MBA Internships: Consulting on Main Street


Wine by the barrel: Kory rolls up his sleeves at Brooks Winery in rural Oregon, where his MBAs Across America team did a comprehensive cost and break-even analysis.

Student: Kory Vargas Caro, MBA 15

Interning with: MBAs Across America, a startup organization that’s sending teams of business students on six-week summer road trips to both help and learn from small entrepreneurs.

This is the inaugural year of the program, which was started by four Harvard MBAs who gave the idea a test drive last summer.

Before the trip, Vargas Caro and his teammates identified, screened, and selected six entrepreneurs with specific business challenges. They’re now traversing the country, from Montana to Colorado to Detroit to North Carolina, spending one week on each project before hitting the road to their next gig.

Their projects have included  a comprehensive cost and break-even analysis for a winery, and a go-to-market plan for a line of custom guide-dog harnesses, and a shipping and distribution strategy for a subscription box service—focusing on hand-crafted products from Nashville—that is expanding to five new states.

MBAxA because: “People forget that small businesses are the largest engine of growth in America, and the largest providers of jobs. These are people who are having a positive impact in their communities, yet they are often overlooked.”

“Our team particularly wanted to focus on women and minorities. I was a small business owner (political fundraising and organizing), so this is an opportunity to combine the tools that Haas has given me with real-life experiences to help people who are just like me.”

Excited about: “Getting the chance to meet impressive small business owners in areas I’ve never visited. The people we’ve worked with are leading the way on how entrepreneurship should be done. In Bozeman, Montana, we worked with the owner of a café and pizzeria who was pushing the envelope on farm-to-table dining in her community. We worked with a winery owner in rural Oregon who was building a $1.2 million tasting room that would transform the Valley into a destination for wine tasting, helping out local wineries in the area.”

Highlight so far: “The strength of the team. We’d never met or worked together before. Now we’re spending 24-7 together on the road. We’ve gotten closer. The work has gotten stronger. We understand each other’s strengths. In Detroit we met the other teams on the road. It was a great learning moment for me, when we got to share our experiences with one another. I’m very thankful for being exposed to this movement and making these friends and building this amazing network.”

Team Ross/Haas and Tiffany Lach, the owner of Sola Cafe in Bozeman, Montana.

Team Ross/Haas and Tiffany Lach, the owner of Sola Cafe in Bozeman, Montana.

Haas skills applied: “Team Haas/Ross is the only mixed-school team, and that has turned out to be a big advantage. It’s also helped me see what we do well at Haas. We put a lot of emphasis on teams, and we really do lead the way in design thinking.

I’ve put this into practice every day. The first day, we just ask questions and we take notes. Questions like: can you help me understand why this is important to you? We keep asking questions, and we look at the assumptions underneath. Is it true that you have a bottleneck here? Is it true that the technology you have isn’t working for you? Instead of people telling us what they want us to fix, we start by making sure it’s the right problem.”

Big takeaway: “I came into this knowing nothing about wine, nothing about restaurants, nothing about dog collars. I still know just a bit about them—but now I know the questions you need to ask. Once you get to the problems and get through to the answers, the rest is mechanical. With a few more experiences in other industries, I could do absolutely anything.”

Advancing career goals by: “I came into Haas wanting to explore the world of entrepreneurship. Having been a small business owner, I knew I would eventually start another business. This trip has helped solidify my belief that I’ll end up in the start-up world. This is where I’m most happy. I’m recommitted to the path I started on.”

Read the Ross/Haas team’s blog posts here.

Read about the team’s week at Brooks Winery in Oregon’s Statesman Journal, and in the Denver Business Journal.

MBA Internships: Thinking Big at Amazon

You don't need to work at Amazon to use an Amazon Locker. Jesse Silberberg MBA '15, is interning as a senior product manager.

You don’t need to work at Amazon to use an Amazon Locker. Jesse Silberberg, MBA 15, is interning as a senior product manager.

Student: Jesse Silberberg, MBA 15

Internship: Senior Product Manager with Amazon’s Kindle Education group. “We are responsible for building eTextbook functionality for Kindle, and study features including Flashcards, X-Ray and Notebook. I’m focused on making Kindle an even more powerful tool for students.

Amazon because: “I came into Haas with a passion for education, innovation and technology, and I’m getting to work on all three at once. I was excited to get experience working in product management, which involves interfacing with folks across different functions, including business, engineering and UX. In addition, Amazon has a reputation for giving interns ownership of really meaningful projects, and I was also excited to push myself to deliver something that would make a difference for the company and its customers over the course of my 11 weeks here this summer.”

