H@H: Ep. 33 – On the latest episode of Here@Haas, host Ray Guan is joined by Nick Bellamy, FTMBA ’21, to discuss Nick’s journey from the UK to New York to Haas. Nick then talks about his career journey, shifting from IBM consulting to various jobs and internships in the cannabis industry. Nick is also the president of the Berkeley Cannabis Industry Club (BCIC), and we discuss the club’s goals, annual career and social events, and roles MBA students typically look for in cannabis. Finally, Nick gives some hints about his future plans after graduation (hopefully before shelter-in-place ends).
On how he realized his passion for cannabis – “If you can spend your weekends willingly reading and educating yourself on something, that’s a great sign.”
On the goals of BCIC – “We want to help people. We don’t have another agenda; we just want to learn, to connect people, and we want to just educate ourselves and our members about cannabis.”
On advice for prospective students – “[Don’t] figure out what works for other people, but figure out what works for yourself.”
Share us with a fellow friend or Haasie!
[00:00:00] Ray: Welcome to the here@haas podcast. I’m your host, Ray Guan. And today, we’re joined by Nick Bellamy, a second-year, full-time MBA student, and president of the Berkeley cannabis industry club.
[00:00:13] Welcome to the podcast, Nick.
[00:00:18] Nick: Thanks for having me.
[00:00:20] Ray: You are a fellow international student from the UK. Tell us about your upbringing in the United Kingdom. What brought you to the US and how you ended up at Haas?
[00:00:32] Nick: Sure. So, I grew up in the UK. As you said, I lived in a suburb of London and moved to London after I graduated from university. I worked for IBM in consulting for around a year and a half and then was lucky enough to get a transfer to New York. So, I continued working for IBM and consulting there, focused on financial services.
[00:00:59] And after a couple years, more years doing that, I moved into the corporate strategy team of global business services. So, working at IBM for my entire professional career so far, I wanted to explore other pastures. I was really focused on finding a role in an industry that I really identified with and was passionate about.
[00:01:31] And that’s what led me to exploring, applying to business school. So, as we both know, that process is a long and arduous one and requires a lot of self-reflection. So, during that process, I came to find an interest in cannabis and the industry itself specifically and all the opportunities that were available to me. I just felt that that was such an incredible range of things that I could do with my experience that I couldn’t achieve in other industries.
[00:02:07] And was, as I said, I wanted to be really passionate about it. So, I took some time to do a pre-MBA internship at a VC fund based out of LA. I loved it. So, I wanted to continue that and after getting into Haas, have continued to explore that. And that’s kind of where I am at today.
Application to/Exploration of Business School
[00:02:27] Ray: Let’s go back to when you were talking about applying to business school, specifically I guess to Haas, but in your process when you were applying to business school with Haas being one of those schools, obviously. What did you expect? I mean, coming from the UK, are the expectations of an MBA here similar to those in Europe?
[00:02:53] Nick: Yeah, I did initially consider schools in Europe but after a while, you know, wanting to just get a different experience completely to what I had had before. I lived in London and Europe, I lived on the East coast. This industry that I was interested in is it’s capital is in California. So, it seemed that it was a natural choice for me to explore schools in California.
[00:03:21] And as it relates to why Haas, I feel that they are, I mean, I feel like we all know that there are much more progressive at open school and culture. And every connection that I made with Haas, I just felt like, yeah, this fits, you know, you just have that feeling. And that was from the moment that I stepped on campus to when I heard that I got it.
[00:03:43] And I just felt that it was right for me in the way that it was principles, it’s culture, the people who tend to go to the school, it just all felt right to me. So that’s kind of what led me to California with business school and specifically Haas, but, you know, as it relates to how MBAs are viewed in Europe, I feel like it’s a very much different perception in that in Europe, it’s not seen necessarily as a huge must have. Whereas in some areas in the US depending on what industry or level of management or role or whatever you want to get into, it’s more seen as a great nice to have or tick in the box. So, I feel like they’re very differently perceived in Europe and, you know, while I want to move back to Europe one day, I don’t feel like I do immediately.
