Self-reflection led alum to give back to Haas and beyond

By Jenny Clare

Abhishek Sharma’s Berkeley Haas MBA orientation weekend remains a vivid memory. He was intimidated, fighting fear of rejection and his own perfectionism. During a case study session, he feared saying the wrong thing in front of the accomplished classmates he’d just met.

“I was so wrong. When the session started, I saw firsthand how my classmates were inquisitive, collaborative, and curious about my contributions as well,” Abhishek, MBA 16, remembers. “All my fears vanished. I felt supported and empowered to be part of this new community.”

The warmth of Abhishek’s classmates during his studies in the evening and weekend MBA program set the foundation for his journey of self-discovery — he’s since learned it’s okay to be imperfect, to trust his intuition, and to always give back. Most recently, he helped fund a male allyship course designed to help participants effectively show up for colleagues and peers from historically underrepresented groups.

When the opportunity to help fund the course presented itself, Abhishek was thrilled. “It hit home on various levels,” he says. “I am interested in empowering groups and individuals who have gone through or are going through hardships.” He saw the passion coming through when he met with course instructors and student organizers and “felt lucky to support such a great initiative.”

Self-reflection leads to desire to pay it forward

Abhishek’s inner voice (plus the desirable weather and med-tech scene) led him to San Diego post graduation, where he found his dream job as a product manager at Dexcom and launched a product to help individuals manage Type 2 Diabetes. He also earned his certification as an Advanced Kundalini Yoga Instructor.

During his yoga training, he had plenty of time for self-reflection. He realized the help he’d received from others throughout his life had changed his trajectory — from the hard work his parents put in to make ends meet after immigrating to the US, to scholarship opportunities and mentors who helped him through his education, and most recently, to kindness from strangers during his many travels.

As a result, Abhishek made it his mission to pay it forward and created a long-term giving plan. In addition to helping fund the male allyship course in partnership with Haas Manbassadors, he helped Berkeley Haas expand the Outside-of-Bay-Area Grants program, which provides financial assistance to evening and weekend MBA students commuting from outside the nine Bay Area counties—something he once did himself. Abhishek also partnered with Education First, an organization founded by fellow Haas alum Chris Bryan, MBA 00, to focus on providing college scholarships to low-income high school students.

A course, Artist’s Way by Julia Cameroon, inspired Abhishek to step outside of his comfort zone and start doing things alone that he’d usually done in groups such as going out to eat, to the movies, or on solo international travels. On one of those solo retreats, he had a breakthrough moment in which he realized he “didn’t need to chase after a never-ending journey of perfectionism” which opened him up to explore a more creative side of himself—taking up hobbies like stand-up comedy and journaling.

Empowering others to take action

While journaling during another solo trip to a Buddhist monastery in Germany, Abhishek wrote down the idea for his latest business venture Shake the Cosmos, a community based on the principles of Kundalini Yoga, and Ayurveda, and thriving on the beliefs of connection and mindfulness.

“To me, ‘Shake the Cosmos’ means to take action and not just sit idle with what you want to accomplish in your life,” Abhishek says. “So of course, I shook the cosmos.” He felt called to start a podcast to share strategies for accomplishing goals and designing a fulfilling lifestyle. The podcast quickly became a platform to showcase the accomplishments of immigrants and people of color.

Many individuals discover that after identifying their ‘true why’ they can look beyond the day-to-day and get into the mode of contributing in a much larger way.”

Abhishek invited business and community leaders like Mike Sinyard and David Riemer to share their advice and success techniques. Businesses began to approach Abhishek with a request that he teach these same techniques at workshops. After fighting his own inner critic, he hosted several successful workshops and has shared his techniques globally with artists, professionals, executives, and retirees.

“The techniques I teach empower people so they feel confident in their own identity, as well as participate actively in their support systems,” he says. “People have started making their ideas a reality, launching businesses and finding their true fulfilling calling life.” Most recently, Shake the Cosmos released a Vision Accelerator workbook: a step by step toolkit to transform your goals into reality.

Shake the Cosmos encourages allyship

Allyship is something personal for Abhishek which is evident in his work with Shake the Cosmos. “As an immigrant, a person of color, and a thriving young artist, I have been on both sides – needing the support of an ally and being an ally,” he says. “I feel it is part of my story to give back.”

“The Shake the Cosmos community encourages individuals and companies to figure out their true north. Through the work we perform, individuals feel confident in their own identity and become empowered allies,” Abishek adds. “Many individuals discover that after identifying their ‘true why’ they can look beyond the day-to-day and get into the mode of contributing in a much larger way.”

One of the Shake the Cosmos pillars is to create a blueprint of your support systems. Abhishek takes people through an activity where he asks, “What is the strongest force in your life or in this world?” The correct answer? Nature. “It is so powerful that it can destroy or create something in a split second,” he says. “I then highlight how nature has a support system of powerful elements: the sun, water, clouds, wind.”

He asks participants who makes up their community:

  • Sun: someone who helps you be bold
  • Water: a person who helps you be flexible
  • Cloud: a nurturer
  • Wind: a connector

These people could be mentors, friends, coworkers, bosses, parents, etc. This leads participants to determine in which areas of their life they have strong support — and in which areas they lack support. “Being aware of and participating in the support system is critical to allyship,” Abishek says.

Abhishek believes Berkeley Haas inspired and engrained the passion for allyship in him, through the defining leadership principle of Beyond Yourself. “A supportive action from an ally can take various forms, such as active listening, creating a safe space, and just being there for that person,” he says. “This can eventually extend into empowering the individual and the whole community, as this type of allyship can be infectiously inspiring.”

Learn more about the Male Allyship course at Haas

Posted on February 10, 2022
Jenny Clare
Jenny is Senior Associate Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals. She hopes these blog posts provide you with useful insights into the Berkeley MBA experience and answer questions you may have about the MBA in general.