Career Change: From Survey Instruments to Banking Apps

Ronan Kennedy, MBA 14, Associate, JPMorgan Chase

Ronan Kennedy, MBA 14, Associate, JPMorgan Chase

Student: Ronan Kennedy, MBA 14, Evening & Weekend MBA Program

Then: Production Manager, Topcon Positioning Systems

Now: Associate, JPMorgan Chase (JPMC).

What he does: “I’m a project manager for the design of JPMorgan and Chase’s mobile apps. We’re also working with companies like Square and a slew of Silicon Valley startups to connect their innovations in e-commerce and mobile payments to the retail and corporate banking power of Chase. And I’m working to redesign the private banking app for JPMorgan, giving high-net-worth customers a better experience on their mobile phones.”

Excited to be:  Part of the mobile payment revolution. “Magnetic strips on the back of a piece of plastic are dated and inefficient. In today’s world of hyper-connectivity, there must be a better way to connect a consumer’s digital wallet to the retailer/business’ digital accounts.”

Why JPMorgan Chase: “I thought this role would be a great way to bridge my experience in operations with my desired future in finance. It also allows me to participate in an emerging use of technology and potentially impact the commerce of the future.”

Critical career planning tools: “Career services took me in as an ‘explorer’ and helped transition me into a targeted career ‘switcher,’ advising me to take it one switch at a time. Resume reviews, mock interviews, and story-telling sessions helped me create a unified message.”

Networked: While doing research for internal projects, I have reached out to several alums in the Private Banking and Investment Banking areas of JPMC, which streamlined my research. We’re not JPMC people trying to talk business, but rather two Haas alums chatting about ‘what if…?’ The common foundations allows for quicker, more frank conversations, and an immediate friendship.”

Life Lessons: “‘Show up and be present!’ from Mark Rittenberg’s Leadership Communication course. Connect with co-workers, share stories and experiences, and have a dynamic voice on teleconferences to help reduce the perceived distance while on dreary phone calls.”

Testing Limits in an Escape from Alcatraz

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On Saturday, April 27, 27 Berkeley MBA students tested their limits with a swim through cold bay waters from Alcatraz to San Francisco. Here’s what it was like to take the plunge:

By Guest Blogger Minnie Fong, MBA 13

It’s 7:00AM, and it’s a cold, foggy, San Francisco morning. We huddle at the Fisherman’s Wharf, with wetsuits up to half of our body, warm jackets to protect our torso, and loud dance music to pump up our spirits courtesy of Bri’s “jammy” pack. Today was D-day: a culmination of two months worth of hard work and training for many of us.

 We sign ourselves in, get numbers on our hands, and listen to a short briefing. We try to protect our skin from chafing with body glide, use wax as ear plugs to protect our inner ears from the cold water, and give each other hugs both to warm up and pass on encouragement. Before we know it, we are getting on the boat, and heading out to Alcatraz.

 At 8:00AM, we were ready. One last briefing – instructions to aim for Fort Mason and Ghirardelli Square – and then the big jump. One by one, we climbed up the steps, held on to our goggles, and jumped off the boat and into the icy water.

 Surprisingly, the water wasn’t as cold today. Perhaps it was because the weather outside was really cold, so the shock wasn’t too bad. Maybe it’s because this is actually my fourth time in the bay already, and my body has gotten used to the cold. Or maybe it’s the adrenaline keeping us pumped. Whatever it was, as soon as you get in the water, you just swim.

 One arm in front of the other, breathing in between: I begin to hit a rhythmic stride. At first I’m surrounded by my peers, then everyone begins drifting apart. Before I know it, it’s just me and my little head, bobbing up and down the bay. I know the support boats and kayaks are around, but there are moments when I look up, and don’t see anyone else beside me. I begin to feel so tiny in the middle of everything. The waves are strong, and I swallow a mouthful of salty water every once in a while. Then I start thinking of sea otters. And jellyfish. And sharks. So I keep going. Because I can. Because I need to. Because I am stronger than I think I am.

 As I keep swimming, I feel the skin on my neck start to sting. Chafing. #$%*. Lauren said this will look like a hickey afterwards.

