Category Archives: MBA

On breaking the mould

Guest post by Robert Mercer-Nairne (MBA 1971 and PhD 1989)
Dr. Mercer-Nairne actively seeks “to define how human organization forms and evolves as an expression of evolution as a whole.” His work can be found in novels like The Letter Writer, set in Bellevue, WA, to more recently in regular contributions to the Huffington PostMercer-Nairne currently resides back home in Scotland where he continues to grow beyond his original focus on organization theory.

Dr. Robert Mercer-NairneProbably the greatest challenge facing the developed world is growth. This is not least because we are unclear what the word means. We have various statistical definitions, such as the augmentation of our gross domestic product—essentially the level of our economic interactions with one another—but our gut instincts tell us that such measures may not address the quality of growth. One example of that is our increasing awareness that the lifestyles we enjoy today may be adversely affecting what our environment will be tomorrow. The post-war notion that we can look forward to a better future for ourselves and our children has become decidedly tarnished.

Probably the greatest challenge facing the academic profession right now is how to escape from its own departmental rigidities so that the challenges facing the human world can be looked at afresh. Are these problems connected? I think so. The expression Breaking the Mould refers to doing something differently, after it has been done in the same way for a long time. In the scientific world, the physicist Thomas Kuhn called these mould-breakings ‘paradigm shifts’. Because of their fundamental nature, they inevitably upset a lot of careers laboriously built upon the old way of seeing things. Consequently their heralds, like the three kings, are invariably dismissed as being weirdoes, troublemakers or just plain delusional.

In most walks of life, the line between maverick and idiot is narrow. Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff is a buffoon whose comic utterances often embody a wisdom which would be unpalatable to the status quo without humor. In his short story The Emperor’s New Clothes, Hans Christian Anderson uses the innocence of a child to puncture the crowd’s acceptance of the emperor’s sartorial magnificence (two swindlers make him an ‘invisible suit’ that can be ‘seen’ only by the worthy and naturally his sycophantic subjects see it even though there is nothing there). Philosophers occasionally debate whether the sane are insane and the insane sane. And even the scientific quest for objective reality can be subverted by the context within which a scientific question is phrased.

My own area of interest – the nature of structure in the evolutionary process—spans every discipline imaginable qualifying me for the accolade insane idiot, although I would prefer maverick. What I am fairly certain of, however, is that while we need the mould—without structure we have nothing – we must pay far more attention than we do to the process whereby moulds are broken and new moulds are formed. And unless you believe in a deterministic universe (and I certainly don’t) space must be left for the creative impulse to work—in politics, in business, in academe.

In the twentieth century we allowed ourselves to be led seriously astray by the false assumption that there was such a thing as inevitable social progress which overrode any moral notion of individual right or wrong. Structure always and everywhere is a function of context. In the conscious, human world, that context is shaped by our values. Start there and growth suddenly becomes limitless and sacred cows (or sacred moulds) less sacred.

Perfect is the enemy of good

The Evening MBA Program recently hosted its first ever case competition for the second-year Evening MBA students. The competition served as an opportunity for students to apply what they learned in their first-year core classes toward a simulated business case. This year’s case was developed by Sadie Raney, a third-year Evening MBA student. The winning team, comprised of Garin Wedeking, Abhi Thinesh Rathinavelu, Michael Pamphlet, Brad Waidelich and Derek Zahajko, has shared what helped them succeed.

EveMBACaseCompWhat did you learn from the competition?
This felt like a round of “speed-dating” with our new group. It gave us an opportunity in a week’s time to identify team members’ strengths and quickly discover how to best work together. The best trait we share is that none of us needs to be in charge for any reason other than to get the project done. We have quickly learned how to let each other take the reins, as well as to give each other space and time at one’s discretion with the understanding that everyone is overbooked. It’s a fact of grad school.

What made your team successful?
We set early expectations of what we were going to do, and then each executed on our commitments. Those expectations were not equal in work load, but that didn’t matter. When you start keeping score you make room for excuses. To quote a teammate “All (five) of us should be pulling 25%.” The trick is actually doing that.

How could you apply what you learned in the competition to your job?
Since the case intentionally provided little detail, it forced our team to quickly and rationally make assumptions and move forward. We could have chosen to jump down rabbit holes in order to make real-world parallels, but we didn’t think that would create a better product in the end. This parallels the real-world in that sometimes time-sensitive situations or opportunities arise where rapid action is required and time is not available to acquire more data or more data may simply not exist.

