An Interview with IBD Project Client Ross McConnell (MBA ‘04)

Working with Berkeley Haas alumni is always a privilege for an IBD team, especially when the project client is a passionate entrepreneur and co-founder of a New Zealand startup known as Blinder Ltd.  In the spring semester 2020 IBD course, FTMBA teammates Victor Gorrachategui, Daniel Alston, Eduardo Guraieb, Donald Huan, and Max Silva had the pleasure of collaborating with Ross McConnell, Blinder CEO and MBA’ 04, to work on a strategic consulting project.  IBD interviewed Ross recently to learn about his experience engaging with the IBD program, including his student team and the project’s faculty mentor.

It’s been amazing getting to work directly with a Haas alumnus on his startup. I’ve learned how to better engage directly with a client and think on my feet to manage expectations.”  Max Silva, IBD team member

Blinder Ltd. was established in 2016 as a SaaS platform solution that offers professional sports teams and players the ability to share voice or video calls on their mobile phones without sharing personal contact details. The Blinder solution is used currently by World and Olympic champions (including the US Women’s Soccer Team), Grammy Award winners, and sports teams in organizations ranging from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to the English Premier League (EPL).

What follows is our interview with Ross McConnell about this year’s IBD project with Blinder, and what it was like to work with an IBD student team during the challenges of COVID-19.

Team Blinder Eduardo, Donald, Victor, Max, Daniel

IBD Interviewer:  Why did you decide to partner on a consulting project with the IBD program this year?   What did you hope to get out of the experience?  

Ross McConnell: We were in the process of bringing a new product to market (Blinder Video – a remote video interview platform developed for content producers and media organizations) when we committed to the IBD project, and knew that we’d benefit from the focussed insights that a team of five MBA consultants (and their faculty supervisor) could generate for our business during the project.

IBD Interviewer  Can you share what you asked the IBD team to work on?  Were the project goals or objectives met?  Do you plan to implement the IBD team’s recommendations? 

Ross McConnell:  The “problem” we asked the IBD team to focus on was how to best commercialize Blinder Video over time.  We’re a typical SaaS subscription model, but felt there was significant scope for business model innovation that would help us to capture greater value from customers that are using our platform.  

The project goals and objectives were definitely met, but I knew from previous experience with IBD projects that the initial project scoping phase is crucial for project success, and that clients need to be realistic during this scoping stage about how much ground can be covered during the project timeframe (further exacerbated by COVID-19 this year, which prevented the consulting team from spending the final three weeks with us in-market).

We have already implemented several of the project team’s recommendations.

IBD Interviewer: You have strongly supported earlier IBD projects in New Zealand in the past.  What was it like to participate this year for the first time as a client sponsor of an IBD project? 

Ross McConnell:  I was effectively the client sponsor for a previous project (albeit several years ago), but this was the first time I had experienced the new project structure – working with a project Team Leader (Victor) and a dedicated project scope definition stage.  These changes have delivered great improvements to the overall management of the consulting projects.

IBD Interviewer: What was your experience in working with this year’s IBD team after the onset of COVID-19 mandated a remote delivery of the IBD project deliverables?  Were you able to work well with your IBD team to reach your project’s conclusions? 

Ross McConnell: First off I was mostly disappointed for the team, who started the project thinking they would get to visit th “world’s best IBD destination”.  The I was just hugely impressed with how the team put that disappointment behind them and got on with delivering a great project for their client.  Losing three weeks of full time effort with the team in New Zealand obviously required a significant reduction in the scope of the project – but this process was well managed by our project leader and faculty adviser, and we were able to work well with the team to reach the conclusion.  I think we’ve all got better at working with remote teams since the start of the pandemic!  

IBD Interviewer: Would you recommend the IBD consulting experience to other project clients?  Speaking as a Berkeley Haas MBA alumnus, would you recommend the IBD course to our MBA students?  

Ross McConnell:  I would definitely recommend it to other clients; and for any MBA student who’s considering a career in consulting or entrepreneurship, this program provides you with direct experience solving real business problems (and the opportunity to make sales if you’re super motivated 😉

We want to thank Ross for making a difference this year in the IBD program — and for issuing a standing invitation to his IBD student team to visit him in New Zealand in the future!

IBD Conference celebrates student project successes

IBD conference group photoThis year’s annual Berkeley Haas IBD Conference was held virtually on September 11th, and included spring semester FTMBA students, faculty, staff, and invited guests.  As in previous years, the 2020 IBD Conference was an opportunity to review and celebrate the project-based work performed earlier this year by our outstanding IBD student teams.

Early during the Conference, IBD faculty and students had the opportunity to listen to each IBD student team present remotely for two minutes on their respective projects, the work they accomplished for their overseas clients, and their reflections on what they learned during the process.

IBD student team reflections at the Conference:

MBA Candidate '21 Devan Courtois

IBD Team Lead for Ashesi University, ’21 Devan Courtois

  • IBD Team Lead Devan Courtois, who worked with Ashesi University in Ghana, shared that her project team learned the importance of executive communication and the ability to condense important information into succinct points.
  • IBD Team Member Steven Lee, who worked with Entrepreneurs without Borders in  Sweden, said that his team found it helpful to envision the client’s ideal state in five to ten years.  “We found that this thought exercise really helped us backwards plan to ensure the client’s actions taken today would help them realize their future tomorrow.”
  • IBD Team Lead Jorge Abreu, who worked with a Finnish software development company, used his moment at the Conference to appreciate his student team members.  “I think that was a great experience to manage such a bright team of four MBA students in a project. This probably won’t happen again in your career, so it’s a great opportunity.”

