The path less traveled in Shanghai

Guest post by Tim Anderson, Foster School and Certificate of International Studies in Business alumnus

Tim AndersonAfter graduating with degrees in business administration and Japanese linguistics as well as completing Certificate of International Studies in Business’s (CISB) Japan track program, I honestly didn’t think I’d end up living in Shanghai, China for the past nine years. However, ending my undergraduate studies on the eve of a burgeoning recession in the U.S., and a full-blown recession in Japan, it seemed like the path I’d set myself up for wasn’t so clear cut anymore.

At first, I was considerably lucky and managed get a nice job working in the marketing department at an international PR firm located downtown by the Pike Place Market. The experience was great and taught me a lot, but as good as it was, it still wasn’t what CISB and the Foster School of Business trained me to do: be a truly international entrepreneur.

About a year into that first real job, I was given an opportunity to help start up a language school in the city of Shanghai. Admittedly I was nervous about taking the offer because although I had spent time in Japan and a couple other parts around Asia as a student, I had no idea what to expect of China. In the end though, my love of Asia proved to be overwhelming so I packed my bags for a new life in a new place with a new language to learn.

The people I’ve met and business challenges I’ve overcome in the past nine years has made my decision to live here well worth it. Since moving here, I’ve found my place amongst the locals as well as the expat community, and have really been able to put my business studies to work. I’m currently managing the marketing operations for an international clothing brand that is trying to break into the China mainland market. The business environment in China is fast-paced and filled with unforeseeable challenges, yet extremely rewarding if know how to play your cards right.

I can’t thank CISB and the Foster School of Business enough for preparing me for the wild journey my life has taken this past decade. I hope many future graduates will be inspired to challenge their comfort zone and follow the path less traveled as I and other alumni have done. In the end, it’s especially gratifying to know I am part of a community of CISB and Foster graduates who are also experiencing what I am experiencing, connected by a common bond.

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program.

It’s about the journey in Granada

Guest post by Sam Mutty, Foster senior and Certificate of International Studies in Business student

GranadaThroughout my life I’ve been blessed with opportunities to travel the world, from the rural towns of Ecuador to the city of Novosibirsk, still recovering from the fall of the Soviet Union. With each trip abroad I’ve been given a new perspective on the world, how I relate to those around me and ultimately how I define myself. However, after all the experiences I’ve had around the globe, nothing has been comparable to the time I’ve spent and what I’ve learned in Granada. A picturesque city nestled in the rolling hills of Andalucía; the whitewashed houses of Albayzín stretch up toward the sky on one side and the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada on the other. There’s life everywhere in the city and a vibrant, optimistic attitude despite the current state of the Spanish economy. A quick stroll through the streets is like walking through an urban art gallery, from the ultra detailed murals of “el niño de las pinturas” to the political graffiti claiming that student scholarships are equivalent to the mythical unicorn. Yet, even though the city itself has so much charm about it, what I’ll take away most from my experience here can’t be captured in photographs.

I’ve gone through the typical ups and downs of traveling abroad, the initial excitement to the bout of homesickness and ultimately realizing just how blessed I am to have this opportunity. Overcoming the language and cultural barrier to really connect with people is by no means an easy task, but through it I’ve gained a new understanding of cultural differences and how they affect interactions between people. At first glance I don’t appear particularly different than any Spaniard, and have even been mistaken for one a few times, but there’s no doubt that differences—from the songs we learn as children to our native language—have left me feeling like an outsider on more than one occasion. However, rather than try to avoid these instances, I’ve learned to actively seek them out. I live in an apartment with three Spaniards, spend my siestas eating lunch and drinking coffee with Spaniards and go out with Spaniards. While I miss the occasional joke, and am often the brunt of them, I wouldn’t dream of trading my experience for a more Americanized one. Not only has my Spanish vastly improved but I’ve had a glimpse of the time and energy it takes to fully assimilate into a foreign culture.

The experience I’ve had in Granada has made me much more open to different cultures and viewpoints. I’ve learned that when communication and common ground can be hard to come by, sometimes a smile or quick joke is all it takes to make a connection. No matter where we come from or what experiences we’ve had, we all share a basic human nature and are social beings. Whether we’re in school, at work or walking down the street, the differences between us shouldn’t drive us apart, but be appreciated and celebrated. All it takes is one person taking the initiative. I encourage anyone interested in studying abroad or exploring other cultures to take that first step and see where it takes you. The old cliché, it’s not the destination but the journey, couldn’t apply more to this type of experience. Open your mind, put yourself out there and see what you can learn about the world and yourself.

