Get 90 women in a room together after work and it’s going to be lively. But get 90 women MBA students and alumnae together and the energy level is sky-high. Such was the atmosphere at the annual Women@Haas Networking Dinner held on November 17 at One Market Restaurant in San Francisco.
Students, alumnae, prospective students, faculty, and staff came from as far away as New York and Washington, D.C., to network, reminisce, bond, and exchange thoughts on careers, families, and their connection to Berkeley’s part-time MBA programs for working professionals: the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program and the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program.
After cocktails and appetizers but before the formal program, guests stood and introduced themselves, table by table, exuding confidence, ambition, and enthusiasm. They represented every industry from government to finance to tech to social media.
Next, keynote speaker Eileen Treanor talked about her ambition to become a chief financial officer and how her 2014 EWMBA paved the way for her to become CFO of Lever, a San Francisco-based SAAS company providing talent acquisition software, and with a staff reflecting 50/50 gender balance.
Over steelhead trout and beef short ribs, the networking resumed. Prospective students grilled current students about the admissions process. Current students asked alumnae about the ROI of their degrees. And graduates talked among themselves about career switching and advancement.
One such interaction concerned making the leap from a large electronics company to a small publishing start-up. “How do you make that transition?” asked one alumna. “Start by following venture capitalists, then interview them on their clients and projects,” came the answer. “And definitely use your Haas professors’ connections. You don’t want to work for a startup where you don’t know either the founder or the CEO.”
“It’s important to put us all in a room together to have this shared experience, to talk about what we’ve accomplished and what we’re still trying to do.
Every conversation ended with a variation of the phrase “Feel free to email me” or “here’s my card.” One could almost see career trajectories being redirected over the candle-lit tablecloths.
We spoke with three Berkeley-Haas alumnae who have each attended this dinner at least twice to find out why they find the event valuable and what’s special about Haas women.
“I’m always so impressed by the prospective students, and love to share with them what’s unique about Haas culture,” says Cristina Stanley, a 2014 graduate of the EWMBA program and head of brand marketing for Yelp (pictured above). “In the past, several have reached out to continue the conversation, and I often host them at Yelp’s cafe to answer more questions.”
Nicole Farrar, who graduated from the Berkeley EMBA program in 2014 and is vice president of talent acquisition and legal affairs for Neat Capital, met a prospective student who had been waitlisted for the program once before and was now applying again. “Two years ago, she was pregnant,” says Farrar. “I had a baby during the program so was able to speak to how being waitlisted may have been for the best!”
Some might wonder why it’s necessary to host a networking event just for women, but guests pointed out that women are still vastly underrepresented in C-suite positions. “Clearly, we still need to have these events until we achieve professional parity,” says Farrar. “It’s important to put us all in a room together to have this shared experience, to talk about what we’ve accomplished and what we’re still trying to do. Props to Haas for addressing that.”
“Women face a different set of challenges in the workplace and in life,” notes Anita Ratnathicam, EMBA 2016 and director of operations at the hospitality group Good Food Guys. “If you’re going to do a part-time MBA program in addition to your work and family, that’s three jobs. For a new class of women making this big decision, it’s essential to hear the female perspective, and for us to welcome them into this amazing community.”
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