All posts by UW Foster School of Business

Consulting as career catalyst

Guest post by Melon Feleke, Foster alumna

Melon FelekeMy name is Melon Feleke and I am a first generation immigrant. I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and moved to Seattle with my family when I was ten years old. After attending Roosevelt High School I stayed true to my NW roots and attended the University of Washington.

For much of my childhood I was determined to be a doctor –despite the fact I fainted at pretty much every hospital visit and had no tolerance for watching pain or blood. Luckily my parents recognized my other strengths and encouraged me to consider business. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs; from my grandmother in Mettu to my parents here in Seattle; my mother owns a 7Eleven store in Mountlake Terrace. While in high school and college I managed inventory over the weekends and when my mother decided to take a vacation back home I took on the acting manager role for the store.

During my junior year at UW a classmate told me about the Business & Economic Development Center at the Foster School, specifically a program where students work with local minority business owners to improve their businesses. I thought it would be great to give back to my community in a very practical way. My client was the Theater Off Jackson, a unique minority-owned theater in the heart of the International District.  The theater was looking to relocate because of increased property costs. Our team of five students and a professional advisor worked with the clients to identify their core target market, conduct location analysis, surveying clients and ultimately making a recommendation for their new location. Our clients were facing a very real business challenge and our team brought to them meaningful business knowledge and human capital.

My BEDC experience gave me a very real sample of a career in consulting and I loved it! First and foremost I loved helping my client – this was a real problem, and if the issues weren’t resolved the owners and employees would not have a paycheck to take home to their families. I especially like that there was a beginning middle and end to the project… an end with a real result. I entered the program thinking it would be a good chance to give back to my community, but what happened along the way is I discovered the career of consulting.

The BEDC offers a two way success story –businesses succeed and students receive real and meaningful experiences that shape their careers. Fast forward three years and I am now a consultant at Accenture Consulting.

I invite you to help the BEDC create more success stories, for students like myself, and for small businesses. Make a gift to the BEDC today.

 

Avolio in Australia: a powerful reminder

Guest post by Bruce Avolio, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and Marion B. Ingersoll Professor of Management

The picture is of an empty and very long table on South bank in Melbourne. The organizers wanted to send the message that a lot of folks would go without a holiday meal if folks didn’t donate to help out. What a powerful symbol…empty table with lots and lots of seats needing to be filled.

A short trip down under reveals what it really means to ‘spit out the dummy’

Guest post by Bruce Avolio, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking at the Foster School and Marion B. Ingersoll Professor of Management

Recently, I traveled to Melbourne Australia for a series of lectures and short workshops on examining the total leadership system in organizations. By total leadership system, we mean examining leadership at all levels, looking down, peer to peer sideways, and where folks are leading up measuring a broad range of leadership styles (e.g., transformational, authentic, authoritarian, ethical, etc.) within and between levels and units in organizations. By examining the total leadership system, we hope to assess all of the key leadership elements that positively contribute to organizational change and transformation.

I found that before leaving the U.S., everyone who I told about the trip smiled and said something like, ‘that’s going to be a lot of fun’ or ‘what a great place to go.’ I told my Australian colleagues that we have serious Australian envy in my country. And when I said that, I didn’t realize that on this trip to Australia that my envy would only deepen as I learned that the Australians just have the best expressions.

Being in Australia also reminded me that one could be lured into a state of lacking self-awareness about cultural differences because Australians speak English and have a lot of common interests and history in line with those of us from the U.S. When I am in other cultures where the language is different, I am more keenly aware of observing and listening to make sure I understand the cultural nuances. In Australia one can get away with that for a while, until you realize that ‘conservative’ means ‘liberal’ in Australia and vice versa.

In one of the last workshops I was doing in Australia, someone said something that got me reflecting and I must admit I laughed out loud. At one point in the workshop, one of the participants said, “That guy just spit the dummy!” You can let those comments go by, and there were several such expressions, but I decided to stop on this one and ask, “What could spitting the dummy possibly be?” I learned that a dummy is what we would call a baby’s pacifier, and when you spit the dummy, all hell breaks loose. Throughout the remainder of the day, I tried to find every possible instance to use the term, spitting the dummy, or even better, you are a dummy spitter.

So, just when you think the folks you are with are familiar, they spit the dummy and all hell breaks loose!

Launching a new business division: a conversation with Ray Risco, President of Weyerhaeuser Solutions

Ray Risco is the President of Weyerhaeuser Solutions, a division of Weyerhaeuser that offers consulting and management services designed to help clients develop, manage and commercialize forest assets. He is a member of the GBC’s Global Business Advisory Board.

Tell us about Weyerhaeuser Solutions. What was it like to create a new business division for a company?
Weyerhaeuser Solutions is designed to take our management, business and some IP systems and engage them with third parties outside of the traditional forest products space as part of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development 2050 initiative. I worked with Bob Ewing, a colleague, in developing a business that manages natural resources and assists companies in transitioning to renewable energy supplies, such as electrical utility companies that are looking to co-fire biomass with coal as a green alternative in the UK, and specialty chemical companies looking for organic feedstock instead of traditional sources.

