Inspiration and Momentum at the Haas Business of Healthcare Conference

Last Friday I rose at 6 a.m. feeling giddy. Instead of heading to campus, I left my house in North Berkeley for the BART station and San Francisco. Just underground and through a turnstile, I ran into Dan, one of my amazing MBA/MPH classmates.

We took the 25-minute BART ride together from Berkeley to Union Square to meet the rest of our team ahead of the Haas Business of Healthcare Conference. More than 40 students in the Haas Healthcare Association, our health hub at Berkeley-Haas, had been working together since fall to create this 8th annual daylong event.

Once at our conference site at Hotel Nikko, I checked in with our volunteer coordinator, Zoe, saw our conference leaders Chris, Manuel and Mary Claire, and ran into more of my MBA and MBA/MPH classmates as the first, then second wave of our 300+ attendees arrived. Minutes later the conference was in full swing with speakers, professionals, alumni, and entrepreneurs from VC, consulting, global health, health tech, biotech, pharma, devices, providers and services, and other fields.

Throughout the day, thought leaders in health took the main stage. We heard from incredible leaders like Dr. Robert Pearl, CEO of the Permanente Medical Group, Matthew Douglass, co-founder at Practice Fusion, and Amir Dan Rubin, president and CEO of Stanford Hospital & Clinics.


Stanford Hospital & Clinics CEO/President Amir Dan Rubin discussed the importance of effective care coordination and shared how his medical center implemented changes to achieve success. (Photo credit: Peter Brock)


Practice Fusion Co-founder Matthew Douglass closed out the day. (Photo credit: Peter Brock)


For the first time at our conference, nearly 20 entrepreneurs pitched their products in a back-to-back speed round and later met attendees at a high-energy health tech expo. An attendee turned to my co-president after the pitches and said he had never seen start-ups featured this way and how much he enjoyed it. We took this as a sign that we continue to challenge the status quo whenever we have the chance! Start-up health companies who joined us for the day included Augmedix, Lift Labs, Proteus Digital Health, ThriveOn and many others.

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Entrepreneurs shared their inspiring stories and products with student and professional attendees on the main stage and at a hands-on expo. (Photo credits: Peter Brock, Nate Keller)


Six breakout sessions helped grow excitement and momentum around targeted areas of health. Groups of attendees joined together to discuss Obamacare’s winners and losers, reverse innovation and global health, changing the culture of care delivery, funding life sciences, and big data. With a team of three 1st and 2nd year MBA students, I organized a session about transforming wellness and prevention through technology. It was exciting to look out to see a packed room and to bring great speakers and perspectives to my classmates and our attendees.


Adrian James, co-founder and president of digital healthcare company Omada Health, shared his company’s evidence-based, human-centered approach to designing tech products for prevention. (Photo credit: Nate Keller)


Speakers on our VC panel discussed finding, funding and delivering therapies of tomorrow. (Photo credit: Nate Keller)


The conference ended but we stayed another hour longer to connect with speakers, alumni, professionals, and each other at a reception at Hotel Nikko.

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Berkeley-Haas MBA students at our conference reception at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco. (Photo credit: Peter Brock)


My classmates did a fantastic job working together to organize every aspect of the conference start to finish. As I rode home with three classmates over the Bay Bridge, I realized I had learned just as much from all of them as I did from our esteemed speakers. The experience left me inspired to stay curious and keep following my own journey and reminded me why I decided to join this incredible program and community. It was a great day to be a Haasie!

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Our incredible 2014 conference leaders Chris, Mary Claire and Manuel. Some of the Haas Healthcare Association members on our organizing team celebrating a successful event! (Photo credit: Peter Brock, Nate Keller)

Contributed by Jessica Jarvis on March 8, 2014


Culinary Club AgLocal Trek

I came to Haas with a background in environmental nonprofit work, a passion for food, and a desire to find a role where I could have a strong impact in improving the food system. Now, in the second half of my first year, I am Co-President of the Culinary Club and VP of Sustainable Agriculture and Food for the Net Impact Club. These leadership positions give me a strong platform to interact with companies and give myself and other students an inside view on what is happening locally in the food industry.


