Accepted.com has started a new blog series offering our readers a behind-the-scenes look at selected MBA programs through interviews with current students. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your application.
Here’s a talk with a student from Berkeley Haas, a top MBA program based in the Bay area, with close proximity to the e-industry and biotech clusters in Silicon Valley.
You’re in laid back Berkeley. With the mountains, food, and ocean nearby how do you get anything done? What’s the best way to plan for your two years to get the most out of it?
Coming in, all of my colleagues and myself thought this would be our last time in school, so that naturally led us to try and get involved in all the activities. But that’s a bad idea if you want to make the most out of your experience. You just end up being really busy, and not doing anything substantial. I suggest choosing one main actiivty where you have a leadership position, and then have one or two others where you’re casually involved. And at Haas, grades are not emphasized–meaning not given to on-campus recruiters–so do what you can in school and don’t overload yourself.
How close did you stick to your originally stated goals from your application?
I wanted to make a transition from health care consulting into industry in the short-term, and that has definitely worked out for me. I used to be a consultant in Tokyo, and now I’m working at Genentech in San Francisco. My long-term plans have changed though. Originally I thought I wanted to start my own company helping medical device companies bring products more quickly into Japan. But I think Haas’s proximity to Silicon Valley has made me become more e-tech savvy. So that’s why at Genentech, I’m in the biotech e-marketing group.
So you were pretty focused on health care. That’s been a good match for you at Haas?
There may be a preconception that Haas is entrepreneur tech-focused MBA program and that’s because of the proximity to Silicon Valley. Lots of people do come with tech backgrounds. But the curriculum has a very strong general management focus, with lots of different courses for many types of industries. I had many health care oriented classes to choose from. And they have an MBA/MPH joint degree if you want to pursue that route.
Why did you choose Haas?
It was tough. Bascially, it came down to the fact that I couldn’t cheer for any other football team in the country. Berkeley’s my alma mater. But also–there are so many good programs out there, so I really focused on my career path and where I could see myself living in the future. I’m a California native, so I couldn’t see myself putting up with the snow in Boston. And I’m married, so I wanted to think about my family and where we would be most comfortable. My point is that reputation or ranking isn’t everything. Once you get into the upper echelon of schools, rankings don’t matter–you have to go where you feel comfortable. Northern California was the choice for me.
What did you find out the school offers that you couldn’t find out from the website or an information session?
Haas has a unique and collaborative student culture. We really work in teams, where one minute we might look like we’re having fun, and then another minute fighting–which is actually constructive debate. Your age and experience here don’t matter–people don’t judge you on that. As long as you are making a commitment to engage you’ll be embraced and valued.
What about your favorite classes?
The classes I wouldn’t miss are 1) Core Marketing by Professor Rashi Glazer. It’s very interesting and very educational and that’s saying a lot because many of us already had some marketing background, but we all learned something. 2) Operations by Terry Taylor. Very good at explaining operations to beginners.
What kind of leadership training or mentoring do you receive at Haas?
Curriculum-wise, there were optional leadership seminars that people could sit in on. Haas is also revamping its core curriculum next year, to focus on developing innovative leadership. Outside of class, the clubs definitely help you develop your leadership skills. If you get selected for a leadership position, you really get to be in the driver’s seat.
How much help has career services been to you?
Career services is excellent. It’s unique in that our career advisors are allocated to an industry vertical. They have significant contacts, experience and credibility amongst recruiters. That’s a real help to first years trying to secure an internship.
Can you tell me about your best day so far on campus?
When I helped plan for the annual healh care conference and all our planning, hard work and late nights came together. Our panelists struck up good discussions and debate, and people got really engaged, especially due to the health care reform passage that was going on at the time.
A bad interview, and then walking into a class unprepared because I had spent so much time preparing for the interview, and then getting cold called.
It’s the Bay Area, so we have to ask about the food. Best restaurant?
If you’re ready to ante up some cash, there’s Chez Panisse, the restaurant that invented California cuisine. But there are also good eateries at a low cost all around campus, so just explore. My favorite that just opened is a Japanese place called Ippuku.
Last words of advice?
A lot of people coming into business school have high aspirations and want to pick the school they think will look the best on their resume. I would say, de-emphasis rankings and think ahead to what you want out of your career. Select a school that will help you meet those goals.
Interview conducted by Michelle Stockman, who worked in the Columbia Business School admissions office, has a Masters in Journalism from Columbia, and has assisted Accepted.com clients applying to top business schools since 2007. She is happy to help you with your application.