Sam is studying abroad through the Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) Program.

Zulily and Maveron: Building a successful company

Guest post by Emilia Griswold, Foster MBA 2014

Darrell Cavens, CEO of Zulily

Darrell Cavens, CEO of Zulily

Foster students were recently treated to a discussion of “What Makes a Successful Company” with Darrell Cavens, CEO of Zulily.com, and Dan Levitan, co-founder of venture capital firm Maveron. Maveron led the initial funding for Zulily, and this was a rare opportunity to see a founder and investor speak candidly about their partnership. Cavens and Levitan, along with moderator Emer Dooley of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship discussed start-ups, venture capital, and building high-performing teams.

The recent $1 billion valuation of Zulily prompted several questions about how a billion dollar company gets started. The answer, from both Cavens and Levitan, was hard work. Zulily was started by Cavens and former Blue Nile CEO Mark Vadon with little more than a spreadsheet and whiteboard. Although they didn’t have much of a business plan, Maveron believed in the team. The people, Levitan pointed out, are what a company is all about. With the Zulily team, Maveron saw leaders with the ability and vision to bring others along for the ride and a staunch dedication to constant improvement. Cavens and Levitan agreed that Zulily never thought of itself as a billion dollar company, but as a company focused on doing and growing. And fast.

By creating a culture with an “iterate and grow” mindset, they could run on Zulily Time: twice as fast as anyone would think is doable. To illustrate Zulily Time, Cavens told the story of getting the first fulfillment center up and running in 10 weeks—instead of the 7-12 months that was originally estimated. That lesson of maintaining focus and going after what everyone thinks is impossible certainly resonates with many students. And Levitan had more advice for those just starting out and lacking Cavens’ pedigree: be comfortable thinking on your feet, surround yourself with entrepreneurial people, and take time in school to figure out who you are, what you’re passionate about, and what you excel at.

Dan Levitan

Dan Levitan, Co-founder of Maveron

Cavens emphasized that part of developing yourself is developing a team that compliments your skills. When he was building the initial Zulily team, he looked for people that would not only add value, but also take risks and thrive in ambiguous situations. Cavens advised taking time to find investors with whom you really click, because they are also part of the team. Funders can add networks and resources as well as validation of your idea. Because Maveron knew Cavens and his capabilities, they were even willing to let Zulily write their own term sheet tied to a specific set of milestones. And unlike many start-ups, Cavens knew that if this idea didn’t work out he wasn’t going to pivot, he would just give the investment back and go do something else.

Ultimately, Levitan noted, it’s great entrepreneurs and their teams that build an amazing company—not venture capital firms. But no one, Zulily in particular, can deny the importance of money and resources to get a company off the ground. Zulily is proof that incredible things can happen when driven founders and the right investors come together.

This event was organized by Foster’s Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club.

Mad about Montpellier

Guest post by Kelly Nealson, junior and Certificate of International Studies in Business student

Kelly Nealson

Kelly is second from the right.

When the clock struck midnight on January 1, I found myself ringing in 2013 somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on a one way flight to Montpellier, France. Despite the fact that I had been planning to study abroad before I knew which university I was going to attend, I was nervous. Would six years of French, countless hours in the UW International Programs and Exchanges office, and months of mental preparation be enough to survive six months of living and learning in a foreign country? Would I ever be able to feel at home where I was headed? I can remember sitting on that plane, alone and a bundle of apprehension.

Now, over two months into my study abroad experience, I can say with confidence, while I doubt I could have ever been fully prepared for what awaited me, I could not be having a more incredible experience abroad. I can’t say it’s been easy to jump into taking five classes entirely in French or that navigating the French university and government administrations has been simple for me. I can say, however, that I have made so much progress with my French, made great friends, and most of all, made this city my home. Living in Montpellier has given me the chance to improve my language skills, expand my horizons, and ultimately have a much better perspective on what I want to do in the global business world.

