hopes fellow future leaders are ready to take on issues are pertinent as cyber security, infrastructure, preservation of democracy, and pure water accessibility. By tackling these problems step by step, Espinoza is confident our generation has what it takes to create big solutions.

Perseverance, positivity and realism are key for Espinoza. SmileyGo applied for funding and incubation at Citris Foundry, one of the Bay Area’s largest accelerators, earlier this year. When it wasn’t able to secure a spot, Espinoza, undeterred, met with the founder (and UC Berkeley Alum) Patrick Scaglia for guidance. Espinoza’s enthusiasm, determination, and unique business platform set a series of fortunate events in motion for SmileyGo. Scaglia’s mentorship and advice led to a spot in SkyDeck which introduced SmileyGo and Espinoza to the UC’s entrepreneur competition, gaining Congressional recognition, and now showing promise of becoming a leader in facilitating corporate social responsibility. Despite his early success, awards, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, Espinoza stays modest, happy, and grateful for his opportunities at Haas and the inspiration, guidance, and love his family has given him.

SmileyGo strives to build value in communities. Espinoza and his team lead by example. Together with CTO Joseph Pereria, SmileyGo employees volunteered over for 300 hours in the bay area last year. The company and its people want to serve something great: inspire millions of companies to fund millions of non-profits to help millions of people. It’s no small task but Espinoza’s big family, global upbringing, and earnest yet joyful and loving personality combine to make the dynamic force that drives SmileyGo.

With all he has on his plate, it’s no wonder Espinoza has no time for dessert.

Racial Equity@Haas: 3rd Year Haas Undergraduate – Jose Luis Ramos Mora

Guest Post Written by Alankrita Dayal.

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.

Jose Luis Ramos Mora is a third-year transfer business administration major. During the past year, he has been the treasurer for the Cal Veterans Group and the Homeless Student Union. He is also a fellow in the Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations. He likes to walk the long way to class because it is the most scenic route. Jose likes to watch a lot of Netflix on his free time. Favorite shows consist of How I Met Your Mother, Friday Night Lights, and The Office. After graduation, he hopes to work for nonprofits that focus on higher education for low income communities. He hopes to one day start his own nonprofit organization. This summer he will most likely be taking summer classes and planning a trip to Costa Rica with friends from his time in the Marine Corps.

Q1) What is Racial Equity to You?

Racial equality to me means having the same opportunities as the person next to you without having race come into play, having to act a certain way because that is the way it is seen as professional. I believe there are many great qualities every race brings to the table and they should be accepted in a professional setting. Myself and certain friends act a certain way in professional settings and are overly conscious about everything we say and do because we are afraid of being perceived as the typical Mexican person or typical black person.

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

I think it is very important because in the business world, it is crucial to have the experience and different perspectives that a diverse racial workforce brings to the table. In business, as in many other situations, it is critical to demonstrate your company or organization takes into consideration all the clients best interests and needs. This can best be achieved by having racial equality all throughout the company.

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

Haas does a good job because all the administration and professors I have encountered acknowledge there is a racial discrepancy when it comes to education and race. Many business classes don’t take into consideration this inequality because it doesn’t fit with a lot of the business theories that are studied but nonetheless the professors for the most part acknowledge it exists.

Q4) Please Add a Personal Anecdote on Racial Equity.

Racial equality has a lot to do with the way you look. I remember checking into the USCIS building in Los Angeles, when I was about 18 years old, with my sister. We were standing in line and talking to each other in English. The guard that was doing the security check told me in broken Spanish to please take off my belt and any metal objects I had on me. Then he proceeded to tell my sister the same thing but in English. It is small things like these that make me realize I am stereotyped anywhere I go. I have also been stopped for no reason and asked for my ID while walking down the street and I have also been stopped in my vehicle because I was in a “drug dealing” neighborhood. At that time I did not think anything of these encounters but the more I meet other people, that don’t look like me, the more I realize they have never experienced these situations and the more I realize I look different. I am ok with it because I know I am not only proving something to myself and those people that assume certain things about me based on my looks, but I am also proving something to that 18-year-old Hispanic kid that is going through the same experiences I went through at his age and that is far more important than anything else.

Interview Prep and Job Success


In this blog post, I am going to be talking about the struggles of the “recruiting process”. We aren’t particularly taught how to apply for jobs, nor how to do it successfully. It can be very frustrating and emotional at times. Hopefully, you can relate to some of the thoughts that I’ve had throughout my time applying for internships and take away some helpful tips!

