This month on the OneHaas podcast, we’re celebrating Filipino Heritage Month with Cassandra Salcedo, a Product Marketing Senior Lead at Salesforce.
Cassandra is a first-generation Filipina American whose parents emigrated from the Philippines in search of the American dream. It was this story that propelled Cassandra’s adventurous career path and ultimately led her to Haas.
She and host Sean Li discuss what it was like growing up in a traditional Filipino household and her trips back to the Philippines, her diverse career path from accounting to commercial banking to social enterprise to tech product marketing, and how she made it her mission to meet and spend time with nearly every single one of her Haas classmates before graduation.
*OneHaas Alumni Podcast is a production of Haas School of Business and is produced by University FM.*
When she took the first big career transition
“During my social impact fellowship, I had the opportunity to travel to the remote parts that most people in the world have not heard of in Ecuador and Peru and meet people from these regions and hear their stories about what they’re using their loans for and how they’re using it to propel them forward and got to tell those stories through different blogs, through different interviews that the organization I was working for could do.”
What it was like to visit the Philippines and reconnect with her family heritage
“They built up this whole community… It doesn’t exist anymore today, but there’s a family gas station that was called the Salcedo gas station. To see so many people in my family that I had never met before not really having a lot of things and enjoying life and just laughing with each other. That’s when I think it sparked for me my appreciation for all the sacrifices that my parents had made.”
Why she was drawn to Haas over other business schools
“I remember very vividly at the first Haas info session I went to and there was a slide there that showed the career paths that people at Haas go into post graduation. And of course there was, you know, the traditional paths of banking, tech, but it was actually quite a linear graph across different industries. I felt like a lot of the other schools, it was primarily one, but that graph actually really stood out to me because I wanted a school that did that and I also wanted a school that was small enough to build a community.”
On her initial introduction to the Haas community
“I actually received a hundred percent response rate from all of the Haas alumni that I cold messaged on LinkedIn, which I thought was a telling sign of the community and people actually wanting to give back and share their experiences out of the goodness of their heart and just wanting to help.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
[00:00] Sean: Welcome to the OneHaas Alumni Podcast. This month, we’re celebrating Filipino Heritage Month. And with us today is Cassandra Salcedo, Full-Time MBA Class of ’21.
You’re a relatively new alumna. Welcome to the family, again.
[00:27] Cassandra: Thanks, Sean.
[00:28] Sean: Cassandra, you’re currently a product marketing senior lead at Salesforce. I just saw a photo of you presenting at Dreamforce, which is really cool. It’s one of my favorite parties in the world… sorry, conferences in the world. And I got a chance to go to it, actually, when I was an MBA. It was one of the coolest privileges to have, obviously, classmates that work at Salesforce and get that invite.
But yeah, welcome to the podcast, Cassandra.
[00:58] Cassandra: Thanks, Sean. Happy to be here. I’m happy to celebrate Filipino History Month this month.
[01:05] Sean: So, to start us off, we’d love to learn more about you. Can you tell us your origin story — where you’re from and where you grew up?
[01:13] Cassandra: Sure. So, I am a proud first-generation Filipina-American. My parents are actually from smaller towns in the Philippines called Obando and Laguna, where they actually met in med school in the Philippines. And at the time of their graduation was actually when there was martial law happening there. And so, it was a difficult time for them and their families.
And so, in 1986, they, like many immigrants, were seeking the American dream. And I still remember my dad always talks about how he would always wish upon a star in living in the United States. And so, they packed up their things. They brought a suitcase. They brought a black and white TV, nothing more.
And they moved to Seattle, where they stayed with one of my relatives. And then they eventually settled down in New Jersey, where they live today.
I would say they frequently told me about all the struggles that they faced when they arrived here, like a lot of people do. My dad worked at Burger King. My mom was a secretary. And today, they are successful doctors in the U.S., after a lot of hard work.
And so, when I think about my origin story, I really think back to this because really hearing about some of the struggles that they had when they first moved here and all of the opportunities, it makes me really appreciative. And it’s probably one of my biggest motivators for making them proud and making it feel like their journey over here was worth it.
