Category Archives: Alumni

Chen master

Jeff ChenFoster MBA alumnus and benefactor balances an eclectic curriculum vitae

1) Foster MBA who constructs crossword puzzles worthy of the Sunday New York Times.

Hmmm… Eight letters. Begins with J, ends with N. Let’s see. Has to be a bona fide polymath, well-read and widely experienced. Creative and analytical. A serious student of culture—both popular and passé—equally versed in history, commerce, literature, sport, art, film, science, architecture, medicine, warfare, language. A jack-of-all-topics.

Got it! Jeff Chen (MBA 2002).

And big-time crosswording is just a recent addition to the ever-expanding, endlessly fascinating curriculum vitae of this remarkable graduate of the University of Washington Foster School of Business. Chen is an entrepreneur, author, wealth manager, Big Brother, board member, game enthusiast, rock climber and world traveler.

He’s also a philanthropist who directed a major gift to the Foster School from his family foundation last year. His generosity inspired many fellow alums from his MBA class of 2002 to mark their 10th year reunion by contributing to a record-setting annual gift—a combined $468,000 to endow an MBA scholarship fund.

“I had a fantastic experience at Foster,” says Chen. “The education was great and the people were even better. I wanted to offer the same opportunity to others to experience what the MBA Program did for me.”

Gave as well as got

Chen earned two degrees in mechanical engineering from Stanford and worked at a product design firm before enrolling in the Foster School’s MBA Program, as so many, to enhance his organizational impact.

The engineer proved a quick study of management. “Simply the best of the best of our MBAs,” assesses Ed Rice, an associate professor of finance and business economics who has seen plenty in his four decades at Foster.

What really distinguished Chen, Rice adds, was his generosity of intellect. When he saw some classmates struggling in Rice’s core finance course, Chen began offering free review and tutoring sessions. Pretty soon those classmates were sharing their own particular strengths with each other, creating a peer-to-peer dynamic that has since been institutionalized in the Student Support Network.

“This ethic has become engrained in the program,” says Dan Poston, associate dean for master’s programs. “It always existed, to some extent. But after Jeff established the model, it became the way it’s done at Foster.”

Acucelerate

Poston would argue that Chen’s exhaustive job search should also stand as a model. After interning at Immunex and working in technology commercialization through the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, he targeted early stage bioscience as his chosen field.

But rather than waiting for opportunity to find him, he created it. After conducting a comprehensive audit of potential firms, he connected with Dr. Ryo Kubota, a UW professor of ophthalmology who was developing a revolutionary treatment for blinding eye disease such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. Chen helped Kubota get Acucela off the ground, then headed business operations and helped raise more than $40 million in financing. After Acucela brokered a transformational partnership with a large Japanese pharmaceutical company in 2008, it was time for a new challenge.

“After the partnership deal, I felt like Acucela had outgrown what I could bring to the company,” Chen says. “It was time to step away.”

Cross worlds

Seven breakneck years with Acucela behind him, Chen decided to seek a modicum of balance, try his hand at a range of activities and “see what sticks.”

In a word, lots.

He has served on the boards of Big Brothers & Big Sisters and Passages Northwest, and on the finance committee of Treehouse. He manages the portfolios of friends and family. He has done field work with microfinance organizations Gambia Help and Global Partnerships. Alongside his brother and father, he manages the family’s Paramitas Foundation. He travels, climbs and plays games with perhaps a bit more brio than most. He recently got married.

It was Chen’s wife, Jill, who introduced him to the joys of crossword puzzles. Working together and solo, he has published upwards of 50 in major newspapers and has become a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. On November 25th and again on January 27th, he landed the most prestigious spot in all of puzzledom: the Times Sunday crossword.

Chen also just completed a book of 52 puzzles around a theme of bridge (the card game, another passion). “Doing crosswords about bridge is kind of the nexus of everything that’s good in the world,” he says, exaggerating just a bit.

Or, to put it another way, as he did when announcing the project on Facebook: “I’m officially 80 years old.”

The writing life (and living)

Constructing crossword puzzles is a hobby for Chen. Writing books, on the other hand, is becoming much more.

Since penning his first sentence of fiction in earnest just two years ago, he’s completed eight novels for middle-grade readers. Among them are tales of exceptional kids recruited to a remote island to construct monsters for the Greek gods, of flying pygmy elephants from Burma who plot the overthrow of Victorian-age Britain, and of an overworked Grim Reaper taking on a bumbling apprentice who screws up everything.