 The next time I look up and stop to take a break, a voice on a boat provides me with a little reassurance. You’re doing great, sweetheart. Just a little bit longer. You’re almost there.

 I begin to see the walls to the Aquatic Park in the distance. Finally.

 And as I swim to shore on the last stretch, I see my classmates who finished ahead, huddled together and celebrating. As I get closer, I realize that the noise I hear is them cheering for me.

 I finally get close enough to stand up, run to shore, and get swept off my feet by my classmate to celebrate the fact that I finished.

 We all did.

 Despite all the fear and uncertainty we felt this morning mixed with our excitement, we realized today that we are stronger than we think we are.

 And this, once again, is a reminder of why I love Haas. Because two years ago, I would never have thought that I would have the strength and courage to swim across the freezing, shark-infested bay.

 Today, a month before graduation, I found myself swimming across the San Francisco Bay, truly embracing one of Haas’ defining principles: Question the Status Quo.  But pushing myself further than I would ever have imagined was only possible because I swam today with supportive classmates in front of me, ready to provide anything from swimming tips, encouragement, good cheer, warm hugs, and the occasional celebratory lift to make sure we all cross the finish line. Together.

Congratulations to: Alia Al Kasimi, Levent Besik, Ben Buchanan, Borja Carol, Samir Das, Minnie Fong, Suresh Krishnamoorthy, Gerald Matthe, Elsita Meyer-Brandt, Dominik Sanya, Carla Vazquez, and Andrew Wisnewski, all MBA 13, and to Caroline Bas, Gustavo Brandileone, Pablo Cuaron, Stephanie Curran, Yuval Gez, Chao Li, Luis Lopez Nieto, Bri Treece, Yoni Shiran, Christine Tringale, and Nikita Zhilin, all MBA 14, and to partners Marina Brandileone, Rudy Ramirez, and Sebastiaan Verhaar.

Career Advancement: VP of Product Management, FreeWheel

FreeWheelin' VP Nick Ionita (That's him in the Blue and Gold)

FreeWheelin’ VP Nick Ionita shows off the Blue and Gold

Student: Nick Ionita, MBA 13

Working as: Vice President of Product Management at FreeWheel, a B2B software company that provides advertising and revenue management tools for premium entertainment companies delivering their content online (ESPN, MTV, CNN, etc).

The path: Ionita joined FreeWheel as a product manager and was promoted to product director just before starting the Berkeley MBA Program. “When I joined, FreeWheel had about 20 people – we’re now up to 170 globally. While earning my MBA I was promoted to VP of Product Management and joined the company’s executive team. My experience at Haas played a very big role in that.”

Thrilled to: “Work with major media companies who are expanding their traditional television businesses online.” Ionita’s role has grown from product strategy and development to playing a larger role in the organization’s operations. “Start-ups face some unique management challenges when they start to grow.  Maintaining a loose, open culture while beginning to layer in the organizational process and structure required to continue scaling is a difficult balance.”

FreeWheel because: “Five years ago I was working as product manager at a large media company in Chicago. Every visit to SF for industry conferences made me realize that we were just sitting on the sidelines reacting to what was happening out here. I knew my next step had to be relocating to the Bay Area and I created a short-list of requirements: 1) Join something early stage where I had opportunity to be impactful, 2) learn from an experienced founding team, and 3) help solve a problem that I believed in. It was important to me that I join something that would help move an industry forward.”

Networked: “Working in the Bay Area you meet Haas alums at companies big and small. I constantly leveraged my Haas network for introductions to clients and partners as FreeWheel was growing, and now get many of the same requests from other alums building companies in the space.”

Inside FreeWheel: “I recently hung a poster above my desk (there are no offices) that says ‘Work like a Captain, Play like a Pirate.’  I think that sums up the work culture here perfectly.”

Best advice: “At work I made sure to discuss courses I was currently taking or planning to take and how I believed those were lining up with career goals I was setting. People (including your boss) don’t know what you’re learning and how that’s applicable to what you’re doing day to day unless you talk about it. Make your MBA work for you now, don’t wait until you’ve got your diploma.”

