These Companies Founded by Rady Alumni Can Make Your Holiday Shopping Easier

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! As the holidays approach, however, you may find yourself with a to-do list longer than Santa’s Nice List—and that’s why we’re here to help! Below you’ll find innovative gifts for your loved ones, all of which were created by companies founded by Rady alumni. We hope this guide helps make your holiday season bright, and we wish you all the best in the New Year!

GIFT GIVING


Ciari Guitars

A must-have for musicians on the go, The Ascender guitar folds compactly enough to stow in a carryon.

G. Bryan Cornwall, MBA ’18

Evolution Smart Bag

The perfect purse doesn’t exist … until you create it! Each piece of the smart bag is customizable, and it can even wirelessly charge your phone.


Suvi Tanninen, MBA ’18

Kids on 45th

Last Christmas, you gave kids new clothes and the very next day … they outgrew them! Skip the store and save by shopping “pre-loved” finds, delivered to your door.


Elise Worthy MBA ’09

Owaves

Introduce your friends and family to the calendar app designed to optimize your body’s circadian rhythm. 


Royan Kamyar MBA ’10

Dermala

Breakouts become a thing of the past thanks to personalized skincare delivered monthly.

Lada Rasochova, MBA ’08

Wasim the Dream

Forbes contributor, former engineer and three-time bodybuilding champion Wasim Hajjiri shares his recipe for success in this inspirational read.   

Wasim Hajjiri, MBA ’18

Sterlings Mobile

Treat someone you love (or yourself) to some pampering—haircuts, manicures, beard trims and more—at the mobile salon that’s easily accessible to busy professionals.

Kush Kapila MBA ’10

Executive Oil Services

Take something off your loved one’s to-do list and book an oil change on their behalf! These automotive experts bring their services to office parks and businesses across San Diego for a quick and convenient change during the work day.

Andrew Zorko, MBA ’14

Uptown Bicycles

The bicyclists in your life deserve the best! From the latest in electric bikes to affordable and fast service, you’ll find it at Uptown.

Curtis Allen, MBA ’10

Everybody Solar

The gift that keeps on giving: your donation helps bring solar energy to power local nonprofits.

  Kian Salehizadeh, MBA ’11


BEVERAGES

Protector Brewing

Raise a glass at San Diego’s first organic beer company, which celebrated two years of operation in November.

Sean Haggerty, MBA ’17

Tequila Enemigo

A luxury spirit meant to be sipped and savored, this tequila (produced in Tequila, Jalisco in Mexico), is worthy of its own special occasion.

Robin Clough, MBA ’14

Tulua Ginger Shots

What’s missing from the menu at your holiday feast? A shot that your gut and guests will thank you for.

Zeyad Moussa MBA ’11

Bevea-Cascaraa

For the friend whose New Year’s Resolution is (always) to drink less caffeine, try Cascaraa, an antioxidant rich tea made from coffee fruit that contains about one third the caffeine of your average cup of joe.

Kabir Gambhir MBA ’10


FAMILY OUTINGS

Iceskimo

No holiday season is complete without snow … shaved snow, that is! Get the family together for a creamy frozen dessert that would satisfy even Santa’s sweet tooth.

Robert Yang MBA ’11

December 10, 2019 0 comment
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Your Invitation to LinkedIn’s 17th Floor Terrace Awaits

At 3 p.m. on Fridays, employees at LinkedIn’s San Francisco headquarters step away from their keyboards and gather on the 17th floor terrace to enjoy each other’s company. They mingle with colleagues in different departments. They savor a drink or some snacks. And they soak up the glimmer and bustle of the SoMa neighborhood below. Doesn’t sound too bad, eh?

In late October, Rady School students had the opportunity to immerse themselves in LinkedIn’s culture (and others) during the Bay Area Trek organized by Rady’s Career Management Center. Over the course of two days, Rady students (primarily MBA students, but also those in other master’s programs) visited LinkedIn, Facebook, KLA, Komodo Health, Salesforce, AirBNB, Flex and Intel, touring the state-of-the-art office spaces, asking questions of the working professionals—many of whom are UC San Diego or Rady alum—and getting a clearer picture of where their degree from Rady School of Management can take them.

