Three years old is too young to understand why mommy is gone two nights a week, but Rachel Lui Pang, MBA 24, wants her daughter to one day “be proud that I was willing to take this risk—and to take so much time away from her—to pursue my passion.”
Rachel applied for the Evening & Weekend MBA program during the COVID-19 pandemic thinking that “It’s time to put myself out there. If I get in, it’s a sign that I should go.” After starting her career as a consultant in HR and pivoting to a product consultant role at LinkedIn, Rachel now is in Enterprise Sales at Google. She wants her next move to be into a management role.
The MBA curriculum will give her a better understanding of what it takes to be an effective leader and, more generally, give her a “more holistic understanding of how an entire business organization works.” She also is gaining insights into different perspectives and other industries. “I love learning from the most experienced experts in their fields—and that means both faculty and classmates. They are invaluable,” she said.
Because most of Rachel’s customers at Google are start-ups, she eagerly anticipates electives in the innovation and entrepreneurship curriculum. Classes like Venture Capital & Private Equity, Business Model Innovation & Strategy, Start-Up Sales, and Opportunity Recognition will “give me a lens on where my customers are, what stage they are at, what they are thinking about, what challenges and concerns they are facing.”
Rachel is already testing herself as a leader. During her first year in the program, she was promoted to a team lead position. This makes her both the “ear” of the team, listening to customers’ feedback, and the “voice” of her team in communicating that feedback up the management chain at Google to calibrate the team’s focus and energy. She credits her time at Haas for helping her take more ownership of her career. “I am better at articulating my value to the team and I have a much clearer vision of myself as a leader,” she said.
But she also has learned when not to take a step forward. When Google offered her the opportunity to interview for a management role, Rachel spoke with a career adviser in the Career Management Group (CMG). That conversation prompted Rachel to think about her immediate priorities and how that job move would mesh with the objectives she has set out for herself. The result? Rachel decided to sit out the opportunity. For now.
“Later on, I had a self-reflection check-in with CMG, to evaluate whether I am doing everything I want to do in my MBA studies,” she recalled. “I asked myself, am I here to get perfect grades? No. I also came to meet people and that is something I am working on."
Don't limit your choices
Rachel’s evolving sense of herself as a leader is bound up with the Haas Defining Leadership Principles. For her, Confidence Without Attitude and Student Always go hand-in-hand. “To be an effective leader you have to recognize—even admit—that you don’t know everything. You need to exude confidence yet remain humble. That embodies who I want to be as a leader.”
She also has a newfound respect for the value of failure: “To learn, you have to be willing to fail. Failure has such negative connotations, but what I have learned to focus on isn’t the failure, but what I do afterward. What did I learn? How did I change?”
One thing Rachel would like to change is people’s understanding of parenthood as a limitation. Too many people, she said, “seem to think that you can either be successful or you can have a family. You can do both! You just need strong support systems and a clear understanding of why you are taking the MBA path. Having that will anchor you when things get tough.”
Rachel needed that anchor herself when, early in her studies, her daughter was unhappy and struggling on the two nights a week Rachel was in class. She considered switching to the Saturday cohort or even dropping out. But, she said “being a parent isn’t my whole identity. I don’t want my daughter to feel limited in her choices, so I shouldn’t limit mine.”
That being said, Rachel acknowledges that she “can do anything, but not everything.” Her husband and her “amazing in-laws” take care of her daughter on the evenings Rachel is in class. “They love having time with her and it makes me feel less guilty. I am constantly reminded to appreciate and have compassion for the people around me, including myself.”