    IBD team member for EWB, Steven Lee '21 MBA

    IBD team member for EWB, Steven Lee ’21 MBA

  • Following the student project presentations, IBD Faculty Director Whitney Hischier shared what she thought was the most important take-away from this year’s IBD class. “Whether you are working on a consulting project, or any moment when you are trying to solve a problem, you always want to question the assumptions you have, especially in a rapidly changing environment. Things that may have held true in the past, don’t always stay this way in the future. This moment of COVID forced some incredible lessons learned.”

Client panel discussions were new to the IBD Conference this year:

IBD Student Moderator Thais Esteves

IBD Student Moderator Thais Esteves

For the first time, the annual Berkeley Haas IBD Conference hosted two guest panel discussions, highlighted by the remote appearance of six spring semester IBD project clients. Two IBD student Team Leads, Thais Esteves and Emily Lapham, moderated the panel discussions, exploring how both clients and students accomplished this year’s strategic projects while reacting to the onset of Covid-19.

The first guest panel focused on the topic of market entry and included the following IBD clients:

IBD Student Moderator Emily Lapham

The second panel focused on the topic of innovation and included the following IBD clients:

What 2020 IBD clients had to say about their IBD project experience:

IBD project clients Yasmin Keteku, Auli Parviainen, and Richard Blossom engaged with their IBD teams to look into new market opportunities to grow their respective businesses.  IBD student moderator Thais Esteves asked these three guests if their IBD project teams were able to get them closer to reaching “a go/no-go” decision.  In the clip below Auli Parviainen talks about how her IBD team’s work was “absolutely critical to Maston Oy’s final decision.”

IBD student moderator Emily Lapham moderated the second panel discussion with clients Donnie SC Lygonis, Henrique Tormena, and Guilherme, all of whom sponsored IBD projects that focused on innovation in their organizations.  Emily asked Henrique Toremena, who works with RD Station in Florianópolis, Brazil, what his thoughts were on collaborating with this year’s IBD team, compared to working with his own internal teams or professional consultants.  Henrique and RD Station have worked with multiple IBD teams, and he shared that it “is hard to find a more strategically thinking person (team) in Brazil or in the world.“

Also located in Florianópolis, Softplan’s Head of Marketing, Guilherme Quandt, was asked his conclusion from engaging with an IBD student project team. Guilherme was pleased to report  that the IBD team “translated into practical actions” solutions that could be applied immediately to Softplan’s strategy.

At the conclusion of the Conference panel discussions, a video montage was shown of this year’s IBD clients thanking student teams for the hard work they accomplished on their projects during an unprecedented and challenging year. IBD Faculty Director Whitney Hischier added to the sentiment with her final words of the 2020 IBD Conference: “Thank you to the IBD team for being the real rock stars.”

If you would like to enjoy both Berkeley Haas IBD Conference panel discussions in their entirety, please click here.

IBD Project Client Interview: Auli Parviainen, Maston Oy

IBD Student Team Maston Oy

IBD Student Team Maston Oy

This past spring semester, five Berkeley Haas MBA candidates (Cassandra Salcedo, David Brown-Dawson, Jennifer Lopez Ramirez, Fletch Vynne, and Saurav Ray) undertook an IBD consulting project with the Finnish company Maston Oy.  Founded in 1968, Maston is a family owned company headquartered outside Helsinki that manufactures aerosol spray productions.  The IBD students were asked to create a global go-to-market strategy for the company’s innovative water-based spray and custom tinting solution.  Despite not being able to travel to Finland at the project’s conclusion due to the current pandemic, the IBD student team exceeded the expectations of Auli Parviainen, the principal project contact at Maston.

Recently IBD had the opportunity to talk with Auli to get her insights and impressions of working with the student team and the overall IBD project experience.  Her comments are recorded below.

IBD Interviewer:  Did you feel that your IBD team had a successful project?

Auli: We did!  At first we were a touch unsure but as soon as we received our first project plan, we were like, wow! This is really great. We really appreciate the final deliverables.  We think that there’s a lot of work that went into it, and especially that they were able to actually get that done during the circumstances with the pandemic.  It was very difficult to track people down, if you can’t get into the stores, to actually talk to potential customers who may not be focused on these things.  I was really impressed by how much information they managed to get from merchants in particular. That’s very valuable with any project. 

Team Maston Oy presenting their final project to their client

Team Maston Oy presenting their final project to their client

IBD Interviewer:  Please tell us more about the students’ research and how this was beneficial to the project?

Auli: We were really pleased with how they conducted research with not only merchants, potential buyers and large chains, but then it was tied in with the consumer research.  They managed to marry the two concepts and what we should be looking at doing. 

We had done some branding for the product right when the (IBD) program started because we have a potential client in a large chain of hardware stores.  We gave that branding (concept) to them (the IBD team), and it contained some messaging as to what we thought would resonate. There was some very helpful sharpening of that message that came out of the consumer research that was done.  Now we’re looking at how to take the (IBD team’s) deliverables and what we need to change in the branding.  The information is being presented to our marketing department.

IBD Interviewer:  Did you get any surprising insights from the IBD team’s research?

Auli:  Yes, what was really surprising to hear was that the target market is split 50-50 between men and women. It (the marketing and design of the product) has to appeal more universally.

IBD Interviewer:  How did you feel about your IBD team?