We caught up with two students who attended—Ping Gu and Sitong Liu (MFin ’20) to ask them about their most memorable moments and why they encourage more Rady students to make the trip.

Which companies did you visit and why did you select them?

Gu: I visited Facebook and LinkedIn. I saw the big names and I didn’t think too much! I knew I wanted to go visit these companies.

Liu: I went to LinkedIn, Komodo and KLA. I was exciting to learn about them all. They offered a broad range of experiences. I was curious to know what kind of career advice they would give us.

What left the biggest impression on you from these visits?

Gu: At LinkedIn, all three speakers were UC San Diego alum. They were so supportive of us and said they see Rady growing very fast. Eric Darwin (Head of Corporate Development) shared his story of transitioning from investment banking to working at Salesforce and now doing mergers and acquisitions at LinkedIn. It painted a picture for us of how we can navigate our own careers. After the session, we got a tour of the building. Because it was Friday, we also got to join in on their regular happy hour on the 17th floor. That was so cool! People from every floor of the building came up to join.  

Rady students enjoy the views at LinkedIn’s San Francisco headquarters

Liu: I did not know what to expect from Komodo, because they are a small firm, but they ended up being my favorite part of the trip! They have about 200 employees. There were three presenters—two were remote who are based in New York. They shared what it was like to move from a big company to a startup, and then grow in the new role from startup to small company. The employees were all very open. We had a short tour of their office and got to spend most of the time asking questions, even common interview questions, such as how to respond to “Tell me about yourself,” or what kind of opportunities I could be looking for based on my interests. One of their presenters, Brice, who is Head of Engineering, is also involved with recruiting, so he had a lot of great insight to share. I asked the question, “What can I do if I don’t like coding but I do like analytical work?” Brice followed up after the visit with a thoughtful email response to that question and it has really helped me in my career planning.

Komodo Health welcomes Rady students.

What interactions did you have with Rady alum during the Trek?

Gu: On Thursday night, there was an alumni mixer at Atwater Tavern in San Francisco. Dean Ordóñez was there too! I got to meet a lot of Rady alum working in the Bay Area. Some alum even drove from San Jose—almost two hours with traffic—just to come to the event. I talked to Jessica from KLA about Rady life and how much she loved it. I also met Jessica’s classmate Chiara (18). She’s doing consulting for the nonprofit sector and she told me about some really exciting job opportunities. In that moment I realized how networking can work for everyone. She said they needed someone with an accounting background. I studied finance and accounting as an undergraduate. Sometimes you don’t expect too much from just talking, but that is the magic of networking!

All of the alum shared an appreciation for Rady. They love Rady. They love San Diego. And they know what to expect from Rady graduates. They all showed a willingness to help one another.

KLA in Milpitas.
Rady students join alum Jessica Bonilla in KLA’s cleanroom.

Liu: At KLA, three employees—two who are Rady alum—made themselves available for a Q&A session. They offered us great advice about how to negotiate with a supplier. During their presentation, they showed us this video, The Monkey Business Illusion, to demonstrate that if you focus too much on one thing during negotiations, you end up ignoring some really important aspects of the transaction.

What did you gain from going on the Bay Area Trek?

Gu: The company visits allow you to not only learn what these employers do, but then you get to explore what you want to do and what direction you want to go after graduation. At LinkedIn, for example, each speaker had a different route getting to where they are today. Nobody had a typical path. Hearing about their processes and how they made it work opened my mind to what kind of career path I can pursue in the future. If you don’t go on a trip like this, you’ll never get to hear those stories. And if you weren’t attracted by the big company names alone, it’s also a great opportunity to meet Rady alumni and students from other departments.

Liu: Don’t underestimate what you can get out of visiting a small company, or a startup! [On the Trek], you really get to know the companies on a deep level. You can build personal connections with some of the presenters. This is a rare opportunity to take these tours. When you read online about what companies are like or what the culture is, the answer comes for a PR department, or maybe someone outside of the people who are doing the actual work that interests you. On the Bay Area Trek, you get to meet them. You get an authentic answer. 

