Category Archives: Leadership

Business women in India and America share hope

Guest post by Emily Gerloff (UW business major, graduating in 2011)

“Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.” -Mahatma Gandhi

I was told that India is life-changing.  After hearing this on several occasions, I remember thinking to myself: What a strange concept. How can a country be life-changing?

After spending a month on the Half the Sky Exploration Seminar via the UW Foster School of Business, I am still unable to express exactly how India changed my life, but I know with absolute certainty that it did.

Emily (far right) sits with Indian women at a microfinance repayment gathering.
Emily (far right) sits with Indian women at a microfinance repayment gathering.

During the micro-lending meetings I expected to see poor, impoverished women with sob stories capable of making me instantaneously empty my pockets. I was surprised and relieved to find it was nothing like what I had imagined. These women did not have an ounce of desperation in their voices as they told their stories. They are an absolute testament to the power of hope and determination.  They live their lives with an innate sense of duty and purpose I can only compare to an American’s sense of equality and freedom.

Another surprise was how closely the lives of these women parallel my own. The micro-loans they receive are similar to the loans that fund my education.  I come from an underprivileged family (by American standards) and would be unable to attend college if it weren’t for the grants and loans provided to me by the government. Although I am occasionally jealous of my fellow students who will graduate with zero debt, it doesn’t change the fact that I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to better my life. I don’t think I am any less deserving of an education just because I was born into a family that couldn’t pay for one. This is a similar stance these women take regarding the micro-loans they receive. They possess gratitude and a humble belief that they deserve the right to prove their worth.

India changed my life.  I have seen first-hand the power of hope and determination and won’t deny myself the chance to see how far my own hope and determination will take me.

Emily is a University of Washington student participant in the Foster School of Business study tour during fall quarter 2010. The trip, focused on Women Leadership in India, was organized by Foster faculty member Cate Goethals.

Expanding cosmos—women in leadership study tour

Guest post by Melanie Sharpe, Foster MBA 2011 with a global business focus

BananaLeafIn the pre-trip brief just hours before we left for India, our professor Cate Goethals made a preparatory comment I’ll always remember as I weave my way through the world: “Becoming cosmopolitan means expanding and pushing the current boundaries and edges of your world.”

The trip to India expanded my cosmos in that very way. It exposed me to a diverse array of Indian leaders that redefined my perspective of business leadership as a woman—an aspect of business school that is largely overlooked and one I admittedly had not taken the time to consider prior to the transformative trip.

Inspiring women entrepreneurs

We encountered a colorful gamut of inspiring women. From workaholic bankers to avant-garde filmmakers to powerful lawyers and wealthy philanthropists to arguably the most influential female spiritual guru in the world to rural tree harvesters—all incredibly ambitious and driven women who seemed to have something very profound in common: They all seemed to be working to uplift others around them.

Call it social entrepreneurship or call it a compulsion to help better their community or family. Sometimes this innate desire compelled them to work 16-hour days to allow their fatherless children to have a better future. Sometimes that internal murmur told them that funding clean water was the only way to ensure the success of future generations of Indians. Sometimes that calling told them to hold and convey love to thousands of people everyday. In each instance, the evidence of that desire to give was palpable and tremendously inspiring.

TajThe pinnacle of the trip was hearing Rohini Nilekani, wife of the Infosys founder, speak at her clean water non-profit, Arghyam. Her profound statement: “Your generation no longer has the luxury of pessimism” was galvanizing. No longer can we absentmindedly guzzle water from plastic bottles or live in first-world luxury flushing away our waste with fresh water without considering the ramifications to the earth or other members of the world community. Her CEO Sunita Nadhamuni was an example of such awareness. Nadhamuni and her husband had reinvented the American business school dream of Silicon Valley wealth, prominent management positions and a constant search for “more” by transitioning their careers to work that directly helped communities of people have access to clean water.