Auli Parviainen, Maston Oy

Auli Parviainen, Maston Oy

Auli:  The team lead, Cassandra, was very good at following through on everything that she agreed to do, and everything was done exactly how the plan was laid out…which was very impressive because I know that there are different things that happen during the process. I think she’s a very good leader and I think she has very good communication skills.  Similarly, all team members clearly invested themselves in our project. I could see how the diversity of the team was a benefit; it brought a variety of perspectives and skills which made for a successful result. I was particularly impressed by the committed effort and tenacity to get the research needed completed in the challenging circumstances.

IBD Interviewer:  Do you have any advice for potential project clients who might be interested in working with the IBD program? 

Auli:  The very first thing I would say is that no one should even consider doing the IBD program if it’s going to be an afterthought, because the value you receive from these types of projects is directly related to how much we invest in it.  That investment, in this case, is time and giving the proper tools to the team. Don’t start it unless you’re prepared to really make it work for yourself, and then make sure that the right people are involved.  You have to have someone who has enough authority but also enough interest in whatever the project goals are. 

IBD Interviewer:  Do you think you will work with the IBD program again in the future?

Auli:  If we have another product, I know who I’ll be calling!

The IBD program at Berkeley Haas would like to thank Auli Parviainen and Maston Oy for collaborating with us on a project during our spring 2020 semester.

IBD Alumni Conversations: Katharine Hawthorne, MBA ‘20

Katharine Hawthorne and her 2019 IBD Team

Katharine Hawthorne and her 2019 IBD Team

Congratulations to one of our IBD alumni, Katharine Hawthorne (MBA ‘20).  In addition to her many career and life accomplishments, Katharine Hawthorne can add Berkeley Haas MBA graduate to her list.  IBD met up recently with Katharine to talk about her current role with Patamar Capital, a venture capital firm with an impact investing lens and geographic focus on South and Southeast Asia. Katharine explained that “patamar” is a type of Indian Dhow. It was traditionally used in the western coast of the Indian subcontinent as a cabotage vessel between Gujarat and Ceylon, usually for the transport of rice.  Historically Patamars were very important in trade as well as transmitting culture; and as Katharine shared, this is the ethos of the firm — connecting markets. 

"Patamar” is a type of Indian Dhow

“Patamar” is a type of Indian Dhow

Please enjoy our interview with Katharine below.

Katharine:  After completing my IBD project, I started an internship at Patamar Capital.  I spent half the summer in San Francisco and the other half in Jakarta. When I returned in the fall of 2019, I came back in a consulting capacity to support Shuyin Tang, a partner who is based in Vietnam.  Through years of investing in Southeast Asia, Shuyin found that the number of women-run businesses receiving venture capital funding was extremely low. It wasn’t because the pipeline for women entrepreneurs isn’t there. In fact, there are plenty of viable women-run businesses; but for many, venture capital is not the right form of investment and it is historically harder for them to access funding.  

IBD Interviewer: Why is that?

Katharine:  Shuyin found that women-owned businesses tend to be much more focused on building sustainable business models, where they’re funding growth through their own profits.  Essentially, they’re putting cash back into the business as opposed to giving up equity ownership, which is the venture capital model.

IBD Interviewer:  How is this fund different? 

Beacon Fund Team in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Beacon Fund Team in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Katharine:  This new fund, called the Beacon Fund, is focused on women-led and women-focused businesses in South and Southeast Asia and offers debt loans primarily for working capital or to purchase equipment.  This difference allows women businesses to grow in scale in a way that is most appropriate for their goals.  

IBD Interviewer: What has your role been?

Katharine: My role has been to help Shuyin get that new fund off the ground.  I have worked on everything from writing proposals, doing research on the market, building a fund model, figuring out how economically this is going to work, structuring the investment vehicle, etc.  It’s been a pretty great opportunity, as I’m really passionate about supporting women businesses particularly in developing countries. I think that access to capital can be a form  of self determination.

IBD Interviewer:  How are you managing working across international time zones?

Katharine: I had the opportunity over the winter break to go to Vietnam and worked very intensely with Shuyin. She has been to San Francisco a few times.  Otherwise, we coordinate through email, zoom, slack, etc. I think in some ways working for Patamar, the transition for me during shelter in place has been seamless because I have already been coordinating across time zones. 

Hanoi Museum of Women's Empowermen

Hanoi Museum of Women’s Empowermen

IBD Interviewer: How many businesses will benefit from the launch of this loan?

Katharine: The goal is to go live by the end of the year.  I think the idea is within the first year to issue loans to maybe around 10-15 businesses and then grow from there.

IBD Interviewer: Did IBD have any place in helping you in this role?

Katharine:   The work that I did for our 2019 IBD project was a market entry strategy for the startup FinTech branch of an organization.  They asked us to analyse the landscape and identify opportunities for partnership and/or investment.  The IBD experience was really invaluable to understanding what are all the pieces that go into starting something from scratch, from the legal structuring aspects, building the business model, branding and identity. We’ve had a lot of conversations about how we want to position ourselves so that these women-owned businesses know that we’re a great partner for them and we’re different from other funds in the marketplace. 

IBD Interviewer:  During this time of COVID-19, how is your organization affected?  Are you able to work cross-culturally and remotely at the same time?

Katharine: I think there will continue to be firms that want to invest cross-border but for a while may not  be able to travel.  I’m confident in Patamar’s ability to adapt because they already have investors embedded in six countries across South and Southeast Asia.