So. I would say that’s one of the biggest things about my origin story that propels me and helps me grow and appreciate all the different experiences that I’ve had throughout my 33 years of life.
[02:59] Sean: First off, it’s kind of crazy to go from doctor to Burger King to doctor. My mom worked at Burger King, too. I don’t know what it is about Asians and Burger King, but my Burger King was our jam back in the day. What kind of medicine did your parents practice?
[03:14] Cassandra: My dad’s a pediatrician and my mom is an internist. So, it was funny, because growing up, I had a doctor my whole life from when I was a child. I never had to go get physicals. And now, I actually do have a doctor, but I still go to them for… actually, me and my partner, we both seek medical advice to this day from my parents.
[03:38] Sean: That’s amazing. So, you were born in the Philippines?
[03:44] Cassandra: I was born, first generation born, in the United States. So, they had me in New Jersey.
[03:50] Sean: I see.
[03:51] Cassandra: So, that’s where I grew up, most of my life, but I since then have moved to the West Coast.
[03:57] Sean: I see, I see. And growing up, I noticed you did not go into the medical field. So, tell us a little bit about that. By the way, I do have to read this for audience, because I love your About Me on LinkedIn. It says, “How does an auditor transition to a commercial banker to a nonprofit strategist to a tech product marketer?” It sounds like a Netflix preview. The answer is storytelling. So, now we have to hear your story.
[04:24] Cassandra: I definitely felt a lot of pressure to become a doctor. Growing up, I feel like it’s somewhat common in a lot of Asian households. I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor pretty early on. And so, I definitely felt that societal pressure to become one and be, I would say, a little bit more on the risk-averse side, especially early on in my career.
So, that’s why my very first job was accounting, a public accountant at a big four company in New York City. I did the whole CPA thing. I went through all of that. Later pivoted to multiple other functions. But I would say I’m definitely the adventure type. At every experience, it brings new perspectives. It brings new skills. And you realize different things, and you realize you have different needs at different times.
So, while I did start my first job in public accounting, I learned a lot. I learned how to communicate with clients. I learned how to deal with busy season for tight deadlines. And I met a lot of great people, one of which is my current partner. And I went to a couple of weddings from people I’d met at my very first job.
And so, from there, I just started to reflect on some of the different things I was wanting at that time. So, when I was working in public accounting, I really wanted to explore this idea of social impact, really driven by my parents’ origin story. So, I was saying, okay, now I’m working in one of the, I don’t know, most traditional desk jobs in accounting in New York City. And how can I have some type of social fulfillment to feel I’m giving back to my parents’ story?
So, I started going to all these career fairs. I went to endless coffee chats, and then discover… and I was like, “Okay, well, what if I could mix social impact with my experience in financial services?” So, that led me down to my first experience in social enterprise, which was a microfinance fellowship. So, I did that in Ecuador and Peru. I got to basically travel to the most remote parts that most people in the world have not heard of in Ecuador and Peru and meet people from these regions and hear their stories about what they’re using their loans for and how they’re using it to propel them forward, and got to tell those stories through different blogs, through different interviews that the organization I was working for could do.
So, it’s those experiences that really just helped me appreciate and humbled me a little bit of how open-minded and different people’s careers paths could give me different perspectives, because even though I’m working in product marketing now, it’s like, if you were to ask me my dream job, I’d say it would probably change each year, because sometimes it is intimidating and makes me question, because I think, sometimes, a lot of people you meet have one passion, “I am going to be an investment banker. I’m going to be a doctor,” or so and so, but I’ve never felt like I had that one specific thing.
For me, I’m more about, how do I take each experience? How do I learn from each experience? And how do I meet people in each of those that will help me get and figure out what I want to do next? And so, I see career as more of an adventure and an opportunity, versus more of a stringent career path where you just go through one specific industry or one, which is great. And I admire all the people who do that. But one thing I did realize is that, that just probably isn’t for me. Not right now, maybe one day, but not right now.
