Airline Internship Helps MBA Skills Take Flight

Josh Polsinelli

Free time from a finance internship: “Everything stops in Brazil when a significant football match takes place.”

From meetings with the CFO to football matches, how an internship with Azul Airlines in Brazil is expanding one student’s understanding of corporate intricacies and national culture.

Student: Josh Polsinelli

Interning with: Azul Airlines, Barueri (São Paulo), Brazil. “I’m working with corporate finance to help analyze potential investments and the effectiveness of existing projects. ”

Excited because: Azul founder and CEO David Neeleman also co-founded JetBlue. “I’m amazed at what JetBlue did to the airline industry in the US in the early 2000s, shaking up a largely stodgy industry and being profitable in doing so. And, by living in Brazil during a historic time, I’ve been able to appreciate both the country’s excitement (forthcoming World Cup and Olympics) and its challenges (massive protests) and understand why Brazilians are now making themselves heard.”

Getting the chance to: See Brazil. “Free flights are definitely the top perk of working for an airline so I’m traveling to different parts of the country almost every weekend. Work is pretty amazing too – Azul is a fast-growing company on the verge of some big things and I’m able to work closely with the CFO to develop projects that are going to have a real impact.”

Well prepared, not winging it: “A highlight has been putting together and presenting a competitive analysis showing where Azul is succeeding and where it can improve as measured against some of its peers. For my presentation to a 30-person group that included the CFO, I drew on things I learned in Leadership Communication. Effective non-verbal communication is critical when making a presentation in English to a largely Portuguese-speaking audience! Corporate Finance has been essential as well; I’m applying lessons I took from that class almost daily.”

Inside Azul: “For a company with 10,000 employees, Azul retains a small-company feel where impromptu meetings and office drop-ins are common. Even the senior team here is incredibly open–I’ve had the opportunity to sit with many of the officers for a casual conversation or a chat about the aviation industry.”

Advancing career goals by: “Getting hands-on experience at a fast-growing consumer-focused company. My time at Azul is helping me transition from a career in financial services to a role where I’m able to better understand the intricacies and operations of a company.”

MBA 12s at Work: The Strategic Side of Gucci

MBA 12s at Work Eamonn Courtney cropped 3

Grad: Eamonn Courtney, MBA 12.

Working as: Business Analyst to Gucci President & CEO, Patrizio di Marco in Milan. “At a high level, my role is to support Mr. di Marco with analysis that enables him to make data-driven decisions on strategic business issues. In practice, my responsibilities range from ideating on new services that can enhance customer experience to evaluating the financial productivity of our stores across the world.”

Gucci because: “Gucci’s management team is incredibly accomplished. The opportunity to work closely with these industry talents directly out of business school is truly special.” Courtney also appreciates Gucci’s active adaptation to the new ways clients shop and interact with brands.

MBA 12s at work Eamonn fabric cutting

Fabric cutting in Italy for ready-to-wear

Inside Gucci: “I travel to HQ in Florence quite a bit for work. When I’m there my colleagues and I will sometimes head over to product development to watch Gucci’s artisans at work. On one visit, the artisans happened to be making Blake Lively’s shoes for the Gucci Premiere commercial, so we were able to get a sneak peek before the rest of the world!”

Job search strategy: “Following my heart. I had to wait until mid-June for my offer from Gucci , which was incredibly stressful at times, but I knew it was what I wanted. I can’t tell you how it felt when I finally got that call.” Mock interviews were one tool Courtney used to prepare. “The Career Services staff has an adept lens through which to view you as a potential candidate since they are constantly talking to recruiters to understand the qualities that really resonate with interviewers.”

Classroom lessons in action: “One that I consider almost every day—and studied in Leading People with Prof. Don Moore—is bias and how it can impact data and behaviors. I frequently come across qualitative studies produced from numerous sources, and for each it is necessary to critically consider the source and how perspective might bias what they say. Otherwise, taking action on the data could be quite detrimental.”

The BILD approach:  “As an MBA, there are skills that are simply expected of you, and rightfully so. Thus to create unique value for your company you must be able to innovate. PFPS is an asset to Berkeley MBAs because the skills taught can differentiate you at any company, in any position, at any stage of your professional career.”

The Milan life: “Shopping. Milan is world-renowned for design across the board—fashion, industrial, etc.—so there are amazing local shops for all sorts of products. The people in the shops here also have incredible passion for their craft, so you can learn a tremendous amount at the same time.”

MBA 12s at Work Eamonn favorite shop in Milan

One of Courtney’s favorite shops in Milan–in addition to Gucci, of course!

MBA 12s at Work: Chevron Technology Ventures

Feriante conducts a site inspection in Kona, HI.

Feriante conducts a site inspection in Kona, HI.