I also believe there’s incredible value in connecting with people cross-culturally, learning about their experiences and the challenges that they are facing on the ground. My IBD experience was probably pretty unique in that my client project was a true market entry because they did not have operations in-country.  We weren’t on site with the client.  This is similar to what I’m doing now with Patamar, trying to assess investment opportunities overseas.  I have had to schedule many in-depth interpersonal interactions mediated by technology.  During this time of restricted travel, IBD faculty, clients and students will need to try to network and work in more conversations with their clients and stakeholders in their project country, even if it’s over zoom.  From my perspective, there’s still value in connecting cross-culturally aided by technology.

IBD Interviewer: Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you want to share with our readers?

Katharine: I worry about our world right now. We are seeing this kind of turn away from globalization. It requires real bravery and commitment to continue to connect, reach out, be vulnerable and to see things from a different perspective. My career has been focused on connecting cross-culturally; it’s one of the things that motivates me and drives me.  We are living in challenging times and it will be interesting to see how this changes business.  

We wish Katharine and Patamar Capital all the best with the launch of the Beacon Fund.  We hope that women entrepreneurs in South and Southeast Asia benefit from this newly imagined means of supporting women-owned businesses.  


Spring 2020 IBD Teams Deliver!


Team Maston Oy presenting their final presentation to their client

IBD Team Maston Oy presenting their final presentation to their client

As we complete this year’s demanding spring semester IBD course — unexpectedly impacted by the sudden COVID-19 pandemic — we want to highlight the outstanding work accomplished by our 80 Full Time MBA students.  Among these, 16 IBD student Team Leads in particular deserve special mention.  They willingly took on expected Team Lead responsibilities, including managing their MBA peers and project clients in the midst of a global health crisis and unforeseen shifts in project scope.  None of these IBD students were able to travel overseas to complete the complex project work they had begun in January with their clients and MBA teammates.  Despite that, they recently completed the remote delivery of final project recommendations that made a real and valuable impact on their clients’ organizations.

We would like to share below some of the comments we received from our spring semester 2020 IBD clients, following the successful delivery of final project recommendations by their student teams.  Also included below are a few impressions we recorded from this year’s IBD Faculty Mentors and Team Leads.

2020 IBD Clients:

“The benchmarking, revenue modeling and pricing structure proposal we received were excellent, and have left us with valuable tools and reference materials that we’ll use across the lifetime of the business.”  Ross McConnell​,​ Blinder Limited


“We sincerely appreciate the hard work, dedication and extensive collaboration of the IBD team. Despite the global widespread of the Coronavirus and consequent cancellation of the India trip, the IBD team still came out with a substantive report. We are extremely grateful for their valuable contribution.”  Gaurav Mohan, Dura-Line India


“The group work was very much visible and each member gave their best while preparing the implementation plan. The team efforts are commendable and contributed greatly to the final deliverable while ensuring the larger good for the hospital.”  Kuldeep Singh, Seva Foundation


“These months working with the IBD team were of great value to us, both for the process of building the project and for the legacy it leaves.”  Guilherme Quandt, Softplan


“I’m so impressed that our IBD team is managing to keep their motivation and work ethic despite the challenging pandemic environment, along with being even able to conduct the necessary research. Our team produced valuable strategic guidance for us.”  Auli Parviainen, Maston Oy

Faculty Mentors:

“The team did a lot of heavy lifting in the final weeks of the project, and it all came together well with a solid recommendation to proceed with Hilltribe Organic organic desserts. The  team’s creativity and success interviewing potential channel partners and Thai consumers was particularly impressive, and their survey results indicating how to position, price and roll out the offering will be invaluable as the client moves forward.”  Judy Hopelain, Faculty Mentor, Team Hilltribe Organics


“It’s been lots of hard work, and they went the extra mile more than once, but this is the kind of presentation and effort that will get you remembered (and promoted)!” Olaf Groth, Faculty Mentor,  Team SAP Ariba

Team Leads:

“I am proud of the deliverables we presented to our client. In fact, they invited a few high-ranking executives to the presentation, so they must have felt confident about our project and final recommendations.”  Eddie Consigliere, Team Lead, Team MEC


“I really appreciated the team’s integrity and their ability to put the team first and put the work first, and to want to produce something that we were proud to put our name on.”  Josh Raines, Team Lead, Team SAP Ariba  


“We had a valuable and fun experience learning how to work within an immersive cross-cultural business environment through the IBD program. We enjoyed getting to know our client and about the China-US investment environment; it was a really great opportunity for us to complete a full end-to-end international strategy engagement.”  Oriana Chu, Team Lead, Team ToJoy

Enjoy this video of IBD Team Lead Emily Lapham sharing her thoughts on the team’s final deliverable to project client Entrepreneurs Without Borders.

Congratulations to all of our spring semester 2020 IBD student teams in accomplishing so much for so many clients in such a difficult environment.  Well done!

IBD teams hear from their peers on how to manage through uncertain times

Our lives changed drastically in the month of March when California residents and students were told to shelter in place due to the increasing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.  All UC Berkeley and Haas classes – including the IBD program – transitioned to remote only, and IBD project travel scheduled for May was put on hold.

In spite of these disruptive changes, our spring semester FTMBA IBD project teams continued to work diligently and remotely on consulting projects with international clients.  The current group of IBD students is now preparing to offer their project solutions to clients at the end of the semester in early May.  In talking with these outstanding IBD students, we increasingly came to appreciate the life experiences they brought to their project teams – and how helpful these can be in a time of crisis.  Recently we invited a few current and former IBD students to share their experiences of leading through difficult times.  As IBD Faculty Director Whitney Hischier put it, “There are so many students in this class who have impressive backgrounds and have spent their careers working in uncertainty. We can really learn a lot from each other.”

