Today, we have Alijah Talley, West Coast Growth Relationship Manager at Zimba Technologies and Founder and Executive Director at The Qonnection. Alijah is an experienced leader and executive with an extensive background that includes serving as a captain in the US Army, founding The Qonnection with the mission to advocate for African-American students pursuing higher education, and as a Consortium Fellow and MLT (Management Leadership for Tomorrow) Professional Development Fellow here at Haas.
Alijah was born in Panama but didn’t experience the country and culture because his family moved to the US when he was just a baby. He spent his formidable years and adult life in Texas. Alijah applied to West Point, but going there wasn’t a smooth path. The admissions officer assigned to him said he wasn’t West Point material. However, he didn’t let it stop him. It motivated him to try harder and earned admission to the academy.
In this episode, Alijah shares his experiences at West Point Academy and as an army leader. During this time, he also became the Diversity Outreach Admissions Officer, and his experiences in this position led him to found The Qonnection. He didn’t want anyone to experience what he did, and he wanted the African-American youth to get a competitive advantage.
Lastly, Alijah talks about his reasons for pursuing an MBA, why he chose Haas, internships, his job at Zimba Technologies, and plans post-MBA.
On being told he wasn’t a “West Point material”
“I decided that no one’s going to tell me what I can’t do. I’m going to leave that up to the academy. And thank goodness that that was the information that I got at the time, because the only thing that that did was motivate me to try harder, to go faster. Pride is something else, because I was dead set on proving this guy wrong. And thank God I was, because I ended up earning admission to the academy. And I was really excited to go there and embark on a new opportunity.”
On his experience at the Academy
“It’s definitely tough. But one thing I will say about the academy is it really forced me to grow up extremely fast. And the good thing about West Point is that everybody at the academy is just as motivated as you are. It’s almost like an incubator. When you get into a room with 1,000 of your classmates and everybody’s motivated, you just continue to push yourself and push yourself and push yourself.
But in full transparency, I struggled with imposter syndrome very, very, very heavy at the academy. There were some days where I just felt like the dumbest guy in the room. These kids are just so smart. But that feeling that I didn’t belong in the same space and that I was not as smart as my classmates served as a motivator for me to try much harder and to push myself as hard as I can go and get the best experience out of the academy that I possibly could. I think that everybody goes through that in some form or fashion at the academy. It has a very special way of testing you mentally and physically but definitely keen on the mentally.”
On pursuing an MBA at Haas
“The more research I did, it just started to make more and more sense that that was a time to transition, and specifically, Haas. And I started to notice this arc throughout my story that Haasies always made time for me. And I would say even in my experience here as a current student, that has continued to be a consistent long line. And it doesn’t even just have to be Haasies, but Haasies just make time for people. Haasies care about humans. And I just loved that so much.
During my exploratory phase when I was in a different MBA program, I was really concerned about the culture. I work best in collaborative environments. And I’m not a huge fan of the doggy dog mentality, we’re all competing for a very small set of slots, billets, positions, whatever you want to call it. And every time I got on the room with a Haasie, it was just a great conversation. It was for sure the culture that got me.”
A piece of advice to somebody, either personal or professional
“Don’t close any doors, for whatever reason. We set deadlines arbitrarily. We get on this one track sometimes. So many things in this Haas experience and the army, just serendipitous conversations, something that may not look like an opportunity or something that just starts off as a very small conversation. It may turn into a whole non-profit. So, always keep your options open. I try to say yes to as many things as I can, just because of new opportunities and new experiences. And just keeping the doors open, truly being open to where life may take you for your next experience.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
[00:00] Chris: Welcome to the OneHaas Podcast. I’m Chris Kim. Today, we have Alijah Talley, West Coast Growth Relationship Manager at Zimba Technologies and Founder and Executive Director at The Qonnection. Alijah is a Haas MBA 2023 and an experienced leader and executive. Alijah’s background includes serving as a captain in the US army, founding The Qonnection with the mission to advocate for African-American students pursuing higher education, and as a Consortium Fellow and MLT (Management Leadership for Tomorrow) Professional Development Fellow here at Haas. Alijah, welcome, and great to have you on the show.