[08:05] Sean: I’m with you there. My wife is a pediatrician as well, and we’re totally different. She loves being a physician, and I can’t stick to the same thing for 10 years, you know. So, I totally get that. But I’m really curious, is there anything, if you think back to your childhood or your Filipino upbringing that’s inspired that sense of adventure, I guess, or that restlessness? And I don’t mean that in a negative way. Is there anything, growing up traditionally? Hey, first off, did you grow up traditionally in a Filipino cultural household?
[08:46] Cassandra: I would say I did, except for the language part. One of the biggest things I… because I was trying to assimilate at the time when my parents moved, and there weren’t a lot of Filipinos in the community in New Jersey where I grew up. So, I definitely tried to assimilate. And one of the, still, on my bucket list to achieve one day is to learn Tagalog, the language in the Philippines, because to this day, my Spanish definitely outdoes my Tagalog, which does not serve me well when I visit family in the Philippines and say that I’m Filipino-American. But I know it’s something that I’ll eventually get to, and it’s something that’s on my mind.
But to answer your question, I would say, I don’t know if there was one specific moment, but I think that, because I grew up in that, I would say, more traditional household, where risk was not necessarily encouraged, I’d say just going down the safe path, making sure you’re stable, that probably, at one point, whether I realize it just now or not, made me think, “Maybe, it’s time to take more risks and do something different.” And ever since I made that first leap out of accounting into a social enterprise, which, by the way, was an unpaid fellowship. So, I remember having a conversation with my family, “By the way, you moved from the Philippines and you have this whole successful American dream story.” And I’m about to give up my salary at an accounting to go to a remote region in Latin America, where I don’t know a single person for an unpaid fellowship.
[10:28] Sean: Yeah.
[10:30] Cassandra: It was definitely the first dipping of my toes into wanting to experience this change, but I think just the variety of people that I’ve had the opportunity to meet, not just through that experience, but even just through the MBA, it inspires you. There’s so many different career paths. There’s so many different people you can meet and different objectives. It’s not just one specific way.
[10:55] Sean: How did your parents take that, initially? Did they take it well? I guess, let me give some context to my question, because, part of it is I’m a first-generation American immigrant as well. When I was born, I think I’m 1.5 because I was born in China, but I moved here when I was very young. It sounds like there’s always two types of Asian parents, right, that we have? Either they moved to the U.S. because they’ve been so oppressed by their home country that they’re a little bit more open-minded and much more liberal in how they raise their kids. And then, there’s just the steadfast, “We left that oppression, but we were raised a certain ways. We’re going to continue raising our kids that way.” I’m curious what your parents were like.
[11:48] Cassandra: Yeah, when I was younger, I was definitely in a more, at least relative to my peers, in a more strict household, which is, looking back at the time, I didn’t necessarily appreciate it, but now I’m happy that they were very strict. Education was always the top priority. And I’d say they definitely became more open-minded when I went to college and afterwards.
And when I told them about, I think a lot of times, the aesthetics of things always help. And it’s all about framing and knowing your audience. So, if there’s one thing in marketing, it’s like how you frame it and knowing your audience. So, the way that I actually framed my fellowship was I framed it as this premier fellowship opportunity. I didn’t say how I phrased it to you just before, of, I was going to the middle of nowhere, not knowing anyone, taking an unpaid fellowship.
[12:43] Sean: Of course, not. Yeah.
[12:44] Cassandra: And it was selective. So, yeah, I had to go through the whole application process. I framed it as an opportunity to hone in on my business Spanish skills, to get the international experience and hone in on their story. And I think when I explained to them the reason why I’m motivated to this is because I was inspired by your story and how can I actually get back and pursue this different career path.
So, I would say they were supportive and probably surprised, because I had just passed the CPA and they’re like, “You just spent a whole summer studying for this and now you’re going to..” So, nothing goes to waste, though.
[13:24] Sean: No, nothing goes to waste. Absolutely not. I think all the interviews I’ve done, I hear stories where there’s so many pivots. And at the time, it feels like it’s disconnected, right? It’s fragmented. But everything builds upon each other. And in the end, it all makes sense. And that’s what I’ve experienced, so far, at least.