Globally interconnected economy

The trip to India opened my world to the interconnectedness of the global economy. Imagine Dharavi: Asia’s largest slum, prominently featured in the blockbuster film “Slumdog Millionaire” as an impenetrable, crime-filled, filthy dystopia. The reality? The living conditions were certainly difficult: On average there is 1 toilet per 1,500 people! But the families inside the neat and tidy (albeit tiny) apartments were hardworking, entrepreneurial and contributing to global economic epicenters of recycling and clothes dyeing. In fact, many of the raw materials that we consume in the United States are sourced straight from Dharavi.

I left India transformed. The trip confirmed what I had suspected for my own career path: My own compulsion to serve was an innate calling that could be aligned with both business ideals and women’s leadership. Arriving at this realization completed the goal of the trip. My cosmos is expanded forever.

Melanie is an MBA student participant in the University of Washington Foster School of Business study tour during fall quarter 2010. The trip, focused on Women Leadership in India, was organized by Foster faculty member Cate Goethals.

Khoo TIME: Foster alumnus an influential entrepreneur

TIME magazine has named the founders of Seattle-based Internet comic strip Penny Arcade among its 2010 “TIME 100,” a roster of the world’s most influential people. While recognizing the artist/writer duo of Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins as the “tastemakers, and conscience,” of the massive computer gaming industry, the magazine also credits Foster School of Business grad Robert Khoo (BA 2000), Penny Arcade’s business director who turned an obscure comic into a mighty—and fiercely independent—media empire.

With Khoo at the helm of business affairs, Penny Arcade catalyzes a tight-knit Web community of 3.5 million hardcore gamers, throws an annual expo called PAX that draws 60,000 fans to Seattle each summer, and runs Child’s Play, a thriving charity that delivers video games to 60 children’s hospitals around the world.

Calling all leaders

Guest blog post by Don Nielsen (BA 1960)

Neilsen-headshotNormally, I am a very optimistic person, but I am concerned with what I see taking place or, perhaps not taking place, in all facets of our government. Federal government programs are not working as predicted, and many of them have failed. Looking at the list of bankrupt programs—Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, the Post Office, Amtrak—is depressing. Most of our states are in serious debt—California could declare bankruptcy in the not too distant future—and finances at the city level are no better. Debt is piling up in all sectors.

One striking statistic, which I think contributes to these failures, is the fact that many of our top-level national and local government officials have never worked in the private sector. Today, we have developed an entirely different occupation—career elected official—that is the norm for those in most of our elected offices.

However, our founders never anticipated that serving in an elected position would be a career choice. It was intended to be a public service. It was something you did to make your contribution to the society in which you lived.

How many times have you heard someone compare the voting process to deciding between the lesser of two evils? Would this be acceptable if you were recruiting a new CEO to run your company? I think not—and it shouldn’t be acceptable for recruiting people to run our government.

This country needs leaders who understand our economic system. The Foster School has recently initiated a major effort in leadership development. Foster students, already considered A-list hires, are being asked to take academic rigor and real world relevance even further. While most of our graduates will go into business, I hope some will think about public service, if not at the outset, then later in their careers. And while many of our alumni are doing great things in the world of business, I hope they too will consider lending their expertise to righting the “ship of state.”

We need leaders who run for office as a public service and who run for office to preserve this wonderful republic that we all love. Leaders, not politicians, will make sure that happens. Please consider running for public office and serving a few years in a public service position as a part of your career plans. Give voters the chance to choose the best officials who can help make the tough decisions needed to solve this nation’s problems.

Don Nielsen is a member of the Foster School Advisory Board and chairman and CEO of Light Doctor, LLC.

This alumnus opinion post is not intended to represent the views of the Michael G. Foster School of Business.

Winners of UW Environmental Innovation Challenge

“It’s like a science fair on steroids.” That comment by judge and venture capitalist Loretta Little (of WRF Capital) captured the essence of the University of Washington Environmental Innovation Challenge. 19 student teams from 7 Washington state universities and colleges met in Seattle on April 1 to pitch clean-tech, energy-saving business ideas and prototypes to more than 100 judges, venture capitalists, angel investors, professors and business leaders. Watch video highlights.