[00:38] Alijah: Hey, Chris, great to be here., Thank you so much for inviting me on.
[00:43] Chris: We start the podcast typically by talking about people’s origin story. You studied systems engineering at West Point US Military Academy. You were an army officer and also have founded The Qonnection. And now, you’re at Haas here for the MBA as a Consortium Fellow and also MLT Professional Development Fellow. You’ve already accomplished so much. Where did your story begin? And did you know all of this would happen when you were growing up?
[01:04] Alijah: Absolutely not, absolutely not. Sometimes, I wake up and I still feel like I’m in a dream. And then I snap out of it and get back to work. So, the origin story. I’m from all over, but I claim Texas. To peel the layers back a little bit, I was actually born in Panama City, Panama. Back when the US army was down there for the construction of the canal, my father was an enlisted soldier and our family was down there at the time. So, I was actually a dual citizen. But I came back to the United States probably three to six months after I was born. So, I didn’t get a chance to truly experience the country and the culture, so on and so forth.
So, I spent the first hint or so years actually in the Midwest in Indiana, and then started middle school through high school in San Antonio. So, that’s where I spent my most formidable years adult life, had my network of friends, high school friends, and now professionals as well. So, every time I get a chance to shout out Texas, you can count on me to do so.
[02:09] Chris: One of the inflection points for a lot of us at Haas is going to college. For a lot of folks, it’s either a really stressful time or also really critical time. For you, Alijah, you went to a very prestigious school, West Point US Military Academy. How did you find out about West Point? And what was that application process like to apply to a service academy?
[02:31] Alijah: So, I actually had a pretty hard time, as most, on their path to West Point, because I really wasn’t sure what I was doing. And at the time, this was a big deal for our family. It would be the first in my immediate family who is applying to West Point, who’s applying to complete a four-year institution, and applying to become an army officer all at the same time.
There was somebody who was assigned to me. So, when you open up an application as a West Point applicant, you get assigned essentially a liaison from the academy. And that could be an alumni. He could be somebody who was in the inactive ready reserve. In my case, it was an alumni. And I remember a specific conversation that I had with that person. It was at a Starbucks in San Antonio. Maya Angelou says that you don’t always remember what somebody said but you remember how that person made you feel. And I remember walking away from that conversation. This person was my representation of West Point. And I remember walking from that conversation after hearing this person saying more or less words, “Alijah, you are not West Point material. This is not a place for you. And on your best day, you might be a good candidate for the prep school, but that’s not very likely.” I sat with that for a day or two. I threw a mellow pity party. And then I decided that no one’s going to tell me what I can’t do. I’m going to leave that up to the academy.
And thank goodness that that was the information that I got at the time, because only thing that that did, Chris, was motivate me to try harder, to go faster. Pride is something else, because I was dead set on proving this guy wrong. And thank God I was, because I ended up earning admission to the academy. And I was really excited to go there and embark on a new opportunity.
Now, to answer your question, the application, in and of itself, it’s about a year long process all said and done. Everything is online now. So, it starts with the online application, as most colleges. The good thing about this one is it’s 100% free. And essentially, we’re looking at the exact same data points that the majority of institutions look for—grades, GPA, SAT, or ACT scores. But also, there’s so many other layers to this application. There’s a physical fitness test. Some of those events include pull-ups, pushups, a basketball throw, a shuttle run, a one-mile run. There’s a medical exam, all right? So, you go to the academy, it is the true definition of a full-ride scholarship because you don’t pay for anything to include medical. So, before the military, whichever branch that anybody is applying to, for me, specifically, the army, they had to make sure that I was medically ready to join the army. And they were taking me on because I would be covered under the army medical system moving forward. And also, some people say this light-heartedly like it’s an Act of Congress. In this case, it actually is an Act of Congress because you do have to get a congressional appointment or a presidential appointment to the academy.
[05:45] Chris: Yeah, absolutely. What was that experience like when you finally got on campus, and going from day one to then finally graduating from the academy?
