2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Amber Jones, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Amber Jones

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

Age: 33

“I find peace and confidence in my independence. Equally, I value community and the interdependence of our individuality.”

Hometown: Chico, CA

Family Members: I am surrounded by a loving and supportive family and a chosen family.

Fun fact about yourself: I collect Christmas tree ornaments from my travels. It makes decorating your tree every year a fun trip down memory lane.

Undergraduate School and Degree: George Fox University, Bachelor of Arts, Accounting

Where are you currently working? I am currently working for an independent investment advisory firm called Human Investing. We are a financial planning and investment management firm working with families and individuals to help them realize their financial goals. We also have a workplace retirement plan advisory practice where we help companies support their employees save for retirement. I joined the firm nearly five years ago as the Chief Financial Officer. I also serve on the executive management team and lead initiatives in the area of strategy and operations. In addition to overseeing the financial management of the firm, I enjoy implementing new technology and finding ways to be a good steward of company resources.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Over the last three years I have served as a Board Member for the Boys and Girls Club of Portland. I have committed time and solicited sponsorship for events and activities supporting the community efforts of the organization. I am the first board member to transition to the Governance Board from the Associate Board. On the Associate Board, I served by fundraising and recruiting new board members. Our goal was to increase awareness among young professionals about the important needs the clubs are fulfilling.

I have also spent three years volunteering with the Urban League of Portland Young Professionals, as Vice President and Fundraising Chair. We provided financial and volunteer support to our affiliate. We also provided a much-needed space for African American young professionals to network and build community.

My passion for building community led me to fill the position of VP of Clubs and Community for my cohort.  It has been a highlight of my program experience, organizing and planning activities for my classmates to enjoy and build comradery.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I have served as the VP of Clubs and Community for my class leadership team. One of my favorite things in life is creating space to cultivate relationships and community. In my role, I have made it my goal to create opportunities and space for my classmates to get to know each other outside of the classroom.  Some of the most memorable events include our class campfire and s’more making, bowling, karaoke, football games, and Secret Santa gift exchange.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The opportunity to join the executive team at Human Investing is the highlight of my career thus far. Human Investing has been a great place for me to learn and grow as a young executive in a vibrant and growing company. I am grateful for my colleagues and the opportunity to contribute to a firm that reflects my personal and professional values.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? All of the professors have been outstanding in the program. Every one of my professors has brought something unique and challenging to the course material. Professor Homa Bahrami was a standout for me because of my interest in organizational behavior coupled with her vast experience and personal connection to the case studies. She was engaging, real, and authentic about the challenges modern leaders and companies face.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I chose Haas because of the culture and reputation of the executive MBA program.  I believe the Haas culture attracts people who are passionate about solving problems and making a difference in the world. The program office and faculty truly care about the quality of your experience and supporting your executive MBA education.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? This program gave me the opportunity to learn and grow outside of my professional environment. I was seeking a new challenge and this program was a great way to stretch and get out of my comfort zone. Particularly in the area of public speaking. Prior to the program, I struggled with presentation anxiety. Through this process, I have become more comfortable with public speaking and presenting.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work?
There have been many lessons from this experience that have transformed me in truly meaningful ways.  If I had to stick to just one lesson, it would be, know your “why?”.  In life, we will have many options and choices, and the temptation is to try and do it all. The experience of being a full-time student, full-time career woman, and maintaining a personal life stretches you very thin. I quickly realized that doing everything at a level I could be proud of was unrealistic. When I decided to navigate my EMBA journey based on my specific goals and desired outcomes, the experience became richer and more fulfilling.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Life doesn’t stop when you start your executive MBA. In the first term of the program, my dad came to live with me, I traveled to my friend’s wedding in Belize, and led a technology transition for our practice management software at work. It was important to me that I was still able to be present for these special moments and execute my work assignments. I had to learn my capacity limitations and accept help from colleagues, family, and classmates. You quickly learn how to maximize your output and efficiency wherever possible.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Make sure you know what you are looking for in the program culture and curriculum. We all have different reasons and goals for getting an executive MBA and each program has a different approach and advantages. The community and culture was a top priority for me, and the culture at Haas instantly resonated with me.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I knew that working and going back to school would be challenging and would require a strong support system. Despite that awareness, I still believed I could do it without needing help. In reality, I underestimated the amount of support I would need from family, friends, and colleagues.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Unfortunately, the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 dramatically interrupted my business school experience. One of the things I have enjoyed the most about the Haas EMBA is the in-person lectures and time with my cohort.  My biggest regret is taking that for granted. Had I known the remainder of my program was going to be online, I would have done more to make sure I enjoyed my time on campus.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It is difficult to pick just one because my classmates are so talented and uniquely gifted. I appreciate the diversity and variety of professional backgrounds of my classmates. I admire when people can be unapologetic about their strengths, talents, and interests. Margret Park, Senior Art Director at Sephora, has been a leading example of leaning into her gifts unapologetically. She has been generously sharing her creative gifting and marketing talents with our cohort. Not to mention she loves her beauty products and happily shares her passion with the class. It is not uncommon to find a serum or special lotion in her hand that she is passing out during the break. Thanks to Margaret our skin is glowing and bright even with the stress of midterms or group projects. I have so much respect for this talented woman and gratitude for her voice in our program.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I came to campus for a class visit and sat in on Professor Jennifer Chatman’s Executive Leadership course.  I was engaged and inspired by her energy and the student reflections about their leadership assessments.  I immediately thought this is where I need to be to elevate my skills professionally.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long term goal is to build a financial services organization that is unapologetically multicultural. My dream would be that both financial professionals and clients from all backgrounds would find a place where their needs could be met. The industry needs to do a better job recruiting and retaining diverse candidates. The desire would be to deploy a diverse team of talented financial professionals to help address financial literacy, planning, and advice for communities historically overlooked by the industry.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? You could always count on her to keep it real and make time for fun!

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Learn Spanish
  2. Hot Air Balloon Ride

What made Amber such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“I am pleased to support the nomination of Amber Jones for the “Poets & Quants Best & Brightest EMBAs”.  I had the opportunity to get to know Amber in my executive MBA course “Creating Effective Organizations”, a required course in our MBA for Executives program. Amber embodies our Haas defining leadership principles, “Question the Status Quo” and “Beyond Yourself”. She is an innovative thinker, considers the views of others, and has a passion for helping under-served communities. She evaluated many organizational behavior principles through the lens of racial and gender equity, and inclusive leadership. Amber shared candid and practical insights from her own experience as a leader within her profession and was a valuable contributor to our discussions.

One of the distinct advantages of the Executive MBA format is the ability to actively apply course material to daily work. Amber was always looking for ways to take her class experience and make real-time adjustments in her current role and working style. Her ability to take a pragmatic view, address tangible problems, and share her experience with others, made her a valuable contributor and an asset to the course, and her cohort. I look forward to the contributions Amber will make as an emerging business leader, especially given her desire to make an impact on marginalized communities. We need leaders like Amber more than ever, especially given the current state of the world.”

Homa Bahrami, Ph.D.
Senior Lecturer & Distinguished Teaching Fellow,
Haas School of Business

DON’T MISS: THE FULL LIST OF THE TOP 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAS OF 2020

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