Reflecting on My Time in the Innovation Management Certificate

One semester down, one more to go

Hi, I'm Lancelot Larcher, but I usually go by Lance in the United States. I am a 20-year-old French student from Paris, where I have spent my entire life up until now. Since childhood, I have nurtured two passions: golf and numbers.

I started hitting my first golf balls when I was four years old and my enthusiasm for the sport has grown significantly—I competed in various national and international tournaments, providing me with invaluable experiences and exposure.

Concurrently, my curiosity about numbers and their function in our world has always intrigued me. I recall being three years old, walking the streets of Paris with my mother and being fascinated by the numbers on car plates. I would memorize these plates and ask my mother about the meaning behind each number.

Interestingly, these two passions merge beautifully within the realm of golf, where an understanding of numbers and their implications is integral to every shot and strategy.

As the years passed, my interest in numbers evolved and found a new home in the field of finance. This subject area—with its dynamic interplay of numbers and economic factors—resonated with my intellectual curiosity. This transition from a generalized fascination with numbers to a more focused interest in financial data and its implications has been a significant part of my educational journey, and I was looking forward to exploring it further at ESSEC Business School and UC Berkeley Extension.

In July 2020, following my high school graduation, I made a decision that would shape my academic and professional journey. I enrolled in the Bachelor in Business Administration program at ESSEC Business School, recognized as the second-best business school in France. While my program's primary focus was on business, my lifelong interest in numbers led me to choose finance-related electives each semester. This resulted in me pursuing a “minor in Finance” in addition to my primary business major.

Hello, Berkeley!

During my second year at ESSEC, as part of our studies we were encouraged to think about our options for studying abroad. I was always fascinated by the vibrant and varied experiences offered by the American education system and had a strong desire to study in the United States. So I spent a lot of time carefully reviewing the brochures of the American universities that partnered with ESSEC.

Choosing from a range of institutions was a bit overwhelming, but UC Berkeley quickly became a top contender. Berkeley's reputation as a top-notch university, its commitment to fostering a spirit of innovation and its strong focus on high academic standards lined up perfectly with my career goals and personal growth plans. I felt that the university's values closely matched my own, and I believed it would help me improve my skills and broaden my knowledge.

What caught my attention was the Innovation Management certificate that UC Berkeley Extension—the continuing education arm of UC Berkeley—offered. This program, with its unique combination of business and technology, was an ideal match for my interests and abilities. I could blend my love for numbers and problem-solving skills in order to bring about significant changes in the business world.

In addition, the certificate program offered me a chance to learn more about the often tough and complicated process of innovation in today's world. It gave me the opportunity to understand how the workings of business and technology can be seamlessly integrated to create state-of-the-art solutions and strategies, thereby significantly altering the course of industries and markets.

What's more, I was attracted to the program’s hands-on learning environment. It gave me a chance to apply what I've learned to real-world problems, which could lead to innovations that might shake up the usual ways of doing business.



The certificate program offered me a chance to learn more about the often tough and complicated process of innovation in today's world.



My Academic Path

In my first semester at UC Berkeley Extension, I planned to split my study plan into two main parts. The first part included four crucial courses:

  • Design Thinking guided by Todd Van Luling
  • Business Process Modeling and Design taught by Peter Thuleen
  • Leadership and Change Management for Startup Founders conducted by Edgar Auslander
  • Innovative Business Models for Entrepreneurs led by Doug Doyle

Lancelot Larcher and classmates in an innovative management certificate course


Design Thinking and Business Process Modeling and Design played a big role in developing a flexible mindset and a deep understanding of strategic planning. These skills aren't just vital to my major, but are also handy in the ever-changing world of finance and startup entrepreneurship.

Leadership and Change Management for Startup Founders and Innovative Business Models for Entrepreneurs gave me a deep look into how successful leadership styles and companies work. They taught me important leadership skills and how to use innovative methods when building business strategies. These classes helped bridge the gap between academia and the realities of leading a team or making a big impact in a current company's growth.

The second part was more flexible, letting me pick electives. Out of the many options, I chose Basic Corporate Finance taught by Michael Rosenberg, Real Estate Investments for Financial Planners with Richard Arzaga and Corporate Financial Analysis and Modeling with instructor Catherine Pinkas.

Each course was a unique and enriching journey, thanks to each instructor’s dedication, expertise and passion. They didn't just teach theoretical knowledge; they linked this theory to practical applications by using case studies and real-world projects in the coursework.

They made the learning experience richer by sharing their professional experiences during class discussions. This exchange helped us to better understand the corporate world, avoid common mistakes and correct any misconceptions.

Being naturally curious, I often talked with my instructors after class, asking questions about the coursework, recent news related to the course or interesting book references they'd mentioned. These conversations led to stimulating discussions and debates, helping me improve my skills in presenting and defending my arguments and views, while also learning from these experts.

These interactions weren't limited to after-class chats; they also happened in the classroom. The lively debates during case-study analysis added a dynamic touch to learning, with each student bringing unique arguments and viewpoints.

Another highlight was the chance to meet guest speakers from various professional backgrounds. Invited to our core courses, these professionals shared their experiences and insights, providing another layer of real-world learning to our coursework.



Each course was a unique and enriching journey, thanks to each instructor’s dedication, expertise and passion.