Did it teach you to think about business issues in a different way?
Often times we have the inclination to think there is only one right answer. In this case, all three options could have been viable options for the company. It came down to the rationality behind the option and ultimately the ability to execute on the idea within the time frame. Parfait est l’ennemi du bon.

Learn more about the Evening MBA Program.

Get started early on career management

Guest post by Naomi Sanchez, EdD, CMC, Assistant Dean, MBA Career Management

MBA Career Day at StarbucksEmployers are meeting with incoming MBA students before classes start and internship recruiting has been pushed back into early fall. Year-round networking is required for students in today’s job market. Why? Competition for companies to find the best and brightest is fierce. MBA students are entering a competitive job market and preparation for the interview season starts early. At Foster, we offered several summer workshops on professional brand development, interviewing skills and resume preparation. We also held a special summer orientation for incoming international students to prepare them for recruiting. MBA students will need to have both hard and soft skills to be successful in today’s job market. They must be able to articulate who they are, what they have to offer and what they want to accomplish in their career. Though it may seem simple, considerable preparation for this conversation is required. We teach the three Cs to students: Competence, Confidence and Connections. They need to be strong in all three to find the next step in their career. And they must start building and developing themselves for this challenging job market as soon as they arrive. In light of this competitive landscape, here are my three pieces of advice for the MBA Class of 2015:

  1. Know your professional brand
  2. Have the drive to make things happen
  3. Write thank you notes regularly

Thank you to Starbucks for hosting Career Day for the MBA class of 2015 on Friday, September 13.

Meet the 2013-2014 Fritzky Leadership Fellows

Courtney Biggs
Courtney Biggs
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Courtney Biggs is a second-year MBA student at the Foster School of Business, focusing on Marketing and Finance. In addition to her role as a Leadership Fellow, she is a Peer Advisor, sits on the Board of the Diversity in Business Club, and serves a Board Fellow for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest. She has a BA from Vassar College in Art History and Economics, and an MA in Art History from the University of Southern California. Prior to starting at Foster, she worked at the Honolulu Theatre for Youth.Courtney chose to participate in the Fritzky Leadership Fellows program because she found her Leadership Fellow to be a tremendously helpful resource during her first year of the MBA program, and would like to provide the same sort of help and guidance to incoming first year students this year. She is enthusiastic about providing her peers with opportunities to develop their leadership abilities, as well as utilizing the Fritzky Leadership Fellows program as an opportunity to nurture and grow her own leadership development.
Evan Daikoku
Evan Daikoku