Fanciful plots, but will they sell? Chen has a few advantages in the notoriously difficult-to-crack publishing industry. For one, an agent as active as his imagination. For another, a preternatural ability to fuse right and left brain at once, to approach writing as both an art and a business.

Many principles of enterprise are evident in his literary method, including:

Work flow management – Chen writes 6 or 7 days a week, for 3 to 4 hours a day, aiming for 1,500 words each day, actually keeping a timecard to stay on task.

Research – He’s read, dissected and analyzed upwards of 300 middle-grade books in the past couple of years to discern what works (and what doesn’t).

Development – He wrote off his first five manuscripts as, essentially, practice.

Scaling – He’s outlining multiple book series from original tales, the overwhelming trend in kid lit today.

Outsourcing – He has assembled a network of fellow writers and truth-tellers to assess ideas and drafts.

Diversification – He keeps a running list of story ideas that currently numbers in the 300s.

And one last entrepreneurial trait: ambition.

“I don’t just want to get something published,” Chen says. “Ideally, I’d like to be one of the most successful authors of all time.”

Is he tempted to get back into business? “I get that inkling,” he admits. “But you know with the writing, it’s kind of like trying to get a startup off the ground.”

Could an entrepreneur see it any other way?

From Norway to Foster to Boeing: a conversation with MBA alum Hans Aarhus

Hans Aarhus bio pictureHans Aarhus is the director of Estimating and Pricing for Boeing’s 787 program. He received his MBA from the Foster School in 1989 and is a member of the Global Business Advisory Board.

In 2011 you were named Director of Estimating and Pricing for Boeing’s 787 program after serving as the Director of Financial Planning for the program. Tell us about your new role.

In my new role, I’m responsible for all of the estimates that are done on the 787 program.  These estimates can be broken down in a couple of different categories: the engineering changes that are being considered for the airplane, customer requested changes to the airplane, new derivative airplanes being studied and any production system investment under consideration.   All of these estimates require my team to reach out to all of the different organizations that would have impacts due to the proposed changes, including engineering, procurement, production and support.  Most of these estimates get presented in a business case format that includes a number of financial metrics and considerations.  We also work with our pricing organization for estimates that include pricing considerations with our customers.

I also have responsibility for all systems, processes and tools that support our function in our day to day activities.

What was it like to come to the US from Norway to study at UW? Did you plan to stay in the US after earning your MBA?

It was a great opportunity that also included quite a culture shock.  I had not been to the US before and I still recall very vividly the first day which included the I5-I405 Hwy interchange coming out of Seatac, the downtown skyline and Bellevue Mall.  My impression was, “wow everything is bigger in the US.”The first couple of days on the UW campus were also very impressive in regards to the sheer size of the campus and all of the great architecture of the buildings. My first quarters were certainly influenced by the fact that English is my second language and some of the challenges it drives.  I also recall the excitement I always had talking to friends and relatives back in Norway in regards to my experiences that UW offered including my first Husky football game with 60,000 plus fans in the stands.I did not have any plans whatsoever to stay in the US in the beginning but that changed very quickly when I ran into a student from Oregon in the McMahon dining room in the spring of 1986.  A very long and great story but here we are 25 years into our marriage with 2 great sons.

How has your global experience helped you in your various positions?

I think the global experience has been very important for me throughout my Boeing career.  English being my second language has always made me pay very close attention when other people are communicating so I end up doing a little more listening than talking, which I have found to be a good thing.  I also think having a global experience enables you to recognize that most people come from different cultures and the more you understand about their background and can take that into consideration, the more productive your interactions will be.

What would you tell students about the world of global business?

The world is becoming a smaller and smaller place every day.  By that, I mean that advances in transportation and technology enable a much simpler way to connect with people around the world.  It is paramount for us to recognize this and embrace it.  The quicker you can adapt yourself to operate and efficiently interact with people in all of the different cultures, the more successful you will be.

I think the UW is an excellent place to start that journey. You have a tremendous opportunity at UW to really reach out to the diversity that the school has to offer. Taking advantage of these opportunities will put you ahead of a lot of your peers that you will be compared to and compete with as you progress in your school work and your professional career.

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.

 

Found in translation

Found in Translation: Frenchman fêted for bringing American management to Chinese business

When Cyrille BrearCyrille Breardd (TMMBA 2010) was studying global strategy, cross-cultural management and how to lead organizational change at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, he had no idea just how far—and how fast—his education would take him.

In late September Breard found himself in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, where he received the National Friendship Award, China’s highest honor for a foreign national, from Premier Wen Jiabao.

