Laura Teclemariam, EMBA 18, has redirected her career many times. She followed her Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Irvine with stints at Microsoft and Deloitte Consulting. She started her own internet marketing and digital media firm in 2006 and ran it for almost a decade. She also served as a product manager for the mobile advertising company Tapjoy. Currently, she's senior lead product manager at Electronic Arts. There, she leads the company's central product management team.
So with all this experience, why did Laura decide to pursue the Berkeley MBA for Executives? She wanted to step up her game with sharper business and leadership skills and knew Haas offered opportunities to do just that.
What sparked your interest in interactive media technology, and what do you find satisfying about the work?
After I left Deloitte, I started my own business as an advertising consultant for the entertainment industry. That was my first attempt at entering the tech/media sphere. After I closed my business, I still wanted to learn more about that blend of tech and media, so I found a position at Tapjoy, a mobile advertising startup in Silicon Valley. Working there, I learned how to scale mobile products to a variety of devices. I also learned about what motivates gamers who play on mobile devices. When I left Tapjoy for Electronic Arts, I knew I wanted my work to be directed at the end user: the people actually playing the games.
Part of what interests me about interactive media is making it more diverse. The number of female gamers was pretty low until the mobile platform emerged. Now, half the gamers on mobile devices are women. I had also noticed that even on the development and design side, the consumer base wasn't accurately represented. That was part of my passion, my purpose: To work in the gaming industry and to design for my customer base, for people like me—and to be an asset to an industry that's in need of more diverse designers and developers.
What prompted you to pursue the Executive MBA, and why was Berkeley Haas a good fit?
When I think about my career journey, a number of things align with the Haas Defining Leadership Principles--particularly Students Always. Even after working in the tech field for many years, I wanted to fill some business knowledge gaps I knew I had.
When I was shopping for MBA programs, most of them were similar in terms of curriculum, but when I got to sit in on a few classes at Berkeley, the culture felt very different. At the time I didn't know about the Defining Leadership Principles, but I could feel their influence in my interactions with staff and students as I went through the admissions process. You can go to many other business schools, and probably you'll be with people who have a typical profile: Ivy League, East Coast, Wall Street. But at Berkeley, you meet people from all over the world. Your Haas network touches every continent which is very important for accelerating opportunities for your future endeavors.
What aspect of the Berkeley MBA program influenced you the most?
Honestly, the flexibility of the EMBA program was a huge benefit. I'm a working mother – I have three daughters, ages 11 to one—so with the traveling I do and my family obligations I knew that a full time MBA wasn't an option. The residency structure of the EMBA really worked for me. Our family could plan around it, like I was going to a conference.
What's the most practical thing you learned at Berkeley Haas? The most helpful coursework?
The most practical thing I learned at Haas was ruthless prioritization. I didn't even know I could be that ruthless, but I had to make a lot of sacrifices to finish the program.
As for coursework, there were three professors who really had an impact on me. I took Rui de Figueiredo's Strategy class, and he was so good at distilling what makes companies work. His class helped shape the way I look at companies and their strategies for success. Maura O'Neill's New Venture Finance course helped me better understand women's role in tech, and how to go about launching my own entrepreneurial efforts in the future. And in Sarah Beckman's Leading Advanced Design course I got to practice design thinking – that is, moving beyond trying to prove a particular answer to a particular question and allowing for more possibilities for solving a problem.
How do you define yourself as a leader?
The MBA has really refined my leadership qualities, but I'm still learning how to be the best leader I can be. Now I think I'm more of a collaborative leader. We spend so many hours at work, if you don't have a good collaboration and team structure, it can negatively impact team morale. So I focus on leading through coaching, encouraging people to grow.
What advice might you give women who want to enter the tech/media space?
At a conference, I heard a woman on a panel refer to a study that had surveyed women leaders and male leaders. Most of the characteristics between the genders were the same, except when they were asked the question, ‘Do you have a mentor or a sponsor who helped you get to where you are?’ The majority of men said yes, while the women said no. That resonated with me, and it's part of why I got my MBA at Haas, to find those mentors and sponsors. So I'd advise other women to make finding a career mentor a priority. Just think, if each person finds a mentor and then in return becomes a mentor in the future, we can grow the diversity pipeline.