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Originally from Seattle, Evan attended Claremont McKenna College, where he majored in organizational psychology and government. Prior to starting the MBA program at Foster, he worked for five years in Deloitte Consulting’s Human Capital practice in San Francisco and Seattle. This summer, Evan completed his internship at Nordstrom, as a member of the Corporate Strategy team leading multiple growth and innovation centered initiatives – including international expansion, capital budgeting, and customer service experience.He is honored to be a Leadership Fellow and is excited to serve as a resource for first year students and help develop their own leadership skills.
Joel Duck
Joel Duck
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Prior to enrolling in the Foster MBA program, Joel Duck received his Industrial Engineering degree in 2002 from Texas Tech University and moved to Seattle to begin his new life in the great Pacific Northwest.  He spent two years working in the WA district office for UPS in their management training program in Operations Excellence and as the Seattle Hub Industrial Engineer.  More recently, he spent 7 years working for Swagelok as a Key Account Manager, developing new business relationships with a variety of clients including Boeing, Puget Sound Energy, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, and World CNG.  After graduating from the Foster MBA program he plans to pursue a career in Marketing and Consulting.Joel is excited and honored to be a part of the Fritzky Leadership Fellows and hopes to provide the same level of support he received from his fellows as a first year student.  He lives in West Seattle with his wife Collette and two clownish English bull terriers.  He enjoys playing guitar, Seahawk & Husky football, camping, grilling, aquariums, games of all sorts, and hosting great parties.
Luke Goodrich
Luke Goodrich
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Before returning to school, Luke was a Customer Strategy Consultant in the technology industry with Accenture Management Consulting. Luke also and managed multichannel marketing campaigns for an online retailer, and deployed twice to Iraq, where he was an infantry team leader in the Army. At Foster, Luke is focusing on marketing and entrepreneurship. During his internship, he determined the ideal market, and developed a commercialization plan, for an early-stage medical diagnostic technology. He is excited to be a Leadership Fellow to contribute to the Foster community, and to continue to develop his own leadership abilities.
Liza Green
Liza Green
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A native of Virginia, Liza lived in Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon before relocating to Seattle for business school. Her professional experience spans various industries, from restaurants to biotechnology and education. She is most passionate about the food industry, and spent her summer interning in brand management at Starbucks. In her second year at Foster she is a Leadership Fellow and president of Foster Foodies, among other things.She looks forward to developing her leadership skills in both of these roles, and is excited to serve as a resource for the incoming class at Foster!
Zach Gretch
Zach Gretch
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Prior to joining the Foster MBA Program, Zach worked as a consultant for PwC’s Advisory Services practice. Focused in the technology sector, he led and supported a broad range of business initiatives in areas such as risk management, market research, mergers and acquisitions, and process improvement. While at Foster, Zach is focused on building his skill set in the areas of marketing and strategy. He completed his summer internship with a sales strategy team at Philips Healthcare.Zach views the Fritzky Leadership Fellows program as a special opportunity to work on developing both himself and others. His goals for the program include: expanding his leadership knowledge through studying the art and learning from others, building personal leadership skills and experience through interaction with his first year teams and peers, and supporting growth by recognizing and encouraging leadership qualities and behaviors in others.Away from business school, Zach invests his time primarily in sports, exercise, and family. He and his wife excitedly await the birth of their first child, due in February of 2014.
Dennis Grubbs
Dennis GrubbsLinkedIn Icon
Dennis Grubbs is a lifelong Northwest resident and also earned his Bachelors Degree from the University of Washington.  Prior to coming back to Foster, Dennis worked in mortgage lending and then digital marketing at Microsoft.  In addition to taking on leadership roles in a number of clubs at Foster, Dennis is extremely honored to have been selected to take part in the Fritzky Leadership Fellows Program.He feels it will be a great opportunity to develop his leadership skills while also lending support to first-year students; something he appreciated having when he was a first year.  He is looking forward to this huge personal growth opportunity.
Kyle Hiatt
Kyle HiattLinkedIn Icon
Kyle Hiatt is a former Army Officer who is focusing strategy and finance at Foster. He majored in international relations at Tufts University, and studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia. Kyle grew up in Rhode Island, but has spent time living all over the United States throughout his career in the Army, including Georgia, Kentucky, Arizona, Southern California, and Washington.  Kyle decided to stay in Washington because it is the place where he sweats the least.Kyle decided to get his MBA to facilitate his transition from a career in the military to a career in business.  At Foster, he is on the executive boards of the Operations Club, Consulting Society, and the Sports Business Club.  This past summer Kyle interned at Deloitte, consulting on a supply chain project at Wal-Mart Headquarters in Arkansas.  He hopes to be in a management position one day, where he can help his employees feel fulfilled and valued as members of a team. Kyle sees the Leadership Fellows program as the perfect opportunity to test his abilities to work with and mentor groups of individuals striving toward collective success.When he is not hanging out in Paccar Hall, Kyle enjoys spending time with his dogs, watching and playing sports, running, hiking, and exploring the city.
Alyssa Hochman
Alyssa HochmanLinkedIn Icon
Prior to attending Foster, Alyssa spent close to seven years working as a Project Manager/Implementation Consultant at Epic, a healthcare software company based in Verona, Wisconsin.  She earned her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and was a 4-year varsity member of the Women’s Swim Team.  Alyssa is passionate about improving health-care delivery and is interested in the intersection between clinical care and technology.As a Fritzky Leadership Fellow, Alyssa endeavors to help and support first-year students as they navigate the MBA program. She is also interested in furthering her own leadership development and working with this year’s cohort of Leadership Fellows.
Andrew Kepley
Andrew KepleyLinkedIn Icon
Andrew comes to the Foster School of Business from his hometown of Washington DC. After graduating from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Andrew worked for Deloitte Consulting. At Foster, Andrew is focused on opportunities that build upon the skills he developed as a consultant while furthering his interests of marketing, strategic planning, and leadership.Andrew spent his summer interning for Brooks Running where he focused on the organization’s culture as the path to innovation. As a Leadership Fellow, Andrew is excited to further his leadership abilities while having the chance to better connect with first year students.
Cecily Northup
Cecily NorthupLinkedIn Icon
Cici is a second-year MBA student at the Foster School of Business. Prior to attending Foster, Cici worked as a senior analyst for a market research and consulting firm in Portland, Oregon where she led custom, mixed-method, proprietary research projects for Fortune 500 healthcare and technology companies. She is hoping to pursue a career in marketing, strategy and/or business development following graduation. Cici holds a BA in psychology from Columbia University and enjoys playing soccer, hiking, and skiing.
Carlton Wilson
Carlton WilsonLinkedIn Icon
Before moving to Seattle in 2010, Carlton worked at an independent music label in his hometown of Washington, DC. He traveled the world as a tour manager, then became the COO of the label’s own music venue. After moving to Seattle, Carlton became a financial advisor primarily working with middle-income families.Carlton is concurrently pursing dual masters in Business and Health Care Administration, with a goal of working at a non-profit health care provider.  Over the summer he interned at Virginia Mason Medical Center, where he helped the Graduate Medical Education department prepare for new regulations in the training of resident physicians.As a Leadership Fellow, Carlton is looking forward to helping guide the incoming class through the fun and challenging process of growth here at Foster.  Additionally, Carlton is a member of the Honor Council, MBAA VP of Academic Affairs, as well as a board member of several student groups.  Trying to be a good Seattleite, Carlton spends his free time sailing, cycling, and running.

