Transformation….In Progress

For Block 4 we were back in New York. This term is really flying by so fast! This block we got introduced to the group we affectionately call the Globals London, our sister program with CBS and LBS. The Globals are truly global, they live in all parts of the world. I met a rocket scientists and an astronaut from this class, amazing! They are good group, we are in the good company being apart of the CBS family.

This block, I got to enjoy dinner with Paul Tiffany (Strategy). Each term we have a lottery for professor dinners, a few of us are selected to dine with them. Words can not easily describe this man. You kind of have to meet him to really believe it. He knows everything about everything and everybody. He’s like your favorite uncle you always want to be around for not only entertainment pleasure but hope to absorb some inkling of knowledge. We had a great conversation about so many things, no stone was left unturned, he truly represents the greatness of UCB, freedom of speech and thought!

For Term 5, I’ve decided to pack my bags and take temporary residence in New York City for the Columbia exchange. In the BCEMBA program we have an option to take Term 4 or Term 5 at CBS. I’m so excited about this opportunity, it will allow me to greater expand my network with the other CBS programs and New York in general. I’m thinking about starting a new phase of my life in the big city. I believe if I can handle NY, I can tackle the world! So here’s what my schedule looks for the next few months. Second week of May I’m headed to Rio for my international seminar selection. Third week, packing my bags moving to NY to join EMBA classes that start May 16th, I’m taking a class in the Fri./Sat. format called Strategic Issues Facing Investment Banks. In addition to this course I plan on taking a few block weeks as well, Globalization, Advanced Negotiations in Hong Kong, and Business Law. Next block we get to welcome the Class of 2014, eager to meet the next generation of BCEMBAs. Congratulation to my future colleagues!



Lucky to have Lucky Leggers

There are so many wonderful things about the BCEMBA program experience. We’re learning from world class professors who leverage their network and life experiences to create a top-notch learning environment. We get the benefits of two networks. But what I’m truly grateful for is the fact that I’m making LIFE-LONG friends who are fun, extremely intelligent, and constantly pushing me to learn and grow.

One “tradition” I’ve grown to love is our early morning group runs. The “Lucky Leggers”, as we call ourselves, venture out to explore Berkeley or New York City at 5:30am every morning. Those 40 minute runs are such a rejuvenating way to start my day. Witnessing New York transition from quiet and tranquil to bustling and ready for the work day energizes me. Equally beautiful is the view at the top of the “hill” in Berkeley (the days we’re able to make it all the way up) – it’s just breathtaking.

It’s not just the scenery, however, that motivates me to get up so early every morning. What I also cherish is the quality 40 minutes to chat and get to know some of my classmates. We’ve had some amazing conversations on these runs. They have become a personal tutoring session with Evan (thanks!!!). Peter has educated me on the complexities of building acoustics. I can’t wait to visit Utah after hearings Ben describe its beauty. And Anil has listened to my advice about the transition to parenthood more than he probably wants to. We’ve even had a chance to bond with BCEMBA 12 students, and got “first timers” out for their first morning run (we miss you—you know who you are 😉

You may have heard a lot of things about this program. Is it a lot of work? Definitely. Is it hard to manage with a full time job and  a family? Absolutely. But is it worth it? No question. With each block week I come to appreciate this experience and my classmates more and more. I’ve grown so much in the past months. To be honest—I’m not only better at business, but a much better wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend because of it…….and maybe even a better runner.

Cornbread, Grits, & Collard Greens

In honor of Black History, I took some time to pay homage to the ancestors, and of course I had to include my BCEMBA’s. This week I educated my classmates on Black History with a specific lens in the city I live in Oakland. The event culminated with dinner at a Soul Food restaurant in Oakland. This was a first for many of my classmates; some had never been to Oakland, while others never tasted the goodness of Soul Food.  In addition to culture explosions, B3T3  (Block 3 Term 3) was very eventful, we had a Tahitian dancing class, and toured a vodka distillery. This term is slipping away from me, it’s really moving so fast, and we are already talking about finals. This block seems shorter than the others and generally pretty back loaded. So the first few blocks, there are tons of reading but very few assignments to turn in. So procrastinators like me are in denial that school has actually begun. I think I still have not fully recovered from the exhaustion of the Corp Finance, still looking for my gusto to get back in the game. We are at the halfway mark, I believe I’m going to make it, there is hope! Even though I’m already sad thinking about the day I won’t see my Lucky 13 classmates. I’m seriously considering the Columbia exchange. We have an opportunity to take classes with the Columbia EMBA’s. This is a great opportunity to expand the network and test out living in the big city. This is the time in the program for me where I’m really starting to think about next steps. I’m considering relocating from the Bay Area to either NY or back home Los Angeles.  We’ll see where the road takes me.


