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Real Humans of the UC Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2020

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Afnajjer Hernandez, Haas MBA Class of 2020

Age: 29

Hometown: Orlando, FL

Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Central Florida, finance and real estate

Pre-MBA Work Experience: Six years in finance and strategy at Lockheed Martin

Why business school? Why now? I’m a believer of the motto “the more I learn, the less I know.” As I transitioned into a strategic planning role at Lockheed Martin Energy, I began using different tools, models, and frameworks that I did not previously encounter in a finance role. I quickly understood that for me to advance my career in business, I needed a better understanding of the complex models and frameworks to run a large organization.

I also became aware of the complexity of the cleantech market and the different market dynamics that influence technology, policy, and business models. An MBA with a specialty in clean energy would give me the functional and industry expertise I wanted to excel in the market.

Why Haas? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? What piqued my interest in Haas was its strength of curriculum, organizations, professors, and career prospects within the cleantech industry. I was looking for a program with a strong ecosystem where I could spend two years deep diving into the business, policy, and engineering aspects of the cleantech industry. Haas continuously superseded other programs.

As I continued my research about Haas, I reached out to students to gain some insight on their experience at Haas, as I had done with other programs. What stood out to me was the way in which two out of three students I reached out to ended our conversations. As we ended the call and I thanked them for their time, they responded with “Not a problem! Just remember, help those behind you when you’re in my shoes.” Even during a casual informational call, the students never forgot to be “beyond yourself.”

Cleantech might have interested me in Haas, but the culture and values are what made me feel at home.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2020? I have spent the last six years working with some of the brightest engineering talent in the world. Through that experience I have learned how to assess, manage, and understand highly technical development and manufacturing processes without an engineering background.

Some of the sectors I was able to work in were rocket propulsion manufacturing, advanced targeting systems production, nuclear instrumentation and control development, waste to energy development, and energy storage development.

I have gained the ability to “speak engineering” while at the same time understanding the business implications of certain engineering decisions. Through this, I hope to be a bridge between my fellow classmates who have engineering and business backgrounds.

I’ve also been passionate about increasing the diversity in the engineering and business sector. I spent two years as the president of the Hispanic Employee Resource Group, expanding the organization and assisting fellow coworkers to develop skills needed to succeed.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? My now wife and I were planning a wedding and honeymoon during the application cycle. That experience definitely taught me how to prioritize my time before business school.

Post-MBA career interests? 
I plan to continue my career in the cleantech/renewable energy sector.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? Ensure your true self comes out in your application. A helpful tip is to ask someone who knows you well to review your essays and ask them if the tone and story sound like you. Sometimes over-editing an essay can remove the soul of your essay.

–One thing you would change or do differently? I would spend more time visiting schools. It allows you to get a real sense of the community of the school.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? Absolutely the GMAT. A very strong study partner is key. There were numerous days when I just wanted to sit and watch “The Office” instead of studying after work, but having someone going through the same struggle and keeping me accountable gave me a boost of energy to continue. Trust me, your study partner will have days like that as well, and they will rely on you to push them.

What is your initial impression of Berkeley Haas’s students/culture/community? 
In one word, genuine. Since I have stepped on campus I have met numerous professors, administrators, and students eager to tell their stories, passions, and interests. I was amazed at how quickly our classmates let their guard down and how fast we connected as a class.

One thing you have learned about Berkeley Haas that has surprised you? 
How open and passionate the professors are. They aren’t only experts in their field—they are also very interested in ensuring we understand the concepts. They also go beyond just the business implication of business decisions and teach us the societal implication that our decisions as business leaders can have on the world.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? I would have to say I feel a bit of imposter syndrome. As I get to know my classmates, I am continuously amazed at what they have accomplished in their professional careers and personal lives.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? Getting to know my classmates and professors. I’m a nerd when it comes to strategy concepts and behavioral economics. I can’t wait to do some deep dive discussions with the Haas community.

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.