From the Berkeley MBA to new careers in tech: Meet three MBA 17 grads

By Angela Fleekop

Top employers for graduates of the full-time Berkeley  MBA class of 17 include Adobe, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft—not surprising for a class that saw nearly 37 percent of students go to work in technology. For quite a few of those students, this meant a career change; meet three such grads who used their Berkeley MBA knowledge and network to launch MBA careers in tech:

Moving from London for a Bay Area MBA

CynthiaSong-023-WebCynthia Song, product specialist, Airbnb
"I wanted to work on products that influence people’s life in a positive and scalable way," says Cynthia Song of her interest in tech. She also wanted to be part of connecting people and "making the world a bit smaller than it seems." 

Cynthia was not sure exactly how she would make this shift, especially since she was looking to change career geography, industry, and job function. " I was working in consulting in London," she says, "where a lot of companies focused on traditional sectors such as finance. I felt I was missing out on the latest innovations happening in Silicon Valley."

That meant the location of her MBA education mattered. At Haas she was able to do a good deal of face-to-face networking through school-organized treks and to attend conferences such as Techcrunch Disrupt SF and Startup Grind. "And being in the Bay Area made it easy to reach out to folks and get to know their roles/companies over a coffee."

Haas has one of the most extensive networks in tech among all business schools." 

Ultimately, she checked in at Airbnb as a product specialist. "I love traveling, and the experiences I’ve had opened my mind in ways I could not have imagined," Cynthia says. "Working for a travel company whose mission is to make anyone belong anywhere–is an ideal fit for me."

From financial analyst to Amazon merchant manager

RachelAdams-002-Web (1)Rachel Adams, senior category merchant manager, Amazon
Rachel Adams brought expertise in financial modeling and investment decisions to Haas, skills she honed as a senior financial analyst for Sempra Energy in San Diego. 

Now a senior category merchant manager for Amazon, she describes her new role as cross-functional and says the Berkeley MBA core curriculum allowed her to build marketing, quantitative, operational, and leadership skills. These, she says, "are  fundamental to my position, as well as to my development as a business leader at Amazon.”

Rachel already sees how her new skills will serve her going forward. "People often rotate through different positions every two years, and Haas prepared me to take on the next opportunity, no matter the function or area of the company," she says. She also prepared in school by striking a balance between choosing class project roles that played to her strengths and those that would develop her in new ways. "This constant readiness to both teach and learn has helped me have confidence as a leader in any role," she says.

Her Berkeley Haas network played a role as well. “My classmates were happy to help me with my job search, so when I finalized my list of dream retail-tech companies, they helped me land coffee chats that led to formal interviews with all 5 organizations I targeted."

"I'm very impact driven, so I love setting goals, meeting them, and feeling their impact," says Rachel. "My team of four owns the strategy for a large portion of the apparel business, so it’s exciting to know that my ideas, the bets I make, and the risks I take will legitimately impact the bottom line.”

Bringing finance experience and entrepreneurship together

RickyTan-004-Web (1)Ricky Tan, account manager, Adyen
"From a career perspective, I wanted to press ‘reset’ and become more fluent technically," says Ricky Tan, who worked in banking and finance for six years before he came to Berkeley Haas. "While this was analytically rigorous work, I wanted to learn about technology in an entrepreneurial environment." 

Ricky previously worked in commodities sales and trading for J.P. Morgan in London and chose the Berkeley MBA for its entrepreneurial spirit and proximity to Silicon Valley. "The biggest advantage I had at Haas was a connection to the tech industry. My mentors from Haas helped me navigate the industry here.

Fellow students also sparked his interest in entrepreneurship. "I spent time with classmates who have experience in entrepreneurship. They made me realize that I can do what they can do. Ultimately, I want to launch my own fintech venture or startup," he says. 

I got to interact with people working at exciting local companies on an almost-daily basis."

"On a higher level, what I want to do is build something from scratch, or help someone else do this. Whether it’s a happy customer or a great product, the process of building something yourself is the most rewarding." Ricky got the chance to do this while still in school, partnering with his roommate and a computer science student to build a website on cryptocurrencies. "We built it from scratch, and it got great reception. It made me realize that someone one the other side of the world could be using my product.”

In the end, Ricky not only attended school in the Bay Area, but chose to stay here. "Professionally, if I set out to do my own venture, this is the most innovative part of the world, with diversity unlike what I've experienced anywhere else. Personally, I love the access to the outdoors and culture—and I met my girlfriend, who is from the Bay Area, at Haas."

For these grads, a new career in tech was a big part of their MBA return on investment. What might an MBA be worth to you? Find out with our ebook Calculating the ROI of an MBA.

Learn More About The Full-time Berkeley MBA Program


Posted on February 7, 2018
Themes: MBA Benefits
Angela Fleekop
Angela is the Associate Director of Full-time MBA Admissions at Berkeley Haas. She has over a decade of experience working in higher education and nonprofit organizations throughout California. She enjoys meeting prospective students and sharing the story of the incredible Haas experience and culture.