H@H: Ep 56 – Graham Haydon sits down with Paulina Lee to share his journey from West Point to Haas. Graham also has a masters in Energy Policy & Climate and shares a defining moment in his army career that solidified his passion for clean tech energy.
How Graham’s military experience helps ground him during stressful times – “I think when it comes to dealing with these deadlines and dealing with classwork and dealing with group projects, I think my benefit is that, my first job was waking up and wondering if any of my friends had got shot down in Afghanistan overnight. And so anything that is less stressful than that is like a very good day for me. And that is my barometer of how stressful a day is.”
Graham’s advice for incoming Haasies – “Be your authentic self and come with your experiences and be able to share them and relate to people. And then second advice I have for anyone coming to Haas: I would just say have fun. Haas is a great place to be and if you’re lucky enough to come here, it should be a chance for you to explore and try new things. So just have fun with it.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Paulina Lee: I’m Paulina Lee, and this is here@haas. A student-run podcast connecting you to all Haasies and the faculty that changed our lives. This week on here@haas, we are joined by Graham Haydon, full-time MBA class of 2022, army veteran, and Launch co-chair. Welcome to the show, Graham.
[00:00:20] Graham Haydon: Hey, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
[00:00:22] Paulina Lee: We’re excited to have you. How’s your week going so far?
[00:00:25] Graham Haydon: It’s going really well. We’ve got some beautiful Bay weather today. So, it’s been a good day.
[00:00:30] Paulina Lee: So true. It’s like summer weather, but I guess regular summer weather in the Bay area, since San Francisco summer weather, it’s just foggy. Well, let’s dig into it. You’ve had a really interesting path to Haas, which started after your undergrad. Tell us about your journey from West Point to Haas.
[00:00:49] Graham Haydon: So, I graduated from West Point, coming up on six years now, which is hard to believe for me in 2015. And I commissioned as an intelligence officer in the army. The first thing I did after I graduated was go to my initial officer training course down at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, in Sierra Vista, about 15 miles from Mexico.
[00:01:06] So way down South, I was there for about six months. And then I went to Fort Carson, Colorado. My first unit there, where I was with the fourth combat aviation brigade, I got there in January of 2016 and then the left February on my first deployment to Afghanistan. I was there for about six months over the summer of 2016.
[00:01:25] I came back to Fort Carson, Colorado, then went to Europe. I was in Germany and Poland for a little bit, doing a mission called operation Atlantic resolve, building native support to counter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Came back from Europe, was in Colorado for about eight months, training up to go back to Afghanistan, and then in spring of 2018, went back to Kandahar, Afghanistan, for the second time. And was there for about six months again in the summer of 2018. Came home to Colorado. And then, in 2019, went to Arizona, and I was in Arizona for about 15 months before going to Haas. Doing some army modernization and capability development work there.
[00:02:02] So prepping the army to prepare for its future engagements and in enhancing its technological capabilities there. So, I’m happy to talk about any of that. And then came here to Haas. I’m pretty involved in launch. I’m one of the co-chairs, along with my good friend, Eileen. And all the other teammates that we have at the program, which are, they’re all excellent.
[00:02:21] And I’m hoping to try and figure out what I want to do, but I think I’ve narrowed down my career interests to be something in the electric vehicle space, somewhere in that industry. I’m trying to figure that out right now, but that’s where I’m at right now. That’s how I came to Haas, and that’s what I’m looking forward to in the future.
[00:02:35] Paulina Lee: I guess, to step back to. In order to apply to West Point, you have to have a letter from a Senator or letter from government, right? So, I’m curious, what drew you to West Point and what was the process there?
[00:02:49] Graham Haydon: So, growing up, I think I witnessed the things that were going on in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US’s involvement over there. I don’t know if I, I don’t think I agree with it politically or that it was a wise foreign policy decision or meant necessarily good for the people of either of those countries.
[00:03:03] But it was something that it seemed that the country was going through at the time that all of America was very concerned with what was happening overseas. It seemed like the thing, I guess, to use a lack of a better term than that was happening. And I wanted to be involved in that. In some capacity, maybe that’d be a positive influence or maybe just to see it for myself.
[00:03:20] And so that was really the draw, be able to serve, being able to provide, be a positive influence, being able to be aware where the action was at the time that was a main driver for me wanting to join the military. And then West Point was, I think to me, the obvious choice because of the reputation that it has, the historical legacy, and the importance that has had for the nation.
[00:03:37] It was an honor to go there. It really was. The application process itself, like you were saying, every cadet who has to get in has to be nominated either by a Senator, a Congressman, Vice-president, or the President. And you have to; I think each one of them can nominate 10 people per year to the academies.
[00:03:54] So, depending on your congressional districts, sometimes they are more or less competitive. The districts that have a lot of West Point representation, there maybe 20 to 30 students applying for the 10 spots. I think in my district, there were maybe 12 or 13 applying for the 10 spots. And I was fortunate enough to get the offer from Congressman Jim Gerlach at the time.
[00:04:12] Which was pretty interesting because he was later the one to call me up in the spring and let me know that I’d been accepted to West Point, which was a pretty cool experience. Cause I was a 17-year-old kid getting called by a Congressman to say congrats on going to college. I didn’t; I don’t think I expected that.