 

Learn more about the Leadership Fellows program here.

Focus on career services drives MBA placements, ranking

Interview with Naomi Sanchez, Assistant Dean, MBA Career Services

In the recent U.S. News ranking of MBA Programs, Foster’s placement rate for 2012 graduates three months from graduation was higher than any other school in the top 25. Why did Foster do so well this past year?

Naomi Sanchez:  We started with great students. Beyond that, we had a very intentional program this year. We offered boot camps to prepare students for their interviews. We reached out to employers that had not been affiliated with Foster before and they began to recruit with our office. We brought on competencies that are necessary for the competitive work world, including people with background in corporate marketing, HR and finance. So we all have industry backgrounds that enable us to see what employers are looking for, and to make that very, very important match of students and graduates with corporations and companies – both large and small companies. It helps that we have a great mix in the Pacific Northwest of both entrepreneurial opportunities as well as the more traditional Fortune 100 companies. And, of course, we’re right next door to some technology giants, with Microsoft and Amazon in our back yard. Because Foster has such a great relationship with companies like these, we’re able to create networking opportunities that other students would not have.

You’re an advocate for getting students focused on the search for internships and jobs early in the MBA program. Why is that important?

NS:  We face the same challenge that career professionals across the country face today: How fast can we prepare our students for the work world, knowing that our students are here because they are interested in career advancement? Once we focus on that, we have to look at what we do here in MBA Career Services as something that begins even before they enter the classroom. We are looking at touch-points prior to the start of classes in the fall. We’re going to be taking a “fast-start” approach to reaching newly-admitted students prior to September. If you think about it, the profile of the new employee is based on what they did prior to the MBA program and what they are able to talk about in January of their first year. Students literally have only a few months in which to prepare for that first interview, which could determine whether or not they are employed the following year. So we need to get a head start on working with students because of the competitive nature of MBA hiring today. It’s as simple as that.

You’ve developed a system of working with students to help them effectively define their personal brand and market themselves to employers. Can you describe that system? Why has it been so effective?

NS:  What we did this year was a bit different. We made a concerted effort to get close to students. We instituted a peer advising program for second year students, who provide services and counseling to first-year students. For that to be effective, we had to understand what the second-year students were facing in terms of their career issues. We offered five grants to clubs to promote career services within their memberships. We also offered a professional development course that focused on recruiting, case interviewing and behavioral interviewing, business etiquette, business writing – all the essentials for a student being able to be successful in the recruiting process. We implemented a new software system that helps us to track every attendance of a student to any of our events. It allows us to note achievements, changes or challenges a student might have that our coaches can work with. I think that gets us into a different relationship with students, which helps us help them find the opportunities they’re seeking, because they often change over time. So there are a number of different initiatives I think have brought us closer to students.

