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Real Humans of the UC Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2024

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Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2024Alyssa D’Cunha, Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2024

Age: 28
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Queen’s University, Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.Sc.) in Mechanical Engineering
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): I spent 7 years working in alternative energy for an engineering consulting firm, focusing on the decarbonization of transportation and heavy industry via natural gas and hydrogen.

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
I’d spent a few years working in a fairly technical, engineering role and had seen firsthand how difficult it can be to bring alternative energy solutions to market – change and new technologies can be scary, and the general public can be hesitant to adopt these technologies. I decided to go to business school to learn more about how to effectively bring these types of solutions to market.

Why did you choose Berkeley Haas? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Berkeley Haas offers various concentrations or areas of emphasis that allow students to tailor their education to their career goals. Their Energy and Clean Technology concentration really stood out to me, based on both my experience and my goals. Not only that, but Haas places a significant emphasis on social impact and as a result, attracts students to whom social impact is important. It’s been inspiring to get to meet and chat with alumni, second years, and my own classmates about their corners of the social impact space and the ways in which they hope to create tangible change.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2024?
Having spent 7 years working in alternative energy, I think I bring some knowledge about the potential for hydrogen to the table. I’d be remiss, however, not to mention my experience as a minority woman in STEM as well – I’d argue I can offer some insight into gender equality issues and DEI initiatives.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that didn’t get included on your application:
I was my school district’s free throw champion between the ages of 10 and 12 (I’ve since lost all ability to play basketball, though).

Post-MBA career interests:
Ideally, I’d like to focus on developing and executing clean hydrogen strategy because I think hydrogen is going to play a key role in decarbonizing our future.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
One of the first things I did was take a GMAT prep course, and I would highly recommend it. I’d been struggling with getting through the test quickly enough, and my instructor provided so many tips and tricks, and also taught me a lot about test-taking strategy. Then when I was beginning to apply and trying to figure out what schools to target, I spoke to friends, friends of friends, and ultimately an MBA coach, all of whom were extremely helpful in figuring out what my priorities were and as a result, what the best fit for me looked like. They also all pushed me to apply to schools that I thought I had no shot at – that vote of confidence was extremely encouraging.

What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I wish I’d spent more time speaking to current students at each of the schools I applied to. I really only did this towards the end of the process and as I was making my decision, and I think it could’ve made my decision-making process a lot less stressful.

What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
The waiting game once you’ve applied was the worst part for me – waiting to find out if you’d received an interview, and waiting to find out if you’d been accepted. I did my best to just remind myself that I’d done my due diligence and I’d put my best foot forward, so if the answer was ‘no’, then that school simply wasn’t the best fit for me and that was OK. This wasn’t always an easy thing to remember, admittedly, so I’m grateful to have had the best network of my friends and family to support me through all of that.

What is your initial impression of the Haas students/culture/community?
Everyone at Haas has been so warm, welcoming, supportive, and excited to have us first years, and they were just that from the get-go. It’s also been really cool to see how passionate everyone is about their corners of the social impact space, which I think is a testament to the kind of person that Haas attracts.

What is one thing you have learned about Haas that has surprised you?
Going back to my initial impression, I’d say that I’ve been surprised at just how welcoming and supportive everyone has been. Second-years and alumni have been so willing to sit down for coffee to chat about school, careers, or just life, and that’s been incredibly comforting. Also, as someone from Toronto, I’d also have to say the weather has been surprising (although that’s more of a California thing than a Haas thing) – I don’t think I fully realized how nice it is to get to be outside every day because the weather really is that nice (and so is campus). The pandemic had us all indoors a lot in recent years, so getting to be outside has done wonders for my overall health and well-being.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Having always been a pretty dedicated student, I was most anxious about finding that balance between academics, the career search/recruitment, and having FUN. I’m not sure I’ve struck that balance yet, but I’m working on it!

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m most excited about getting to spend all this time with all these cool, talented, and intelligent people! I think being around the best brings out the best in us, and I can’t wait to see what that looks like and to learn from all of them. I’m also excited to make the most of what California has to offer as far as alternative energy opportunities go, but also as far as fun outdoor activities go – hiking, camping, beaches, you name it.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed my application process out by a year. I’d originally planned to apply to start in Fall 2021 but was concerned about potentially having to take classes virtually, so I waited a year.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.