Thrilled about: “Outside of my core project, I’ve had the chance to interact with the company’s most senior leaders, each of whom spend an hour with the MBA group talking about their experiences and answering questions in an informal setting. I’ve learned a lot from how they’ve approached their careers and solved challenges of a huge scale. It’s great motivation to push myself on what I can achieve as a leader.”

Highlight so far: “In the third week of my internship I had an hour to present my early thinking at a weekly meeting of product managers from across the Kindle group. They were supportive of what I was working on at a high level, but dug into the holes in my argument in a really constructive way. Their feedback helped me figure out the right questions to answer far more quickly than if I was working through the challenge on my own.”

Inside Amazon: “Amazon takes a lot of pride in its Leadership Principles, and uses them to make decisions on a daily basis. My favorites are “Think Big”, “Bias for Action,” and “Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit.” They give everyone at the company, including interns, the grounds for taking a stand on a big idea, and it makes the work that much more exciting.”

Applied learning: “Everything Amazon does is in service of its customers, so for my project I wanted to get input from customers as quickly as possible. I held a focus group with students and brought some Haas flair to its execution, using design thinking tactics (and Post It notes) to push participants to really think outside of the box.”

Advancing career goals by: “From an exposure perspective, I had worked for an early stage ed-tech startup before school, and it’s great to work this summer for a much larger company to compare and contrast the two experiences. From a skill perspective, I’m flexing a lot of different muscles—customer interviews, survey design, data analysis, feature scoping—and getting feedback on my work from product managers, designers and developers. To sum it up, I’m doing— and learning—a ton.”

Berkeley MBA Students Mix with Big Leagues on East Coast Sports Trek

Students at Major League Peter Garai, Albert Cheng, Juan De Jesus,  Anne Lewandowski, Juan De Jesus, Brandon Doll, and Ryo Itoh.

Students at Major League Peter Garai, MBA 15; Albert Cheng, MBA 16; Anne Lewandowski, MBA 14; Juan De Jesus, MBA 15; Brandon Doll, MBA 14; and Ryo Itoh, MBA 15.

A small team of Haas students tackled the contact sport of networking on the East Coast at the end of last month while attending the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and meeting with New York execs from the major sports leagues.

It was Berkeley MBA student Brandon Doll’s second time at the Sloan conference. Last year, after attending “from more of a sports fan’s perspective,” Doll was inspired to pursue a career in the sports industry. “It was a different experience this year. My strategy for the conference was a lot more targeted in terms of what panels I attended and who I was looking to connect with,” says Doll, MBA 14.

Doll, who currently has an internship with the Oakland Raiders, targeted people at sports technology companies and executives working for professional teams and leagues in business development, a job function he hopes to pursue after graduation.

Doll’s interest in sports stems from his grandfather, Don Doll, who played in the NFL for six years and then coached pro footbal for 25 years: “ I grew up in a family where sports were very important. For my grandfather, it was his livelihood.”

Sports also have a played an important role in the life of Paul Simpson, a student in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program. Simpson played college basketball, and in addition to founding a tech company, is a founding partner of EDGE Basketball Academy, which trains high school and college students in basketball and provides academic mentoring and support.

Simpson, EMBA 14, was especially fascinated by not only the use of analytics on display at the conference but also the advancement of analytics across sports.

Moneyball 2.0

“Think of it as Moneyball 2.0,” says Simpson. Teams have gone from using analytics to choose players, as featured in the book and movie Moneyball, to using analytics to determine the best combination of players to put on the field, how to best encourage fans to attend games instead of watching on TV, and how to drive sales of specific foods, he explains.

Meanwhile, a panel on how team owners manage transition applied directly to Simpson’s daily experience as CEO of a tech company.

In particular, Simpson recalls, Vivek Ranadivé, owner of the Sacramento Kings, said owners want to do things that matter, and that drive helps them lead in a way that communicates to employees that “transition can be the catalyst of hope.”


Students at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference: Ryo Ito, MBA 15; Brandon Doll, MBA 14; Juan De Jesus, MBA 15; Peter Garai, MBA 15; and Paul Simpson, EMBA 14.

After the Sloan Conference, several Haas students traveled to New York to meet with execs from the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, and Major League The meetings were organized by Doll and Juan De Jesus, MBA 15, who worked for Major League Baseball before coming to Haas.

“The trek was a great opportunity to apply some of the key management concepts that we have learned at Haas to the sports business,” says De Jesus.  “I now have a better understanding of the key issues that all the leagues are trying to solve and am excited to ideate potential solutions while at Haas.”