That’s really cool. And I say that because, even you sharing that story, I think what’s important and what I hear from it is not the marketing portion, but the willingness to communicate with your parents. And that’s something, I feel like it’s a mixed bag for a lot of first-generation immigrants, right? Because they grew up in a different country, in a different culture, a different language, right? And here we are, growing up in this culture, in this country, in this language. And from my experience, at least, I’ve seen other friends and whatnots. There’s always this huge disconnect and misunderstanding between our parents’ generation and our generation. I think it’s really cool that you’re able to overcome that by communicating in a way that your parents understood. I think that’s something important for people to hear, actually.
Because, to this day, I still have first-generation friends that really struggle connecting with their parents. And I think part of it’s they’re not putting themselves in their parents shoes, right? And that’s something that’s really important.
So, on that note, since we’re on the topic of being Filipina, what does it mean to be Filipina to you personally? And how has it influenced your life?
[15:03] Cassandra: Sure. Well, to me, when I think about being Filipina, of course, I can’t help but think about my family and some of the personal experiences that I’ve learned from each of them. So, I still remember my very first trip to the Philippines. And before that, my parents had always talked about their family. And I was, at the time, living in New Jersey, so I didn’t actually know or had the opportunity to meet any of my cousins or anyone in the Philippines yet. But when I went to the Philippines and I went to my grandmother’s house where all on my dad’s side in Laguna where all of my cousins and aunts and uncles, they all live in the same complex. And growing up as an only child, I still remember seeing, walking into that household, just being overjoyed with how much happiness and familial vibes.
It was a pretty small household for a lot of people to be living in. And there wasn’t much. But I remember meeting my cousins. I have a lot of them, especially on my dad’s side. And meeting my family, and they were all just gathered around, hanging and enjoying each other’s company.
And I just remember having the time of my life and playing with them. And really, what they taught me in that moment was, because at the time, I would say, in New Jersey, I was fortunate I had a lot of physical things. And then, to go over there and see there wasn’t a lot of things, but that what they had was they had the importance of each other. And they had this ability to connect with each other and celebrate.
And they had so many of them. And they built up this whole community. We actually have a family… it doesn’t exist anymore today, but there’s a family gas station that was called the Salcedo Gas Station. And so, it was just all around that gas station, there was members of my family. And to see so many people in my family that I had never met before, not really having a lot of things and enjoying life and just laughing with each other, that’s when I think it sparked for me my appreciation for all the sacrifices that my parents had.
And there’s this tradition in the U.S., where it’s called the Balikbayan box. Where you basically send over a lot of gifts to your family back home in the Philippines. And so, a couple times a year, my family and I, we put together this Balikbayan box. There’s a bunch of companies that specialize in this box where you send things over. I actually still remember, even when I would go to the Philippines, I would see my cousins wearing all the clothes and the things passed down from the Balikbayan boxes that I gave.
[17:46] Sean: What was it called?
[17:47] Cassandra: Balikbayan box. And Balikbayan refers to returning to one’s country.
[17:54] Sean: Wow, that’s cool. One of the things I learned about the Philippines and Filipinos is that it has a strong culture, right? The Philippines have a strong culture of home cooking, of, like you’re saying, family meals, eating together.
And so, one of the rumors I heard was, if you visit the Philippines, it’s really hard to find good restaurants serving Filipino food, because few people go out to eat Filipino food because their grandmas or moms or dads cook it so well at home. It doesn’t make any sense to go and eat it.
I was just recently there. And luckily, as a tourist, they do have some really amazing Filipino restaurants, very high end, very expensive. It was amazing. Sorry, roundabout way of asking, what are some of your favorite Filipino foods, dishes?
[18:52] Cassandra: I’m not sure if you had the opportunity to try this when you were in the Philippines. I don’t know if I’ve ever had this at a restaurant, but sinigang. Basically, it’s a stew with a bunch of vegetables. And then, I usually have it over rice. But my mom makes an incredible sinigang. In fact, I’m actually home visiting this weekend, and she made it yesterday because it’s one of my favorites. I would also say another favorite for breakfast is tapsilog.
