Category Archives: MBA

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.

Great manager vs. great leader

Guest post by Ben Flajole, Evening MBA 2014 and Evening MBAA VP of Alumni Affairs at the Foster School of Business

“If you’re up at a whiteboard listing all of the things that make a good leader, I don’t think many of you would put ’4.0 student,’ right?” With that remark, Eric Sprunk, VP of Merchandising and Product at Nike, saw most, if not all, of the crowd breathe a sigh of relief. As the featured speaker at the MBA Perspectives on Leadership event on January 10, Sprunk spent time discussing what, if not perfect grades, makes people great leaders.

Sprunk’s presentation on leadership at Nike highlighted some key differences between being a good manager and a good leader. To him, a good leader creates an environment in which people are encouraged and allowed to achieve their best work every day; a good manager makes sure the employees have what they need to be able to do that. He then referenced the traits he considers necessary for good leadership, which were defined by a student in a prior session as “soft skills”:

  • Courage: having authenticity and honesty in your interactions with others.
  • Energy: bringing great enthusiasm to your team and never asking for more from them than you are willing to give yourself.
  • Balance: knowing that burnout is real and that feeling like a good son, daughter, dad, mom, husband, and/or wife is crucial for producing your best work.

Ideally, as Sprunk stated, we’re able to be great managers and leaders simultaneously. However, that’s not always the case. While good managers generate good results, it is often good leaders that produce the best results by leading with vision, strategy, and having and exercising the traits listed above.

Watch the video below for more highlights from his talk.

Eric Sprunk, VP of Merchandising and Product at Nike from the Foster School of Business.

The MBA “Perspectives on Leadership” Speaker Series is organized by the Full-time and Evening MBAA and the Foster School’s Alumni team.

The sweet sniff of success: Kyle Polanski finds great potential in dog treats

Kyle Polanski

Kyle Polanski and Havana

Kyle Polanski eats dog food. So do his employees. In fact, he says, “It’s rare that we have a staff meeting and don’t taste some of the product.”  A little strange, perhaps, but if you’re picturing them spooning up mouthfuls of that smelly canned stuff, you’ve got the wrong idea.

Polanski, MBA 2008, is the CEO of Blue Dog Bakery, a dog treat company headquartered in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood. The bakery produces all-natural dog snacks made with the same kinds of ingredients you might find in your favorite cookie (minus the sugar and salt), and sells to retailers across the country.

Blue Dog Bakery was started in 1998 by Margot Kenly, who directed her passion for healthy, natural foods toward making natural dog treats with pure ingredients like whole wheat flour, molasses, oats, and peanut butter. Initially sold at Costco, the treats were a hit, and the bakery soon began receiving calls from other retailers like QFC, asking when they could get Blue Dog Bakery products on their shelves.  By 2008 the company was distributing biscuits to Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Petsmart outlets throughout the Northwest and the Northeast.

At about this time, Polanski, an MBA student at the UW Foster School, established Halibut Flat Partners, a search fund backed by 12 investors who had agreed to finance his acquisition of a promising local company. His plan, once he found a company to purchase, was to use his business savvy to make it grow.

During his search, Polanski met Kenly, and spent several months doing a deep dive into Blue Dog Bakery. “There was clearly potential for expanding the company, evolving the brand, and scaling distribution to a national level,” he said. Polanski acquired Blue Dog Bakery in 2009 and the rush was on.

Since then, the bakery has grown its geographic and retail footprints (its products are now in 12,000 stores across the country) and increased sales (30% since the beginning of 2012 alone). The brand has become popular in stores like QFC and Safeway, and gained attention from the media, appearing in the Puget Sound Business Journal, The Wall Street Journal, and U.S. News & World Report. Blue Dog even won the 2010 Supermarket News Category Excellence award.

Polanski and his now 7 employees have expanded their product line to include items like Doggie Cremes and Bakery Bones, and redesigned their packaging. The company also started Pet Treat Pantry, a program that donates boxes of dog treats to animal shelters in five regions across the country.

As he looks ahead, Polanski is focused on competing in the national market, vying with billion-dollar brands for the attention of pet-owners and their pups. He believes Blue Dog’s all-natural products can go head-to-head with anything the competition throws their way. “People want healthy, natural, and affordable for their pets,” he said. “That’s Blue Dog.”

Angel Eyes: MBAs view entrepreneurship through an angel investor lens

Entrepreneurs count on angel investors to provide seed-stage start-up funding, but very few entrepreneurship students ever get to set foot in an angel group as a member.