2019 Team Lead Jenny Nixon with her SAP Ariba Team

2019 Team Lead Jenny Nixon with her SAP Ariba Team

Jenny Nixon, ‘20 MBA candidate and 2019 IBD Team Lead

Jenny Nixon, a second year FTMBA student and a 2019 IBD Team Lead, spoke to the IBD class about her experience of leading through adversity.  Before coming to Berkeley Haas, Jenny was a combat medic and a US Army Officer and Commander in charge of leading Blackhawk Helicopter missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Jenny shared with the current IBD Team Leads this advice from her background of leading military teams:

  • Know your people.  Know their situation and how decisions impact them and what is on their mind.
  • Believe in and convey the importance in what they are doing.
  • Be more flexible.  Be able to talk one on one with your team members and pivot if they need a different experience.

She also had words of wisdom on what NOT to do as a leader:

  • Don’t be invulnerable and act like you are unaffected.
  • Don’t pretend that everything is ok when it’s not; face the problem directly.
  • Be open to hearing concerns and letting people vent, but don’t let it become an echo chamber for negativity.

In assessing the project experience in front of each IBD student, Jenny emphasized that “more than ever, it is important to focus on the task at hand as this is an opportunity to help an organization right now, during a very difficult time globally, in a real way.”  

2020 Team China – Megan Reichert, Geoffrey Easterling, Harshita Mira Venkatesh, Jordan Woodall, María del Mar Londoño Jaramillo (Not listed in the order of students in the photo)

Geoff Easterling, ‘21 MBA Candidate and 2020 IBD Team Member

Geoff Easterling, a current IBD Team Member, talked to the IBD class about a particularly tough time he experienced in leading his team as a Fire Direction Officer in Afghanistan in 2014-2015.  After thinking that they had reached the end of their overseas deployment, Geoff and a small group of soldiers were directed to remain in Afghanistan for an additional three months.  Geoff managed to help his team get over this sudden and disappointing change far from home.  He and his group found renewed relevance in their work as a unit, forming a bond that Geoff cherishes to this day.

Josh Raines-Teague

2020 Team Lead, Josh Raines-Teague

Josh Raines, ‘21 MBA Candidate and 2020 IBD Team Lead

Josh Raines, a current IBD Team Lead, spent time as a senior consultant with Deloitte Consulting LLP.  He worked with many organizations involved in global health issues, including the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention during the Ebola and Zika crises.  Josh mentioned to the IBD class that in times of uncertainty, he recommends reverting to established frameworks and systems:

“If paired with what you know to be true (the facts), these systems allow you to not only to feel in control but to actually be in control. It’s these times of uncertainty where integrity and commitment to the team despite obstacles really comes to the fore and makes all the difference. Ultimately, this will prove to be an incredible and valuable learning experience.” 

Emily Lapham, ‘21 MBA Candidate and 2020 IBD Team Lead

Emily Lapham

2020 Team Lead, Emily Lapham

Emily Lapham is a current IBD Team Lead.  Prior to coming to Berkeley Haas, she worked as an Emergency Management Senior Analyst for the Cadmus Group – a consulting firm focused on homeland security and environmental issues.  Emily talked to the IBD class about the constant “exercising” her Cadmus Group team would do in order to prepare for times when everyday assumptions were no longer possible:

“I would advise Team Leads to think through different paths towards the same objective. This requires clarifying what the high-level objective truly is for the client. And then, instead of dwelling on the fact that we are seemingly falling on a “Plan B” (or C or D or E…), reframe it as another path to support a larger objective. For example, is it to explore a potential new business line or is it to assess diversification of revenue, and exploring a new business line was a means of doing that? If it is the latter, in a time of uncertainty or crisis, focusing on the larger objective (in this case, diversifying revenue) provides space for creativity.”

Emily admits that she is an eternal optimist, and she firmly believes that it is during times like these that there are opportunities to do a lot of good.  She wants her peers to remember that if they can “think through how our clients can best serve their customers at this moment,” it will “help make them stronger in serving non-traditional or new groups of clients going forward.”

IBD Faculty Mentors

In addition to our IBD students, the IBD Faculty Mentors also spoke up during the recent conversation about how to manage through adversity.  They emphasized that this current experience will be rich with learning opportunities for MBAs.  “Step up now,” said Faculty Mentor Olaf Groth, “and rest assured that employers will want to hear about how you handled yourself and your team during these tough times. Resilience leadership is a highly prized skill.”  Olaf concluded by telling the class: “There are good horizons beyond every crisis. Let’s all saddle up!”




IBD Team Hilltribe Organics enjoys an evening of baking and bonding


Team Hilltribe - Thais Esteves, Ana Alanis, Burton Mendonca, Marguerite de Chaumont Quitry, Santiago Correa Posada (Not in the order of the photo)

Team Hilltribe – Thais Esteves, Ana Alanis, Burton Mendonca, Marguerite de Chaumont Quitry, Santiago Correa Posada (Not listed in the order of students in the photo)

Hilltribe Organics (HTO) is an intriguing social enterprise focused on Thailand.  It was created as part of a YPO competition that aimed to foster an entrepreneurship mindset among young leaders and to define solutions to help marginalized farmers’ communities in Thailand.  Today HTO’s mission is to achieve long term sustainability for the rural farming families of the socially marginalized hill tribe communities of Northern Thailand. Since launching in 2014, HTO has become the #1 organic free range egg brand in Thailand based on the high quality of their eggs and sustainable production.