[05:54] Alijah: What a great question. I’m sure that you’ve heard this before if you talk to another academy grad, but at the time, it seems extremely hard. Some alumni say it’s not a great place to be at but it’s an awesome place to be from. And that definitely resonates, because I think every West Point cadet has this idea of what life would have been if they hadn’t come to the academy. Especially, now, cadets in the age of Instagram and Facebook, probably, there’s a lot of FOLO when they see their peers at civilian institutions, just having the time of their life.
So, it’s definitely tough. But one thing I will say about the academy is it really forced me to grow up fast. It forced me to grow up extremely fast. And the good thing about West Point is that everybody at the academy is just as motivated as you are. So, it’s almost like an incubator. When you get into a room with 1,000 of your classmates and everybody’s motivated, you just continue to push yourself and push yourself and push yourself.
But in full transparency, I struggled with imposter syndrome very, very, very heavy at the academy. There were some days where I just felt like, in class, I had to be the dumbest guy in the room. These kids are just so smart. My classmates were just so smart. But that feeling that I didn’t belong in the same space and that I was not as smart as my classmates served as a motivator for me to try just that much harder to feel like I was on par with my classmates and to push myself as hard as I can go and get the best experience out of the academy that I possibly could. I think that everybody goes through that in some form or fashion at the academy. It has a very special way of testing you mentally and physically, but definitely keen on the mentally.
And that’s why, for most graduates, graduation day for me, May 21st, 2016, that was one of the happiest days of my life, by far, because West Point was the hardest thing that I’ve done up to that point and it was a major, major achievement for me, and I knew that in that moment when I was standing in Michie Field throwing up my white cap that I changed generations of Talleys and Rogers to come.
[08:16] Chris: Wow.
[08:17] Alijah: Yeah, absolutely. So, once I got into my full-time role, I realized why West Point forcing me to grow up so fast. So, I graduate the academy. I got 60 days of leave, as most academy grads do. I showed up to Fort Hood a little bit later on a Friday. And by Monday, I was on a plane getting ready to deploy. So, I didn’t really have time to blink or think. I think, as a matter of fact, I’ve had a conversation with the commander at the time, and he’s pretty much saying, “Hey, don’t unpack your bags. We got a seat for you.” So, it’s coming out of the incubator that is West Point and immediately being thrust into the leadership position that I’ve been training for four years at the academy. I started looking at their automobile, it’s like, man, I got to remember all this leadership stuff that I learned at the academy because it’s game time, you know what I mean? I’ve got to start putting a lot of this stuff into practice.
As an army leader, you are in charge of every aspect—your troops’ life and the mission. And by that, I mean, as a ballistic missile defender, one shift I was the point of contact for things going on in the sky. That was bad things. That was good things. And a lot of the time, it was extremely high visibility because tactical ballistic missiles are small things that you can avoid. We had to be on 100% of the time. And we couldn’t miss. So, we trained a lot. We trained a lot, which means that I had to get spun up on my position fast, I had to make sure that my soldiers were proficient, I had to make sure that they were healthy—physically healthy, mentally healthy, emotionally. And in army leadership, and specifically, when a line unit, meaning an active unit that’s doing a combat mission, you’re in every aspect of a troop’s life. I’ve had soldiers go through divorces where I had to look at some of the paperwork and ensure that my soldier wasn’t getting burned as him and his partner separated ways. I had soldiers get their cars repossessed and look at me like, “Sir, what am I supposed to do?” I’m looking at a 30-year-old grownup and myself at the time 22, like, “What? I don’t know, but we’ll figure this thing out together.” So, definitely, in one way or another, you’re touching every aspect of your troops’ lives.
And that’s why it was so special to me because it got so personal. We have became so close as a unit. And we did such a good job. We worked hard. We played hard. And I think that’s what I miss most about the army. But that was my life as a young lieutenant as air defender.
[11:00] Chris: You also started an organization, The Qonnection, while you were still in the military. Could you explain a bit what that was like having your day job, managing the folks under you as an army officer, but then also starting this other organization that also has incredible impact on other folks?