Learning and living my day to day life in French has given me the opportunity to see and experience the world in a different way. The French way of life is slower and calmer than the American style I am used to. It is much more focused on taking time to enjoy the little things, like starting the day with petit dejeuner (breakfast) in a café or sitting in a park in the sun with friends in the afternoon. At this point in my experience, I am surprised now and then how everyday life in France has become so normal. The four of us UW students who are here for spring semester all live in the student dorms, cook our own meals and live and go to school like any other French student. Though dorm life is not exactly glamorous, living so independently in France has really helped me feel like I can more fully integrate into the culture. We have had the opportunity to travel around France during so many of our long weekends and, most recently, spent our break traveling around Spain.

I cannot emphasize enough how glad I am that I took advantage of the study abroad experiences UW provides. Being a part of the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program (CISB) gave me the opportunity to more easily build studying abroad into my academic plans and I am grateful for it. Spending the second half of my junior year abroad has turned out to be just what I needed to take a step back from the UW business environment and gain some perspective by spending some time in other cultures. It has shown me I ultimately want to steer my career path so I can work abroad someday. I’ve definitely come a long way since getting on the plane to come to France, and I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store.

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program.

Apple products in cars?

On March 8, 2013 Foster undergraduate students competed in a case competition, which also served as the students’ capstone experience for strategic management—a required course for all Foster undergraduates. The case, “Apple Inc. in 2012,” was developed by Harvard Business School. The premise: Apple, like other firms in technology, has a number of successful products, but they also need to remain competitive. The students had to determine whether Apple can innovate on current products well enough to survive and prosper or whether they need to create new products to remain competitive.

The students had two weeks to analyze the case and develop their recommendations for what Apple should do. In the competition the students presented their analysis of the company, discussed the various paths Apple could take and made their recommendations.

Twenty teams competed and five made it to the final round. The final round teams made varying recommendations for Apple. Several suggested Apple should improve Apple TV, one of its current products. The winning team, however, presented a completely different solution. They recommended Apple create an integrated mobile device for cars, similar to the Ford SYNC® from Microsoft.

Case Competition Winners

Winning team: Shaun Maurer, Cory Scancella, Alex Auerbach, Hadis Ali, and Ben Peven

According to the team, “We compared the various strategies and decided the car system strengthens what Apple already offers, and it stays within one of their core competencies, which is producing disruptive technology. The problem with TV isn’t the set-top box, it’s that the cable companies own all the content.”  They felt Toyota would be an ideal initial partner due to shared corporate values between the two companies. The judges appreciated the team’s comprehensive analysis. Jeff Barden, assistant professor of management said, “They carefully considered the user experience, where people would use the product, and absolutely picked the right partner in Toyota.” Winning team members were Hadis Ali, Alex Auerbach, Shaun Maurer, Ben Peven, and Cory Scancella.

The second place team recommended innovating on Apple TV by focusing on making content available to consumers by forming a strategic alliance with Comcast. They felt a key improvement to the current situation would be to allow customers to consume TV content à la carte. The judges were impressed with how this team tailored their solution to the market. Team members were Gwendolyn Moruzzi, Aaron Dentler, Katie Emoto, and Rachna Hajari.

Rick McPherson, lecturer in management at the Foster School, added the case competition to the strategic management course last fall. He said, “It is an enrichment of the course to give the students real life experiences of analyzing and making recommendations to an upper management team.”

Foster team wins Intercollegiate Marketing Competition for third time

Jordan Barr, Marnie Brown, Elliott Klein, and Leta BeardOn February 23, 2013 Foster students won the Intercollegiate Marketing Competition held at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. This is the third time Foster students have won the competition. The case was about Modo, a Vancouver co-op that offers a car sharing program. The students had three hours to read the marketing case and prepare a solution. At the competition they had 20 minutes to present their solution and 10 minutes for Q&A with the judges.

The judges commented on how professional the team was and how they were the only team to “understand the total picture” of the problem and address the main issue Modo is facing.

The team was comprised of Jordan Barr, Marnie Brown and Elliott Klein, all are juniors at Foster and members of the UW American Marketing Association (AMA). They, along with Leta Beard, their faculty coach and lecturer of marketing at Foster, traveled to Vancouver to compete in the competition. Barr is president of AMA and studying marketing, Brown is studying accounting and Klein is studying marketing. The three were selected from a pool of applicants from the UW American Marketing Association.

