Today’s guest is another Double Bear! John Dio is a product manager and business professional with experience helping scale venture-backed EV and ed-tech startups. At Haas, John has been part of the Consortium for Graduate Study of Management, The Graduate Assembly, Haas Consulting Club, and Q@Haas.
John is originally from the Philippines. When he immigrated to the US, he faced plenty of challenges, including culture shock, bullying, and coping with being an undocumented student. It wasn’t an easy journey, but he overcame them all.
In this episode, John shared his early beginnings, experiences as an undocumented immigrant, and attending college and pursuing an MBA. He also talked about his career in recruitment and pivoting into product management post-MBA. Finally, he shared insights on a couple of things he is passionate about – childcare shortage and women’s reproductive rights.
On standing up to bullies
“Every time they’d retort, I’d be like, so what? Whatever. And that took the power away from it. Once I didn’t care, they no longer thought it was fun. If you take away the bully’s power to affect you in that way, it’s no longer fun for them.”
On pivoting into product management
“Product management stood out to me because there is the aspect of delighting customers when solving their problems.”
His biggest takeaway at Haas
“It’s all about how you want to set your journey at Haas because you could do a lot of things and everything. However, it’s really up to you to manage your time and what you want to get the most out of it. I wanted to work and apply what I’m learning in the startup setting and then build a community where I can focus on the few people, if not some people, that were going to add a lot of value to my Haas experience versus trying to meet everyone. And there has to be that intentionality that needs to be there to make it all work.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
[00:00] Chris: Welcome to the OneHaas Podcast. I’m Chris Kim. Today, we have John Dio, MBA at UC Berkeley Haas. John is a product manager and business professional, with experience helping scale venture-backed EV and ed-tech startups. At Haas, John has been part of the Consortium for Graduate Study of Management, The Graduate Assembly, Haas Consulting Club, and Q@Haas. John, welcome, and great to have you on the show.
[00:29] John: I’m so excited to be here.
[00:31] Chris: Yeah, absolutely, John. Just for some background, you and I know each other. We were in class together in the MBA program. And my understanding is you’re a double bear, what we call at Haas someone who’s gone to Cal for undergrad and Haas for the MBA program. But I’d love for you to just start, where does your story begin? And did you always know you’d be doing all the cool things that you’ve done in life when you were a kid growing up?
[00:51] John: Honestly, I actually didn’t know that I was going to do a lot of the cool things that I got to be able to do during my time, not only at Haas, but just in life in general. I think, for me, it was actually really hard to picture what life was going to be like post-high school, mainly because I was a child of immigrants and also an immigrant myself. So, when I was growing up, I actually lived in the Philippines for the first eight years of my life. And the reason how my family got here was actually through a family petition. And this was back when my grandfather had served in the Navy. He served around the time of the Korean War, and then went back to the Philippines, did his whole degree.
But his story of just immigrating to the U.S. was really powerful for us, because he initially had joined the U.S. as an international student, studying at SF State in the 1950s. And one of the things that I really learned from talking to him near his end of life was his journey to immigrate here in the U.S. And I found out pretty late on that he was studying at SF State, and within six months, his family had called him. And he was the oldest of, I think, maybe four or five children. And being the oldest, they were really asking him, “Hey, you’re in the U.S. Obviously, you might be able to find a job there that can support us.” And so, he ended up quitting SF State within six months of being there and started working in the farm fields in Stockton.
So, in the ’50s, I learned that he was actually one of those manongs. That’s what we called them in the Filipino historical archives, one of the manongs who worked in the farm fields, who traveled up and down the grapevine, working. And then, I think, pretty later on, he ended up being recruited into the Navy. And he ended up being shipped to Korea in the Korean peninsula during the Korean War. And luckily, there wasn’t really a lot of escalation or instigation that he experienced there. But some things that just came to mind for me when I talked to him about it was just the subtle racism that was actually happening to him in real time there. He worked in the cafeteria as a cook or one of the other manual labor work. And it was one of those things where he just had to roll with the punches and laugh it off and not ruffle any feathers because he had family in the Philippines that he was taking care of.