[00:04:42] So, felt really comfortable in making that leap despite those differences that I see in perceptions.
Interest in Cannibis Industry
[00:04:50] Ray: Right. I want to actually back up a little bit on when you were talking about finding the role in the industry that you’re passionate about. So, how did you find out that cannabis was that role or was that industry that you’re interested in? Like, was this trial and error? You know, was that already part of your life at that point, if you care to admit, like how did you end up deciding on cannabis?
[00:05:18] Nick: I’m always happy to care to admit that I use cannabis on a frequent basis. And that’s part of the reason why I’m passionate about it, you know. It’s helped my life in so many ways, whether that be enabling me to relax after a hard day’s work or manage my learning difference or sleep or a lot of things.
[00:05:42] So, you know, I’ve always been personally interested. I wouldn’t say always. Um, I’ve been personally interested for many years and that kind of led me to reading about the topic. And, you know, one thing that I have always said to people is if you can spend your weekends willingly reading about something and educating yourself on something, that’s a great sign.
[00:06:06] And I just took that as a sign of wanting to explore something that I was passionate about and really enjoying doing that. So that was one thing, you know, the passion side. And I also explored starting a business with a friend back in the UK several years ago, you know. It never came to fruition and it just wasn’t really a sustainable idea and we also didn’t have the skillset that we needed, which is another reason why I wanted to go to business school. To kind of explore the whole industry subject matter more and really feel more informed, you know. I didn’t really feel informed enough to take that leap into entrepreneurship, into startups, into whatever, into a new industry generally.
[00:06:52] So I wanted to continue to explore that at business school and I feel that that’s where it’s coming. I’ve just every interaction I have with the industry I love it more and more and I just love learning about it.
[00:07:02] Ray: Yeah, I think it’s one thing to enjoy consumption of products, right, like whether it’s cannabis, whether it’s food, even, you know, iPhones or technology. And it’s another to be really so fascinated, so potentially obsessed by it that you spend your free time understanding, you know, maybe the logistics of it, the farming as it relates to cannabis, like really the product, like the chemistry behind it.
Involvement in Cannibis Club
[00:07:32] Ray: So, let’s dive into your involvement with the cannabis club here at Haas. So, I believe, uh, you’re one of the co-presidents of the Berkeley Cannabis Industry club. Tell us about the club.
[00:07:47] Nick: Yeah, sure. I am one of the co-presidents. I have an amazing co-president, Dalayna. She and I work incredibly well. I feel like our chemistry is a huge reason behind the success that we’ve had in the last year. So, you know, a lot of that success can be summed up through SHECANN, which happened in March and must’ve been two or three days before the Bay area was shut down and before we knew really anything about corona or COVID so, you know, that was a really momentous event for us. It took months of planning. We had over 300 people from the wider community in Berkeley attend. It was an amazing event where we brought to light people from underrepresented minorities and also women who help build this incredible cannabis industry that we’re a part of.
[00:08:50] And, you know, really just sums up our club. We want to help people. We don’t have another agenda. We just want to learn. We want to connect people. And we want to just give, we want to just educate ourselves and our members about cannabis. So, I feel like that sums up our club really well. And you know, one thing that we’re trying to do differently this year is bring a bit more of a social aspect to it.
[00:09:14] Although that’s pretty, pretty difficult with COVID, we feel that we had a really big focus on that community and education aspect last year but we want to bring that social aspect and more fun, fun to it this year. So, you’ll be seeing some really awesome and cool things in our speaker series which is in full beat or mostly November.
Focus of the Cannibis Club
[00:09:34] Ray: Yeah. And actually, that’s one of the questions I had because last this year, uh, we had a guest on who represented or who was a co-president of the Food@Haas club. And prior to that, I had no the idea that the Food@Haas club actually focus more towards careers and like the social aspect.
[00:09:56] Um, so is it safe to say that the cannabis club at Haas kind of splits the difference between having, you know, career speakers and also social events once we are able to, I guess, safely meet in person again.
