2017 Best EMBAs: Laurie Etheridge, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Laurie Etheridge

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Extroverted introvert, driven by the cause, optimist, insomniac, idealist, mother, leader of the rebel forces.”

Age: 51

Hometown: San Rafael, California

Family Members: Husband, Jason & son, Harrison, 14

Fun fact about yourself: As a child, I was a tomboy and grew up on a small island in Florida. My hero was Amelia Earhart. I was so enamored with her, I dressed as Amelia for Halloween from the ages of 6-11.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Florida Southwestern State College, Associate of Arts Degree, University of Phoenix, BS in Business Administration

Where are you currently working? Most recently, president of Lucy Activewear, a 450-person brand and a division of VF Corp.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: While working at Levi Strauss, I was the executive sponsor of the Women and Girls’ Community Involvement Team, leading volunteer efforts with many female-focused volunteer organizations including Girls Inc. and Girls Up. I have also volunteered with the Marin Food Bank.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Leading my team’s recent macroeconomics case writing efforts and receiving an A! The topic was incredibly complex, requiring both extensive research as well as the courage to define a clear leadership position, with the risk of being very wrong.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am very proud of the teams I have built and led, the integrity I have maintained, and the courage I have demonstrated to make the hard, correct decisions. From this, I have achieved innovation in businesses I have led, with principles I believe in, around people I love.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Data and Decisions. The biggest insight was learning the best definition for “information,” which is “the reduction of uncertainty.”

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? The Berkeley-Haas core values were significantly appealing as they align very well with my own core beliefs. The reputation of UC Berkeley as an advocacy and thought leader in the world is also very aligned with my beliefs. The strong reputation of the Berkeley EMBA program was very appealing and my experience with the program office was incredible.

In addition, being a long time Bay Area resident and having worked for Levi’s Strauss during very formative times in my career—twice—is a soft spot in my heart for anything Haas.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? At the beginning of the program, I shared the same nervous concerns of my classmates about how to juggle work, school, marriage and, in my case, motherhood. While it’s been a daunting prospect with many twists and turns—some tears, laughs and some serious planning—there has been one incredible, unintended outcome. My 14-year-old son, Harrison, and I have enjoyed sharing studying tips and study group coping strategies with each other! Being students together has given us an entirely new world to enjoy at the same time and it’s been amazing. He recently chose the “gold standard” for a history paper topic and I was able to share a relevant article with him from my macroeconomics class. It’s been so fun to show him that learning never ends and it’s been a true gift to learn from him along my EMBA journey!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That you won’t be able to do it and that there won’t be enough time. Somehow you find the time for homework and studying. You repurpose time and become much more productive quickly. You figure it out!

What was your biggest regret in business school? Given my work schedule until recently, I was not able to participate in as many of the extracurricular activities as I would have liked. During the remaining time in school with more time available I am excited to attend more campus activities.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Faisal Wattoo. Faisal is the most sincere, earnest, authentic and high-integrity person I have ever met. Incredibly intelligent, also gentle, kind, and fierce in his own unique way.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I kept thinking about how I may want to start my own business in the next phase of my career. An MBA is not a prerequisite for starting a business and, in fact, has become the thing not to do for many in Silicon Valley. But I realized I was reading and studying about all of these topics on my own all of the time anyway, so I thought: why not formalize this education, supercharge the capabilities I am seeking, place myself in a world class environment with the best thinkers and teachers? Also, when everyone starts to say “don’t do something” I usually think it’s a fantastic idea.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…reading and studying on my own…but without the structure, discipline, animated discourse, and camaraderie…or degree at the end!”

What is your favorite company and what are they doing that makes them so special? Beyond Meat. I am excited about the CEO’s philosophy to change the way people think about meat and his bold vision to attack climate change through creating vegetarian protein alternatives to meat.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the executive MBA experience? Overall, I have been very happy with the experience.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To create and lead a business with an inspired team of people, that has significant positive outcome on the world, solving big, global problems.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents and my husband and son. My parents gave me a very sound foundation of love and discipline. My husband and son talk me off the ledge when I feel overwhelmed!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? She never, ever, ever gave up.

Favorite book: The Goldfinch

Favorite movie or television show: Cinema Paradiso

Favorite musical performer: Beyonce

Favorite vacation spot: Belize

Hobbies? Yoga, running, hiking, vegetarian cooking