This article is part of a series called Classified, in which we spotlight some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms. If you have a suggestion for a class to feature, please email Haas Newsroom editor Ronna Kelly at rkelly@haas.berkeley.edu.

One afternoon, two entrepreneurs were talking to undergraduates about their divergent professional paths in Cheit 220. Ben Einstein, BA 14 (Develop. Studies), founded an eBay e-commerce store and is now developing a product recommendation app—think Consumer Reports magazine for smartphones. Another entrepreneur, Dave Wilkinson. is dissolving Vega Football Club, his soccer-for-underprivileged youth venture, as he seeks a new way forward in that field.

The entrepreneurs were the latest guests to speak in a DeCal class called The Workshop: Interview Prep and Job Success, created by Haas undergraduates Caleb Kenney, Harvey Williams, Eric Sassano, and David Noland, all BS 14. DeCal, which stands for democratic education at Cal, is a program in which Berkeley undergraduates can create their own classes with a faculty sponsor.

“The main goal is to help students develop the skills required to successfully navigate the recruiting process for either an internship or full-time job while raising the professional standards of the school as a whole,” explains Kenney.

In a unique twist, Kenney and Williams also have teamed up with Berkeley MBA students to help guide the 60 students in their course, who for one assignment are required to meet with an MBA student for a mock interview.

Steve Lescroart, MBA 14, wished he’d had a similar class as an undergrad studying accounting at the University of San Diego. Students in the DeCal class have tapped Lescroart’s wide exposure to banking, private equity, and corporate strategy to find out if they want to pursue careers in the same fields. Students who are serious about marrying their academics, ambition, and social skills shine, Lescroart says.

During the first half of the semester, the course focused on networking, interviewing, and resume and cover-letter writing skills. The class also has featured several guest speakers talking on such topics as professional dress codes and tips for success in the early years of a career after graduation.

For the rest of the semester students will hear from panels of accounting, banking, and consulting professionals. Haas alumnus and visiting professor John Briginshaw, PhD 03, agreed to sponsor the student-run class after being impressed by Kenney and Williams in his accounting class. Briginshaw says he likes the balance their DeCal class places on academics and social skills.

“It came across very clearly that (Einstein and Wilkinson) were smart people who showed dedication to both their academic and business goals. That’s the balance that students need to strive for,” says Briginshaw, who will be sponsoring the class again next semester with two new students (Alexander Moskowitz, BS 15, and Stephanie Wang, BS 16) running it.

Among the advice from the entrepreneurs: Don’t network for the sake of networking—try to get to know people you may want to work for; the 24/7 corporate world isn’t for everyone; find what you are really good at and get better.

Students in the class, meanwhile, say it’s helping them focus their goals. Although she isn’t a Haas student, Frances Tyner, BS 14 (Poli. Econ.), says the exposure the DeCal class has given her to finance is pointing her towards a career in development and microfinance.

Until this course, Tyner says, “I have never been in a position where I have been able to mix with students studying all of these different aspects of business.”

DeCal class

MBA 14 students Chaitan Kanungo and Ton Chookhare (seated in front of white board) speak about their careers in the undergradate class titled The Workshop: Interview Prep and Job Success. 

DeCal Students
Top: Caleb Kenney and David Noland; Bottom: Eric Sassano and Harvey Williams. All will graduate this year.
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