[19:22] Sean: Oh, yeah.
[19:24] Cassandra: Did you have that?
[19:26] Sean: Oh, yeah.
[19:27] Cassandra: So, there’s multiple types of Filipino breakfasts, and tapsilog is the one with the tapa type of meat with the fried egg and rice, garlic rice, of course. Filipinos love their garlic. So, garlic is probably one of the main ingredients.
And mangoes is always… well, actually, I have memories of when I was growing up where my friends would come over my house and they would look through my pantry and my fridge. And I remember one specific friend said, “Why do you have so many different types of mangoes in your house? You have dried mangoes, mango fruits, mango candy, mango juice, mango ice cream?” The mangoes are so good in the Philippines. And I know mangoes are good in a lot of parts of the world, but I consider that a classic flavor as well.
[20:19] Sean: I love it. It was funny. I think I was mentioning this to you before the call. I went to Manila for the first time back in June, and I absolutely loved it. I was very unfortunate that I only had enough time to be in Manila and not go anywhere else. But I remember landing, this 15-hour flight, sat next to this Filipino guy that moved to LA, lives in LA, talked to him for five hours about his family and his business here and his property in the Philippines. But I got some recommendations from him. But when I landed, I unfortunately stayed in BGC, in Bonifacio Global City.
And I say unfortunately because I got picked up from the airport. It was 8:00 p.m. I’d just been on a plane for 15 hours at where I barely slept. I was a little bit grumpy. And I was so excited to just go out and find some Filipino street food, just some authentic local food. But here I am in BGC. And if anyone’s ever been to BGC, it is America. I walk outside, there’s Shake Shack, there’s Din Tai Fung. There’s all these restaurants, basically, that I have here, a mile away from me.
And I was so disappointed. And we just kept walking down this pedestrian walk, which is beautiful. But it’s just all these Americanized restaurants.
And finally, we found this restaurant called Manam. And it’s a Filipino restaurant. And I finally got a taste of some Filipino food in the Philippines.
[22:03] Cassandra: Did you have the balut?
[22:06] Sean: I did. Yeah. I think I ordered half the menu, because I just wanted to try everything. And basically, for two days , I just went to as many Filipino restaurants as I could.
That first trip that you mentioned, how old were you when you went to the Philippines for the first time?
[22:25] Cassandra: I must have been in second or third grade.
[22:30] Sean: Eight or nine years old for your first time? Wow. That’s pretty amazing. I guess, it makes sense. You remember it a lot better. And how often do you go back to the Philippines?
[22:45] Cassandra: I try to go back every… my parents go back every year, especially with people getting a lot older. I try to go back every couple of years. I hope to go the next year or so, because there are so many different family members and people there. But actually, one of the things on my life list is to spend significant, instead of going on just a vacation trip, I’d like to actually spend a decent amount of time there and actually pick up the language and actually have the chance to get to know my family members outside of just a quick visit.
So, it’s on one of my bucket list items to achieve in the coming years. But the timing of that is still TBD. But I definitely want to accomplish that.
[23:32] Sean: Well, let’s switch topics a little bit. Love to go back to your career. And I’m really curious, what brought you to Haas and on the path for MBA?
[23:47] Cassandra: It was a long journey, I would say, in terms of getting there, because I had always had thought about getting an MBA. So, I knew it was one of those things where I had it on my mind. So, I’ve always kept in touch with a lot of people and did a lot of research. And the timing of it was, I wanted to also make sure that I had enough work experience and got the most out of it, going into it.
So, after working at first in big four accounting, and then afterwards in social enterprise and commercial banking, I studied for the GMAT for quite a long time. It took me a while to, not only take the GMAT, but just to perfect my essays. And it makes you ponder questions like, what is your story? And feeling this overwhelming pressure to get my story right and why MBA? I would say I did so much personal reflection answering those questions and getting ready and putting together application. Probably, it was a couple of years that I actually spent preparing for it before I actually went through with it.