Lisha Bell

Hi, My Name is 贝丽莎!

Welcome Term 3! This week we celebrated the year of the Dragon. We gathered in a festive fashion to celebrate Chinese New Year at a local restaurant. The planning team did a wonderful job, they gave us Chinese names, this was very special to all of us to have. My name means beautiful clever, I like that, I even know how to pronounce it. I learned some very important Do’s & Don’ts with Chinese culture. I helped to support the event as my new position as class rep. As class rep I am responsible with my co-chair for ensuring there are great events that enhance the classroom experience  and represent the voice of the class to administration. I’m very excited about my new role, I’m not much of an event planner but I do love to connect people and enhance our B-School experience. All of my classmates are stepping up to the plate and planning very creative events like the Hanger One vodka tour,  Cal B-Ball game, and the Diwali celebration.

As part of the program we are given time with an executive coach. I was partnered with Joni, she is really amazing. I’ve been able to discuss work and life goals and craft ways to execute on those goals. She is coaching me with managing difficult situations on the job. I have 5 sessions with her this semester, I am very excited about the new “me” that will develop as I look intrinsically to define the growth I want to have.

Of course I can not neglect the academic endeavor. This is the first semester we  are allowed to have electives. My first elective is Capital Markets, I never thought I would take this class with my non finance background, but I’m really enjoying it and boy does it feel good to be off the curve!  For my international seminar I’ll be traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in May. For the program we are required to travel abroad, there are so many great options from Cape Town, Munich, and Shanghai. I can’t wait to go to Rio, our focus will be on emerging markets.  For the core classes, we have International Business with Dr. Laura Tyson, an economic celebrity. We read cases and she brings the people from the case to the classroom, very impressive. I’m going to learn a lot in her class. We also have strategy with Paul Tiffany, his classroom experience is like Showtime at the Apollo, he is such a lively character and has such a dynamic delivery, hold on to your seats!! And of course last but not least, no business school curriculum would be complete without Operations. We have Sara Beckman for this course  to teach us the fundamentals,  admittedly the first problem set kicked me in the rears, I’ll be getting a tutor soon!!

Next block we meet again in Berkeley. We only have one NY trip this semester versus last year when we were there like almost every month! While I miss NY, I am glad to miss the NY winters, being an LA girl, I love the sunshine 🙂

Until we meet again,


Term 2 Complete!

I’ve done the impossible! The life of a BCEMBA involves serious multi-tasking capabilities. Life goes on, who cares if you’re a student, most of us have to still maintain at work and at home with families. My week of finals consisted of working on two papers for leadership, preparing for global econ final where anything written about in The Economist goes, and the dreadful 5 hour corporate finance final, and closing out FP&A. This is the same week I had to apply for a promotional position at work, while also dealing with terminating an employee. These are the true stories of a BCEMBA.

My most amazing accomplishment was completing the 5-hour corporate finance final. Professor Donna Hitscherich, calls the test “the dance you do alone”, all by ourselves no one to help us out. With no prior experience in finance, thoughts about the final were waking me up in the middle of the night. I had several panic attacks leading up to the final. I even emailed the professor telling her, “I was not ready to do the dance alone, can you please hold my hand?”  I sat in fear every class of being called on and being asked, “Lisha, why do I need to lever and unlever the beta?” Huh? What?  Donna assured sure me, if I suit up and boot up, everything would be ok. So I did, thanks to help from my tutors, theprogram offers every student access to tutors free of charge, of course from both schools. I took full advantage, I had Berkeley Columbia tutors who helped me when I was home in the Bay, and Columbia tutors while in New York. They are soo amazing, themselves also students, or alum with busy careers that take the time to help other students. I woke up Sunday morning, said a prayer, and walked into the exam room, ready to go. I gave it everything I got, I finished with only seconds to spare, but I finished! Overjoyed was an understatement, words cannot describe the relief I felt when I submitted that test. I wanted to cry tears of joy because I never thought I could do it.

Now with Term 2 under my belt, I’m looking forward to some much-deserved R&R with friends and family.  Karesha and I hosted a Tutor Appreciation Dinner, to show gratitude for our tutors who helped us survive Term 2. Looking forward to the New Year and Term 3.

Happy Holidays to all!!!!