 Richard Blossom, Marguerite de Chaumont Quitry, Thais Esteves, Santiago Correa Posada, Burton Mendonca, Ana Alanis

Richard Blossom, Marguerite de Chaumont Quitry, Thais Esteves, Santiago Correa Posada, Burton Mendonca, Ana Alanis

The current spring semester IBD project team has been asked to develop a business strategy to allow HTO to expand beyond organic egg production into organic dessert production in Thailand and the surrounding region.  Last month the IBD team took advantage of a rare opportunity to meet their project client in person — well before the California shelter in place directive was announced. HTO Co-Founder and CEO Richard W. Blossom invited the IBD team to his home in the Bay Area soon after the entire student team was formed in late February.

Student Team Lead Thais Esteves and Team Members Ana Alanis, Burton Mendonca, Marguerite de Chaumont Quitry, and Santiago Correa Posada all joined Faculty Mentor Judy Hopelain at Richard’s home to work on baking and sampling potential organic dessert items as part of the current IBD project.  As Judy Hopelain reported afterwards, “This kind of informal interaction usually doesn’t happen until teams are in-country. It was an amazing opportunity to get to know the client and their story behind the company in a relaxed setting at the beginning of the project.”

Ana and Santiago cooking

Ana and Santiago cooking

In addition to experimenting and baking desserts with HTO organic eggs, that night the IBD team was treated to an organic pasta dinner courtesy of Perfect Earth Foods, which uses raw materials from farmers in Thailand.  As HTO CEO Richard Blossom said after the event, “The best way to think about a food project is to cook and eat the product! Plus it’s a great way to get to know about the project and one another.”

Learning more from Richard about Perfect Earth Foods and HTO

Learning more from Richard about Perfect Earth Foods and HTO

The FTMBA IBD Team Member Big Reveal – What a Fun Day!

2020 IBD Students on the Big Reveal Day

2020 IBD Students on the Big Reveal Day

The Team Member “Big Reveal” event for spring semester FTMBA students is one of the most exciting and fun days in the IBD program. IBD team projects are kept secret until this class date of February 20th, when 64 new IBD Team Members find out about their assigned IBD projects, including which MBA classmates are on their IBD team and what country they will be going to for their eventual project field experience.

Team Dura-Line- Luisa Bisinoto, Eduardo Bustamante Aramburo, Joey Parker, Kate Smith, Sebastian Ambriz (Not listed in the order of students in the photo)

What makes this day so fun is just how our incoming students learn the details of their IBD projects and teammates. Each of the 16 student Team Leads (previously assigned to their projects on January 23rd) creates a video presentation sharing details about their individual project, the project client, and the newly selected students on their team (the Team Members). The student videos are both entertaining and inspiring, usually drawing cheers and laughter from the crowd. Team Lead Luisa Gontijo Bisinot felt the Big Reveal was great: “It’s amazing to formally have the team onboard for the project, especially after having waited and prepared for this moment for a while. Additionally, learning that other people share my sense of humour and that they liked the Reveal video made the experience even better.”

Team Blinder – Victor Gorrachategui, Daniel Alston, Eduardo Guraieb, Donald Huang, Max Silva (Not listed in the order of students in the photo)

How are IBD student teams created?

Student Team Leads know their individual IBD projects well prior to February 13th, when they undertake a complex draft process to select their four Team Members. The Team Member draft is based on multiple criteria, including requested skills and experience that match the needs of the project, and the desires of incoming students for a new global experience. As these MBA candidates know, the IBD program does not assign students to project countries where they are originally from or where they have worked for some time.

How do students feel about the IBD Team Member Big Reveal?

Team SAP Ariba- Josh Raines-Teague, Augustine Santillan, Brian Traganza, Chyi-Shin Shu and Tian Wang (Not listed in the order of students in the photo)

An enormous amount of preparation and energy goes into the IBD Big Reveal — including students, faculty and staff. At the end of the day, what matters most is watching the Team Leads and Team Members react to their IBD project team coming together in person for the first time. Here below are a few of the student reactions recorded during the course of the day:

“I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity and thrilled to work with SAP Ariba in Germany — can’t wait to embark on this adventure with this amazing team!” Team Member Chyi-Shin Shu


“Cars, technology, Europe and amazing teammates — I could not have imagined a better pick for my IBD project.” Team Member Asif Mohammad


“It felt like I was in a draft with all my best friends and we were all 1st round picks!” Team Member Emanuel Ozuna Vargas


“The Big Reveal was an incredible experience and a highlight during my time at Haas. My team is excited about the client and project and can’t wait to start working!” Team Lead Devon Courtois

Team Ashesi University- Devan Courtois, Amy Sims, Matt Wald, Rohan D’Souza, Yuan Qu (Not listed in the order of students in the photo)

How do IBD faculty feel about the Big Reveal?

This year’s Team Member Big Reveal was the first for new IBD Faculty Mentor Olaf Groth. When asked to share his takeaways from the day, Olaf said that the atmosphere was “downright electric. Everybody knew this was the moment they’d hear where in the world they were going to make a difference, make change, grow and help others grow over the next four months of their lives.”

