H@H: Ep 46 – On this episode of Here@Haas, Chloe Kauffman joins host Ray Guan to share her story of settling into the Bay Area. After spending her entire life in the Midwest, Chloe moved to Santa Clara county upon accepting a job at CISCO, and has been active with community events through mentoring students and working in foster care. Chloe has already extended her community leadership to Haas by becoming a social cohort rep & the upcoming EWMBAA EVP of Finance. She and the rest of the executive team hope to aid in a safe & smooth transition back to in-person learning.
How to stay connected during the pandemic – “I try every week to connect with someone who I haven’t had a one-on-one with before.”
“A way to combat (feeling disconnected) is reaching out to the network you have, whether that’s through work, friends, family…and also keeping in mind to do what works best for you.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Ray: I’m Ray Guan and this is here@haas. A student-run podcast of the Berkeley Haas community.
[00:00:06] Today, we’re joined by Chloe coffin, a business development manager at Cisco and an evening weekend student of the class of 2023. Chloe will be one of the executives of the incoming EWMBA class as an EVP of finance. Welcome to the podcast, Chloe.
[00:00:25] Chloe: Hey, Ray. I’m so excited to be here. I actually remember listening to this podcast back in January of this year, which is crazy to think about when I was applying, what are your, it is.
[00:00:36] Ray: Yeah, for sure. Why don’t you just start off by telling us about your story and your background?
[00:00:42] Chloe: So, I grew up in the suburbs north of Detroit in Michigan, which is actually coincidentally where I’m at right now. Just spending an extended holiday with my family due to COVID times. So, Michigan has a pretty automotive head of the area in the industry and that’s actually where I started to get this exposure into engineering and the possibilities of engineering. So, with that, I decided to go to Purdue, stay in the Midwest, and study electrical engineering. I was able to actually have some internship experience within the automotive industry. And while I was there, I really had to decide if I wanted to stay that route upon graduation or if I wanted to try something different. And throughout my experience there, I really loved the technology component of software and what technology can actually do. So, I took a bit of a leap of faith and accepted a job at Cisco, which brought me out to the Bay area in California, where I’ve been for the last five years.
[00:01:38] Ray: So, you mentioned that in Michigan and maybe the Midwest in general, automotive is the main industry. What drew you to tech?
[00:01:47] Ghost: So, while I was at GM, I actually had three different internship rotations and I kept wanting to get more exposure to the teams that actually worked on the obvious software components, like the infotainment system, for example. That was just, I think, it was just inherently an interest that I had and I’ll actually give this really silly anecdote.
[00:02:06] If we think back to even when I was in high school, which I feel wasn’t that long ago, but we didn’t have personal computers. There’s a family computer and we had a printer that was hooked up from the other room in the house and the way that the network-connected this computer over here to the printer that was in the other end of the house was, I was like, this is awesome.
[00:02:25] And actually what’s even funnier now is I work at a networking company. So, these components of how things can connect together and how technology can be used have just always foundationally been things that have piqued my interest and I tried to get as much exposure to that as I could while at automotive companies, but really the gist that I got from talking to a lot of different people while at those companies was like if you’re really interested in maybe the software components, this is not the industry that you want to be in, you should look towards companies that is their bread and butter. So, again, this goes back to just inherently always having that interest. And then having to decide how I was going to pursue that.
[00:03:05] Ray: Yeah, that’s so funny when you’re describing the story of connecting your computer to the printer, because I can relate, like growing up with my family, we had to connect them via long wires because sometimes the printer is upstairs and the computer is downstairs. Of course, now we have Bluetooth technology and it’s a lot more seamless. But it’s funny when you mentioned that, it just took me back a bit.
[00:03:32] Chloe: Absolutely. The technology of connection has gotten better, but I think the printers themselves are still, they’re still the pain point.
[00:03:40] Ray: So, I actually want to also touch upon one thing that you mentioned, which is moving out from Michigan to California for Cisco. How was that like?