[00:04:26] Paulina Lee: The rest of us just got emails or letters.
[00:04:30] Graham Haydon: Yeah.
[00:04:30] Paulina Lee: So, after West Point, you share, very brief synopsis of your time in the army. Tell me a little bit more about going abroad. So, you were in Germany and Poland. What were the most surprising things when you were over there, and what did you learn in your roles out there?
[00:04:46] Graham Haydon: So, we were dealing with operation Atlantic resolve. It was interesting to me being an army guy. I had just come back to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Two or three months before I went over to Germany. And in Kandahar is very military-focused. It was a military operation going on.
[00:04:59] So every day. Helicopters, soldiers with guns, the typical army experience, and then going to Europe, I saw at least at the level that I was at. I saw more of the whole of government approach to how the US was trying to push back against Russian aggression in the region. I was working for the one-star general in charge of; he was basically overseeing all the rotational troops that come into Europe over the summer and do training exercises with their NATO allies.
[00:05:25] And part of my job was I would get him to different embassies and have them him go to into meetings and try and build this sort of sense of cooperation among our Polish partners or our Lithuania partners or whoever the case was at the time. And I learned a lot about the sheer amount of meetings and talking and coalitions and building that has to go into making these exercises work.
[00:05:45] It’s at that level, it’s very much being able to be an influence and being able to convince people to think a certain way. And being able to do that cross-culturally with people who don’t speak your language, people who have to think about their own countries and their own political needs.
[00:05:59] It was a fascinating, really look at the levels of high-level planning and leadership that takes to pull off these major exercises and try and build a real sense of coalition. If you’re facing down Russian aggression or doing anything when it comes to international relations or international politics.
[00:06:13] Paulina Lee: You did two tours in Afghanistan as well, right? Are you able to talk about what that experience was like? And I guess what was most surprising to you since you called it out as the middle east as one of the reasons that you decided to go to West Point. I’m so curious how that experience was like.
[00:06:30] Graham Haydon: I was fortunate. I mentioned this earlier that I was an intelligence officer in the army. And so, my experience, I think, gave me more diverse deployments than a lot of my peers may have had. My first deployment, I was with an aviation unit, a helicopter unit.
[00:06:45] And part of my job, I was analyzing the threats of that would go on for any flights that we were doing in combat. Basically, over the summer of 2016, our aircrews would pick up US special forces and their Afghan commando counterparts. We’d fly to a village that they had designated that location they want to get to go to, they drop off the commanders. They drop off the special forces troops, and they’d go and try and clear out any Taliban, find any weapons, find any homemade explosives. And then we’d pick them up and take them back. And my role was just to analyze while they’re flying, what’s the best way for them to fly there without getting shot down when they land on the ground.
[00:07:19] And what are they likely to take fire from? What sort of weapon systems do you think they’ll see, things like that. I consider that this might be my military brain talking. It was a defensive job for me. I consider it a defensive because I was not hunting dudes. I was not doing anything like that.
[00:07:35] I was just trying to make sure that aircrews that were landing on the ground were going to do it safely, and there they would fly back home. It was kind of a weird job because a lot of times, I’d brief the crews I’d go in, six or seven o’clock at night before they would fly out. I talked to the GRI break commander, who was going out there.
[00:07:52] I talked to the pilots and the crew chiefs who were flying the missions, and then my shift would end, and I wouldn’t do a change overbrief, and I’d go to bed, and I’d wake up in the morning at 7:00 AM. And then my first thought would always be like. I hope none of my friends got shot down, and I’d go into the office, and first thing is, “how did it go last night?”. And most of the time, it was very good and nothing to worry about. But on the rare occasion, something bad happened, it stressed you out. And then my second deployment was offensive-oriented. I was a targeting officer.
[00:08:18] And so worked more hand in hand with the special forces teams, designating the picking the compounds and picking the people that, that I thought would have the best influence if we went out and targeted them on overnight missions and things like that. I think the key takeaway it was going twice exposed me to a lot of the ineffectiveness.
[00:08:38] I think of what’s going on, at least in Afghanistan. Yeah. I mean, and in fact, it, because a lot of the places that I went to, we were doing missions in 2016. We did them again in 2018. Some of the big names that we were worried about in 2016, we didn’t always see the same names, but there, it was the same roles, and same sort of stuff was happening in 2018.
[00:08:56] The rhythm has really been established, and it doesn’t seem like there’s going to be any sort of military breakthrough in terms of defeating the Taliban. It’s going to be a diplomatic come-to-the-table moment at the end of the day. Is that best for the Afghan people? I don’t really know,
[00:09:08] Paulina Lee: So, in 2017, you started a master’s at Johns Hopkins.
[00:09:13] Graham Haydon: I did.
[00:09:14] Paulina Lee: Tell me a little bit about that. Why did you decide to do a master’s in policy at Johns Hopkins?
[00:09:19] Graham Haydon: I had known climate change was a big deal, and it was something that was important to me. And I think I could see the writing on the wall that energy use was going to be the next big thing, similar in some sort of vein of how the Middle East and foreign policy was the big thing that was going on in my youth.
