In today’s episode of OneHaas Undergrad series, we chat with Trae Guinn, Financial Planning and Analysis Manager at Sandler Partners. He is also the Chief Financial Officer at Shortstop Management, an organization geared towards professional baseball and fitness instruction. While here at Haas, he served as the VP of Human Resources and the president of the Haas Undergrad Black Business Association.
Trae talks about his family, which is heavily involved in sports, how he developed his interest in finance and his career path after Haas, and some of the defining moments that impacted his life.
He also shares his experience of being frequently stereotyped as an athlete and how he addressed stereotype issues when he became the Haas Undergrad Black Business Association president.
Lastly, he shares his professional experiences and some of the valuable skills and qualities to move up in an organization, his passion for music, and his favorite thing about Haas/Berkeley.
On breaking stereotypes – “Be present and be unapologetically you to show versatility and that you can be confident in your interest. You can pursue whatever you want to pursue. You don’t have to conform to the standards that have been set for you.”
On innovating within a company or organization – “You want to make sure that you can set yourself apart from your peers. Everyone’s going to try to produce high-quality work, and it’s really important. But the ability to innovate and bring something new to the table will set you apart and help you establish yourself from the rest.”
What Trae likes about Haas/Berkeley – “There’s more of a free speech mentality at Berkeley than there are at some other schools. And people are encouraged to express themselves in a lot of different ways. It was cool to be a part of that type of environment.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Ellen: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the OneHaas podcast. I’m your host, Ellen. And today we’re joined by our co-host Sean Li, and our guest Trae Guinn. Trae is an FP and A manager at Sandler Partners, the nation’s fastest-growing distributor of connectivity, cloud, and its services. He’s also the CFO at Shortstop Management, an organization geared towards professional instruction in baseball and fitness.
[00:00:36] Trey graduated from the Haas School of Business in May of 2015. He was also both the VP of Human Resources and the President of the Haas Undergrad Black Business Association. Wow, Trae, very impressive and very excited to have you.
[00:00:51] Trae: Yeah, I’m excited to be here. It’s been a journey. Don’t say that much.
[00:00:55] Ellen: Can you start by sharing with us your background and your origin story?
[00:01:01] Trae: Yeah. Sure. I grew up in the Bay area, grew up in Richmond, California until middle school when I moved to El Sobrante, California, and went to Berkeley High School. So right down the street from CAU and after Berkeley high school, I graduate in 2010 and went straight up to UC Berkeley.
[00:01:17] UC Berkeley was definitely my top choice. And part of it was because there’s some family lineage there. My parents both went to UC Berkeley and that’s actually where they met. My aunt went to UC Berkeley and my brother went to UC Berkeley.
[00:01:31] So we continued. Yeah. And I didn’t go just because they went it, it was heavily influenced I’d say, but I definitely chose to go to UC Berkeley because I thought because of the prestige and the opportunities that I thought I would get from going. So, this school.
[00:01:46] Sean: It’s only the number one public school in the world.
[00:01:53] Trae: Oh no. Yeah. It is and it was right in my backyard. I’m really, I’m a really big family man. So, I wanted to be around family as long as possible. And this going to Berkeley gave me the opportunity to not only get a great education but be close to my family as I grew.
Sean: Can you share a little bit more about your family? I know you have a very unique family.
[00:02:14] Trae: Yeah. We’re a goofy bunch in privacy, but yes to that, to the rest of the world. My dad, he played professional baseball. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Oakland A’s and he had been drafted twice previously, but he didn’t sign. My mom, actually, played professional tennis and she was a top-ranked junior, national junior player, she got all-conference honors at UC Berkeley.
[00:02:39] My brother played professional baseball and was drafted by the white socks when he was a senior in high school. And then he later continued, playing for Cal, and got drafted his junior year by the San Diego Padres. And my sister, I have a younger sister as well, and she’s a very accomplished athlete as well.
[00:02:58] She played, she was a two-sport athlete in college and she went to the Academy of San Francisco. She played both basketball and ran track while there. She was also featured on the Titan games as a TV show by NBC.
[00:03:09] She’s an accomplished artist. And, yeah. So now what we do, my dad is, of course, the CEO of Shortstop Management. My mom is vice president and general counsel of Shortstop Management. My brother is the chief operations officer. My sister manages our media.
[00:03:25] Yeah. She also has another job with Argo Net where she’s a content creator. So, I guess just the family, but within ourselves. But yeah, like I said, we’re pretty, we’re to ourselves, but we’re a pretty goofy bunch. And, we try to, well, how else to describe it? You just have to meet us to know.
[00:03:44] Sean: I think we are starting to get a taste of it. Despite hearing you tell the story.
[00:03:49] Trae: Okay.
[00:03:49] Sean: Just a very jovial and upbeat family.
