Humans of Haas: Mike G. Katz
Imagine you’re in your 20s finally living the dream – working at an accounting, banking, or consulting firm – after long rounds of recruiting. Once you’ve started working, you realize you don’t feel satisfied or fulfilled, but instead you feel drained and unmotivated. This is a nightmare for many undergrads and a reality for many working professionals, and it is where Mike G. Katz has chosen to be of service.
When Mike graduated from NYU Stern School of Business, he took the road often traveled and worked at a boutique management consulting firm and then a global investment bank. Mike realized that many of the difficulties he was facing stemmed from what he was doing for work; his job wasn’t meaningful to him. After this realization, he pushed himself outside of his comfort zone to explore what a meaningful career would look like. Once he began pursuing a more fulfilling career, his whole attitude towards life changed.
Mike is currently a lecturer at UC Berkeley-Haas and also leads an executive coaching practice for senior leaders in the tech sector, with clients from large established firms (e.g. Google, Dropbox, Lyft, etc.) as well as VC-backed startups. But the path to his career wasn’t linear.. After working at big firms, Mike shifted to pursue a PhD in organization and management. What was meant to be a new beginning, turned into a major setback that took strength and resilience to overcome. Mike couldn’t finish his dissertation and, unlike other problems where it was easy for him to come up with a solution or strategy, Mike felt lost and confused: “This was the first time where I really didn’t know what to do… I didn’t know what it would mean to get through this.” This challenge pushed Mike to overcome fears and confront uncharted challenges.
One of those fears was asking for help; Mike originally perceived asking for help as a weakness. Once he felt that asking for help was less embarrassing than quitting grad school altogether, the learning curve was tremendous. A new saying he created from this experience was “learn to reach into the dark and trust that someone will take your hand.” Big goals require big support. This realization pushed him to work with a career coach for extra help and guidance.
After attending coaching sessions, Mike knew right away that coaching is what he’d like to do and began researching more on how to become a career coach. At first he helped students land jobs at ABC firms, and then shifted towards leadership and professional development. Before joining Haas, Mike worked at a variety of reputable schools and organizations including The McCombs School of Business at UT Austin, NYU Stern School of Business, Out for Undergrad, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow.
Mike Joins Haas Faculty
Mike joined Haas in 2013 with the vision of transforming our MBA career services into a space where students could explore what it means to pursue meaningful work. Currently, Mike teaches UGBA 157: Resilience in Work and Life (formerly titled “The Pursuit of Meaningful Work”). Mike’s class is a UGBA special topics course where students practice “observing and shifting the ways in which they construct their work roles, the work environment, the contributions they make through work, and their overall lived experience… to influence the degree to which they thrive, survice, or quit on the job.”
His favorite part about teaching is when “students discover that they have more agency and control over their destiny than they initially thought…. the more we can trust ourselves, the more we can live the life we choose.” Mike’s class is a safe space for students to be vulnerable and solve big problems that serve as barriers to growth. During workshop sessions, students collaborate with other students and with Mike to build both short and long term goals by breaking them down and exploring where the students’ comfort and growth zones lie.
Mike’s Advice for Students
If Mike could give one piece of advice to Haas students, it would be to remember that “it’s just as important to work with your fears as it is to pursue your sense of purpose. Pursuing what is truly meaningful takes more courage than we anticipate.”
Fun Fact about Mike
Mike wasn’t the only one participating in our interview – Landy, his wiener dog (and second love after his husband) also joined us. On a Saturday afternoon, Mike likes to take Landy for walks at Golden Gate Park.
In 2022, Mike wants to bring his message to a wider audience. He is in the process of writing a book, but has found much more joy making videos (his not-so-secret wish is to become a TikTok star, and he is working with his own irrational fears about it). So if you are reading this and haven’t taken a class with Mike, there will still be plenty of opportunities to engage with him in the meantime.
Quotes provided by Mike G. Katz