As part of the Haas Business community, I am very fortunate to have been exposed to a world of professionalism and networking. We aren’t explicitly taught what to wear for interviews or how to “recruit”; nevertheless, we are constantly surrounded by professionals influencing our behaviors each and every day. Some may think that as long as you are good at adapting to your surroundings, you will be able to pick up the skills needed in order to become a sufficient “networker”. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Most majors aren’t immersed in such an environment, where recruiting and job search isn’t as highly emphasized. And even if you are part of the Haas community, applying for jobs is a scary and intimidating process.

Networking Events

First, there are all the “events”. Networking here. Recruiting there. After a long and exhausting day of classes, you have to socialize with people you barely know. Oh, and did I mention hundreds of other students are attending as well? Yes, so that leaves you with one, maybe two, minutes to make a good impression on the company representatives, who are taking time out of their day to find exceptional students for potential employment. As such, you have to buck up, drink some coffee, and smile big, because in reality, you’re the host at the recruiting events. You’re the one who has to carry on an engaging conversation, so that you become memorable.


Then, you have to apply to the company, which usually involves a resume and cover letter. I don’t remember ever learning how to write either of these in high school, do you? So, here we are…students at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, yet our resumes have the potential to look like they’ve been written by a 12-year-old. And don’t get me started on the cover letter. I had never even heard of the cover letter until I got to Cal.

Even if all that goes well, you still have to do well in the interview. Scratch that. I mean interivewS with a capital “S”.

This Decal Helps!

As a Spring admit, I felt that I was a semester behind everyone in terms of everything I needed to be doing while in college. So, I decided to take a decal called, “Interview Prep and Job Success”, where I was able to develop the necessary skills in order to land the right job for me. You don’t really realize you need these skills until you get to the point in your life where you need to get a job or internship. You find yourself spending every spare moment you have sending out resumes and cover letters, and at the end of the day, that might not even be enough. Maybe you’ve applied to a bunch of companies, but just can’t seem to be able to land an interview. I would recommend going back and revising your resume and cover letter. Or maybe, you keep interviewing with different companies, but you just can’t seem to get the offer. Well then maybe you need more practice developing your interview skills.

I know what you’re thinking, “okay, thanks for pointing out the obvious Emily, but HOW do I actually do that?” The decal that I took really helped me to sharpen my interview and networking skills, so that I could go up to any working professional with confidence and enthusiasm. Since then, I’ve become a co-facilitator for the decal myself, along with Tyler and Cameron Haberman. We help students from all majors, years, and interests, fine-tune their resumes, cover letters, interview and networking skills, so that they can apply to jobs with the same confidence and enthusiasm. Some students have experience in speech and debate, and therefore are very comfortable in an interview setting; whereas, others have never created a resume in their life. Not only does this decal provide the basic tools students need in order to enter the workforce, but it brings me satisfaction to watch students transition from the beginning of the semester to the end. How do I answer that annoying question, “What’s your biggest weakness?” How can I find open job positions within my realm of interest and expertise? How can I take my resume to the next level? All of these questions are answered in this decal, so that students don’t go their entire college experience without a taste of professional realty. Nevertheless, here are some helpful tips to get you started:

  1. It’s about quality, not quantity: Whether it’s the number of jobs you apply to, or the number of positions you include on your resume, it’s important to focus on the quality of your applications and experience, rather than just volume. It’s more effective to spend hours on five to seven applications, rather than ten minutes on each of 50 applications.
  2. Use the STAR method: Each of the positions listed on your resume should include two to three bullets. Each bullet should include the SITUATION at hand, TASK requested, ACTION taken, and most importantly, the ending RESULT or impact you made.
  3. Have stories in mind: Before going into an interview, make sure you have five to seven stories that demonstrate the skills and leadership needed for the position you’re applying for. A story where you were successful at leading a group will be a lot more memorable than just saying, “I’m a great leader.”

In short, it’s overwhelming. But, it doesn’t have to be. Fall 2017 will be my last semester facilitating the decal, but I will do everything in my power to ensure it continues on. I encourage anyone who has never been exposed to professional development to take this decal. So, whether you’re reading this as a business student or have a friend that just wants help applying for jobs, we can help! 

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Racial Equity@Haas: Core Professor – Andy Shogan (UGBA 104)

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.