[00:03:53] Ellen: Yeah, it’s fun. Or do you sometimes get into arguments, stuff like that, when it comes to the business?
[00:04:02] Trae: Sometimes, I think I’m probably the most challenging to deal with because I will try to present all perspectives when it comes to whatever we’re moving and trying to move forward with. And I will argue for those perspectives, regardless of whether I believe that is the right path to take. So, it’s, just plays.
[00:04:20] I am the constant devil’s advocate. I guess it could be challenging at times, but I mean at the end of the day, we were still with family. So, we enjoy working with each other I think more than working, it’s easier to work with. I have to say it’s easier to work with my family than it is for most other people.
[00:04:38] So I definitely enjoy it and I’m sure I can speak for all of them when they when I say they enjoy working within our family as well.
[00:04:46] Sean: That’s a good thing. I mean, in the MBA, they teach us about red teaming. So, you should always have a red team and team that you know is the devil’s advocate.
[00:04:57] Trae: Yeah, that is me.
[00:04:58] Sean: That’s a healthy thing.
[00:05:00] Ellen: How did you get into finance? Is that something you develop an interest in during your time at Haas or have you always been wanting to do finance?
[00:05:10] Trae: So, finance, it kind of sucks to say, I’ve been good at math for a long time. So, finance seems like the way to go. And I knew I have so many interests. I just didn’t know, I guess, getting into college, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. So, what I decided was I’m just going to take the path where I think I can make a lot of money so I can fund my interests.
[00:05:32] And that is kind of how it came to be. And I love math. I love numbers more than anything. So, I was like, okay, this is the path where I cannot only cab opportunities to make money to fund my interests, but also something that I’m good at. And it could be useful in any industry.
[00:05:49] So I wanted to, not knowing what I wanted to do at that time, I was like, how can, what can I go into that will allow me to be not only flexible with any potential jobs, do something that I’m good at and potentially make a living out of. And I don’t know, just be in one style, I guess that’s it?
[00:06:08] Yeah, I guess that’s it. So, I wouldn’t say there was a passion for finance that drove me towards the Haas business school. I would just say I’m good at it. And I do like numbers more than anything, especially growing up and I love puzzles. So, you can ask anyone in my family, I’ve been doing puzzles since I was about two years old.
[00:06:27] Sean: What kind of puzzles?
[00:06:28] Trae: The very generic, 1,000, 2,000-piece puzzles that you put on the table.
[00:06:33] Sean: Got it.
[00:06:33] Trae: Yeah, so I’ve actually done quite a few of those in quarantine.
[00:06:38] Ellen: Yes. I was about to say.
[00:06:40] Trae: And anyone in my family it’s like I used to, while my brother was going to play outside, it’s kind of like an odd thing, but I would stay inside. It’s like, I have to finish this puzzle first and then I’ll go play.
[00:06:50] Sean: That’s so funny. Did you have any early exposure to finance to even think down that path?
[00:06:57] Trae: I guess unknowingly, I think I’ve always had a business mind or like a finance mind. This is an interesting story. So, when I was in kindergarten, I had a tolerance for sour candy or just a sour taste. So, and there was also this ice cream truck. They used to come by the kindergarten every single day.
[00:07:17] And I always wanted the snowstorm. In my opinion, it was the best ice cream available in the ice cream truck. And I really wanted it and my dad would only give me a dollar.
[00:07:26] He was like, you could have this dollar for ice cream, that’s all you have to spend for the day. The snowstorm was $1.50, so I couldn’t afford that. And I was like, man, how am I going to get the snowstorm? So, what I used to do, plus there are sour warheads back when sour warheads were pretty huge when I was in kindergarten.
[00:07:43] And so I had a tolerance, I used to bet kids. I was like, I bet I can take three warheads or however many warheads at once and not make a face and I would bet quarters. So, do that and that, and it just went around the school. I made money to get my snowstorm, so I had to do it twice.
[00:08:01] Cause I knew only did 50 cents, but that was my, I guess my side hustle, to speak, to get a snowstorm afterward. So, that was my early introduction to finance I guess when I was younger. But other than that, my grandmother was really big in real estate.
[00:08:19] My parents, my dad’s been a business owner forever. And my mom was a practicing lawyer. So, being around all the conversations that they’d had, especially around the management have prepared me for not only finance but all parts of being an entrepreneur, came from that.
[00:08:34] Sean: Awesome.
[00:08:37] Ellen: Are there some defining moments that you think have made a lot of impact on your life and your career thus far?
[00:08:45] Trae: Yes, actually. A lot of them have been the failures that I’ve had. I think when I was a freshman at Berkeley, there was an incident that for me, I guess you could say a slight depression, so to speak.
