H@H: Ep 42 – Kevin Chang joins host, Ray Guan on this week’s episode of Here@Haas. Kevin, an entrepreneur with a background in investment banking, shares his experience and learnings from past ventures and how Haas served as a spark for new opportunities. Kevin is the recently elected co-President of the EWMBA Association and is looking to encourage fellow students to take charge of their experience and get the most out of what Haas has to offer.
Kevin, on his deep-rooted interest in entrepreneurship – “I’ve always been fairly entrepreneurial. I spent a lot of high school days in my buddy’s garage, where we would just think about the different kinds of businesses that we could start or what we could do to grow up and not have to work in a nine to five job.”
On how he makes the most of his time and Haas and encourages peers to do the same – “When we come into the program, I think there’s some preconception that things will be handed to us […] or things will just work out. I’ve encouraged incoming students and even current students show up and really make the program yours.”
- Professor Kurt Beyer
- Deepak Gupta of Career Management Group
- CITRIS Foundry
- Promised Land by Barack Obama
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Ray: Welcome to here@Haas, a student-run podcast for the Berkeley Haas community. I’m Ray Guan. And today we’re joined by Kevin Chang, a fellow evening weekend student of the class of 2022 and the incoming EWMBAA co-president next year. Welcome to the podcast, Kevin.
Kevin: Thanks for I’m very excited to be here.
[00:00:24] Ray: The honor is all mine, Mr. Co-president. Why don’t you start us off by telling us about your background and career prior to coming to Haas?
[00:00:32] Kevin: I actually grew up in investment banking. I did mergers and acquisitions at a small boutique bank. After a few years, I decided that I wanted to come to get my MBA and potentially pursue either corporate finance, corporate strategy, or entrepreneurship. And that’s really what led me to not just looking into options for schools, but also, looking at different programs and taking a look closer, look at Haas.
[00:01:01] Ray: Okay. So, I wanna stop you right there. You mentioned starting your career in investment banking. At what point did the idea of the MBA kind of come into mind? Was that during the beginning, during the middle, at what point did that enter your mind?
[00:01:19] Kevin: Really, the MBA track was always in my mind in terms of the educational goals that I wanted to reach. On top of that education and networking is really the way to move forward and really to be able to grow, not just academically or intellectually, but also just as a person socially.
[00:01:39] Ray: When you were considering schools, what kind of led you to have Haas pop up on your radar? And also, why part-time versus full-time or some other programs you were looking for?
[00:01:54] Kevin: I was looking at schools in the Bay area because that’s where I was already located. Additionally, Haas is a top MBA program, so I felt like my peers would be able to inspire and motivate me. I had actually applied early on to the full-time program but it wasn’t accepted. They instead referred me over to the evening weekend program, which wasn’t even on my radar. But after doing a little bit of research, I realized that it was a great way to apply what I’d been learning in class to what I was doing professionally.
[00:02:21] Ray: What I’m hearing is it was a good balance of getting some of the benefits of the MBA as far as networking, as far as knowledge, but at the same time being able to work and apply those skills and earn a salary simultaneously. Right?
[00:02:39] Kevin: Yeah. It actually turned out to be very beneficial because it allowed me the opportunity to pursue entrepreneurship in a full-time role when I did come to Haas.
[00:02:49] Ray: We saw that you’ve had a couple of ventures as a co-founder with Peace Destinations and Netic. Can you give us some background on some of these ventures and maybe what you learn going through these experiences?
[00:03:04] Kevin: Peace destinations was a travel business that I started at the end of 2019.
Ray: Very untimely.
Kevin: Exactly. When people started realizing the impact that coronavirus was going to have end of January or early February, I was actually in Nepal, setting up business contacts and organizing things for the business there.
[00:03:29] And when I got back, everything had shut down. What I will say is that it was still a great experience and not just in business and entrepreneurship, but a great experience for me to be able to go out there and make those connections and those friendships. And I consider myself very lucky to have had that experience. With Netic, actually met the two other co-founders through the entrepreneurship course at Haas, which I highly recommend for anybody interested in entrepreneurship. When we were working on the project in class, we began realizing just through customer interviews, that we were really onto something and the idea was remote physical therapy.
[00:04:07] Ray: Can you just tell us a little bit more about that class? Did they assign you a team of folks based on common interests, how much of that class is student-led versus professor led?
[00:04:22] Kevin: Yeah, so it’s taught by Professor Beyer. What I really like about the course is that it’s very experiential and hands-on halfway through the course. There’s an event called Darwin Day where everybody takes ideas that they have and pitches it to the class in a three minute or so pitch.
[00:04:39] After which the class votes on the top 12 or 13 ideas to work on for the remainder of the semester. And then the entire class gets grouped into these specific ideas. My idea actually didn’t get chosen, but myself and then the two other co-founders that I had met through there, all had a very similar idea for physical therapy or stroke rehabilitation or virtualizing fitness.
