Finding and promoting inspiration in sustainability and innovation

By Eric Askins

Kerisha Burke, MBA 24, left a career in the energy industry to develop her business and leadership skills in a full-time MBA program that could fuel her pivot into the technology sector. She chose Berkeley Haas because she wanted to “work on real-world problems in class, to immerse myself in experiential learning opportunities, and to learn from renowned professors and guest speakers,” she said.

Her transition kicked off when she was selected as one of 30 participants in Amazon’s inaugural Pre-MBA Technical Product Management Immersion program. Over two weeks in the summer of 2022, Kerisha attended workshops, met with product managers, and learned about Amazon’s newest initiatives. She gained practical experience in how to champion technical products by presenting her own technical solution to advance Amazon’s sustainability goals. In alignment with Amazon’s leadership principle to “think big,” she described her idea as “an innovative, scalable, carbon-neutral, on-demand delivery service business model that helps customers meet their sustainability goals while mitigating supply chain issues and eliminating Amazon packaging waste.”

That is the proposal she pitched to Haas grad, Shovan Das, MBA 15, a principal product manager at Amazon Web Services. “I really liked his leadership style. He asked great questions and gave really good feedback. It all aligned with the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles, and I was eager to further develop my leadership skills at Haas,” she said. “I also am extremely grateful for Management Leadership for Tomorrow’s MBA Professional Development Program which shared the opportunity at Amazon.”

Kerisha’s successful pitch landed her a summer internship offer at Amazon. “My experience over the summer empowered me to contribute to the Haas community through leadership opportunities by helping others,” she said, adding “This also helps me align with the Beyond Yourself Defining Leadership Principle. It is important to me to understand what I can add, how I can help my team.”

Student Always gives me the confidence to ask questions and keeps me grounded."

One of her roles is VP-Careers in the Black Business Students Association. A self-described “island girl” from St. Kitts, a small island in the Caribbean who grew up in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, and earned her undergraduate degree at Howard University, an HBCU (historically Black college and universities), Kerisha appreciates the ongoing efforts at Berkeley Haas to support underrepresented minority students. “This is a community where diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging are priorities. That helps us attract employers who prioritize DEIJB initiatives as part of their company culture and values,” she said.

Other career advancement advantages, she noted, include the close connections Berkeley Haas has with the business community, and its “ideal location” close to Silicon Valley, Sonoma, and San Francisco, which opens up networking opportunities. Kerisha emphasized that industry professionals are eager to speak with MBA students and companies are eager to share roles or information about internship opportunities.

Inspired by a fireside chat hosted at the Berkeley SkyDeck business accelerator where Brett Wilson, a 2007 Berkeley Haas graduate, successful entrepreneur, and investor shared his journey and useful tips for entrepreneurs, Kerisha recently added VP-Platform & Technology with the Haas Start-Up Squad to her portfolio of roles. “This event really motivated me to get more involved in the entrepreneurial space. I’m not always comfortable being in front of people, and this will give me more exposure in that space. I think this will help me understand how and when to step up and step back—two qualities that leaders need,” she said. “I am extremely grateful every time I walk past SkyDeck, because know that I am in the right place to actualize my professional goals.”

For now, Kerisha is “soaking up so much at Haas. And when I make a mistake or don’t understand a concept, I tell myself ‘Student Always.’ I am here to learn and that Defining Leadership Principle gives me the confidence to ask questions and keeps me grounded. It’s also good to see so much Confidence Without Attitude among my classmates and professors. To me, that means you prioritize empathy, inclusion, and trust. Those are qualities I value and believe are required of good leaders. I would like to Question the Status Quo more, but maybe moving from Texas to California is the start of me doing that,” she said. “Or maybe not, since I knew I would like it here. I spent a summer in the Bay Area during undergrad, and similar to the island lifestyle I enjoyed as a child, the Bay Area has many spots to take in picturesque views along nature trails or try foods from different cultures.”

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Posted on April 25, 2023
Eric Askins
Eric is the Executive Director of Full-time MBA Admissions. He partners with students, faculty and staff to recruit a diverse student body that enhances our community through innovative leadership and academic excellence.