“I am extremely proud of this team. They worked very hard on their case practice sessions and took the initiative to learn as much as they could before heading up to Vancouver. The judges came up to the team after the announcement and commented on how well they did and said they were anxious to implement some of the team’s suggestions,” said Beard.

The American Marketing Association is a national organization comprised of marketing professionals and students of marketing. The UW AMA is a student run organization at the Foster School of Business.

Bruce Avolio TEDx video: Showing up for leadership

Bruce Avolio, executive director of the Foster School’s Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, spoke at TEDxUmeå on January 17, 2013. The theme was “Leadership, creativity and innovation” and Avolio’s talk was titled, “Showing up for leadership…Ta Dah!” In his talk Avolio discusses three types of leadership: leadership that grows people, leadership that sustains people and leadership that diminishes people.

When a leader grows people, she empowers them to take ownership and challenge conventions. Leaders who grow people share a common trait—they all had people in their lives who set extremely high expectations for them. When they failed to meet these expectations, they were supported and encouraged to get up and do it again, and this process was repeated over and over. As a result they developed the ability to transform other people into leaders.

Avolio shared examples of how people can show up for leadership. You can be a leader who grows people by:

  • Showing up with great expectations.
  • Showing up claiming leadership.
  • Showing up over and over.
  • Showing up with everyone.

Avolio said, “We can all grow a better world together. Why don’t we do it?”

Watch the 20-minute video.

Business Certificate Program – Seattle

The Business Economic Development Center’s Business Certificate Program will begin in April at UW Seattle campus. The six-session course teaches business fundamentals through a series of six three-hour classes. BCP will be offered in Spanish (Tuesday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. starting April 2) and in English Wednesday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00 pm starting April 17.

blog_BCPWho should attend? Any small business owner or manager who is interested in learning or refreshing their knowledge of sales and marketing, finance and accounting, leadership and management, and legal topics.  Students come from every industry- from construction companies to restaurants to medical clinics. And to due to the diversity of participants, the classroom is a great place to network with fellow business owners.

The class also offers students to learn from award-winning University of Washington faculty including Mike Eguchi, lecturer of sales and marketing. With over 30 years of sales experience, Eguchi shares proven strategies and tactics in his class session Developing a Sales-Oriented Company. Student Pratish Brady relays how she used what she learned, “I used the guidelines [from class] to write my mission and vision statement for my website emphasizing benefits and value of my product; people are complimenting me on them.” And “ I spoke by phone with a new customer I had sent a sample too.  He liked the product, but it was the wrong size.  I used the term “how so” and kept him talking so I could understand more clearly what he wanted. Our conversation ended with a new order for a smaller size product and he wants to distribute my product to his customers not only in the US but in Europe.  A definite win-win.”

Learn how to make your business win with proven business fundamentals from the Business Certificate Program.  Course registration fee is $200. To sign up please visit our website. You can also be a program supporter by sponsoring a student.

Leadership Team teaches STEM lesson to local middle school students

Guest post by Jackie Nguyen, Foster undergraduate

Being the founders of the annual Foster Week of Service, the Business and Economic Development Center Leadership Team members were excited to volunteer at the Renton/Skyway Boys and Girls Club for the third year in a row. This year, LT members were challenged with a new task in educating 5th to 8th graders about careers and opportunities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). However, being primarily business students, the LT members put a fun spin on educating the kids about STEM by tying business into the concept of STEM.

Each LT member was assigned to a team of four to five students. The LT helped guide the teams in researching and creating a short presentation about their company. The focus of this activity was to help the kids think outside of the box and see that there are a great variety of jobs in companies that are not as obviously STEM related.
blog_LT_FWSTeams researched companies including Target, McDonalds, Nestle, and Microsoft. The activity helped the students see that having skills in STEM and business could open a lot of doors to fun jobs; from being a pharmacist at Target, a game-designer at Microsoft, a food scientist at Nestle, or a social media manager at McDonalds.

After the learning activity was over, it was time for the kids to be kids and enjoy what they do best: play! LT members had a great time hanging out afterwards to play Dance Central and Fliers Up on the playground. Overall the event was a success and the BEDC LT members are looking forward to returning to the Boys and Girls Club for the next Foster Week of Service. Learn more about the BEDC Leadership Team.