Written by Sona Senapati, Berkeley Haas Center for Responsible Business, Student Editorial Writer
The Center for Responsible Business is thrilled to introduce Nerjada Maksutaj as our 2018-2020 Fellow. The inception of the fellowship is rooted in the hope that developing emerging business leaders would lead to a burgeoning network of graduates driven to redefine business for a sustainable future. With a diverse background and a strong conviction for linking business to social impact, Nerjada looks to challenge the status quo and inspire her industry to integrate positive social impact.
Nerjada is earning an MBA at Haas after majoring in Economics and minoring in Human Rights at the University of Chicago. Her extraordinary passion for digital disruption, venture design, and innovation across business models led her to work on a number of vital engagements; from interning at Accenture and being a part of a partnership with Harvard Business School, to working at the United Nations in applying analytics to strategic decision making, Nerjada has already demonstrated significant leadership for social justice work in the business sector.
Social Impact Leadership:
Nerjada attributes her rapport with social justice issues and how they affect the economy to the education she received at the University of Chicago and her diverse work experiences. Her time at Accenture Strategy exposed her to a wide variety of clients with varying challenges all centered around social impact initiatives. The work she completed ensured that future growth opportunities become more inclusive and socially impactful.
Her first project, a partnership with Harvard Business School, developed a Point of View on the middle skills job market as a part of the US Competitiveness Project. The project allowed her to develop a new perspective on the importance of public-private cooperation for workforce development in middle-skilled jobs. Her experience working with the United Nations provided an opportunity to train senior management on how to apply analytics to strategic decision making whether related to efficient operations of field missions or proactive grant management. Through a partnership with the World Economic Forum, she was exposed to the immense impact that digitalization and innovative business solutions could have on social and environmental issues.
Understanding that education is a major asset in establishing a path to responsible business, Nerjada most recently took on a project with Accenture Development Partnerships and Pearson Education where she launched and managed a new round of the Pearson Tomorrow’s Markets Incubator. The $1.25m incubator invests in early-stage intrapreneurial ventures and new business models which aim to reach low-income and underserved learners. In addition to her operational management, Nerjada provided on-going strategic guidance and mentorship to five teams of intrapreneurs, focused on business model design and in-market prototype testing.
Why Nerjada Chose Haas:
“The more I have the pleasure of getting to know students, alumni, and the broader Haas family, I am impressed by how true a reflection of the culture the defining principles are. It was comforting to have genuine conversations throughout the campus and feel that I would find support regardless of the path I’d choose to pursue. From early on, it was clear that a social impact mindset was embedded throughout the program, and that building purpose-driven, conscientious leaders was a given here. With Berkeley at the epicenter of high-tech innovation, it also felt natural to reach across university departments and the broader Bay Area community to find others with an interest to use tech for positive impact. Also, I discovered that Berkeley Bowl has amazing avocados, so…”
Goals for the CRB:
In the coming years, Nerjada would like to see the CRB foster more interdisciplinary work between the entrepreneurial and design communities across Berkeley, providing the guidance and resources that start-ups and social enterprises need at the seed stage to build responsible businesses from the onset. She recognizes that as new technologies and business models disrupt the status quo, it is easy to run up against the unintended consequences of rapid innovation. In her perspective, the CRB has the opportunity to create constructive dialogue on the ethical implications of emerging technologies like AI, while also revealing the potential for such technologies to create positive impact.
“I think the CRB is very powerful in the conversations it can create across its partners and within Berkeley.”
What Energizes Nerjada:
Much of Nerjada’s work to date has involved helping organizations manage digital disruption and their innovation journeys. As sustainable finance initiatives and impact investing gain traction, she is excited to contribute to the growing field of social innovation and venture design, helping to structure modern business models that optimize for both profit and societal impact. Nerjada thrives when she has the freedom to imagine what could be, think about how the rules of business today might no longer apply, and envision how future growth opportunities can be more inclusive and socially impactful. She is very excited to apply design thinking techniques and unconventional valuation methods to social issues, whether that’s working in impact investing with early stage companies or with intrapreneurial ventures within large corporations.
The CRB Fellow is selected from Round 1 Haas MBA applicants. This is done by a committee made up of representatives from the Institute for Business & Social Impact and the admissions office, with top candidates being interviewed by CRB Fellow donor Scott Pinkus and CRB Associate Director Seren Pendleton-Knoll. This individual serves as a point person between the Center for Responsible Business and the Haas student body and receives an automatic placement on the CRB Student Advisory Board to help set the agenda for the CRB. Successful applicants consider how the Center for Responsible Business can best support their aspirations and reflect on how they intend to further the mission of the CRB to “develop leaders who redefine business for a sustainable future”.
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