The First Coffee Chat In Chengdu

Coffee chats are informal gatherings that enable prospective students to meet and network with existing MBA students and alumni. Generally, MBA programs host coffee chats only in China’s tier-1 cities. This is due to two reasons:

  1. The hosts themselves came from a tier-1 city
  2. There is a perception that most MBA applicants come from tier-1 cities

Not true. Last year, when I was applying for business schools, I was actually serving a secondment posting in a tier-2 city! Yes, I felt restrained by what limited resources I had at that time. That is, I had no test-prep classes, no essay-writing workshops, and no alumni to contact!

I’m glad to have successfully hosted the first Haas coffee chat in Chengdu, a tier-2 city where the population of study-abroad students has been growing.

I initially wondered if any attendees would show at all. In China, there’s a perception that people in tier-2 cities tend to settle down once they have a job and focus exclusively on their family life. Again, not true. Over 10 prospective students showed up!

Each of them told me that their friends wanted to come too but could not leave their work! I was thrilled to learn that these prospective students had all made extraordinary achievement in their respective companies. More importantly, they expressed strong desire for continued learning.

Despite the aforementioned lack of resources, these students showed initiative by establishing a QQ (a popular Chinese social networking tool) group to help one another with the MBA process. Together they already reached out to many current students and alumni.

I made friends with each one of them through this event. I’m happy to report that many have made follow-up meeting requests to learn more about Haas. Hopefully we can continue expanding the coffee chats to even more cities in the future!

-Isabel Feng

“Is an MBA right for you?”

Today Haas welcomed over 100 guests (most of whom were prospective students) with the annual Women’s Workshop, hosted by admissions and Women in Leadership. This year’s theme was “My Journey toward an MBA.” The goal of the day’s sessions was to give participants an opportunity to learn more about the MBA and evaluate whether and/or when business school is right for them. Some attendees were locals, but many traveled in from across the country for the event. Having attended similar events before applying to business school, and having found them incredibly valuable in making my own decision to apply, I was eager to volunteer my time at this event.

Registration for the all-day event started at 8am (which, again, is like 5am in the student world!). I arrived on campus even earlier to help set up before our first attendees arrived. I don’t think I’ve seen Haas pre-sunrise in quite some time!

Good morning, Haas!

 I also managed to sneak a glimpse from the balcony of the Wells Fargo Room as we were setting up breakfast inside. I typically admire the Campanile (our clock tower) on a sunset backdrop, but sunrise might just be better!

Attendees arrived throughout the breakfast hour and after some coffee and mingling, headed over into the main auditorium for a welcome from Dean Lyons. As usual, Dean Lyons was engaging and personable as he shared about Haas’ four defining principles.

He acknowledged that many will read about Haas’ defining principles on the website and wonder if it’s just a heap of carefully crafted messaging with little substance behind it. I saw some in the audience nod. The dean then proceeded to share anecdotes that illustrated that the principles are present and thriving not only among students, but among faculty and staff as well. The defining principles aren’t hollow shells that we are seeking to fill. Instead, they are everyday life here at Haas, and it’s only in recent years that we have attempted to codify our culture and be explicit about who we are and what we value.

After the dean’s welcome, Professor Nora Silver, Director of the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership, shared about her current research on multi-sector leadership (learn more here). She shared preliminary findings and engaged the audience in a discussion about the prevalence of multi-sector leadership and why we might be seeing this play out.

I had talked to several attendees over breakfast who were interested in the non-profit sector, so I was especially excited to have them hear Professor Silver speak. Checking in with the same attendees during lunch, many of them expressed that they felt incredibly lucky to have been able to hear from her and walked away feeling inspired, both personally and professionally. I wasn’t surprised. I first learned about Professor Silver’s infectious energy and her passion for the non-profit sector, when I took “Introduction to Nonprofit Management” with her years ago as an undergrad at Haas. Since then the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership has continued to grow and its success is a big part of why I came back to Haas.