So, when he finished his rotation there in his service, he actually went back to the Philippines for three decades or so, finishing up college there, working under the Marcos era as one of the agricultural managers in the province. And I think, during the 1980s, it was really around the whole family reunification experience of Reagan where they eventually gave citizenship for past members of the military, those who served even back when it was the 1950s. And so, my grandfather actually naturalized in the late ’80s and ended up really trying to, not only work again in the states, he actually did a second stint here in the U.S. for about a decade or so just working to, again, support his children and his grandchildren.
And one of the things that he actually really helped us out with was the family petition. And he petitioned all of his children and their spouses and their children to come to the states, eventually. And hopefully, that would be something that could come at a nice time. However, those sorts of petitions are always backed up. And so, for my family, we had filed in ’94, or actually ’92, just before I was born. But we didn’t necessarily get that permanent residency or even citizenship until 2012.
[04:54] Chris: Oh, wow.
[04:55] John: Yeah, that was a long time. It was a long time. And really, I think what really got us to the states was my family’s tenacity to look at the situation, assess it, and then see whether some of the different scenarios that we can try to extract herself from negative situations.
One of the reasons why we really needed to go to the states pretty early on was actually because of me. I’m the youngest of four children. The age gap between me and my sister who’s the third one is about eight years, and between me and the oldest, 14 years. I actually was born with scoliosis. And it was the case of scoliosis where it’s not the type that you just catch in, in high school or middle school, where you’re like, okay, they’re slouching a little bit. Maybe, we could put them on brace. It was the type that… actually, it was pretty aggressive. When I was eight years old, I think the pediatrician in the Philippines was very adamant, like, “Hey, we need to get him proper resources. Maybe, in the states.” And that was what got my mom to really get us going to move to the states, because I needed to get surgery—spinal surgery—pretty quickly.
And for us, we ended up looking through different legal avenues of migrating. So, my family had… there was a legal technicality back then. And I won’t go into too much detail, but basically, during the Bill Clinton era, there was a point in which, if a family had arrived in the U.S. already and overstayed their visa, that they could wait until their visa application or their family petition became current or basically able to be change of status, and they wouldn’t essentially be deported.
And so, that was the entry point for me growing up, where I was living in this limbo of I’m undocumented at every facet of life, yet, I’m not necessarily in fear of being deported. But also, I don’t have any legal recourse or amenities or even just services that could be awarded to me as someone who was growing up pretty poor.
But luckily, my family was able to muster up the resources around 2001. It was right after the 9/11 attacks. And I remember my family being very direct with how we were going to approach it. Because, at that point, my father, my eldest brother, and my other brother had already been in the states, working under somewhat of a tourist visa. And then, they were telling us back in the Philippines, with just me, my sister, and my mom, what was going down here in the U.S. It was like all hell is breaking loose. They might be closing the border. You might want to come as soon as you can. And that was the precipice of my entrance to the U.S., chaotic to an extent.
I remember my only plane ride for a long time was actually going here to the states from the Philippines. And we had booked economy. And the flight stewardess actually bumped all of us to business class because the plane was so empty that there’s no point in us trying to go down there. Like, just come up here, like, hon. And that was one of those instances where, me as a child, I didn’t even know what was going on. I was just happy to be in a comfy seat, or I was just happy to… it feels like a field trip. You’re like, “I’m moving somewhere.” But then, later on, it was just those things that, after analyzing, I was like, wow, that was a lot to go through.
[08:36] Chris: Man, that’s amazing, John. It sounds like, even before you got to the states, your journey definitely wasn’t easy. There were a lot of formative experiences that, at least, I took away from that experience. What was it like when you got to the states and just even going to school and things like that? What was that experience like for you?
