Alums, faculty, and students share how SCET impacted them in honor of Big Give 2022

big give photo mashup

Big Give is Cal’s annual giving day where alumni, students, faculty, and community members have the opportunity to share how Berkeley made an impact on their careers and personal lives. Below we share some perspectives of alumni, faculty, and students who share how SCET impacted them. Supporters can donate directly to SCET for Big Give by following the link below.

Andrew Laffoon

SCET alum; CEO @ Mixbook

How has SCET impacted you?

SCET inspired me to become an entrepreneur, connected me with my co-founder, and gave me the framework and network to turn our idea into a business that has impacted millions.

What is the biggest lesson you learned from SCET courses?

The importance of focusing on customers and truly solving a problem for them. Without that, there is no point to a company.

What’s your favorite course and why?

IEOR 171 – hearing from real leaders about their challenges and journey inspired me to become a leader

Who is your favorite SCET instructor/mentor? Why?

Jon Burgstone, who founded SCET back in 2004.

What area did you grow the most in after attending a SCET course?

Wisdom.


Kimberlie Le

SCET alum; Co-Founder & CEO @ Prime Roots

How has SCET impacted you?

SCET gave me the foundations and the connections to be able to start my own company and be empowered to do so. From ideation to execution – the resources and ecosystem at SCET are unparalleled and you can really make what you thought to be impossible happen.

What is the biggest lesson you learned from SCET courses?

The importance of talking to customers instead of building off concepts and in a vacuum.

What’s your favorite course and why?

Challenge Lab.

Who is your favorite SCET instructor/mentor? Why?

Everyone is amazing!! Couldn’t pick!!

What area did you grow the most in after attending a SCET course?

Learning how to build in flight and test and build.


Maxine Sy Chu

SCET student; Bioengineering major

How has SCET impacted you?

I’ve found some direction in what I want to do in the future, as well as how I can use the skills I’ve developed to further my vision for my own goals.

What is the biggest lesson you learned from SCET courses?

What you put in is what you get out. Go to the SCET events, since they’re not available anywhere else!

What’s your favorite course and why?

Alt meat: needfinding and product development.

I think the way it was structured, with logbooks as a way to record our thoughts, as well as the grading scheme. It made me truly explore my thoughts and draw ideas from them and kind of treat it like a massive creative project, which I found that I needed in my life then.

Who is your favorite SCET instructor/mentor? Why?

Anne Fletcher! Her attention to detail and resourcefulness has gotten me connected to several cool opportunities, and I’m very appreciative of her guidance.

What area did you grow the most in after attending a SCET course?

Collaboration and teamwork.


Noor-Ul-Ain Ali

SCET student; Data Science major

Who is your favorite SCET instructor/mentor? Why?

Professor Ikhlaq Sidhu. Ikhlaq was my research mentor while I was working on the COLT-X project with Berkeley Innovation Labs in collaboration with Colt Technology Services. Ikhlaq is a mentor who is invested in my growth and professional development for a career in data science in artificial intelligence. Working closely with Ikhlaq gave me the opportunity to practice using data to optimize application-based network systems, producing a minimum viable product using the Innovation Engineering methodology, and developing innovative automation solutions for industry companies.


Daniel Tsentsiper

SCET student; Business major; Founder & COO @ Veriply (2nd place at Fall 2021 Collider Cup)

How has SCET impacted you?

SCET has been the defining moment for my time at Cal. Through the mentorship, education, and support I received from the center, I was emboldened to start a company of my own.

What is the biggest lesson you learned from SCET courses?

Fail fast. Extensive testing and incremental development to determine whether an idea has value can save you a lot of time and money during the early startup stage.

What’s your favorite course and why?

INDENG 191 (Tech Entrepreneurship)

Naeem Zafar’s class is a bootcamp into the life of an entrepreneur from idea to execution. The capstone project in front of top VCs was rigorous and extremely impactful.

Who is your favorite SCET instructor/mentor? Why?

Mark Searle (Startup Acceleration)

Mark is an outstanding professor, coach, and ally on your journey of entrepreneurship. The feedback he provided me throughout the course was unlike I have ever received.