I initially was planning to get it and go into social impact, and Haas was always my first choice, because I knew from the beginning that I wanted a school that appreciated diverse perspectives and didn’t necessarily have one specific thing. I remember very vividly at the first Haas info session I went to, and there was a slide there that showed the career paths that people at Haas go into post-graduation. And of course, there was the traditional paths of-
[25:28] Sean: Consulting, banking.
[25:30] Cassandra: … consulting, banking, tech. But it was actually quite a linear graph across different industries. I felt like a lot of the other schools, it was primarily one. But that graph actually really stood out to me, because I wanted a school that did that and I also wanted a school that was small enough to build a community.
Another litmus test that I did was the number of people that responded to me cold on LinkedIn. I actually received 100% response rate from all of the Haas alumni that I cold messaged on LinkedIn, which I thought was a telling sign of the community and people actually wanting to give back and share their experiences out the goodness of their heart and just wanting to help.
First time I actually stepped on campus for one of their diversity days for one of their weekends for an event, I just remember feeling overwhelmingly positive when I stepped foot into that campus and getting this feeling. So, it was always my number one choice. I was waitlisted, initially. So, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out for me, but definitely, I’m so glad that it ultimately ended up working out.
[26:43] Sean: No, that’s a great litmus test, because that’s the one thing we hear over and over again through the years I’ve been doing this podcast, especially younger alumni like us, where we had just been through the application process pretty recently and whatnots and talking to people on campus and everybody said, whenever we reach out to somebody, “People respond. People give us the time of day, even though we have not been accepted to the school yet.” Whereas, a lot of other schools, it was like, until you’re accepted, they’re not going to talk to you or something like that. It’s so great to hear that that’s still true.
[27:22] Cassandra: Definitely.
[27:23] Sean: For any prospective students, please reach out to people.
[27:28] Cassandra: Those cold LinkedIn messages work. Things always lead to another. And a lot of my jobs and a lot of opportunities was a result of some of the cold LinkedIn messages that you get of people just willing to help, not just at Haas, but in general. I think, if you’re targeted enough and specific enough, personal enough in your initial, whatever the character limit is for you to send that message, you can definitely achieve great things. And people are willing to help.
[27:57] Sean: So, I’m going to ask you a potentially tough question, which is, you mentioned storytelling in your LinkedIn. I would love to hear, what is a story now? In the sense that, you started out as an auditor, right? You went into nonprofit. You went into commercial banking. What is the story arc of your life and career path now? And where do you see it leading you?
[28:24] Cassandra: Yeah, I love that question. And the first phrase that always comes to mind is the journey is a reward. And when I think of a story, and especially as it relates to life or career, it’s always zigzagged, and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always up and down. Of course, there’s going to be highs and lows. And right now, I would say I’m just getting started on the beginning of the story. I know I’ve been in 33 years of life at this point, but I know that there’s a lot still to look forward to. And of course, there’s going to be challenges ahead and different type of zigzags and highs and lows.
But where I see myself going is, actually, one of the things that made me reflect on a similar, it’s not the exact same question, but I recently watched a Netflix documentary on the centenarian and how to live until you’re 100. And it got me thinking about certain questions, like, when I’m older, what do I want to have accomplished in my story and in my life? What are those things I want to look back on and say, “I accomplished this, and I accomplished that?”
When you hear from people who live for that long, or just honestly, anyone who is older than me, the insights that they have… actually, it’s funny because I recently gave my parents a book to fill out to help them answer some of these questions, so I have it to future reference. But the stories that people tell when they’re older, you never hear someone say, “Oh, that time that I built that PowerPoint presentation or that time I built that Excel model,” it’s never those moments that people remember in the stories. It’s always the more human moments of a story and building that, to your point of why you started this whole podcast, of building that different connection with people.
There’s still so many people to meet. There’s so many places to go. There’s a lot of challenges left to overcome. I don’t even necessarily know what those are yet, but just like life, I’ll figure it out when it comes and then have to pivot accordingly. And I would say those human moments are the ones that really matter. And I try to not forget some of those things when I am stressed on the little things about work.