[00:03:49] Chloe: I took a bit of a leap of faith coming, accepting the job at a company I didn’t have any experience in. And I think that at the time, I didn’t think too much of it.
[00:03:59] It was like I got this great job offer. It’s a really exciting position. I talked to the hiring manager. He told me all of these great things that I would be doing and it was like, that’s where the opportunity was. So, I was like, all right, I’m you know, I’m going.
[00:04:13] And how do you haul, drove across the country. And once I got to California, that’s when it really set in how far away I was and really how different the environment was.
[00:04:23] And it felt really like I was struggling for the first year or two to feel like I was a part of something beyond just the company that I worked at.
[00:04:34] And so this is where a lot of actually probably the theme that I’ll start to touch on quite a bit is the search that I had for the community in that time when I first started when I first moved out there, it was how do I start getting involved locally?
[00:04:47] I want this place to feel like I’m not just a transplant, which is the reputation you get when you’re not from the Bay area and you moved there. And I actually had a lot of people say to me, you probably will always feel that way until you have a family and you have kids that go to the school or something.
[00:05:00] And I was like, I honestly don’t think that has to be true. I think you can really feel connected to the area that you’re in just being the single person that lives there. And I think you really should strive for that, to be honest. So, that’s really where that kind of the search that I went on to start getting more involved locally, more involved with community efforts within Cisco, and then these community efforts now that I’m doing at Haas.
[00:05:26] Ray: Yeah, how did you originally develop an interest in giving back?
[00:05:26] Chloe: So, when I was in high school, getting this exposure to engineering and schools are a lot better about it now. They’re like, Oh, you’re good at math, you like physics, you should be an engineer. But I had this some of my softball team, her mom worked at GM in the powertrain facility actually in Pontiac.
[00:05:43] And she found out that I was thinking about engineering didn’t really know what it was and brought me to the powertrain facility, where they do the testing of the engines. And I just remember my like eyes being so big and seeing like all these computer screens and the engines being tested live and all of the metrics that were being spewed out.
[00:06:01] And they were showing me how the engines work and the whole design process. And I was just like, wow. And so, in college, it really dawned on me then that I would not have even thought of pursuing this degree path if it weren’t for this woman who had heard through the grapevine that I was considering it and decided to tell me and show me more about it.
[00:06:21] And take time out of her day to have me come to that facility. And so, I wanted at that point then to put a lot more effort into giving exposure to the STEM field to young students. So, I started doing that through university efforts through the Society of Women
Engineers in West Lafayette, Indiana.
[00:06:39] And so once I got to the Bay area, I was like, perfect. That’s bread and butter. I’ll start doing that again. So, I started doing this program called Citizen Schools where they bring in professionals to do a 10-week apprenticeship with students on really any topic. So, you could do dance, there’s chess for example, of course, I did scratch programming which gets people just thinking about programming, but actually being able to physically see a program gets run because it uses visual building blocks. So, it was a lot of fun. I also taught 3D printing as it was just this notion of being able to connect with students in low-income areas and get them exposure to STEM fields without them realizing that it’s not just math. So, that was my first venture into that realm. And then I wanted to start to get a little bit more focused on spending more one-on-one time with someone versus a whole classroom in a short span of time. And so that’s where I started to get involved with the foster care system of Santa Clara County. And I joined a program called Child Advocates, which is a national nonprofit that works with the foster care system.
[00:07:47] And they actually get what is called court-appointed special advocates, which is what I was to work with someone in the system to be their advocate and be a voice for them working alongside the social worker throughout their time as a part of the foster care system. So that was another way that I was able to break that barrier of feeling like I was in a bubble of not really feeling like a part of the community when right down the street, as someone is a school that needs professionals to come in and talk about experiences or someone in the foster care system who just needs a bit of guidance. And I think this all stems back a bit to, for me, always having someone at some point having done that for me to help me get to where I am now. So, that’s a little bit of my volunteer journey.