[00:05:04] We only had a couple of classes together and then we went completely virtual which was definitely an interesting dynamic as well. Being able to just really apply what we’re learning in class and looking at the project as a real business, I think was very beneficial for myself, as well as other people who have taken the course who I’ve been able to catch up with.
[00:05:26] Ray: Did you always have entrepreneurship in your blood, so to speak, or did it come up naturally as you’re surrounded, potentially by other entrepreneurs at Haas?
[00:05:38] Kevin: I’ve always been fairly entrepreneurial. I spent a lot of high school days in my buddy’s garage where we would just think about the different kinds of businesses that we could start or what we could do to maybe not grow up and not have to work in a nine to five job or something like that.
[00:05:56] I actually started my first business when I was in college. And part of it was exploratory. Part of it was, I saw that there was an opportunity to do something, to generate some pocket money. And it was a great experience.
[00:06:08] Ray: And other than the entrepreneurship class at Haas, what other resources have you leveraged here?
[00:06:13] Kevin: One is the advisory services. Deepak Gupta is always available to chat and advise startups. Also, this past fall Netic got into Launch, which is an accelerator program. There’s definitely a lot of resources that Haas offers. We’ve talked about the entrepreneurship class. And there are other classes such as Lean Launchpad startup sales.
[00:06:37] There are other programs such as StEP Berkeley, Skydeck Citris Foundry, and a bunch of other ones that I’m missing. You know, another one of our goals for the exec team is going to be making these resources more pronounced and accessible to students.
[00:06:53] Ray: So, I want to go back to the theme of wellness. You mentioned Peace Destinations being a wellness retreat company in Nepal. I think a lot of us could use a vacation like that just about now. And then also Netic being the virtual health and wellness startup, helping people through injuries and other sorts of therapy. How did you come about that theme of wellness? Is this something that you apply in your own life on a day-to-day basis?
[00:07:24] Kevin: That’s a great question. I have a particular interest in mental wellness and mental health based on my previous experiences. I’ve had a few very close friends who have struggled with depression, a couple of friends who’ve actually passed away from depression. And I think those experiences have led me to realize how pervasive a problem mental health is.
[00:07:51] And I don’t want to diminish any efforts that have been led by the school or led by people out there working in the space, because I think there have been huge strides. I think it just calls upon people to continue pushing in the direction that we need to go, and that will get us to where we need to be faster.
[00:08:10] And with that, I will also mention that mental health and mental wellness specifically will be part of our goal as an exec team, help provide better access to the services that Berkeley already provides as well as potentially create new ways for people to engage different services.
[00:08:31] Ray: I love that we’re recording in the middle of December. It’s almost been nine full months since the shelter in place in the Bay area. And a lot of our friends, our cohort mates, that folks in the other programs have struggled with the fact that we’re now only meeting virtually as like a larger group. So, that’s a great segue. Why don’t we go into your involvement with student leadership at Haas and specifically the EWMBAA. Tell us what made you want to get involved in student leadership at Haas and specifically within the EWMBAA.
[00:09:12] Kevin: Sure. Yeah. I think just coming into Haas and really seeing the effort and the work that has been put in by the previous executive team and the amount of collaboration there is at Haas really just inspired me to be a part of that, and to contribute to that, and to help that grow.
[00:09:32] Networking was a really big part of doing my MBA and having those opportunities to connect and meet and really make lasting relationships with my classmates I think drove me to want to run for the VP of social which I did this year.
[00:09:49] Ray: The events that you guys have set up this year, obviously most of them virtual, have been a success. I think just last week we were in the virtual poker tournament that I think one of your co VPs Atoka set up. And we were surprised there were at least 40-50 people. Tell us more about the function of co-president and what you do for the larger EWMBA community and program this upcoming year.
[00:10:24] Kevin: Yeah, definitely. I think this year will be special in that a lot of what Jillian’s and my role will be is to get the student body re-engage with the program. Obviously, everybody being virtual and everyone going from an environment of seeing their classmates two times a week for not just class but dinner break, going to the bars afterward, or events like Haas Boats or winter gala. Removing all those things has made the MBA program feel so academic in a way that I think the value, the core values, have really been lost in terms of what a lot of the students are looking for.
[00:11:04] I think that’s caused a lot of disenfranchisement. And I think with the co-president position going forward in 2021, what we really want to focus on is getting students re-engaged with classmates, with school, networking with people, you know, and I think we’ve lost a lot of the water cooler talk that has resulted in some of the really great moments. I can point to that were highlights of my own MBA experience for the first year.
[00:11:32] Ray: Can you give us maybe a sneak preview of the ideas you guys are thinking for next year, in terms of free engagement?
[00:11:40] Kevin: One of the interesting things we’re looking at is being more flexible with the VP elections and VP roles. The previous exec team really supported VPs in having us define our own goals.
[00:11:54] And that’s something that we’re looking to continue and even expand on just by creating new VP positions or having two separate elections. We’re excited to work with people who are trying to contribute to the program and make it a better experience for others. Another would be consolidating the communication that students receive.