[00:08:57] I wasn’t actually depressed, but it was more of the event that had shifted my focus. It threw me off and it soured me on just student life at Berkeley. And I won’t go into that. It was a racial episode. And what happened was I saw my GPA took a huge dive and it was hard to get back into it.
[00:09:16] At that moment, seeing that failure, then having to okay, if I want to get into the business school, I really have to kick it into gear. That trial period of having to work extremely hard to get my GPA competitive definitely set a precedent later on when I got into the workforce and started working.
[00:09:34] So, this is how hard I should be working all time. The takeaway here is more. This is hard. I can work. This is how hard I should be working because I have the ability to do so. Also, there have been defining moments in a lot of areas, but I guess with academics, that is the biggest one.
[00:09:50] When it comes to sports, I actually played sports as well. In high school, I played basketball and baseball. But I stopped playing both sports, something in baseball after my senior year of high school, stopped playing basketball after my junior year. And that was a defining moment just because it was challenging the family norm.
[00:10:08] Everyone in my family is an and pursued athletics post-high school. And I was the first one to stop playing sports and just pursue an academic career. So, challenging that status quo, so to speak, was tough at first.
[00:10:24] But when I started going throughout my career and actually getting involved in different things like clubs, try more sports, try more activities.
[00:10:33] It really made me more well-rounded. One of the things I love doing is trying a bunch of new things. I have a keyboard. I bought a saxophone. I have a guitar. I just bought a drum set about two weeks ago. I was able to get into music.
[00:10:46] One of the things that I really do love. I’ve also tried a majority of the sports that are out there or the popular sports. I was able to try a lot of those, like hockey. I have hockey pads. I have roller skates, quad skates, also inline skates, tennis rackets, golf clubs.
[00:11:02] I can continue all day. They’re all in my trunk right now because I would be ready at any moment to be able to play. But just be having the time to try all of these different things just made me more willing to take leaps of faith or leaps and having been at unseen territories. And it’s one of those things.
[00:11:24] That’s really challenging for me because I am a person that likes stability and likes to be in a certain that used to like stability, I guess, but now I’m less averse to change. And I think that is for the better because the changes in my life have been groundbreaking and have added to my persona.
[00:12:02] Sean: It’s interesting to hear your story because one of the things that you wanna discuss in our pre-interview conversation was around the topic of racial representation, right? Labels and stereotypes. And how one of your pet peeves at Berkeley was being perceived as an athlete. Can you speak a little bit about that?
[00:12:26] Trae: Yes, definitely. And it wasn’t only at Berkeley. It happened quite a bit. And I can’t blame every person, for actually just giving me that label because I did dress in athletic clothing. Sometimes I wouldn’t, but it seems like without a doubt, that’s what I had to be.
[00:12:41] I had to be an athlete. Every person would ask me what sport did I play. And even outside of Berkeley, when I was walking around like airports, and if I had a Cal t-shirt on, it was like, okay, what sport do you play? I can’t just go to caps and part of that is because I think LeBron James is one of the proponents of this is, just being more than an athlete. I want people to know that black males or black people, in general, can be more than an athlete. And you shouldn’t just stereotype that person. That’s like, Oh, the only reason you’re here is because you’re an athlete and that’s the lane I go down. I’m not sure if that’s exactly what people are thinking, but it is a stigma that is, I believe it’s unfair, but it’s and I can’t blame the person because that’s what’s professionally in the media day today. That’s what we see even in the black community, we see a representation of ourselves as entertainers, whether it be in athletics, whether it be music, et cetera, that’s the predominant black figure that you see at this point, and it’s a predominant flat black figure.
[00:13:35] Not only for myself being part of the black community but more like everyone else. So why wouldn’t you assume? And it’s hard to blame and it’s hard to make, I guess expect people to say maybe I should think this person is more than just an athlete. So, yeah.
[00:13:52] Sean: It is limiting. I mean, I think that’s what you’re getting at.
[00:13:56] Trae: Yeah.
[00:13:57] Sean: And I see that too because it limits the scope of what you, as an individual, may consider as possible. But what routes are a possibility towards success?
[00:14:12] Trae: The problem when I was in college, and this was the biggest problem I had with it is because the perception on campus was that athletes didn’t have the same intellectual capacity as the students on campus. And if their perception didn’t exist, it wouldn’t be as big of a problem.
[00:14:26] But because people would assume I’m an athlete, then that assumption carried over into my intelligence and I did not think that was fair.
[00:14:33] Sean: Yeah. When you say that, it’s very prevalent, especially in college, sports as a whole, and you’re absolutely correct. These stereotypes are limiting and damaging. They just really don’t help anybody.
[00:14:48] Trae: Yeah. And I think it’s experienced across the board. I think there are a lot of people that experienced this. There’s a burden of representation being at CAU. There were, only when I was there.