[00:08:32] Ray: What I’m hearing from the stories that you’ve told is that you’ve sought out structure with volunteering. It’s not just Hey, one week I’m going to do this and then the next, I’m going to do this. You basically kind of tied yourself to a program.
[00:08:45] And you’re like, okay, with this program, I’m able to do this. And I think it’s so great, the structure that you set for yourself on this journey because you want to be a part of certain functions of that community that makes you feel at home. And I think volunteering is just an amazing way to do that because as a 22-year-old moving to the Bay area without really any family, or maybe you don’t have at least as big of a social network as you had in Michigan and the Midwest, it’s really basic up to your own, right? Like it’s up to yourself to create that community. And I really like the way that you thought about doing that.
[00:09:27] Chloe: And I think one thing I would just add into this is if you think about your own past and how you got to where you are now, it’s just really contributing back to this positive feedback loop, right? Like you’re in this area where you can give just as someone gave to you at one point. So, I think that’s something, at least from my philosophy, that’s been really ingrained in myself.
[00:09:48] Ray: Yeah, there’s that famous, I think it’s like a Coke commercial where you just kinda pass the Coke around and you people make each other’s day. And so, thank you for doing that. I want to now pivot to, you know, you did engineering when you started at Cisco, how did you make that transition from engineering to where you are now, which is business development?
[00:10:12] Chloe: When I joined Cisco, I had a role called technical marketing engineering which actually marketing and engineering. It sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but a lot of tech companies have roles like this where there might be 10 different product managers that work on components of a product or a platform essentially.
[00:10:31] And there needs to be someone who’s able to tie all those pieces together from an explanatory perspective to customers and to the sales field and really a deep technology understanding perspective as well.
[00:10:45] I was traveling all over the world being able to do sales training essentially but also to these customer-facing events and to customer sites.
[00:10:54] But with that, I got exposure to this other side of the business which was because I was working on the programmability side where third parties could come in and develop off of our platform, this opened the realm to all of these other businesses that could build on top of us as a platform.
[00:11:10] And so I started to get really interested in that component, where is like, how can we have this expanded reach? And how can companies work with us and build these innovative solutions and something actually happens with that. So, I just got really interested in how that business side came into play with this component that was deeply technical.
[00:11:33] And I learned through those three years how much sales runs a company, how much customers, and the bottom line are really what are important. So, it seemed like that was an area that I wanted to understand more about in order to be more impactful at the end of the day and to really drive business for customers and being so customer-facing.
[00:11:56] I got so much joy, honestly, out of seeing customers solve their problems. And those problems that we’re talking about are connecting with each other. I worked on WebEx, which is obviously very topical right now. How are these companies been able to have remote experiences in a way that makes them productive and works for them?
[00:12:16] Ray: And so, I’m curious, Chloe, given that you’ve had a foot in both camps, what would you say are some skills that are needed in either, or those that are transferable?
[00:12:28] Chloe: Yeah. So, I would say, from starting in the engineering realm, this is actually something I talked to two new grad hires about a bit. Wherever you work from an engineering perspective, you need to understand where that fits into the bigger picture.
[00:12:41] And from an engineering perspective, I tell people if you can talk to a customer or at least sit in on a customer conversation because I think that context is just extremely impactful and it’s something I think we just don’t have it in our processes to allow for that to happen more often.
[00:13:00] So, that’s something I would definitely say from an engineering front, make sure you understand and make sure you go out and talk to customers and talk to sales and the people that are actually using what you built. And on the other side on the maybe sales and the more business side, it’s go and talk to the engineers.
[00:13:16] So, it’s like understanding both sides of what’s driving the business forward but also not to get put into a bucket of being non-technical or not being hands-on. Maybe go spend that extra effort to watch a demo, be able to talk to an engineer to show how something works. There’s usually a lot of internal learning resources so don’t let that hold you back.
