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Real Humans of the Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2019

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Joseph Akoni, Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2019

Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2019Age: 31

Hometown: Miami, FL

Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Florida, computer engineering

Pre-MBA Work Experience: Five years at Intel Corporation. My roles included product marketing and business development.

Why business school? Why now? I have a background in computer engineering and, while completing my master’s at the Georgia Institute of Technology, I had the chance to take several MBA courses as electives. So continuing on the business side of tech has always interested me. While working as a business development manager at Intel, I realized that I wanted to get back closer to my engineering roots; working directly with engineers to build technology that will continue to shape how humans interact with each other.

I am a tinkerer; I have a passion for creating that ultimately led me to the product management (PM) role. I view getting my MBA as the glue that will combine my real-world experience at Intel, my engineering mindset, and the more “formal” business training I will receive in class to be the ideal PM.

In the two weeks I have been at UC-Berkeley, I have quickly realized I am surrounded by brilliant minds. I see myself leveraging my peer-to-peer interactions to understand my flaws and incorporate other perspectives into my strategic PM playbook.

Why Haas? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? While searching for an MBA program, I knew I wanted to find a familial culture that fosters personal and professional growth. While speaking with the faculty prior to applying, they always mentioned that “culture” is one of Haas’s best traits. This has been reinforced through all of my interactions with students and faculty since my attendance at a diversity workshop almost three years ago. “Confidence without attitude” and “beyond yourself” are principles that are embedded deep within Haas and guide its students to success. This culture is what factored most into my decision to attend Haas. Also, the proximity to tech companies was a good sell.

Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2019What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2019? My diverse background and experience is my most valuable contribution. I am an engineer by degree with a Spanish minor who has both lived in two different Latin American countries and had the chance to work with the most brilliant minds at Intel and Google. These minds toil every day in search of solutions to the most challenging problems facing autonomous car, drone, and home automation. I will bring my insight from these experience into the classroom.

Additionally, I am an avid proponent of increasing minority presence in the tech industry. I have recognized that the greatest barrier to success for minorities is not a lack of grit or of aptitude but a lack of access to STEM resources. I have done countless STEM outreach activities for Bay Area youth including coordinating efforts to implement an Intel-sponsored inaugural “Maker” training curriculum for the Oakland School District for McClymonds and Oakland Tech High Schools. I just had lunch with one of the McClymonds graduates, and she decided to major in engineering! I’ll go ahead and take credit for that.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? I quit my previous job in January of this year and less than two weeks later I moved to Medellin, Colombia, for a “mini” six-month sabbatical before school started. I fell in love with salsa (the dance, not the dip) during this trip. I would love to live there or in another Latin American country after business school.

Also, I love baking and trying out different desserts! I have the biggest sweet tooth you will ever encounter. I keep a running list of my favorite desserts (and their respective restaurants) that I have tried domestically and internationally. The best tres leches you’ll ever have is at a bakery called La Abuela Isabela in Envigado, Colombia, in case you’re ever in the area.

Post-MBA career interests? Product management in the technology industry. I have also been looking into design innovation consulting.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

 –One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? I would 100 percent visit all the schools I applied to. Although this can be an expensive endeavor, it is essential for you to physically feel the campus and interact with your potential future students.

 –One thing you would change or do differently? Most of my time was spent with students during my campus visits, but I would definitely try and spend some more time with the professors, given that they also have a huge impact on your business school experience.

 –Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? The GMAT. What helped me cope with the GMAT process was knowing that my application would be looked at holistically. Many prospective students may believe that admissions officers are not being 100 percent truthful when they say that the MBA application process is holistic, but it truly is.

Greatest highlight so far at Haas? We just came back from a houseboat trip to Lake Shasta. There were about 300+ first- and second-year students enjoying various lake activities (hiking, water skiing, inner tubing). I really got a chance to connect with many of my classmates. Spending three days with no phone signal really brings people together.

One thing about Haas that you didn’t expect before arriving? I did not expect to be so open about my thoughts and feelings so quickly with my classmates. We have had many activities that have forced us to be open about who we are and who we want to become.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? Being overwhelmed and overcoming FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). There are tons of activities to participate in and with the addition of classes, it makes juggling everything a bit difficult.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? Getting to know all of my classmates. I have met some pretty incredible people so far and I am looking forward to continuing to grow our relationship to make these next two years amazing.