December 10, 2019 0 comment
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Cancer Survivor Clay Treska Co-Founded an App to Help Patients Get the Support They Need

“As a marine, the reality is, ‘I’m going to war. I’m going to battle. I’m going to defend this country and if I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die. And then you die of a disease that you could do nothing about.”

In 2010, Clay Treska (MBA ’19) was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had served since 1998 in the U.S. Marine Corps, most of that time spent as a counter intelligence agent. Treska’s propensity to ask questions and seek answers led him to challenge his diagnosis, research his options, and ultimately save his life. His experience surviving the disease—and witnessing it take his father’s life and the life of fellow marines—led him to co-found Family Proud, an app with a mission to connect patients to healthcare resources, and to foster a network of support so that no patient feels like they’re battling illness alone.

“I was able to beat my terminal diagnosis and I wanted to understand why that was. I wanted to be able to share that with other people,” Treska says. The same year he was diagnosed, he graduated from San Diego State University with the intention of becoming a physical therapist. After volunteering and interning with UC San Diego Health, where he helped advise cancer patients and counsel mourning families after loss, he decided that he wanted to pursue a different kind of career in healthcare.

“I saw that the amount of good that you can do from an executive perspective in healthcare is just so far sweeping. It takes one meeting and one decision and you can impact tens of thousands of people and the future of healthcare. I realized that getting an MBA and learning about business was the path that I wanted to take,” he says.

Treska researched graduate business programs across California including those at Stanford, USC, University of San Diego and San Diego State University. “All of the [other] programs that I saw were missing those key components towards helping my own business,” he says. Rady’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation appealed to him. “I made the decision that I need to go to Rady if I want to not only excel in the healthcare environment, but also have the opportunity to start up a company.”

Treska enrolled in Rady’s FlexWeekend MBA program and continued working full-time in healthcare. He met classmate and Family Proud CEO and co-founder Jaden Risner, and the two of them developed the business plan for Family Proud through Rady’s Lab-to-Market course sequence.

“[At Rady], you’re not just getting education from the class itself and from the course material, but you’re getting education from your peers. One of the greatest aspects of the program is how you realize that you can’t possibly know everything there is to know about business. But that’s not the point. The point is to understand it enough to be able to have conversations with people, find those people that are smarter than you in these specific disciplines and have them help you work on those aspects.”

As a young company with limited resources, only about a third of the Family Proud team are currently full-time employees. The rest are volunteers who give their time because they believe in the product, says Treska. “Everybody on this team, or someone close to them, has dealt with some type of an ailment or a struggle and thought that this is a service that would have helped them,” he says. “We’re all growing through our own challenges.”

Ultimately, Treska says that the goal for Family Proud is to help make high quality healthcare accessible to anyone. “Everybody should receive the highest quality medicine, the highest quality care, regardless of who you are, regardless of what type of insurance you have, what your pedigree is, what your job is, where you came from or who you know. This is our way of being able to make sure that everybody receives the highest quality care, inside and outside of their provider.”

It’s Treska’s desire to help other patients that motivates him to keep building the business.

“What more could you possibly ask from a program?” he says. “To take something from it that you can continue to grow and prosper, something other than the degree itself. That’s the most valuable thing that Rady gave me: to take a dream and turn it into a reality.”

December 4, 2019 0 comment
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Rady School Hosts Visiting Professional Fellow Arina Bogomolova

“My position in life is to take challenges as chances and try to use every opportunity that I have,” says Arina Bogomolova, a PhD in economics candidate from Lomonosov Moscow State University and data analyst with Usalitics Research. “My favorite phrase is ‘Why Not?’,” she says. In Moscow, Arina studies the commercialization of university research. Arina’s open mind and research background is what brought her to Rady School, where she has spent the past four weeks supporting the California Institute of Innovation and Development (CIID) as a participant of the Professional Fellow Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. As a Professional Fellow, Arina is here to share her expertise and gain an understanding of how research and development functions inside of American universities. We caught up with Arina to ask about her research, the similarities and differences she sees between universities and what she likes most about San Diego.