Grad: Jarom Feriante, MBA 12

Working as: Business Development Analyst with Chevron Technology Ventures. “I champion the integration of new technologies into Chevron’s organization,” he says of his work analyzing  promising startups and developing utility scale solar projects to test their products.

Most excited to be working on: “Developing the most sustainable and cost effective energy resources of the future!”

Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV) because: “I sought the Berkeley MBA because I wanted to make a larger impact in the sustainable energy industry. Although I have an entrepreneurial background, transition to Chevron was welcoming. “I work on a small team and have a lot of flexibility in choosing how best to drive value for the organization. The role is very entrepreneurial and fits my work style.”

Inside CTV: “I’m based in Houston, but have managed projects in Argentina, where I led a team to identify strategic electrical enhancements for a Patagonia oil field, and in Hawaii, where I manage the engineering and development process for a utility scale solar R&D project.”

Networked: Feriante often encounters Haas alums while interacting with Bay Area clean energy startups. “This has helped to establish connections and more quickly reach a level of trust with new organizations.”

Job search strategy: Feriante participated in company presentations and conferences to network and learn about organizations, finding that he was able to focus on management consulting early in the recruiting season and energy companies in the late season. “Interestingly, I ended up in an internal energy consulting role.”

The BILD approach:  “I’ve been surprised by how often I use processes learned in Problem Finding, Problem Solving  and Haas@Work to understand and address business needs. Procedures I’ve learned at Chevron have added even more structure to identifying, framing, and analyzing opportunities.”

Living the Houston life:  Feriante is on the road a lot for work, but says that Houston’s airport access (and favorable weather) also work well for his passions–rock climbing and year-round motorcycle riding. “The best thing about Houston, though, he says, “is its people.”

How Taking a Stand on Culture Makes the Difference at Berkeley-Haas

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When Dean Rich Lyons partnered with faculty, students, alumni, and staff to articulate Berkeley-Haas culture, the aim was to capture the school’s essence. What emerged were our Defining Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.

“These have always been the Haas heartbeat,” says Lyons, “but we have never used them so deliberately to shape our community and to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace.” Here are ten ways, among many, that taking a stand on culture has already had an impact at Berkeley-Haas:

  • Curriculum: As part of the Berkeley Innovative Leader Development (BILD) curriculum, Haas launched the groundbreaking MBA course Problem Finding Problem Solving, giving students valuable tools to Question the Status Quo and bring solutions.
  • Admissions: The school assesses prospective students, in part, on how they live the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles, through essay questions, interviews, and letters of recommendation.
  • Alumni: We have conducted the first of bi-annual alumni surveys to gauge familiarity with our Defining Principles. Already, 50 percent of those graduating in the past 10 years and 30 percent of those graduating prior know the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles. Our aim is that in two years this familiarity will register with 70 and 50 percent, respectively, and, ultimately, with 100 percent of alumni who are within ten years of graduating.
  • Student Recognition: The Masters in Financial Engineering Program honors four students at commencement, awarding one student for each defining principle.
  • Careers: The “Standards of Professionalism” document signed by students to retain MBA career services leads with how the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles apply to the career search process.
  • Recruiters: The MBA Career Management Group gives a copy of our Defining Principles to corporate recruiters and surveys them on how well Berkeley MBA candidates reflect them.
  • Faculty: All faculty, both tenure-track and professional, are now brought on-board with an orientation day that includes discussion of the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles.
  • Thought Leadership: For two years, Dean Lyons has served as a leading expert in a national conversation on the importance of business school culture. He now expands his role in shaping that discussion, having been tapped by fellow deans to serve on the governing board of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the leading accrediting organization for U.S. business schools.
  • Staff-Faculty Teams: Volunteer staff teams spent fall 2011 developing ways to further deepen Haas community engagement with our Defining Principles. As a result, the school created two new staff positions dedicated to culture building and internal communication and is committing resources to implementing recommendations made by the teams.
  • Staff Recognition: Each year the school recognizes four employees with Outstanding Staff Awards for clear commitment to, and demonstration of, a defining principle.

Read more about the power of culture in the latest issue of Berkeley-Haas magazine.

On the Road with Problem Finding Problem Solving: New Skills Fuel Shuttle Startup

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It’s 10 p.m. on a Saturday night in June and Michael Vladimer and Tuyet Vu, both MBA 13, are at the corner of 19th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco’s Mission District, a thriving area for nightlife. However, Vladimer and Vu are not club-hopping, they’re…playing in traffic.

The two have spent the summer working on their early-stage startup, Yaygo, a shuttle service requested via smartphone that aims to be fast, fun, and affordable. As part of their launch process, they’ve used skills honed in the Berkeley MBA Program’s Berkeley Innovative Leader (BILD) curriculum, including the required Problem Finding, Problem Solving course (PFPS)–making firsthand observation one of their first priorities.