[11:17] Alijah: Yeah. So, The Qonnection. Man, that’s my passion right there. That’s a true passion project. So, a little bit of context behind The Qonnection. So, I was doing ballistic missile defense for about three and a half years in Fort Hood, Texas. And then I got selected to come back to the academy as one of five lieutenants out of my air group to come back to the academy and do diversity admissions. And that job was just extremely rewarding because I was able this time to be an advocate for people who look like me, for students in that same situation, like they were sitting at their respective Starbucks in their hometown having a conversation with somebody about West Point. It was with me.
And that conversation was an inspirational work, not a deterrent. It was, “You do belong here. And let me help you get to the academy. And let me show you that you belong here.” But also, in that role, it really disturbed me to my core the lack of resources and opportunities of some of my kid at the time. I was in charge of the southwest region of the United States. And that’s everything as far west as New Mexico, as far east as Tennessee, north as Kansas, and all the way down through Texas. So, all in all, it was about 86 congressional districts. And those were the students that I serviced in those areas.
This was pre-pandemic. So, it was two to three weeks on the road traveling in their hometowns, going to schools and community events. So, I got a pretty up close and personal, meeting a lot of my candidates. And on paper, you would think that these students are qualified to get into the academy or college at all. When I started to see their specific circumstances, man, it really just did something to my spirit. I had students who were valedictorians and captain of the football team, all of the stuff that West Point look for. But in a very real sense, I had conversations like, “Hey, your test scores are not where they need to be. What’s going on?” He’ll say, “Well, I’d love to take time and study this test. And I’d love to take it multiple times. But I don’t have the time because I’m bagging groceries to pay for groceries and haircuts for my brothers. And I don’t have enough money to keep taking this test. And I don’t understand it.” Chris, it moves me. It moved me.
[13:33] Chris: Absolutely.
[13:34] Alijah: And then I want to highlight somebody who, maybe they’ll find out through this podcast how inspirational they were as for the genesis of The Qonnection. That person is Kendrick Vaughn, a fellow Haasie. I was working for him at the time in the diversity admissions office. Kenny has a way of putting you in a matrix with his very simple questions. But right when I was feeling so much disturbance in my spirit in this situation a lot of my candidates were in, Kenny had a conversation with me and he said, “What’s your legacy? What do you want to be remembered for? If you’ve had all the money that your heart could desire, if you’ve had all of the material things your heart could desire, when you leave this earth, what do you want your tombstone to say?”
And that question I reflected on. I chewed on it. And I had this idea that I wanted to do something for my candidates. And it seemed like that was just the mental push that I needed. So, The Qonnection started off as the Alijah J. Talley’s Scholarship Fund. And it was a Facebook page in a prominence. My wife and I, we decided to give basically $1,000 away. And I called a bunch of family members and said, “Hey, we’re doing this thing. Would you like to contribute some money to join?” Overnight, we doubled it. So, we had raised another $1,000 that we were going to give to—we didn’t even know at the time how we were going to select somebody. But it was just this need to do something. It was just a need to get involved and help a student of color with a problem.
Well, it turned out, Chris, you can only ask people for money so many times before they start looking for tax deductible donations. So, I reached the crossroads where I decided, in order to make a real impact, we have to get serious about this thing. And in January of ’20, we became a federally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Texas-based. We specifically provide material assistance, Think laptops, computers, all of the things that are not included in a normal full tuition package.
So, I’m going to say that’s the first stage of our fellowship. And then the second stage, which is arguably more important, is we’re really deliberate about mentorship, we’re extremely deliberate about mentorship. I can tell you now we have a fellow African-American student in Central Texas who’s got aspirations to be on the Supreme Court. And Chris, I could tell you for the rest of this podcast why that’s amazing for him to be so young and have that mindset. And his mentor is an extremely accomplished lawyer. He’s a partner at his firm, one of the largest law firms in New York. And these are the type of relationships that we’re facilitating. We’re starting this conversation way early. What does a day in your life look? What classes did you have to take? What books are you reading? What do you like about being a lawyer? What don’t you like about being a lawyer? And just really forcing the informational interview type conversations earlier on in the youth of African-American lives to try to give them a competitive advantage and get them thinking about the future just a little bit earlier than they normally would.