Lunch was served out in the courtyard – it was a beautiful 75 degrees outside today – and we all enjoyed a little sun. Prospective students interested in the Full-Time, Evening/Weekend, and Berkeley-Columbia programs sat with student volunteers in the respective programs and were able to ask questions about academics, student life, professional goals, the social scene and everything in between.

The rest of the day included sessions and panels with admissions, the Career Management Group, a keynote address and an alumnae and student panel. To close out the day, we had an afternoon reception with all kinds of snacks and plenty of drinks. Volunteers answered additional questions and did what they do best to show off Haas – they were themselves!

Overall, I thought the energy of speakers, attendees, current students (major shout out to the 2 dozen+ volunteers across all 3 Haas programs!) was fantastic today. It was a long day, but it was also energizing and definitely well worth it.

I often find that I enjoy talking about my experiences at Haas, especially on days like today, because it allows me (or pushes me) to reflect aloud on my experiences. What’s going well? What’s been fun? What do I wish I did differently? What’s next? There’s always so much happening each day that it’s easy to just let the days and weeks get away from me. So whether it’s talking about classes, a recent social gathering, my (awesome) study team, or an upcoming case competition, I love having the opportunity to reflect and be a student voice for Haas at the same time.

Looking back

With my two years at Haas are coming to an end, I have recently started to reflect back on my time here in Berkeley and on the intense period of time ever since I have started applying to business school.

When I started the application process in the summer of 2007, I spent a long time thinking about my goals for business school. I will use this post (warning: long post) to share some of those goals and whether I was able to achieve those goals here at Haas. In case you don’t want the read through all the details, here is the short summary: Mission accomplished.

Like most people applying for an MBA program, I wanted to develop and refine my leadership skills. In my career goals essay I wrote that I wanted to “
improve my interpersonal skills and gain confidence leading teams through applying my leadership skills in clubs and through classes…“. Let’s see: I ran for and won an elected office, held speeches in front of 240 classmates and really enjoyed the leadership communications class, the Peers @ Haas coaching program and my Power & Politics class. As a member of the MBA Association, I was the voice of the international student community and led a workshop at the Graduate Business Conference. I organized events for the international student community, led a consulting team, and developed and delivered a communication skills workshop. Confidence building? You bet. Improve my interpersonal skills? Absolutely. Applying my leadership skills? Sure.

International exposure
From my application:
“The program will allow me to meet people from different backgrounds, to learn from their experience, and to contribute my own perspective. At the same time electives like the International Business Development program, international study trips and the possibility to spend time at a business school in another country will help me to build on my existing international experience and to improve my understanding of doing business all over the world.
I went to class with students from more than 40 countries. I traveled to Japan with some of my Japanese classmates and really got to know the country and its culture, worked in Finland (IBD) and Italy (Internship), and explored Mexico. I worked on project teams with people from at least 5 countries and lived with housemates coming from 4 countries and moving to 4 (different) countries after graduation. I also worked on case studies dealing with companies from at least 10 countries, learned from professors from countless places all across the world, and saw speakers from a variety of countries who are doing business all over the world. Oh, I also spent 2 years in the US. For me, that counts as international exposure. Meet people? Check. Build international experience? Check. Improve my understanding of doing business all over the world? Check again.

Business fundamentals
Even though I had worked as a management consultant for two years before coming to Haas, with my background in Computer Science, I felt I could use a more structured and formal introduction into business and economics. I also really wanted to better understand the various functions within a company, and the different economics and strategic challenges of various industries. “At the current point in my career the Berkeley MBA will give me a solid foundation to take on new business challenges of various sizes and shapes: It will be a good opportunity to deepen my understanding of business fundamentals
Without going into too much detail about my classes here: Check. I also worked on consulting projects in mobile communications, social networks, payment services, building materials, and renewable energy. Check again.

I won’t copy anything from my applications essays, because that would sound really cheesy, but I met a bunch of wonderful people here at Haas and have been able to build up an extremely strong network and to make great friends. Fortunately some of my good friends are going to Europe after graduation, but I am sure I will stay in touch with many of my class mates in the years to come.