Career Changes: From Grant Applications to Music Apps

EWMBA careers Stephanie Lai croppedStudent: Stephanie Lai, MBA 14 in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program.

Then: Grantmaking Operations Coordinator at The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Now: Marketing specialist at Smule, creator of social music-making apps such as Magic Piano, Glee, I Am T-Pain, and Ocarina. “I manage customer acquisition and app monetization. Internally, I work with product managers to optimize advertising, publishing, and cross-promotion of our apps. Externally, with mobile ad networks and monetization platforms.”

Why Smule: “Smule’s mission to connect people through music resonates with my own life mission. As an avid cellist, I’ve longed for people to experience the joy of making music. With our apps, you don’t need an instrument or musical talent – all you need is your mobile device.”

Inside Smule: “Our SF office has a grand piano, guitars, and drum set, and we periodically rock out in impromptu jam sessions using our apps and real instruments. While most company holiday parties involve hiring a band, the staff at Smule perform their own acts, including opera, jazz, rap, and a homegrown musical!”

Lai (lower l.) with the Smule band

Call them Maybe: Lai (lower l.) with the Smule band. Video here.

How she did it: “After spending 5 years in philanthropy, I realized I wanted to make a direct impact on people’s lives, rather than funding others to make a difference,” says Lai. “Given my passion for music, I searched for an innovative music start-up with a fast-paced, creative environment.” Lai says Luke Kreinberg of the Career Management Group encouraged her to network and ask friends about any music-related start-ups. “It turned out that my college pianist friend knew the CEO of Smule, and he introduced us via email. Without this connection, I doubt I would have gotten my first interview!”

Haas connections: Two Haas alums work at Smule – the Chief Financial Officer and Director of Marketing. “I met Jessica Wan, Smule’s Marketing Director, when we performed at the same wedding in 2009. When I applied, she kindly helped me prepare for my interview by answering my questions about the company. In addition, Smule’s CFO, Sunil Pareenja has shared tips on the Berkeley MBA courses he’s found to be most valuable in his career.”

Life Lessons: “From Mark Rittenberg’s active communications class, I have applied Rule #6 — don’t take yourself too seriously! This reminder has been especially helpful as I learn the ropes of the mobile ecosystem. When making a career transition, it is important to be open to change, new ideas, asking questions, and receiving feedback.”

Winning Approaches: First AND Third Place, Kellogg Biotech & Healthcare Case Competition

Kellogg biotech first place team

First place winners Yelena Bushman, MBA 13, Kristian Lau, MBA/MPH 13, Ken Su, MBA/MPH 13, Brian Feth, MBA 13, Ji-Hong Boo MBA/MPH 13

The competition: Kellogg Biotech & Healthcare Case Competition, held on Jan. 26.

The outcome: Haas teams placed first and third.

The teams: First place: Yelena Bushman, MBA 13, of the Evening & Weekend MBA Program; full-time MBA students Ji-Hong Boo, Kristian Lau, and Ken Su, all MBA/MPH 13; and Brian Feth, MBA 13. Third place: In third place were Nick Mascioli and Darya Rose, both MBA 13; Anthony Baldor and Chris Burke, both MBA 14; and Alana Tucker, MBA/MPH 14.

The Field: A total of 38 teams applied, from which 10 teams were selected to compete: two teams each from Haas, Booth, and Kellogg, plus teams from Harvard and Cambridge.

The challenge: “We were asked by a large pharma to value the lead drug in development at a smaller biotech acquisition target,” says Brian Feth. “The drug was in development for obesity and had a number of risks that made the valuation not straight-forward. ”

The winning approaches: Team Goldenbear Biosciences, which placed first, built a bottoms-up valuation model based on narrowing the potential patient population to an addressable market and ultimately to revenues. “Given the short timeline, and the nature of the deliverable (powerpoint presentation), we realized that the ability to communicate the process clearly would be far more important than getting every detail of the model perfect,” says Feth. “We spent the early part of the week preparing and reviewing the model together, and the latter half of the week building the story and populating slides. We did make sure to sense check assumptions and try and triangulate various assumptions against each other. It was clear that some teams had not done this by the unrealistic valuations they presented.”