“It was really interesting to compare the different leagues,” adds Anne Lewandowski, MBA 14, a huge Red Sox fan and active member of the MBA students’ Sports Business Club. “You could see the spectrum business savvy, how international they are, and what they are doing with technology and marketing,” she says, noting looked like a San Francisco-style startup while the offices of the other leagues felt more corporate.

No More Old Boys’ Club?

Lewandowski was pleasantly surprised by the number of women they met. She especially enjoyed meeting one female executive in major league baseball who also had held high-level positions at two top professional teams. The executive described how she successfully negotiated a contract with a baseball player when she was with a team by taking a more empathetic approach to negotiations rather than just focusing on dollars.

“I could have talked to her for hours. She was so interesting,” says Lewandowski, who hopes to land a job in corporate strategy but is not yet sure in what industry.

“Even if I don’t ultimately make my career in sports, this trip was just one of those great experiences that crystallized that our classmates really did go beyond themselves, especially Juan and Brandon, in terms of organizing this trip and getting these meetings,” she says of the New York sports trek. “It showed the strength of the Haas network and my classmates’ willingness to stick their necks out and help us have a really fantastic experience.”

Driving the Energy Efficient Data Center

Li EDF Climate Corps

Louis Li, MBA 14, gained insights on the ROI of going green, thanks to a summer internship at Verizon as part of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)’s Climate Corps. Climate Corps dispatches students to corporate clients as energy problem solvers and shared this interview with Li on the EDF Climate Corps Blog:

Name: Louis Li

Hometown: Hong Kong

School: Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley

Host Organization: Verizon

Q: What is one interesting fact about you that might surprise people?

A: In the past seven years, I have worked and lived in several very different places. I have worked in Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangladesh and currently reside in the United States. I am currently attending school in California, and spending the summer working for Verizon in New Jersey.

Q: Why did you want to join EDF Climate Corps?

A: I am very interested in the intersection of the environment, business and technology. EDF Climate Corps links my three interests together, providing insight into the business case for energy efficiency. Also, investing in energy efficiency is one way to have a great environmental impact. In terms of professional development, EDF Climate Corps is a great program that provides training, and places fellows with companies and organizations where we can make a meaningful impact.

Q: What did you work on this summer?

A: I have primarily focused on energy efficiency opportunities at data centers. I am also involved in a solar energy and fuel cells project, which will help provide power to roughly 20 Verizon facilities across the United States.

Q: What is the most difficult part about tackling the energy efficient data center project in your opinion?

A: One of the most difficult parts is finding the best way to fast track a project. I think that people want sustainability improvements, but they also have many other priorities.

Q: Have you found ways to overcome this?

A: I think it is very important to have an internal champion for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. My supervisor, Alan Scott, is quick to make new connections with key stakeholders within the business who can also help drive results. Second, I must be thoughtful when I shape the project scope and identify what my priorities are in order to execute in a timely manner. I also must consider other people’s time and make sure I focus on high value projects. And in order to attain approval for moving a project forward, we must reveal the project’s value to our customers and the business.

Q: What is one thing you have learned this summer?

A: I have learned a tremendous amount about energy efficiency, especially in regards to data centers. I also gained a tremendous amount of experience in understanding the return on investment of going green. And in my conversations with Verizon’s IT team, I have learned much about real world applications and strategies for success.

Q: What have you learned from your supervisor, Alan?

A: I have learned a lot just by looking to Alan as a mentor. Alan is always meeting new people and networking in a large organization to help solve challenging problems. He is continuously working to improve the sustainability of the business, and keeps customers at the forefront of what is important. Alan knows how to quickly explain what he is trying to accomplish and how to achieve results.

Q: What is the best part of working at Verizon?

A: Sustainability is embedded in the culture here at Verizon. The company has a dedicated sustainability team overseeing many different green initiatives, from clean energy to paper reduction. They work hard to provide powerful solutions for real-world issues. There are also more than 12,000 employees that are part of Verizon’s “Green Team,” which practices and promotes “working green and living green,” so it is energizing to be around so many people who share my values.

Q: What is the mark you want to leave on the world?

A: I want to solve environmental and business problems at the same time. This is the reason I joined an MBA program with a focus on clean energy. It has been inspiring to part of the team here, and I hope to one day inspire others.




MBA Internships: Broadening Investment Banking Skills

Landon't Berkeley MBA: broadening investment banking skills, rooting for the Bears

Landon Mizuguchi’s Berkeley MBA: Broadening investment banking skills, rooting for the Bears

Experience in M & A due diligence for a “Big 4” firm sparked Landon Mizuguchi’s interest in getting involved with a wider array of financial transactions.After speaking with friends and soon-to-be classmates, I knew that investment banking was a perfect fit–I could develop skills in valuation and business strategy, and continue to work on M&A transactions, while also advising clients on IPOs, takeover defenses, debt offerings, and all things corporate finance.” This summer he interned in the San Francisco office of a global investment bank.