What area did you grow the most in after attending a SCET course?

I became a much better listener from speaking to customers, industry experts, and my colleagues.


Joshua Nixon

SCET alum; Co-Founder & CTO @ Prime Roots

How has SCET impacted you?

SCET made me confident to start a startup right out of undergrad! Before SCET I thought I would probably work for a few years, then go to grad school get a PhD and then maybe start a company because I thought that is what I had to do, SCET gave me to tools and connections to be an technology entrepreneur 10 years before I thought I would be.

What is the biggest lesson you learned from SCET courses?

I learned about what matters in a successful seed of a startup and that it is okay to try many ideas and to learn as you go because that is what everyone has to do when doing something totally new and the doing can’t wait for learning.

What’s your favorite course and why?

Challenge lab – I like the competitive aspect of it and how true to life it feels.

Who is your favorite SCET instructor/mentor? Why?

Trick question I don’t think that I can answer, the whole team is awesome and each has their own lessons to teach the students!

What area did you grow the most in after attending a SCET course?

I believe I grew the most in my ability to pitch and to communicate complex ideas quickly in elevator pitch or other short form settings


Victoria Howell

SCET staff and faculty; Director of SCET Professional Programs

Courses taught: A. Richard Newton Distinguished Innovator Lecture Series: A Berkeley Changemaker Course

What do you like most about working with Berkeley students?

Without the students, their engagement, insightful and well researched questions and willingness to question the status quo we certainly would not be as successful hosting speakers from new founders to Silicon Valley and global icons. They have been enthusiastic about learning from Pixar script writers like Kiel Murray; to Bay Area culinary entrepreneurs like Bruce Aidells and Tanya Holland; to UC Berkeley professor/entrepreneurs like Ion Stoica; to climate heroes like Marc Tarpenning and Daniel Mouen Makoua, to gamers like Kevin Chou and Mike Li; to investors like Ben Horowitz and April Underwood; to Facebook CTO, Mike Schroepfer to former CEOs like Marissa Mayer of Yahoo and Eric Schmidt of Google.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had working with Berkeley SCET students?

The most memorable advice was from former Google and Yahoo! exec, Marissa Mayer, who was in conversation with former CoE Dean of Students, Phil Kaminsky. She mentioned that Cal grad Eric Schmidt said to her “leader plays defense.” My understanding of that advise continue to evolve. Who know that those three words could mean so many things.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned as a teacher or mentor?

It is not how much you talk or how much advise you give, it is how much you listen.

Do you have any advice for SCET students?

Stay engaged!

Anything else you’d like to share?

In the spirit of engagement, Cal grads continue to reach out with ideas for speakers who students will relish. One of the most active is Jessica Mah, CEO of Dinero. She was recently in conversation at the Newton Series over the past year with two Cal grads Enplug founder and Emmy award winner, Nanxi Liu and former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt.


Victor Fang

SCET mentor and Blockchain Xcelerator alum; CEO @ AnChain.Ai

Courses mentored: DataX, since 2019

What do you like most about working with Berkeley students?

The students I taught are smart and motivating.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had working with Berkeley SCET students?

The most memorable experience at my DataX class, is probably that the Berkeley students were able to ramp up their knowledge in cryptocurrencies / Defi within a few weeks, and build a full blown data product in just a few months.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned as a teacher or mentor?

Some students in the past underestimated the problem they signed up for, and forgot they only had a few months. Now I would remind them the scope and time constraints. 🙂

Do you have any advice for SCET students?

Team work really matters.

Anything else you’d like to share?

My AnChain.Ai team has been enjoying this SCET network, and it’s great to coach talented Berkeley students ready for the industry.


Gigi Wang

SCET faculty and industry fellow

Courses taught and mentored: BMOE Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, ELPP, SVIL, Global Programs

What do you like most about working with Berkeley students?

Helping them to realize and maximize their potential.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had working with Berkeley SCET students?