Now that the FTMBA spring semester IBD project teams are officially assembled, it’s time for them to meet their clients as a team and get to work on the problems their clients have asked them to solve. IBD Faculty Director Whitney Hischier stands ready to help get the teams focused on their projects: “We’re so excited to launch this new set of IBD teams. We’ve got some fantastic high impact projects with clients who will use the team findings to drive strategic change in their organizations.”


Welcome to our 64 new student Team Members, and congratulations on joining the IBD program at Berkeley Haas! We look forward to hearing more about each of this semester’s 16 IBD projects in the months ahead.

Honoring Retired IBD Faculty Director Frank Schultz 

Written by Danner Doud-Martin

Frank speaking to the 2020 IBD students on the Big Reveal

Frank speaking to the 2020 IBD students on the Big Reveal

Our beloved IBD Faculty Director Frank Schultz has officially retired as of January 2020 from the IBD program, in addition to his other Berkeley Haas undergraduate and MBA teaching positions.  Frank came to the IBD program 14 years ago as a Faculty Mentor, and took over the role of Faculty Director two years ago after Kristi Raube retired. He has worked with countless IBD clients and students over the years, continuing the long tradition of IBD program excellence in and out of the classroom. Frank was the first Faculty Mentor to work with Evening and Weekend MBAs (EWMBAs) on a summer version of the IBD program when it began in May 2012.  Recent EWMBA graduate Nik Reddy ‘19 shared that “Frank was excellent at bridging the gap between what we learned in the classroom with what was needed in the ‘real world.’ His teaching approach encouraged his students to think with a client-centric mindset, and I think that’s what made IBD with Frank such an enriching experience for me.”

Frank traveled and taught throughout the world, bringing his global perspective to his work with the IBD program and other Berkeley Haas courses.  Arman Zand has a unique perspective on Frank’s tenure, as he was a former EWMBA student of Frank’s, an IBD project client in 2013 and 2014, and he now serves as Frank’s replacement as the IBD EWMBA Faculty Mentor.  Arman feels that “Frank’s career as a Haas professor may be best remembered by his classes in leadership or perhaps even his many trips around the world. But for certain students, like myself, Frank was not only a professor, but also a mentor, a coach, a business partner, and for many years, just someone I could have a beer with and share ideas.”  

Frank’s impact went beyond his students and the IBD program to benefit Berkeley Haas overall. Jay Stowsky, Senior Assistant Dean for Instruction at Berkeley Haas, said this of Frank: “Frank Schultz has been not only an award-winning teacher, but one of the most service-minded faculty members I’ve had the privilege to work with during my 17 years at Haas.  When he came to Haas nearly 15 years ago, Frank quickly made a strong impact on the School’s teaching mission as a thoughtful, highly skilled, and versatile teacher and as a dedicated and effective leader outside the classroom.” 

Faculty Mentors for IBD

2019 IBD Conference Faculty Mentors

Frank touched many lives at Berkeley Haas, including the IBD team past and present.  Former IBD Executive Director Kristi Raube said that “Frank was a stellar example of what it means to be a great colleague. He was thoughtful, supportive, collaborative, and easy to work with. He left an impression not only on his many, many students but also on his grateful colleagues. He can leave Berkeley Haas proud of the work he has done.”

We are all proud of the outstanding work Frank has done on behalf of the IBD program.  In a small gathering recently to celebrate his dedication to IBD, we had a moment to talk with Frank about his new life in retirement.  Please see the results of our interview with Frank below.


Danner Doud-Martin:  What have you been doing with your free time? 

Frank Schultz talking at the 2019 IBD Conference

Frank Schultz talking at the 2019 IBD Conference

Frank Schultz:  I have been watching Tesla stock go up and down.  I have been doing some traveling around California to destinations that I haven’t seen before, like Pismo Beach and Paso Robles.  We also went to the iconic Madonna Inn and stayed in the William Tell Room.  

 I spent some time in a very cool monarch butterfly grove.  It was also sad because the numbers of butterflies are plummeting.  Now that both my wife and I are retired, we are able to take dancing lessons five days a week.  We have been learning salsa, fox trot, rumba, bachata. I also have an upcoming trip to Hawaii.  

I have also been taking a class at Code Academy to learn building financial models and Java Script.  I am enjoying it as it is very logical and fits me well. I hope it will help me to make better investment decisions.

Danner Doud-Martin: Are you going to share this new financial model once you are done building it?

Frank Schultz:  Sure? There are no good tools available that successfully track individual financial decisions. Ha, I am thinking like Haas professor Terry Odean.  My father was a stock broker back in the day, so it’s always been part of my leadership and strategy style.  

Frank Schultz talking at the 2019 IBD Conference

Danner Doud-Martin:  What have you missed most about teaching since retirement?

Frank Schultz:  I miss the IBD staff. I miss the students, but I don’t miss the grading.  

Danner Doud-Martin:  Are you dabbling in any work or volunteer opportunities?

Frank Schultz:   Once a month I get the opportunity to engage with the Berkeley Executive Education program.  This allows me to stay active in teaching with more flexible scheduling, and the best part is that there is no grading requirement.  

IBD conference participants cheering for Frank

IBD conference participants cheering for Frank

Danner Doud-Martin:  What are you looking forward to doing in your retirement?

Frank Schultz:  A lot more of the above activities plus more reading and more traveling.  I have offered to help with BOOST, Haas Zero Waste efforts and IBD, but no calls yet. 

Danner Doud-Martin:  Wait a second.  We called! You are helping us with the first day of IBD class and the Big Reveal.

