2016 Best EMBAs: Sally Allain, UC-Berkeley (Haas)

Sally Allain UC Berkeley

Sally Allain

Berkeley MBA for Executives Program, Haas School of Business, UC-Berkeley

“Sally combines sharp intelligence, a great attitude, and unique industry experience — and brings all of it into the classroom. It is rare to observe someone who is able to seamlessly move between various functional areas and industry areas and make insightful contributions to class discussions, but Sally does that regularly. She is a model for the modern business school classroom and executive suite.”

Age: 41

Location: San Diego, CA

Family Members: Husband, Richard; son, Tristan (8 years) & daughter, Seraphina (6 years)

Education: M.S. microbiology and immunology, 2000, Virginia Tech; B.S., biology (minor chemistry), 1997, Virginia Tech

Where are you currently working? Director of external alliances, immunology, Janssen Research & Development, a Johnson & Johnson company

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: Johnson & Johnson’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI); Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP); Healthcare Businesswomen Association (HBA)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Connecting with an undergraduate student and offering mentoring support. Our EMBA class cohort kicked off a pilot group to tighten connections and offer the opportunity to mentor undergraduate business students at Berkeley-Haas. It has been great to offer advice and serve as a sounding board, answering questions she had while searching for her first post-school, while also providing a woman’s insight into business and dispelling any misconceptions.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Building a functional team capability in Alliance & Strategic Partnership Management for early research collaborations within Janssen Immunology. As our business model evolved five years ago, we were looking outward for innovative partnerships. I was brought in to manage collaborations and ensure deliverables. I knew that for our scientific success, and the weight being put on the data generated via these collaborations, that partnerships were critical. I worked to influence the need for a larger team, while mentoring others in their skill-set development. I’m proud to say I now have a bi-coastal research operations and alliance management team supporting a portfolio which is 50% externally partnered.

Favorite MBA Courses? Leading People, Marketing, Competitive & Corporate Strategy, Executive Leadership, Negotiations

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? There were two different aspects that really stood out to me about the Berkeley EMBA. First, the week-long immersive learning experiences which are part of the curriculum — from entrepreneurship to applied innovation to international business to public policy in Washington, D.C.

The leadership as well as the opportunity for deep onsite real-time learning during this week is unparalleled. As an example, our entrepreneurship immersion, led by Professor Toby Stuart, brought our class to visit 28 companies in one week. We were face to face with CEOs and founders of companies in different stages, from start-up to IPO.

The second aspect is a commitment to women’s leadership. Berkeley-Haas is a leader in this area and this shows in the gender diversity of our class cohort as well as in the strong business & academic caliber of our female professors and lecturers. As a woman in executive leadership, it’s important to me to be able to gain from their insights and experience, and learn from their perspectives.

What did you enjoy most about business school? My class cohort. They are an amazing group of individuals — from their industry experience, their insightful thoughts and perspectives, and most importantly, their down-to-earth, genuine personalities and willingness to support. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by these 68 career-driven and socially conscious people — and to know that I will be able to call on them for support in my future business endeavors.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? After the first term, just three classes in, I was already able to apply the gained knowledge and make an impact in the way I was working. The ROI was immediate.

What was the hardest part of business school? The rigor, especially for executives who are balancing the program with full-time professional careers. I’m constantly finding myself digging deep to re-ignite my motivation when I’m exhausted. However, I recognize how excited I am in the days prior to heading back to school, surrounded by my cohort colleagues. They definitely help to reignite that motivation.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family, and education? “Juggling” is the correct label, as there’s no easy balance in an EMBA program. Some aspect of the work-family-school triad is always juggled. However, if you can recognize what you’re juggling, and work to prioritize weekly, it will help get you through.

It’s a great exercise in strategy and decision-making, determining what’s the most impactful and then deciding what you’re willing to let go. Not having the time has forced me to make assessments and decisions at a higher view and move on them faster.

