People, Profiles

Side by side: Graduating twins stick together for success

By Kim Girard

Post-graduation, Cameron (left) and Tyler will travel in Europe together and then return to work at Apple, in the same department. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)

The Haberman twins — Cameron (left) and Tyler — will be the first members of their family to graduate from college. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)

When Identical twins Cameron and Tyler Haberman graduate in two weeks, they’ll sit side by side at the Greek Theatre and both receive undergraduate degrees from the Haas School of Business. Then they’ll hop a plane to explore Europe together and, when they return, head to dream jobs — both in finance — at Apple.

None of this surprises those who know the 21-year-olds well. The twins have shared nearly every step in life, from their upbringing in Visalia, a blue-collar city in the Central Valley, through four years at Berkeley, where they grew from nervous, first-generation college freshmen to honors students with bright futures and a deep commitment to helping others.

At Berkeley Haas, their passion for learning includes understanding gender and equity issues. They were two of five men who, along with 50 women, took the course “The Business Case for Investing in Women” taught by associate adjunct professor Kellie McElhaney.

McElhaney, founding director of the Center for Gender, Equity & Leadership, says the brothers “speak up a lot” in class. “They are humble, and they show vulnerability,” she adds. “They call themselves out on things they’ve done wrong in the past, and they advance others in the classroom.”

How does she tell them apart? “I don’t,” she says. “They sit in the same seats all the time, they’re always together, they do everything together, and they’re both equally amazing.”

Cameron Haberman (left) and his identical twin brother Tyler play basketball in People’s Park. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)

Through thick and thin

Twins aren’t unusual at Berkeley. There were 120 sets of twins and triplets in the entering freshman class last fall, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. But at Berkeley Haas, the Habermans are the only twins in their class and one of just two sets of twins in the undergraduate program.

Some twins exert their independence in college. But the Haberman twins’ idea of going their separate ways is living in different rooms in the same house. At Berkeley, they took most of the same courses, joined the Chi Phi fraternity, entered Berkeley Haas as juniors and interned at AT&T and then Apple.

“We’ve just always had similar interests,” says Cameron, who is one minute older than his brother. “We love the same sports —basketball and baseball — and the same subjects, we love to eat right and work out together.”

Tyler and Cameron study together, too, using a system Cameron developed freshman year that includes creating outlines and elaborate schedules for homework and test preparation. “It’s added efficiency to our lives,” he says.

They’ve come a long way since they were incoming freshmen with imposter syndrome.

“I thought everyone here was so much smarter than me,” says Tyler. “They had taken way more AP classes, scored higher on the SAT.”

They felt like outsiders, too. The brothers had only visited San Francisco once. They’d never been on an airplane. In Visalia, gang fights were a daily norm; bragging about good grades wasn’t.  At Berkeley, they met sophisticated students from affluent cities around the world, many who had traveled extensively and largely shared the same liberal politics.

Post-graduation, Cameron (left) and Tyler will travel in Europe together and then return to work at Apple, in the same department. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)

Finding their common wings

Gradually, the twins adjusted to life at Berkeley and started to thrive, waking up as early as 5 or 6 a.m. every day to work out at the gym before class.

They tackled tough courses together, including Math 1B, a calculus class that they now joke “nearly killed” them.

Cameron and Tyler studied for it for eight hours a day using Kahn Academy’s online resources. When they took the final, “I don’t think we’ve ever been more proud to get an A, and Tyler actually got an A+,” Cameron says. “I’d worked through some really tough hours with Tyler, struggling over problems, grinding it out until we did well.”

Tyler admits his brother is the better student who challenges him when he fades and thinks he can’t study anymore. “There will be times when I’m, like, ‘Dude, I want to play FIFA or sleep,’ and he’ll say, ‘Come on! You’ve got more in you,’” he says. Tyler credits that drive to having parents who always praised their efforts rather than results — a strategy called the “growth mindset” that Tyler later learned about in Berkeley Haas lecturer Holly Schroth’s class.

“I’ve never seen anyone go as hard as they do to accomplish a goal,” says their friend Parsa Attari, a senior majoring in computer science and cognitive science who has known the twins since freshman year. “They’re just so dedicated.”

Part of the twins’ decision to apply to Haas as sophomores was to learn to manage money, a skill that was lacking in their family. Says Tyler, “I knew that I wanted to be financially stable.”

At Apple, they will both work in the Finance Development Program with a group of new college graduates. They’ll be assigned to teams that rotate every 12 weeks and settle into more permanent roles after two years.

The twins (Tyler, left, and Cameron), from Visalia, say they grew up in an area where gang activity, not good grades, was common. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)

Sharing their Native American roots

The brothers’ Berkeley experience also included their ongoing work with the Native American community. Although their father is part Cherokee and their mother is part Muscogee, the twins knew very little about their Native American heritage until after they graduated from high school.

At Berkeley, they joined the Native American Recruitment and Retention Center, which works to keep higher education accessible and attainable for Native Americans.

Cameron and Tyler also took a few courses in Native American studies, which opened their eyes to the struggles of the nation’s indigenous peoples. “Back home, you heard, ‘The Indians are fine, they have casinos,’” Cameron says. “But they also have higher rates of incarceration and alcoholism, they earn less pay, they fall at the bottom in everything. I just felt like, if I can, I should be doing something to help out.”

Cameron’s first role with the recruitment and retention center was making posts to its Facebook page. He and Tyler then shared the task of being budget coordinator. The last two years, he says, they’ve been “immersed” in this group and its mission.

Haas alumna JoAnne Lee, former executive director of the center, which is now called the Indigenous and Native Coalition, says the twins were instrumental in helping her develop an outreach plan to expand the size of the group. “Once we did that,” she says, “the numbers grew. We went from four members to 17 and then to 30 people the following semester. Now they have 41 members.”

Tyler (left) and Cameron say they’ve always had similar interests, from sports to academic subjects to healthy eating. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)

A doubly proud family

There are only a few ways to tell the twins apart.

Cameron has had surgery on his nose, which he’s broken three times; its slightly upturned shape is a fail-proof identification strategy.

Tyler has taken a few courses by himself, including “Leadership and Personal Development” and “Improvisational Leadership” with Berkeley Haas lecturer Cort Worthington. “I’ve gained more from those two classes than any classes at Cal,” Tyler says. “They’ve helped me to be a leader and to reframe how I look at the world.”

Their GPAs are also slightly different— 3.96 for Cameron, a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the top business honor society, and 3.88 for Tyler.

At the Berkeley Haas graduation ceremony, with everyone in matching regalia, it may be difficult to distinguish one twin from the other, at least from a distance. But their parents, Tony and Victoria Haberman, and sister, Isabella, will know and feel pride for Tyler and Cameron’s achievements — separately and together.

The brothers’ dad, a computer technician, and mom, who worked overnight hours at the local grocery store in Visalia so that she could attend all of her sons’ high school basketball and baseball games, will head up from Visalia to cheer them on. So will their sister, who is attending Fresno State next year on a track scholarship.

“They made so many sacrifices for us. They were all about improving our lives so we didn’t have to go through what they did,” says Tyler. “To be the first people in the family to graduate — I don’t think my parents could be more proud. It’s cool to be able to give this to them.”