[00:10:10] Nick: Yeah. I think that last year we were more aligned to what Food@Haas would have been like but like I say, a lot to people, you know, you have to appreciate that. Just like a lot of other things cannabis is, one of the reasons people are so interested in is because it’s fun and people who consume it recreationally enjoy it and wants to share that enjoyment with people.
[00:10:36] So we really wanted to bring that aspect into it this year and feel like it’s an important part of color for new culture which we have. A duty to highlight as a club but also the school and just people’s lives that they should feel free to express themselves in, you know, part of us de-stigmatizing the cannabis conversation is being able to consume and enjoy cannabis together in a nonjudgmental way.
[00:11:08] Ray: No, that’s a great point that you highlight. And I think it ties back to, as you were saying, part of the reason why choosing Haas and choosing Berkeley.
Careers in Cannibis
[00:11:18] Ray: So then I guess I want to ask you what are some roles that are popular career choices for students who want to enter the industry and especially as it relates to MBA students?
[00:11:32] Nick: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, we actually just had our previous president start his own business. It’s called Mave, you everyone who’s listening should check it out. He’s an incredible guy for head and he’s working on helping people with rheumatoid arthritis, manage that pain, that chronic illness, and that chronic pain, and he’s doing an incredible job.
[00:11:56] And that just highlights exactly what our principles are, you know. We’re trying to help people and educate people about how they can help themselves. So that’s one, that’s one rout. And you know, a lot of people because it’s in new industry, feel like there are more entrepreneurial opportunities available.
[00:12:13] You don’t, I could talk to you for a long time about whether that’s actually the case or whether there may be is, those perceived opportunities aren’t really there when you dig down deeper into the surface because it’s a very complex architecture of the industry that really exists.
[00:12:30] So, that’s one way which a lot of people get involved in. I myself have worked for a VC fund in an internship for a branding company in a marketing internship and another company based out of Berlin in the summer. I’m in operations and business development. So, there’s a wide range of roles just like any industry that you can do, from investing to marketing to whatever.
[00:12:57] So at anything that you can imagine, but what’s so great about the cannabis industry is that because it’s so new and because there is still a stigma about it, it’s crying out for people with real great talent. So, you might be able to get a role in cannabis that you might not have been able to get in other industries. So, you can do everything and you can actually sometimes do more.
[00:13:20] Ray: Yeah. And it seems like the role that may be best for you in this industry depends on your experience, your skillset, right? Like for someone like you, Nick, or the prior president who has been involved in its industry for awhile, entrepreneurship might be a very valid route but you can still contribute in this industry with like a sales and marketing background.
[00:13:47] I think you mentioned operations and business development. So, a lot of these skills that you learn as a student can also be applied in the cannabis realm as other realms.
[00:13:59] Nick: Absolutely. And just like other realms, we have a great set of alumni working in the industry. You know, one of my internships that I have had was working with an EW student who now is the CEO of Docklight Brands. Really awesome guy and has been a great guiding effort in my progression over the last year or so in the industry.
[00:14:25] So, just like anything, you know, everything’s available to you. We’ve got great networks here with the club and through all us and yeah, we just, we’re loving it at the moment. It’s great, very fun.
[00:14:36] Ray: Awesome. Well, I want to ask you next about your experience in your internships. And I’d actually want to first jump back to, you mentioned you did a pre-MBA internship which is actually, I think, this is actually the first time we’ve had a guest come on the podcast that has done a pre-MBA internship.
[00:14:58] So I actually liked to ask you about, can you just tell our listeners what went into decision of doing a pre-MBA internship and was it difficult to leave knowing that that was kind of the path that you wanted to pursue?
[00:15:13] Nick: Yeah, a great question because it was difficult to leave. Uh, no matter what the path I wanted to pursue and especially that role, you know, I had such a great time with the people there and the team there and loved it. But I applied to business school with a story that I really believed in and lived and breathe and wanted to explore the industry.