Describe the work you’re doing here as a Professional Fellow.

I’m here to explore the system and think about the ways to make scientists in Russia more active in the commercialization of their research. There are professors who sit in their room and research and tell nobody. They might publish, because they get bonuses for that, but they are not active.
At my job [in Moscow], I’m participating in writing strategies of development for Russian universities. I can only recommend on how to make science more competitive. Universities have some opportunities to support science, so it’s ultimately up to them.

What are some differences you’ve observed between U.S and Russian university systems?

As students [in Russia], we have more limited choices in courses. Here, you can rate your professors and lecturers, and they compete with one another for money and grants. In Russia, professors and lecturers have a guaranteed salary, but it is less than here.

Have you noticed similarities?

During a workshop for StartR students, I was surprised to hear the lecturer teaching Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas. It is the same thing I teach at my university.

What else have you observed?

Professors here interact with students a lot. We don’t have such a thing. Lecturers, they give information. They read their lectures. Here, I observed a class that was playing some games. It was unusual because I’m used to it being more serious. I would like to add some life in our classes too.

What have you enjoyed most about San Diego?

First one is weather. It’s already snowing in Moscow. My first host here was a really interesting woman Christine, who had traveled all around the world. She told us a lot of stories. I was there for two days with another girl from Ukraine. The first day, Christine took us to the beach. You can really feel how powerful the ocean is. It’s really calm there.

I also experienced my first real Halloween here. When I was walking around campus I saw people carving pumpkins and I asked, “What are you doing?” They explained and asked me if I wanted to make one and I said, “Why not?” So, this was my first Halloween pumpkin. At my host family’s house, I handed out candies. In Russia, there are no trick-or-treaters.

What do you plan to do after completing your PhD?

First of all, I’ll finish my Phd thesis and get a driver’s license. But I have no long-term plans. Russians more believe in fate than Americans. That’s a difference. Americans say you should take your life in your hands and achieve the American dream making sacrifices (like in the La La Land movie). In Russia, you should work hard, you should do your best, but everyone has a fate, so you shouldn’t be too nervous about the future because everything will work out how it’s meant to.

November 14, 2019 0 comment
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Uber Study by Rady Professor Gets the Internet Buzzing About Tips

In late October, a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper co-authored by Uri Gneezy, Rady School professor and Epstein/Atkinson Endowed Chair in Management Leadership, sparked widespread online conversations with its surprising revelations about how we tip.

Gneezy and his co-authors studied 40 million Uber trips during four weeks between August and September 2017, looking at factors such as driver and rider characteristics, timing, location and ride quality. “We all have theories or stereotypes about who tips best and which workers earn the most, but honest-to-goodness tipping facts are rare,” wrote Andrew Van Dam of The Washington Post. This working paper offered unprecedented insight into tipping behavior (and lack there of).

As shared by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Economist, Daily Mail, Wired and other news outlets (and many a Twitter users), Gneezy’s study found that most Uber riders don’t tip. Nearly 60% of riders never tip, and only about 1% always do. Whether or not there’s a tip depends more on who the rider is than the driver (although promptness and safety still make a difference). Other factors the researchers found to influence tips include star rating, the time of day, destination and gender. Read the original working paper, The Drivers of Social Preference: Evidence from a Nationwide Tipping Experience, here.

November 7, 2019 0 comment
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How Collaboration at Rady Changed Amy Bernal’s Career Path

Amy Bernal’s path to become Chief Experience Officer at artificial intelligence company Aira began before the company was even born. Prior to entering the Rady School in 2011, Bernal, who graduated from the Flex MBA program in 2014, had worked in project management and business development for local non-profit organizations. “I was hungry to operate in an entrepreneurial environment,” she says. “I knew that Rady was the best in terms of the ability to connect to the right people.”

It was in her first study group at Rady where Bernal met classmate Suman Kanuganti. Bernal and Kanuganti also worked together through their Lab to Market course sequence. By their final quarter, Kanuganti had the idea for Aira, which connects blind and low-vision people to remote human agents via smart phone or smart glasses, and developed his concept through Rady’s Lab to Market and StartR programs.