[08:52] John: That experience in itself was pretty much a culture shock. I luckily joined around the fall semester of 2001. One of the downsides of immigrating at that point was they didn’t necessarily do a lot of assessments to determine what grade level you are. They just hand-waived it. They’re like, “You were in grade two in the Philippines, we’ll have you in grade two again here.” So, they actually technically held me back for a year. And I found myself, at that point, it’s like there wasn’t really a lot of self-advocating. We just had to nod our heads because we were brand new here, and “Okay, we’ll work it out.”
But I think the culture shock was pretty different for me. I was trying to learn English a lot. I was trying to be social as much as I can, but also, was coming to terms with a lot of things about myself that I later would probably realize as my gay tendencies would’ve hinted at my sexual orientation. And before, I just remember growing up in elementary school and not only just trying to pick up the culture of what it is to be like a man in the U.S., because then I always have to translate it to some extent back to my Filipino culture, and then also just navigating this slow discovery and being at a point where people are telling you who you are without you even knowing who you are. So, even as early as third, fourth, maybe even fifth grade, I was starting to get bullied. They would throw slurs at me, like fag or gay or homo or whatever. And at that point, I was just like, I don’t even know what these mean. I’m barely picking up the language, let alone, how am I going to pick up the slurs?
And so, it was one of those things where, just again, I had to roll with it. And definitely, there are points where I definitely let it get to the best of me. So, sometimes, I would not want to go to school. I just have to tell my mom, “I’m sick. I do not want to go to school today, please.” And it was really one of those things where I had to really make a decision as to how I was going to let the external forces of my life dictate how I was going to live my life to its fullest.
And I think there was just a point in my life, I think near and towards middle school, and it was a tipping point. There was a particular event that happened to me in middle school where it was around pickup time, I was walking out to the plaza area. And one of my classmates, one of the bullies that had been tormenting me throughout the year, verbally but not ever physically, ran up to me and then opened his water bottle and poured water on me and called me a fag. And, of course, it was a traumatizing moment at that point. And, of course, I really felt bad, and I hated this person for a really long time.
But for me, I was like, first of all, what does that even mean? How does being gay equate to being something negative and that I would be treated this way? And so, for me, it was a lot more internal soul-searching, of people are telling me who I’m supposed to be or whatnot, but I’ve never actually taken the time to take a look at who I am and how I see myself. And it was really at those tipping points where I really stopped trying to listen to all the other chatter that was around me, that was about me or not about me. And really, I need to set the narrative straight up. I’m not going to hold back. I have to set the narrative, moving forward, this is my chapter book. And I could either be a bystander in this, or I could tell it from my first person point of view.
And that’s the tipping point in middle school where I just started to muster up the courage. Every time that they’d retort that, I’d be like, “So what? Whatever.” And that took the power away from it. Once I didn’t care, they no longer thought it was fun. I guess it was just one of those things where like, if you take away the bully’s power to affect you in that way, then it’s no longer fun for them. And so, for me, it was just one of those things where, once I came into my own in middle school and in high school, it was really an up and up in terms of my experiences, in terms of social life, and whatnot. However, of course, being undocumented still added its own flare of difficulty, especially when it came to applying for colleges.
[13:32] Chris: John, what was that experience like? First of all, that’s an amazing story of triumph and overcoming. You and I sat in a class a whole semester together, and I didn’t get to hear that story. But it is just so powerful. And I know you were super involved in college and even at Haas. What was it like going from being a highschooler with your situation of documentation and then also having experienced and overcame all of this, and now you’re thinking about finishing high school, thinking about going to college? What was that experience like for you? And what was going through your mind as you were going through that process?
[14:08] John: That’s definitely a good question. And I think that, at least, what was going through my mind honestly at that point was, honestly, just looking at the different possibilities. I remember, in junior year of high school, I created scenarios A through L, where I had essentially dictated what my prime choices are in terms of contingency plans. Because, a lot of these things, when you’re thinking about college, especially when you’re undocumented, is like, A, how are you going to fund this? And B, how is their support system overall? Because the price tag is one thing. The support for undocumented students is also another thing.
So, I remember just applying during high school for college. And it was one of those things. The first thing they ask you is your social security number. And that is always a question that was so contentious for me, like, how is this nine-digit number… How is that the thing that’s going to prevent me from attending my dream school?