[00:16:44] Chris: Anybody who would have seen the arc of your life up until that point would have said, “You don’t need to get an MBA. You’re already executive leader of this organization and were an accomplished officer.
[16:56] Alijah: Yeah, the transition came about because of my relationship with my wife. When I joined West Point, I had this thing where I’d be a bachelor until I was 35. And air defense as a branch in the army is by far one of the most deployed branches consistently in the army. So, my values just changed. I don’t love the army any less. I appreciate that experience. I appreciate my West Point experience, the comradery, my classmates. Those are bonds for life. But honestly, Chris, my value set just changed. I wanted a little bit more control over my schedule because the churn was starting to look like I was going to be deployed every other year. That’s not something that I wanted for myself or my family.
It was actually a conversation with another Haasie. There’s another Haasie by the name of Jeff Easter. Jeff was in the West Point admissions position en route to Haas as I showed up to essentially take his job. I didn’t know Jeff at the time, but Jeff asked me what I was going to do. Hey, what are you thinking about for the army? And I think I told him something to the effect of, “I’m not sure how long I’m going to stay in. But I think a pivot is coming on the horizon here soon.” And you know what, Chris? Jeff sat me down—For all the folks who’ve gone to West Point and know the academy, there’s a little McDonald’s right outside to your gate. And Jeff sat me down at that McDonald’s and we chatted for probably three hours. And he just explained to me all of the pros and cons of transitioning the army with an MBA, because he had just gone through the process he had just gone through, and then accepted the consortium. He was an MLT fellow.
So, he was having a lot of this knowledge and just gave him his high takes. And he said, “Hey, man, I know this is something that people don’t often talk about, but this is an opportunity for you. And this is an opportunity, I think, that you should look into. You don’t have to come to Haas, but you definitely need to take a look at the MBA transition.” I wasn’t convinced at that moment, but the more research I did, it just started to make more and more sense that that was a time to transition, and specifically, Haas. And I started to notice this arc throughout my story that Haasies always made time for me. Haasies always made time for me. And I would say even in my experience here as a current student, that has continued to be a consistent long line, Haasies make time for me. And it doesn’t even just have to be Haasies, but Haasies just make time for people. Haasies care about humans. And I just loved that so much.
During my exploratory phase when I was in a different MBA program, I was really concerned about the culture. I work best in collaborative environments. And I’m not a huge fan of the doggy dog mentality, we’re all competing for a very small set of slots, billets, positions, whatever you want to call it. And every time I got him on the room with a Haasie, it was just a great conversation. I talked to the Vets Club, and it was just so much outpouring of resources, advice. And it was the culture that got me, Chris. It was for sure the culture that got me.
[20:12] Chris: What was that like moving out here, especially during the pandemic, and then also in your case, you’ve done a couple of great internships and work experience? What was that like as part of your story and journey here at Haas?
[20:24] Alijah: So, it was the first time I was going to live in California. I had visited a long time ago. But as a Texan, New Californians, because we Californians run out of money and then move to Texas.
[20:37] Chris: Very true, very true.
[20:38] Alijah: So, I was very curious to embark on this new journey and, quite frankly, to see what all the hubbub was about. And I get it, because this is a place where I think I’m going to plant my feet. And I’ve only been here a year, but I can confidently make that decision that my wife and I, we just really love the environment. We love the culture, way more sunshine than we were getting in New York. The vibes, the people, the food, aside from the obvious elephant in the room being incredibly expensive to live, this is a really good place to hang out. My partner and I, we’ve lived in quite a few places in the United States. And so far, this is, by a long shot, our favorite.
[21:19] Chris: Could you talk a bit about what it was like going through the job process? The internship process is a big part of the Haas experience and any MBA experience, for that matter.