ANDREW (Andy) SHOGAN joined the faculty of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley after receiving an A.B. in Mathematics from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Operations Research from Stanford University. At the Haas School, Andy served several times as chair of the Operations & Information Technology Group, and, during the period 1991-2007, he served as the Haas School’s Associate Dean for Instruction. In 2007, Andy was awarded the Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award for his long-time service to both Haas and the University. For his teaching, Andy twice received the Haas School’s Cheit Award for Teaching Excellence (once from the Full-Time MBA students and once from the Part-Time MBA students), and he received the campus-wide Distinguished Teaching Award from the University’s faculty. Andy taught a variety of executive education programs in the United States, China, Thailand, Taiwan, Jamaica, Mexico, and Switzerland. Andy and his wife of 44 years are both natives of Pittsburgh, PA, now reside in Orinda, CA, and have 3 sons, 2 daughters-in-law, and 3 grandchildren.

Q1) What is Racial Equity to You?

“I think it’s almost self-defining; it’s that every race has equal opportunity to everything: education, a path to upward mobility, freedom of movement. There’s an expectation that you won’t be denied anything because of your race, just like religious equity, or any other kind of equity.”

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

“Most companies are either making a product or providing a service, and from a business perspective, they have to figure out how to market themselves to a variety of racially-diverse market segments. Take a company that – let’s just say – sells milk. You sell milk to Hispanics in a different way than you sell milk to Caucasians. You have to understand that there is a different marketing technique, a different way you structure your ads. Today you see on TV that there are much more diverse people in the ads, and also ads that target a particular race. Similarly on the service side, you still have to understand that the way you reach a particular customer differs by race, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Every culture has a different way of perceiving things and I think a business needs to understand that to prosper. Even if it’s a non-profit or a foundation, it should still recognize that soliciting donations from one culture is different from soliciting donations from another culture. Another basic idea is that businesses need to understand how to best sell their product or service to different cultures, and the only way to understand that is to have a diverse workforce. For example, the Trump administration – there are a lot of ways to criticize it but one of the obvious reasons is that it’s a bunch of old white men sitting around making policies about race and about what women can and can’t do with their bodies and about services to Planned Parenthood and things like that. That’s just the most obvious example, but that example carries down to a business. If I’m Uber, on the service side, or am selling milk, on the product side, I’ve got to have a diverse workforce if I’m going to be a successful business.

Beyond that, there’s the problem of retaining a racially-diverse workforce. A woman I know works for a non-profit that’s struggling with that issue. She’s the HR Director and she’s having trouble retaining minorities. She wants desperately to keep them, but they say, ‘I feel uncomfortable since when I look around, I only see one of me, or I only see two of me, and there are hundreds of other people out there.” You’ve got to retain a critical mass; it’s not enough to hire a racially-diverse workforce. After hiring a racially-diverse workforce, you must create a work environment that fosters the retention of the racially-diverse workforce.”

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

“There are at least three levels to that. I see the school both from where I am now and from where I used to be; I was the Associate Dean here for 17 years from the ‘90s to 2007, so I had a lot of administrative responsibilities. I still see the school at the student level, the staff level, and the faculty level. Let’s take those one at a time:
At the student level, Berkeley does good job, but its hands are tied in so many ways by laws that the state must follow, but at least there are students of all races here, but obviously, I’d like to see more with respect to the non-Caucasian races. Going back many years, we were able to admit using race more than we can today to have the diversity that we wanted; the laws passed since then tie our hands a lot. Given that, I think we do as well as we can in generating a group of undergraduate students that are as racially diverse as the laws currently permit.

At the staff level, I think we do an excellent job. If you look at the staff that serves the school at the undergraduate level, the MBA level, the PhD level, supports the faculty and so on, you see a diversity that is excellent.

I think where Haas does worse is at the faculty level. If you look at the faculty, who you see in the classroom, they are not nearly as diverse as it should be. At the undergraduate student level, we’re hamstrung by the laws; at the faculty level, we’re hamstrung by the pipeline, meaning we can only hire what is presented to us, so if there are not enough women getting PhDs, then we can’t hire enough women. Now on the women side I think Haas is doing excellent, but when it comes to persons of color, I think it’s fair to say that our faculty is not as diverse as it SHOULD be, but I think it’s fair to say it’s about as diverse as it CAN be, and the problem there is that we don’t see enough diverse candidates getting PhDs that we can hire from. To be a University like Berkeley, we have to hire excellent faculty; we’re allowed to look everywhere and we cast as broad a net as we can, and if we see a diverse candidate, we will do our best to include that person in the subset of people we interview, but we can only do that if that diverse person is in the system and chooses to apply to our job offers. What we see unfortunately in my field, finance, or accounting as examples is not enough diverse candidates in the applicant pool that we can invite for an interview and who then can survive the interview process and get hired. A nationwide problem for all business schools is to find ways to encourage many more persons of color to enter PhD programs in business and aspire to be faculty members.