Frank Schultz:  That’s true.  I am returning to help with the team building exercise on February 20th.  That’s going to be a great day, seeing all the IBD Team Members finding out their projects.  I do love that day in the IBD program.  

Danner Doud-Martin:  How has retirement been for you and your wife Jennifer (also a former Berkeley Haas staff person)?

Frank Schultz:  It’s been really good.  We don’t have over packed schedules any more.  Having time in the schedule has been really good for stress. I recommend it for you all. 

Danner Doud-Martin:  Do you have any advice to give to IBD students?

IBD Faculty Mentors with former Dean Lyons

IBD Faculty Mentors with former Dean Lyons

Frank Schultz:  I always tell this story about how I tend towards being conservative when sharing my thoughts and ideas in groups of people.  I have wanted to make sure that I had all the right answers and I wouldn’t say anything unless I was sure it was correct. One time I was with former IBD Faculty Mentor Jo Mackness (now Assistant Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer, Student Affairs at UC Berkeley), and I finally shared something and Jo responds, “that was epic.”  I waited 30 years to speak up and have this brilliant idea and finally when I just said something, I got “epic.” I tell students, don’t wait. Speak up, even if you don’t think it’s “brilliant.”

Danner Doud-Martin: Do you have any advice for all us IBD staff and faculty that you left behind?

Frank Schultz:  It is hard to fully appreciate the impact you are having on students in a course like IBD.  The feedback is all over the place and at times it is really tough. But you ARE having more of an impact on a student’s learning than you realize.  Remember that.

Now that we have launched the spring 2020 FTMBA IBD program, all of us in the IBD staff miss Frank.  We are excited for him as he embraces his newly retired life, and we hope he will return to say hello and show us some of his newly practiced dance moves.  Congratulations, Frank Schultz!

Say Hello to Nina Ho MBA ’21, Our Spring 2020 IBD GSI

Nina on the Big Reveal Day with a sign that says UgandaThe IBD program is thrilled to have second year Full Time MBA student Nina Ho contribute to the spring 2020 FTMBA IBD program as our Graduate Student Instructor (GSI). Previously, Nina was a student Team Lead for the Makerere University project during the spring 2019 IBD program.  This is the second year that a former IBD student Team Lead has held the GSI role: Libby Ananda MBA ‘20 was the first.  The GSI role was created to benefit both IBD faculty and students.  Recently we had the opportunity to talk with Nina about her IBD experience as a student in 2019, as well as her expectations as this year’s IBD program GSI, and we’d like to share her interview below.

Nina and her team on a safari

Nina and her IBD team traveling and enjoying a safari

 IBD Interviewer: Why did you want to be the IBD GSI?

Nina Ho:  IBD was a unique experience: when you are pushed outside of what’s familiar, you learn more about yourself and those around you.  Spending quality time with my amazing team, I learned tremendously from them, and we got so close. As a GSI, I wanted to pay it forward and facilitate an unforgettable experience for the next class.  I also wanted to continue working with Whitney Hischier, who served as my Faculty Mentor last year. I respect her as a professional mentor and believe there’s a lot to gain from another year of working with her.

IBD Interviewer:  Do you have any goals for your role as a GSI?

Nina Ho:  Students come to IBD with different starting points. Some have consulting or leadership experience; others don’t.  I see my role as helping to close that gap — get those students up to speed so they can accomplish their project goals.  I look forward to acting as an intermediary with the faculty and help to inform decisions that support the students’ learning.

IBD Interviewer:  You worked with IBD project client Makerere University in 2019. Were you proud of the work you did as an IBD Team?

Nina Ho:  Throughout the course of IBD we were able not only to diagnose the root cause of their challenge, but also to devise a realistic implementation plan for the solution we recommended.  I am proud of the breadth of work we completed and how we handled the client interaction to get to that point. 

Nina talking to her 2019 IBD client - Makerere University

Nina talking to her 2019 IBD client – Makerere University

IBD Interviewer:  Would you change anything about your IBD experience?

Nina Ho:  Though A LOT of things didn’t go as planned, I wouldn’t change anything.  Ironically, all the challenges we faced made us get closer as a team – we learned how to trust each other. 

IBD Interviewer:  Did the IBD experience help with your summer internship or after graduation career choices?

Nina Ho:  IBD gave me the confidence to lead a consulting project ahead of my internship.  Though I had a consulting background and understood how to do the work, I was looking for reps to lead a team in an ambiguous, non-straightforward setting. 

IBD Interviewer:  Are you focusing on anything over these next couple of months before you graduate?

Nina Ho: I am training for the AIDS Lifecycle charity ride from SF to LA and working on being a better skier — gotta work up to those black diamonds!  I am also looking forward to spending as much time with my classmates before graduating.

Nina standing on a rock

IBD Interviewer: What is your favorite thing about Haas?

Nina Ho:  Honestly, the community.  I am consistently moved by the generosity of my classmates, staff and faculty and how people show up for each other.  The spirit of Haas creates an inclusive space where I’ve been able to take more risks and find a place of belonging.  

IBD Interviewer:  You introduced us to your love of wearing headbands while traveling.  Do you still wear headbands?

Nina with a beautiful backdrop

Nina Ho:  Yes, and most recently in New Zealand — you really need that when you’re on a backpacking trip and can’t shower!

The IBD program staff and faculty are fortunate to have Nina as a member of our team, and we know she will contribute to the overall success of our students and the spring 2020 IBD program.  Thank you Nina!