If I’m a prospective MBA student who is considering applying to Foster, what do I need to know about the career services offered at the school.

NS:  If you’re a prospective student, I think you’re coming in at a time when the leadership of the school has realized the importance of career development, and has put resources in this area, and has built a world-class team of people that cares about every individual student. We provide advising, training for the recruiting process, help with salary negotiations, and outreach to the best companies that hire MBAs today – globally — and we are there to make sure that every student has the optimum opportunity to find a great job. As a result, I have full confidence that every student is capable of finding a great job – not just any job – but a great job.

Rotary First Harvest: adapting to new bylaws

Guest post by Laura Peirano, 2012-2013 Board Fellow

The Consulting & Business Development Center’s Board Fellows Program places Foster MBA and Evans School MPA students as non-voting board members of local nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit agencies participating in the program reach diverse communities with different passions and interests.

At the annual Net Impact conference in Portland in fall of 2011, I met Benjamin Rasmus who works for the nonprofit Rotary First Harvest (RFH). RFH locates surplus produce, coordinates the harvesting, packaging, and distribution of it in order to solve two problems: leftover crops that go to waste and hungry Americans in need of nutrition. I’m very passionate about nutritious food and the food system in America, so I asked Benjamin if RFH would want to partner with the UW Board Fellows Program. We had a group meeting and decided it was a great fit and I became the Board Fellow.

As a Board Fellow for Rotary First Harvest, I attended RFH’s strategic planning meeting in September along with many RFH Board of Directors meetings from May 2012 to May 2013. As part of the UW Foster School of Business Board Fellows 2012-2013 Nonprofit Board Leadership Seminar, I also attended twelve hours of class sessions during which I learned about nonprofit strategic planning, structural analysis, effective Board governance, and changing Board structures.

In order to get to know the way RFH works first hand, I volunteered at several work parties to help pack produce at Northwest Harvest and volunteered at the local food bank. The Northwest Harvest facility is clean, with an abundance of volunteers wearing hairnets and gloves, working tirelessly while chatting, laughing and getting to know each other. I was impressed by how easy it seemed to package food for 100,000 meals in four hours.

The University Food Bank receives produce from Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline, so a portion of the fruits and vegetables there go through RFH on the way. When I volunteered at the University Food Bank, I was able to witness the supply chain in action, as well as the people who are benefitting from this nonprofit’s amazing work. After sorting donated produce and organizing it in the food bank store, I helped check out customers and bag their groceries. It was rewarding to see people who would not have access to this food without the Food Bank picking out their food for the week. Rotary First Harvest plays its part by making sure more of the food available comes from wholesome fruits and vegetables.

There are hundreds of nonprofits in Washington State, and only thirty-six of them were selected to participate in the UW Board Fellows Program. Of all of these strong nonprofits, Rotary First Harvest has one of the highest functioning and successful Boards in the program, which made it difficult to find a topic with problems to solve. Since RFH recently updated its bylaws, I decided to focus on the transition from the old bylaws to the new bylaws and on ways that the transition could be more successful. My recommendations include evaluating the level of Board involvement, using metrics to evaluate Board success, and engaging the Advisory Board.

Rotary First Harvest Board of Directors is a successful, strategic and nimble Board that has identified and taken steps to correct the problems that have arisen. The fact that the bylaws are frequently reviewed and updated shows that the Board is continually looking for ways to improve. I presented my findings and recommendations in May 2013 to the Board of Directors. My recommendations suggest ways that the Board can continue to be successful and even exceed expectations. It was a great experience working with the board, learning how a board functions and how their strategic objectives shape the success of the nonprofit.

Foster Idea Lab participants brainstorm sustainable solutions

Looking for a challenge? How about trying to cut total emissions from the global commercial aviation fleet in half—even as it doubles from 20,000 to a projected 40,000 planes—by 2050.

That tall order is the very real pledge of the world’s aviation industry.

And leading the quixotic charge is the Boeing Company, whose Bill Glover provided the keynote for the 2013 Foster Idea Lab, a kind of high-level sustainability brainstorming session hosted by Net Impact at the University of Washington Foster School of Business.

Glover, the vice president of global business development and policy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, offered a portal into his firm’s efforts to produce more efficient, lower-emitting aircraft through innovative on-board technologies, smarter materials and an all-out push to develop a jet-worthy renewable fuel.

