One Biz Grad’s Advice For Others

Sreyas Sai Samantula. Berkeley-Haas photo

How did you go from politics to being in business?

I was an enthusiastic 18-year-old who had always held an endearing interest in politics and policy and working in D.C. in the heart of our nation’s political engine during an exciting election year was both a privilege and a dream come true.

However, after witnessing the mechanics and workings of the political machine firsthand, I became slightly disillusioned and eventually reached a decision that I wanted to start my career in the private sector.

The summer after, I had the opportunity to work as a corporate strategy/business transformation intern for Verizon at their headquarters in New Jersey. In this role, I was given more technical responsibilities, and I fell in love with the finance side of the industry. The year after, I was able to work as an investment banking summer analyst, where I really toned my technical acumen and developed my interest in finance.

Upon graduation, I will be starting my professional career as an investment banker at Barclays in the financial sponsors group, and I am looking forward to working in a challenging and stimulating field that I am especially passionate about. I am still hopeful that way down the line after I conclude my private sector career (30+ years hopefully), I will have the opportunity to reenter politics and policy and dedicate my life to public service.

What are some of the greatest hard skills you’ve acquired at Haas?

Haas’ core curriculum does a great job of ensuring all students build a solid and technical foundation in the vital areas of the business sphere – accounting, finance, marketing, analytics, etc. Supplementing the core curriculum, Haas’ electives allow students to explore and delve more into any of the aforementioned subfields.

As someone working in the financial services sector, I especially appreciated the strong conceptual groundwork provided in the introductory finance and accounting courses (taught by excellent professors including Parlour, Udpa, and Briginshaw), and how the electives (my favorite elective, taught by Rob Chandra, was “Alternative Investments: Venture Capital, Private Equity, & Hedge Funds”), allowed me to broaden my academic horizon and gain a more real-world and application-based understanding of the content.

What are some of the best soft skills you’ve acquired at Haas and how do you see yourself using them?

Communication, leadership, negotiation, team-work, and adaptability.

No matter what industry you’re working in, the aforementioned traits are all prerequisites to professional success, and I credit my education here for teaching me how to efficiently lead a team, tackle challenging problems, and convey my ideas in an effective and diplomatic manner. Specific classes I took include “Leading People,” “Business Communication,” and “Power and Politics.” I have no doubt in my mind I will wield and utilize these soft skills throughout my personal and professional endeavors.

Personal health: What do you do for yourself?

In my free time, I wind down by listening to hip-hop music (Drake, Kanye, and Skepta are my favorite artists), exercising (I do this on the daily!), and reading. Some recent books I’ve read and enjoyed include Billion Dollar Whale, Sapiens, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. (My commencement speech is actually about how hip-hop music inspired me to pursue a career in business after I initially moved to the States.)

Describe your time at UC-Berkeley and what has been some of your best memories?

It may sound cliché but these last four years at Cal have been the best four years of my life. Berkeley really challenges you to grow both as a student and citizen, and I am grateful to have spent my college years in such an intellectually-challenging environment.

The best part of my college experience has been meeting such a diverse group of friends. Since my freshman year, I have been to over 13 countries with them or visiting them, and have crazy stories to share! From catching pneumonia while sledding in Norway to getting caught in a thunderstorm while boating off the coast of Thailand to snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, I have made such amazing memories with my friends from Berkeley all over the globe.

What advice do you have for your generation of business students who will be stepping into the world together?

Conquer your ambitions, break norms, incite change but learn to share your success! The beauty of business is that it can empower and elevate not only yourself but also your community. Ensure that no matter what role or field you are working in, you are making a positive impact and manifesting opportunities for others. The world is changing and during this watershed time for so many industries, it is crucial for our generation of business students champion diversity, sustainability, and social responsibility.

What among all that is happening in the world right now is most important and close to your heart and how do you follow it closely?

I am a proud immigrant, and I was naturalized as a U.S. citizen just over a year ago. The refugee and migrant crisis all over the world ring close to home, and I empathize strongly with individuals sacrificing all just for a chance at a better life for their children.

I believe as educated and informed business people, we have a responsibility and obligation to be aware of what is happening around the world, and I hope to someday be in a position where I am able to effectively tackle this matter and incite positive change.


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