At the end of the day you have to remind yourself that an EMBA program is a short time period for you to be selfish for your educational and personal growth. The reward is going to be incredibly impactful.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? Be yourself. Very cliché, but what I found to be very true. Believe in your professional accomplishments, the life experiences you can bring to an EMBA program, your character. Don’t lose yourself too much in the perceived metrics of an application process.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I recognized that if I wanted to move up in the business side of science I needed to expand my knowledge in business fundamentals, while gaining additional advantages to increase my leadership presence.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Spending much more time in my running shoes questioning myself, ‘What are you doing?’

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? Accomplished women executives who continually talk about the need for gender and diversity in business, such as Sheryl Sandberg and Mellody Hobson. Women who are addressing the challenges women face in a two-career household, such as Anne-Marie Slaughter. These women are taking a stand on a hill and are relentlessly talking about it, which is so important to instill change and for the women who follow.

What are your long-term professional goals? I want to be an enabler in moving science faster — and deliver health care innovations and solutions to patients who are in dire need.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? There have been many unique individuals who have taken a chance on me and given me opportunities that served as the stepping stones.

Prof. Joe Falkinham hired me at his small biotech start-up and sponsored me in my master’s degree. Some professional managers also took the extra time to mentor and guide me, while also expecting a high level of delivery. They set incredible standards.

The biggest thank-you will always go to my husband, who has always valued my desire for career growth and has constantly supported my opportunities, including pushing me to apply to Berkeley-Haas.

Fun fact about yourself: I was born in Australia and spent many childhood years there, sandwiched around a government posting for my parents to the U.S. We moved back and forth a couple of times and I was constantly changing schools. I don’t believe I ever got comfortable in one place and these experiences definitely built my resiliency

Favorite TV show: Who has time for TV? I have a paper to write and a case study to read!  There is a season of “Madam Secretary” and “Manhattan” waiting for me on my DVR. There’s just no time between work deliverables, making sure my children get some of my attention, and school

Favorite book: Eat, Pray, Love, as well as any autobiography; I love reading about leaders and interesting individuals and the impactful or heartfelt decisions they’ve made in life

Favorite movie: The Breakfast Club

Favorite musical performer: Coldplay or Keith Urban

Favorite vacation spot: It’s too hard to pick just one. Some of my favorites are the beaches in Thailand, the historical sites in Vienna, walking Castle Bridge in Prague, and the food and culture of Madrid

Hobbies? Running, traveling, and spending time with my family

What made Sally such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Sally has a beautiful blend of IQ and RQ. She’s smart — both intellectually and emotionally — and that makes her pretty unique. She’s able to step back and self-reflect on her leadership style, asking questions about who the ‘authentic Sally’ is.

“She has the courage to take that exploration to a place that yields real fruit. She’s also a real trooper, always willing to help out (e.g. by being class rep) even though she is not short of commitments on the work, school, and family front. I admire how she juggles work, school and family. She actively talks about the choices that she makes, thereby inspiring others.”

Rajiv Ball, Professor

Building Trust Based Relationships

Berkeley MBA for Executives Program

“Sally is a tremendously thoughtful, connected leader, and an integral member of her cohort. In Building Trust-Based Relationships, we ask students to stretch outside their comfort zones and dig deeply into their ‘trust quotient,’ discovering what makes them a trusted leader, and where they need to develop further. It isn’t easy to open up to your classmates about trust and where you might be falling short, but it’s that dimension of intimacy that helps build trust.

“Sally led the way in sharing her own experiences, creating a space for her classmates to do the same. She does that in a way that is generous of spirit and backed by real care and thought, true ‘Confidence Without Attitude’.”

Jennifer Caleshu

Lecturer, Building Trust-Based Relationships

Berkeley MBA for Executives Program

“Sally is an exceptional student. She combines sharp intelligence, a great attitude, and unique industry experience — and brings all of it into the classroom. It is rare to observe someone who is able to seamlessly move between various functional areas and industry areas and make insightful contributions to class discussions, but Sally does that regularly. She is a model for the modern business school classroom and executive suite.”

Rui de Figueiredo

Associate Professor, Competitive and Corporate Strategy

Berkeley MBA for Executives Program


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