A few weeks ago, I organized a trek for eight Haas students to spend an afternoon with the founders and staff of AgLocal, a tech startup that connects sustainable meat producers with chefs and restaurants. AgLocal is a great representation of what the Bay Area has to offer – cutting-edge technology, an entrepreneurial culture, a love of food, and a strong commitment to responsible business.

On our trek to AgLocal, the founder, Naithan Jones, walked us through how and why he started the company. His team shared the opportunities and challenges they have faced since launching and candidly shared stories of the mistakes they’ve made. They asked for our input and engaged us in a meaningful discussion about a pivot they’re making as a company. We were also able to see the co-working space they share with other startups, giving us more of a sense of what it’s like to work for a new tech company.

Being a student and club leader at Haas has given me significant access to companies I’m interested in networking with as well as space to focus on the skills I want to develop. In addition to treks, the Culinary Club organizes potlucks, food outings (taco truck tour, anyone?), cooking classes (Rollin’ with my Homies, a lesson in Vietnamese Rolls), as well as “Haas Mystery Meets” that enable Haasies and other grad students to get to know each other better. The Net Impact Club connects students with a variety of socially responsible businesses through internship opportunities and treks, the Net Impact Conference, and a variety of events to meet alumni and students at other schools interested in social responsibility.

Contributed by Julia Silbergeld on March 3, 2014

No Shave November 2012

My class is amazing – I always knew that! :) However, the November razor buzz and over $25K raised for charity showed that MBAs know how to make money… out of hair!

No Shave November - Creating new fashion

Every November Haas students commit to give up their razors for 30 days to support Challenge4Charity, a non-profit organization that unites MBA students from nine West Coast business schools to support local charities and develop socially responsible business leaders.

No Shave November - The true me

Upon 30 days of struggling to explain employers the new not-so-business look, students auction their faces, heads, chests and other body parts to be shaved in a way the highest bidder wants and wear that hairstyle for next 24 hours…going to class, doing career treks and interviews..

.No Shave November - Evil and pushy auctioneers

This year my classmates went above and beyond, generating even more cash flows via bake sale and bold Facebook campaign!

No Shave November - Gold Cohort selling home made pastries  No Shave campaign of 2012 doubled previous year’s bid. Will November 2013 beat that?

Investment Club: LA Trek

Thanks to the leadership of Investment Club co-President’s Chao Zhang ’13 and Matt Therian ’13, 16 Haas MBA students (plus 1 undergraduate) visited Los Angeles for two days last week and met with a range of investment management firms across both public and private investment classes.  Courtney Walker, newly hired account manager for financial services and real estate, also joined us.

On Thursday, we took a quick flight down to Burbank and met with Oaktree Capital, an alternative investment firm.  Immediately, we got a sense of the firm’s culture summed up by Howard Marks, the firm’s founder who has a rule on hiring “no jerks.”  We also heard from several investment professionals across the firm’s distressed debt, high yield, and private equity groups including Rajath Shourie, co-Portfolio Manager and Jerilyn Castillo McAniff, Senior Vice-President and a Haas undergraduate alum.  Aaron Bendikson, Managing Director, encouraged us to think of business school as a “priceless call option” and to use our time wisely to reflect and explore different career options.

Later that evening, we checked into our hotel and changed out of our dress clothes.  Several of us stumbled upon a family-style Mediterranean restaurant, where we enjoyed a nice break, good meal, and a lot of bonding with our fellow classmates.

On Friday, we got going early to meet with several more firms.  First, we had a breakfast meeting with the Capital Group, one of the largest public equity managers.  Three Capital investment professionals discussed their work and long-term, diversified investment approach.  Portfolio Manager Greg Johnson described how he “skips to work every day” and highlighted the intellectual excitement of a career in investment management.  We also got great advice on preparing for stock pitches, a necessary component of the investment management interview.  We were advised to keep our stock pitches concise and not worry about making mistakes.

Our second meeting was with PRIMECAP, another public equity manager whose founders originally spun out of Capital Group.  Several PRIMECAP investment professionals including Jared N. Herzikoff-Cornell, a Berkeley alum, shared their long-term investment approach (their holding period is 7-10 years) that avoids committees and allows for individual decision-making.  We also discussed the merits for investing in Schwab and Amgen.  Joel Fried, President of PRIMECAP concluded by sharing some meaningful words of advice on investing:  “Don’t assume the most recent past will be the immediate future.  Stocks have no memory and change in perceptions lag change in reality.”