And so, it was usually coupled with applying what information I have and then supplementing with my actual story and my statements. And for me, for a long time, I really wanted to attend liberal arts college that was a private institution, like Oberlin College or Pitzer and Claremont. I remember just having that all-American fantasy of what college would be. And to be truthful, I actually applied to over 18 private colleges, just to see what my options might be. I got into a couple of programs, but their financial aid was not strong enough to actually help out someone like me. And then I applied to the UCs. And Riverside came through, Irvine came through, and then UCLA through, and then finally Berkeley.
And so, for a while, I had grown up in Los Angeles with my family. And it was a contentious debate whether or not I was going to go to Berkeley or UCLA. And I remember just going to Cal Day actually for undergrad, and it was one of those things where the first… every Cal Day, sometimes you have a set priority agenda. I think that’s preset for you. But for me, I actually customized my Cal Day plan because I had to hit up the bridges Multicultural Center, and the Undocumented Student Center. I think, at that point, they were still mixed together with bridges. So, I remember just going through Cal Day, and while people were checking out the dorms and all the other cool stuff that’s on campus, I was going to financial aid, trying to talk to people. I was going to bridges, trying to talk to people.
Berkeley had this really interesting requirement for students of my background which is a little bit of collegiate prep. Aside from just getting in, I had a requirement to successfully pass Summer Bridge, which is, I think, the preparatory summer program for under-resourced communities, students, etc. And I also had to, not only figure out funding for my own fall and spring life, but also funding for this summer program that I’m required to go to. And so, luckily, everything fell into place. I was able to advocate my way through. And, of course, with my situation being low-income and coming from an under-resourced background, I really was adamant to apply to as many scholarships that would take undocumented students, and also work with my own personal life with my father to make sure that I could get my residency as soon as possible once our family petition had become current.
Unfortunately, it was one of those things where I was the last. I was one of the only recipients of the petition in terms of actually being able to change my status that way, because all of my older siblings had already aged out. But luckily, they did have their own way. They found their spouses that they love dearly. They have children. And it’s all well and good now. But for a while there, it was pretty tenuous. And to add into college, it was a bit hard.
And at that point, what was even harder was… trying to choose between those two schools was hard because my father… Well, my mom, in my junior year of high school, had passed away. And I remember, it was about a year later that I had to make this decision. And it was really hard to be the youngest child and everyone else was way older, and had their own life. And then for me to really make a decision for myself and tell my father, like, “Hey, I’m going to go away for college. I’m going to try to make this work. Berkeley feels like the one,” and it turned out to be the one, they had the most resourcing, but it was one of those things where I feel like he must have taken it a little bit personally, like I was trying to run away from him or whatnot. But ultimately, I think we were very happy with the outcome of things.
[19:07] Chris: John, that’s really just truly an amazing story. I know you ended up getting super involved in college. But what was it like to be super involved and then graduate, and then really have all these things change in your life? And then you’re coming out. And now you’re in the workplace and trying to get a job. And then you also decide to eventually come back to the MBA program. That’s a really quick transition. What was that like going through those phases? And then how did you navigate? It seems like you’d be doing a ton, especially back to back to back. What was that like? And what was going through your mind as you were experiencing those in real time?
[19:44] John: I think one of the biggest things that I was experiencing, I think simultaneously, while I was undergoing through all of those changes, was just this self-realization that, because of my upbringing or just the fact that I’m an immigrant and under-resourced background, for me, the whole aspect of job hunting as a professional was something that none of my family members had experienced. LinkedIn was just popping up at that point. And it was one of those things where I had to navigate the search on my own, and not only navigate it on my own, but also figure out what would be a good fit for me.