Student: Landon Mizuguchi, MBA 14

Thrilled to be with this investment bank because: “This firm has such a strong culture of promoting teamwork, doing right by clients, and adhering to a set of business principles that resonate with me personally.  And the people are quite similar to those at Berkeley-Haas: insightful and impressive, yet pleasant and down to earth.“

Can’t believe he’s getting the chance to: Participate in live M&A negotiations. “This experience provided me with invaluable insight into the tactical approaches and preparation necessary to execute large-scale transactions.”

New skill applied: Financial modeling. “Over the course of the internship, I worked on several financial analyses, including discounted cash flows, merger consequences, comparable companies, and leveraged buyouts.” He says his Corporate Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions courses provided the theory and context necessary to conduct these analyses in practice.

Banking Geeks Out: “Our SF office periodically holds ‘Geek Out’ sessions where an employee presents the art or science behind an interesting topic. One Managing Director (“MD”) shared his secrets behind earning/using Frequent Flier Miles, and, during our internship, summer analysts/associates taught the office about subjects ranging from unique forms of electricity, to the art and history of DJ’ing.”

Advancing career goals by: Learning. “I am working on interesting transactions with incredible people who have loads of experience, so whether I remain in investment banking or pursue another path, this internship has been wonderfully rewarding for my career.”

MBA Internships: Inspired by Education Technology

Annie Hsu_Internship

It was on Mount Kilimanjaro that Annie Hsu found inspiration to pursue education technology–when she got to know a young porter on the trek. “I asked Noah about the difficulty of his work and his response was, ‘It’s our job to carry things, so we must have the spirit to carry things,’” says Hsu. “His remarkable drive and attitude made me wonder what such a young man could accomplish if he had access to better resources and opportunities.”

Student: Annie Hsu, MBA 14.

 Interning with: Chegg, a website dubbed “The Student Hub,” Santa Clara, CA. On fellowship through Education Pioneers.

 Education because: “Being a student is a life journey filled with lessons, growing pains, and challenges. Chegg helps students succeed in high school and college with scholarships, college matching, study help, and discounted textbooks, while Education Pioneers prepares leaders to transform the education system so that all children receive a high quality education.”

 Can’t believe she’s getting the chance to: Take on a mission she could personally relate to: discovering how to increase engagement of high school students. “I recruited high school students for focus groups and was fascinated with what I learned about their priorities, pain points, and dreams. I was encouraged to ‘think big’ on ways we could help them and  felt pleased to have created a solution that increased the relevancy and impact of Chegg products.”

A year ago, would not have known: “What it would feel like to work at a young VC-backed company that is still growing and evolving at a rapid pace.  At Chegg, the environment is conducive to creativity and ideation, which can be incredibly exciting. However, for these ideas to take flight and have actual impact – I realized buy-in from key players was critical; and the only way to get this buy-in is to take the time to get to know these key players and truly understand their unique values.”

From the classroom to real life: “In my Opportunity Recognition class, we studied entrepreneurship, startups, and technology in the Silicon Valley. Books like Randy Komisar’s “Getting to Plan B” and case studies on startups taught me about the valuable lessons that could be learned from failures and tactics on pivoting until you succeed. “At Chegg, there were many instances where I had to alter my approach until I got it right. For instance, I started my project operating in a relatively formal manner – one that I was used to with my previous Fortune 500 clients. One day, I was told to make the tone of my work ‘more fun’ which made me realize I was dealing with a very different culture and set of company values. I loved the opportunity to express a different side of myself and apply new skills.”

Inside Chegg: “Since Chegg’s customers are students – the interns are the target audience. We felt like the stars, since everyone wanted to know how we think and what we like. I got pulled into meetings to give product feedback, brainstormed on-campus marketing events, and shared feedback on my favorite music, apps, and news websites.”

Advancing career goals by: “Diving deeper into the possibilities of improving personalization and learning outcomes for students through technology. Also, through Education Pioneers, I’ve met people passionate about transforming the education system. We had heated discussions on teacher effectiveness, power and privilege, and the opportunity gap. I was inspired by the passion and learned a ton about the key issues in education.”

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 Internships: Nike

MBA internships Nike Sarah Swigart

Sarah Swigart, MBA 14, is inspired by the Nike motto: If you have a body, you are an athlete

Student: Sarah Swigart, MBA 14, long distance trail runner (50K) and cyclist (CA to DC), marathoner, and triathlete in the Half-Ironman World Championships.

