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.

Winners: Berkeley-Haas SmartBod Team Takes 2nd in SXSW Challenge

SXSW Winners

SXSW SmartBod Winners: Bobby Davis, MBA 15; , Arlene Hadi; Liz Klinger; and James Wang, MBA 15. (Leo Chen, EECS 07, not pictured.)

The Competition: South by Southwest 2014 Business Startup Challenge

The Outcome: A Berkeley-Haas team took second place in the competition at University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business on March 8.

The Team: The winning team, a vibrator startup called SmartBod, consisted of Berkeley MBA students James Wang and Bobby Davis, both MBA 15; Liz Klinger and Arlene Hadi; and Leo Chen, EECS 07 (who was unable to attend the event).

“I think it’s worth noting that our entire team came together through Haas connections; Bobby and I are in the same MBA year, and Leo was introduced through another MBA classmate,” Wang points out. In addition, Klinger is Wang’s partner, and Hadi is Davis’ partner.

The Field: Competing teams came from Stanford, MIT, Ross, Darden, McCombs, and Chicago Booth.

The challenge: Teams had to make a 10-minute pitch for their startup ideas, business models, and progress to experienced angel and venture capital judges.

“Most competitions have shorter pitches, so mostly cover just the high-level idea of a startup,” says Wang. “Since this competition involved a longer pitch format, we had to get pretty detailed on not just our broad concept, but how we would execute, market, and make money from it. With experienced judges and a lot of fodder, all the teams got really good (and difficult) questions during the Q&A portion as well.”

What made them winners: “As a VC, you see the same idea over and over again—they loved that this was something they haven’t seen before, and feel that it’s a viable business versus one that just chases a hot trend,” says Wang. “Again, I think our willingness to challenge conventional wisdom came through here.

“Additionally, they really liked that we were a strong, diverse team where everyone brought something to the table. (We have two electrical engineers, a systems engineer, a data and software specialist, and a designer).”

The Haas Factor: “The Defining Principles are core to how we’re approaching our startup and how we got into it in the first place,” Wang says. “Our startup is a smart vibrator company (yes, those types of vibrators). It’s not a typical startup, but we feel like we can bring a great product to market—we’re definitely questioning the status quo with what we’re doing.

“Additionally, even during the Q&A session, I think it came through that we were very open to feedback (Students Always) and very focused on providing reasoned, logic-based answers and not just opinion (Confidence Without Attitude).

“Finally, a big part of what drew us all to this project is the fact that it’s not just a business—we’re able to go beyond ourselves and help remove harmful taboos and misunderstandings around the topic of female sexuality.”

Where the idea came from: “It was mainly from Liz’s experience. She’s studied human sexuality from an artistic, philosophical, and sociological perspective for nearly a decade now since college, and in the past few years has sold sex toys as a sales consultant. She has gotten to talk with a lot of women about vibrators and has seen basically all the products on the market. When Startup Weekend Berkeley rolled around (a weekend “hackathon” where you build a startup from scratch) she was ready with her idea, and we were off to the races from there,” Wang explains.

Most memorable SXSW experience outside of the competition: “Some members of our team got to meet Grumpy Cat. During a panel that one of our teammates attended, Shaquille O’Neal popped in as a surprise guest. That same teammate, tagging along with a new friend from the pitch event, ended up at a small, intimate dinner event with Hunter Biden (Joe Biden’s son),” Wang recalls.

“Personally, even though I was in Austin for less than 24 hours, I ended up having a long talk with my UberX driver on the way to the airport –he’s a music photographer in Austin now, but turned out to have worked at Google, and we ended up talking about the future of smart medical devices, artificial intelligence, and the different management styles of companies in the Valley. You never know who you’ll meet at a place like SXSW!”

Learn more about SmartBod at

Five Things: >play Digital Media Conference 2013

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Making it even easier for industry innovators to attend, >play, the Berkeley-Haas digital media conference, this year moved across the Bay to San Francisco’s Nikko Hotel and from Saturday to Friday; Non–student attendance doubled over last year.  Below, five more things about >play 2013:

1. Who made it happen: Co-chairs Noa Elan and Chao Li, both MBA 14, along with 67 MBA student volunteers

2. Broken records: 600 people in attendance–the most ever.

3. “Always On”: A Body Electric panel on wearable technology and a Cutting the Cord on Cable panel were two ways of exploring the “Always On” theme.

4. Just one observation:

5. Covered in Inc: The 45-Minute Onboarding Rule and Lyft CEO: You Must Keep Your Consumer Focus


Five Things: Women in Leadership (WIL) Conference

Keynote speaker Heidi Roizen

Keynote speaker Heidi Roizen

1. Leadership: Co-chairs Ruth Duggan and Jane Wong, both MBA 13.

2. The mix: Among the more than 400 attendees was a nine-year-old, who asked speaker Heidi Roizen, venture partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, “How do you get better at your job?”