“I was able to see him create that company, leave where he was working before, and I eventually followed him,” says Bernal, who a senior offering program manager at Intuit before joining Aira.  

Since 2016, Bernal has grown from Director of Agent Services to Chief Experience Officer at Aira. Currently, she is working to expand Aira’s network of 25,000+ partners across companies, locations, platforms and devices to increase accessibility for Aira “explorers” (users).

In the video, Bernal explains how her MBA degree from Rady broadened her skillset and opened her world to new opportunities.

November 6, 2019 0 comment
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Suman Kanuganti Is Making an Impact with Aira

2019 has been a banner year for Aira. Launched in 2014 when Suman Kanuganti was a Rady School MBA student, Aira (“Ai” is a nod to artificial intelligence and “ra” references remote access) connects blind and low-vision people to remote human agents via smartphone app or smart glasses, “enhancing everyday efficiency, engagement, and independence” for users, which Aira calls “explorers.”

This year, Aira was recognized on Forbes’ list of 50 Most Promising Artificial Intelligence Companies, honored in Fast Company’s World Changing Idea Awards (finalists included Amazon, IBM and Microsoft), and expanded its 25,000+ partnerships to include the some of the country’s busiest airports and transit systems.  

“I always tell people that if it was not for Rady School of Management, Aira probably wouldn’t exist,” Kanuganti says. Kanuganti entered Rady having earned a bachelors in electrical and electronics engineering and a masters in mechatronics, robotics and automation engineering. He says he chose Rady because “I wanted to do a program focused on how to build a business,” and build he did.  

In the video, Kanuganti shares how a friend who is blind inspired him to leverage wearable technology, and how the Rady School taught him the quantitative and qualitative skills needed to create a business that changes lives.

October 30, 2019 0 comment
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Rady School of Management Hosts Association of National Advertisers Business Analytics Conference

The Rady School of Management at the University of California San Diego recently hosted the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) first annual Data & Marketing Analytics conference.

The ANA is the nation’s premier marketing and advertising organization, representing 15,000 members and 50,000 brands. The conference explored the convergence of data science and business by examining the latest marketing trends, industry best practices, insightful case studies, and the utilization of data science by top brands. An estimated 100 business professionals representing over 40 companies attended the conference and speakers from Target, Google, Experian, Jack-in-the-Box/Carat and Petco addressed the audience.

The conference is planned to be an annual touchstone event, as the Rady School is slated to be the West Coast academic center for the ANA’s Educational Foundation. The school’s Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program and Center for Business Analytics will assist the foundation on the topics of data science and business analytics convergence, training and applied business skills in analytics.

Raymond Pettit, Executive Director of the Rady School’s MSBA program and Center for Business Analytics, noted the school and center are exploring a more robust partnership with the ANA.  

“The ANA’s Educational Foundation mission is quite complimentary to the Rady School’s MSBA program where the focus is on training the next cohort of advanced data and business analytics professionals, as well as a commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Pettit said. “Our organizations touch a lot of common points and we look forward to growing a very fruitful collaboration.”

The conference provided over 60 Rady School MSBA and other graduate students with the opportunity to learn from business professionals and experience an industry event focused strictly on the core aspects they study in their program. The Rady School’s MSBA is an intensive program that provides students with the skills to succeed in data-rich business environments. The program offers rigorous, hands-on training that prepares students to use data and analytics to identify business opportunities, generate business insights and create business solutions. MSBA students gain both the quantitative skills to create better decision tools and the ability to manage teams and communicate effectively with stakeholders throughout each phase of an analytics project.

October 22, 2019 0 comment
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Cloud-Based Simulations, a Surfboard Rental Station and More Highlights from Demo Day Fall 2019

If you’ve ever seen Shark Tank, you’ve gotten a glimpse of the nerve, expertise and determination it takes to pitch to potential investors. You must absolutely know what you’re doing, where you’re headed and what you can offer.

Through Rady School’s StartR Accelerator, a 100% philanthropy-supported, six-month program, teams comprised of at least one Rady or UC San Diego student or alumnus are provided with mentoring, workshops, co-working space, and connections to funding sources. At the end of the program, StartR Demo Day is the teams’ Shark Tank moment.