Elapsed time? Just over two years out of Foster’s Technology Management MBA Program.

“This is a huge award in China,” says Xiao-Ping Chen, a professor of management at the Foster School who taught his cross-cultural management class. “It’s quite a remarkable honor that Cyrille has won, and won so soon.”

If the pace seems extreme, well, then, that’s China. Breard was recognized for his significant coordination and collaboration work with COMAC, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, a state-owned company that launched in 2008 with ambitions to join the global aerospace market almost overnight.

Technical bona fides

Breard has the cut of an absolute engineer: PhD in mechanics from the Université du Havre in France. Author of papers with titles such as “An Integrated time-domain model for the prediction of fan forced response due to inlet distortion.” Researcher at the Rolls-Royce Vibration University Technology Center at Imperial College London. Senior scientist/engineer at Redmond-based Analytical Methods. Acoustic scientist engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

After proving himself a top technician during a decade in the United States, the French-born Breard aspired to manage innovation at a higher level. His time in Foster’s TMMBA Program proved pivotal.

“My outlook changed entirely,” he says. “As an engineer, you see a problem as something to fix. Now I see every problem as an opportunity. The Foster TMMBA experience made me more positive, more entrepreneurial, to view every situation as a way to improve something. That’s the philosophy I took with me to China.”

It would serve him well.

Unique opportunity
Cyrille Breard
Breard was recruited under China’s Thousand Talents Program which imports international experts to help develop the nation’s industries. Aiding his decision was his wife Xuehong’s desire to return to her native China. With their two daughters, the family relocated to Shanghai in 2010. Xuehong went to work for a Chinese civil engineering firm. And Cyrille joined COMAC, at the time a two-year-old “startup” founded with $2.7 billion in capital. Its aim was unprecedented in the history of aviation.

“You don’t just create a company from scratch in the aerospace business,” Breard says. “I had to take this opportunity.”

He was initially hired for his acoustic engineering expertise. His charge was to bring the firm’s single-aisle commercial airplanes into compliance with strict international noise standards. But this proved to be a difficult challenge.

Like many Chinese enterprises, COMAC is organized into distinct departments with clear responsibilities. But acoustic engineering, by nature, must cut across every function of aircraft design. It requires enormous collaboration, something Breard knew well from his time in the US and at Foster.

So Breard took it upon himself to connect the dots. He amended his job description to become a kind of in-house organizational consultant. “I go into different departments and try to find a better way to do what they’re doing,” he says.

His tacit understanding of Guanxi, the powerful rule of relationships in China, enabled him to begin fostering a Western-style collaborative culture across the company. And he quickly proved himself an indispensable asset to COMAC—an engineer who knows how to manage organizations.

Famous in China

COMAC and the Chinese government formally recognized Breard’s contributions in September. Xuehong joined him in Beijing for the ceremony. And both attended, as special guests, the following day’s National Banquet, officiated by Premier Wen and then-President Hu Jintao.

In early December, Breard and a small group of foreign experts met with Xi Jinping, the newly elected General Secretary of China’s Communist Party and likely next president of China.

“There are not many people who get the chance to do these things in their lives,” Breard says.

All of this has been covered extensively by the Chinese press, bringing him a rapidly growing notoriety.

Breard says his first sensation of celebrity came a few weeks after the Friendship Award proceedings. A two-minute profile of his work at COMAC aired in prime time of the national news broadcast on CCTV1. The program was viewed by over 320 million people.

“After that,” Breard says, “people I didn’t even know where coming up to me and saying, ‘Now you’re famous in China.’ ”

Suzan DelBene

Tech entrepreneur and former Microsoft executive heads to Congress

Suzan DelBeneSuzan DelBene (MBA 1990) has been a Microsoft vice president, CEO of a software startup, microfinance consultant, and director of a state agency. Now she is representing Washington state’s First Congressional District in Washington D.C.

DelBene ran for Congress to improve the economy and put the middle class first. According to The Seattle Times, DelBene said, “For me this campaign always has been about standing up for working families and the middle class.” She won the district with 54% of the votes and was sworn into office on November 13, 2012. She is finishing the final weeks of former Congressman Jay Inslee’s term and will start her 2-year term in January.

Prior to being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, she was looking for ways to help businesses as director of the Washington State Department of Revenue. Governor Chris Gregoire appointed DelBene to head the state’s tax collection agency after her first foray into politics as a 2010 candidate for Washington’s Eighth Congressional District. That highly credible effort earned her the endorsement of the Seattle Times, which cited her “tremendous promise” and “sharp business and entrepreneurial skills.”