Giving back:
I knew I would get a lot out of my years at Haas. Over my two years at Berkeley, it also became increasingly clear, that I wanted to give back to the wonderful community and to contribute to the success of the Haas School. I was amazed by how much every single one of us was able to do to make Haas a better place and by how much room the administration gave me and others to improve the student experience at Haas, to support our classmates, and to form a stronger community.

To sum things up: Has Haas delivered? Yes. Has the program enabled me to achieve my goals and aspirations? Yes. Have I been able to grow during my two years? Absolutely. So once again, mission accomplished.


Spring-A Roundup

Since I haven’t blogged in a while, I figured now is a good time go give you all an update on the last few weeks.

Interviews: As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a student admissions interviewer this year. I had my first few interviews before Super Saturday and then three interviews on Super Saturday. I won’t talk about the actual interviews here, but the entire process was both really interesting and very rewarding. The admissions office did a great job training us interviewers, making sure we were all on the same page when it came to assessing candidates, and while the interview process is challenging not just for the candidat, but also for interviewers, I felt good getting the chance to influence the next generation of Haas students and helping to ensure that the class of 2011 will be another great class.

Travel: I was back in Germany for a few days in February preparing for my move back home and will go back there over spring break to find an apartment. To make sure I also had some spring break fun, I went to Tulum, Mexico, for a long weekend. Great scuba diving and a very relaxing weekend away from the MBA crowds. (I love my class mates, but sometimes it is nice to get away from everything.)

Classes: The academic semester is going well. I just got back from a great discussion with John Denniston, Partner at Kleiner, Perkins, in my Energy class (directly after a mid-term exam), have been working on a number of interesting group projects, and tried to make sure my OPEC country (Iran) did well in our simulation. We ended up coming out ahead of last year’s Iran team, but were a bit too careful towards the end of the simulation, expecting a breakdown of the cartel. I also just bid on a portfolio of power plants last week for yet another energy markets simulation. We got our portfolio for cheap, but aren’t really sure if we got it for a good price. Other teams were clearly better prepared for the auction, but some of them also got carried away during the bidding process, raising their bids to (what seemed to me like) unreasonably high level. But then, they had pretty fancy spreadsheets, so maybe they actually knew what they were doing.

Other: The last semester is a lot of fun. Trying hard to cram in as many activities as possible. I am actually excited about going back to work this summer, but I already know that I will miss my friends, I will miss Berkeley, and I will miss Haas. Which is why I am trying to get as much out of this semester as possible on all fronts.


Interview Training

No, this post is not about getting ready for the job search, practicing cases or discussing strategies for acing the behavioral interview. Rather, it is about the training for Haas admissions interviewers.

As you might know, most admissions interviews for the Haas full-time program are conducted by current students (on campus) and alumni (off-campus). To make sure all applicants that are invited for an interview receive a fair shot, the Haas admissions committee spends a considerable amount of time selecting, training and calibrating interviewers. To become a student interviewer, I had to submit a written application, went through an interview myself, and attended a detailed student interviewer training session. In addition, all student interviewers will go through an additional individual feedback session before Super Saturday to further refine their interviewing skills and to make sure we all apply equal standards in interviewing prospective students.

Why I decided to become a student interviewer

My own admissions interview (an alumni interview back in Germany) was a key factor for me in deciding to come to Haas, and joining the interviewing team now will allow me to convey my own excitement about Haas to incoming students and to help select a great class of 2011.


Lunch with Prospective Students

I just had one of the most intense yet rewarding lunches of my life today during our lunch escort program. It was intense because Champa and I were responsible for answering questions, which included “why Haas” and “what classes do you like” to “what kind of social activities do you do” and “how do you manage a long distance relationship once you’re in business school,” from 14 prospective students during the one-hour lunch session. It was also very rewarding because I had time, for really the first time in the last two months, to reflect on everything that I’ve done at Haas. As I answered questions and witnessed my cheeseburger get really cold, I realized that, wow, I do love my experiences at Haas a lot.

For those of you who are reading this blog and thinking about applying this Fall, I strongly encourage you to come visit the campus, sit in a class, and have lunch with students like me. I assure you that we will give you a candid description of our experience.

—Eugene Lin