Old-School Networking: Blues in Business Come Together to Give Each Other a Hand

At Wells Fargo headquarters in San Francisco, four recent Cal grads—Angus Hsu ’07, who works in portable housing finance; Fred Fannon ’08, an analytics consultant; Richard Zhu ’09 in the Securities division; and Dana Zhang ’13 from the Global Financial Institutions group—are hard at work creating an alumni network of Golden Bears at the bank.

“We know of at least 700 Cal grads working here, and that’s only the people we found on LinkedIn,” says Zhu. “There have to be a lot more.”

Zhang adds, “Our goal is to leverage them into a network that will facilitate career development, volunteering in the community, reconnecting with Cal, and enjoying social activities like watching the Big Game together.”

Their hope is that the network will reach out to potential recruits even before they graduate, while they are still weighing job offers, and convince them to come to Wells Fargo. Once there, the new Cal grad employees will be matched up with mentors who can show them the ropes and help them with their careers.

Hsu says it’s about time.

“I sure could have used a network like this when I first started at Wells seven years ago. It was sink or swim. I eventually learned to adjust, but if there had been a Cal alum here to help me transition, it would have been a lot easier, both logistically and emotionally.”

The Wells Fargo Cal Corporate Alumni Group is just one installment of CAA’s newest endeavor, The Berkeley Network, founded in January to promote professional and social networking opportunities among alumni. A corporate alumni program is up and running at Google, and talks are underway to create groups with Deloitte and other companies.

The Berkeley Network has already launched online webinars to Cal grads, providing career management tools, best practices, and trends in the marketplace.

A sampling of the program’s other offerings include a career management and interview skills seminar by Tim Johnston ’75, a veteran of more than 30 years in the corporate staffing and career management/coaching fields; advice for women from Bonnie Marcus, president of Women’s Success Coaching, with themes such as “Look Out Before You Lean In” and “Anatomy of a Blind Side”; and a webinar by Lara Dalch, a certified health and nutrition coach, on how to incorporate healthy habits into a hectic lifestyle.

The Berkeley Network was CAA Executive Director Jefferson Coombs’s idea, says Elinor Tappé, director of The Berkeley Network and Leadership Engagement. “He wanted to create a new program that would provide connectivity for alumni in the workplace, but what that would look like was undefined. We came up with a plan that would leverage the specific advantages that Cal alums have in the workplace, especially in relation to the alumni communities we’re competing with—Stanford and the Ivies.”

Namely?

Perhaps the biggest advantage is just the sheer numbers of alumni concentrated in California. Tappé cites another advantage: a refreshing lack of entitlement. “Cal grads are exceptional not just because they’re so smart, but also because they are so humble and grateful.”

And the biggest obstacle?

“Many of our alumni are not used to the idea of networking. There’s this mentality here that says, ‘If I work really hard, I’ll get where I need to go.’ Not that Stanford and Harvard people don’t work hard, but they know that it’s also about who you know. It’s in their DNA, but not always in ours.”

She believes the corporate alumni pro–gram can be a win/win/win proposition for the company, the employee, and for Cal. A company with a strong network of alums might entice talented applicants from Cal to join. As new employees, Cal grads could benefit from gaining access to fellow alumni who hold senior-level positions. And it could help Cal in fundraising. “If anybody at a company that has a corporate program in place is solicited [for contributions], it won’t be the first word they’ve heard from the University,” Tappé says.

“The Berkeley Network provides our alumni with new, dynamic programming that engages them with one another, and with the University. Our long-term hope is to promote a cultural shift that helps our alumni leverage their connectivity in the workplace.”

Alums interested in creating a Cal corporate alumni program at their businesses, or interested in being featured at one of The Berkeley Network’s L.A. Breakfasts, may contact Tappé at elinor.tappe@alumni.berkeley.edu.

From the Fall 2014 Radicals issue of California.
Filed under: Cal Culture
Image source: The Berkeley Network's alumni group at Google is off to a good start.
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