He recounted Boeing’s catalytic effort to drive the first successful biofuel-powered commercial airplane flight, and its legacy in thousands of subsequent test, demonstration and commercial biofueled flights in the past few years.

“Now we need to industrialize it,” Glover said. “Make this work on an industry-wide scale to drive down the carbon footprint of aviation. That’s one of the great opportunities that we have. We’re at the beginning, and we have a long way to go.”

High-level brainstorm

Facing the big challenges of sustainability was the theme of the Idea Lab. Some 40 senior sustainability officers from a wide range of companies huddled with each other and with Foster MBA students to cross-pollinate solutions to the challenges of their organizations to operate more sustainably. Among the organizations participating were Microsoft (the Idea Lab sponsor), Boeing, Starbucks, Amazon, T-Mobile, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and many others.

The event was organized by the Foster School’s chapter of Net Impact, the international MBA organization devoted to inspiring a new generation to use their careers to tackle the world’s toughest social and environmental problems.

National Champs

Foster MBAs won the national Net Impact Case Competition in 2011 and 2013, and reached the finals in 2012. At the Idea Lab, Gabe Jones, Ryan Scott and Chris Walker of the winning team reported on the school’s most recent victory this past February at the University of Colorado.

The case challenged student teams to navigate Newmont Mining’s efforts to begin mining gold in a fictional African nation. The Foster team’s winning solution was centered on the creation of a Trusted Partners Program—a kind of independent escrow account managed by Newmont executives, stakeholders from local and national government, and NGO partners—that would manage profit sharing to benefit both company shareholders and local residents in the areas of environmental, social and educational.

The plan was simple, feasible and implementable. Said Scott: “The question we kept asking ourselves was, what will the board do next week? After we finish our presentation, can the board actually act on this? I think that’s what earned us the win.”

Water, plastics, and dirty data

Foster Net Impact’s faculty advisor Elizabeth Stearns closed the event with a bracing reminder of our rampant overuse of water, plastics and “dirty” data.

The senior lecturer pointed out the tens of gallons of water it takes to produce a cup of coffee or glass of wine, the hundreds of gallons to produce a t-shirt or can of beer, and the thousands to produce a pair of blue jeans or a bar of chocolate.

And she challenged anyone who produces packaging to consider the effect of plastics—300 million tons produced annually, 90 percent of which can be recycled but only 10 percent that is recycled.

Stearns called for a new paradigm. “It’s not enough to recycle,” she said. “We should be focusing on upcycling—the cradle-to-cradle creation of something for the expressed purpose of later being reused, perhaps as something else.”

As for dirty data, Stearns reported that the computing industry and the “cloud” are consuming 623 billion kilowatts of energy and 5.5 billion gallons of water annually, producing 50 million tons of toxic e-waste, and emitting 680 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions—2-3 percent of the world’s total emissions.

“We have to start rethinking our business processes in every industry,” she said. “If we don’t, we won’t have a business.”

But Stearns also pointed out that there are “lots of wonderful solutions out there.” As exemplars, she cited Singapore’s successful gray-water-to-drinking-water company NEWater, the collapsible, upcyclable container used by Japan’s I LOHAS, and the comprehensively sustainable Belgium-based cleaning products company Ecover.

“When you work in sustainability, it’s easy to feel that there isn’t a way out, that the situation is hopeless,” Stearns said. “But the people in the room are already convinced that we have to do things more sustainably. We just have to know that we can do things more sustainably.

Global change marketplace: how the GSEC Trade Show brings the world to UW

trade showOver its nine year history, the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business has brought awareness of pressing global issues to thousands of people – student competitors; competition mentors, judges and coaches; university partners; student volunteers; friends, family and supporters. So far, the competition has engaged over 2000 students of diverse educational disciplines and levels from around the world in tackling complex global social problems with entrepreneurial spirit and innovative market-based solutions.

At the competition’s culmination, semi-finalist university student teams (30-60 students per year) from around the world travel to Seattle for a week to learn about social enterprise, receive professional guidance and connections, network with each other and compete for prizes.

GSEC’s cross-cultural exchange is highlighted at the Trade Show, where semi-finalist teams each give their “pitch” to sell their business ideas to Trade Show judges, who act as mock investors, as well as students and community members. They often have prototypes, photos, videos and stories to illustrate the challenges they are facing and the inspirational impacts of their solutions. As a result, these issues become real, even for those who have never experienced them firsthand. Judge Loretta Little explains: “I have always felt and try to teach my kids that we’re citizens of the world. You need to put yourself in other people’s shoes. What better way than to meet people from around the world who are willing to come forward and share problems with you and what they think might be solutions to those problems.”