[00:09:34] I saw the transition to clean renewable energy and the changing grid, the changing technologies, the big thing that was going to happen in the latter part of the 21st century. I thought for a while that policy would be the best way to go about it. If we had enough people that knew about carbon taxes or if we had enough people that knew how to make good legislation that would support solar panels, that that would be a way that I can be a positive influence on that sphere.
[00:09:57] Really happy. I went through the program. I think I learned a lot. I think I really get up, got a better understanding of clean energy and the political ramifications of it. It did dishearten me because I felt like every time I’d go through a class, or I’d write a paper or something, I would read and see that, wow, we have been talking about these policies. We’ve been talking about these things that we know that we have to do for 10, 20, 30 years, and it’s not happening. There’s just not; it’s a political fight that’s not really being won. Even though there’s plenty of advocates, people smarter than I am who have been fighting for this for a while.
[00:10:27] And so it made me do a re-evaluation of how I wanted to be an influencer in that space. And so, I started to think about what I would do if I didn’t want to get into policy. If policy was not the most effective way of bringing about change. And I thought that maybe business would be about the better way to do it, to find an industry that was on the cutting edge of revolutionary revolutionizing some sort of technology.
[00:10:48] And that’s where I’m leaning right now is looking at electric vehicles and figuring out if this space is the right space for me, where I can be a value add to some sort of organization. And then also, figuring out what industry, if it’s not EVs, where else would I want to make the most impact in this, in this fight against climate change?
[00:11:06] Paulina Lee: Along that realm, you had a really impressive career in the military. What made you want to leave and go to business school or make that pivot?
[00:11:14] Graham Haydon: The army is a lot of fun sometimes, but it’s also a lot of work other times. It looks like you can pick up, you know, two trips to Afghanistan and a trip to Europe over the course of three years. I was not home very often. I was dating but not really doing it very well because I was moving around a lot.
[00:11:29] And I knew that like at some point, I wanted to be more serious in when it came to my personal life. And I just couldn’t find that that opportunity in the military. I think I would’ve stayed. I would’ve stayed in the military for certain jobs or certain units. But in order to get to those units, a lot of times you have to stay in about eight years, go through something called your key development jobs.
[00:11:48] I didn’t want to wait that long. I knew that there was a chance that I would try and apply for these cool units or these cool schools, and I wouldn’t get it, and I’d be unhappy or dissatisfied. And I said you know what? I want a little bit more control of my life. I think it’s time for me to move on.
[00:12:01] And, hindsight being what it is. I’m happy with my decision so far. I’m enjoying my time at Haas. I’m excited about the future. And I, I feel like there’s a lot of possibilities that I get to explore in the next couple of years. I’m excited for that. And it’s been good. It’s been very good for me so far.
[00:12:15] Paulina Lee: Oh, that’s great to hear. How did you pick Haas? Did you apply to other schools as well?
[00:12:19] Graham Haydon: I thought about going to law school for a little bit, actually. And then, kind of like with that, that policy impact discussion that we just had, I realized that it wasn’t necessarily the place that I thought I could be the most effective. For business schools, I got into Ross and Haas. And then it just came down to cultural fit. I felt like I fit into the culture of Haas a little bit better. I like the entrepreneurial mindset. I liked being in the Bay. I liked, you know, the weather, the people. It seemed like it fit me and fit what I wanted to do in the future.
[00:12:45] Paulina Lee: And you started while we were still in the midst of the pending. What was that like? Starting your MBA full-time in fall 2020?
[00:12:54] Graham Haydon: It was interesting because visiting Haas and applying and writing the resumes and imagining myself at Haas. That all happened over the course of August, September, December, January. And so, my vision of what it was going to be like was very much like an in-person kind of focus.
[00:13:08] And then March came, the pandemic hit. For the first couple of weeks, I was like, things will calm down over the summer. It’ll be just fine. And then we’ll go in the fall. And over the summer, I said, we started to realize like, okay, this is definitely going to be virtual.
[00:13:20] It’s definitely going to be different. There’s going to be weird. And then here we are. I think I knew by August when they told us it was going to be virtual, that it was going to be virtual for the whole first year. I think I knew that. It’s tough to compare this to what it like, what it could be, or what it should be because I only saw the brochure.
[00:13:36] I only talked to people when I get to hear a second year’s experiences. For us, though, as a class, I really do think that we’ve done a good job of trying to build bonds to build this kind of network and community of people that care about each other and have gotten to know each other at a personal level.
[00:13:49] Most of my classes are living here in the Berkeley area. So, we’ve had a lot of outdoor, socially distanced kind of gatherings. People have networked and gotten to know each other at a personal level. And I think that’s really what is important.
[00:14:00] It’s, it’s definitely a case of you have to make the effort to reach out, meet people. You can’t just run into them on the quad or in the class and say hi. You have to ask them to get coffee with you. You have to ask them to come and hang out. And if you are active and willing to do that, it pays off, and there’s, there’s a reward for it.
[00:14:16] So that’s, that’s been my experience at least is I think you really have to reach out and try and make it happen yourself. And those that are doing that or are seeing it be worthwhile. And I’ve talked to other classmates who might not be doing it as much and are it’s tough for them. They don’t feel like it’s what they thought it would be. And that’s totally understandable as well.