[00:12:13] I think right now, students are also just bombarded with emails and surveys and requests that many of them don’t look at their emails anymore, myself included. So, finding a way to effectively communicate with the EW student body, I think, is going to be of importance to us.
[00:12:35] Ray: Yeah. Right now we have Slack. We have email. We have, I guess, no longer do we have face-to-face but we have Zoom. Right? So, that’s in and of itself. If you look at even five years ago, it was really only email. And now you’ve just introduced these new channels. The concept of Zoom fatigue is real, right. And it’s really not just Zoom fatigue.
[00:12:57] It’s like really screen fatigue. Previously when you were, when we were meeting in the classroom, when we were meeting in bars to network and yeah, enjoy each other’s company, like that has been replaced by a virtual happy hour, which really, it just increases your screen time. Yeah. That’s great that you guys are focusing on that aspect that kind of just ties in with mental health and mental wellness that we spoke about.
[00:13:25] I want to focus on you now, Kevin. Over the past last nine months as this program has kind of shifted to fully virtual, how have you made the most of the pandemic?
[00:13:40] Kevin: Yeah, there are some benefits to a virtual environment. Uh, the biggest one being no commute. It’s definitely given me some more time to spend for myself. And also, just connect with family more often.
[00:13:53] Ray: What were your plans coming into Haas and how have those changed now that you’re a year and a half plus COVID into your program?
[00:14:05] Kevin: My main plan and my main goal for the MBA program was to really just make the most of it. To meet as many people as I could, network, and really build those lifelong relationships that you can get when you’re with a bunch of really smart and really driven people. That hasn’t changed. I think just the method in how we do it has been impacted. It went from being able to schedule sit-downs or grabbing coffee with people to now having to rely on the Donut app in Slack. It’s made things more difficult, but I still think that my main goal of trying to make this an experience where you don’t have regrets and you don’t have that thought in your head of what if I just attended that event? Or what if I had just reached out to this person? Or you want to, what if like, just having that question of what if is something that –
[00:15:03] Ray: Exactly, nice. Next, we just have some lightning round questions for you. These should just be quick. Quick questions, quick answers.
Ray: First, what was the most interesting job you had growing up?
[00:15:17] Kevin: Well, the most interesting job was probably, uh, I was a soccer referee. I think that was my first job actually. And so, I ref U twelves or something when I was 16, but it was just something that I love doing and I got paid for it, which was great.
[00:15:32] Ray: Yeah, and I believe you also play on the Haas soccer team.
[00:15:37] Kevin: The Haas soccer team was a great way to meet some full-time students. In my first year, we went to UCLA for a tournament and often for a tournament. Those are really great memories as well.
[00:15:50] Ray: Speaking of that, what is your favorite Haas memory? If you just had to pick one.
[00:15:54] Kevin: Haas Boats, if you’re tying my hands, it’s going to be Haas Boats.
[00:16:00] Ray: Right now, you’ve only had one Haas Boats, but in a future podcast, I’ll ask you to pick which years Haas Boats. Yeah. Moving on next. What is a podcast or book recommendation you can give our listeners?
[00:16:16] Kevin: I’m still reading it, but a Promised Land by Obama. I think so far, it’s been a very interesting read and I’m looking forward to finishing it.
[00:16:28] Ray: Nice. And then, what is a habit you’ve picked up, good or bad, during this pandemic?
[00:16:36] Kevin: I’ve actually been going surfing more often. Not so much since the weather has been getting colder but during the summer I was going once a week to once every other week.
[00:16:47] Ray: Nice. I mean, that’s a good, socially distant way to
Kevin: Get a tan?
Ray: Sure. And also, you know, it’s nice because you get a workout in and it can be pretty meditative depending on how violent the waves are. Cool. Then I guess we’d just like to wrap our interview with any advice that you have for future or incoming students.
[00:17:14] Kevin: Sure. When we come into the program, I think there’s maybe some preconception that things will be handed to us or things are working properly, or things will just work out and what I’ve encouraged incoming students and even current students is to show up and really make the program yours. And what I mean by that is to, if you see a problem, say something about it and do something about it. I think that’s one thing that me and the exec team, we want to encourage people to have that mindset and to really participate where they can because the program isn’t perfect. I don’t think any program out there is perfect and there’s always going to be ways we can improve it.
[00:17:59] There’s always going to be ways that we can be more inclusive or be more entrepreneurial or facilitate this or facilitate that. Right. And I think it’s on us as students to really drive that change. So again, I think my advice for incoming students would be just to speak up, do something about it. Talk to people, be active, and make the most of your MBA program.
[00:18:24] Ray: Thanks so much for coming on the podcast today, Kevin.
Kevin: Thanks for having me.
Ray: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of here@haas. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a rating and review and check out our website for links, show notes, and other episodes.
[00:18:40] This episode was produced by Nick Gerwe and edited by Kyle Cook. I’m your host Ray Guan. And we’ll see you next time here at Haas.