Leadership Communication & Ferran Adrià

As most of the other first-years, I’ve been spending the last few days racing against the clock to get some decent studying before Fall A finals. They’ve arrived so quickly, all of a sudden! It’s OK though, I tell myself, they’ll be finished as quick as they came. Hopefully….

In the meantime, I just wanted to write a few quick lines to reflect on two events that have recently taken place in the Andersen Auditorium.

The first one is yet another tribute to a very popular Fall A class: Leadership Communication. We have definitely been put outside our comfort zones in this one, and we’ve learned about public speaking and human relations in a very unique and experiential way. Check out the picture below, for example: during a class, all 60 of us participated in an exercise in order to prove that not only will people treat you differently according to your perceived status within society or your organization, but that you are prone to adapt your own behaviour accordingly. In practice, we held oversized cards on our foreheads representing our position within the hierarchy, although we only got to see the value of the card at the end of the exercise. If it looks like fun it’s because it was…

The second event took place earlier this week. It was the presentation of the “Ideas for Transformation” challenge, by famous Spanish chef Ferran Adrià in partnership with Telefonica.

Adrià wants to transform the relationship between creativity and society through the creation of El Bulli Foundation. He has selected five business schools to participate, Haas being one of them given our strengths in blending innovation and technology.

As a Spaniard myself, I grew up admiring Adrià’s boldness and foresight. Needless to say, I felt honored to share with him a few moments over lunch and during his presentation. This will be a tough challenge though, given how high up the bar is set; in the chef’s words, “if they can understand you when you explain your innovation, it’s not novel enough”.

Play Ball!

As the co-president of the Haas General Management & Strategy Club, I had the privilege to invite Sandy Alderson (former CEO of the San Diego Padres, former Executive VP of MLB, and the mastermind behind Moneyball) to speak at our bi-annual CEO Spotlight Event tonight. During the 1.5-hour presentation, Sandy gave us candid advice on sports management, business practices, and life. Sandy, a long-time leader in the baseball world and a board member of Haas, gave us his take on “leading through innovation” from a sports angle.

Before I dropped Sandy off at SFO, we continued our discussion in my car on the steroid era, the Padres’ recent challenges, A-Rod, and our favorite baseball players. As a hardcore fan of everything baseball, I was simply overjoyed to be able to learn from such a knowledgeable, energetic, and genuine leader. When you come to Haas, you will be surprised how many amazing, inspiring individuals you get to meet on a daily basis. I’m glad to be a Haas student.

—Eugene Lin

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.


YEAH (Young Entrepreneurs at Haas): Part 2

Our last meeting was a whirlwind. We spent the morning getting the mentors up to speed, introducing ourselves to the freshmen group, and then getting to work on the case. The goal for the kids this semester is to analyze and present their findings on a case discussing opportunity recognition.

We wrapped up our second session last Saturday which was largely spent in the computer lab developing their PowerPoint presentation (they definitely taught me a thing or two about the new version of PowerPoint).

Similar to the MBA environment at Haas, a large component of the YEAH program is to help the kids learn and understand the benefits of teamwork. It was great to see how the kids worked together (with minimal encouragement) to get all of the slides completed.

One unexpected benefit that I’ve gotten out of the YEAH program so far is the ability to witness these team dynamics, as well as the ability to coach them on understanding how to work as a team even better. Interesting! This is one of the main skills of mine I wanted to “scale up” at Haas, I had no idea I’d get that chance through YEAH.


Show, Don’t Tell

Yesterday, I attended two sessions of Professor Bill Sonnenschein’s lectures about giving good speeches. One was a lunchtime “storytelling” workshop. The other was his regular Leadership Communications lecture, which had a special guest.

What was the theme that linked these two events? The concept of “show, don’t tell.”

Many of you reading this probably have heard of the phrase before, usually related to how to write great application essays. But the same concept applies to speeches just the same.

During our “Storytelling Workshop”, Prof. Bill taught us the importance of telling stories, because the stories show examples of your topic, which often helps your audience understand you better and remember what you had to say.

So, that same night, Prof. Bill applied his principle by having his special guest speaker, our own Dean Richard Lyons, give a talk to illustrate the components that go into a great speech.

Long story short, Dean Lyons gave a strong speech using stories and all the other key ingredients that Prof. Bill has taught us over the past 5 weeks. The best part was when the dean opened himself up for constructive criticism from the audience. How cool was that?

Seeing Dean Lyons talk in this setting helped me gel together all the components of good speeches. It also taught me the power of “show, don’t tell.” Now if only I can incorporate all that into my speech coming up this Thursday… =)



What a week it has been! 3rd week’s done, heard 3 great speakers, and went to 3 drinking events. Good things come in 3’s I guess.

While the week was uber-crazy-busy, it was also extremely exciting. Different clubs have started, our cohorts are beginning to elect class representatives for social, community, communication, and technology areas, industry brown bag panels have helped me focus my career goals a little more, prospective students have begun to show up in our classes (I had a few great conversations with them already) and Jimmy FIFO’s Cafe have become a regular lunch place for me due to necessity. Out of all that, the three speaker events I attended were the highlights of my week.

Before taking Bill Sonnenschien’s Leadership Communication class, I’ve always wondered why some speakers connect with audiences better than others. After two classes of Bill uttering “authenticity” in every other sentence he says, I finally began to understand what separates these great speakers. The three speakers were convincing because they showed their true self in their speeches. In short, they were authentic.

How were they authentic you may ask? Let me tell you.

Bright and early Sunday morning, close to 200 of my classmates dragged our sleepy heads to Andersen Auditorium to hear Prof. Srikumar Rao speak about “Harnessing Your Full Potential”. Other than making us stand up and do some strange arm/body waving thing (see picture below), he also spoke at lengths about knowing yourself, understanding that what you perceive is only one reality of the world, and deriving happiness out of the process and not the outcome of what you do. During those 4 hours being entranced by him, I began to realize that Prof. Rao was able to drive his message home because: a) he related all his advice to his past experiences, b) he was passionate about the topic, and c) his passion showed through his speech.

Two days later, we had Will Price, the CEO of Widgetbox, the “world’s largest widget directory”, come speak to us as part of the “Life as an Entrepreneur” Speaker Series. He spoke about taking risks and having a “just do it” attitude, and again, I felt his passion for what he does, and his speech pulled me in.

Immediately after Will’s speech that night, we were very lucky to attend the pièce de résistance event of the week, where Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, one of the largest and greatest companies in the world, spoke to us in a jam-packed Andersen Auditorium. While all of the topics he spoke of were very informative and relevant, and the speech was a great success, one thing stood out for me: his authentic voice. Every word he said, every example he brought up, and every question he answered came from his core being. That was when Bill Sonnenschein’s words hit home and I fully understood the power of “be yourself, be passionate, and be authentic.”

With that, I leave you to ponder this concept while I continue to search for my own authentic voice.