[00:14:32] Paulina Lee: I feel like the pandemic has forced us to be much more intentional and, I guess in a cold way, like tactical and how we form our networks and how we’re meeting classmates. Yeah. Because to your point, you’re not going to just run into someone on the quad, run into someone at a bar. You actually have to reach out; plan it.
[00:14:50] Well, you’re one semester and change in. Do you think, as you’ve gone through your first set of classes and met different classmates, how has your military background set you apart?
[00:15:01] Graham Haydon: Interesting question. In terms of academics, I don’t think the academics are outside the scope of my abilities. I often find that I don’t have the experiences in a lot of these classes to contribute meaningful discussions. So marketing was a thing like it was a class where I just couldn’t quite participate to the full extent, same with finance.
[00:15:20] Outside of those experiences, though, I think when it comes to dealing with these deadlines and dealing with classwork and dealing with group projects, I think my benefit is that my first job was waking up and wondering if any of my friends had got shot down in Afghanistan overnight.
[00:15:35] And so, anything that is less stressful than that is like a very good day for me. And that is my barometer, my measure of how stressful a day is. And I think that’s a perspective that is kind of useful and every now and again, I’ll be dealing with a group project or with, you know, a team of, of other students and every so often someone will get a little bit stressed out. And I think I have a good ability to put things in perspective and, with a smile, drive on and find a solution without making things too stressed out or too personal. That’s what I bring.
[00:16:04] Paulina Lee: That’s a great point. I mean, we all get wrapped up in our own little stressors, whether it’s work or personal, but when you add in that context, of is more likely to die. I mean, at the end of the day, most likely from a group project deadline. No.
[00:16:19] Graham Haydon: No. Yeah.
[00:16:21] Paulina Lee: So, just taking that breath and taking a step back and putting it into context is always really good. I would love to dig into launch a little bit. That’s how our paths crossed. So, you’re currently co-chair of launch, which is UC startup accelerator. Tell us a little bit more about launch for those who don’t know and how you got involved.
[00:16:41] Graham Haydon: So, launch is the university of California is leading accelerator. It is not just confined to UC Berkeley. It’s open to all the UC system, which we’re super, super proud of. And it’s, it’s definitely an exciting time to be part of it. What we do is we take about 20 to 30 companies per year, and we take them through an educational program where we have these startups and these entrepreneurs meet with their mentors.
[00:17:03] We pair them with mentors in the industries that they’re kind of working in, and we help them prepare their pitch decks. We help them develop their business model canvas. We help them develop their product-market fit. And get them ready so that they’re able to go on to talk to VCs and either get funding or maybe go to other accelerators and get more money, but prepare them for the next future. In entrepreneurship, we try and launch them to use the word into, into the next level. So, this year we have 26 teams within our cohort. You guys are obviously one of them. We have a really good team of students who are involved in the program. It’s been awesome working with all of them. All of them bring so much knowledge.
[00:17:35] I’m consistently impressed with not just the MBAs that are involved but also the undergrad students who are involved in doing a lot of the work behind the scenes. It really, it takes a lot of effort. And hopefully, on the team side, it seems smooth. It seems kind of effortless, but in the back, it’s definitely a lot of late-night meetings and emails and stuff.
[00:17:50] And just being able to be a part of that. It’s been a lot of fun. I got in because Vera and Manny, who were the two previous co-chairs, put out the Slack message, looking for volunteers. And I, I knew that I wanted to be involved at somewhere in the entrepreneurial space, and it seemed like a good intersection between VC, between startups and would expose me as an amateur to the broader system, how this works and get a bird’s eye view of the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in the Bay and in Berkeley. So, it’s been a good experience for me so far, and I’m happy to be a part of the team.
[00:18:16] Paulina Lee: What surprised you most now, as co-chair leading through this first cohort?
[00:18:21] Graham Haydon: I think the most surprising thing is that it’s really a lot of work behind the scenes of just making sure that we’re designing a program that is as beneficial to startups. We deliberately took on teams, and on, we took on companies that were in different stages of development. So, we have some that are very, very early, who are kind of still working out their prototype.
[00:18:39] And we have others that have had a successful prototype. And now they’re kind of tailoring it to a post COVID world. And so being able to build a program and build a cohort and a team identity around all of these people who have very different experiences, very different backgrounds, very different products is, is trickier than I think I thought.
[00:18:55] And it’s takes a very engaged community innovate, engage leadership to make sure that we are building this kind of family and network for these teams and making sure that they are happy and successful.
[00:19:07] Paulina Lee: and then I’m curious, so obviously it’s not the first year that we’ve done launch as you and the team took on launch for this year, being pushed and launched to reiterate and continue to change on the idea. What new ideas have you guys brought to the table around the program? Or what were you most excited to bring or refresh this year?
[00:19:30] Graham Haydon: So, one of our, one of the launch teammates, Jake, had had a very good idea, and we’re still hashing it out. And so, we’ve had launched on, and password was a two-day kind of get together.