On October 2nd, six startups from the Fall 2019 StartR cohort: FlexAir, Athlete Initiative, DeepFlow, SurfUp, Project: Pangolin and FreeGen Technologies showcased their companies in five-minute presentations in front of San Diego’s entrepreneurial community, including several successful StartR alums. If you weren’t one of the 160+ attendees at this Demo Day, here’s what you missed:

How Far We’ve Come: StartR accelerator was founded in 2013 by none other than Rady School students, and since then, it’s served a whole lot of them. Dr. Lada Rasochova, executive director of Rady’s California Institute for Innovation and Development (CIID), and Kim Davis King, co-director, shared that 152 startup teams have participated in StartR and raised a remarkable $85.9 million under the guidance of CIID and more than 50 mentors. Not only that, but twelve StartR companies have been accepted into business incubators, five teams went on to found a second startup, two received investment from the Rady Venture Fund and two exited to larger companies.

Accomplished Alums: If those figures weren’t enough to demonstrate StartR’s impact, at Demo Day, we got to hear it first-hand from StartR alumni.

Demo Day emcee Ashley Van Zeeland, Ph.D (Rady MBA ’12, co-founder and former CEO of Cypher Genomics, which she sold to Human Longevity) is now the VP of Product Development Business Operations at Illumina. “I can say with 100% confidence that I would not be where I am today without the support, the backing and the constant encouragement from the Rady School and the StartR program,” she said.

Ana Morena, StartR Inclusion alumna and CEO and founder of Navega Therapeutics, shared that the business has raised nearly $1 million from investors. Martyn Gross (Rady MBA ’15), StartR Rady alum, founder of Clarify Medical and President of Stratify Genomics said, “I can’t express my gratitude enough.” His thanks were echoed by Julio de Unamuno IV, (Rady MBA ’14) StartR Rady alum and CEO of lab software startup LabFellows, which has garnered 2,300 customers, more than $3 million in funding and a recent write-up in Xconomy. “This started here with Rady,” he said. “You guys were here before anyone else was.”

Six Talented Teams:

Former Navy pilot and FlexAir CEO Paul Wynns (Rady MBA ’20) presented “the flight school training tomorrow’s flight leaders.”

Athlete Initiative co-founders Robbie Beyer (Rady MSBA ’20) and Amy Kame pitched their sexual violence prevention program for collegiate athletic departments. “We ask that everyone join us in creating a safer campus community today,” they said.

Takuya Onda and Yusaku Nakamura (both Rady MBA ’20) of Deep Flow offered insight into their cloud-based, large-scale simulation software.

Chris Hissom and Natalie Moazzez (both Rady MBA ’19) shared their “Bird scooter of surfboards,” SurfUp, an automated surf rental station and smartphone app. Unlike Bird scooters, the team said, because SurfUp houses the rental boards at a station, you won’t find them scattered “everywhere.”

Ayush Sapra and Ana Dasgupta presented Project: Pangolin, an initiative to recycle plastic waste in Myanmar to produce an alternative construction material. To demonstrate the material’s strength, Sapra stood on a recycled footstool during the presentation.

Casey Fitzpatrick of FreeGen Technologies told us about the SeaSkimmer, their autonomous, machine marine drone that tracks and collects trash in ports and harbors. In other words, he said, it’s the “Roomba of the ocean.”

And the Awards Go to: After the company pitches, two StartR teams were recognized with a $250 prize each. Deep Flow was selected for the Excellence Award by the judges, and SurfUp was voted Audience Choice. Additionally, Derrick Oien, CEO and founder of ScoreStream was recognized with the Guru Award for his mentorship, and Karen Anderson, partner at Cooley LLP was recognized with the Spark Award in appreciation of her sponsorship.

The next round of StartR began this month, with new teams under the wings of CIID and community mentors. Be on the lookout for the next Demo Day in Spring 2020!