And I think one of the things that came out of that was, actually, I fell into recruiting for that very reason of under-resourced community and just realizing there isn’t really a lot of resourcing for job placements or job recruiting for a lot of under-resourced communities like mine. And coming from my background, for me, I want to learn, how do people get jobs? And so, luckily one of my fraternity siblings, I was actually pretty involved in the Sigma Epsilon Omega in Berkeley, which is the gay and queer, and now, all-inclusive co-ed fraternity in Berkeley. One of my alumni there had reached out to me that they had an opening at one of the recruiting firms that they were working at, which was a pretty small boutique legal recruiting firm. And I decided to start interviewing there.
At the time, I was actually also deciding between law school and getting a job full-time. I think, just as an aside, I actually had applied to law school twice before applying to Haas. And then Haas is the one that won the race. But it was one of those things where I was choosing between grad school and working full-time and getting that experience. And I think, for me, I just wanted to take a few more years to get some real-life experience, get some professional experience, and even just get a sense of, what is it like to work in corporate America, even if it’s a small firm? So, for me, I interviewed there. And ultimately, I ended up declining my offers to go to law school right after undergrad, and ultimately just started my work recruiting and learning the lay of the land when it comes to recruiting.
[22:10] Chris: John, what was that experience like, going from being a student and then being a professional? And then it sounds like you were really intentional, even during that phase, in terms of you knew that there was going to be something next. How did you figure out that the MBA was going to be the right course for you? And what were you thinking about school selection and program, or what you were hoping to get out of that experience?
[22:30] John: So, I think, for me, the MBA has always been in the back of my mind, even as early as Summer Bridge. So, that summer, when I actually did the program, that collegiate prep to go into fall, I actually was walking around Berkeley. And I remember very specifically stopping at the gate at Haas. I think it’s the William Cronk gate. And I remember just stopping there and getting a picture right in front of the gate with my summer mentor at that time. And I said to myself, “Someday, I’m going to attend this. I don’t know if it’s the undergrad program. I don’t know if it’s the MBA program. But someday, I’m going to attend this school.”
And for me, the school selection piece, it was like a couple of years of working professionally and working in technology and startups. For me, I’d always been interested in technology and, specifically, how do people solve problems through technology and platforms and even products in general? I think, for me, the school selection really came down to the proximity of the program to the Bay Area and to the Con Valley and the startup world.
And around that time when I actually had started to apply, this was actually in 2020, right at the start of the pandemic, I’d actually already gone through three different startups by that point. So, I was one of the first early hires for Rivian Automotive for their California team. So, I was working with hiring managers in the self-driving, autonomous, electrical hardware, infotainment teams, supporting them. When that opportunity came to a close, I went to AltSchool back when they were still called AltSchool and had not gone through the rebranding. And I helped them make their SaaS pivot for software before they were going through a micro-school model, which was very interesting. They really wanted to build a lot of hubs where you can basically plop your child from one school to another and have all the information and learning modules in place, so that your child doesn’t have to miss a beat when they’re transferring schools.
But ultimately, they needed to go into a SaaS model. And so, I helped hire on the tech team and the rest of the admin team that needed to be there to make that pivot. And as a recruiter, that was really interesting to me, the whole technical side of recruiting and how do you align product development with key business goals, such as a giant pivot?
And then, lastly, when the restructure happened, and this was around the time they were about to get acquired by Higher Ground, I joined Wonderschool as their first technical recruiter. This was just post series A for them. And it was, again, one of those builders, one of the opportunities where I wanted to get my hands dirty, build processes from the ground up, and work with really talented hiring managers to really hire the best people that we can.
And so, when the pandemic hit and I was working in recruiting, as you know, anytime there’s a recession, guess who’s the first to go. Recruiting. And it was one of those things where I was really having to think about my career trajectory, where I really enjoyed bringing people together, bringing opportunities to new people, hiring people on, and then onboarding them. At that point at Wonderschool, before the restructure during the pandemic, I was starting to do a lot more HR work as well.
And I think what I really realized in my journey in recruiting people ops is that there is a lot of emotional labor that goes into recruiting, and a lot of emotional labor as well when it comes to onboarding new people, upholding company culture, and then also even dealing with departures. You’re not only just thinking about your own departure, but you’re probably also thinking about your colleagues that you helped bring into this company.