Creating a service division that provides consulting as well as operational management in a traditional products company presented some significant challenges.  However, the timing of the idea linked to the 2050 initiative and the support of senior management along with the Board of Directors was a significant plus in successfully launching the business.  From inception to official launch took 2.5 years.  That may seem like a long period of time, but considering the radically different business model it was a remarkably quick process.

In your career, you’ve worked in accounting, finance, operational and divisional leadership, and new product/business development. Which was the most challenging, and which the most rewarding?
Every role I have had has had its challenges and rewards from a personal and career perspective but one challenge in particular had the largest personal impact.  In 2005 I took over the leadership of our Uruguayan operations and had the chance to transform a plantation project into a full blown operating company.  My challenge was to set up the productive chain and to find the right people to staff all of the new departments we had just created and set them up for success. Although this was a significant personal challenge and rewarding for the whole team, the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride has come from seeing the immensely positive impact this project has had in the communities in which we operate.

What countries have you lived and worked in?
I am originally from Peru and I have lived in 6 different countries since my childhood including living and working in the US, Germany, and Uruguay. Over my career, I have had direct responsibility for over 22 countries covering Asia, Europe and South America.

What would you tell students about the world of global business?
The world may be getting flat but that doesn’t mean it’s the same – culture, history and tradition matter as one thinks of doing business at home or abroad.  At the end of the day you are still dealing with people so respect matters.  Be confident in what you know and never be afraid to admit what you don’t.  More often than not you will get the help you need.

 

A visit from Mr. Gunnar Oom, Swedish State Secretary of Trade

Guest post by Ludomir Wanot, Foster undergraduate

A few weeks ago, I was a part of an audience at the University of Washington that had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Gunnar Oom, the Swedish Secretary of trade, who discussed Sweden and the Euro Crisis. His role as the state secretary of trade is to promote Swedish exports.

Mr. Oom started by briefly addressing some Sweden’s economic advantages and disadvantages. He stated that more than half of Sweden’s GPD originates from its exports and about 70% of its exports go to the European Union (EU). In the future, he said, he would like to see more of Sweden’s exports go to developing markets. Mr. Oom mentioned that Sweden’s economy has suffered because of the housing market and other challenges, but was optimistic about the growth of the economy and stressed the importance of avoiding uncertainty in pushing the Swedish export industry forward.

Mr. Oom briefly addressed some of the solutions he would consider for Sweden’s economy. He suggested increasing investment in infrastructure as a way to build efficient and effective transportation networks, including new railroads. Sweden is consistently ranked in the top 3 most innovative nations based on the quality of its institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure and market business sophistication, and the results of innovations like patents and software, and Mr. Oom is committed to making sure that Sweden rises even farther to the top.

During the last half of his presentation, Mr. Oom addressed the current Euro crisis. He stated that without better policies, the worst could be yet to come, and recommended that the EU’s main focus should now be on evenly distributing the wealth of health care and social services. He concluded his presentation by saying, “More implementation, less talk. Instead of discussing what were going to do, we must take action now and do it.”

Leadership in Peru

Guest post by Bruce Avolio, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and Marion B. Ingersoll Professor of Management

Recently on a trip to the Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario, I was asked, “how does one lead when they are not sure where they are going?” Many might say, just watch our U.S. politicians if you want to see how! More seriously, the more dynamic environments become, the more likely leaders are going to need to lead not knowing exactly where they are headed. As I thought about this question I went back to a recent trip I had taken to Peru. Peru is one of those South American economies that is shedding its past – recent past in terms of military dictatorships – and growing at a healthy clip, at least for the more educated class in places like Lima. Peru has a rich history that dates back well before many of the world’s other well-known societies, starting with the Incas which are considered one of the modern ‘older’ civilizations. There are two civilizations that pre-dated the Incas going back at least 5,000 years.

As Peru accumulates wealth, it is now able to invest in discovering its past. It is not an overstatement to say the Inca culture, traditions, food and history are becoming an economic force in Peru. Just see Machu Picchu and you will understand what I mean. This is one of the most amazing cities built by the Incas high atop a mountain that is one of the true wonders of the world. Going to Peru and its many historical Inca sites, taught me a lot about how advanced this society was. For example, the Incas knew which foods to eat that had low cholesterol, they knew how to build structures to withstand earthquakes, and they knew how to do brain surgery. And the answer to that question posed to me in London, Ontario lies in how the Incas built buildings. They built buildings by seamlessly integrating them into the rock upon which they were built. The Incas saw mountains as sacred. Rather than dig a big hole and then build the foundation, they built the building into the existing foundation, which took more time and care, but as we can see, lasted longer. This was the case for all buildings throughout Peru, ranging from temples to residences for Inca workers.