[21:29] Alijah: Yes, absolutely. So, knowing that business school was not something that—it felt like I was not prepared for it. Not that I wasn’t able, but just ballistic missile defense is very specific thing. And diversity admissions is also another very specific thing. Never had seen a cash flow statement or a balance sheet or accounting or anything of that nature. I was very nervous about embarking on this MBA journey, feeling like my classmates will be all prior business professionals, and would just be able to pick up and they would just fly right by me.
So, as soon as I got the word, I got the word that I’ve been accepted to Haas in March, and I started recruiting for an internship almost every year. And that same month, I got the word on March 25th. By March 26th, I was making phone calls, having information interviews and chats. I leaned on a lot of my friends who are in business currently. And I leveraged their experience. There’s some folks in my network who were military and now in business. And I asked them the exact same question, what was your journey like? What was your discovery like? I probably did over 50 information interviews, just talking to folks about their transition, what went right, what went wrong.
Thanks to that conversation I have with Jeff at McDonald’s, I learned about MLT, MBA prep, MLT PD, and the Consortium. And MLT was pretty robust, as far as giving me opportunities to recruit very early. I was doing interviews. And I would say, once before I even got started to make the physical transition from the East Coast to the West Coast, I’d already had maybe 15 interviews under my belt.
[23:15] Chris: Wow, that’s awesome.
[23:16] Alijah: But it was not awesome, because I bombed 10 of those 15 interviews. But it was a great learning experience, Chris, because every single time I bombed one of those interviews, I found that there are knowledge gaps. And I just took very detailed and copious notes about all of these knowledge gaps that I was discovering, the specific questions that I was being asked that I didn’t understand or did even have a foundation or a process-focused way to answer their question. I would just make copious notes about that. I also took very, very specific detail on how these interviews were being done.
[23:53] Chris: Interesting.
[23:54] Alijah: Because I thought that that gave great insight into the actual company and/or industry itself. Because I was spread across a wide. I interviewed you for CPG, corporate finance, real estate, and tech all at the same time. So, as a career switcher, I just told myself that I would leave absolutely every door open and then just go with my heart. If the interview process or if the people where something was off or it wasn’t giving me energy, then I just continue to look in the other different directions. So, I would say, of those 15 interviews, I ended up getting four offers before I even walked in to Haas.
[24:29] Chris: Wow, that’s awesome. You’re at Zimba Technologies now. Do you want to share with us a bit about what that experience has been like? And how is that informing what you’re thinking about doing post-MBA?
[24:40] Alijah: Yeah. One thing that I truly love about being a Haas MBA is the amount of opportunity that’s here at this place. I had a lot of levers to do things in the army at the level that I was at. But in a very real sense, I truly feel like, being a Haas MBA, that the world is your oyster. I joined a real estate case competition, not truly confident in myself and being able to compete, never having done real estate finance or, at the time, I didn’t know what a levered IRR was. However, I was able to lean on my team. They were extremely smart on real estate. Everybody had their own superpowers. And then I had a superpower that I don’t even know would be a value-add to this real estate competition. One thing about being a West Point admissions officer and being on the road is you do a lot of presentations. So, I’m very comfortable and confident in public speaking. And that was my value-add to the team, making sure that we had interesting presentation, making sure that we were all poised and polished.
So, that was a really good experience. Thank God we were able to take home first place. I think it was the first time that Haas has won over a decade. So, that was a big win for the home team. And it opened up a lot of doors into commercial real estate. I met a lot of people. And again, it goes back to this idea of opportunity at Haas.
And to answer your question a little bit more directly, Chris, I still really don’t know what I want to do post-MBA because I have my hands in so many things. Zimba is very near and dear to me as well. Although a recent development, the CEO, is one of my best friends, also a West Point grad, same class, he believes enough in me and his role to bring me on as a West Coast Growth Relationship Manager. At Zimba, I manage the relationship between stakeholders, influencers, potential investors, different institutions, and network, lobby, and essentially build a community around our brand and our product. And again, it’s extremely fulfilling work. It’s a Ugandan FinTech company, so working in an emerging market, really delivering a product to them that makes sense for them, that’s not what are those products that we’re going there just to make money. We’re also there to provide some real utility to the folks who need it that’s going to improve their quality of life.
