Part-time MBA Students Set Careers in Motion


Evening and weekend student Craig Hashi, MBA 12, co-founded a medical device company before changing course to work in investment banking. Chris Fuller, MBA 12, transitioned from working in earth sciences to working in management consulting at Boston Consulting Group.

They are two of many students in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program to change careers while earning a Berkeley MBA. Hashi, Fuller, and five of their MBA colleagues shared the method behind their moves with fellow students in a panel discussion this fall.

The first step for all was to pull into sharp focus a target position, company, or industry. The students then employed a variety of tools, from career advising to on-campus recruiting and from networking to … more networking.

Then there are a few students, like Hashi, who went even farther. To make his change from biotech to investment banking, he worked in an internship at a hedge fund from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., then headed to work as CTO for his medical device startup, NanoVasc, and capped the day with evening MBA classes (and homework). It was not a path for the faint of heart, but one that has placed him squarely on an investment banking track. Hashi completed an internship with Citgroup this past summer and is participating in on-campus recruiting this fall.

These students also worked hard to land their informational interviews. Hashi estimates that in his biotech-to-finance move he spent seven months purely on building a network of contacts. Kathy Benemann, MBA 12, transitioned from senior strategy and product manager at UC Berkeley to associate brand manager at LeapFrog. She emphasizes the importance of building “a meaningful relationship with someone in your target company who is willing and able to help."

Meaningful is exactly what Omer Ansari, MBA 12, aimed for in making his connections. Ansari wanted to work in cleantech and moved from an engineering role at a semiconductor company to product marketing with Soladigm, a developer of energy-efficient glass. Ansari says he doesn't like to "schmooze.” “If someone is going to give me their time, I make it valuable," he says. When requesting one informational interview, for instance, Ansari researched the company thoroughly and submitted a two-page brief analyzing its new product with his interview request. “I got a call within two hours,” he says.

Most panelists pointed out that the opportunity cost of making a leap can be reduced by taking on new responsibilities in a current position. Anand Sundaram, MBA 12, expanded the boundaries of his role as a service delivery manager with Nexius, a wireless service and software company, by taking on projects outside his comfort zone. His subsequent work for the company in finance, strategy, and supply chain (supported by what he was learning in the Berkeley MBA Program) helped position him for his target company: Verizon. Now, as Verizon's area manager for Northern California, Sundaram is responsible for market expansion, new technology deployment, and customer performance.

All of the panelists observed that the Berkeley MBA, even in progress, boosted both their network and their standing in the marketplace. “The Haas brand gave me credibility and made it easier for me to take risks and expand my skills," Sundaram at Verizon noted.

Jeff Chen, MBA 12, employed a similar strategy to advance at Intel, where he'd already invested seven years. As he began his MBA studies, he moved from engineering to product marketing and, in the past year, has taken charge of defining and communicating the road map for Intel’s notebook and Ultrabook chipset product--as product marketing engineer. The move took him from a startup unit to one generating 30% of corporate profit. “Intel is huge," notes Chen, who stood out by turning his networking conversations into mini case discussions where, “I could show critical thinking and offer up something for people to think about."

On-campus recruiting has been an important tool for the investment-banking-bound Hashi and for Fuller, who sought a move to management consulting from earth sciences consulting. Fuller landed a summer internship with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), where he worked on an IT transformation project for a large media firm. He will join BCG full time upon completing his studies.

Other panelists also made use of services offered by the MBA Career Management Group: Ansari to polish his resume and practice interviewing, Sundaram to better negotiate compensation, and Chen to prepare for his next move--applying for a leadership program at Intel.

To one student attending the panel, Hrant Seferyan, MBA 14, these specific needs may seem like distant prospects. "I’m an explorer at this point," he notes, adding, "Any event about careers makes me want to learn more about what's possible." As to what is possible, for students in the Berkeley Evening & Weekend MBA Program, maybe just about anything.

About The Author

From 2011-2013, Valerie Gilbert focused on sharing stories of Berkeley MBA student achievements and connection to the Haas Defining Principles. At Haas since 2004 and now Associate Director of Content Marketing, she still enjoys revealing the different facets of life at Berkeley-Haas to a variety of audiences.