[00:14:56] I think it was like two to 3% black. And then when I was in Haas, I can count on my hands. How many black students were there not to mention black male students? I think I was like one of, maybe less than five. If I were to fit into one of the stereotypes, any of the stereotypes.
[00:15:10] Then it was like, Oh, then you’re normal. But if I’m succeeding in academics, I’m an anomaly. And I want to change that, I want to change is that, in that impression or that perspective, that I was an anomaly. It was so tough and I’m sure others can attest to this as walking around campus feeling like if I make a misstep, then I’m just like, Oh, you’re par for the course.
[00:15:33] You’re one of the black students that fit into what I’ve come to know because of what’s been perpetuated by the media. And I don’t know it is for other races of people but it’s, yes. Yes.
[00:15:43] Sean: It’s funny you say that because I was just thinking it’s there, but it’s not as deeply ingrained, right? Like me growing up as an Asian kid, it was always like, you’re either going to be a doctor or a lawyer.
[00:15:55] Ellen: And you have to be good at math.
[00:15:57] Sean: Have to be good at math. And that was like the Asian pipe dream. But it never really, it wasn’t so deeply ingrained in society that it felt too limiting, at least not for me. Granted my wife’s a doctor and her brother’s a pharmacist, but that aside, it wasn’t limiting in a way to think that like you couldn’t succeed in any other way.
[00:16:21] I think that’s really what’s so destructive about this type of mindset and this type of bias and stereotype. In a way like this type of anti-blackness, right? Is that it really just puts people in Dubach and say, look, this is the only path for success for you. We don’t believe that you can succeed in any other way. That’s what it’s implying.
[00:16:44] Trae: And it gets about where being an anomaly or like I’ve had this conversation with friends, multiple races. And even Asian friends that said the same thing as you, expect it to be a doctor or a lawyer. And you’re not an anomaly if you’re not pursuing those types of professions. If you look at doctors or lawyers, they’re seen as successful, if you’re not a doctor or a lawyer, if you’re maybe a clerk at a grocery store that would be seen as more unsuccessful than a doctor or a lawyer.
[00:17:14] So being like I’m just gonna compare Asian community and the black community is when you’re unsuccessful. An unsuccessful Asian is seen as the anomaly, a successful black is seen as the anomaly. So, I just want to hear, I hope to tear down that construct that makes it so that the unsuccessful black is the norm.
[00:17:35] So it’s tough. It’s tough to do. And it’s something that’s just been perpetuated by media for a long period of time. So that those that haven’t had many encounters with black people already have this impression that of an entire race of people.
[00:17:50] Ellen: It’s definitely gonna be a journey. How have you, in the past, perhaps with the Haas Undergrad Black Business Association, or even now, how have you tried to address or break down some of these stereotypes?
[00:18:07] Trae: It’s just being myself really. I’m trying to be more present, encouraging. I fully understand that I may be seen as an anomaly in the black community. People have told me I am an anomaly.
[00:18:19] And if I can continue to be myself instead of conforming, sometimes it’s within my own race, they’ll still call me whitewashed. Or in that was more when I was in high school, more than now. But I have to continue to do this because I have to make this a possibility.
[00:18:33] This cannot be. It’s not, it’s seeing Barack Obama as our president. We need to see these possibilities within our community and make it so that it’s not just a one-off, it is a norm. So, just being present and being unapologetically me, so to speak, is the way to show versatility within the black community and show that you can be confident in the interest that you have. You can pursue whatever you want to pursue it. You will expand the reach of all black people that come after you. You could that one kid that it sees this, a black professional that really loves anime, or that plays the drums or that will play tennis, Venus and Serena Williams.
[00:19:12] You can do that as well. You don’t have to conform to the standards that have been set for you. So, it’s just like fulfilling that lane so that you can encourage others after you to fill those lanes as well.
[00:19:24] Sean: That’s a powerful message. Thanks for sharing that.
[00:19:47] Trae: You have no problems.
[00:19:48] Sean: Let’s switch gears a little bit into your career. Can you share with us your career path so far out of Haas and what you have envisioned for yourself?
[00:20:02] Trae: Yeah. I guess my original intention, the profession I wanted to go into, I was actually looking at the big four accounting firms, post-grad. And I was talking to a recruiter from Deloitte and actually my junior or senior year, they changed the requirement for accounting units.
[00:20:19] And I was like, man, I am already, I think it’s my senior year, I’m already going to graduate and I need 30 more units of accounting. And I kind of just want to graduate right now. This is going to get along. So, I was discussing things with the recruiter and seeing if there’s a path to start and also take classes. And as I was doing that, one of my uncle’s best friends through high school and college reached out to me, his name is Alan Sandler, so he’s the owner of Sandler partners. And he was wondering like, Oh, what would I plan to do after work, after school, after I graduate.
