2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Reginald Draper, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Reginald Draper

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

Age: 38

“Relentless innovator using my passion to better the world and honor my family legacy.”

Hometown: Shreveport, LA

Family Members: Clifton Draper, Alma Draper, Zandra Draper, Angela Draper, Tylon Samuel

Fun fact about yourself: When I’m not searching for cars, I’m racing cars. If I’m not racing cars, I’m trying to meet people who race cars.

Undergraduate School and Degree Louisiana Tech University, Mechanical Engineering

Where are you currently working?

Draper Automotive: Founder

Draper Associates VC: MBA Venture Analyst & Product Manager

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Star Hope Center for Women’s and Children: Volunteer

Hyundai Cradle Mobility Innovation Competition Finalist

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Breaking into venture capital has been an amazing experience. I come from an oil & gas industry background and only knew a few people who ever worked in the PE/VC world. I was told it was very difficult to pivot into VC, especially for an EMBA student, but I was determined to network to get my foot in the door. I didn’t know how impressive people perceived the achievement to be until I kept getting asked, “How did you do that?”

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Automobiles are my passion. I’ve been able to develop an international network of amazing people and assets simply due to the fact that my passion fuels me. In this journey, I also realized that I had inspired the next generation. It’s interesting to get a “Thanks for showing this!” and “I hope I can do that like you one day” on social media from youths. It’s a really good feeling to inspire through my passion.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I have so many because Berkeley Haas has an amazing faculty. That said, Rhonda Shrader has to be the most inspirational. As the executive director of entrepreneurship, she has endless energy and does an incredible job balancing the talent at one of the best programs in the world. Rhonda is major part of the innovation contagion at Berkeley Haas.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I’m from Louisiana and grew up and worked around good people who shared a similar mindset. I wanted to meet folks with a different cultural and regional background and challenge my own thoughts and practices. That, along with my startup aspirations, fit perfectly with Berkeley Haas. The incredible tech, VC, and startup network sold me.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Start small, iterate quickly. I’m a “big vision with a dose of perfectionist” type of person. While this works for some things, it can be counterintuitive for a startup with limited resources. This training has helped me remap my startup with a much more feasible roadmap. I’m focusing on satisfying high customer pain points while minimizing product inefficiencies.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Juggle is an accurate description, but it wasn’t during just a certain time. The entire program required me to stay on point—and the primary help came from my supportive classmates. My best experience during the MBA was working closely with people I care about. When we got overloaded, others rowed just a bit more. When we had difficult times, it was my job to get rowing. It’s a team effort.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Choose the program that fits your goals. Choose the program the “feels” right to you.  Once you’re in, go full throttle. Don’t hold back anything. You’ll thank yourself later.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I don’t harp on regrets, but If I were to change something I’d try to get more immersed earlier in the ecosystem. When you first start, it’s like drinking water from a firehose. Time goes by and you realized you missed valuable events and networking opportunities.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Chaitali Narla. Chaitali is Superwoman. She has a full-time role as a director at Google, two kids, and somehow was a part of every single leadership event throughout the program. I don’t know how she does it.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I had reached a fairly good income level in my career. I weighed the pros and cons of each and realized that my role gave me enough flexibility to be able to enjoy an EMBA program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I aspire to build the most iconic automotive digital platform in the world, and ultimately invest in the brilliant ideas of up-and-coming founders. Our world is changing, and we need impact. I look to be a part of that solution for the rest of my life.

What made Reggie such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Reggie is the kind of student you dream about. He’s super smart, fearless, and eager to learn. Living in Houston and commuting to EMBA classes didn’t slow him down one bit. His passion for cars and entrepreneurship propelled him to engage in classes and three intensive co-curricular programs. He and his teams excelled in all of them, including a big win last week for a semester-long challenge sponsored by KIA Hyundai. As a supporter of his learning journey, I’ve had a front row seat to his growth as both an entrepreneur and as an impactful, charismatic leader. He makes everyone around him better. I only wish we could clone him and I can’t wait to see what he does next!”

Rhonda Shrader, MBA 96
Executive Director – Entrepreneurship
Executive Director – NSF I-Corps Bay Area Node
Lecturer – Lean Transfer & LAUNCH Accelerator


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