Interning with: Nike, Portland, Oregon.

Nike because: “They are pushing the limits in brand marketing and in materials innovation and manufacturing. As an athlete myself, I am energized by the way Nike challenges its employees to  genuinely serve the athlete.”

Thrilled to be getting the chance to: Prepare materials for the CEO. “My group, Corporate Strategy, supported the Executive Team’s annual strategic planning summit. We met with leadership across the organization to tee-up topics that would be discussed and prioritized for the next year. I learned so much listening to these leaders evaluate risks and opportunities.”

Applied learning: Facilitating cross-functional ideation meetings. “As a side-project, I am working with a team of 10 undergrads and 3 MBAs towards an end-of-summer presentation about a Nike-internal issue. Problem Finding Problem Solving gave me tools to facilitate constructive and creative brainstorming sessions. I understand when to open perspectives with wild ideas and when to laser-sharpen focus on feasible solutions.”

Inside Nike: “My team celebrates birthdays by hitting the gym, rather going out for lunch.”

Advancing career goals by: “Transitioning from a consulting role to an internal strategy position. While I possessed the analytical consulting skills my manager was seeking, I believe it was the credibility of the Berkeley MBA that gave Nike confidence in me as a candidate from the disparate field of healthcare.”

Earlier this summer, Swigart was part of an IBD team researching operational leasing best practices for a private equity firm interested in the automotive space in China. Read about the team’s work in this Haas in the World post.

Real Estate Course Offers a New Lease on Land

Louis Li, Sarah Walker, and Dmitar Goulev appled MBA knowledge to a real-world real estate development challenge on Telegraph Ave.

Louis Li, Sarah Walker, and Dimitar Goulev applied MBA knowledge to a real estate development challenge on Telegraph Ave.

Not everything about real estate development can be contained on a spreadsheet, as students in the Real Estate Investment and Market Analysis course learned this spring.

“Buildings, like any other enterprise, need to make money and they sink or swim on the developer’s mastery of core business disciplines,” says Professor Nancy Wallace, who co-teaches the BILD experiential learning course with Professor Dwight Jaffee. However, Wallace points out, “The ability to think creatively across those disciplines is also a must.”

One team of students applied creativity to a City of Berkeley plan to rejuvenate a Telegraph Ave. site adjacent to People’s Park. Their plan: preserve a historic mural and bring affordable housing and a small grocery store to the neighborhood.

Another team, tapped to address Cal Performances’ desire for a new facility, ran the numbers and found that immediate shorter term options appeared to have greater paybacks. “It’s a very real-world outcome,” says Wallace, “to find that very large scale projects must be developed in stages.”

Sarah Buchwalter, Brad Wolfe,

Sarah Buchwalter, Brad Wolfe, Betul Balci, and Gabriel Gomez Rojo reframed their real estate challenge to help Cal Performances build culture.

“We then thought we could best help by drawing Cal Performances’ attention to their existing assets,” says Brad Wolfe, MBA 13. Noting the success Berkeley-Haas has had differentiating itself through culture, the team reframed their challenge and made recommendations to help Cal Performances expand revenue by more directly connecting to and leveraging Cal culture.

“Our approach was inspired by the Haas Defining Principle of Question the Status Quo,” says Wolfe. “We believe in the Haas Defining Principles and we also see their power as market differentiators.”

On the other side of the Bay, Cleya Ormiston, MBA 14, was on a team helping the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission determine highest and best use for a site in Millbrae. Ormiston chose Haas specifically for its Real Estate Program and this summer will be working at Met Life in the Real Estate Investment Group.

She says the team spoke with more than 80 people during the project, including Connie Moore, MBA 80, CEO of REIT giant BRE Properties, and Steve O’Connell, MBA 12, development manager with Grosvenor.  “People really wanted to help us learn,” observes Ormiston.

That learning was critical because, as Wallace says, “Real estate may be about piles of dirt, but these piles of dirt require an understanding of supply and demand, of the tenant base, of sustainable rents, operating costs, and capital structure, as well as the marketing knowledge to attract the target constituency to a development. It’s a very serious-minded pursuit.”

MBA Internships: Google

Here’s an update from Pablo Molinero, MBA 13, on his product marketing internship with Google’s mobile ads team in Mountain View. In his latest post, he discusses everything from sushi contests to all-hands Q & A sessions with Larry and Sergey (Page and Brin, that is). As the internship winds down, Molinero realizes that he won’t have time for everything, but says, “That’s a great sign.”


Learn more, in Pablo’s latest post for Google’s Diary of a Summer Intern.