Root Beer Floats With the Oracle of Omaha: 2 MBAs Recount Their Visit With Warren Buffett

On Feb. 27, a group of 20 Berkeley-Haas MBA students from the Investment Club trekked to Omaha, NE, to meet Warren Buffett. Every year Mr. Buffett invites students from MBA programs around the country to tour some of the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio companies and participate in a two-hour Q&A followed by lunch.

In a guest blog post, two students share what they learned from the legendary Mr. Buffett.

By Ben Ferrara and Sulaiman Al-Bader, MBA 2015

If we had to choose our Top 5 favorite nuggets from the many that Warren Buffett shared with us, it would be these:

#5. Some people go back and relive their youth by finding old Playboys; I buy old Moody’s reports.

#4. Risk is losing purchasing power—NOT volatility.

#3. Always surround yourself with people better than you are.

#2. Study success and failure through the biographies of leaders like Sol Price and Sam Walton, who didn’t care about money but about being the best and winning.

#1. Success comes from thinking and by creating time to think without meetings, committees and PowerPoint.

But there’s so much more to say…

Buffett Trek_1200

It’s a brisk 8 degrees Fahrenheit and far from California 20 Berkeley MBAs are embarking on an adventure in Omaha. This special day includes company visits at Nebraska Furniture Mart, Borsheims, and Oriental Trading Company. Yet all of us are laser-focused on catching a glimpse of, inspiration from—and yes, a group photo with—the Oracle of Omaha. Warren Buffett is one of the few living and actively working legends in the game of finance.

En route to Berkshire Hathaway headquarters in Kiewit Plaza, we actively prepare for our Q&A with Mr. Buffett. We gather in a room with 160 MBAs—from Canada, Boston, and Austin—where a deep appreciation of capitalism and opportunity is brewing. When Mr. Buffett (and his world champion bridge partner, Sharon Osberg) enter the room, there is silence—and then, a feeling of warmth and familiarity when we see Mr. Buffett’s contagious smile and ever-present Coca-Cola product (which happened to be Cherry Coke).

Over the next two hours, the 84-year-old Buffett shares his wisdom on how to pick winners (both companies and people), personal models of success, how to develop a contrarian viewpoint, trends in income equality and philanthropy, and more. What makes the most impact on us is the importance he puts on picking “first-class human beings.” Mr. Buffett shares a story of meeting a Holocaust survivor who told him that whenever she makes a new acquaintance, she hears her internal voice asking: “Would this person hide me?” Her story provided a life lesson to Mr. Buffett, and now to us. He sums it up like this: “If you’re 70 years old, even wealthy, but you don’t have people in your life who would be willing to hide you in that scenario, you have not succeeded in your life, no matter how other people see you.”

Our Omaha adventure does not stop there: Mr. Buffett generously invites us to join him for lunch at Piccolo Pete’s, where we socialize with other MBAs. The two of us have the tremendous good fortune to sit with Mr. Buffett at his table, where we enjoy a plate of steak and fries, along with more of his pearls of wisdom in this intimate setting. One of these pearls is Mr. Buffett’s sharing his self-proclaimed favorite investment: GEICO. He says investing in the insurance company was a turning point for his career, and positioned Berkshire Hathaway for long-term success. He also encourages us to challenge the status quo by avoiding shortcuts in finance—for example, relying too much on third-party analyst reports—and thinking for ourselves, citing an example of exciting South Korean companies he found from a paperback book on equities.

“You’re unlikely to get great ideas from others,” Buffett tells us. This is a recurrent theme for him: thinking for yourself and following your own path, surrounded by gracious and giving people, is the recipe for success. It’s hard to argue with the sweet success of the Oracle of Omaha. As we finish our root beer floats, and leave that afternoon for Berkeley, we feel we have gained not only a renewed sense of purpose, but also inspiration about the endless possibilities we have to make a difference in this world over the course of our entire life journeys.

Sold-Out Crowd Expected at Women in Leadership Conference, March 14

When organizers of the Women in Leadership Conference began planning this year’s event, the impact of empowering the next generation of women felt tangible. Some of the organizers are in the Full-time MBA Class of 2015, whose work with admissions helped boost the percentage of women in the Class of 2016 to 43 percent. Energized by their record-breaking class, the first-year students are building on that work in what they are calling the Haas Gender Equity Initiative.

