Living and working in SoCal, Christine Elfalan, EMBA 15, is familiar with Silicon Beach; she is, after all, Executive Director of Product Management for Bouqs, an online flower service based in Venice, California.
Silicon Valley, however, was another story—and one whose mysteries were revealed during a Fall Immersion Week focused on entrepreneurship that is one of five immersions in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program.
She shares her impressions in this Q & A:
What was Silicon Valley Immersion Week like?
Part of the time we do case studies in awesome locations like Google and hear from executives you’d never think you’d be able to meet with—like Facebook CIO Tim Campos. Then we visit various startups and have intimate conversations with the founders. It’s just not something many people in this world ever get to experience.
How did classroom time and startup visits work together?
If we had just had the case studies it would be like any other class. If we just had the immersion, visiting the ventures without the doing the cases, we would have been focused on the companies--their products and missions rather than on the entrepreneurial experience itself—and that’s what the week is really about, understanding how you get there if you want to be an entrepreneur. It’s an eye-opener.
How are you already seeing impact from this EMBA immersion in your life?
My background has mostly been with larger corporations, and I recently joined a 20-person startup as Executive Director of Product Management for our site experience. The immersion week really brought to life that at a startup, I’m no longer just an employee, rather I feel like I have ownership, that this is my company.
"The entrepreneurial experience itself—that’s what the week is really about."
How does that sense of ownership play out at work?
Early on, I was just trying to get things out, completed. That’s still important, but now I’ve started to get my team to focus more on the actual return on our efforts.
What was the biggest epiphany from Silicon Valley Immersion Week?
I realized that someday I’d really like to be up in the Valley. You really see that the nature of this environment is ingrained in the people there, the startup mentality, the lean mentality. It’s just a very different environment than in L.A.
What was most surprising?
I was happily surprised by the strength of the network. It was mind blowing to me that all these founders, people actually trying to run new companies would take time out to talk with us about our journeys and to tell us about theirs.
How did earlier lessons come into play during the Silicon Valley Immersion?
I really saw how the first two terms were setting us up for this week. From our leadership classes to our to our marketing class to our accounting and finance classes, they were all essential to get the most out of the week.