What made them winners: “We were told by the judges that we had the best overall mix of logical valuation methodology, communication style, strategy, and patient understanding,” says Feth. “One judge told me that we built the model and told the story in exactly the same way that they would at Abbott/AbbVie.

The H factor: “Confidence without attitude helped us to present our findings and answer questions candidly and with confidence, as we would with a client or management,” says Feth. We were noted for discussing the “patient journey” which is something that has roots in the course Problem Finding Problem Solving, as well as being discussed regularly in pharma companies as a key element of their customer focus. Tucker says skills from PFPS and Leadership Communication also played a role in the third-place team’s strong showing and in their ability to put together a succinct and compelling story. “Most importantly,” she says, “we worked well as a team to test one another’s assumptions and come to consensus, which Haas emphasizes throughout the curriculum.”

Why it matters: “The increasing rates of obesity in the US are driving much of the increasing healthcare costs – obesity is one of the huge problems facing our generation that will require path-bending leaders to solve.,” says Feth.

How an Evening and Weekend MBA Student Moved from Idea to Acquisition–in Eleven Short Months

IMG_9183Amit Paka is not a man who wastes time. Three semesters into the Evening & Weekend MBA Program, he realized he wanted to be an entrepreneur. And in 11 short months, he hatched an idea, relocated, launched a venture—and sold it to eBay.

When Paka, MBA 12, began his MBA studies, he was a senior program and product manager with Microsoft, working in online advertising with Bing. “I entered the Haas program to broaden my perspective and explore all opportunities that were out there,” he says of an open-minded approach. The Seattle-to-Berkeley commute for Saturday classes was challenging, he acknowledged, but worth it.

Courses and seminars taken during Fall semester of his second year, such as Entrepreneurship and Competitive Strategy, became the game changer for Paka, introducing him to new ideas, frameworks, and people. “Becoming part of an entrepreneurial universe leaves an impression on you,” he says.

Launching a Mobile Conversation Platform

The impression made on Paka led him to take even more entrepreneurship classes, network extensively, at least once a week whether in Seattle or San Francisco, and to come up with an idea and a game plan. By the end of his second year in the Berkeley MBA Program he left Microsoft and relocated to the Bay Area, ready to commit to Flockish, his idea for a mobile conversation platform. “Flockish combines the status feed concept of Facebook with the location awareness of Foursquare to create conversation among people gathered in the same locations, such as a concert or a sporting event,” says Paka.

“I felt this was the right space, a big enough market and that I had the expertise to execute on it,” says Paka. eBay apparently agreed: Their event ticket site, StubHub, purchased Flockish and snapped up Paka to head their mobile apps division. In his new role, Paka was able to scale StubHub’s mobile apps, releasing a new iPad app that Apple featured on the App store.

Paka says one of the most important things he learned at Haas is to Question the Status Quo and to ask questions of other people. “If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to go talk to customers, you have to go talk to your investors,” he says. “You can’t just have an idea and hope that it will somehow become a successful product.”

A Full Entrepreneurial Education

Just how you approach those investors and customers matters too. Paka took Confidence Without Attitude, another of the Haas School’s four Defining Principles, to heart in presenting himself and Flockish to the entrepreneurial community. “When VCs connect you to other VCs, they put their reputations on the line,” he says. “It’s a very close-knit group, so people will hear about it if you come across as anything other than genuine, clear about your goals, and free of arrogance.”

eBay’s purchase of Flockish meant that before he even graduated, Paka engaged in a full entrepreneurial education–from idea generation to launch and all the way through the due diligence required for an acquisition. “I learned a lot about IP and trademark infringement,” he says.

Paka says that since he’s launched Flockish and joined eBay, “Mind-blowing opportunities come up every day.” The most recent one took him from StubHub to a group product manager role with PayPal’s Digital Wallet product team, a group he believes is well positioned to develop and scale the smart-phone-as-wallet. The rapid pace of personal recognition and capture of opportunity mirrors what Paka sees around him. “In this valley you have to keep moving,” he says.

