2019 Best EMBAs: Alexei Greig, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Alexei Greig 

UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

Loving but firm person who wants to support and push everyone to be their best selves.

Age: 38

Hometown: Kingston, Jamaica

Family Members: Elizabeth Raji-Greig (wife)

Fun fact about yourself: I played in a steel drum orchestra in college.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Williams College, Bachelor of Arts in English (2003)

Simmons College, Master of Science in Education (2006)

Where are you currently working? KIPP Bay Area Schools, Director of Culture

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Co-President of the 2019 Berkeley EMBA class

Beyond Yourself EMBA Fellow

Member of Redemption Bay Area Church

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I used to step in college, and I was able to host a panel with Haas Lecturer Maura O’ Neill and two members of the documentary, Step, for our business school. (The film documents the senior year of a girls’ high-school step dance team against the background of inner-city Baltimore. It won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival). I had not stepped for a very long time but was able to perform about six minutes of a routine by myself, which took a lot out of me—but I think it was immensely enjoyable for everyone present.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was the founding special education director of Democracy Prep Public Schools based out of New York. I think that was most important because I was able to build a holistic, collaborative model for the team that aimed to serve all students—not just those designated as having learning disabilities. It led to a better educational experience for students and families and allowed adults to collaborate more effectively to serve students. The Academics Collaboration Team department still exists today and has been replicated throughout the organization, which now has schools in multiple states.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Lucas Davis. As an educator, I have a heightened sensitivity to strong pedagogical techniques, which I believe are weaker among those who teach in higher education than they are in K-12 education. Lucas is the best teacher I have had, so far, and is also an excellent researcher and an all-around great guy.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course was Special Topics in Entrepreneurship with Professor Toby Stuart. The course pulled back the veil around VC-funded startups. It made starting a business feel accessible for those of us willing to give our lives over to it. I think my biggest insight was that Silicon Valley has created a unique startup environment where investors will take a chance on the right idea even if it has a low chance of success. It also taught me that those with an aptitude can actually make a career out of starting successful businesses that may not last for a long time.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Having worked while doing my first master’s degree, the 19-month length of the EMBA program was important. I also wanted a program with an on-campus component so I could build real connections with my classmates. Finally, I thought the week-long immersions that Haas offered would be invaluable to gain practical experience…and I was right.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? My cohort is extremely diverse in every way you can imagine—including gender, experience, race, thought, and more—yet we have developed a genuine care and respect for each other, which makes going to class every day enjoyable. I learn just as much from my classmates as I do from my professors and their support and insights make this entire experience enjoyable.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I learned the truth of the saying “nothing risked, nothing gained.” I have determined how I can take strategic risks on quick pilot projects that will show results without adversely impacting large groups of people until we know that the strategy will be successful.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? My best example of juggling all my priorities took place when I was away for a one-week immersion. My wife was able to join me for two nights at the hotel, and I took her out to dinner, which earned me points on the family side. Simultaneously, I used my lunch and class breaks to do an interview with a journalist, a consultation with our lawyers to resolve a crisis, and a coaching session with another leader. I used my remaining evenings to help a classmate resolve an issue with another classmate. Then, I connected with my study group on another night to work on a project. It was a whirlwind, but it was a great way to stretch myself and balance many of my worlds.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Realize that you can do this no matter how old you are. It’s an investment in yourself, which is always worth it. Make sure your family is on board with your plan and everything else will fall in line.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? School requires a tremendous amount of work, but most of us are better at managing priorities and time than we were during our earlier academic programs. The idea that school will be overwhelming is overstated. You will survive and you will be a stronger person as a result. If you give your energy to school in a strategically balanced way, you will thrive.

What was your biggest regret in business school? In terms of regrets, I wish I had spent more time connecting with my classmates. Most of this content was very new to me, and I sometimes prioritized studying over making connections with classmates. I can always access the content, but connecting with people is more important.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my classmate Lydia Butterfield, who has served our cohort in a number of ways. She is in finance and spent hours teaching those of us who do not understand the content well. She also gives to various causes, advocates for those who have been marginalized and shares openly how her experiences growing up in Missouri shaped her understanding of the world. I love those who genuinely this selfless. She will be a life-long friend.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I talked with a current student and realized I am never too old to invest in myself.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would like to develop an organization that is able to effect massive developmental change in my home country of Jamaica. Whether that is via business investment, non-profit partnerships, or something in between, I would like to be leading work that is driving that change in Jamaica.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as someone who led well and who cherished everyone in our group.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Getting to Australia and South America. I had a goal to visit all seven continents before I was 30 and did four. I want to at least get to six by 40. (Antarctica may be dropped. As a Jamaican I have limited tolerance for the cold.)
  2. Becoming a proficient salsa dancer.

What made Alexei such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“Alexei always came to my marketing strategy class with a smile on his face and a positive attitude that lifted everyone around him. Alexei wasn’t as extroverted as some of the students in the cohort of executive MBAs, but he did speak regularly, and when he did, I could tell by his insightful questions and unique comments that he was thinking carefully and deeply about the concepts, theories, and practices that we were covering. Alexei understands education better than most because of his background and he takes it very seriously. His approach to learning led him to be a top performer in the cohort and he quickly won my respect and admiration.”

Steven Huff
Visiting Associate Marketing Professor

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAs OF 2019 or RANKING THE BEST EMBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.