AmeliaAs part of the Center for Responsible Business’ 10th anniversary, we are running a series of posts from alumni, students and faculty.  Amelia Forrest Kaye, CRB Alumni Scholarship Recipient ’11, Haas MBA ’13, shares her thoughts and insights on how CRB has impacted her career path. Please join us at our 10th Anniversary Celebration March 20th 6-8 PM (registerHERE).

I expected it to feel uncomfortably foreign.

After all, I was a consultant in Peru, working with a multinational pharmaceutical company, interviewing government leaders in my non-native language, designing a new social enterprise from scratch.

I had never been to Peru, I lacked significant experience in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, I had limited industry-specific Spanish vocabulary, and the stakes for this project were significant.

Yet, despite all these odds, I felt unusually comfortable in this environment. Why? Because the essential elements of this engagement aligned with my core values and professional goals—not coincidentally, the same fundamentals espoused by the Berkeley-Haas Center for Responsible Business (CRB).

Let me back up. As a second-year student on the cusp of finishing my MBA at Haas, exactly two years ago, the CRB—and specifically, Jo Mackness—was the final nudge toward my embracing Haas and not looking back.

With a background in social-impact consulting, I applied to full-time MBA programs, passionate about finding the sweet spot between social responsibility and business. My career thus far had been more heavily weighted toward the former, and I realized that in order to pivot to a position in strategy consulting (where I aimed to support companies seeking these dual goals), I needed to bolster my skills and network in the business sector. Jo convinced me, through long coffee chats and email chains, that Haas would give me the tools to advance my business acumen while nurturing my exploration of innovative corporate social responsibility (CSR).

She was right. While diving deep into Haas’s strong classes in finance and accounting, I also took advantage of the CRB’s cutting-edge programming. Whether it was participating in a sustainability workshop with key leaders from REI and Levi Strauss; exploring impact investing from the perspective of both venture capitalists and entrepreneurs; or working with the United Nations Global Compact on improving organization’s commitments to the “triple-bottom line” (people, planet, profit), I have experienced only a sliver of the CRB’s array of offerings. But when I least expected it, these experiences gave me confidence when faced with new challenges.

In Peru, as we met with key stakeholders and learned our client’s goals, the toolkit of skills I had honed at Haas immediately became applicable. It didn’t matter that I was in a foreign country, industry, and environment—my team and I discovered that the answer to the client’s needs was an initiative that combined social and environmental impact, while also promising longer-term profitability. Applying academic theory, technical skills, and our personal commitments, my team and I designed a strategic initiative that continued our client’s journey toward sustainability and good business.

At the end of a transformative two years, I look forward to the new challenges and opportunities ahead. After all, the CRB has given me the tools to thrive in even the most foreign of circumstances.

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