EIC_EnvitrumGrand prize = $10,000

A team of University of Washington engineers with a business called EnVitrum won the $10,000 grand prize for their innovative glass recycling and green building technology that converts glass into bricks that are stronger and cheaper than masonry and have a dual purpose of cultivating plants.

Second place + honorable mentions = $12,500

Second place with $5,000 went to Triangle Energy (a University of Washington team consisting of two Foster MBA students, one UW doctoral student in mechanical engineering, one UW doctoral student in biochemistry and one UW chemical engineering undergraduate) who created a mobile bioreactor that converts solid biomass into synthesis gas for energy use. Three honorable mention awards of $2,500 each went to interdisciplinary teams of engineering and business students: NanoWAVE (North Seattle Community College) created an energy-efficient, cost-effective LED lighting alternative for growing plants in nurseries, greenhouses and indoor gardens; iDriveSmart (University of Washington) created software that helps predict and encourage fuel-efficient driving; and Idyll Energy Solutions (Seattle Pacific University) created a solution to the idle, wasted energy of household electronics.

The 2nd annual UW Environmental Innovation Challenge was a collaborative venture between the UW Foster School of Business Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UW College of Engineering and UW College of the Environment. Learn more or get involved in next year’s Challenge.

Foster students return to Panama for spring break

This spring break roughly 29 University of Washington students, most from the Foster School, will descend on a mountain village in Panama to help the villagers there improve their farming business and hopefully rise a little further above subsistence-level farming.

The trip was set up by the Global Business Brigades, a nationwide student-led organization with a UW chapter. A dozen students are also getting course credits for the trip through the Foster School. The lead UW student organizers—Foster students David Almeida and Blake Strickland—said the team plans also to revisit a coffee plantation where 18 Foster students spent the 2009 spring break. Almeida’s group will evaluate the impact the students had on the coffee plantation and find out if the farmers have put into practice the team’s recommendations.

“All 29 of us are extremely excited for this chance to make a real and positive impact in the lives of people living in Machuca,” Almeida said. “Through working with the farmers, living in the village, embracing their culture, and making a difference, the next week will be sure to change our lives as much as theirs.”

This year, the team will spend most of their spring break on the Machuca Farm located in the Cocle province, roughly three hours from Panama City. The farm is a 25-minute hike from the end of the nearest roadway. The community has about 800 inhabitants, but the farm group that the students are focusing on has 14 members and supports roughly 35 people. The farm grows yucca, plantain, rice, beans, corn and other crops and also raises chickens, goats and fish in a pond.

In the team’s trip preparations, the undergraduates identified four main areas where they hope to have an impact—processing chickens, bread making, goat milk products and organic products.

Almeida and several other team members plan to post updates on this blog. Stay tuned.

3 teams win high honors for global solutions to poverty

gsec-nuruGrand Prize of $10,000

The 2010 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition winning team was Nuru Light, also winner of the People’s Choice Award and Investor’s Choice Award, for their affordable, clean, safe alternative to kerosene as a light source in Rwanda. Nuru lights can be recharged quickly via the world’s first pedal generator. Team Nuru consists of students from Adventist University of Central Africa and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Photo (L-R): Charles Ishimwe, Bill Gates, Sr., Max Fraden

 

gsec-touchhbGlobal Health Grand Prize of $5,000

UW Global Health’s largest prize went to TouchHb, an affordable, prick-less anemia scanner used by low-skilled village health workers in rural India that measures, helps diagnose, monitors and screens for anemia. Team TouchHb consists of two doctors from the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences.

 

 

 

gsec-maloJudges’ Choice Prize of $3,000

Judges this year created a spontaneous award and personally pitched in a total of $3,000 for an on-the-fly Judges’ Choice Award which went to Malo Traders for their business plan that provides technological consultation that minimizes risks of post-harvest losses for small-scale rice farmers in Mali. Team Malo consists of two brothers who grew up in Africa and are now pursuing degrees—one is a PhD student in political science at Purdue University and the other a business student at Temple University.

The Global Business Center at the UW Foster School of Business puts on the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition each year – when international student teams are coached, critiqued and judged by Seattle-area business leaders. A record number of applicants (161) from around the world applied for the 6th annual event with innovative ideas to help solve global poverty. Watch the video.