DelBene freely admits she knew little about tax administration before agreeing to run the agency that collects more than 90 percent of state taxes. But observers say she has been a quick study on the complex intricacies of tax policy.

After DelBene joined the agency, the governor directed her to examine ways it could improve the business climate by streamlining the tax system. DelBene consulted businesses and other stakeholders across the state to determine what the state could do to reduce the burden of complying with multiple state and local tax obligations. The resulting report issued in June 2011 recommended that the state consider assuming administration of local business and occupation taxes, much as it now collects local sales taxes. Gregoire subsequently directed the Department to work with business and local governments to develop a proposal. Such an overhaul of the tax system would require legislative approval.

In the end, cities such as Tacoma and Seattle were resistant to centralizing the collection of B&O taxes at the state level, and as a result the bill was not approved. While DelBene was not able to centralize B&O tax collection, she was able to move business licensing to the Department of Revenue from the Department of Licensing, which helps streamline the process of starting a business.

The Eastside resident started her career in immunology research after graduating from Reed College in Portland. She first became interested in the business side of technology while working at ZymoGenetics in Seattle. That led her to enter the Foster School in 1988. She interned at Microsoft while in school and joined the company after graduation, marketing Windows 95 and other products. She then left Microsoft to help launch drugstore.com in 1998, and in 2000 became CEO of Nimble Technology, a data integration software firm. Along the way, she’s also mentored students at the Foster School.

DelBene returned to Microsoft in 2004 as a corporate vice president for the mobile communications business, and in 2008 became a consultant at Global Partnerships, a microfinance nonprofit.

Now that she is on the government side of things at the national level, DelBene’s business background will come in handy again as she works to solve the economic issues currently facing the United States.

Student-funded scholarship is a first

UWiBThe student organization, Undergraduate Women in Business (UWiB), recently established an endowed scholarship–a monumental achievement. UWiB is the first student organization to establish an endowed fund and they raised $32,000 in a little over 2 years. Additionally, this initiative was completely student driven and a team effort.

Foster undergrads Amber Waisanen and Raychael Jensen started UWiB in 2005. They were inspired by a similar organization at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Their core mission in starting UWiB was to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders. They are very pleased with how the organization has grown and evolved over the past eight years.

“UWiB was founded on the premise of serving others and giving back, with an underlying mission to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders.

As founders, we feel extremely proud of how far UWiB has come. We are strong supporters of this fund and look forward to securing a long-term future for the organization.

For UWiB to reach an endowment status is truly a dream come true, as it was part of our list of things we hoped to accomplish one day. To see that goal come to fruition is a very rewarding and exciting opportunity for us, our members, the Foster Business School and the community at large.”

- Amber Waisanen & Raychael Jensen, Co-Founders of UWiB

The recipient of scholarship for the 2012/2013 academic year is Amanda Hamilton. She is junior at the Foster School pursuing marketing and a certificate in international business. According to Amanda, “The scholarship will help me further my international interests as I study abroad in Spain.” Last year Amanda served on the executive committee for UWiB as the fundraiser associate.

You can learn more about UWiB by visiting their website: http://uwuwib.com/

Entrepreneurial Energy

Foster alum and faculty fellow Emer Dooley has a passion for pushing boundaries

Emer Dooley

How does a North Pole marathon winner become one of TechFlash’s top 100 tech women in Seattle? For Emer Dooley—engineer, PhD, entrepreneurship lecturer, angel investor, advisor—it’s easy. Dooley pushed boundaries long before her career began.

Her first broken barrier? Becoming an electrical engineer, a field dominated by men.

“In Ireland when growing up, I wanted to be a science teacher. That’s what girls did. My dad talked me out of it. He persuaded me to do electronic engineering. That changed my life,” says Dooley.

After working as an engineer for seven years, Dooley circled back to her original passion. “I’ve always wanted to teach. I sort of knew I wasn’t really an engineer in my heart.” She earned an MBA (1992) from Foster, worked as marketing manager for Seattle start-up Mosaix, came back to earn her PhD (2000), and taught at UW through 2011.

“I thought that doing an MBA in Seattle would be high-tech nirvana,” says Dooley. “I’m also a huge outdoor person. I like to ski, climb, water ski, run, bike. I just love Seattle. I never applied anywhere else.” At the UW, she launched a high-tech speaker series, software entrepreneurship class and co-taught with various UW computer science professors, including Oren Etzioni, founder of Farecast and Decide.

