UC-Berkeley Launches ‘Navy Seal’ Program For Future Tech Leaders


Shankar Sastry, dean of Berkeley's College of Engineering

Shankar Sastry, dean of Berkeley’s College of Engineering

The new program is modeled after a similar initiative at the University of Pennsylvania called the M&T (Management & Technology) Program started in 1977. “For many years, I have been watching this program which produces a cohort of wonderful students who we see as interns in Silicon Valley or later in life,” says Dean Sastry. “I talked to my board and it was a complete home run. The board members said, ‘It’s about time. Why didn’t you do this five years ago?’ Penn should be given credit for this. Apart from being slightly alarmed, they are flattered. I wouldn’t be surprised that if MIT gets wind of this, they would be interested, too. We want to see more of this happen.”

Berkeley’s differentiating advantage, of course, is its closeness to both the Bay Area startup scene and Silicon Valley. The school plans to draw heavily on the Valley for on-campus speakers, mentors, and internship opportunities. A speaker series of C-level people is planned, along with “immersion programs” that would place students in workshops, classes, and projects with companies in Silicon Valley.

Grimes, who is also on the advisory board of the Penn program, believes that freshmen and sophomores in M.E.T. will end up landing internships at such firms as Google and Facebook that are more typically reserved for juniors in the undergraduate business program. “These dual degree students will have incredible internship oppoprtunities,” he adds. “The students will be in very high demand. Being here in Silicon Valley, we can do a bit more on internships and mentoring.”


Dean Sastry says most of the advisory board members, including Grimes, intend to become mentors to the original cohort of students. “A lot of quite high-level people, including the chief operating officers and chief technology officers of major companies, have offerred to be mentors to the students,” Sastry says. Lyons notes that at least one company CEO even imagines taking students for back-to-back summer internships, one in the engineering part of the company and a second on the business side.

The goal will be to produce a best-and-brightest class of graduates who can immediately contribute on the job, no matter what position they assume. “I think it will help students facilitate thinking about what they want to do in the future,” says Erika Walker, assistant dean of the undergraduate business program at Haas. “Education has become this commodity. People look at it as a means to an end, a way to get a job. Bringing these two disciplines together allows students to think bigger about their possibilities and how they can leverage both of these to do something big. We want real-world impact. Some of these students will want to do a startup. Others may want to go into a large organization. What we are trying to do is produce leaders who can hit the ground running at any level of an organization.”

Grimes of Morgan Stanley expects that as many as 80% of the program’s graduates will end up in tech industry jobs at many of the leading companies. “We want to concentrate this toward tech leadership,” he says. “We hope 80% go into tech companies and 20% in consulting or finance with tech at the core. That is an important function but that is not the stated goal, so we don’t want to overdo it on mentoring and recruiting from finance or consulting. The experience I have had is that tech is transforming every industry for real, whether it’s retail or transportation.”


A couple of new courses are being created for the program which will be a cohort experience. “This is the first time we are doing direct admit at Haas because we know there are a lot of students who want to pursue a major here, but they decide not to apply to Cal because they can’t be sure they will get into the business school,” Walker says.

Michael Grimes of Morgan Stanley

Michael Grimes of Morgan Stanley

In the past, it was possible — though quite difficult — for an undergrad to come out of Berkeley with a double major in engineering and business. “Less than a handful do it every year because it is quite rigorous and the requirements in place can’t be double counted,” Walker says. “So they may have to take a philosophy requirement. It becomes tough and tight to fit all of these courses within four or four and one-half years. Although the possibility exists, it is not perceived to be an integrated program. This will be integrated and removes the duplication to make it easier for students. You can use one course to satisfy a requirement for both majors. The course load will be more reasonable and allow students to experience more co-curricular programming.”

Explains Dean Sastry: “We went to the curriculum committees and asked how can we not make this program a total bootcamp. We had some absolute prerequisites to leave the summers unprogrammed because we want these students to go out into the real world. And we wanted to develop a couple of new classes exclusively for the program. The curriculum committees responded favorably. They changed their upper division requirements for all majors to make it more flexible. But no one is going to say this is a watered-down degree in engineering or business. There are no compromises on either account.”


Students in the M.E.T. Program choose between two tracks, each one opening up a wide range of career options:

• Business + Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences (EECS): By combining study in these two areas, students can pursue interests in creating new technologies, software or mobile apps, as well as ventures that take these products to market and deliver significant social impact.

• Business + Industrial Engineering & Operations Research (IEOR): In this dual-degree program, students can hone their expertise in building and managing complex systems, such as financial networks, energy grids, and healthcare delivery, and improving their reliability and cost-effectiveness.

The UC-Berkeley application process closes on Nov. 30, 2016, for fall 2017 freshman admission. Applicants are able to mark their preference for this program and the track of their choice on the Berkeley application.

The program’s creation is also a model of collaboration between Berkeley’s business and engineering schools. Haas Dean Lyons presented to the advisory board of the College of Engineering, while engineering Dean Sastry presented to the Haas board. Both deans raised the program’s endowment together. “We are at a point when everyone is thinking creatively about what we do,” Walker says. “Fifteen years ago, this would have been very far-fetched. But we are now looking at cross-collaboration and that makes it such an easier type of partnership, where everyone comes to the table. It all just came together with lots of great energy.”

Still, M.E.T. will be a highly challenging experience for an undergraduate student. Grimes, who earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Berkeley in 1987, says that if he were coming out of high school now he would be first in line for the new program. “I want to believe I could handle this, but I have to tell you I have a little doubt that I could.”

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