[30:48] Sean: Yeah.
[30:48] Cassandra: Where I’m like, “Okay, when I’m older, is this something that is going to have an impact?” And if I think I’m going to say yes, and I try to prioritize life according to that as well, because I think there can be, especially in America, a lot of pressure to, especially, after coming from the MBA and making the investment to have this sole focus on what’s a “successful career path,” but everyone’s success is defined differently. And it’s not just about career path. It’s outside of that. And even from the career, you can take away things that lead you to think about things that are non-career related. So, always keeping that in mind and prioritizing accordingly, because there’s always going to be stresses of life. But how you overcome them and those moments that bring you challenges, tears, crafts, any emotion are the ones that you remember.
[31:44] Sean: I love it. I’m curious, what kind of people would you like to meet? Maybe some listeners could reach out if you happen to have an idea. What kind of people would you like to meet for your path, going forward?
[31:56] Cassandra: I always love meeting people who have the almost the opposite and any type of extreme difference in background or perspective that I have, in order to understand it more. I think one of the biggest takeaways from the MBA, one that I didn’t even anticipate to come away with, was people always talked about the power of the network and the power of the people you meet at the MBA. But I actually, before Haas, didn’t know personally a lot of people from the military backgrounds.
And now, I have so many close friends who went through so many different experiences around the world. And I got to ask all the questions that, for me, were “silly questions.” But it forced me to understand and hear new perspectives and understand different types of challenges that people overcome, because ones that I only know my story and the people I talk to, and when you meet, not just people from the military, but there were two people who are close friends now from Kazakhstan in my class. And I had never knew any single person from Kazakhstan, and then now I have two friends from Kazakhstan. And just getting to ask questions about, what was it like growing up? And what’s different? One of the things that I did that I think I would say I was most proud about from my time at Haas was when COVID hit, similar to how you started this podcast, my way of doing that was going on walks. My goal was to go on a walk with almost as many people as I could for my class.
[33:37] Sean: Wow.
[33:38] Cassandra: And of course, it was limiting to people who ended up staying in a barrier, but I did do a couple of phone calls with people. But it’s this idea of just curiosity, because I wanted to stay connected and I would just wanted to understand people’s stories.
There was no agenda. And I literally took the spreadsheet that they sent us during week zero of all of our names. And I basically just did a system where I would reach out to different people. And almost every day or every other day, most days during the week, I would go on a walk with a different person, because it was free. It was an easy way to just talk to someone.
It got me out of the house during the pandemic. Luckily, we were in Berkeley where the weather cooperated. So, yeah, I got to hear some pretty crazy personal stories. And my perspectives completely changed from talking to people after doing that.
[34:35] Sean: I’m surprised. Is this a continuing tradition? I feel like you should start a Haas walks organization where this is just a thing. It makes so much sense. You got to pass this knowledge on.
[34:51] Cassandra: Yeah, I do it in a different way now, although, I do have several Haasies who live within, I would say, a couple blocks from me. So, it actually is easy and I do still go on walks with some people.
[35:04] Sean: That’s awesome.
[35:05] Cassandra: But yeah, I would say it’s an easy way to do it to this day. Because my class started 2019 and then we were impacted by a pandemic in 2020, we were given the opportunity for a COVID relief fund. So, our class was given money to organize different events in the different hubs for supporting building community. And so, being in the barrier where a lot of Haasies reside, I’ve had the opportunity to organize a lot of those events. And so, at those events, it’s nice to still keep that contact and community in place, which, in talking to other classes, it doesn’t seem as strong. So, I’m grateful for that opportunity that the school did provide that, because it keeps a lot of us close and does give the opportunity. Because I still remember going to some events. And we were still a relatively small class size, and some people would say, “Oh, I never knew this person was in our class.” So, it still happens once in a while, but it does give people to reconnect with new people when they want to.