So, I would say just the long line across the board is that Haas has given me an opportunity to truly spread my wings and explore different things in a non-committed way. And I’m still discovering what I’m interested in. I’m still discovering what gives me energy. And I’m hoping, too, this next year I’ll have it all figured out.
[27:26] Chris: Absolutely. Alijah, one of the things we do is we give a time for our guests to talk about a cause or a program that they want to advocate for or they like the Haas community to learn more about. One of the things I know that’s close to you is The Qonnection and some of the work that you and the organization are doing now.
[27:45] Alijah: Yes, that’s an amazing question. We are always looking for mentors for our organization. We are always looking for new resources and opportunities, potential partnerships, and for folks who want to donate. All of these things can be done through our page. If you go to www.theqonnection.org, you’ll find all our information. You can subscribe to our newsletter. And quite frankly, you could just get involved. You can just get involved. If you love lending a hand, helping the youth win, that’s what we’re all about. We’re about making the world just a little bit more equitable, little by little.
[28:25] Chris: Yeah, absolutely. As we close, Alijah, one of the things we do per our tradition is a lightning round, a couple of fun questions.
[28:35] Alijah: Let’s do it.
[28:36] Chris: All right. So, the favorite question, in your experience, what’s been your favorite place to eat while at Berkeley?
[28:43] Alijah: Easy, there’s a spot, it’s in the cut by the yogurt place, but it’s called Schindland. The owner’s name is Jason. The only reason I know the owner is because I’m there so much. And it’s like a street snack, but it’s popcorn chicken. But it’s the best popcorn chicken I ever had. Arguably, it’s probably the best popcorn chicken anybody’s ever had. So, it’s like this little hidden gym. The people who know about it know about it. And the people who go to lunch with me, they definitely know about it, because we’re there multiple times a month. It’s to the point where I walk in and I’m like, “Jason, what’s up man?” And he starts making the order. But you will not be sorry if you pop Schindland.
[29:25] Chris: All right. Another question, what’s one piece of advice that would give to somebody, either personal or professional advice?
[29:33] Alijah: Don’t close any doors. Don’t close any doors, for whatever reason. Folks who may be listening to this podcast are just professionals in general. We set deadlines arbitrarily. We get on this one track sometimes. So many things in this Haas experience and the army, just serendipitous conversations, something that may not look like an opportunity or something that just starts off as a very small conversation. It may turn into a whole non-profit. So, always keep your options open. I try to say yes to as many things as I can, just because of new opportunities and new experiences. And just keeping the doors open, truly being open to where life may take you for your next experience.
[30:19] Chris: Absolutely. Our last question, what’s one thing that gets you excited about the future?
[30:24] Alijah: Honestly, Chris, it’s opportunity. It’s truly opportunity. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can truly participate in this American dream that I’ve been hearing about. I’m very excited about it. I feel like we tell kids that they can be anything they want to be. Well, I kind of feel that right now. But I feel like these experiences have culminated into this feeling where I feel like I can just tackle anything that I want to tackle—if it’s a nonprofit, if it’s real estate, if it’s tech, if I want to start my own business, or whatever I want to do, it’s that opportunity that I’m really latching on to. And that’s what gives me energy every day to wake up, Chris.
[31:07] Chris: Well, Alijah, it’s been great to have you on the show. I want to say thanks again, and wish you all the best in the future. Go, bears.
[31:14] Alijah: Go, bears.
[31:19] Outro: Thanks again for tuning in to this episode of the OneHaas Podcast. Enjoyed our show today? Please remember to hit that Subscribe or Follow button on your favorite podcast player. We’d also really appreciate you giving us a five-star rating and review.
You’re looking for more content? Please check out our website at haas.fm. That’s spelled H-A-A-S.F-M. There, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter and check out some of our other Berkeley Haas podcasts. And until next time. Go, bears.