And so, for me, I wanted to still maintain that relational aspect of working with teams cross-functionally, but I wanted to work in something that didn’t have as much of an emotional toll. And I think product management really stood out to me because there is the aspect of delighting customers when you’re solving their problems. And there’s still, of course, a little bit of that push and pull when the product is buggy or there’s features that are missing. But again, there’s that negotiation that takes place between product people, engineers, and then, also, customer, stakeholders that really still capture the recruiting process, to some extent, without necessarily, at least for me, feeling like you are also holding someone’s job, to some extent, or you’re having to sell a job or offboard folks. It feels a little bit more detached from some of that emotional piece.
[27:38] Chris: By the time you started the MBA program, you’d had all these experiences. And then, somehow, you ended up doing the Full-Time Program also and essentially having full-time work at the same time. Can you share just maybe briefly on that? And you were also super passionate. I know you shared Q@Haas, you were part of that during your time at Haas. Can you explain how you managed all of those things? And also, could you share a bit about Q@Haas and what the organization does as well?
[28:04] John: Absolutely, yeah. So, I think for those listening here, I was one of the double bears that got through the Cal Advantage program in 2020. I remember just finally selecting, applying to Berkeley, and then eventually getting in. Around the time where I was looking at my email and between the rejection emails for recruiting jobs, there was one that popped up about the Cal Advantage program. And initially, one of my friends had actually received that email instead of me. And so, I had them forward it to me. And I started emailing admissions and to make sure it was for real. And then, later on, I’ve just started committing through the process, and went through that process, got into the program around late June. The applications came out in May. And then, as soon as I actually got in, I started working through the logistics of going through school on a Zoom setting. I started reaching out to, actually, a couple of my former colleagues at Wonderschool who were still in the organization after they had initially restructured, because I expressed interest in moving into product management. It’s one of those things where the network effect is real when it comes to Haas, because one of my mentors was in the product team at Wonderschool. And she was actually my main mentor going through the Haas application process. She went to the Evening & Weekend Program, actually. So, shout-out to Tess Peppers. And I had reached out to her pretty much around July. She congratulated me and everything. And I just openly said, “Hey, if there’s any opportunity for me to intern at Wonderschool and help out with product development, let me know.”
And I think it was a couple months later I had just started Berkeley. And we were doing Week Zero. I had a couple of classes. And then, by early September, the VP of Engineering at Wonderschool, Javier, at that point, reached out to me and said, “Hey, we need someone in the product team to basically run through all of our products, like product features, and make sure they’re working correctly. Are you interested in interning with us in that?” And, of course, for me, that opportunity was really exciting. I will say that I am very fortunate to have been able to intern at startups that have been able to pay market rate for MBAs. And so, for me, I took on that role and then started working simultaneously while attending micro econ classes and all the core classes in between. And then I remember just hopping from Zoom to Zoom to Zoom, because sometimes our classes would be stacked and then I have a meeting with Wonderschool right after, and then a class again, and then something about consulting prep, because at that point, I was still really looking into consulting as well. And so, I went through the whole recruiting process as well, both the fall, for the summer, and then fall full-time again the following year, while also working full-time.
And getting involved at Haas, I think, also, it was really good for me to, at least, have one organization to be really passionate about to make connections. And so, Q@Haas was easily one of the best organizations for me to join. I ended up really connecting with how Q@Haas pivoted their programming for an online setting for our year for the Coming Out Week. And even just listening to the coming out monologues was really powerful for me. And I knew that I wanted to get involved in that for the subsequent year for when we might have a hybrid option or a full in-person option. And so, just working with them to do all of that as the VP of Coming Out Week with Ian McLean was just really tremendous.
But I will say that it was definitely hard. Working full-time and also doing the MBA full-time really hindered me in terms of socialization. So, I have to be honest and say that I had to really look at my options. And there were only a couple of them. It was work full-time, go to school full-time, be involved at Q@Haas, or socialization. And I think I just dropped socialization a lot. And there were still a couple of times where I was still bumping into people my second year even all the way through this orientation, like our last week at Haas. And I was like, “I’m John.” I’m still doing the intro and stuff. And I had realized I had not actually been in a class with them or seen them in person before.
