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Inside the Program

Communications Excellence Student Testimonial

headshot of Mahesh Popudesi

Mahesh Popudesi: Senior Product Manager Aruba, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise

“A major part of my job as a Senior Product Manager at Hewlett-Packard is evangelizing our network traffic analytics security product, called IntroSpect. I frequently travel to different conferences to present our product. I speak to large audiences, usually with customers, partners, or resellers that I do not know. Additionally, inside HP, I give presentations every week to visiting customers, sales teams or internal engineering teams. Those are a much shorter kind of presentation but to a known audience of 10-15 people.”

“I was motivated to take Berkeley Executive Education’s Communications Excellence Program because I am always working on my communication. I need to make sure that my products’ message gets across effectively to a wide variety of people out there: people who are experts in security and people who are not experts in security. My language, my tone, and my message have to take into account all these different kinds of people and somehow cater to all of them.”

An Alumni’s Perspective on Executive Education

“I went to Berkeley for my Executive MBA because of Berkeley’s culture, the kind of people that surround you, and the way that Berkeley approaches education. I think you feel Berkeley’s culture in every conversation you have with the faculty. The values are the most important thing. For strategy and management, I can tell you that when they talk about strategy and management, it’s not going to be a cut and dry strategy in management. It’ll have a certain value towards how we approach the business world, how Berkeley approaches the business world, and what kind of business leaders it wants to build.”

“As an Executive MBA student at Berkeley, I think we learned one part of the communications puzzle in classes there. However, now that I have taken Communications Excellence through UC Berkeley Executive Education, I found the other pieces of the puzzle when we took a deeper dive. We learned tools and techniques to get our message across to different strata of people effectively. We focused on how to be more effective in saying the right words and how to shorten the message while having a beginning, middle, and end. Now I can present a complex set of feature requests to people and at the same time keep their attention from the beginning until the end.”

Communications Excellence Shifts Physical Preparation Focus

“I went into the Communications Excellence Program with some expectations that I’d probably learn something about giving a presentation and using my tone of voice, but I did not anticipate the focus on my body, my breath, and my posture. I learned 93% of the success of a presentation involves the speaker’s entire body and that only 7% was dependant on the actual presentation content.”

Slight Physical Adjustments Make Phenomenal Changes in Presentation Capabilities

“Communication Excellence has some physical exercises that were very impactful for me. For example, we did an exercise with Co-Faculty Director Penny Kreitzer where I was pronouncing a part of Martin Luther King’s speech with my tongue held flat. Changing my tongue position created an instantaneous difference in how I sounded. The change between my normal speaking and holding my tongue flat was phenomenal. When I heard other people do the same thing, I could tell that there was a certain flow to voice and that their tone changed. Before the exercises, our voices were flat, but after we did the exercise, our voices had a rhythm or tone to it. This exercise changed the way I practice for presentations.”

“Additionally in the program, I discovered a very fundamental thing that I have been doing wrong all my life when I give a presentation. I lift my head a little bit as if I’m looking up and speaking to everybody in front of me, but during the program, I was advised to lower my head, make my back straight, and then kind of flex my knees a little bit. These simple adjustments caused me to open up where my voice comes from and created a lot of change in how I spoke. Since Communications Excellence, I have been practicing, and I can see that I am much more relaxed as I am presenting.”

Day-to-Day Impact

“I communicate our company message every day to a lot of people and realized I needed help finding my voice. When I decided to take the Communications Excellence program, I wanted to learn how to present better and up level my skills. I feel Communications Excellence was a great way to find both my voice and the intent behind my voice. I am now a much more effective speaker.”

“Communications Excellence Co-Faculty Directors, Richard Freishtat and Adam Leipzig, taught us their very intuitive framework called the Ladder of Abstraction. The Ladder of Abstraction helps you during a presentation when there are various levels of perspectives, and you don’t know how to anticipate what kind of questions they might ask and how to respond to them. The Ladder gives you several levels. At the bottom, you have the ground level then you have the 10,000-foot view, 20,000-foot view, and 30,000-foot view. The idea is you can take any subject and then break it down into these different levels of perspectives. What is a 10,000-foot level perspective versus the ground level?” “If you prepare a presentation and you want to convey a message, you use this the Ladder of Abstraction to speak to different people who expect different levels of messages. If you’re speaking to executives, you focus on the 30,000-foot message. If you’re speaking to a developer who wants to get into the weeds of things, you pick the ground level message.”

“Now, using the Ladder of Abstraction, I can handle a new product feature presentation when I have both the general manager and the engineering manager in a meeting. I can take any subject and then break it down into different levels of perspectives.”


“In Communications Excellence, there was a good mixture of people and different viewpoints at various levels in their careers. Some were very senior in the industry and others were people like me. As we got into the feedback groups, I realized that it was helpful to have people give suggestions from all different dimensions.”

Involved UC Berkeley Faculty

“The faculty was very involved in what we did during the Communications Excellence program. For example, Penny Kreitzer constantly paid a lot of attention during the body exercises to make sure that each of us got it right. Additionally, Adam Leipzig is an amazing storyteller. He showed us when he wants to communicate something, he always leads with a captivating story. The story helps him meet his goal of making an important point that will stick with you forever. Overall, I was impressed that the Communications Excellence faculty took the normal amount of personal attention given in other classes and took it up a notch.”

Dive Deeper

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Communications Excellence Program

A communication skills training to develop your confidence and presentation abilities. Learn how to create a memorable pitch.

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