[00:15:39] So, that’s what made me do the pre-MBA internship. I left my job, my full-time job at IBM in around February. Wanted to go traveling for a bit but also wanted to start figuring out what I wanted to do and didn’t want to waste any time. So, I got that internship, loved it. It was difficult to leave but I stuck to my principles of trying to learn more about myself, about this industry, about what type of role I wanted to be at, and what type of company I wanted to be at.
[00:16:11] And didn’t think that firstly a few months internship was enough to decide that for me or at least that I didn’t want to continue trying to answer that question. And, really wanted to dig deeper into myself.
[00:16:31] Ray: Okay. And then fast forward after the first year of the full-time MBA, um, you started working at another cannabis company over the summer. Tell us about that experience and how it differed from your pre-MBA internship.
[00:16:48] Nick: Yeah, it was vastly different and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it, actually. So, as we’ve said, I’m from the UK and I haven’t spent more than like a week that since I left, like nearly five years ago now.
[00:17:04] Nick: Five years in October. So, I haven’t really had the chance to spend a significant amount of time that and I love Europe.
[00:17:13] I love England. So yeah, a huge soccer fan or football fan. So, you know, that the community, the culture back there, I miss it greatly. And wanted to explore living back there and potentially moving back there full-time. So, took an internship in Berlin, which is considered Germany, is considered the current and future cannabis capital of Europe.
[00:17:43] So wanting to explore what living near home was like and being back home was like, so that was the.
[00:17:50] Ray: Not Amsterdam, huh?
[00:17:53] Nick: I’m actually not that much of a business-center, more so a cultural center. Actually not technically fully legal recreationally that they just exercised loopholes in regulations for that tourism. So, so, so. No, not that although I did visit while I was in Selma, one of my great friends is there so visited him.
[00:18:21] And you know, one thing that was great about being in Europe was that they managed COVID a lot better than they have done over here in the US. So, I was in the office every day for the first two weeks when I was isolating so that was an awesome experience. And, you know, role-wise, I knew that I loved my VC internship but also wanted to explore what a similar role at IBM would look like in the cannabis industry.
[00:18:52] So I looked into, um, doing business development that but then also I wanted to explore operations side of things because I’ve always consulted on operational improvements but never actually done them. So, what is to kind of just continue to validate my hypothesis or invalidated that I had about the industry going, going into my first internship.
[00:19:13] So that’s kind of what led me to all of that.
[00:19:17] Ray: And so now you are at the start of your second year knowing what you know and what you gained out of the first year of the MBA, as well as your two internships, where does that put you going forward?
[00:19:32] Nick: Yeah. So, I think that what I’ve learned career-wise over the last year and through my experience and through then through my time at Haas is not that I have to have this particular role at this particular company but that I need a role that satisfies the way I like to think and the way I enjoy working, which is with kind of creativity and an analytical mindset where one thing doesn’t necessarily lead to another thing and you get to use your brain to analyze whether you think X relationship is good or why businesses worth investing in or whatever.
[00:20:15] So I think that it’s helped me realize that I need a particular type of role, not a particular role, which has been really, it’s kind of a bit liberating as well. And it’s also helped me realize that I’m not quite ready to go back to Europe full time.
[00:20:35] And would love to base myself out of either San Francisco or New York or California generally. Um, you know, my partner lives back in New York, so and I loved it there, so I would be very open to go back there too.
Lightning Round – “Fun Round”
[00:20:50] Ray: For sure. So, why don’t we conclude this interview with some, uh, lightning round questions.
[00:20:56] So, the first thing I wanted to ask you is just one thing that you’re looking forward to whenever things completely returned to normal.
[00:21:03] Nick: Oh, wow. I’m going to a ball with my Haas classmates. That would be great. Ever since being back at Haas, I have felt the academic side of things has actually been great this year, but you know, the social side, I miss that daily. So just cut friends really.
[00:21:22] Ray: Right now, we all do, and I love how you kept it simple, you know, it’s just like, Hey, just want to grab a drink with my friends. Okay. And then next question, uh, what’s a book or podcasts that you recommend that you’re currently consuming.