[00:20:52] And I was like, I don’t know, I’m looking at accounting firms and Deloitte in particular, but I’m not really sure at this point. So he said, why don’t you come intern with me? See how you like it. And, if you really like it, then you can continue on. And he gave me a choice. I was like, okay.
[00:21:08] And he set up an interview with the director of finance at the time and went from there. I started as a commission assurance specialist. And after two years, I got promoted to commissions assurance manager, or actually senior commission assurance specialists, of six months after that got promoted to the commission assurance supervisor, and other six months went by then we kept expanding and then I became the commissioner of assurance manager.
[00:21:34] So, I managed the commissions department, and then actually back in January or December, the beginning of this year, I moved into a new role. And in this role is the financial planning and analysis manager. So, this is a new team within the company focused on looking at trends and I guess, looking at trends and then empowering upper management to make decisions based on those trends. There’s a lot of movement in the last five years or so, yeah.
[00:22:01] Sean: What do you have envisioned for yourself in, as moving forward, do you see yourself staying in FP and A or?
[00:22:09] Trae: I do. So, at this point in my career, I really enjoy what I’m doing. I haven’t trained for data analysis but I’ve been with the company for a while. I think I do have a knack for it. It’s like strategy and data analysis, identifying trends. And I do enjoy the variety of different projects that come up and then managing.
[00:22:27] I manage a one-person team. But just managing people, it gives a new look and every day is different and I need that for my personality. The different projects, the varied projects that come on my plate, and the dealing with or I guess managing a team definitely gives me a wide variety of a difference day to day, that keeps me engaged.
[00:22:49] So, at this point, I’m happy. Having been the FT&A manager and also doing other things on the site. Like I said, a CFO of Shortstop Management, LLC, and then working to grow this business as well.
[00:23:03] Sean: It’s interesting because those two roles are not too dissimilar. I mean, an FT&A typically moves into the CFO position, for any listeners that may be just unaware of what, you know, FT&A or a financial planning analysis job entails. Can you share a little bit about what your job is like?
[00:23:25] Trae: Yeah. It’s mostly a report. I mean, heavy Excel, heavy reporting, kind of like scrubbed before. Really. We’re just taking all of the data within our systems and outside and take all the data we can gather and try to identify trends with that data. And once we identify the trends, we’re supposed to put it into a very easily digestible format for upper management so that they can make decisions to take the company in whatever direction they please.
[00:23:49] Of course, we want to provide our own opinion in terms of what the data says and this data can come from anywhere. In our space, in the telecom space, we’re looking at, it can be something as simple as, how long do customers stay on average with this particular provider? If we know how long customers stay for this particular provider of service or for this particular product, then maybe there should be a push in that direction in terms of we should be marketing this product more heavily because we’re seeing that these products are sticky or if there are new products that come with new products come all time. If we see heavy growth in that product or heavy demand for that particular product, we say, okay, we should start shifting some of our marketing focus towards this product, because this is the future.
[00:24:32] And we’re seeing this with the numbers. We’re the team that substantiates the like anecdotal information or something that our sales teams may experience day to day and just don’t have the backing data to prove.
[00:24:45] Sean: Who comes up with what qualitative or quantitative data you guys should look at or should collect? Is that something your team figures out or is that something you guys may be figured out in conjunction with other departments?
[00:24:58] Trae: Definitely in conjunction with other departments with mostly it’ll either come from our director of finance, will have our director of finance, our COO, or directly from the CEO. They’ll have projects for us to research and we’re also expected to come up with our own projects or our own topics, or place fields of research. Yeah. KPIs that we want to look into. And of course, we would do a pitch beforehand, before we go down that road because we don’t want to spend time researching something that may not seem fruitful across the board, but it’s a joint effort.
[00:25:29] So we’ll try to come up with as much as we can and see what’s useful for the company at whatever point in time, but we’ll receive demands from other parts of the company as well.
[00:25:37] Ellen: Awesome. Are there skills or traits that you think are increasingly valuable as you move up in an organization? You’re promoted a couple of times, obviously now, managing someone else. What has changed or what do you think is going to be really important?
[00:25:55] Trae: If I had to break it down into three main skills or three main focuses, I think the first one would be, of course, producing high-quality work. But producing that quality work consistently. I think, as a manager, and looking at employees, looking to grow consistency is one of the things that you can, that you’d like to see in an employee.
[00:26:15] And it makes the employee seem reliable and dependable. And a manager is someone that needs to be dependable. And I think that was something that caught the eye of my manager while I was growing up when I was growing with the company because they didn’t have to worry about me getting my work done.
[00:26:30] But you want to consistently produce high-quality work because of course, that is what a manager is expected to do.
