2018 Best EMBAs: Laura Teclemariam, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Laura Teclemariam

U.C.-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Are you looking for a leader who is bold, strategic and collaborative? You’ve found her.”

Age: 39

Hometown: Vallejo, CA

Family Members: I have three daughters and a husband at home.

Fun fact about yourself: My first startup was a marketing event and public relations agency that worked with music label Interscope Geffen A&M records as a client. Through my company, I got to work with Lady Gaga during her debut album.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of California, Irvine, Bachelor of Science (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)  

Where are you currently working? Electronic Arts (EA)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I’m a board member at Gameheads, an organization that trains participants to create, code, and design games, building skills across specific fields necessary to thrive in technology, including coding, visual art, creative writing, design thinking, project management, team building, animation, and game theory.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m a board member of the Black Employee Resource Group (BEAT!) at EA and I am proud of being a voice in the gaming community. I believe the leadership courses at Haas have helped me to develop my thought leadership skillset. I was able to refine my authentic leadership and leverage my core values to develop a vision to encourage inclusion in the workplace.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At EA, I had the opportunity to work with Capital Games studio on Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes, one of the greatest games on the mobile platform. I got the opportunity to work on designing a product that would bring a beloved Star Wars franchise to life through a mobile role-playing game. It was a great experience to build many relationships with those who were in that studio when the game hit number one and to share that moment. I look forward to the day when I am a CEO and I lead an entire company during massive growth.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course to date is Strategy taught by Prof. Rui J. de Figueiredo. I learned so much from this class from identifying how to create and capture value, understand various frameworks, competitor analysis, and game theory. I was able to instantly able to apply these strategic frameworks to communicate my products, especially when briefing any executives.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I am a native of northern California in the Bay Area. I grew up my whole life dreaming about attending two local schools that were competitors. Those schools were UC Berkeley and Stanford. When I finally got the opportunity to visit both schools, I knew that Haas was the best fit for me. The Berkeley Haas culture made me feel right at home.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I love experiencing the Defining Leadership Principles with a classroom full of brilliant people at Haas. These principles include Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Student Always, and Beyond Yourself. Each student you encounter at Haas is constantly refining themselves with the Defining Principles and this is what makes a Berkeley leader.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I learned from Haas that was instantly applicable was to be “present” during every meeting. The Haas program taught me how to build strong relationships that are based on trust so that I am able to build credibility among my peers and direct reports.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Here is a story you probably don’t read about too often. I had my third daughter after being in the program for three months. I luckily gave birth to her in between terms. I found myself having to juggle working full-time in a demanding career, going to school full-time during the executive program, and raising three daughters with my husband. The solution: I realized that I could not do it by myself. I had to lean on my support system at home with my family and husband. I also had to be very diligent at work and utilize time wisely. Prioritization becomes your most valued skill. In addition, your classmates become your allies, so trust them to help you in times of need.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program?First, you can do it all, but you will need a support network to do so. The most successful CEOs are not successful because they are on their own. They recruit smart people to help them. What better way to find a classroom full of seasoned executives than in a MBA program? Secondly, you are worth it. When you question the ROI of getting an MBA, ask yourself, are you worth the investment? The answer is “yes”!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth was that I would still have time to watch my favorite shows during an MBA program. There are so many shows on Netflix that I have not been able to see. I barely kept up with HBO’s Game of Thrones to avoid the spoilers. Other than that, UC Berkeley is everything that you’ve heard about; from the California sunshine, to the Silicon Valley network of entrepreneurs floating around, to the diversity of students from all over the world.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My largest regret is not taking the opportunity to participate in a Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) course. When I graduated from undergrad, I always wondered what it would be like to go abroad for school. That desire followed me to my EMBA program, but I missed the deadline to apply for the GNAM course. If you have the same ambition, don’t miss out.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is such a touch question because I admire all my classmates and am blown away by the caliber of Haas students. However, I would like to highlight a few folks. The first is Manoj Thomas, who is a successful real estate businessman and also a father of four children. He reminds me that you pull your inspiration from your family. Another is Shalaka Kharche, who is one of the strongest engineers I know, but I also admire her for being a musical prodigy. Also, David Prince, who comes across as so humble, yet he is one of the most well-respected leaders in sales and engineering at BOSE. David reminds me that every day you learn something new about yourself in management.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was on my 50th iteration on a client PowerPoint presentation when I was working at a consulting company and working for a number of MBA graduates. At that moment, I decided that I needed to get my MBA to learn more so I could accelerate my impact. I did not apply to an MBA program then—and it was not until 10+ years later, three careers later, and going through a self-evaluation after my first business venture that I decided it was time to close my knowledge gap for general management.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…trying to navigate a corporation with limited knowledge and still searching for resources online that could inform me in the areas of leadership, finance, strategy, and business development.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term goal is to be a C-level executive of a consumer-based company that creates content for a diverse audience. I believe my value system and passion will keep me focused on developing strategies to bring unique content to the market that breaks the status quo mold.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a funny, witty, outgoing, and loving person who always encourages herself and those around her to achieve greatness.

Favorite book: The Alchemist

Favorite movie or television show: Black Panther

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Number one: to take a company public. Number two: to develop the next generation of community leaders. 

What made Laura such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“In my view, Laura is clearly one of the best and most interesting EMBA students I have taught in my two decades-plus career as an MBA teacher. I had Laura in my recently completed strategy course. Laura stood out for a number of reasons. First, she is an extremely insightful student. The course draws on a range of industries and contexts and forces students to not only solve problems but to formulate them. I found Laura unusually capable in this regard. Laura consistently came with insights by thinking laterally about the case which provided enormous value to the discussion and pedagogy. In general, Laura is simply an excellent student who brings a practical mindset combined with a highly creative and strategic approach to solve business problems in unique ways.

Second, Laura is an excellent leader. As an example, the discussion in one class drifted to issues of race, leadership, and business success. This is a topic that is at once important but also can be awkward to discuss in class. Before the discussion got started in earnest, Laura put her hand up and explained to the students that she—and indeed most of her classmates—wanted the discussion to be open, with no consequences or judgment—in order to really surface diverse perspectives. This set the tone for the discussion, as the entire class figuratively (and perhaps even literally) “exhaled” and the discussion was extremely rich—to the point that many students commented afterwards on the uniqueness of how the discussion unfolded. This was only accomplished by Laura taking such a leading position to set the tone. Interestingly, during this discussion, beyond her comments to create a safe context, Laura did not say a word—intentionally—about her own views until the end of the discussion. Again, she was providing space for others, to encourage participation. This was an example of the insight, leadership, and selflessness which encapsulates Laura’s approach in and out of the classroom.”

Associate Professor Rui J. de Figueiredo

Haas School of Business



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