[36:07] Sean: Love it. On the topic of community, bringing us back to Filipino culture, the Filipino diaspora is vast, with many Filipinos living abroad. I’m really curious how your family or how you, yourself, how do you think Filipino culture is preserved within your family? Or, how do you look to preserve it, as you build your own community and family in the future?
[36:34] Cassandra: Of course, there’s a lot of ways to preserve food, things like food. A lot of Filipino families have karaoke. It is funny because some of the career paths, I think my parents, outside of being a doctor, my parents probably would have been equally as satisfied if I became a famous singer.
But outside of, I would say, food and outside of things like the fun traditions like karaoke and things, one of my goals is language as well. But keeping the memories of people in my family. My dad actually recently did an exercise of the family tree, where he’d trace it back all the way. But looking at that family tree and seeing how different people came from different, survived different things, even going back to some of the wars that happened in the past and some of those crazy experiences that my parents had documented, I would say, always remembering… one of the things I’m cognizant of for my future family is making sure that they’re aware of where the family started and the history of the Philippines.
Because I do worry that, as time goes on, there will be less and less of it preserved. But I know I want to make a conscious effort to infuse it, at least on the educational component and, probably, just frequent visits back, making sure that people understand and meet the different family members at that point, whether it’s first cousins, second, third, anything, the opportunity to have some type of appreciation for the culture for our specific family and some of the values that my parents raised me with.
[38:30] Sean: That’s a great answer. Thank you for sharing that. Is there anything else that you want to talk about, Cassandra, that I did not ask you?
[38:39] Cassandra: I would say that, when you asked me that question about the story and, in the beginning, you read my LinkedIn post about the different career paths and how I talked a little bit about how I liked being more of the adventurer type, one thing when I thought about how proud I was for different moments, one of the things that stood out to me was on the transition. And the reason I’m sharing this is because I think, nowadays, I think it’s getting better. But a lot of companies, and I personally struggled with this, and I have classmates who still do as well, is on the making transitions and giving people opportunities, and exploring different type of mindsets.
So, as an example, I know, especially some of the bigger companies can be a little bit more stringent. They want a certain pedigree from a certain school. They want them to have all of XYZ experience. But if there’s one thing I learned from just working with so many different people and so many different types of personalities, if you have somebody who has strong work ethic, is passionate, and wants to learn, wants the job, I would hire that person any day over someone who had more of the technical skills on their resume and almost like the check-the-box.
I struggled with this a lot, which is actually one of the reasons why I ended up going to business school, because making the career transitions, it was a popular question that came up. And I do understand the reasons for those, but I just wanted to share that, because I know that people struggle. I’ve done so many coffee chats with people in, “How did you transition from this to this without that experience and prior experience?” But I’m hopeful that, going forward, people start to realize the value in people’s diversity of experiences and life experiences and not necessarily just that they’re coming from the industry that you want, the function that you want, have the certification that you want.
Encourage people to think bigger about, maybe, that person grew up in a completely different environment and can, while it might not be directly related, it’s definitely related and it will have impact in showing your work. Because those are the people who I work with. When I hear their stories and what motivates them, those are the people I love working with most.
[41:04] Sean: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. Resonates very well with our Haas values of being student always and beyond yourself. And I don’t think there’s one for work ethic, but there should be one. But no, I really couldn’t agree more. As you bring up that story of yourself, I went through the exact same thing. And it’s actually the same values that I’ve talked to my wife about wanting to impart on our kids above anything else, is, strong work ethic, curiosity, willingness to learn, and being compassionate, being caring, being beyond yourself. I think if you have those three traits, you will figure anything out.
[41:51] Cassandra: Yeah. All goes back to the Haas values.
[41:54] Sean: Yeah. So, that’s a really good message to share to end off things.
Well, thank you so much, Cassandra, for coming on the podcast. It was a pleasure having you.
[42:04] Cassandra: Awesome. Thanks so much, Sean. Happy to be here.
[42:11] Sean: Thanks again for tuning in to this episode of the OneHaas Podcast. If you enjoyed our show today, please 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.
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OneHaas Podcast is a production of the Haas School of Business and produced by University FM. Until next time, go Bears!