October 21, 2019 0 comment
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How a Rady MBA Helped Sarah Feldman Land Roles at Tesla, Lyft and More

Sarah Feldman (MBA ’15) has led technical analytics programs at several pre- and post-IPO companies including Tesla, Lyft, and venture capital firm Institutional Venture Partners. While at Rady, Feldman founded the RadyX Technology Conference, landed a summer internship developing VR technology at Sony Playstation, and says she gained the leadership and finance skills necessary to advance beyond her B.S. in Computer Science to managing multi-billion-dollar analytics programs upon earning her MBA. Here, Feldman shares how the Rady School coursework, alumni network and staff propelled her success.

How did you land your MBA internship at Sony PlayStation?

I utilized Rady’s career services to the fullest. I signed up for all Rady interview practice sessions while in school. In the Career Connections office, there were shelves of interview preparation literature such as “Cracking the PM Interview,” which I made sure to read. … I made a list of companies and types of roles where I would add the most value as an MBA intern. I narrowed down the list by attending the Rady Executive Speaker Series, San Diego Tech Meetup groups, and discussions with the brutally honest FT2015 and FT2014 cohorts. After further researching companies by reading articles on Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance, and TechCrunch, I would email Rady alumni with well-thought-out questions about culture fit and their company’s products.

During the Bay Area Trek, I was able to meet with Rady alumni at Tesla, Cisco, and Google, and attend company presentations. I asked pertinent gaming industry questions at the Sony PlayStation presentation, which caught the attention of the Sony internship recruiter, who asked me to interview for three different internships where she thought I would be a good fit. 

Sarah visits Google during the Bay Area Trek.
Sarah with Rady FT2015 and FW2014 students at Tesla in Palo Alto.

During the interview process, I utilized my knowledge of Computer Science courses on Matlab, OpenGL, Computer Vision, and video game creation to address the technical interview questions. With the new lessons from Rady’s leadership and finance courses, I was able to demonstrate financial knowledge of discounted cash flow statements, leadership best practices, and product management.

I landed competing internship offers at Cisco and PlayStation. I could add the most value assessing and planning product launches for the gaming industry, so I accepted the PlayStation offer.

I led development for PlayStation VR (a then-secret and stealth project to launch Virtual Reality products). I was fortunate to work cross-functionally at Sony and present to the CEO at the end of the summer.

Sarah tries a light-based VR game at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Meetup.

How did you land your first tech role after receiving your Rady MBA?

During my first Rady Bay Area Trek, I met an alumnus who was working at Tesla Motors. We were both passionate about innovation in tech and we stayed in touch after my MBA internship at Sony PlayStation. When the Rady alumnus decided to change roles at Tesla, he offered to help me take over his original responsibilities. He connected with the Tesla hiring manager about the quality of Rady MBAs. After a few rounds of interviews, I was offered the role.

Elon Musk and the “ICBM Map” that Sarah managed.

At Tesla, I created global supply chain analytics platforms and data. I utilized the R and statistics skills I learned through Professor On Amir and Vincent Nijs’ classes to build global analytics models. I leveraged similar linear regression principles when creating supply chain analytics in my role at Tesla. These were later featured in Elon’s Model 3 launch event, which was pretty cool to discover in a few online articles. During his presentation, Musk coined the dashboard an “ICBM Map.”

I enjoyed my time working at Tesla, but realized I needed to have better work life balance for my life goals. Having a personal life was key for me. This led me to start a charity organization focused on athletics in my free time, and eventually leave Tesla for a different industry altogether.

How did you transition from Tesla to venture capital firm Institutional Venture Partners?

During my finance classes at Rady, I enjoyed the precision of creating financial statements, algorithms, and elaborate excel macro sheets with the purposes of evaluating the financial health of companies. Naturally, I featured this certification on my LinkedIn (as Rady Career Connections recommended for a career change). After I spent some time job hunting, an executive recruiter reached out to me on LinkedIn, inquiring about a role in an established venture capital firm. The firm had investments in Uber, Twitter, Dropbox, and Snapchat. They later offered me the role of Senior Manager of Analytics. I was in awe, as venture capital was a seemingly impossible industry to enter.