[00:21:37] Nick: Yeah, I love The Daily. Obviously, it’s such a fascinating time in our history at the moment, politically and culturally. It’s super informative.
[00:21:48] I highly recommend it. And obviously it’s extremely popular. So, most people probably know about it.
[00:21:54] Ray: Yup. Pre-show, we were talking about, uh, soccer or football, the real football. Right. I think we’ve actually both been two world cups. So, I’ll ask you this. What’s your favorite soccer memory?
[00:22:08] Nick: Oh, wow. My favorite soccer memory or football memory I should say is, when England beat Wales in the Euros in France in 2016. Daniel Sturridge scored the last-minute winner and me and my mates were behind the goal and just went crazy, which is, it’s just an unbeatable feeling as an England fan.
[00:22:30] Ray: Yeah. That’s yeah, I think you probably get a similar type of reaction in the US for football. Like, have you actually been to an American football game?
[00:22:39] Nick: I’ve not actually, no, it’s always something that I’ve wanted to do but then I get to doing it and it’s four hours long and it doesn’t really entice me.
[00:22:50] Ray: Right. It’s all the advertisements, right? I mean, although I did see that they recently started playing maybe the last 10 years or so, a couple of games in London and for a year.
[00:23:02] Nick: Right, which are very popular.
[00:23:04] Ray: Yeah, and I can’t you go without asking you, uh, when I read on your LinkedIn profile that you’re a certified scuba dive master. Tell us about that and how you got interested in getting certified.
[00:23:20] Nick: Yeah, sure. So, I love to travel and have taken any opportunities where I’ve had breaks in work or school to do so for extended period of time. The first time I did that was after high school when I was 18 and I traveled to Thailand and ended up getting my dive master, and just staying and teaching that for a bit in Kotel.
[00:23:45] So it was a really cool experience that I had and something that I was so lucky to have when I was only 18. And it’s just something that I’m fascinated with. I absolutely love diving.
[00:23:58] Ray: And it sounds like we can add another item to the bucket list of things to do after COVID, uh, which is travel.
[00:24:05] Nick: Yeah, I’ve always, I’ve had it on my mind that I would reach 50 countries traveled before I was 30. And I’m pretty close but I’m on like 45 at the moment and thought I would get that but haven’t been able to, so who knows? Maybe post COVID.
[00:24:27] Ray: I guess I just want to wrap with this, Nick. Um, you came from the UK to the US and are doing your MBA here. Uh, and so far, it seems like it’s worked out quite well.
[00:24:39] What advice do you have for those that are potentially in your shoes? And I’m talking about prospective students from other countries outside the US when they’re considering applying to Haas or other top MBA schools.
[00:24:57] Nick: Yeah, I would say that a great piece of advice would be to not figure out what works for other people but figure out what works for yourself. You know, so many people come to business school and then maybe don’t realize that it’s such a journey of self-reflection and exploration and perhaps lose sight of that a bit.
[00:25:24] So I feel that just having a focus on knowing what you want to get out of it personally is massive underrated. It may seem simple but really underrated.
[00:25:36] Ray: You’re totally right. Everyone comes here for a reason and oftentimes those reasons are different. Some want to get involved in entrepreneurship, some want to advance within their company.
[00:25:47] Right? We have the four, I think, segments of advancers, pivoters, explorers, and entrepreneurship, and that’s a great point to end on. I guess with that, um, is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you wanted to be asked?
[00:26:01] Nick: No, not particularly. Just if anyone’s interested in the club or wants to chat more about cannabis in general business side, social side, let me know.
[00:26:12] Ray: And you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s NICK dot B E L L A M Y@berkeley.edu.
[00:26:25] Outro: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of here@haas. If you enjoyed the show, please tell a friend and fellow Haasi. And don’t forget to leave us a rating and review. For more Haas podcasts, check out our interviews with alumni on OneHaas and the OneHaas undergraduate podcast. I’m Ray Guan, and we’ll see you next time here at Haas.