WIL organizers 2015

The 2015 Women in Leadership Conference organizers

The conference theme, “Empower Me: Invest in All,” reflects those experiences, says Co-chair Carmela Aquino, MBA 15. “This came about exactly because we were seeing the momentum at Haas around these ideas,” she says. “We wanted this year to embody the positive drive we were seeing, so attendees walk away feeling empowered to go beyond themselves in their respective paths and do more to help other women aspiring to leadership.”

The 19th annual conference, organized by the Women in Leadership club, is expected to attract more than 500 business leaders and students to the Haas School from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sat, March 14. Click here to learn more .

The primary goals of the conference are to help women gain concrete skills for advancing in their own careers, connect with others, and get inspired, says Co-Chair Libby Hadzima Perkins, JD/MBA 15. But that’s not to say it’s geared exclusively toward women. In fact, “manbassadors”—as the male student actively involved in gender equity are calling themselves—have been key.

“Without the support of men in the workplace, there is only so much we can do to help promote more gender-equitable outcomes,” Hadzima Perkins says. “That’s why we wanted our theme to focus on the benefit that investing in women lifts everyone up, and provides a benefit to society as a whole.”

Conference Highlights

Keynotes: The morning will kick off with Ann O’Leary, Director of the Children & Families Program for Next Generation and former Legislative Director to Hillary Clinton, in conversation with Prof. Laura Tyson. In the afternoon, Donna Morris, Sr. Vice President, Global People and Places for Adobe will be introduced by Asst. Prof. Kellie McElhaney to close out the conference.

Leadership Stories: For the lunchtime session, attendees will get “an intimate look into the cycle of confidence and failure in leadership” from four leaders in diverse fields.

Invest in All Alley: This new addition to the conference is a space for companies, organizations, and entrepreneurs to exhibit their products or services, to showcase their dedication to gender equality, and to raise their brand awareness.

Panels will focus on tangible skills, from mastering difficult conversations in the workplace to taking control of finances for the future.

Students, Staff, Faculty Give Big Thanks to Donors

Berkeley-Haas students, faculty, and staff stopped by the Bank of America Forum last month to thank donors, and to acknowledge the fact that tuition only covers about half of the cost of running Haas. Philanthropy covers one-third of the other half.

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Donor Appreciation Week is celebrated each January, halfway through the school year, to honor donors’ generosity.

Students, faculty, and staff wrote hundreds of personal notes, thanking benefactors for keeping Haas a top-ranked business school. Many students reflected on the value of their Berkeley-Haas education and shared their commitment to become supporters of the school one day.

Dean Lyons, BS 82, had this to say:

“This outstanding institution would not be what it is—not anywhere close—without private support like yours. Thanks for being part of all the momentum.”

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Student Spotlight: Nikita Mitchell, Full-Time MBA Class of 2015 President & Diversity Leader

Nikita Professional optionIt was the scariest thing she could think of doing as a new MBA student.

When Nikita Mitchell arrived at Haas in the fall of 2013, her top goal was to develop her leadership skills—which she knew would require stepping outside her comfort zone. So instead of heading up a club or organizing a conference, she decided to run for class president.

“I’ve never been in a big public role. I’ve never had to be the face of something, and the idea was terrifying,” says Nikita, MBA 15. “Ultimately, I decided I should do it because I didn’t have anything to lose.”

A few months into her first semester at Haas she was elected, and in 2014 she served as the first African-American woman to head the MBA Association. She also served simultaneously as a liaison to the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, which works to bring more under-represented minorities into top MBA programs. Along with co-liaisons Kory Vargas-Caro and Dan Wong, both MBA 15, she led the Haas group to win the Consortium’s highest honor and $10K to build on their work.

Just after passing the mantle to the 2015 MBAA President Dan Fishman, Nikita spoke with us about her leadership style, her accomplishments, and what she learned.

TEAMwin

Nikita and Kory Vargas-Caro, MBA 15, celebrate winning the T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More) trophy from The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management in June 2014. Not shown: Dan Wong, MBA 15

Team spirit

“I’ve grown a lot,” she says. “Most importantly–both personally and professionally—I’ve also learned how to ask for help when I need it.”

Nikita is up front about the fact that balancing outside leadership activities with the rigorous academic demands of the MBA was the biggest challenge she’s faced. During her first semester as president, she took on some big issues for the program, including how to make changes in the academic culture.

She credits the support of her classmates, and former MBAA President Stephanie White, for going out of their way to support her. “It was really incredible what people did to help me, often without even being asked.”