3. Themes: What paths are you driven to bend? Is dreaming big and being a leader selfish?

4. Inspiration: Amanda Pouchot, founder of Levo League, an online community of professional women, challenged the audience to “ask for more” on Equal Pay Day (which was April 9), and Roizen shared war stories from the male-dominated VC world of the 1980’s, then inspired the audience by sharing how she negotiated a four-fold increase in compensation.

5. Perspective: “Today gave me a lot to think about.”–comment from male attendee.

Five Things: Business of Healthcare Conference

Conference Co-Chairs Tara English and Darya Rose with Steve Burrill

Conference Co-Chairs Tara English and Darya Rose with Steve Burrill

Each year, more than 1,000 students, academics, and industry professionals build knowledge and expand networks at conferences organized entirely by Berkeley MBA students. This series will take a look at recent conferences, starting with the Business of Healthcare:

1. In charge: Co-chairs Tara English, Darya Rose, both MBA 13.

2. In attendance: A mix of about 30 percent students, 50 percent professionals, and 20 percent academics/other. People from more than 120 different organizations come, split evenly between small companies and large ones that include Kaiser, Genentech, and UCSF.

3. Questions: How are companies helping consumers manage complex healthcare decisions? How are organizations changing business models to adapt to increasing consumer choice? And who will consumers ultimately choose to meet their healthcare needs?

4. Answers: Keynote speakers Steve Burrill, CEO of the life sciences financial services firm Burrill & Co.,and  Ken Shachmut, EVP  & CFO of Safeway Health, a company founded upon the supermarket chain’s experience in controlling healthcare costs, were joined by attendees, and a host of experts in tackling healthcare’s big questions.

5. Food for Thought: 85% of people who look at their genetics with @23andMe (a personal genomics co.) choose to share their data. An Assumption that people cling to privacy is wrong.

Haas Achieves: A Video Year-in-Review

Congratulations to the full-time MBA classes of 2012 and 2013. In just one year you have accomplished an extraordinary amount, from organizing conferences and international treks to winning case competitions. We are so proud of all you achieve at Haas–and have captured what we could (i.e. some, certainly not all!) in this Haas Achieves video. We know you have many achievements yet to come and wish you the best.

Video produced by Tritone Media

The Heartbeat of Berkeley-Haas

A Look Back at The Berkeley MBA Year

At the heart of Berkeley-Haas are four defining principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. These principles were in full evidence in the Berkeley MBA Program this past year. Take a look:

Who makes you proud to be Berkeley-Haas? Tell us in the comments below or share your stories with

Reforming Education

Berkeley-Haas Wins 2011 Education Leadership Case Competition

The winning ELCC team: German Freiwald, MBA 12; Paul Perry, MPP 11; Moritz Plischke, and Bruce Dos Santos, both MBA 12

A Berkeley MBA team took first place in the Haas Education Leadership Case Competition (ELCC), providing the nation’s second largest school district with ideas for implementing and marketing a new school governance model.

Bruce Dos Santos, German Freiwald, and Moritz Plischke, all MBA 12, teamed with Paul Perry, MPP 11, to win the February 18-19 Haas-run competition, which this year focused on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The district is facing major budget cuts and, at the same time, moving to a budgeting model that allocates resources by students rather than teachers.

The ELCC creates cases for districts facing immediate challenges (New Orleans, D.C., and Oakland) and that genuinely rely on the participating MBA talent to provide readily implementable ideas. “Working with LA offered yet another tremendous opportunity for students to influence nationwide educational reform,” says Aaron Sokol, MBA 12, who co-organized the competition with second-year student Jason Dolan and led the case-writing effort.

In the LAUSD challenge, the Haas team realized that parents might believe that moving to the new budgeting model actually caused the budget cuts. “With this risk in mind, we proposed that they position the new model as a change that mitigated the negative impacts of budget cuts,” says Freiwald. The team also proposed a buddy program between Oakland principals and LA principals—since Oakland recently went through a similar budgeting transition.

LAUSD School Board President Monica Garcia served as the keynote speaker and a judge at the event.

She and other senior LAUSD officers weighed in on ideas from eleven competing teams, including ones from Stanford, MIT, Yale, Columbia, and the London Business School, the competition’s first international team.

“The ELCC is a terrific example of Haas providing leadership in a field,” says Andrik Cardenas, director of operations for the Haas School’s Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership and staff advisor to the ELCC. “It gives the school a written case, provides the MBA community with the learning experiences of the competition, and offers the education community solutions to very real problems.”

Who makes you proud to be Berkeley-Haas? Tell us in the comments below or share your stories with