Her first guest speaker? Venture capitalist Mike Slade, a Microsoft and Apple veteran and entrepreneur. Dooley continued to bring in heavyweight guest speakers year after year.

“It was using the community to change the way that the old classes had been taught,” says Dooley. A memorable speaker was Tom Burt who led the Microsoft defense in the antitrust lawsuit. He shared the reality of being sued. “During discovery, they had so many documents piled up in the corridors that they were cited by the Redmond fire department.”

After 11 years of teaching entrepreneurship to business, engineering and computer science students, Dooley now serves as strategic planner, board member and faculty advisor for the Foster School’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. She successfully launched a $3 million fundraising campaign to move the center into a new building and open a new innovation lab.

Dooley also manages a $4.4 million fund at Alliance of Angels and is setting up an angel fund for UW students and a visiting professor to invest in start-ups.

She sees companies bootstrap in ways inconceivable to previous generations of entrepreneurs. “After the big dot com crash, nobody would fund anything. It used to take $30 million to get a company to market. And now with the advances in the tools, people can start companies from nothing. It’s just incredible to me that if you’re really savvy about social media, there’s still opportunity there to run rings around the traditional companies.”

The other pivotal change she’s witnessed in the last 10 years in Seattle is start-up expertise from second-generation entrepreneurs. “It used to be all Microsoft start-ups. Now there’s Expedia, Amazon, Real Networks. That’s really changed the level of talent in the area.”

One of the few women in the angel investing community, Dooley hopes to encourage her kids to push boundaries themselves. She and her husband, also an Ireland native, choose to raise their daughters in Seattle to expand their opportunities.

“I love the abundance of opportunity for women here, and the incredible role models like Bonnie Dunbar that my daughters get to see and meet in the community.”

Speaking of incredible role models… Dooley won the 2010 North Pole Marathon in a blizzard and finished second in the 2011 Antarctic Ice Marathon. “My goal is to run a marathon on every continent.”

Watch Emer Dooley’s TEDx talk: Entrepreneurship education – an oxymoron?

Learning how to lead

Guest post by Staci Stratton, Evening MBA 2014
She attended the MBA “Perspectives on Leadership” Speaker Series. The speaker was Colleen Brown, CEO of Fisher Communications.

Colleen Brown shared her thoughts on leadership and her personal journey to becoming CEO of Fisher Communications. She talked about how we are a combination of both predisposition and learning how to be a leader. She also said in many cases leadership arises out of necessity. For Brown, she was the eldest girl in her very large family and took on responsibilities like grocery shopping and laundry very early on. She said these experiences helped her to develop a “get it done” attitude she still has today.

She also shared her four important characteristics of leadership:

  1. Character: understand who you are and why you are who you are.
  2. Resilience: develop, if you haven’t already, the ability to get back up after rough periods, mistakes, etc.
  3. Commitment: be committed to who you are and what you believe in. It has the effect of being contagious to others.
  4. Continuity: develop consistency and continuity in your behavior, as this helps your people to know what to expect from you-no surprises.

Brown feels the most important decisions you make on a day to day basis are about PEOPLE, which is why it’s so important to know yourself and be consistent in your behavior.

Watch highlights from Brown’s talk. Here she covers the importance of consistency, Aristotle’s leadership insights, and how to minimize office politics.

The next speaker is Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks, on December 6. Learn more.

Announcing Dempsey Hall

Today the Foster School held a naming dedication for its newest facility: Dempsey Hall. The building is named after Neal and Jan Dempsey, who have been incredible supporters of the Foster School. Neal is a 1964 alumnus of the Foster School and has been engaged in myriad ways over the years. He has served on the Foster School Advisory Board for more than two decades and is a past chair. Alongside Mike Garvey and Ed Fritzky, he co-chaired the successful Foster School capital campaign that raised $181 million between 2000 and 2008. He has also given over $10M to the Foster School.

Dean Jiambalvo said at the dedication, “Neal is action oriented and unwavering in principle.” When Neal spoke, he called the next generation to action and encouraged them to give their time, energy, and money to the Foster School. He asked everyone in the crowd to raise their hand if they agreed to give back to the Foster School. Everyone’s hands were in the air. Neal took it a step further and shot of video of everyone with their hands raised–proof they would do what they said. He said it’s been a, “fantastic road to the finish line.” And he looks forward to seeing the next generation of supporters give back.

Dempsey Hall from Foster School of Business.