How does the Inca foundations help me answer the Ivey question? One must build an authentic foundation for leadership on which the rest of the structure can be created. We see organizations that have no ‘firm or genuine’ foundation, no core values and therefore no solid basis to lead into an unknown future. Many times we have to go backwards in order to move forwards and answer where we are going, which in this case is into the unknown. And I promise I will avoid writing a pop book “7 glorious Inca Principles of Effective Leadership.”

Banking and global business: an alumna’s perspective part 2

Jennifer Wallis is the Division Manager for Chase Commercial Middle Market Banking for the Eastside, North Puget Sound and Western Canada. Jennifer is a Foster MBA alum and member of the Global Business Center’s Global Business Advisory Board.

Tell us a bit about your career in Banking. What do you like the most about your position? Which aspects are the most challenging?
I came directly out of the Foster School and went to work for Wells Fargo as a banker to Middle Market companies. Middle market is defined in this case as companies that have annual revenues between $20MM and $1B. I coordinated a team of people to provide a full suite of financial services to middle market companies including credit, investments, cash management, and international financial and trade services. Based on my education and interests I specialized in banking companies that had an international component.

Later I had the opportunity to move to London with the bank to build the Financial Institutions business in the UK, Western Europe and South Africa. In this position I traveled a great deal and was in Europe during the worst of the financial crisis.  It was an anxious time. We were all trying to understand the quality of assets held on each other’s balance sheets. Some of my banking partners in Europe had purchased US mortgage assets via special investment vehicles to invest their excess cash and many of those investments included sub-prime assets. Ireland, Greece and Italy were in my territory and each of these countries was showing signs of strain. Banks became cautious about overnight lending to one another and so the ECB and the Bank of England stepped in as did the FED in the USA. It was a fascinating, yet incredibly tense time.

In 2011 I chose to move back to Seattle to be close to my grown children. With the move I accepted a position with JPMorgan Chase back in the Middle Market and am currently the Division Manager for Commercial Middle Market Banking for the Eastside, North Puget Sound and Western Canada.

Banking financial institutions in Europe was fascinating but I also enjoy the middle market which is why I returned to it. While financial institutions are quite similar, middle market companies are quite different. They are involved in diverse industries, offer distinctive products, local and global, and large and small.  Their competition varies as does their competitive advantage in the market in which they conduct business. It is the banker’s responsibility to know his/her client’s business thoroughly – and this is the most interesting part of my job.

The most challenging part of my business is competitively providing what a client needs while maintaining an adequate risk profile for the bank.

What would you tell business students about the world of global business?
One of my managers once said, “Everyday the world is getting more global.” While that sounds a bit obvious, it is accurate! These days almost all business has some global component. We get closer and more integrated each year across borders. My advice to business students is to take advantage of opportunities to move beyond your own country and learn all you can. I’m sure they all understand that top management in most companies must have some understanding of global business. There are great opportunities out there in the world, but barriers and pitfalls remain. A strong manager is not naïve about these challenges but is aware of them so he/she can guide his/her business to take advantage of a world full of opportunities.

Read more about Jennifer’s background and experiences.

Banking and global business: an alumna’s perspective

Meet Jennifer Wallis, Division Manager for Chase Commercial Middle Market Banking for the Eastside, North Puget Sound and Western Canada. Jennifer is a Foster MBA alum and member of the Global Business Center’s Global Business Advisory Board.

What were you like as a young person that set the stage for your career?
I didn’t expect to have a career in banking. As a young person I had other interests aside from money. I loved to read and learn about places outside of the USA. We had a number of books in the house that fed this interest. As I grew older, I purchased used travel books from Fodor’s and Lonely Planet and would read them as others would read novels. Throughout school I studied language (French, Spanish, Italian, and German). I majored in International Studies at the University of Washington gaining a BA from the Jackson School.

What made you decide to get an MBA, and what were your most valuable experiences at Foster?
I decided to get an MBA because I was returning to the workforce after time off to raise a family. I felt I would be better situated for a strong career with an MBA. I concentrated on Finance, but also earned a certificate in International Business while in the program. My most valuable experiences at Foster have to be the international experiences. I studied in Bangalore, India in my second year and traveled to Indonesia with the first MBA study tour. Even though I tried to prepare by reading as much as I could prior to being on the ground, I always ran into the unexpected. The learning that takes place during these experiences is not necessarily focused on what you would expect to learn in an MBA course. That was why the experiences were so valuable to me.

Can you tell us about the international places you’ve lived, worked, or studied, and some of the things you’ve learned through your global experiences?
While in school I lived and studied in Costa Rica and India. I traveled to Indonesia and China with the Foster school MBA study tours. I worked and lived in the UK and covered the UK, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Greece, Cyprus and Africa and spend considerable amounts of time in each country. I learned that you can never underestimate the impact of culture in business or in personal interactions. I always assume that I know this, but then I will unexpectedly encounter a misunderstanding or simply a different way of looking at things that I did not expect.

Read more about Jennifer’s experience working in Europe during the financial crisis.