At IVP, I worked closely on analytics and excel valuation tools, weighing-in on pitch meetings for autonomous vehicles, and attending executive VC events with the likes of Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington and NBA player Kevin Durant. I even worked with the financials of the corporate board of directors’ books. It was everything I had imagined and more. I was able to leverage my VC Finance Class, DCF Certification, and startup valuation knowledge from the MBA program.

Why did you leave venture capital to work on autonomous vehicles?

I felt [something missing] in my daily work without the hands-on aspect of creating, strategizing, launching, and scaling tech products. Helping to advise on funding was fascinating, but I realized I enjoyed being part of a team that is ‘making a product’ more than anything. 

I had a few experiences working and advising in the self-driving car sector while at Tesla and IVP, and I co-founded the Self-Driving Car sector of Women Who Code. At Tesla, I worked on ad-hoc behavior analytics reports for the Autopilot team in addition to supply chain analytics. During my time at Tesla, I also purchased a Model S with Autopilot. 

The ease and pleasant nature of driving in Autopilot, a Level 2 autonomous vehicle, convinced me that this is the future of transportation. While Tesla is leading the consumer market for Level 2 autonomous vehicles, they are not alone in the quest to create an autonomous future. A colleague of mine from Tesla, and now Lyft, recommended Lyft’s Level 5 division. I saw a great fit for my skill set and made the jump to join the future of autonomous transportation.

What work did you do at Lyft?

I led data infrastructure, simulation software, and testing hardware in the loop, V&V and strategy for Lyft’s autonomous vehicle. An incredible aspect of autonomous vehicles is how many different technologies are combined to create self-driving vehicles. At a high level, a car must know where it is in the world in relation to everything else, and plan what it will do next. The underlying technology, including machine learning algorithms, compute, and simulation software, has been fascinating to work on and build. In many cases, the well-organized quantitative analysis course at Rady helped me understand some of the underlying computer vision and machine learning involved in creating a self-driving car.

How did your Rady MBA prepare you for Lyft’s IPO, and what was the day of the IPO like?

The MBA program prepared me not just to understand Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to build and read balance sheets and cash flow statements, but also to understand the landscape of the financial markets. Until recently, the IPO landscape was desolate, as a result of the 2007/2008 market collapse and the following financial levers and regulation. 

In an advanced behavioral finance course at Rady, my team worked with stock market data to predict market performance for a given month. This was an extension of the common statement, which we proved accurate, that “Monday’s market will predict the market performance for the rest of the week”. Despite these stellar lessons in financial market behavior, I did not expect to be part of a company listing itself on the market in an IPO. However, my lessons at Rady prepared me well for this experience.

Sarah at an event for San Francisco’s The Commonwealth Club to discuss IPOs.


Lyft’s Level 5 division on IPO day.

On the day of the Lyft IPO, as a Program Manager in Lyft’s Level 5 Autonomous Vehicle Division, I awoke at 4 a.m. When I drove to the office at 5 a.m., the freeways were ghostly empty. I arrived at the Palo Alto office early for the 6 a.m. NASDAQ bell tolling for Lyft’s televised IPO. The room was filled with my enthusiastic coworkers, celebrating the ringing of the bell. For those who followed the series of large tech unicorn IPO’s, the rest is history.

How do you suggest others learn more about autonomous vehicles, since many companies are in stealth mode?

Take strides to learn about open source libraries for machine learning like TensorFlow. Look into Udacity’s Degree in Self Driving Cars. And of course, stay up to date on regulation.

What’s next for you?

I recently left Lyft’s self-driving division, and have just accepted a new role at a search company. The charity organization that I founded (Silicon Valley Ice Skating Association) will be hosting its first Tech and Ice crossover event on January 11th, 2020, “Robots on Ice.”

In the meantime, if you have any questions about Rady, please be sure to reach out to the wonderful Rady admissions team! I feel very lucky to have chosen such a great school to attend for business school, and keep in touch with classmates. The alumni network, Rady Career Connections, fellow students, and professors have been a delight to work with and guide me throughout my career.

Volunteer work brings Sarah to Washington D.C.
October 4, 2019 0 comment
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