Hence, a Saturday night spent charting the frequency and direction of taxi traffic and interviewing club-goers on how transportation is enhancing their evenings (or not). Observed on this night were 30-minute waits for taxis, women in spiked heels darting into traffic to flag down cabs, and one would-be passenger calling out in frustration, “Hey, that’s our cab!” as it drove off with a more aggressive fare.

“This is not how transportation should work,” says Vladimer, shaking his head. “Not when we have smart phones as a way to share where we are and when and where we want to go.”

“I’ve had many bad experiences with transportation and many times secretly wish for a faster, safer and cheaper way to get around,” agrees Vu. “Designing Yaygo’s operation and actually implementing it has been a fascinating experience and it feels good to help make people’s transportation experience better.”

The team entered three competitions this past spring, making the finals in Big Ideas@Berkeley and the semi-finals in the UC Berkeley Startup Competition. From there, they launched into trial operations this summer, renting some plush wheels and giving free rides to continue the information-gathering process. The team began by targeting weekend club-goers, which let them operate and observe on Saturday nights and spend the week incorporating what they’d learned into the rapid prototyping processes learned in PFPS.

For instance, the ride theft observed on that Saturday night in the Mission arose because the cab driver had no way to validate that he was picking up the person who had actually called for the lift. This observation led to a Yaygo response that would reassure customers that the ride they’d called for couldn’t be pilfered—the introduction of “pirate” passwords to be given before boarding.

“I’ve found that it’s easy to fall into the trap of tacitly assuming that I understand the problem correctly and jumping into developing a solution,” says Vladimer.  “My studies at Haas, and in PFPS in particular, have taught me to step back and re-evaluate the problem itself.”

“Similarly, PFPS taught us how to create a playful, fun environment that produces meaningful real-world results — a culture that we’ve deliberately included in Yaygo,” Vladimer adds. “We’re tearing down the wall between work hard and play hard.”

Courses Make their Mark on Part-time MBA Students

With the spring semester sprung, students in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program take a moment to look back on some of the courses that made lasting impressions this past fall:

Lynn Upshaw's Strategic Brand Management course: Real-world examples, insightful guest speakers

Emily Douglas, MBA 13, says real-world examples in Lynn Upshaw’s Strategic Brand Management elective helped her to understand the importance of human nature in marketing. “We talked about connecting with human emotions on more obvious products like diapers, where new moms are looking for guidance, but also for less obviously emotional products like routers, where buyers want to use products they can trust with their jobs.”

Yelena Bushman, MBA 13, says guest speakers in Upshaw’s course added to her learning experience. She appreciated the chance to walk through the evolution of a corporate mass media campaign with Cisco’s director of marketing brand strategy and identity, Monique Mulbry.

Jill Rea, MBA 13, says it was eye-opening to learn from Holly Schroth that “everything is negotiable.” She says the Negotiations course offered extensive practice and a wealth of stories from Schroth’s professional experience, as well as the opportunity for students to share examples from their own workplace experiences.

First-year student Ronan Kennedy, MBA 14, was impressed by Shachar Kariv’s teaching of the core Microeconomics course and says Kariv held a reality game show to demonstrate the power of second bid auctions. “We also used game theory to discern how smart we think we are–and how smart our opponents think we are.”

The message from Kariv’s course that will stay with Kurt Zhao, MBA 14: Everything in life is quantifiable. “Shachar totally stunned me when he explained the root cause of unemployment using just one simple graph within a minute, precisely and elegantly.”

For Hussein Khazaal, MBA 12, the mix of lecture, exercises, and reflection offered in Sara Beckman’s Problem Finding, Problem Solving (PFPS) course drove home the importance of understanding customer needs before searching for solutions. “It is critical to observe potential users and learn first-hand about their pain points,” he says. “My engineering background was focused on solving a problem, but that is only one part of the puzzle,” says Khazaal. PFPS provided a step-by-step guide to an entire problem framing, problem solving process, as well as a safe environment for learning and applying concepts.

Part-time MBA students gave kudos to a number of other courses, including: Mark Rittenberg’s Active Communications course, touted by Bernie (Bernadette) Geuy, MBA 12, for offering the chance to “find your authentic voice and leverage your life stories to be an effective communicator;” Leif Nelson’s Market Research class, hailed by Jessica Galeria, MBA 13, for imparting solid skills in regressions and cluster analysis in remarkably entertaining ways; and Jo-Ellen Pozner’s Leading People course, said by Erik Krogh-Jespersen, MBA 14, to provide a set of tools for influencing opinion and shifting biases.

