Name: Christina Chavez
Current Title: MBA Candidate 2019 at Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley
Professional Experience: 4 years at Dell; 4 years at Microsoft
Education: B.S and B.A., Finance and Economics at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
What is the greatest lesson you've learned in your career thus far?
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned thus far is that you are never 100% ready for any role. I think the best roles are those where you have roughly 50% new skills to learn and ~50% where you can draw on prior skills and experiences. If there is a role where you already have more than 50% of the skills or experiences required then you are probably not pushing yourself hard enough.
What has been your greatest professional failure to date and what have you learned from that experience?
I would say my worst failure thus far is not taking more risks in my career early on. I once was offered a role in engineering and because I am not an engineer I thought it was too risky to take. Reflecting on this experience, I should have taken role and worked really hard to develop that experience. No matter if I had excelled or not, I would have learned something valuable and it was still so early in my career that I could have also gotten something out of the experience even if I was unsuccessful.
What issues have you dealt with being a person of color in corporate America and how have you overcome these challenges?
One of the biggest challenges I have encountered as a Latina working in large tech organizations is difficulty finding mentors that have backgrounds and life experiences that I can relate to. I have overcome this challenge by looking for mentors that might not be directly in my function or group and even looking for mentors outside of my organization more broadly. I have been lucky to find that people are happy to make connections for you if you tell them why you are looking to connect with someone they know and consistently follow through. I think having at least one person that you go to for advice who understands your unique perspective is very important. I also have a lot of mentors that are very different than me and they also bring a lot of value in helping me think about things from an alternative perspective.
What resources, professional or personal, have you leveraged to ensure your career is progressing?
Mentorship is a big resource I’ve leveraged but another one is affinity groups. Affinity groups are a fantastic way to expand your professional network and receive amazing support. I also have made sure to always join the leadership teams of affinity groups as they offer a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn new leadership skills both within my company and the broader technology industry.
Do you have a mentor? If so, how did you select this person or people?
I have many mentors that I go to for different types of advice. I look for mentors that are either in a role or position I want to be in or have skills that I am looking to build. I go to them selectively when I need advice deciding something or am stuck and need a distinct perspective to move forward. I believe everyone should have mentors in their life. There are normally formal mentor networks to tap into at work and I think it is great to take advantage of them but it also helpful to develop mentors organically by meeting with a lot of different people and finding someone you connect with.
What advice would you give an undergraduate who is about to start their first job post college?
My advice is to get your foot in the door at a company that is aligned to your values. Even if it is not your dream job, if it is a company that is aligned to your values, has a great manager, and offers an opportunity to learn, I would say go for it. Most companies will let employees move to different departments if they are in role for a couple years and performing well. Find a company that will be invested in your development and take advantage of any opportunities they offer.
Why did you decide to go back to graduate school and what are you hoping it will enable you to do next?
When I attended Haas’s Diversity Symposium about a year ago, Dean Lyons said, “Haas is the kind of place that grabs you by the shirt and says you have more to do in life.” This statement struck me because it reveals that the MBA is a program where you can both deepen your skills and expand your thinking to reach for significant goals such as achieving equality in the workplace, a personal goal of mine. I am hoping to expand my leadership skills through leading clubs like entrepreneurship and data science and sharpen my hard skills through classes like data mining and venture finance. This will enable me to become a leader within the tech industry and eventually found my own business.