Her approach to managing it all was to build a strong team.

“I feel I created a high functioning team where everyone has been able to accomplish a lot in their own roles,” she says. “And I feel like I’ve been a strong voice for students.”

With the Berkeley MBA members of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Classes of 2015 and 2016

With the Berkeley MBA members of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Classes of 2015 and 2016

Making choices

As a natural collaborator, she knew being at the top of an organization would sometimes mean making tough calls.

“Being at the point of making a decision, where you know not everyone is going to be happy, was the biggest development area for me,” she says. “I think my biggest lesson was the realization that being in a leadership role among my peers wouldn’t harm my friendships. In fact, the relationships I built fueled my leadership.”

Though Nikita says the experience underscored how critical it is to not go at decision-making alone, she also learned that sometimes people don’t want to have input.

“That’s part of leadership too—knowing when people want to be brought to the table,” she says. “It started to become more instinctual toward the end.”

On a student trek to Morocco, spring break 2014

On a student trek to Morocco, spring break 2014

The importance of community

As the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, Nikita is proud that she was the first African-American woman to serve as Full-time MBA class president—and it was important to her family in the tight-knit community around Howard University where she grew up.

Her father came from Trinidad on a soccer scholarship to Howard, and her mother immigrated from Barbados. They met in the 1980s at Howard, where both worked as accountants. Nikita and all four of her sisters earned their bachelor’s degrees at Howard as well.

After graduation, she landed a position at Deloitte Consulting. She later earned a fellowship through ProInspire, which matches young professionals with nonprofits, as she explored careers in social impact.

She applied to MBA programs through the Consortium, which offers full scholarships to students who get into their top-ranked school. At the last minute, she ranked the University of Michigan’s Ross first, which has a large and active minority population. But in a twist of fate, she visited Haas during the Women in Leadership conference weekend, and knew it was the right place for her.

“I was so surprised by how right the culture felt. The warmth was there. The connections I made with people felt authentic,” she says. “I felt included immediately, and I thought ‘that’s somewhere I’ll continue to grow.”

As she looks toward graduation in May, Nikita summed up her biggest takeaway:

“What this leadership experience taught me is that I like to run things,” she says.

No doubt she will.

Update, March18: Nikita has accepted a job as Chief of Staff for Cisco Consulting Services.

Haas ranked #1 in support for LGBTQ students: one student reflects on being an ally

Last week, the organization Friendfactor ranked Haas #1 in the MBA Ally Challenge—a quarterly award that recognizes business schools for creating a culture that’s supportive and inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (or questioning) students. Twenty-two schools participated in the challenge.

Friendfactor says Haas moved to the top by:

“…Engaging a whopping 75% of their student body in their LGBT ally initiative through 13 activities over the fall. Their biggest hits were a 200-person speaking event with openly gay Brigadier General Tammy Smith, an Ally Pledge and t-shirt sale during National Coming Out Week, and an educational Ally Guide distributed by the dean to every student.”

In today’s post, a full-time MBA student reflects on what he has learned about being an ally, and what it says about the culture at Haas.

By Sandeep Pahuja, MBA 15, Outgoing VP of Allies, Q@Haas

Back in September, the Q@Haas board was preparing for Coming Out Week and one of our goals was to have allies—friends and supporters of the LGBT community—make a big public showing. We planned on making t-shirts that our students could wear to show their support. We ended up selling about 250 “PROUD” shirts and took a couple of sweet photos in the process.

Proud_group shot

Dean Rich Lyons stands with students during National Coming Out Week.

My original plan for the shirts was something entirely different. I wanted to really call out the allies, and be very explicit about it. Our original designs looked like this:

Ally out

In talking to the Q@Haas board—mostly gay males—we were quite happy with the design and thought the shirts looked really good. It was a conversation I had with Nikita Mitchell, our Haas MBA 2015 class president and LGBTQ member of Q@Haas, which made me realize that my myopic focus on allies would force everyone else within the community to label themselves as “out” or not participate.  There are certainly peers at Haas who had not come out, or weren’t sure if they were “out.” What shirt would they wear? Our conversation made me realize that the shirts would accomplish the opposite of what we hoped for, and in fact exclude some people. I was so focused on the ally perspective, thinking about how allies would want their own shirt so that no one thought they might be LGBTQ based on the shirt they were wearing. That was my own insecurity shining through.