[00:26:38] I think number two would just be to be engaged or try to be engaged at all times. Sometimes it’s hard to remain engaged because motivation dips in and out. And part of that is from, it comes through your manager to help you stay motivated. But if you set goals for yourself, and if one of your goals is to move up, you should keep that in the back of your mind or write that down, whatever you have to do to keep that goal in mind so that you can remain engaged because the next day of step after an engagement is establishing a solid foundation of the work that you’re doing and being able to innovate within that company.
[00:27:07] Because you want to make sure that you can set yourself apart from your peers. Like everyone’s going to be trying to produce high-quality work and it’s really important, but the ability to innovate and bring something new to the table will set you apart and help you establish yourself from the rest.
[00:27:20] And then the last one is a quality that I think is just really important in general, that’s just plain old hard work. You have to be a hard worker if you want to grow, then the more, the higher you get in the company, the more work there is, and the more difficult choices you’ll have to make.
[00:27:36] Sooner you can develop a mentality that you’ll be working hard and you have to put in the work to, reap the benefits, the better. So, if I had to break it down, they’re the three main focus areas to be able to grow a company.
[00:27:49] Sean: Yeah, my final question before we wrap up Ellen’s lightning round questions is, I’m curious regarding the instruments that you mentioned earlier. What got you into music, what’s getting into the music, and have you always played growing up?
[00:28:12] Trae: Yeah, I play piano for three or four years, I took lessons prior to middle school. And I really enjoyed it at that point, I had a knack for it. It was until I moved into, I started playing sports that I actually gave up piano and not that I think about it.
[00:28:30] It’s one of those things like man, I wish I would’ve continued playing the piano because I looked back and my teacher was like, my mom tells me, every now and again, she was like, yeah, your teacher, she was so sad when you stopped because she thought you had so much potential. And I think, I guess going back even before piano lessons, so my dad listened to so much music growing up.
[00:28:50] There was always music going on and around the house. And was playing mostly R&B. I listened to a lot of Toni Braxton and Backstreet back in the day. Beyonce, of course. And it’s just, it got that musical gene going at a younger age. Yeah, piano for sure. And then there was something, my teacher called it perfect pitch.
[00:29:11] She said I had a perfect pitch ear when going in because they used to play but I always ask her, can you play the song first? Before I start. I didn’t know why I was doing that. It’s just like hearing this out, hearing this on go before, hearing her play the song, made it so much easier for me to play.
[00:29:28] So I would her to hear it, play the song, and then I’ll try after you. And she played it and I would just put my hands in the place where she started and I start playing the song. It’s interesting because I played for a few years, not as long as I like as I probably should have to develop this passion for music, but I think after I stopped playing sports, it seemed like the thing I wanted to go back and do it.
[00:29:54] I wanted to have the type of creative outlet. I’m definitely wired to be more creative than and it’s interesting because I am in finance and I do deal with numbers or things that are mostly, would be perceived as less creative, but I don’t know. I think that’s where maybe some of the success comes from.
[00:30:11] It’s a, they say when you’re not in your comfort zone, that’s where you are most creative. And I think that just having that outlet piano helped me a ton. And oh, one more thing I want to add to, whenever I was going through a rough patch where maybe I got a bad grade, like when I was in high school, I’d never wanted to miss any problem on any tests or homework.
[00:30:30] If I missed a couple of problems on that or in that stint in my freshman year where I did pretty poorly in classes, I would always go to the piano to be like to console or to be a release and get things out it’s that was my comfort zone. I would play anything.
[00:30:45] It didn’t matter what it was. I can just press the keys and I would feel a lot better. There’s something about hearing sounds that just helped put my mind at ease.
[00:30:55] Sean: Yeah.
[00:30:55] Ellen: Awesome.
[00:30:56] Sean: Music is soulful.
[00:30:58] Trae: Yeah. It’s therapy and music therapy. It’s real.
[00:31:02] Sean: I don’t know if you could see my piano here.
[00:31:04] Trae: Oh yeah. Oh, great. What see it’s I dunno if you use it for therapy as well, but I definitely do.
[00:31:13] Sean: I do. I grew up playing the piano and I actually do use it for therapy. Nowadays it’s just a way to release and the stress and just focus on something else. It’s almost like a form of meditation because you kind of have to focus on music. All right. When you’re playing, it’s not like you can just play and think about everything else that is wrong with the world.
[00:31:30] And in a way, it’s actually really good for the soul. And I bring all this up too, because you’re like a Renaissance man, right? You’re able to play all these different sports even though they’re different in nature. But also the fact that you mentioned you’re picking up keyboard, saxophone, drums, and it’s one of these things that there’s like this myth, and I feel like people believe that they can only be good at so many things in life, but I’m just like if you just.
[00:31:57] I don’t think they supposedly debunked the 10,000-hour rule, the 10-year rule. If you spend 10 years on something, you’re inevitably going to get good at it. And for me, I’m thinking like, but I have a lot of tenure spans in my life. I can become an expert in quite a lot of things. Right.