Thoughts on the U.S. Classroom

My educational journey at UC Berkeley Extension has been a transformational shift from my prior academic experience at ESSEC. The contrast between the two educational landscapes is palpable, to say the least—it's almost like comparing night with day!

The classroom environment in France is quite traditional. It primarily involves a professor delivering a lecture while students listen, absorb information and take notes. While this method works in its own way, it didn't provide much scope for interaction and lively discussions.

UC Berkeley Extension embodies a more engaging and dynamic learning atmosphere. Classes here are characterized by interactions, discussions and debates. This interactive model of learning boosts critical thinking and enhances the overall learning experience. Everyone is encouraged to contribute their unique perspectives and ideas, making each class an intellectually stimulating experience.

Another striking difference lies in the coursework structure. At UC Berkeley Extension, the concept of weekly assignments is emphasized, encouraging us to consistently review and apply the concepts taught during the week. This approach has facilitated a deeper understanding and a stronger grasp of each subject matter. It encourages consistent learning and periodic reflection on the subjects.



UC Berkeley Extension embodies a more engaging and dynamic learning atmosphere. Classes here are characterized by interactions, discussions and debates.



Making Time to Sightsee

Even though I had visited San Francisco in the past, I made sure to take full advantage of what the city offers. I visited museums, like SFMOMA, which gave me a different perspective on art and technology. I was amazed by the mix of history and modern innovation on display there.

Coit Tower, with its amazing views, gave me a sense of the sheer size and potential of the city. Seeing San Francisco from this high vantage point was a visual reminder of how large and interconnected our world really is.

One of my top places is the Ferry Building. This place is a food lover's paradise, with so many different stalls selling delicious local produce and treats. There's always a friendly, bustling atmosphere that I find energizing. Plus, it's right on the water, so you get a lovely view of the Bay Bridge.

Then there's the Painted Ladies, a row of colorful Victorian and Edwardian houses. They're like a postcard image of San Francisco's unique charm. I find the contrast between these historic homes and the modern city skyline around them really fascinating.

The view from Twin Peaks is simply stunning, giving you a 360-degree panorama of the whole city. It's a peaceful spot to just sit and think, maybe about a challenging problem from class or future career goals.

Last but not least, I often visited Golden Gate Park. It's like a green oasis in the middle of the city. With beautiful gardens, peaceful lakes and plenty of open space, it's an ideal spot for relaxing, jogging or even studying.

Beyond sightseeing and sports, I've also been actively involved in various conferences and seminars. Topics covered ranged from real estate investment to the future of Web 3.0. I found these events really rewarding as they provided me with fresh insights into different sectors of business and an opportunity to converse with leading figures in these fields.



No matter which specific path I end up taking, what drives my career choices is a strong desire to make a positive difference and contribute to societal progress



Eyes Set Toward the Future

After completing my certificate program at UC Berkeley Extension, I plan to do a 6-month internship and finalize my dissertation in order to earn my bachelor's degree at ESSEC.

I'm hopeful of landing this internship within the U.S. due to the unique professional experiences this country provides. The internship period will be an ideal time for me to strengthen and apply the knowledge and skills gained from my certificate program, particularly relating to the practical aspects of innovation management in real-world business scenarios.

After this practical learning experience, my plan includes pursuing a top-tier M.B.A. program in the U.S.

After earning my M.B.A., I can see a couple of different paths forward. One possible path could lead me into the exciting and fast-paced realm of finance. I might find myself in the high-pressure environment of investment banking, where I could play a critical role in directing financial deals that shape entire industries and even economies. Alternatively, I could use my growing business knowledge as a consultant, helping companies overcome challenges and steering them toward growth and success.

There's also the possibility of stepping into asset management or private equity, where I could use my understanding of finance to manage investments, generate wealth and stimulate business growth. This area appeals to my interest in driving economic success and has the potential to impact a broad range of people, from investors to employees.

On a different note, I've been nurturing an idea during the past few months: starting a business centered around natural gas transition. While this idea is still in the early stages, it resonates with my desire to help society progress, especially in the area of sustainable energy. If this idea develops into a feasible business plan, it could definitely push me toward entrepreneurship.

But no matter which specific path I end up taking, what drives my career choices is a strong desire to make a positive difference and contribute to societal progress. My goal is to be a transformative leader, using the skills I'm carefully developing.



Foster connections with your peers, instructors and guest speakers. These relationships can have profound impacts on your personal and professional growth.



My Advice for Future Students

Reflecting on my experience with the certificate program, I would love to share some insights and advice to anyone embarking on this academic journey.

First and foremost, be curious. This program is your platform to learn, so leverage it to its fullest extent. Strive to delve beyond the surface of your coursework and classroom discussions. Question the status quo, and think critically about the world around you. A mindset of genuine curiosity will open the door to deeper understanding and new ideas, enhancing your learning experience and broadening your perspectives.

Secondly, take advantage of learning opportunities. The program offers numerous occasions to listen to guest speakers, attend conferences and participate in workshops. These events provide unique insights from industry leaders, practitioners and academics, thereby enriching your understanding of the field.

Lastly, and perhaps the most crucial aspect, is network. Building relationships is one of the most valuable aspects of joining such a program. Foster connections with your peers, instructors and guest speakers. These relationships can have profound impacts on your personal and professional growth. Networking can open doors to new opportunities, offer fresh perspectives, and provide guidance and support as you navigate your academic journey and beyond.