New York, New York

New York blocks are always full of excitement, and this one was no exception. I like to come a few days before the block week to maximize on campus time, adjust to the east coast time zone, and spend a little more time in the city. My week started off on a high. On Monday night a classmate and I attended the Watch the Throne concert with Jay Z and Kanye West at Madison Square Garden, it was classic! Tuesday, my study group Team 12, met for dinner. It was nice to socialize with my team outside our usual academic discussions.

Class was back in session on Wednesday. This week we had several exceptional key speakers. Chris Anderson from TED, spoke authentically about social anthropology. He gave up a multi million dollar enterprise to focus on his non profit. Myra Hart, one of the Staples Founder, HBS alum and Professor, spoke to us about how she helped to build one  of the  most successful companies. Professor Hart was a very special guest because she is mother of Richard Hart, one of my classmates. She did not embarrass him too much J

Farewell to the 12’s, better known as the Dirty Dozen, our upper classmen  are preparing for graduation. They are like our big brothers and sisters, we will miss them so. They gave us a warm welcome when we started the program, showed us the ropes, tutored us,  and shared the NY hotspots. The 12’s have a very exciting future post graduation, some starting their own venture, new careers, new cities, and all kinds of wonderful transitions. I’m very proud of them, Best of Luck Dirty Dozens!Image

Well, back home now to prep for our finals block, looking forward to the 5 hour finance final. But before then, a few classmates made some time for R&R in Palm Springs, curtesy of Richard Michaels Modern Escape home.  I’m wrapping this letter up from my parents’ home in Southern California, Happy Thanksgiving!

Endings and Beginnings

Its been a busy few months since my last post during the International Seminar in Munich. That was a wonderful trip with many fun adventures and great times with both my BCEMBA classmates and new friends from the Columbia NY EMBA and Global programs.  I’m finally getting around to uploading my Oktoberfest photos, here is one shot from inside the tent and one from the end of the evening when some of us went out to the midway area in search of apple strudel and other German sweets.

This trip was a great chance to get to know some of my classmates even better and a few of us took a day trip to Salzburg on Sunday after our class wrapped up on Saturday afternoon. It was fun to see Austria and I also gathered some good insight for my Customer Experience final paper that was due several weeks after the trip.

After our Munich seminar it was back to Berkeley for a mid-October block and then some of our class headed out to Shanghai for their international seminar before we all came back together for our final Columbia block with the 2013s Nov 9-12th. It was great to see the other BCEMBA class and hard to believe that a whole year has passed since we were toasting the class of 2011 in Manhattan.

In between all of this I was busy with my own job search. Over the past few months I have been leveraging all the great resources that both Haas and CBS have to offer to think about my own goals and ambitions and to explore options outside of the job I have been in throughout the program. I have been very impressed with the staff and programs at both schools and they each helped me in different ways. The career coaching from both schools as well as the executive coaching was fantastic and my peers in the program have been there along the way to offer support and serve as a sounding board whenever I needed someone to talk with.

I was following up on my top job lead throughout my international travels and class blocks and at the end of October I accepted a position as VP of Testing and Release Management (IT functions for those of you who don’t speak software) at the largest publicly traded personal lines insurer in the U.S. I started this past Tuesday and will be relocating to the Chicago area in the new year. The program was instrumental in preparing me for both the selection process and my entry into this new role and I am currently working to finish my last deliverable for Executive Leadership; a personal development plan, which is helping me reflect on what I need to focus on in my new job and with my new organization.

I am excited for my new adventure but not ready for the program to end, at least we have our February graduation ceremony at Haas to look forward to after we part ways at the end of this weekend. I hope to find many other ways to stay in touch with both my classmates, other alumni, and the fantastic program staff from both schools. But first I better finish my homework!

Getting in the Groove .. Term #2

Hi! My name is Lisha Bell and I’m a member of the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA class of 2013, affectionately known as the ”Lucky 13’s.” We just finished our third Block of Term 2. Term 2 is the toughest term and boy are we feeling it!

The Berkeley Columbia journey has been quite an experience for me. It’s been 10 years since I graduated from undergrad, and going back to school has been quite an adjustment. I’m beginning to find my rhythm now and I’m getting back into the groove. I can now sit in class for 12 hours straight, go out to a happy hour celebration, come home and do homework, and do it again the next day!

This block I felt a special energy from my classmates—we are really starting to gel. This may sound corny but I feel like I have 67 new best friends. I love them—we are like a family. A week before this block began, 10 of my classmates and I took a trip to Lexington, Kentucky, organized by our resident class comedian and keeper of random trivia knowledge Drew Curtis, CEO of We had a blast! Kentucky is such a beautiful place, who knew!? We took a riverboat tour of the Kentucky River, visited a Shaker compound, went Bourbon tasting, and attended a private reception at the home of the Mayor of Lexington. We also attended some horse races at the historic Keeneland Thoroughbred race course! We had a great time getting all dressed up to go to the races. (INCLUDE PIC) It was an incredible experience, one I will never forget.