[00:32:14] And so, I mean, when you think about Da Vinci, Leonardo da Vinci’s life, he was a Strada Mer artist, right? Just, I came to list off all the things he was, but he was a lot of things. He was an inventor, he dissected people and humans, and that also contributed to his art.
[00:32:34] As I see what you’re talking about, everything else that you’re doing, they ultimately do kind of blend into each other and help make you more skilled than other areas.
[00:32:45] Trae: I’d have to agree with that wholeheartedly. It’s a, I think picking up instruments has been, I think the way that I’ve approached each instrument has helped me approach other instruments. Like I just got my drum set. And what I do is I have this sound so smooth, which is amazing.
[00:33:02] I’ll blast a song and all I’ll do is try to replicate what’s going on. I’ll listen to the drums and then I’ll just play it and I’ll get lost in it. And that’s kinda how I approach everything else. Like guitar. I’ll just strum, I don’t need, I don’t want to go through the tutorials and I’ll start doing that eventually.
[00:33:18] But my first inclination is to just pick up the instrument and try to make my own sounds, and see what comes out of that. Just having a blank canvas and trying to make something out of it. Nothing is just, there’s something about the growth period that I just, I love and having the sandbox to do it.
[00:33:36] Sean: That’s cool.
[00:33:46] Ellen: It’s all about the focus.
[00:33:48] Trae: Yeah. Yeah. That’s been instilled in me from a young age I’d I have the best parents in the world. They’ve never pushed me into doing anything. And I think that’s why I’m able to just try a bunch of new things. And all of our they’ve preached is whatever you do, just do it with to the best of your ability. And we’ll be there to support you. I had a great upbringing. I’ll say that much.
[00:34:10] Ellen: That’s awesome. Should we wrap up with our lightning round of questions?
[00:34:14] Sean: Let’s do it.
[00:34:15] Trae: Right. Lightning round. Let’s see.
[00:34:17] Ellen: All right.
[00:34:19] Trae: It’s like a game. I love it.
[00:34:20] Ellen: You briefly mentioned this, but what are you doing to keep yourself sane during this time?
[00:34:27] Trae: So, a little bit of everything. Aside from trying like rent playing instruments, I definitely work out often. I think that’s one thing that’s keeping me sane. I played quite a lot of video games, different types of games, whether that’d be, I just finished The Last of Us Part 2 kind of pretty recently.
[00:34:46] And that was an amazing game. Love it. Pretty divisive, but it’s all right. Other than that, I just spent it, I skate, I did some skating yesterday, some roller skating. I don’t know. Then spending some time, like, even though I’ve been in quarantine and I don’t live with my parents, we’ve seen each other pretty much every day.
[00:35:05] So just having that time for family and we’ve only seen each other, but for the most part we see each other, so it’s having time with family and yeah, catching up for lost time because I was away for about five years and I did miss things in my brother’s, sister’s, parents lives during that time. So, just enjoying that because you never know how, especially with quarantine and COVID, you never know how long you have or how long anyone else has. So, you want to make the most of those encounters. Okay.
[00:35:30] Ellen: Yeah, now’s a good time to catch up with family and friends, certainly. And what content are you consuming right now? It could be books or shows, movies.
[00:35:41] Trae: Yeah. So all the above when it comes to shows. I actually really like Lovecraft Country on HBO. HBO puts out some great content. And I want to start Raised by Wolves on there pretty soon. Pretty late too, All-American season 2, but I’m watching that right now as well.
[00:35:58] When it comes to books, I actually have a few books. Some that I’m reading for work that are really great. If you’re looking for any leadership-focus books, it’s wonderful. It’s called the Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. It’s the secrets of highly successful groups. That one’s really good.
[00:36:14] One that helps my leadership skills or gives me more insight into how to be an effective leader. And another one that I’m going to start now is the Power of a Positive No, and this is by William Ury. So, I haven’t started that one yet. And then I have a, more of a book for pleasure. It’s called What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young and that, look, it’s like a few memoirs of his life. And that book is amazing. I love it. It’s his writing style is just, it’s very comedic. And I don’t know, and I can definitely resonate with a lot of the topics that he’s discussed and a lot of his experiences.
[00:36:51] So, that is a good one. And then when it comes to music, I listened to pretty much every genre. This seems like the theme, but I think my two tap music genre is our R&B and country. But of course, I listen to alternative, EDM. I just started getting into a metal core a little bit, just like I’ve been introduced by one of my coworkers and that’s been great but, yeah, rap, electronic, but music has definitely been huge as well.
[00:37:21] Ellen: And you obviously are juggling between two different roles. What is your best productivity hack?