[00:13:38] Ray: So, it’s kind of a two-way street there, because oftentimes the engineers they’ll focus on the soft skills or they’re recommended to, Hey, like communicate, Hey, build relationships. But I like your point, right? Cause you were mentioning it’s a two-way street because salespeople need to build those same types of relationships, need to make that a priority with the engineers in addition to the customers.
[00:14:01] Chloe: I’m all about perspective, that it can make you change how you approach things and being like my customer said right now, I need this. And then you understanding the constraints that the other team is set on. So, the perspective is just always immensely impactful.
[00:14:16] Ray: So, speaking of perspective, you’ve went from engineering to business development. At what point did you decide on considering an MBA and why did you pick Haas?
[00:14:29] Chloe: I think every time I tell it my answer, it’s always a little bit different. I really had this inkling that at five years of working that I was going to need something. And something to help propel me in the next way. And I was trying to decide really what that something was going to be.
[00:14:48] I was able to go to Grace Hopper convention actually, which is a women in computing conference. And I was surrounded by all women, which doesn’t happen very often in the tech world first of all. And all of these really informative sessions ranging from the technical side to going to grad school to how to make a mid-career change.
[00:15:13] And I went to this conference leaving so invigorated and one of my big takeaways from that was really submerging myself around people that brought different perspectives that have this different background, was something that I could learn so much from. And so, I knew it needed, it’d be something like that. And that’s where really MBA started to be a lot more attractive to me.
[00:15:39] But at the same time, I was honestly, I’ve been so fortunate at Cisco. I’ve had such great roles and such great managers that I did not want to leave. I felt that there was more value that I could extract from the connections that I’ve made and really the reputation I’ve built for myself and so that’s where part-time programs started to come into the mix. I started to really spend more time focusing on Haas and learning more about it, talking to students and talking to alumni and I think I’m going to reiterate the sentiment that a lot of people on this podcast and a lot of people that you talked about at Haas would say that those values are really reflected. I think in the people that you meet and how that they carry themselves and really the initiatives that they drive forward and as I’ve told you, community and giving back is really important to me. And that’s where beyond yourself really comes into play in multiple different facets. And being with people who want to be inclusive and want to share and Haas just, it seems like the perfect fit. And so, I went for it, that was the only school I applied to. That’s just like undergrad, the only school I applied to.
[00:16:47] Ray: Right. No, that’s a good point. I think Haas is one of the few schools that has these defining leadership principles. Right? You mentioned beyond yourself. You know you can really see it and experience it even on a campus visit.
[00:17:02] When you visit Haas, and I’m speaking from my experience, you can go to a classroom and then during their breaks, or even after class, I got invited to have lunch with the students, and they’re so willing to volunteer their time to help answer your questions.
[00:17:20] Moving on, now you are a first-year student., you’ve just finished up your first semester now at Haas. How was it like starting this part-time MBA program during this pandemic of a year?
[00:17:32] Chloe: So, I think we all had different thoughts going into the start of this year, but everyone has been able to adapt so well from the way that the program’s been offered to the mindset that the students have and, you know, in some ways there’s positives along with this. So, this adoption of these collaboration tools makes setting meetings and hopping on a Zoom call the norm now.
[00:17:57] And so you can connect with more people quicker and a different capacity and we’ve really been able to adopt that in a great way. I think, actually, I had a goal starting with WeLaunch, which is the kickoff week, which had to be virtual. Of course, that was not what was expected either.
[00:18:12] But that every day I was gonna meet someone and connect with them again later. and I even have carried that through now where I make sure I try every week to connect with someone who I haven’t had a one-on-one with before.
[00:18:25] Chloe: No, I would say the one concern that I do have is that we don’t know what we’re missing. Cause we haven’t experienced it. So, it’s like I dunno, maybe a double-edged sword where we’re like, yeah, we’re really able to make the most of it but we still haven’t had, I mean, the in-person experiences are still so important.
