Name: Denisse Cortan
Hometown: San Diego, California
Undergraduate Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Undergraduate Major: Political Economy
Track: Marketing & Management
How did you choose your undergraduate major?
Political economy is Berkeley’s name for international relations. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study when I came to Berkeley, so I started taking a wide spectrum of courses. When I thought about the courses I had most enjoyed, I realized that they spanned the disciplines of economics, history, and political science. I chose political economy because it’s a great combination of all my interests.
Where did you work the summer before starting the M.S. in Commerce Program?
I accepted an internship with the Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center in San Diego. The Export Assistance Center helps companies export their goods abroad, navigate through trade laws, and conducts market research. I really enjoyed learning about different industries. I was constantly learning about changes in trade regulation. I’m sure the office is really exciting right now with the news about Cuba.
Could you describe some of your projects at the Export Assistance Center?
I shadowed trade specialists (industry experts) at client meetings. One of our clients manufactured a Doppler device for icebergs in the artic. They sold their product to research institutions such as universities to track ocean currents. San Diego is a marine tech hub, so we saw a lot of clients working in this field.
What has the M.S. in Commerce Program taught you that surprised you?
This may sound cliché, but the biggest thing I’ve learned is confidence. In a business setting, you can’t be meek and expect your ideas to be heard. I’ve given a lot of presentations this semester, which has helped me immensely.
Was it hard to transition from the West Coast to the East Coast?
It’s definitely difficult. The stereotypes are true—San Diego is very laid back. However, my undergraduate experience at Berkeley prepared me for the M.S. in Commerce Program. In California, we call this type of learning environment a “pressure cooker.” I used to think it was just a Berkeley bubble, but since moving to the East Coast, I’ve realized that this working and studying culture is much more widespread.
What are your long-term career goals?
My dream is to someday be a trade specialist. At the end of my internship, one of the trade specialists left to spear head an office in West Africa. I wasn’t qualified enough to take her position, which is a big part of why I decided to come to this program. In the short-term, I’m interested in working in the public sector. If you want to work in a government job, an advanced degree can help push your resume to the top of the pile and get you an interview. Ultimately, your ability to speak confidently about yourself, your experiences, and communicate effectively will help you land the job.
Do you have any hobbies?
Pop culture! There’s speculation that Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth may be dating.
Written By: Kaylee Lucas