How do we do at Haas? At the undergraduate student level, I think we do the best we can under the law. How do we do at the staff level? I think we do an excellent job at the staff level. How do we do at the faculty level? I think we do as well as we can given the lack of diversity in the pipeline of candidates.”

Q4) Please Add a Personal Anecdote on Racial Equity.

“On a personal level, I’ve noticed in my own teaching that I always tend to use Caucasian names when I’m writing examples. I’ve become sensitive to men versus women, so I’ll have just as many women if I’m inventing a problem as men, or I’ll try to say ‘she’ as often as I say ‘he’ when I’m talking about a manager, but when I go back to look at my notes, it’s always John and Michael and Sarah and Ashley or whatever, the names you typically associate with Caucasians. One of the things I’ve started to do is to go back and change my notes so that I have just as many Asian names and Hispanic names and so on. I find myself actually looking up what are some common names – obviously I see the names in my list of students and so on, but I find myself going to Google and saying, for example, ‘Okay, here are a list of Hispanic male names and Hispanic female names,” and trying to go back, while it’s a slow process, and change my notes so that hopefully two or three years from now when you look at my notes you’ll see just as many person-of-color names instead of my old notes that were dominated by Caucasian names.”

Feature on Patrick Sutton (Director of Ireland’s National Theater School)

Patrick Sutton serves as a perfect example of how business can be used in unsuspecting ways. If you are interested in how your degree and your communication skills can serve you post-Haas, in a number of different fields, then this feature is for you!

Patrick Sutton is the Director of The Gaiety School of Acting-The National Theater School of Ireland. He is also the Director of the newly established Smock Alley Theater from 1662. Moreover, he owns a communications company called, “Communicate with Confidence” and has worked with Ireland’s former prime minister and professionals at companies like Accenture and Twitter.

The responses below have been abridged for clarity:

Can you please speak a bit about the positions you hold in the Business and Theater communities?

“My first job is as the Director of the National Theater School of Ireland, The Gaiety School of Acting. My second job is as the Director of the Smock Alley Theater.” [Smock Alley Theater is a historic theater in the heart of Dublin. Patrick alongside colleague Kristian Marken, restored the original theater of 1662]. We decided to bring it back to life as a resource for Dublin, for Ireland, and for the World. It is the most historic thing I have ever done. I also own a communications company called “Communicate with Confidence.”

How did you decide to start “Communicate with Confidence”?

“About 15 years ago, I was asked by an Irish politician, Bertie Ahern, to coach him in speech delivery and speech writing. We met once a week to prepare him for every speech he ever did. This included speeches to the joint houses of the U.S. Congress and to the joint houses of the British Parliament. [In 1994, Ahern was elected as prime minister of Ireland. He served for about 12 years as prime minister]. He was a huge part of the Northern Ireland Peace process. I have also coached clients in companies like Accenture and Twitter. This afternoon, I am coaching the Managing Director of Twitter for an interview with the BBC.

With your work in political and business realms, has your experience with Theater been helpful?

“I was an actor. Everything I do and always have done has come from that perspective.” The perspective of being able to stand and to be confident in my body and how it operates, in my voice and how it operates, in my gestures as to how they work.” “Ultimately, you’ve got to be able to stand or sit and deliver and own this thing [body] and there is no apology for the performance in the communications work I do.”

Specifically in business and in communications, “ I use a communications model to provide a context, to talk coherently and concisely. I also use this model to present visions. I believe that every presentation is about the future. My vision, as a presenter, is always the future, my vision is never the past.”

Can you speak more about how performing as an actor has helped you as a business man?

“Good acting has a sense of embodiment and ownership. Good acting means that you were there and you were whole and you were full and you were engaged. If you’re not full and engaged with your body, and your voice, and your gestures, and your emotions then you’re at the wrong game, absolutely the wrong game and it is exactly the same with business.”

In a business setting as a company or an employee, it is imperative to “ take ownership of what [you] stand for.” I am a “big believer in the communications game that, if you do not stand for something with a strong spine, strong voice, and clear gesture…there is a danger that you’ll actually stand for nothing. And if you stand for nothing then you are disadvantaged, you are disabled in some sense that you can’t articulate who you are and what you stand for.”

What would you say for students studying Business or Theater?

“At the National Theater School I have designed a course that addresses this question [what do you stand for?] for my students.”

[One of the courses at the National Theater School is called “Manifesto.” It encourages students to create and design their own work. They are in control of the process, presentation and art forms used.] The “Manifesto program is predicated around that concept of figure out who you are and what you stand for.”

“So to students in any realm, I would say figure out what kind of work you want to make and what kind of context you want to make it in. If you can answer those questions, it is incredible what can happen.”

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