Final designs were due to our printer in two days, and we were just about to take orders. We had gone through multiple designs already to pick those two shirts. I got on the phone with our co-presidents and we knew that we had to change the shirt. We decided we’d create shirts around the theme of Pride. We landed on a simple design, and in the process we found a term that encompassed all of us, allies included: Proud.

To me, this story highlights that being an ally is an ongoing process. Allies need to remember to ask questions and recognize the gracious understanding we get from our LGBTQ peers. Without that frank conversation with Nikita, a well-intentioned project could have alienated some of our Q@Haas community in the process. Instead, thanks to dialog and understanding, we were able to make something that brought people together, and that people wear almost every day. These shirts are a visible symbol of the inclusive culture we’re actively trying to build at Haas.

Read more Berkeley MBA student perspectives on why it’s important to be an ally: 

Berkeley MBA Students: Proud to Be LGBTQ Allies, Part I

Berkeley MBA Students: Proud to Be LGBTQ Allies, Part II

 

Haas Community Comes Together in Solidarity Against Racial Profiling and Violence

IMG952014120495122842For four-and-a-half minutes on Thursday, Haas students, staff, and faculty stood in silence, with their hands up in the air in a position of surrender, in respect for Ferguson teenager Michael Brown and other young African Americans who have died recently at the hands of law enforcement.

The Stand in Solidarity demonstration was organized by several MBA students—in parallel with larger campus demonstrations—to call attention to issues of police brutality and racial profiling.

“Today we want to observe 4.5 minutes of silence because Michael Brown’s body had reportedly been left in the street for 4.5 hours,” said Angela Steele, MBA 16, who co-organized the demonstration with Emily Yao and Michael Young, all MBA 16 and members of The Consortium, a network focused on promoting underrepresented minorities in business education.

“Many of us have been wrestling privately with the events of the past week, and we wanted to gather publicly and recognize what is happening and respect the lives that have been lost.”

Demonstration_Organizers

Demonstration organizers Michael Young, Emily Yao, and Angela Steele, all MBA 16.

Steele, who is the incoming MBA Association’s Vice President of Diversity, was referring to the back-to-back decisions by grand juries in Ferguson and New York to drop charges against white police officers involved in lethal altercations with unarmed African Americans—as well as the nationwide upheaval that has followed. Organizers also distributed information packets with news articles and information about the death of Eric Garner, who had been held down in a chokehold; the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland; as well as statistics about police violence in African-American communities.

Dean Rich Lyons, Senior Assistant Dean & Chief Strategy Officer Jo Mackness, and Senior Assistant Dean for Instruction Jay Stowsky were among the Haas administrators, staff, and faculty who joined the students packed into the Bank of America Forum.

“I’m here to stand in solidarity with our students,” Stowsky said. “I’m also here because my son is half black. He’s only four years old, but he’ll grow up to be a young black man and he’ll face these same issues.”

Young, a first year student, said he was moved by the strong show of support.

“This has easily been my favorite moment at Haas so far,” he said. “If I wasn’t talking I would have been crying.”

The demonstration was followed that evening with the first of the student-organized series “Hot Topics: The Conversation You Haven’t Had,” where Haas classmates shared personal stories on controversial topics in talks titled Black in America, Muslim Extremist, and Death With Dignity.

“Hot Topics is supposed to be a conversation starter”, said Dan Fishman, MBA 16, who organized the event with classmates Amin Aaser and Kenny Vaughn, both MBA 16, and Ryo Itoh, MBA 15.

The goal of the series is “to create a safe space within the Haas community that triggers the important but difficult conversations around challenges that vex our society, in an effort to create self-aware business leaders who will always think beyond themselves on their journey to shaping our future.”

Fund-Razing: Hirsute Highlights from No Shave, No Shame, and Movember Fundraisers

MBA students put themselves—and their beards, mustaches, hairstyles, chests, and dignity—at the mercy of their classmates in November to raise $51,000 for some good causes.

The full-time and part-time MBA campaigns were part of Challenge for Charity (C4C), which includes nine West Coast business schools that compete in volunteering and fundraising. They will donate the funds to the Special Olympics, Alameda Point Collaborative, and Reading Partners. Executive MBA students organized a Movember campaign (mustache November), donating the proceeds for men’s health initiatives.

Read the story on the Haas newsroom.