Finally, the group finished by meeting with PIMCO in Newport Beach, where PIMCO account manager and recent alumni Laura Bentzien ’12, hosted us.  Imagine our surprise when we entered PIMCO’s trading floor and saw the words “Welcome Haas Investment Club” on the stock ticker around the floor!  Several of us also managed to catch Bill Gross, a legend of the investment industry.  Despite being 68, Bill Gross is still one of the earliest in the office and still finds time to do yoga in the middle of the day.  Finally, an informal networking reception with plenty of refreshment and delicious cookies capped off our LA visit.   All in all, it was a great trip and we all benefited from our interactions with some extremely talented investment professionals.  We returned to the Bay Area late Friday night, exhausted but pleased with our experience.

Annual Diversity Workshop at Haas

By Amara Aigbedion, VP of Diversity MBA Association

I was honored to help organize this year’s annual Diversity Workshop on October 13th. We had a record turnout, with prospective students joining us from all over the world! At Haas, leadership is rooted in innovative thinking. Over 50 current students, alumni and staff volunteers from various ethnicities and backgrounds participated by demonstrating that our culture really does thrive on valuing the voices and opinion of those different from ourselves.  Dean Rich Lyons kicked off the day by relaying Haas’ s commitment to diversity through strategic relationships with organizations like the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT). Haas Diversity Director Eric Abrams and distinguished keynote, Mike Smith (Berkeley-Haas Alum ’98) also spoke about the true benefits of receiving an MBA from a top program. Additionally, Professor Ming Leung facilitated a mock case study, which highlighted the importance of diverse perspectives in the business world.

Attendees also had the chance to interact with current students and alumni, get application insights from the admissions committee and learn about the career search process, scholarships and financial aid opportunities.

Along with the main event, there were pre and post activities on Friday and Saturday including a Consortium student panel discussion, lunch with current students, and happy hours in both San Francisco and Oakland. We were excited to see many prospective students from the MLT program in attendance.

Olivia Herbert & Amara Aigbedion

“It was a unique opportunity for me to learn about the culture at Haas. I can definitely say that I can see myself going here,” remarked one attendee who will be applying to the Haas via The Consortium.

Myself (VP of Diversity for the full-time program) along with Olivia Herbert (VP of Diversity Evening and Weekend Program) and Matt Wadhwani (Haas Student Ambassador) were the student organizers. We spent weeks planning with the Haas admission team. Our goal was to ensure that prospective students walked away feeling as if they truly understand what life is like across each of the MBA programs.  I’m proud of all of the positive feedback that we have received.


Thoughts on Orientation Week

As I sip on a coffee and finally unwind for a bit on a warm Sunday afternoon in a café playing classic rock on Shattuck Ave, I realize this is a good time to reflect and pen down my thoughts on the past few weeks. It’s hard to believe that Orientation is over, classes have already started and we shall be approaching midterms in a matter of a few weeks!

As I was here for the admit weekend (Days at Haas 2) in April and arrived early for the summer workshop, it gave me a chance to settle in gradually and get my life in order before the Orientation week began. I can only imagine how overwhelming it must’ve been for students who arrived on Day 1 of O-week and were suddenly faced with the daunting task of getting to know 240 new people at once.

Day 1 began with a welcome talk from Dean Lyons. He gave a short but inspiring talk on transitions we (are expected to) undergo at Haas. This was followed by a lively Q&A session in which he answered queries from the class of 2014. Coming from India where the student-teacher relationship is more structured and formal, I am always a little taken aback at how friendly and accommodating the faculty here at Haas is. We were also introduced to our cohorts on this day (actually we already knew our cohorts because the allotment appeared in the Haas system a week earlier). I was happy to be in the ‘Axe’ cohort as we have a very enthusiastic bunch and had started making plans for the Cohort Olympics the week before Orientation itself. The best part of day 1 for me however, was a session on ‘Design Thinking’ by alumnus Tom Kelley, GM of IDEO. He gave real-life examples of how product innovations have been created by simply observing the world around us. I was enthralled by the talk and am looking forward to taking some electives on this subject next year. The day was rounded off with a welcome reception in the evening where a lot of us were meeting for the first time.