[00:19:38] Hackathon Bootcamp for launch. From what people have been telling us they had tried it earlier in previous cohorts virtually, they weren’t getting out of it, what they thought they were going to get out of it. And Jake had this really good idea to say, “Hey, maybe instead of like a devoted experience like that, we bring in some undergrads and MBA students and partner them with these, these companies and give them a chance to find the talent that’s in the UC system and apply it to maybe a problem that they haven’t been able to solve, or maybe some work that they just don’t have the skills or the employees to accomplish themselves.” So, not quite a full internship because it’s, we’re designing it for maybe a couple of hours or two days.
[00:20:14] But a chance just to like open up the open up UC to these companies, that for a lot of them who have been out of the college system for a long, long time that’s something that I think is you know, Jay came up with it. I think it’s a really good idea. And I’m, I’m excited to kind of explore this and figure out exactly how we’re going to tailor it and make it work. But being able to offer these students a chance to see what startups are like, for a lot of these kids, it’s their first jobs or their first time working for real adult companies. And then also for the companies to get exposure to kind of this special skill set that a lot of these students have. It’s a unique opportunity, and I’m hoping that it works out pretty well.
[00:20:49] Paulina Lee: Yeah, I’m excited to see that come to life. I think you’re right. I mean, that’s one thing that’s great about launch is that you do have undergrads, graduates, alumni all participating. And so, I believe on our first call, I don’t know who first started the trend, but at the end of someone’s pitch, they were like, I need help with X, Y, and Z.
[00:21:09] And then every subsequent pitch was like, I also need help with X, Y, and Z., so it’s true. I mean, all the companies who have presented, there’s so many impressive different teams, and we all need a little help in different areas. So, it’ll be cool to see what you guys come up with. You’re also a consultant with Berkeley innovation solutions consulting. I’m not too familiar with the group. So, tell me about the consulting group and what you do with them.
[00:21:34] Graham Haydon: It’s colloquially known as BIS around here. And so, BIS it’s a, it’s a Berkeley program associated with, with UC Berkeley, where students, I believe only MBA students partner with local companies who have some sort of business needs that they need met and kind of provide an, an outside set of eyes and an outside perspective for them.
[00:21:50] I think it’s also; I think it is via Burke, which is the Berkeley energy resources collaboration that BIS falls under. So, my team, we, there was a group of five of us or so so, material science, Ph.D. students, I think we had a public policy student as well, me and there was another MBA on our team.
[00:22:08] We consulted with a company called Extensible Energy, which is based in Oakland, California Extensible’s business model was that for, for companies that have solar panels on their roofs. You can install their software demand X and use that to adjust your energy usage and energy consumption in time with your peak solar production hours.
[00:22:28] And you can cut down your energy bill that way and save a lot of money by, by making your energy use more efficient. And so, what we looked at for them, we looked at the best way for them to kind of find new customers. They had been partnering with solar developers and solar installers in the area. So, if a solar installer went to, you know, a Walmart and was putting solar panels on the roof, they would say, “Hey, you know, by the way, there’s demand X, Extensible Energy, would you be interested?” And we had to look at what’s the best way to break in into new markets for them, which was a cool; this is a cool project for me.
[00:22:57] It was my first real exposure to like a real-life energy company. And it was cool to see it’s also an energy startup. So, it was cool to see like a small startup in energy, focusing on these unique problems and trying to develop Market solutions and figure out the best way to market their product. That was a good exposure for me just to figure out like, wow, like, what do I like about this? What do I not like about this? Is this the kind of a career path that I want to go down. And I’m super happy that I got the exposure via BIS. It was something I don’t think I would’ve been able to get. Otherwise, I would never have heard about extensible energy. Would’ve never heard about, you know, any of this stuff. If had I not been in the program.
[00:23:30] Paulina Lee: So, what type of work have you been able to do with them in terms of like consulting?
[00:23:34] Graham Haydon: We had a lot of phone calls with people in the energy industry and figuring out who is the best, what is the best way for extensible energy to sell their product? We talked a lot in the finance years of these energy projects and figured out if it made sense to talk to either the finance years of these projects, where the project developers themselves or the consumers of the energy themselves. And just going through that, the whole cycle of all the people involved in installing solar panels on commercial and industrial buildings was, was interesting because there’s so many people that it takes to make this happen.
[00:24:07] And we saw kind of firsthand that like no one quite wanted to be the person to commit to a new software like this. And it was we saw kind of Extensible Energy’s problem, and Extensible Energy’s struggle with this was figuring out where exactly they had to plug into be the most effective. That’s kind of what that was our main project and how we really consulted with them. And it was, it was good research for us and I, hope they got something out of it as well.
[00:24:32] Paulina Lee: That’s great. Since you mentioned earlier about leaning towards EV, obviously, you have your masters in energy policy. Where does your passion or interests really stem from? What was the aha moment where you’re like, “I think energy or cleantech might be where my focus or heart is.”?
[00:24:49] Graham Haydon: My energy focus actually came from like a military perspective. So it was, in the summer of 2016. late in my deployment in Afghanistan, I think we were; it was late August, early September, right before we were going home. The Taliban had begun doing a tax and planting roadside bombs along a road in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
[00:25:06] And the road was like so bad and so violent that the fuel trucks that we were getting to deliver fuel to this base this American base in Helmand couldn’t get there. And so, without access to it’s a fossil fuels at this base, we had to start rationing their fuels. So, they would run their generators, power, their laptops for only half a day. You know, it was 115 degrees in Helmand at the time, and they were running the air conditioning, 30 minutes out of every hour to try and save some energy and save some supplies. We had to literally fly big bags of fuel in CH-47 helicopters all the way across the desert and drop them off there so that they could be supplied in order to do that.
