Chen Song- Haas School of Business (Berkeley)
Education: (undergrad) Rutgers University, New Brunswick majored in Psychology and Biology
Current MBA program: University of California, Berkeley Haas
Describe a typical day as a MBA student:
I try to start my day at 8:00 by getting coffee with a classmate before heading to class at 9:00. Haas has a small class so one of my goals is to have coffee with every one of my classmates before graduation. I only have one or two classes per day so I spend most of my workday meeting with my study team or going to career related events such as panels or coffee chats. In the evening I typically get dinner with friends and then head back to campus for social/club activities or someplace to study with friends. I’m a very social person so I spend very little time alone, but I know some classmates who spend a significant amount of time working/studying alone or with their family members.
Where did you work before enrolling in business school?
I joined Teach for America out of undergrad and spent three years teaching high school science in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I loved working in schools and in education, but I decided to transition from the classroom into a instructional and leadership development role in 2014 so I spent one year as a full time staff with TFA in Tulsa. As a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development I worked with 30 teachers in 5 schools to increase their impact in the classroom and the community.
Why did you choose this business school?
When I came to visit Haas for the first time I remember sitting in on a class and having five or six students come up to me to introduce themselves and start chatting. I felt like every person I met wanted me to get in to Haas and was willing to tap into their network to help me along the way. On top of that, when I came to admitted students weekend, every single person I met talked about how much they loved their classmates and the passion everyone has for the community is very apparent. Any top business program is going to give you an excellent education so I picked the school where I felt surrounded by people I want to be friends with and have in my network for the next two years, ten years, and beyond.
What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school?
Every school has a unique culture and the best way to see it is to talk to students, both current and alums. I encourage you to reach out to the Haas Student Ambassadors — the student arm of admissions — and ask to be connected with people who share similar backgrounds or interests with you. Don’t stop with the first person you talk to either! Haas students are very open to speaking with prospective and if there is something you didn’t get answered or want another opinion on then ask for an introduction to someone else. You owe it to yourself to do your due diligence and find out if Haas is the right fit for you.
What is/was the most enjoyable part about business school?
I really appreciate how willing people are to join in and try new experiences. Anytime I share events I am interested in with classmates I receive dozens of replies from people who want to attend with me or have suggestions for similar experiences. You spend a lot of time with your study team and cohort in class, but I met some of my closest friends through trips like HaasBoats or random trips into the city. At Berkeley you will always have friends who want to explore with you and that also means you always have new opportunities to learn about fellow Haasies.
What is/was the hardest part of business school?
The hardest part for me has been balancing self-care against all of the different opportunities that arise. At the start of the year I jumped from one obligation to the next and felt burned out after all of the social, academic, and career events. I did not do enough reflection regarding what I want out of my business school experience beforehand so I had to step back and think about whether I was spending my time effectively. Since I set my priorities straight the Haas experience has been much more manageable and fulfilling.
Where will you be working after graduation?
I’m not sure of the specific role or industry I want to pursue after graduation, but I am currently exploring the “fuzzy” space at the intersection of business strategy and people. I am passionate about finding ways to empower individuals and teams to succeed, and hope to leverage my experiences as an educator to drive positive changes in organizations. At the same time, I recognize that many aspects of culture, people, and talent are driven by business needs so I want to utilize the lessons learned at Haas to understand the factors driving business decisions.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career or at your school?
I am most proud of the work I did as a classroom teacher and the relationships I have with former students. I still keep in touch with many of the students from two, three, and even four years ago. I did not expect to form close bonds with my students when I joined Teach for America, but I quickly realized how lucky I was to be surrounded by such kind, generous, and ambitious young men and women. I am incredibly proud of how my students have overcome adversity, thrived in and out of school, and found success.
Favorite MBA Courses?
My favorite course at Haas has been Leadership Communications with Cort Worthington. At a high level this course is about developing your executive presence, public speaking, and feedback giving/receiving abilities. To get there you are asked to do a weekly reflection on not just your actions, but the mindsets you bring to class, your attitude, and whatever you’re feeling internally that affects how you interact with others. The course was a great excuse to share and explore parts of your personality or story that are usually hidden from public view.
Fun fact about yourself:
I have never broken any bones even though I was once hit by a car.