Teams often use prize money and connections made during GSEC to help launch their business, which can create employment and have other positive social impacts back home. Archived and streaming video of competition events, media coverage locally and in the student competitors’ universities and communities, and even the competitors own blogs and social media extends the education still further – allowing even those who cannot take part in the competition to feel inspired by the innovations being proposed to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Trade Show judge David Parker summed up why he volunteers each year: “The new ideas that are emerging every year from young people – it’s just astounding – they’re already creating patents, engaging with partners for manufacturing new devices, they’ve been able to engage with experts in the geographies of high need that they hope to get their solutions to – I just love seeing that passion, energy and creativity and innovation emerge and I continue to be impressed year after year with the applicants, the competitors and their ideas.”

GSEC is open to currently enrolled degree-seeking students in any discipline, at any level of study, and at any higher education institution worldwide who submits a plan that uses business principles to create a sustainable solution to poverty, health and economic growth in the developing world. Applications for the 10th annual competition are due November 12, 2014. Learn more at http://www.foster.washington.edu/gsec/

Being contrarian and right

Guest post by Sean Murphy, Foster MBA 2014
He attended the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which was organized by Ken Denman, Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Foster School.

The Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship promised to be an engaging and informative event that I thought might be a good use of a Friday. What it turned out to be was most likely the best day of my MBA experience. Ken Denman brought in an incredible line-up that focused on topics ranging from funding to team creation to the next big themes in business. The day started with a heavy hitter and just kept getting better. Charles Songhurst, Microsoft’s General Manager of Corporate Strategy, spoke about adjacencies and outlined several observations that could be acted upon. There were some common points such as surrounding oneself with those more intelligent/hardworking/ethical than you and the Gladwellian 10k hour metric, but there were also some great insights new to me. One such point was that diplomacy is virtually unknown in the tech industry. Songhurst recommended that practicing empathy, predicting how others will act/react, and adapting to cultural norms of your target will put you at a significant advantage in the tech space. He also drew several observations about founder-led companies and professional management-led companies, arguing that self-cannibalization requires the confidence and vision of a founder. Songhurst spoke of comparing the earnings of founder-led and non-founder-led tech companies and claimed a 15% difference favoring the founders. He suggested a simple investment strategy would be going long on founders and shorting all others. Very interesting way to kick off the day.

Day of Innovation and EntrepreneurshipA series of panels followed. We heard from Ghia Griarte (Saints Capital), Michelle Goldberg (Ignition Partners), and Andrew Tweed (Thomvest Ventures) about how their VCs assess potential opportunities. A common theme from the panel was the delineation of feature, product, and company and how the market appetite is shifting to smaller, simpler bites. On figuring out what a product or service is or offers, Goldberg said, “Don’t make me think.” Another point repeatedly addressed was the growing demand of the enterprise experience to mimic the consumer experience in UX and hardware. Tweed mentioned using consumer trends to predict what might be happening in the enterprise space soon and investing in back-end mechanics that would enable this shift.

We then switched gears to the non-profit world and heard from Kushal Chakrabarti, Doug Plank, and James Gutierrez about changing the non-profit landscape creating sustainable, long-term success. As expected, they were very passionate about their work and got me seriously considering a non-profit path.

Nilofer Merchant spoke next about the evolution of social media and the importance of co-creation in the future. She emphasized the framework of openness of ideas as one of the key drivers of growth, citing TEDx and Google’s Android as examples.

After a lunch break we returned to a panel of Marc Barros, Zaw Thet, and Donna Wells on assembling nimble and functionally diverse teams. They all emphasized the importance of your network and their reliance on them for the vetting of potential employees. Curiously, it was mentioned that no matter how many interviews you’ve done or people you’ve hired, it’s still difficult to weed out people that end up not meshing. The fit and attitude of hires was especially highlighted when working with a small team, as one bad apple can wreck the atmosphere pretty quickly.