[00:25:42] We had to get aircrews from other parts of the country, and the helicopters flying to Kandahar and then stage them and fly them back and forth between Kandahar and Helmut to refuel this space. So, all these military logistics had to change in response to these attacks and this dependency on oil. What ended up happening is that’s the US decided to send a special forces team out to engage as how in this area and have some sort of effect on hopefully reducing the tax in the area. And on that day, one of the special forces soldiers was killed in action. My unit was the ones to, were the ones to medevac him out.
[00:26:13] And I was working in the operation center where we got the call that they were doing a medivacs, and we knew right away that it was going to be pretty bad. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty small event, right? Like not to sound crass or not to dismiss it out of hand, but it’s one base in one part of the world that for a couple of weeks had to cut down on fuel, but I saw it as indicative of a broader problem, you know, in terms of national security, we are super dependent on fossil fuels to continue living the way we’re doing.
[00:26:38] We’re willing to risk lives, to go and go and try and ensure that we have this continuous supply of oil. Which had led to be thinking like, what else, what other negative externalities exist because of this oil dependence? And so that’s when you can start looking at the human health cost of burning fossil fuels how it helped poisons the atmosphere and poisons human lungs. You know, you can look at Texas with these huge weather events, the freezing cold that they had this past week, and the hurricanes they’ve had earlier. These are all tied to changing climate, and it’s all tied to how we produce and consume energy. So, that was the eye-opening experience for me of how important this was, how it really, really does matter. And that’s why I’m looking for a way to be impactful and responsive to the future and building a society in which we don’t really have to have these sort of energy concerns anymore.
[00:27:23] Paulina Lee: That’s a very impactful story. A very personal story too. So, thank you for sharing. As you look at opportunities either this summer or post-graduation, do you have in your mind what that perfect job would be?
[00:27:36] Graham Haydon: I’ve narrowed it down. I I’m very fortunate as an MBA student, I was able to accept a summer internship. I’m going to work at a company called Cruise, and for if you’re not familiar to an electric autonomous vehicle company based in San Francisco. I’m going to be part of their go-to-market team.
[00:27:51] And so, hopefully, fingers crossed, we working to scale up their fleet operations over the summer. So, putting out five, ten, hundred, hopefully, electric vehicles to go and pick up passengers and take them around and San Francisco. I think that’s going to be a good role for me. Just to see, I think electric vehicles, obviously, oil, consuming vehicles are not ideal for the climate, and transitioning to an electrified vehicle and electrifying the grid is a good way to reduce carbon emissions, improve the way that we travel and improve the way that we engage with mobility in our, in our society. So, I’m optimistic that’s going to lead to something good. I don’t know if that’s going to be my long-term goal. I don’t know if that’s going to be a permanent thing, but it’s definitely at least a good place for me to explore and figure out like how, how much impact can I have in this organization?
[00:28:36] I’m really hoping that I get a chance to expand their fleet. I would love to be able to tell my kids one day, like, Hey, like you see all these electric cars driving around the city. Like I was, I was the guy that helped get them on the road. That would be an awesome story. That’d be an awesome way for me to feel like I’m making a positive contribution.
[00:28:51] Paulina Lee: That’s great. Congrats on the summer internship. That’s a big company out here.
[00:28:55] Graham Haydon: Yeah. Thank you.
[00:28:56] Paulina Lee: In your experience and in your expertise, what do you think is the biggest barrier to getting more consumers and more corporations to use electric vehicles?
[00:29:07] Graham Haydon: If you’ve talked to consumers, the number one thing they cite is ranked range anxiety. Even the best electric cars today, I don’t think, are getting above 400 miles per charge, which is very interesting cause human, American citizens drive on average about 30 miles a day. So, a car that has over 200 miles of range on one charge is, is able to do everything that you needed to do 95% of the time. It really doesn’t meet all the needs of people. You also listen to people who are concerned about charging. Charging is always a huge concern for people that don’t drive electric vehicles of; of how it is, how can you do it? Whether a normal 240-volt outlet, like what you would charge your iPhone on, that’s appropriate for a vehicle.
[00:29:44] If you need special hardware. Whatever the case is. It’s very much an unknown thing for a lot of consumers. I think as we normalize electric vehicles and unless we normalize this sort of new sense of mobility, I think that’s when we’re going to see a wider adoption and a wider, wider use case.
[00:29:59] If you look at some of the work they’re doing, like Walmart is partnered with Cruise reveals partnered with Amazon. Google partner with Waymo. All these big companies are partnering with electric vehicles and especially electric autonomous vehicles because they recognize, in a lot of cases, the last mile challenge that that EVs can maybe solve.
[00:30:17] If, and if not the last-mile challenge, certainly the middle 98 miles of driving from both warehouse to a factory back and forth, back and forth. That’s something that, that electric and autonomous vehicles would be, would be perfectly suited for to be able to charge while you’re loading up the truck. Have it drive to the facility, drop it off and charge it there and then have it go back and forth. Ad nauseum, Infinitum. That’s exciting. And I think that’s going to be the future. And I think it’s electrifying that process as soon as possible was going to leave a huge lead to a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when it comes to mobility and when it comes to the way we operate. I’m hoping that these breakthroughs are going to lead to some sort of trench transformation like that.