Day 2 was more activity laden than day 1 and was kicked off with a couple of sessions on building and running great study teams. I strongly believe that the biggest driver of team success is the chemistry between the team members and it is only when the team is in unison can the whole be greater than the sum of its parts. I am new to the concept of pre-assigned study teams and am looking forward to see how this plays out. I like the fact that we set out a collaborative plan at the outset and set ground rules from which we all agreed to operate on. We had a safety talk in the afternoon that resulted in one of the most popular memes in school right now (Call Bearwalk!). I also partook in ‘Tuesday Night at Bear’s Lair’, which is an informal weekly get-together at Bear’s Lair, a popular local pub on campus. I am now the proud owner of mug #1 for the semester and by David Hirsch’s analysis, I have to consume 14 drinks this sem to break even on my investment.

Day 3 was by far my favorite. We started the day with a visit to the Alameda Point Collaborative, which provides housing to homeless families and individuals. Our class was divided into groups and all of us were part of some volunteer activity. My group was in charge of clearing and leveling the community garden and installing panels to separate the plants from the walkway. I do not consider myself a handy person at all but had a lot of fun getting my hands dirty and working with rakes, shovels, drills and other tools. I think all of us felt good at having done our little bit for this worthy cause. But we were far from done for the day, because next up was the Cohort Olympics! This event is basically the first in a series of competitions between cohorts during the semester to determine who gets maximum points at the end and wins the ‘Golden Egg’. I don’t think that’s a real thing but at stake are bragging rights for life! Christine from our cohort had already ordered 60 Viking helmets (if you carry an axe, you gotta have a Viking helmet) and we were ready for the highly competitive sports of sloshball and cornhole among others. Long story short, we won soccer, football, and cupcake eating (!) and put up a spirited performance in other events, a feat that enabled us to win the overall event! We were super happy to have started off the cohort competitions on a winning note. This event also served as a personal reminder on the importance of flexibility in a team environment: I had prepared a script for the skit well in advance but after we were told that there was a theme in place for the skit, I had to dump the idea completely and we worked on a new idea someone else had suggested.

Strategising for the Cohort Olympics.

Day 4 was a little more career focused. We had a very interesting talk by alumnus Ralph Bahna, board Chairman of and also attended company workshops from Groupon, Clorox, etc.  We were introduced to case-method based teaching wherein we discussed a case study on Virgin America and debated the pros/cons of its strategy. Then in the afternoon to our great surprise, in walked the CEO of Virgin America for a speaker session! It was a great experience to hear the story of the airline from the CEO himself and his frank responses to our very pointed questions about profit generation and financial health of the company. The questions never seemed to end, but the time did and he walked off to a well-deserved standing ovation from all of us. Thursday ended with another meet-up at the ‘Bar of the Week’ (At the current frequency, I reckon we should start calling it ‘Bar of the Day’).

That marked the end of the official O-Week. There was also an 80’s party on Friday but that is a subject that warrants its own post(s). Suffice to say, there is a costume shop on Bancroft that now has me on the list of VIP customers.

All in all, I think Orientation week was phenomenal and the perfect way to start my Haas experience. A huge thanks to EB, Kent and Chris – the  O-week chairs, and other second year students who toiled for months to craft this marathon event. Many of you may have noticed that Haas keeps talking about its 4 defining principles. Unlike other schools or institutions where these are more or less ‘positioning statements’ to serve as market differentiators, I have realized that Haas sincerely believes in these principles and it is reflected throughout the curriculum, activities, faculty and the student body at Haas. In the past few weeks, I’ve met a triathlon coach, an improv artist, an astronaut, army veterans, and loads of amazing and humble, friendly people who have made my life seem very uneventful in comparison. I feel privileged to be a part of this institution and am looking forward to the next two years and sharing my experience through this blog.

P.S: As the number of classes and activities increase and my free time decreases in proportion, I expect subsequent updates to be significantly shorter than this treatise.