Evening & Weekend MBA Startup Makes SXSW Finals

A Berkeley MBA venture aimed at making travel decisions easier and even more appealing has just been named one of eight finalists in the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive tournament Student Startup Madness. Traverie, co-founded by Gaurav Agarwal, MBA 13, has also been selected as one of the top travel innovations of 2012 by PhoCus Wright, a travel market research company, and made strong showings in previous competition.

Described by Agarwal as “an interactive magazine that helps you explore travel through friends,” Traverie emerged from an original field of 64 startup teams competing for a finalist slot at SXSW.

Agarwal and co-founders Jimming Cheng, and Tiffany Yang will make their final pitch in Austin, TX on March 11, presenting before a judging panel of investors and entrepreneurs for top honors and technology tools provided by Google.

“SXSW has become a premier destination for digital media innovation and we thought it would be a great platform to represent Berkeley, compete with other top schools, and create awareness for Traverie,” says Agarwal. “We believe our team and focus on helping consumers discover relevant, trusted content amongst the plethora of data available on Facebook were what made us competitive in this nationwide tournament.”

Agarwal has said that classes such as Problem Finding Problem Solving and New Venture Finance, along with the Startup Board of Mentors Program at the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and the UC Berkeley Startup Competition all greatly contributed to the team’s success. “At Haas I’ve learned how to create a business out of an idea and how to build a strong team, which is the most important asset in a knowledge company.”

Winning Approaches: 2012 Adobe Digital Analytics Competition

2nd Place in the Adobe Challenge: Dino Boukouris, Tamara Patterson, and Alex Leung

The Competition: 2012 Adobe Digital Analytics Competition, held at Adobe’s new campus in Salt Lake City on Nov. 16.

The Team: Dino Boukouris, Alex Leung, and Tamara Patterson, all MBA 15 in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program.

The Outcome: Second place.

The Field: The team emerged from an original field of 160+ to compete in the finals against NYU, Northwestern, MIT, and UCLA and take the second-place prize of $7,500.

The Challenge: Use the Adobe Site Catalyst and Discover tools to analyze site data. “We had to come up with our own understanding of XfinityTV’s business objectives, identify key performance indicators, and make actionable recommendations to improve,” says Leung.

The Winning Approach: “Our solution focused on collecting relevant visitor data for understanding users better,” says Leung. “Using the themes of engage, attract/grow, and retain, we provided recommendations to improve the experience for the most valuable customer segments.”

Won Because: “None of our team members have previous experience in marketing or digital analytics,” says Leung. “We are all scientists/engineers so we stuck with the numbers and made observations in the data as we saw it. We think our fresh perspective helped us lay out a clear path to our recommendations, which the judges complimented.”

The H Factor: “The timing was great because we are all currently studying Marketing, and we had just completed the Leadership Communication course,” Leung says. “We knew to use a vertical takeoff, minimize text on the slides, and use stories as much as possible.”

Try it because: “It was great experience to directly apply our learning from class lectures and even win a big check!” says Leung. “We got to learn new tools, pick up new skills (marketing/digital analytics), define a problem from a new perspective, and collaborate with those we haven’t worked with before. We had so much support from our EWMBA classmates and are really proud we could represent Haas in the finals.”


Winning Approaches: National Association of Asian MBAs Global Case Competition

The winning Haas team: Riddhiman Ghosh, Neelam Saboo, Edwin Mach, and Adrian Kok

The Competition: National Association of Asian MBAs (NAAMBA) Global Case Competition, Sept. 13-15, sponsored by Facebook and Electronic Arts

The Team: Neelam Saboo, MBA 13, and Edwin Mach, Adrian Kok, and Riddhiman Ghosh, all MBA 14. The team advanced from a July opening round through summer quarter- and semi-finals to the finals, held alongside the NAAMBA Leadership Conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

The Outcome: First place, as deemed by a judging panel that included the Commissioner of President Obama’s White House Advisory Commission on Asian Americans.

The Field: Berkeley-Haas squared off against USC’s Marshall School and Brandeis University’s International School of Business in the finals.

The Challenge: “How can Social Media be used to empower marginalized communities?”

