Back Into The Swing

Spending the past year overseas far removed from the corporate world granted me many of the personal pleasures that my investment banking career so graciously stripped away during my 5-plus year tenure on Wall Street. To name a few: sleeping normal hours, walking in sunlight, eating at a table instead of inside a cubicle and, best of all, waking up when my body was ready (sans alarm clock). Yet, as good as a leisurely lifestyle is, matriculating to Haas is a very welcomed transition­. Moving to Berkeley from the Philippines; however, was not a joyful pleasure.

Long story short, moving is the worst chore ever. I’ll spare you the details. Actually, I won’t. I tried out the ‘San Francisco method’ roommate search, aka Craigslist, to hunt down the ideal living / roommate situation. I didn’t find it after 1.5 weeks and 30 apartment showings, partly because I’m picky and high maintenance but probably because I’m just not cool enough for a set of random people already living together. Not so pleasant was the short-term housing I arranged during my apartment search, listed as a ‘hotel’ which, at that address, was a euphemism for ‘halfway house’ (chair under the doorknob at night, check). I eventually found a sweet studio, though, basically on campus and right in my sweet spot for rent. So I guess it was worth the pain I put upon myself. My advice for any new student: find roommates among classmates and get a whole house for yourselves (basement, garage, backyard, deck, the works). My way was the hardway, but we aren’t playing craps in Vegas.

So, after getting my place, moving in and buying the essentials (TV, lounge chair, dishes, rice cooker, sham-WOW, etc on credit card), I am all squared away and set for O-Week next week. I did sign up and attend the two-week summer workshops, which for me was a great way to ease my body into a routine / rhythm after a long my time off. Plus, I needed some brain calisthenics. Plus plus, I’ve already met dozens of awesome people even before O-Week started! Plus plus plus, I had many afternoons off to work on the ol’ golf game at Tilden Regional Park.

With hundred-year-old redwoods, rolling hills, well groomed appointments and affordable green fees make Tilden a breathtaking gem of a public golf course in a state park in the hills just above campus. Tilden is a superb medium, along with the summer workshops, to adjust my mind and body for the MBA program and to help me get into the swing of things. Even after school starts, I can likely sneak in 9 holes before class if I can train my body to get up at 5am. Hopefully, I’ll soon get my score back into the double digits and perfect an all to critical business skill.


Kudos to the Ops team for putting together the amazing Student Resource Guide

I sat in a review group to provide feedback to Kara Hayman and her team on the Student Resource Guide they put together for all the new admits. Right after the admission call, Haas sent to all of the new admits, the Student Resource Guide by FedEx. The guide is an extremely very well written, organized and packaged document. Everyone in the focus group commented on the great visual appeal, the uniformity of colors and fonts, and how they had used it to ease the transition to Berkeley and Haas. It was not something that was hurriedly photocopied and slapped together.

I think it shows the great attention to detail and the real hard work of the Ops team in helping the new admits make the decision and move to Berkeley. I bet the guide covered information that is important for almost everybody. There sure was some comments made about the need for more information for special cases, but I bet that a guide that is meant for such a diverse student body did its job extremely well.

The Ops team also made available an excellent new admit website that contained all of the information in the guide and more. There were some exchanges about doing the guide only in the web form vs. paper and web form. I for one voiced the web only form because I believe that anything you print goes out of date immediately. But many people liked the usability of the printed form, in fact I am thankful for the great Berkeley map that was included and the practice test for quantitative skills.

Kudos to Kara and her team. I appreciate all you did for the incoming class.


It is all blue

Despite what I might have said about sorting hat and cohort names, to the disappointment of all Potter-heads out there, the cohort assignment is not as magical. I heard that it is a carefully constructed social engineering project. I shudder at the thought that even one change in the last minute will have a cascading effect and possibly lead to complete revamp of the assignment (note: extreme dramatization added for effect). If you already don’t know, the cohorts are named Blue (“Da Blues”), Gold, Axe and Oski.

The cohorts are of the same size, 240 evenly distributed. But the prevailing talk when you go to any of the socializing event is, “Da blues are everywhere! everybody is blue!”. I wonder how it could happen. Is it possible that all the blues are all really twins or quadruples, showing up at every possible event?