Enter CIE’s new MBA course: Angel Investing. Taught by Rob Wiltbank, the Foster School’s Neal Dempsey Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship and associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Willamette University, Angel Investing is a year-long course in which second-year MBAs learn about investing by participating as members in Seattle angel groups and making actual investments.

Wiltbank launched the course at Willamette University three years ago, and the class was recently included in Inc. Magazine’s list of the top 10 entrepreneurship courses in the country. But Wiltbank has long-standing ties to the University of Washington and Seattle. He earned his PhD in strategic management from the UW Foster School in 2005 and is a partner at Montlake Capital.

The class is clearly a departure from other MBA courses. “One of the good things about being in school is that you learn how things should be done. One of the bad things is that you don’t get to do them,” says Mark Partridge, a second-year MBA in the class.  “It’s rare that you get actual experience doing something as extraordinary as angel investing.”

“It’s a great integration program,” says Wiltbank, who has students in Seattle’s Alliance of Angels, Puget Sound Venture Club, Northwest Energy Angels, Seraph, WINGS, and Keiretsu Forum. “Students watch and evaluate pitches, identify potential investment opportunities, and perform extensive due diligence.” Ultimately, the class will make two or three $25,000 to $50,000 investments in promising start-ups.

Sound exciting? Definitely! Sound easy? Definitely not. “There’s a vertical learning curve,” admits Wiltbank. “Much of the content is unfamiliar, and students who excel in this course must be true entrepreneurs—self-motivated, with a willingness to put themselves out there.”

Students spend the year with a group of intelligent, savvy investors. After the course, they will know a great pitch when they see one, and those who become entrepreneurs will know what investors are looking for. “Their ability to pitch is dramatically enhanced,” says Wiltbank, adding that having this experience on their resume will make graduates very desirable to future employers. In an interview, he insists, “it’s the ultimate closer.”

Mark Partridge is just one quarter into the course, but he agrees that the experience he is gaining is an investment in his future. As for whether it will help him close on a future job, he smiles. “I’ll let you know.”

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.

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.

Board Fellows: making an impact and growing managerial skills

Johnnie MobleyJohnnie Mobley discovered the UW Business and Economic Development Center Board Fellows Program during his second year as an evening MBA student. Mobley was looking for an opportunity to make an impact in his community, learn about the process of becoming a board member and develop his leadership potential. In 2010, the Rainier Chamber of Commerce selected him as their board fellow.

During his fellowship Mobley was able to acquire executive management experience by having a direct and hands-on impact on how programs operate and help mold a community. He adds, “If there was ever a time for creativity, it is when you are serving a non-profit organization. If you want to be creative and innovative, serving in a non-profit organization is the place for you because there are goals that need to be met and there are extremely limited resources. I think that anyone who wants to be in management and is looking to further their career should serve on a non-profit board because it is a place where you can see if you have what it takes to be in management.”

The UW BEDC Board Fellows Program has been an integral component of the UW Foster MBA experience for the last 12 years and since 2009 of the UW Evans Masters in Public Administration program. As a board fellow, graduate students are provided the opportunity to serve for one year as non-voting members of local non-profits’ board of directors.

Mobley graduated from the Foster MBA Program in 2012 and currently works for Boeing. Upon graduation from the Board Fellows Program he was officially invited to join the board of the Rainier Valley Chamber and is now serving as treasurer. The Board Fellows Program is supported by Wells Fargo Bank and UPS. Learn how to nominate a nonprofit to become part of the Board Fellows Program.

Symposium explores healthcare crisis from every angle

Does the American healthcare industry require reform or revolution?

According to Brereton “Gubby” Barlow, CEO of Premera Blue Cross, it’s going to take a radical economic disruption to stem the runaway costs of an industry that threatens to swamp the US economy.

Barlow was the keynote speaker of the inaugural Symposium on Creating a Sustainable Healthcare System, co-hosted by Premera, one of the region’s largest healthcare insurers, and the University of Washington Foster School of Business Executive MBA Program.

The event, held October 26 at Seattle’s Bell Harbor International Conference Center, approached the overarching theme of “Economic Disruption in Healthcare” from every possible angle.

And there are many angles.

Paint it black

Barlow painted the big picture, specifically the ominous rise in health care costs as a component of the United States economy. The Congressional Budget Office reports that health care accounts for 18 percent of the nation’s GDP currently, and projects that it will account for a third of the economy by 2035 and continue climbing at a hastening clip.

“If left unchecked,” Barlow said, “health care and interest are going to bankrupt the economy.”

His solution is simple in concept if difficult in practice: clarify costs and coverage, and give consumers the power and responsibility to make their own choices.