But, for me, I think the biggest takeaway for me was it’s like it’s all about how you want to set your journey at Haas, because it’s like you could do a lot of things and everything. However, it’s really up to you how you want to manage your time, and what you want to get the most out of it. For me, it was easily like I wanted to work and apply what I’m learning in the startup setting, and then, also, just build community where I can and really focus on the few people, if not some people that were really going to add a lot of value to my Haas experience versus trying to meet everyone. And there has to be that intentionality that needs to be there in order to make it all work.
[33:39] Chris: John, as we’re coming towards the end of the podcast, one of the things that you shared about is just areas of focus now for you. I know some areas of childcare shortage and women reproductive rights are two areas that you’re passionate about. I wanted to just give you an opportunity to share a bit about your passion and why it’s so important for you. And then, maybe, we’d finish off with a lightning round. We’ve been trying something new here. So, maybe, some words of wisdom for you and a lightning round. But first, the topics that you’re super passionate about. We’d love to hear more about your passion behind it, and thoughts for folks who might be listening on the podcast from you.
[34:14] John: Yeah, absolutely. I think, for me, as a queer ally, as well as just a man in general, it’s very important for me to acknowledge that women’s reproductive rights are very much threatened at this point with the overturning of Roe versus Wade. I know that there’s some multitude of ways to get involved, such as donating to parenthood or downright activism, as well as working with your legislative folks to petition for them to advocate for broader laws to protect reproductive rights.
But I think, for me, one of the aspects that’s really important reproductive rights is that, at least for me growing up, my family had always told me how I was “a miracle baby.” And the reason why is that my mom had me at a very old age of 36. And I had had a lot of different defects, potentially. And scoliosis was one of them. And I remember very adamantly that my parents, they were told by their doctor, “Hey, you might want to terminate this pregnancy if you want to, but we can’t perform it here,” because at that point it was a Catholic hospital. But my parents specifically were very religious. They were Catholic. And, of course, they erred on the side of whatever God has provided them, they’ll work it out and they’ll be able to navigate as they go. However, I think, fundamentally, when I heard that story back, the different thing, for sure, that struck to me was that my mom chose to keep me. That is full-on what she did. And it was one of those things where she had her options to go where she could terminate me. And, of course, sometimes, it becomes a crying call for her folks to use my story as a way to say, what if you were this? What if you were that? And really, for me, one of the things I just always say is that my mom had a choice. And she made that choice. And the thing is, in this country, we’re not giving women the choice anymore. And that is the thing that’s really scary. And I think that we really need to reevaluate ourselves, whether we’re looking at this from a religious standpoint, which is, at the same time, should not be the case when it comes to reproductive rights, but also just look at the lack of infrastructure that we have when it comes to post-baby.
A lot of the times, we’re so fixated on the fetus and the embryo, and we don’t even have universal pre-K, for example. We have very patchwork resources for underprivileged mothers. But it’s really usually a cyclical damage, to some extent, because a lot of these programs, when you look at the crux of it, like 10th or other low-income services, is that, in order for you to get these services, you have to meet an income threshold. And when you start to go over that income threshold, they’re like, “You can’t get the service anymore.” So, it’s like it becomes a cycle of poverty a lot of the time, especially when we look at post-pandemic and the fact that a lot of women haven’t been able to return to the workforce because there isn’t available childcare for them. And that is one of the things that Wonderschool is trying to fix today, is our childcare shortage and empowering providers to run their business efficiently.
But at the crux of it, it’s like we are expecting so much of women and determining a lot of decisions and body autonomy that we shouldn’t be determining, but at the same time stripping away basic needs and basic sustenance for those in need. And it becomes one of those things where it’s like, how hateful can we be to someone that we would subject for them to have this sort of life and for us to dictate for them to have this life? And so, for me, however the Haas community can get involved, I really hope that we stand with our women at Haas and our other community members to really uplift their voices and ensure that Roe isn’t the end but the beginning of something even better for reproductive rights.
