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At Cal, Golden Spirit Resonates

January 30, 2018

by Courtney Cheng ’16

Meghana Dhar ’10 found out she had been selected for Forbes’ 30 Under 30: for Retail and E-Commerce list when a friend texted her, “Hey, by the way, you’re on the [Forbes] list!”

“I was very surprised. I had no idea beforehand,” Meghana laughed at the memory. “I had been told I was a finalist, but hadn’t been told I had been selected.” The entire Forbes list selection process had been kept secret, even from its finalists, and earning this accolade was not something Meghana ever expected—not now nor when she was younger, just starting to discover her passions at UC Berkeley.

The Political Environment

Meghana had set her sights early on Cal. Her parents were heavily focused on her education, so they often took her to visit college campuses. Their home in the Bay Area gave them proximity to Cal and allowed them to visit UC Berkeley more often. Meghana’s own passion for speech and debate and mock trial during high school also brought her to Cal for competitions.

“I always just resonated with Cal somehow,” Meghana recalled, “It always felt right to me, and at the time, I just fell in love with the political environment at Berkeley and how active the students were.”

When Meghana became an official Golden Bear, she strove to get involved in student government and stay active in the political scene. By her sophomore year, she had become an Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) senator, and the following year, served as a chair for her party. “I’m not a great politician because I always say what I think,” she admitted a little sheepishly, but she continued to forge onward with her political goals by writing for the Berkeley Political Review.

Meghana Dhar celebrating ASUC election victory
Dhar celebrating at ASUC vote count. Photo Courtesy of Meghana Dhar
“With Cal, my biggest goal was exploring new things, academically and intellectually engaging, and finding that route that matched [my passion],” Meghana said. During her last year at Berkeley, Meghana applied to Visa’s management rotational program through Cal Recruiting to work for a year, but in her first year of work, she took the LSAT and was admitted to law school.

By that time, however, Meghana had discovered a new calling in Strategy, so she deferred her law school admission. Then, she found a second job at eBay in Strategy and M&A. She never ended up going to law school.

The Corporate World

“I decided not to go [to law school] because I really started liking my job and what I was doing in the corporate world. I also learned that I can make an even bigger impact for the issues I care about through the work I was doing,” Meghana explained. Though she thought she had cemented her passion for politics in the hub of Berkeley’s active political landscape, Meghana hadn’t realized her undiscovered love for eCommerce and tech. “I’m a big shopper myself, so that doesn’t hurt,” she joked, before adding that she realized how well she fit in among many of her colleagues at eBay—a good number of whom had gone to business school (“mostly Harvard Business School”). It was only then that Meghana considered how her current path suited her better than law and formally decided to change gears.

Instead of earning a J.D., Meghana went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. During her time there, she held an internship as a General Manager of Retail for One King’s Lane, establishing brick-and-mortar locations for the furniture company. “It was a really big challenge, but I loved it,” she explained. “You have to take in and act on everything all at once, and I just really liked that. I wanted to find a general manager role like that [after graduating].”

This is what led Meghana to her work at b8ta and ultimately, to a place of honor on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. B8ta is a retail and service company that seeks to establish stores for eCommerce products. Meghana’s work set the company on track to launch stores across America. She recently left b8ta to join Facebook and will be helping to build out retail on Facebook’s commerce platform, Marketplace.

“At Cal, you’re really taught to love what you’re doing, and to really go after it, no matter what.”

The Cal Fighting Spirit

Although Meghana’s path took a sharp detour from the route she originally paved for herself at Berkeley, she still credits the university for her success. Not only did Berkeley’s rigorous academics prepare her for her MBA program at Harvard—“The rigor, competitiveness, and discipline you see at Cal is unparalleled and it couldn’t have been a better forum to prepare for Harvard.”—but Cal also instilled in her a “sense of discipline and perseverance, and that ‘go get it’ attitude.”

Meghana Dhar with Professor Robert Birgeneau
Dhar with Chancellor Emeritus Robert Birgeneau. Photo Courtesy of Meghana Dhar
Having grown up in private schools, Meghana found Berkeley, its competition, and its many variables daunting. “I’d just never dealt with that before, so everything, I found it hugely intimidating,” she admitted, “but ultimately, I’m super grateful for it, because…it forces you to be a fighter.”

Cal’s wide array of academic and extracurricular opportunities, combined with a competitive environment, guides its students toward fields of study and industries about which they’re truly passionate. “At Cal, you’re really taught to love what you’re doing, and to really go after it, no matter what,” she explained. For Meghana, today, this fighting spirit naturally manifests itself at Cal football games and in her professional career.

“[Going after and doing what you love] really formed from my time at Cal,” Meghana said. “[Your passion is] what really separates you when you’re applying to business school, when you’re trying to get the job you want. People are able to distill if you really care about what you’re doing—so really live your passion.”

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