This block the ladies of BCEMBA participated in a lunch reception for the Berkeley MBA Women’s workshop , held for prospective Haas students. It was great to hear my fellow classmates share their experiences of why they joined the program and to discuss the real life challenges of being a woman in corporate America. We shared stories of being working moms, single women, and women deferring motherhood for the great pursuit of advanced education. At times it feels like quite a sacrifice for most of us, but this program is well worth it. I was glad to give back as I attended the Diversity workshop prior to applying and found it really insightful. It feels good to be a student and wear the Berkeley-Columbia badge.

A few key takeaways from this block: Global Economics with Andy Rose has been eye opening; through his lectures, he exposes us to key macroeconomic trends and their impact on countries around world. Even more importantly – I’ve started reading The Economist – and I’m actually enjoying it! Corporate Finance is kicking my behind: I sit on the edge of my seat in lecture, waiting nervously for a potential cold call. Shout out to Donna Hitscherich – she’s great! Leadership with Professor Carney is probably my favorite course this term. As an HR professional I recognize that the soft skills are so important. Professor Carney is teaching me get in tuned with my inner self and channel my energies in the most effective way.

That’s all for now folks, will keep you posted on my progress.

Lisha Bell

Schützen-Festzelt Here I come…

I am in Munich this week for the long awaited International Seminar and am eagerly anticipating this evening’s visit to Oktoberfest. Former Lowenbrau Group SVP and brewery CEO Rolf Glockler came to the university at lunch and spoke with us about both the Oktoberfest brand and his experiences helping build and grow the Lowenbrau brand via the tent experiences. This evening he will be joining us in the Schützen-Festzelt, a Lowenbrau tent and we’ll have the chance to sample some beer and food while taking in the full Oktoberfest experience. Some of my classmates are out shopping for traditional lederhosen and dirndl while others of us will be attending in more modern casual attire. I hope to get a few good pictures for my next post. In the meantime here is a snapshot of Prof. Bernd Schmitt and Mr. Glockler in class today:

The course, Managing Brands, Identity, and Experiences has been terrific so far. Prof Bernd Schmitt has an engaging style to complement his incredible expertise and he has also lined up a number of impressive speakers. I really like the fact that our lectures are held at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, known as LMU. There is incredible history to this school as it was established in 1472 and relocated to its current location in 1826. In addition to all of the history throughout the city we have also had the chance to see some more offbeat sites; this morning we had the chance to check out several surfers on one of the local canals on the route to school. We have a busy schedule for the rest of the week and I am looking forward to all of it. The International Seminar is a big milestone of the program and I can’t believe I am almost midway through this experience.


Going Global – don’t forget your deadlines!

I have been looking forward to September for a long time, my International Seminar is fast approaching. Now I have a work trip to India thrown in as an added bonus beforehand! I arrived in India about 18 hours ago and am working through my jet lag while catching up on e-mails and some of our group preparations for the upcoming block, which falls between this trip and my trip to Munich.

I am staying at a Westin which was built since my last visit and they have done a very nice job of creating the familiar Westin brand look and feel while adding a number of nice local elements. It took about 36 hours to reach our destination here, traveling from SFO through Hong Kong with a long layover in Singapore. Internet connectivity has been great along the way which has made it much easier to keep up with the flow of e-mail on class assignments and other plans. Its a great time to be taking Mergers and Acquisitions (not that there is ever a bad time), the class readings and discussions have been particularly relevant to what has been happening in the past few weeks with Google/Motorla, Yahoo, and HP. I can’t wait to hear the perspectives when we are back in block at the end of next week.

In addition to case prep for M&A I am about halfway through the readings for the Munich Seminar on Customer Experience and Branding and am also working on readings and a panel presentation for my Executive Leadership course. It takes a little extra organization to stay on top of the readings and group work while traveling but its another way in which the program is very true to real life, usually at least one of our group members is traveling between each block and sometimes we are spread out across a number of time zones. With good teamwork and coordination we not only get the assignments done but also manage to infuse some of our real time experiences and observations into the project work.

For now I am going to take a break and head out to see some of the local sights. Its the end of the Ganesha Festival here in India and they will be immersing a large idol of Lord Ganesha in the local lake tonight. Here is a photo from a past immersion:

Immersion of Lord Ganesha

Idols of Lord Ganesha are immersed at the end of the annual festival