[00:18:42] Ray: Yeah, very well said. And it seems like you’ve carried that mindset with you so much so that you applied and got to be the EVP of finance for the EWMBAA. What prompted you to apply?
[00:18:59] Chloe: Yeah. There’s social cohort reps and academic cohort reps for your cohort when you first start off in the first year. And the academic ones are applied positions, and that’s actually been really crucial with this virtual environment to adapt to how these new tools are making sure that people having trouble with online quizzes, all that good stuff. And the other one is more fun one, maybe less intense, is the social cohort reps and they’re actually they’re applied to positions as well, but you’re voted on by your cohort. And so, during WeLaunch, there’s all these activities we were doing like spiritual scavenger hunt and stuff.
[00:19:36] And I don’t know if maybe I just had a down week at work. I really don’t even remember fully but I was so into it that. I was like messaging everyone. I was helping organize our chant coordination. And there was a group of people. So, I do not take full credit at all, but I was really excited and into all of it. And after it was and we won, by the way, acts was the winner of….
[00:19:57] Ray: That’s right. Two years in a row now.
[00:20:00] Chloe: Yeah, yes. Which is awesome. I know Ray is also an act cohort. And after it was all over, it was so fun, a couple of people messaged me and were like, I really hope that you’re going to apply for social cohort rep.
[00:20:13] And I was like, Oh man, I don’t know. We just started, I really don’t want to get apply for something and then I don’t get voted for, just set the tone for my entire MBA like the first thing is the popularity contest. But so, I actually went ahead and submitted my application and ended up getting voted on.
[00:20:29] And so this was my first entrance into getting involved with the programs office because we would meet monthly, we meet monthly with them to talk about ideas, what we’ve been doing, how we’ve been able to foster inclusion, what kind of events have we put on and what are pain points that we’re seeing.
[00:20:47] And so we’re helping be a voice in a lot of ways for our cohorts in our first-year class. And I then went to the EWMBAA info session. And like I was a little confused. When we first started, people would join these calls and be like, I’m the VP of blah, blah, blah, VP. And I was like, everyone is the VP.
[00:21:08] And I was like, Oh, it makes sense. It’s a business school, but I didn’t really understand the structure of where the VPs were coming from. And so, I went to this info session that’s where I learned about it’s essentially, I would equate it to student government role where there’s these executives.
[00:21:23] Of course we use the word executive as like a business model but there’s the EVPs are the executive president vice presidents, and then, they then have VPs that cover all of these different components that is important for the MBA, the EW program. So, I learned about the structure and how it’s essentially the similar type of position as the cohort reps and being that face of the programs office and connection to the student voice, but for the entire EW program and with the situation that we’re in now, it just presented itself as such an opportunity to really step up and, you know, be someone who listens and also be someone who helps to solve the problems and not just, maybe complain about them.
[00:22:09] Ray: With that being said, what do you and some of the other executives hope to accomplish in the next year for the EWMBA?
[00:22:19] Chloe: So, our biggest one is returned to campus safely. So, if that becomes an option in 2021, we want to be a part of ensuring that transition is something that happens in an informed manner, that happens in the safest manner, and be able to facilitate the best way that we can, as I said, representing the student body as much as we can with when those decisions are made and how they’re made. So that’s really something that’s top of mind for 2021. Obviously, that dependent on circumstances. But through the year, regardless of how, wherever we end up, we really want to push initiatives that allow for connections and new and innovative ways.
[00:23:00] Ray: Yeah. Your point on working with the program office is very important in that I feel like we’re all aligned, right? We all want to be back on campus as soon as safely possible, it’s just like, how can we accomplish that? What steps should we take? Cause this isn’t like a light switch, right?