Nuru wins People’s Choice Award at Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition

gsec-3936

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

University of Washington Foster School’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition is underway this week and 11 semi-finalist teams are competing for a chance to win over judges and beat out other innovative business ideas to combat global poverty.

At a trade show this week, the People’s Choice Award went to a team with an idea called “Nuru Light: a Solution to Africa’s Lighting Crisis” which provides affordable, renewable, clean lighting to replace kerosene in households. One of the team members traveled outside of Rwanda for the first time in his life to pitch this business idea along with a medical student from Massachusetts Medical School.

Winners will announced at tonight’s GSEC Award’s Ceremony which will also feature keynote speaker Bill Gates, Sr.

Good luck to the 11 teams and 5 finalist teams – part of a record-breaking number of applicants who chose to solve poverty with business innovations.

A visit with the oracle, Warren Buffett

MBA Students in Omaha SnowEvery year the richest man in the country (or maybe 2nd richest depending on the most recent Forbes article) Warren Buffett invites groups from 5 to 6 business schools to visit him in the unassuming town of Omaha, Nebraska. The premise is simple. 120 business school students from across the country put on their best suits, tackle the Omaha snow (see photo), pepper Mr. Buffett with questions for over 2 hours, and then he takes us to his favorite restaurant in town for steak and root beer floats.

In early February, I was fortunate enough to make the trek. Naturally, people keep asking me what I took away from the trip. I respond with random facts about Berkshire Hathaway’s corporate philanthropy program and Buffett’s friendship with and admiration for former Geico executive, Lloyd Kreeger. And I love to share some of Buffett’s best lines such as, “You can’t make a baby in 1 month by getting 9 women pregnant.” He followed, laughing, “I probably should have told Tiger Woods that.” That’s classic wisdom, both literally and figuratively, and it demonstrates just how sharp and witty this 78-year-old man is.

BuffetwalletWhy does he meet with MBA students?
It is certainly not for us to hear stories we can see him tell on YouTube, nor to make sure I have a photo of me with an awkwardly devilish face stealing his wallet (see photo). No, I think this is Mr. Buffett’s opportunity to share his vision for investments, business, and life with the next generation of business leaders.

Buffett’s vision: Find passion, practice simplicity.
The man has more money than I can comprehend. Buying 120 people lunch is like me buying a gumball, or more likely, sharing a gumball. But he drives a simple car (a 1980s Cadillac), has lived in the same home for his entire life, and doesn’t seem to want more. His investment philosophy is the same. Find an undervalued company with good management, buy low, sell high. He doesn’t need fancy financial products that no one really understands; he just looks for good businesses. Oh, and he loves what he does. You can see how it sustains him, keeping him engaged day in and day out. I think he wanted to show us that. At a time in our lives when we’ve taken ourselves out of the workforce to build our skill set and reflect on our careers, he wanted to show us that money follows passion and simplicity brings happiness.

Meghann Glavin is a University of Washington Foster School of Business full-time MBA student slated to graduate in 2010. 27 Foster MBAs met with Warren Buffett this year.

Podcast: Social media as a leadership tool

This morning’s UW Foster School of Business breakfast lecture focused on the social media revolution. Richard Law, CEO of Seattle-based Allyis, talked about “Social Media as a Leadership Tool” and how executives can socialize their way to employee engagement, retention, collaboration and success.

Law touched on the communication game that’s already changed due to social media, ROI of engagement, statistics, social media being a broader concept than just its platforms of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Conversations among customers, employees and their peers now help create brands.  Two-way dialogue is the best way to represent a brand and Law offers tips for staying competitive in today’s marketplace.
RSSListen to podcast on social media.

Video extra: The Generation Y workforce will equal Baby Boomers in numbers, and Gen Y’s digital media presence is noteworthy. Law played this four-minute “Socialnomics” video about current social media use and demographics.

This lecture is part of Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, an event for business leaders and faculty to share insights about current business topics and trends with other business leaders, alumni, faculty, students and the Foster School community.