[38:35] Chris: That’s awesome, John. As we close, John, we’d love to do our tradition on the podcast. It’s been awesome to hear your story. And we’d love to do a lightning round here, maybe two or three questions, and maybe get some words of wisdom from you to share with our listeners.
[38:51] John: Absolutely, let’s hit it.
[38:52] Chris: All right. First question, John, is there one or a couple defining leadership principles or DLPs that resonate with you personally?
[39:00] John: I think, for me, the biggest one for sure is Student Always. And the reason why I think that that really strikes with me is that it’s a really good way to approach any work situation, life situation, even just things that you’re confused about. And if you approach it from being a student always in that approaching it as a way that you don’t know everything, in that there’s always a learning opportunity there, I think it’s really surprised me in a lot of different ways in my life and applying being a student always, whether looking at new ways of thinking when it comes to product development, looking at different perspectives for customer engagement, or even just customer needs, for example, in the work setting, and even just taking one step higher and even trying to see what is the business need for this? Or, how are we going to navigate new business environments post-pandemic, and all of that? And I think, if we have that student mindset, it’s really more of discovering as you go and less daunting, for the most part.
[40:09] Chris: John, second question, what’s one piece of advice that you give someone either thinking of going through or coming out of the MBA program?
[40:18] John: Good question there. I think one of the best advice I could give would probably be something along the lines of expect the unexpected.
[40:29] Chris: Good advice.
[40:30] John: Exactly. And the reason why is that, I feel like, in every sort of scenario or even just life in general, I think our generation has had it the most, but in our millennial and gen-Z sprinkled in there, we’ve been through so many crises that it doesn’t feel like a crisis anymore, or it feels like everything’s in crisis. And so, a lot of the times, when we’re making big decisions, such as career or going back to school, or even whether you’re finding a partner, for example, all of these things, there isn’t ever a perfect timing. And also, from my perspective, there isn’t really a perfect job, either. And so, it’s really a give and take when you’re looking at your experiences and what you want to prioritize, because we can drink out of the fire hose and do everything that we can, but that’s a quick recipe to burn out, and then, also, just a quick way to disappointment, if you’re always expecting something and you’re not ready for the unexpected.
[41:42] Chris: Yeah, absolutely. And last question, John, what’s one thing you hope to see in the future, either personally or beyond yourself?
[41:49] John: I think, for me, one of the things I really want to see in the future is a lot more integration with technology and government. And the reason why is I’m seeing a lot of tech startups that are working in the social impact space and platforms like Wonderschool where I work at, as well as Binti that works with social workers and foster care adoptions, these sorts of platforms are really transforming a lot of the way that governments are processing information or navigating spaces within their communities. And what I want to see is, hopefully, a lot more tech enablement, as well as empowering under-resourced communities with technology to actually get access to these services, to these resources, even online learning, for example. That is a huge equalizer for folks who are unable to work the standard 9:00 to 5:00 school schedule. For me, there’s really a lot of room for technology to empower government and government agencies to do the best that they can and actually make the impact that they intend to do so. And so, hopefully, I think, in the future, we’ll see a lot more tech within our government fields and then a lot more smoother work and lifting communities along the way.
[43:11] Chris: Well, John, man, it’s been great to have you on the podcast today. Just a truly amazing story and amazing journey. Just want to thank you again for making time to join us today. And super excited to have been in conversation with you here.
[43:25] John: Thank you so much, Chris. Great to be here.
[43:29] Outro: Thanks again for tuning in to this episode of the OneHaas Podcast. Enjoyed our show today? Please remember to hit that Subscribe or Follow button on your favorite podcast player. We’d also really appreciate you giving us a five-star rating and review.
If you’re looking for more content, please check out our website at haas.fm. That’s spelled H-A-A-S.F-M. There, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter and check out some of our other Berkeley Haas podcasts. And until next time. Go, bears.