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Student Spotlight: finance fellow Morgana Davids

Morgana Davids, MBA 16, is one of 11 first-year students to receive scholarships and mentoring as this year’s fellows in investment banking, investment management, and entrepreneurial finance.
As the CJ White Fellowship winner, Morgana took a moment to share her thoughts on the experience so far, and how it fits with Haas culture.
2014 Finance Fellows

Standing, left to right: Uday Vadula, Carl Choi, Morgana Davids, Rajeev Chanderraj, and Pablo Garcia. Seated, left to right: Gabe La Mothe, Daria Filippova, and Travis Axelrod.

What does being a CJ White Fellow mean to you? 

The benefits of this fellowship are phenomenal, particularly the mentorship, but obviously also the scholarship and the priority in finance electives. I feel honored and grateful to have been selected.
I think the fact that my mentor was a CJ White recipient and is now giving back speaks to the real meaning of the fellowship, which is a structured way for Haas alums to support current Haas students. This fits very well with the culture I have found at Haas. Our fourth Defining Principle, “Beyond Yourself,” is something that really seems to resonate with all Haas students I have met. We all want to share the benefits of our own experiences with our classmates, to help each other to achieve our goals. Sometimes, it’s hard to know the best way to do this. Mentorship pairings through these fellowships give alumni a structured way to go beyond themselves and share their wisdom with younger classes of Haasies.
What we learn in the classroom in business school is invaluable for our future careers, but particularly for career-switchers like me, mentorship from those who have actually worked in the field is crucial for me to understand what various finance roles actually entail, and the best way to make myself a strong candidate. I look forward to the opportunity to give back by serving as a mentor for a future fellow.

Tell us a little bit about your experience with your mentor.

My mentor is Sam Snyder,  MBA 11. He was also a CJ White Fellow, and has worked in several roles within the world of finance. As a recent MBA, he remembers what it was like being in my shoes, and can provide advice for me based on his own experiences at Haas. Sam has been extremely successful in the finance world both pre- and post-MBA, and I really value his willingness to take time out of his busy schedule to share his knowledge, experience, and guidance with me.
2014 Finance Fellows

Left to right: Zeina Fayyaz, Andrew Wu, Alexis Kastrenakes and Duy Nguyen, all MBA 16.

 

Student veteran Mike Christman, MBA 16, to be honored at 49ers game

Mike_Christman_headshot_casualIf you tune in to the San Francisco 49ers game on November 23rd, you’ll see 1st-year MBA student and former Marine Captain Mike Christman on the field at half-time.

Christman, MBA 16, will be honored at the game as an NFL-Tillman Military Scholar. He was selected as one of 60 Tillman Military Scholars, a program that recognizes veterans for their leadership and academic excellence.

#1a Mike ChristmanChristman served as a AH-1W Cobra Helicopter pilot and forward air controller, deploying for two tours in Afghanistan and one in Southeast Asia. While in Afghanistan, he also embedded with a battalion from the Republic of Georgia.

He sought a Berkeley MBA in order to pursue pragmatic solutions to global social issues that contribute to conflict. As a student, he says he’s learning a new kind of leadership.

“I think for a lot of us, we really enjoyed the leadership part of the military, but we get that in a whole different way here,” Christman says. “In the military, you get the top-down leadership style. But you really have to transition to lead without authority, to lead your peers again—which is very tough, but very rewarding.”

#1 Travis DziublaAnother 1st-year student, Travis Dzibula, MBA 16, also received a scholarship from the Pat Tillman Foundation this year. Dziubla served as Navy Lieutenant aboard the submarine USS La Jolla.

The foundation was created by the family of Pat Tillman, an Arizona Cardinals player who put his NFL career on hold post-911 to join the Army. He was killed in 2004 by “friendly fire” while protecting fellow soldiers during an ambush.

Tillman Military Scholars were awarded $1.4 million this year to pursue degrees in medicine, law, business, government, education, technology, and the arts. Of the 60 scholars chosen from 7,500 applicants, nine scholarships went to MBA students—two at Haas. A third student, Ryan Evans, MBA 15, received a Tillman scholarship last year.

The ceremony for Christman is part of the NFL’s annual Salute to Service. For every point scored at 32 games in November, the league will donate $100 to the Pat Tillman Foundation and two other veterans groups.

Where Does Your Inspiration Come From? 3 Stories From 3 Top MBA Scholarship Winners

By Kirsten Mickelwait

This year, Berkeley-Haas grad students will receive scholarships totaling $6 million—and a record-breaking 50 percent of the incoming Full-time MBA class will receive financial awards.