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in IBD

Students Cull Life Lessons from International Consulting Course

Members of the full-time MBA class of 2012 are just back from three weeks spent on international consulting projects across the globe. The students were part of International Business Development (IBD), one of the courses fulfilling the experiential learning requirement of the Berkeley-Haas Innovative Leader Curriculum. This year a record 26 teams took on projects, from improving the sustainability of a school feeding program in Ghana to working on an expansion plan for a New Zealand Bio-IT startup, and expanding vocational training opportunities in a Cambodian coastal village. You can read their adventures in full on the Haas in the World blog, but here is just some of what they learned:

Reality Differs from Rankings, Republic of Congo
A team assisting the Wildlife Conservation Society in growing ecotourism at Nouabalé Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo has traveled by dugout canoe and been charged by a gorilla and swarmed by ants. While the consulting project has “been a great opportunity to apply lessons from Strategy, Marketing, Accounting, and Problem Finding Problem Solving,” blogged one student, “I have gained just as many insights about operating in a developing country. Seeing a country’s corruption ranking from Transparency International in class doesn’t always prepare you to pay bribes before you even leave the airport.”

Technology has Boundless Reach, Ghana
A team working in Ghana had extensive contact with farmers and has “witnessed the poor life conditions of some of the farmers we are trying to help,” blogged one team member. “Farmers who live in a shack in the middle of a farm. A shack with no electricity, no water, and no sewage system. A shack with 30 minutes walk to the closest street. But then I also witnessed the reach of technology—these very same farmers somehow owning and using cell phones.”

On the Ground Means in the Know, Ecuador
Like all IBD teams, a team on a health care project in Ecuador spent months on research ahead of landing in their destination. “We started our field work in Quito, where we interviewed government officials, public health experts, and doctors…” wrote one blogger. “With each successive interview, we had a step-change increase in our understanding of the health care landscape and our client’s situation. We realized that the organization was not at all ready for the sexy technology-based health care models we had spent months researching. What they needed were the basics: Better equipment, resources, curriculum, and communication processes. We decided to scrap the research we’d done and start from scratch, using what we had seen, heard, and learned on the ground as a basis for our recommendations.”

Haas is Global, China
A Beijing stop for one team included a mixer held by the Haas Alumni Association at a restaurant and bar in Sanlitun. The event also included the School’s Mayfield Fellows and some new admits. This, blogged one teammate, “served as a warm reminder that Haas is truly all over the world.”

Soccer Unites, South Africa
On a drive to visit Orange Farm (One of South Africa’s largest and poorest informal settlements), one IBD student described the view as bleak: “We saw hordes of kids walking in the highway, trying to jump into pick-ups to save walking kilometers to their homes through a semi-desert, and improvised stalls…selling food covered in dirt.” But it was in Orange Farm that this student found a teenager who could name the three key players from the student’s beloved Bilbao soccer team, “Something that nobody from outside Spain, even in Haas had ever done in my life!!!”

New Zealand

From Madagascar to Ghana to New Zealand (top to bottom) Who makes you proud to be Berkeley-Haas? Tell us in the comments below or share your stories with

Insights into Innovation

Member of Most Innovative MBA Team Shares Secrets to Success

MBA 12 Winners of the Innovation Challenge: Nancy Unsworth, Brandon Piper, Blake Holland, Rahul Bijor, and Scott Van Brunt

Blake Holland, MBA 12, member of “America’s Most Innovative MBA Team,” reveals the classroom lessons used (and the fun had) on the road to victory in this blog post on “Haastile Takeover’s” Innovation Challenge Victory.

Who makes you proud to be Berkeley-Haas? Share your stories with

America’s Most Innovative MBA Team

Berkeley-Haas Wins MBA Innovation Challenge

It’s official: A crew of Berkeley MBA students has laid claim to the title of “America’s Most Innovative MBA Team“ by winning the 8th Innovation Challenge last Friday. Operating as “Haastile Takeover,” (from left to right above) Nancy Unsworth, Brandon Piper, Blake Holland, Rahul Bijor, and Scott Van Brunt, all MBA 12, emerged victorious from an original field of more than 100 teams from 50 b-schools. They took home bragging rights and a $20K prize.

The competition, conducted completely online, challenged students to innovate in business model innovation, social innovation, and marketing and product development. Competing in business model innovation, Haastile Takeover proposed an online vehicle maintenance management portal for car owners as a way of attracting generation Y consumers to Jiffy Lube, a challenge sponsor.

Berkeley-Haas was well-represented in the challenge: Four teams made it to the semi-finals, making Haas the only school to have more than one team represented at this stage. Holland says some of the credit for his team’s success goes to the new MBA Problem Finding, Problem Solving course. “This class gave us a great set of tools to brainstorm and ideate in the early going of the project.”

Who makes you proud to be Berkeley-Haas? Share your stories with