Students in the Technology Management MBA program are sometimes surprised to discover how much the curriculum is similar to other MBA programs at the Foster School. While many of the cases focus on technology, most of the topics covered are common to all businesses. Yet the fact that the majority of students are employed in technology-driven companies means that they bring this perspective to class discussions on accounting, finance, marketing, operations and strategy. As David Lam, Anne-Marie Scollay and Jeremy Hutton explain, that’s what makes the program really relevant for technology professionals.
The accomplished technology professionals who become TMMBA students return to the classroom for different reasons. Anne-Marie Scollay had just been promoted. She wanted to become a better leader and do a better job of making the business case for her proposals to top management. Earning an MBA was a logical next step. Jeremy Hutton wanted to accelerate the process of acquiring business expertise that would otherwise require years of experience. David Lam was inspired to pursue an MBA by a colleague years ago and was just waiting for an opportunity to enroll in the right program. After a recent move to Seattle, he found a great match for his technology background in Foster’s TMMBA Program.
It was serendipity when Guy Hudson, MD, a pediatric specialty surgeon, met Shelley Cathrea Roy, a chiropractor, and Laureen Driscoll, a nursing administrator, for the first time at their EMBA orientation meeting in 2011. Though Guy and Laureen were both working at Swedish Medical Center at the time, neither they nor Shelley could have guessed that their EMBA experience would soon result in teaming up to lead change in pediatric services at Swedish. Pursuing a career shift, Shelley sold her practice and, leveraging her EMBA network, joined Swedish the following year as a clinic administrator. All three quickly found innovative ways to apply the business tools they were learning in the program in the hospital setting. Executives took notice, and supported their efforts to marry their growing business savvy to their professional expertise on the job. Leadership opportunities and promotions followed, with more to come.
Once: Environmental Scientist, SWAPE
Now: Senior Analyst, Expedia
Crystal Wu (MBA 2011) knows it well. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in molecular, cell and developmental biology, she began her career managing environmental consulting projects for SWAPE.
But eventually, Wu decided to come in out of this niche field. The Foster School helped her identify—and achieve—a broader role. “I didn’t know I wanted to move into finance,” she says, “but it was a natural step given my background in modeling and analysis.”
Wu found finance at Foster. She also founded the Seattle chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs.
But it was her internship at Mike’s Hard Lemonade, of all places, that activated her transformation to business finance. “It was the stepping stone I needed to connect my two careers,” Wu says.
Her re-launch has begun at Expedia, where she applies her modeling and financial analysis skills to its affiliate network. The company recently transferred her to London where, it is presumed, she’s able to avoid dusty attics and stinky oil fields.
Once: Research Scientist, Cornell
Now: Senior Marketing Manager, Philips Healthcare
After defending her doctoral thesis in chemical biology at Cornell, Carrie Stearns (MBA 2008) climbed into her car and drove four days straight across the USA to begin orientation for the Foster MBA Program.
She wasn’t keen to prolong the transition from cancer research to management development. “I loved the science,” she says. “Just not doing the science. I wanted a little more control over my destiny, a way to make a more immediate impact on healthcare.”
Foster was the ticket. She loved the diversity of students, dove into the coursework and entered the UW Business Plan Competition (her team’s plan for an algaebased biofuel won Best Clean Tech).
She also turned an internship at Philips into a job managing the healthcare company’s cardiovascular and surgery device service portfolios. She helped launch the prostate cancer drug Provenge at Dendreon before returning to Philips to lead its women’s healthcare ultrasound business in North America.
“It’s the rare opportunity in marketing to both set the strategy and drive implementation,” she says.
And no looking back. “I don’t think I would have been happy doing research,” she admits. “I’m passionate about marketing and healthcare. And improving patients’ lives.”
Once: Engineer, DuPont
Now: Director of Site Merchandising & Operations, Walmart eCommerce
Shrenik Shah (MBA 2010) chose a career track early. He studied science and math at the Indian High School of Dubai, majored in engineering at Virginia Tech, and began his career as an engineer at DuPont, ensuring the safety and efficiency of new product facilities.
But Shah wanted to do more than execute on a firm’s strategic decisions. He wanted to make those decisions. He needed an MBA to move to the management side.
On first impression, he says, “the Foster School blew my mind. The people, the environment, how collaborative the whole place is.”
Shah absorbed every course, every classmate, every case competition, every mentor, every opportunity to work and learn.
After assisting in several start-ups and a brief stint in strategy consulting with Alvarez & Marsal, Shah joined Walmart eCommerce, where he helps manage the sprawling Internet operation of the world’s largest retailer.
His engineering background has helped him navigate the analytics and interactions with technical teams. But it’s his management skills that are making the difference. “My engineering work was never customerfacing,” he says. “At Walmart, however, I’m exposed to the entire US market—actual people spending their hard-earned money with us in this tight economy.”
Once: Economist, US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Now: Category Development Analyst, Starbucks
Natalia Perez’s (MBA 2012) first job after college was conducting market research and analysis focused on the trucking industry for a transportation consulting firm.“ I didn’t even know how my car worked,” admits the Chilean expat.
But she did know how to analyze complex economies. And she soon found employment as an industry analyst at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, helping produce the monthly jobs report and the Producer Price Index.
But she didn’t see herself in government long term, and decided an MBA was the most versatile degree to get.
Her coursework at Foster helped her self-identify with market analytics. Even before graduation she began working at Starbucks, first as a workforce strategist and now as a category development analyst for emerging Starbucks brands including Evolution Fresh and the Verismo home brewing system.
Her time at Starbucks has revealed an under-heralded value of the program. “Every piece is important,” she says. “And it may sound like a small thing, but learning to work in teams has been critical. At Starbucks, I don’t do anything on my own. Everything is accomplished in teams. It’s such a vital element of the Foster MBA.”
Update: Drawing on her belief in the power of teams, Perez has moved from analysis to management. She still works at Starbucks but is now a Bakery product manager.
Once: Math Teacher/Ski Instructor, Jackson Hole
Now: Senior Financial Analyst, Amazon.com
“I wanted to be a ski bum,” she admits.
After studying mathematics at Colby College, Lissandrello moved to Wyoming to ski. She gave ski lessons and did math tutoring to fund her skiing.
Tutoring led to a job teaching calculus and statistics and, eventually, heading the math department at a private school in Jackson Hole. But eventually Lissandrello’s vagabond existence wore thin. She wanted a career both challenging and rewarding, and thought finance might make a good transition. “I figured an MBA would be the quickest way to jumpstart my career,” she says.
It was a comfort to find that she was not alone in her non-traditional path to the MBA. And from her first finance course, she knew she had made the right choice.
So did Amazon, which hired Lissandrello as a senior financial analyst. She began working on the company’s fulfillment supply chain and now covers retail health and beauty products.
It’s a dream position for someone who, like her employer, tends to be data-driven. “I have this great job in the city,” she says, “and the mountains in my backyard.”
Update: Now working at Microsoft as the senior finance manager for the Surface Tablet, Lissandrello continues to combine finance work at a data-driven tech company with proximity to great ski slopes.