[00:30:56] Paulina Lee: I think that’s great. I think with the pandemic, especially in 2020, we saw such constraints on our supply chain system. And part of that was a little bit on the logistics side, right? We have a finite number of trucks. We have finite number of people who can drive those trucks. And at some point, they also have to sleep.
[00:31:15] So, as we look to autonomous vehicles, you know, to get people kind of off the road in a safe manner, but also save the planet. It’s a good way for corporations to lean in as well as the government too. Outside of Haas, it looks like you are involved with an organization called Service to School. We’d love for you to talk about what that organization is about, what you do, and why you got involved.
[00:31:39] Graham Haydon: So, Service to School is an organization. It’s a business that connects military service members and military veterans who are looking to go and continue their education. And it pairs them with veterans who are currently in those programs. It does it at the undergraduate level, graduate level, MBA programs, law school, med school, any academic program beyond high school. It pairs people with. I, I originally got involved because I, as I was applying to my MBA program, it was tough for me to figure out one, what’s the NBA all about? What’s the deal with it? And then have someone walk me through like how the process works. The reason I didn’t have that was because I was in the army at the time.
[00:32:14] And no one in the army has an MBA, you know? Cause there’s no, there’s no need for an MBA when you’re in the army. And so just seeing those kinds of role models and having those. Those people that I could talk to and explain things to me and dumb them down and be able to translate my experiences and then put them into terms that an admission count or an admissions officer would understand what’s super important and super valuable.
[00:32:33] And so I partnered with a current MBA student, and he and I walked through how to translate my resume, how to understand what’s the, what’s the benefit of the MBA? What am I trying to get out of it? What are the opportunities available for me? Not only during the program but after graduation. And so that’s something that I’ve been involved in as well as is doing that. And talking to students that are, or military members who are getting out of the military, for a lot of them, this is going to be their first time working outside of military and figuring out what do you actually want to do? What are the options available to you? And yeah, all that it’s been something that I’ve been, I’ve really enjoyed being a part of. And the Hoss vets club to pitch out to them is also very, very good at, I think, reaching out to. The applicants or the interest in veterans and making sure that they understand how to apply.
[00:33:14] What are ways to tell your story in an effective way? One of the options available to you and what I consistently hear from students or from applicants to Haas, the Haas vets club is like the best that’s club and in all the MBA programs. And I really do believe that because we make such an honest and earnest effort to get to know these people and help them, however we can, I’m, I’m talking to a couple right now.
[00:33:35] And, you know, they’re like, oh, I’m at this business school, this one Haas, like, where should I go? and I will be as honest as I handle, like, based on your goals, based on what you want to do like this, this makes sense for you, man. I, I just, I would love to be that role model to give back to people who like don’t understand what their options are and kind of show them the, Hey, like beyond the military, there are some paths to successful and rewarding careers, and maybe I can help you get there. And hopefully, if I can be a resource like that, maybe you know, reach out and let’s talk about it.
[00:34:00] Paulina Lee: That’s so great. Was there anyone specifically when you were applying from the Haas vets club or within the military that helped you transition or make that leap?
[00:34:11] Graham Haydon: Yeah. I’ll give a shout-out to two second years. So, I came here for the; there was a Haas vets visit day. So, this was probably September, October of my application year. And it was just a chance. We came out on a, I think, Friday, and we did like a hike in the Bay area. And then we went to a barbecue at someone’s house and had some burgers.
[00:34:29] And then the next day we, you know, we went to class and observed. And so, I met; I guess there were like maybe three guys on top. I had that. I remember for that experience of Joe Choi was one of them. It was; I remember him being like a burger master. He was a Navy guy, and he was flipping burgers, like a mad man and just a very warm, inviting Rob stark too.
[00:34:47] I remember doing interview prep with him the day before I interviewed at Haas. And we, you know, we walk through my story, and you’re like, that’s good. And he gave me advice on how to improve it. Josee Joe, I can’t even pronounce his last name, but Josee, who was, I think, an army guy. No, he was a Navy guy.
[00:35:01] I don’t know. I can’t tell if that’s he, he was getting into cleantech, so I talked to him a lot about Burke. Dan Horrigan. I also called them up after as I was getting interviewed and talked to him about ways to tell my story. But all of them were very super, super, super welcoming, and super eager to just answer any questions I had and helped prepare me for, for the interviews, for essays, anything like that. It gave me a true sense of like what the community is like and how it goes forward. So, they’ve all, anyone in the vets club I think has been, has been. It’s awesome to be a part of that community, is all I can say.
[00:35:31] Paulina Lee: I guess, as a platform, if you had one or two pieces of advice for military members looking to apply to Haas, what would your advice be?
[00:35:42] Graham Haydon: I would say, bring your true self, bring everything that you have with you. I think a lot of times, there’s a sense everyone’s got imposter syndrome, and veterans certainly have imposter syndrome when they’re applying to business school because they don’t have any experience in business. They don’t know quite what they’re looking for.