When the worst startup team at the beginning of the course transformed and became the winning team (as chosen by panel of industry judges) at the end of the course.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned as a teacher or mentor?

What a big impact that mindset has.

Do you have any advice for SCET students?

Believe that you can achieve much more than you think and go for it.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Go Bears!


Lukasz Kowalski

SCET faculty and industry fellow

Courses taught: Blockchain, NFT, and Social Impact Challenge Lab

What do you like most about working with Berkeley students?

Creativity.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had working with Berkeley SCET students?

Teams getting funding for their startups!

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned as a teacher or mentor?

To be patient, because even the most boring and naive ideas have potential to evolve and be great!

Do you have any advice for SCET students?

To not worry about which major, which classes, and which path they are on. Fate and hard work are more important!

Anything else you’d like to share?

“The thing is to become a master and in your old age to acquire the courage to do what children did when they knew nothing.” – Ernest Hemingway


Shuo Chen

SCET faculty, mentor, and executive scholar

Courses taught: Challenge Lab: Education, Technology and Entrepreneurship

What do you like most about working with Berkeley students?

Berkeley students are among the most diverse I’ve worked with, including aspiring entrepreneurs pursuing such unique paths in addition to SCET’s entrepreneurship certificate – such as students who are cross-listed at Haas School of Business, Goldman School of Public Policy, Jacobs School of Design and UCSF to name a few.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had working with Berkeley SCET students?

Staying after class to jam on startup ideas until late at student-organized drinks (for only 21+ of course).

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned as a teacher or mentor?

Leveraging real-time case studies from startups and the industry to share the latest with students and adapting quickly to personalize the curriculum for different students’ learning styles.

Do you have any advice for SCET students?

I’d love to continue to be helpful and a resource to students long after the class. Since teaching, I’ve had students who have joined startups I’ve invested in as well students who started startups that I’ve invested in. I’m honored to be a part of this amazing ecosystem at SCET, and I’m excited to follow the adventures of my students going forward!


Michael Mui

Berkeley alum and SCET mentor; Technical Lead @ Uber AI; Adjunct Faculty at Parsons School of Design

Courses mentored: Applied Data Science with Venture Applications: Data-X (INDENG 135/235)

What do you like most about working with Berkeley students?

They are not afraid to think differently when problem-solving, and have a grit to follow through and execute! They challenge ideas respectfully, and often bring in their diverse interdisciplinary background – always learned a lot when collaborating with Berkeley students!

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned as a teacher or mentor?

Mentorship is a two-way journey! It is always important to establish trust and create psychological safety early, so you can mutually learn and grow together. Keep an open mind as you start on this journey to help guide (not tell) towards the solution with their approach in mind, and you will always discover something new!

Do you have any advice for SCET students?

When tackling a problem, start small, and really understand the problem you are trying to solve and who you are solving it for – focus on “product-user fit” before making the leap to achieve “product-market fit”! Once you have arrived at a potential approach, always evaluate your baseline and meaningfully measure over time if your approach is actually making incremental progress towards your goal. When evaluating your measurements, first principles and probabilistic thinking can help make sure you are not comparing the median of one distribution to the max of another (“apples and oranges”).

Anything else you’d like to share?

Focus on long-term value creation and do not overfit on short-term targets!


Alina Su

SCET student; Bioengineering & Public Health major; Founder and CEO at NovaXS Biotech (1st place at Fall 2021 Collider Cup)

How has SCET impacted you?

SCET inspired me to become an entrepreneur, gave me the framework and logic to think about how to address a real life problem that has impacted millions.

What is the biggest lesson you learned from SCET courses?

Focus like a laser. Focus on one specific thing at one time and work the best out of you. This is the secret in startup and in life.

What’s your favorite course and why?

Challenge Lab.

Who is your favorite SCET instructor/mentor? Why?

Gigi Wang. She is so dedicated to help every single students with her experiences and wisdom. As a female leader and entrepreneur, she shed lights for leaders with same identity.

What area did you grow the most in after attending a SCET course?

Vision.

Fiat Lux— Let there be light! Be Fearless. Work harder. Shine brighter.