The Winning Approach: The team’s Project Telos uses technology to remove barriers to access to social media for refugees and immigrants through affordable recycled mobile phones, commodity text messaging plans, and the use of community facilitators. “Telos helps immigrants find their place in American society by facilitating the creation of personal and professional networks and integration with the labor market,” says Ghosh.

Won Because:  “We had extensive conversations with Bay Area organizations that serve the immigrant and refugee populations and leveraged from their domain expertise in the design of our solution,” says Ghosh. “We were also able to demonstrate viability by signing up early partners who were willing to pilot Telos with their constituencies in the Bay Area.” Says Mach, “Our winning case emphasized that not all business plans need to be for-profit, but a sustainable nonprofit that provides a feasible solution for the target community ultimately came out on top.” Ghosh also notes that all of the team members have a personal connection to the immigrant experience — directly or through immediate family.

The H Factor: “Throughout the initial brainstorming and conception of Telos we relied heavily on the diverging and converging skills learned in the BILD Problem Finding Problem Solving classroom,” notes Ghosh. He also credits the rigorous case analyses in Competitive Strategy with helping the team critically analyze the ecosystem in which Telos would play, and then choose the activities and partnerships with the maximum impact.

Why it Matters: “Every year millions come to the U.S. to pursue dreams for better lives or to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. They make the journey at great personal cost and they face many hurdles trying to integrate into American society, with very little social support in the U.S.” says Ghosh. Adds Saboo, “Haas principles emphasize thinking beyond ourselves and this competition gave us a chance to do something innovative for the marginalized communities.”

A Weekend in the Life of a Part-time MBA Student: From Health Hackathon to Tough Mudder


This past Saturday and Sunday were a productive 48 hours for Erik Krogh-Jespersen, a student in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program. On Saturday, he was part of the team that won the UC Berkeley Digital Health Hackathon, with a way to track child immunizations in rural India. On Sunday, he was one of eight evening and weekend MBA students completing the Tough Mudder. Get the dirt on Tough Mudder in this Haas Achieves post and read on to learn about the winning Health Hackathon team.

Krogh-Jespersen teamed with Sanat Kamal Bahl and Anandamoy Sen, both MBA 14, and with software programmers Shinto Manuel and Jeremy Rahe, Public Health Adjunct Professor Julia Walsh, and mechanical engineering student Srihari Yamanoor to win the 24-hour competition, which challenged students to “build apps that change lives.” The event, held at Skydeck, is co-hosted by the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, the Haas Entrepreneurs Association, and UC Berkeley’s CITRIS.

…preceded by Saturday strategizing at the Hackathon–Krogh Jespersen with Julia Walsh

It began with a 60-second elevator pitch on Friday evening to attract teammates. In this case, Bahl, Krogh-Jespersen, and Sen made the pitch and Manuel, Rahe, Walsh, and Yamanoor signed on. The team then worked through most of Friday night and most of Saturday, coding, designing and building—to make a 6:00 p.m. Saturday pitch to judges.

Team Immutrac proposed a way to track child immunizations in rural India using only a feature phone (aka a “dumb” phone) on the side of the rural villagers and a smart phone on the side of the Healthcare providers.  A readable/writable device would allow a villager to keep electronic medical records for her child on her phone, to receive text message reminders about the upcoming need for a shot, and to have the record updated with each visit.

Anandamoy Sen makes the pitch

“We were targeting the over 160,000 child deaths that occur from vaccine preventable diseases in India with an extremely cheap solution that could function without power cords or internet connections,” says Krogh-Jespersen. He credits the diversity of the team for making the event “so amazing.” A chemistry team leader with Nanosyn, Krogh-Jespersen says, “You can imagine that  as an organic chemist, I have no clue what technology solutions are possible, but both Haas and this event bring these people together–and big things happen.”

The winning Haas Hackathon team, top row, l. to r.: Erik Krogh-Jespersen, MBA 14, Shinto Manuel, Julia Walsh, Jeremy Rahe; bottom row, l. to r.: Sanat Kamal Bahl, MBA 14, Srihari Yamanoor, Anandamoy Sen, MBA 14