This concept has been introduced in new high-deductible health plans that offer low premiums and tax-free healthcare savings accounts, but also impose greater out-of-pocket expenses. Barlow cited a Milliman study finding 50 percent less health spending on consumers in these new plans over traditional plans.

“We need to shelter patients from financial devastation,” he said. “But we also have to get consumers to have real skin in the game. It’s worked well in every other walk of economic life, from food to cars to computers.

Barlow emphasized that the shift of decision power in healthcare from the supply side—physicians, hospitals, government, insurers—to the demand side—consumers—is both necessary and inevitable.

“In health care finance and delivery, we’re still in the mainframe era: complex, sophisticated, extremely expensive,” said Barlow, a member of the Foster School’s Advisory Board. “Yet I’m optimistic that this is going to change for one simple reason: with health care, as with computers, when consumers get directly involved, costs will come down.”

Other perspectives

After Barlow’s keynote, the symposium program embarked on a more granular examination of the forces currently at work in the healthcare system—from Medicare to network integration to innovations in healthcare delivery—culminating in a panel focused on how to reconcile the issues.

Topics and speakers included:

“Challenges in Hospital Financing”
Edward Kim, Vice President of Goldman Sachs, Healthcare and Higher Education Group

“Economic Challenges in Biopharmaceutical R&D”
Roger M. Perlmutter, MD, Former Executive Vice President of R&D, Amgen

“Purchasing Innovation in Healthcare”
James C. Robinson, PhD, Director of the Berkeley Center for Health Technology

“Economic Impact on Provider Groups”
Lloyd David (EMBA), Executive Director/CEO, The Polyclinic

“Economic Forces in Network Integration”
Rodney F. Hochman, MD, Group President, Providence Health & Services

“New Breed Health System: Adapting Strategy to the Evolving Market Environment”
Megan Clark, Senior Consultant, Health Care Advisory Board

“Impact and Challenges of Medicare”
James C. Capretta, Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

A panel attempting to reconcile these diverse issues consisted of Brian Ancell, executive vice president of Healthcare Services & Strategic Development at Premera; Don Brunell, President of the Association of Washington Business; Dan Fulton, President & CEO of Weyerhaeuser; Rod Hochman, Group President of Providence Health & Services; and Johnese Spisso, Chief Health System Officer at UW Medicine.

Founding a symposium

The symposium was devised and driven by current Foster EMBA student Dr. John Henson, a neurologist and Associate Chief Medical Director at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. Sparked by the numerous healthcare industry questions of his EMBA classmates, Henson saw an opportunity to organize a panel rich in knowledge and experience and found a willing partner in Premera, which helped draw more than 350 participants to the symposium.

Additional sponsors were Point B Consulting, the Association of Washington Business, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Seattle City Club, the Washington Policy Center, and Providence Health & Services.

Social media judo

Guest post by Ryan Loren, Foster MBA 2013 and president of the Global Business Association
He attended the “Social Media: For Your Business?” roundtable, which was hosted by the Japan-America Society and Foster Global Business Center.   

Social Media: For Your Business?As any MBA student will tell you, networking is a must, but finding the time is tough. Meeting the right people, connecting with the right organizations—all are factors in where to spend your “extra” time.

For me, “Social Media: For Your Business?” was a no brainer; I had to go. Having spent nearly seven years living and working in Japan, as well as interning over the summer at one of the world’s largest PR and ad agencies (that also has a big social media team), I knew this would be a good opportunity to network and meet industry leaders who work internationally, have a connection to Japan, and are involved in social media.

Companies represented in the panel discussion were Starbucks, Microsoft, Ivy Worldwide, PSPINC, Nikkei Concerns, and Niconico. Each company representative gave a 10–15 minute presentation on their social media strategy and the impact social media has had on their organizations.

I learned effective social media strategy is about leverage, or as Nick White, partner and general manger of Ivy Worldwide, a word-of-mouth social media marketing consultancy firm, called it, “social media judo.” He said if your firm is going to have an effective strategy, you need to:

  • Listen.
  • Contribute on other sites.
  • Publish your own content and make sure to link back, cite, and propagate.
  • Don’t sell, rather soft sell your product or service.
  • Listen even more.

Seems simple, but in the ever changing social media world, it is anything but simple. The buying process has changed, the customers are changing, and the frameworks that we have grown to love/hate in our MBA studies are changing. Thankfully, events like these allow real-time perspective from industry leaders in organizations many of us will end up working for one day. The opportunity to meet, mingle, exchange business cards, and practice your elevator pitch with the panel and other attendees is a great way to go that extra mile and make genuine connections. You never know how or when you might come across the same people when searching for an internship, or in my case, a job.