[00:23:17] Like we flip the switch off because we had a shelter in place, but to go back to normal, you can’t just flip a switch on. And so, I’m glad that hopefully you and the others on the executive team can really help us out with that. We like to wrap up this interview with some lightning round questions, and these are typically just pretty quick. Sometimes they could be yes, no answers, but usually it’s just some quick question and answer. First, what positions did you play in softball?
[00:23:49] Chloe: I love that. I played center field actually. So, I was a four-year varsity starter. It was funny. I never talk about my high school athletic career, but you know, I was a freshman on the team and I had played second base in shortstop prior to that. But of course, there was upperclassmen who have those positions, so they put me in the outfield, and then the senior who was in the center field got appendicitis.
[00:24:11] And so they moved me into center field, and then it became my position ever since then. I think my senior year, I had no errors the whole year and so, love, love, softball. Love that field.
[00:24:23] Ray: For sure. And the center field, that’s like a premium position, like usually center field shortstop are the two premium positions, so way to go.
[00:24:32] Chloe: Thank you.
[00:24:33] Ray: Next question. Uh, what is a book or podcast recommendation you have for us?
[00:24:38] Chloe: You know, I hope this doesn’t come off as annoying businessy, but I was subscribed to Bloomberg Businessweek magazine for a year. And it was honestly the amazing insights and a really enjoyable read. So, I really Bloomberg Businessweek magazine, great magazine.
[00:24:53] Ray: I think that Haas computer lab actually has computers with Bloomberg subscriptions. So, once you guys and we all are able to come back to campus you may be able to get that without paying for it.
[00:25:05] Chloe: Great to know.
[00:25:06] Ray: And then what is a habit that you picked up during the quarantine?
[00:25:09] Chloe: I, along with probably half of the people who are stuck inside have gained the quarantine 15 is what I like to call it, but I’ve been doing so much cooking. So, that’s been a real enjoyable way to unwind. And I’ve been trying all these different dishes and you know….
[00:25:25] Ray: Your favorite one?
[00:25:27] Chloe: Oh, gosh, I knew you were going to say that. So, I made actually something I tried was making homemade ravioli. So, the actual dough I bought on an Amazon, a pasta roller, which is actually a ton of work. You got to roll at several times to get it to a very thin level. And it was like a butternut squash filling with this kind of buttery glaze on top.
[00:25:49] And that was the first time I’ve ever made pasta. And it was amazing. And I guess what you can do. I haven’t made it sense cause it was a ton of work, but someone gave me a tip that if you make a bunch of them, then you can freeze them, the ravioli, and then you can eat them as you want after that. So, they stay fresher.
[00:26:04] Ray: And it sounds like it’s pretty cost-efficient because you can make a big bunch, a big batch, and then eat them, but maybe not have the leftovers taste with that.
[00:26:14] Chloe: Yes, exactly. If you want to do it once a week, it’s more enjoyable that way.
[00:26:19] Ray: So, I just want to end with one final question, which is around the theme of community, because we’ve touched upon that quite a bit earlier in these unsettled times. What recommendation would you give to someone who is trying to build a community?
[00:26:36] Chloe: So, with knowing that a lot of us are feeling this kind of disconnect or feeling this isolation and not feeling as connected and ways that they would be if they were in person, a way to combat that, which is what I’ve done, is really reaching out to the network that you have, whether that’s through work, whether that’s through your friends, whether that’s through your family. And also, just keeping in mind that you really do what works best for you. I think there was this kind of pressure early on in quarantine, or just what are you going to do to better yourself?
[00:27:09] And listen, it’s a stressful time right now and if you can at least build a relationship or connection with someone in your network through work or what have you mentorship, that is perfectly okay. And that’s actually probably an amazing outcome that you could, that you can have.
[00:27:27] Ray: I think that’s great. And small goals instead of shooting for the moon per se.
[00:27:31] Chloe: Absolutely. Absolutely.
[00:27:34] Ray: Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today, Chloe.
[00:27:37] Chloe: Thank you so much for having me, Ray.