[00:37:30] Trae: This is a tough question because I’m always thinking what am I not doing right now? What am I? So, it’s like, what if I’m not doing anything at the moment from if there are times where there is a low, let’s say I’m working and I finished my workday for Sandler partners. There’s usually a time where I want to wind down and maybe just get some water or something, but then I’m thinking while I’m drinking water, I could be doing something else right now. You know what? I’m going to go. I’m going to go check my email or I’m going to go play the guitar, I’m going to, I’m going to do, I constantly think of what can I be doing right now that whereas I would have just laid down on the couch and maybe watch some shows, anything that would have a, and even watching television.
[00:38:11] It’s almost every, and this might sound kind of weird, but it was almost like everything that I’m engaged with every, whether it be work, whether it be, anything extracurricular hobbies, et cetera, everything has a bar. And it’s almost like, okay, here we go was my analogies, but it’s almost like in Pokemon, you have different attributes.
[00:38:32] It’s almost like, all right, I need to level up this area of my life. So, let me jump in that. And so, I can get up and I always love the balance cares Gavitt characters in video games. So, I was like, let me level up, this part seems a little deficient. So, let me jump into that next. So, then we just keep trying to get to the bar, and then there’s always this point where I feel like I’ve jumped to the next year. And I’m like, okay. So, let me get everything else to that next year. That’s kind of how I think about it.
[00:38:59] Sean: That’s a very interesting perspective because although it may sound, and in one sense, like you’re lacking focus, for me it sounds like you’re keeping a good balance across different areas of your life. And when a lot of people tout a work-life balance, that’s only to work and life.
[00:39:17] I mean, life, that makes it sound like it’s only two dimensional, but life is like infinitely dimensional within that you have your physical activity, you have your creative pursuits, and so on, so forth and then entertainment, obviously. And then education or learning, continuing education. So, it sounds like you have figured out a good system and a good framework to keep up with all these aspects of your life and really keep a good balance. I think that ultimately leads to a happier, more fulfilled you.
[00:39:52] Trae: It gets tough because I definitely lean towards spontaneity, but I realized, okay, there is a bucket that’s not filled, and that is the planning bucket. I need to plan out my day, so maybe I can get more things accomplished. Yeah, they mean that the levels extend to so many things in my mind and it’s been helpful, especially recently. And I rarely have moments where I just sit down and not do anything.
[00:40:19] Sean: That’s great.
[00:40:21] Ellen: Got to maximize every minute.
[00:40:23] Trae: Yeah. One thing, it deters me from doing is like re-engaging with things that I’ve already done. For example, if I’ve already seen a movie. I won’t want to go back and watch that movie unless it was just something that’s something I missed or it’s this really like blew me out of the water.
[00:40:39] Okay. Cause it’s I’ve already seen that. I need to see another movie that I haven’t seen so I can experience everything. It’s almost like seeing another movie gives me more points to where it’s, where I want to be. And then seeing the same movie again.
[00:40:51] Ellen: Awesome. I guess the last question. What is your favorite thing about Haas or Berkeley?
[00:40:57] Trae: I think about this for a second. I like the challenge was probably the thing I liked the most. I love to be challenged. And along with the challenge, I think I’ve gone on campuses, a few other campuses and the difference is how people approach or how the students were approaching topics that are approaching things. There’s more of a free speech mentality at Berkeley than there are at some other schools. And people are encouraged to express themselves in a lot of different ways. It was cool to be a part of that type of environment, but also be challenged to the point where it’s okay, how far can you go into here?
[00:41:32] Once you got into Haas, it would get a lot easier, but like growing up to Haas, it was like, Oh man, I really have to be on top of things. But even within Haas, being amongst so many brilliant minds was a challenge in itself. You’re always wanting to make yourself kind of like I always wanted to make myself calm or make sure I was confident in that area or make sure I was like closing in on the best if I could.
[00:41:54] But I knew that there were so many brilliant minds in is getting, being around that environment and getting all these different perspectives because people were more expressive just made it more a, it gave you a holistic perspective on things more than just school. Although there wasn’t diversity and Haas wasn’t like our, at Berkeley it wasn’t crazy diverse there. But you’re able to get diverse opinions because people weren’t scared to share opinions that which challenge like norms how we started this conversation, and challenge what you would have, what you would expect from some people. So, I’d have to say that the challenge and the expressiveness of the students that were there.
[00:42:33] Ellen: Well, thank you, Trae, for being our guest today. It was a pleasure.
[00:42:36] Trae: Yeah. Thank you for having me. This is great. This was great.
[00:42:41] Ellen Chan: Thank you for listening to this episode of the OneHaas podcast, the undergrad series. If you’d like our content, please like and subscribe to our channel and give us a review. You can also check out more episodes and hear from past and current Haas students on Spotify, Apple podcasts, and on one haas.org until next time. Go bears.