Summer workshop: Almost done

With just four more days until the beginning of O-Week now is a good time to recapture my first two weeks in Berkeley.

Let me start by saying that I had a fantastic time since arriving from Germany. Coming to Berkeley for the optional summer workshop was definitely a good idea: The last two weeks were packed with activities, offered plenty of opportunities to meet my future classmates and allowed me to get settled before classes really start.

The summer workshop
I signed up for both Math Camp and Communications camp. Given my educational background in computer science the first week of Math Camp did not post a huge challenge. The material covered was mostly pretty basic. However, the class was a good opportunity to get adjusted to sitting in a class room again and provided ample opportunities to meet many of my new fellow classmates. The second week of Math Camp should in fact be labeled Finance and Accounting Camp and is a great introduction into Corporate Finance and Accounting. for people with relevant experience, the class serves as a great refresher and Thomas Gilbert, our finance instructor, is a great and enthusiastic teacher.

Communications camp was a fun experience: Contrary to popular belief communications camp is not specifically tailored to international students. The class gives a very broad introduction into leadership communications, covering listening, speaking and writing skills and offering interesting insights into how people communicate especially in an inter-cultural context.

Berkeley life

As you can see from the other postings in this blog, the rest of the week was filled with non-stop activity: Trips to San Francisco and Napa, happy hours at various Berkeley bars, career and networking events, house searching and house parties, multiple trips to Ikea, and various outdoor activities guaranteed that no-one would get too much sleep. My own personal highlight: Our wine tasting trip to Napa last Sunday.


Ideas are easy, implementation is hard

For me, that’s one of the most interesting things Guy Kawasaki talked about in his talk yesterday (see Rags post below).

And its so true, Communication Camp just showed us exactly that.
We were asked to come up with several ideas each, without thinking about implementation at all, just throw in an idea, and then we had to brainstorm in small groups of 8-10 people and decide on one idea. A perfect example of how easy ideas are – we had so many amazing ideas, both realistic and fictitious. Ranging from a self balancing backpack (something I crave for everyday I carry that huge backpack on my back) to projecting on the moon!
If only it was that easy to implement in terms of developing a great product and marketing and selling it successfully.

That’s one of the things I came to Haas for – a software engineer looking to take on the other side of things, switching to making tech instead of doing tech. And there is a big difference between those two…

—Alex Lev

Upwardly Mobile, but …

Mobile technologies, the possibilities and the yet to be identified business models intrigue me. Haas will be the place for me to move from product development to business strategy and business development. I say this for specifically for the right combination of Technology management and CSR I can work on. Products like iPhone excite me but also the simple radio base stations installed in a remote village in India (See Village Connection from Nokia-Siemens).

Mobile telecom changed the world as we knew it, it helped so many people in India rise from economic doldrums. In my yearly trips to India I saw the ubiquity of mobile phones. While the boom in outsourcing has led to widespread economic growth, even at the lowest level, I see a certain weaknesses in the structure. There is still a major gap in providing primary education to all the children and I see an economic that is not an overall human capital growth.

I believe that any growth that does not come from increased productivity rooted in increasing human capital isn’t sustainable. For instance, see here a story I wrote about a rental car driver in India. There was another car driver who I talked to, whose story is eyeopening. When I asked him about his phone, he was so happy to discuss in gory details the SIM cards, wireless coverage and calling plans.

But then he said he can’t read or write. The phone salesman had walked him through the phone menus and the driver uses the phone features more from practice than from reading the screen. He had moved from a remote village in India with his widowed mother and his two younger brothers to take part in the economic boom. Life is good for now, he has two phones and bought one each for his family members. Yet he had no means or drive to learn to read and write.

There are many such stories. Mobile infrastructure provider, mobile phone makers and service providers all benefit from marketing to the bottom of the period. I believe there need to be services that help in overall development of these people. I hope to study these more and the role of businesses in emerging markets. I hope to develop frameworks that build on the technological innovations to deliver longterm sustainable growth.