These scholarships are awarded based on merit, need, and specific criteria such as leadership on diversity issues.

Here are three inspiring stories of new full-time MBA students who have received some of the most prestigious awards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABen Raphael, MBA 16

Dean’s Fellowship: This $110,000 scholarship is awarded based on career potential as a “path-bending leader.”

West Point-educated Benjamin Raphael spent nine years in the Army, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan and rising from infantry platoon leader to Special Forces battalion operations officer. When he left the military in 2014, he was rated in the top five percent of captains after serving in the elite 7th Special Forces Group, and had been selected for promotion to major.

Though he had achieved military distinction without formal business training, he realized that a Haas MBA would equip him with the skills to create global economic opportunities.

As a Green Beret in Afghanistan, Raphael earned the Army Commendation Medal for Valor after planning and leading the rescue of a helicopter crew, recovering sensitive material, and evacuating wounded soldiers under fire.

He also reduced conflict in a notoriously violent Afghan province by innovating with local leaders. Raphael noticed that pomegranates, which grew abundantly in the area, weren’t being well-marketed or distributed. In addition, vendors from lucrative marketplaces were reluctant to deal with the pomegranate growers because of the region’s violent reputation.

Raphael convinced the growers to overcome their bad image through advertising and networking, and created new ways to package and deliver the pomegranates to large external markets. His efforts ultimately increased local employment by 25 percent and decreased violence.

“I’m passionate about developing and employing unconventional solutions to complex problems,” he says. “Through business, I want to make the world a better place for children like my two young daughters.”

Zara KhanZara Khan, MBA 16

Dean’s Fellowship

Zara Khan believes a path-bending leader is “someone with a stubborn itch, a vision fueled by passion, and a persistence fueled by courage.” She should know.

Raised in the comforts of suburban American and the realities of rural Pakistan, she grew up alternating between field hockey skirts and burkas, with a growing determination to fight poverty as her life’s work.

By the time she applied to Haas, Khan had worked at a non-governmental organization in Rwanda, where she designed projects to deliver farm extension services to 60,000 coffee growers. At the International Finance Corporation (IFC)—the private arm of the World Bank—she structured an investment in a Ugandan powdered milk plant that reduced dependence on food imports and increased incomes of 10,000 dairy farmers.

But Khan soon decided she needed an MBA to broaden her skills in operations and general management. She was attracted to the Haas culture of open-mindedness and innovation, as well as its small class sizes and tight-knit alumni base. With her Haas degree, she plans to continue her career in international development and eventually start her own development consulting practice that will focus on high-impact sectors like agribusiness.

“In my village in Pakistan, farmers are still struggling to feed their families and make ends meet,” she says. “The economy is shrinking, schools and hospitals are starved for resources, and there is little hope that the children will live a better life. I can change this in my lifetime, but it will take more than just money.”

Gerardo Ruiz de Teresa_sizedGerardo Ruiz de Teresa, MBA 16

Maxwell Scholarship: Established in memory of Brian L. Maxwell through the generosity of Jennifer Maxwell, the Maxwell Fellowship of $110,000, goes to individuals who have demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and a drive to create and implement innovative projects, products, and ideas.

Gerardo Ruiz de Teresa was working at his dream job for General Electric, selling gas and steam turbine parts in Latin America, when he had a true “lightbulb moment.” After reading that 97 percent of Mexico had electric power, he realized that still left more than three million people in the dark. With his GE cubicle partner, he began thinking about how they could get electricity to his country’s poorest people

Ruiz de Teresa was inspired to leave his secure position and cofound Iluméxico, a social enterprise that provides solar energy systems to replace such hazardous energy sources as candles and diesel lamps in remote communities. In just four years, Iluméxico has brought light to more than 15,000 people in 11 Mexican states.

Trained as an engineer, Ruiz de Teresa soon realized that building a social enterprise also requires expertise in finance, administration, and strategy. He set his sights on Haas because of its focus on new technologies and social impact.

“My goal is to be an integral contributor to the development of my country, with a company that nourishes the economy through job creation and a strong social and environmental focus,” he says.

Ruiz de Teresa was also been recognized by Ernst & Young as 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year in social impact, and was a Fulbright Scholar.

 

MickelwaitGuest blogger Kirsten Mickelwait is a local freelance writer and third-generation UC Berkeley graduate specializing in higher education, business, health care, and nonprofits.