Abhishek Sharma spent hundreds of hours on Amtrak trains and in cars while earning his MBA, commuting to Berkeley Haas from his home in Sacramento.
For some, the commute would be grueling. But Abhishek, a 2016 graduate of the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA (EWMBA) program, says he never minded. “I could sit and think and write in my journal,” says Abhishek, who decided to stay in Sacramento to be close to his parents. “I had a lot of time for self reflection.”
Since graduating, Abhishek, a senior product manager at San Diego-based medical device company Dexcom, has decided to pay it forward to other Haas commuters with a gift to support the school’s travel grants for students who live beyond the nine counties of the Bay Area.
His three-year pledge to the Haas Foundation for Excellence campaign will be used to expand the Outside Of Bay Area Grant Program, which provides financial assistance to evening & weekend MBA students who live outside the nine-county Bay Area counties. Now, all EWMBA students will be eligible to apply for the grants, instead of just first-years.
The gift is part of Abhishek’s ambitious long-term giving plan, which includes a goal to create his own foundation. He’s also a committee member for the Beyond Yourself Challenge Match, a group of donors who match student gifts—and he also started another fund with Education First, an organization founded by Chris Bryan, MBA 00, to focus on providing college scholarships to low-income high school students.
Abhishek moved to the U.S. from India at age 15. His parents, who worked as a professor and engineer in India, had to take retail and factory jobs after they arrived in the U.S., and the family lived in a basement.
“We didn’t even have hot water,” Abhishek says.
Many mentors and scholarships eventually helped point Abhishek toward an undergraduate degree in biochemistry at Bowdoin College and then to an MBA at Haas. Abhishek says his favorite course at Haas was Leadership Communications with Mark Rittenberg.
“The class strengthened my skill set as a storyteller,” he notes. “Learning how to start presentations with a 'vertical takeoff' was a game changer as I am in situations every day selling solutions internally or to customers.”
While some commuting students might worry that they would not form tight connections with their classmates, Abhishek says he developed a strong bond with the other half-dozen Haas students who lived in the greater Sacramento region.
He hosted events to bring together the Haas Sacramento community, and also went out of his way to connect with both evening & weekend and full-time MBA students—even sleeping in a nearby Berkeley hostel at times so he could spend more time with classmates.
Now he is on the board of the San Diego Haas alumni group and is devoted to his work at Dexcom, focused on making Type 2 diabetes solutions viable. In his free time, he is qualifying to become a Kundalini Yoga teacher.
As for the newest class of commuting students who will benefit from his gift, Abhishek says he hopes they will try the train.
“Cherish the time spent commuting with Haas mates,” he advises. “It’s a big part of the support system and creates trust for ideas of future.”
Could students and alumni in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program be part of your next community? We invite you to learn more.