[00:35:56] Half the time we show up, we can’t read a textbook, and we don’t know the difference between the investment banking and impact investing or, whatever. But I think the experiences that we have and just the backgrounds in our kind of our perspective, Is useful things for the class and it’s, it’s some certainly exposes our classmates to something that they might not have considered, and it brings a little. It makes it a better environment. I think we have a diverse group of people in the class and not just military people, but people from all sorts of industries. So, being your authentic self and coming with your experiences and being able to share them and re relate to people I think is always, is always good.
[00:36:25] And then second advice I have for anyone coming to Haas. I would just say have fun. You know, Haas is a great place to be it. If you’re lucky enough to come here, it’s, it’s two years that it should be a lot of fun. It should be a chance for you to explore and try new things. So, just have fun with it. If you come as your authentic self and are trying to have fun, I think you will get a lot out of the program.
[00:36:45] Paulina Lee: That’s great advice, and it is true. I mean, everyone comes in and being like, okay, how am I going to do this? And then we quickly find out it’s just better if we all drop the guard, be ourselves and kind of embrace it and go full force. So that’s great. We like to transition now to kind of like our lightning round of questions. Favorite things to do in the Bay area?
[00:37:03] Graham Haydon: Hiking. A lot of good hiking trails, a lot of good hills here.
[00:37:06] Paulina Lee: Where’s your favorite place that you’ve hiked so far?
[00:37:09] Graham Haydon: I, I don’t know if it’s technically at Bay, but I really liked a Yosemite. My first day moving to California, I hiked the half dome of Yosemite with some other Haasies. Now that was an awesome start to the Haas experience.
[00:37:21] Paulina Lee: That’s pretty Epic. Half-dome can be pretty hard to get to. So, major props.
[00:37:26] Graham Haydon: Yeah, it has a lot of fun.
[00:37:28] Paulina Lee: That’s great. Sounds like you’ve done some skiing this winter. So, where’s your favorite place to ski?
[00:37:33] Graham Haydon: All-time favorite place to ski is Vail in Colorado. There was a Colorado flag behind me. I talked about Colorado. I’ve skied all over. I love Vail. Arapaho basin is probably a close second. And I think you can’t go wrong with those two places.
[00:37:47] Paulina Lee: Yeah. Highly recommend it for sure. Any books or podcasts that you’re reading or listening to that you would recommend?
[00:37:53] Graham Haydon: Yes, I am reading something called The Ghost Road right now. One chapter in, but it talks about the future of autonomous vehicles. And so, that’s any new technology like that. It’s always interesting to hear what the experts say. And there’s a very good line in the book about how people tend to overestimate the recent, is it the near-term changes technology will have on society and underestimate the long-term changes a new technology will have on society. And so, I think that’s; I hope that’s true for autonomous vehicles because I think there’s going to be a lot of changes that we don’t really recognize in terms of how we live life.
[00:38:24] Paulina Lee: For sure. So, we have rumors that maybe we’ll be in person. Hopefully, a vaccination schedules go as planned, potentially this fall. What are you most looking forward to? If, and when we get back to in-person at Haas.
[00:38:37] Graham Haydon: I’m looking forward to just being able to run into people on the quad, see people in classrooms, and have those kinds of small, like sidebars and check-ins. I feel like I’ve made a lot of friends here, but it’s tough not being able to have a, you know, just seeing them every day and being able to say, Hey, what’s up? How’s it going, buddy?
That’s a privilege. That’s going to be a joy to a joy to have next year.
[00:38:53] Paulina Lee: And I know you’ve probably gotten a chance to explore a little bit of Berkeley. So, do you have a favorite spot that you like to eat at or get takeout from in Berkeley?
[00:39:00] Graham Haydon: Yeah. So, there’s a, there’s a Creole place called Easy Creole, which is only a couple blocks from my house, and they have very good Creole chicken and stuff. So, that’s, that’s been my go-to recently.
[00:39:10] Paulina Lee: That’s great. Any last parting words or things that you want to share about Haas or your experience so far?
[00:39:16] Graham Haydon: I’d share that it’s been a lot of fun so far. I’ve thought a lot about like what I could have been doing during this pandemic. If I had taken a job instead of coming to a business school, or if I had, you know, stay in the military or something else. I really do think that this was the best option for me.
[00:39:30] And I’m enjoying myself. I feel like I’m learning. I feel like I’m growing. I’m meeting new people. I’m having a good time. I have no complaints about what’s going on in my life. So, it’s been a great time here at Haas, and it’s been fun talking to you too. It’s been a good podcast session.
[00:39:42] Paulina Lee: Well, thanks for coming on the show. It’s been great chatting with you. Thank you as well for your service to our nation. And thanks for coming on.
[00:39:50] Graham Haydon: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
[00:39:52] Paulina Lee: Thanks for tuning into here at Haas. Know a Haasie that has a story to tell? Nominate them on our website, haaspodcasts.org. And if you enjoyed this week’s episode, please subscribe and leave us a rating and review. And don’t forget to share this podcast out with your favorite bears. This episode was published with help from one of our associate producers, Nick Gerwe, and edited by Kyle Cook. Until next time I’m Paulina Lee, and this is here@haas.