Day of Innovation and EntrepreneurshipKen Denman moderated the next panel which focused on the next big themes and featured Seth Neiman (Crosspoint Venture Partners), Tim Porter (Madrona Ventures), and Jason Stoffer (Maveron). They got pretty philosophical and were dropping gems left and right. They approached VCs as incubators to test strategic theories about the market. Getting the market direction is difficult enough, but timing was a big theme of this talk as well. The key to making money is being contrarian, and being right. The key to identifying these investments is in looking at adjacencies when the future isn’t immediately accessible. What must happen if the things that are in motion today were to take the next step? There are many supporting steps that must first happen, and these can be very lucrative investments. Neiman mentioned investing in supporting infrastructure during the internet ramp up in the last millennium and saw a $100M fund return $13B. Jaw-dropping, even by VC standards.

Ben Casnocha, co-author of The Start-Up of You, brought the day to a close with a riveting personal story and the idea of applying entrepreneurial business thinking to your life. Setting aside time to read and think, increasing your knowledge every day, earmarking funds for meeting with interesting people; these were all suggestions of how to approach your personal development as you would a business. He encouraged students to consider youth and the opinion of our cohort as our value-add in connecting with senior, experienced leaders. It was a great, inspirational capstone to the day.

The amount of knowledge that came out of this event was mind-blowing. I filled more pages in my notebook in eight hours than I do in an entire quarter of class. An amazing array of brilliant, successful, and humble people took the time to share their thoughts and experience with an eager audience and I couldn’t be more pleased to be in attendance. I don’t know how this could be topped next year, but I will certainly be there to find out. And you should too…

Watch videos of all the sessions.

Focus on career services drives MBA placements, ranking

Interview with Naomi Sanchez, Assistant Dean, MBA Career Services

Q: In the recent U.S. News ranking of MBA Programs, Foster’s placement rate for 2012 graduates three months from graduation was higher than any other school in the top 25. Why did Foster do so well this past year?

Naomi SanchezNaomi Sanchez:  We started with great students. Beyond that, we had a very intentional program this year. We offered boot camps to prepare students for their interviews. We reached out to employers that had not been affiliated with Foster before and they began to recruit with our office. We brought on competencies that are necessary for the competitive work world, including people with background in corporate marketing, HR and finance. So we all have industry backgrounds that enable us to see what employers are looking for, and to make that very, very important match of students and graduates with corporations and companies – both large and small companies. It helps that we have a great mix in the Pacific Northwest of both entrepreneurial opportunities as well as the more traditional Fortune 100 companies. And, of course, we’re right next door to some technology giants, with Microsoft and Amazon in our back yard. Because Foster has such a great relationship with companies like these, we’re able to create networking opportunities that other students would not have.

Q: You’re an advocate for getting students focused on the search for internships and jobs early in the MBA program. Why is that important?

NS:  We face the same challenge that career professionals across the country face today: How fast can we prepare our students for the work world, knowing that our students are here because they are interested in career advancement? Once we focus on that, we have to look at what we do here in MBA Career Services as something that begins even before they enter the classroom. We are looking at touch-points prior to the start of classes in the fall. We’re going to be taking a “fast-start” approach to reaching newly-admitted students prior to September. If you think about it, the profile of the new employee is based on what they did prior to the MBA program and what they are able to talk about in January of their first year. Students literally have only a few months in which to prepare for that first interview, which could determine whether or not they are employed the following year. So we need to get a head start on working with students because of the competitive nature of MBA hiring today. It’s as simple as that.

Q: You’ve developed a system of working with students to help them effectively define their personal brand and market themselves to employers. Can you describe that system? Why has it been so effective?

NS:  What we did this year was a bit different. We made a concerted effort to get close to students. We instituted a peer advising program for second year students, who provide services and counseling to first-year students. For that to be effective, we had to understand what the second-year students were facing in terms of their career issues. We offered five grants to clubs to promote career services within their memberships. We also offered a professional development course that focused on recruiting, case interviewing and behavioral interviewing, business etiquette, business writing – all the essentials for a student being able to be successful in the recruiting process. We implemented a new software system that helps us to track every attendance of a student to any of our events. It allows us to note achievements, changes or challenges a student might have that our coaches can work with. I think that gets us into a different relationship with students, which helps us help them find the opportunities they’re seeking, because they often change over time. So there are a number of different initiatives I think have brought us closer to students.

Q: If I’m a prospective MBA student who is considering applying to Foster, what do I need to know about the career services offered at the school.

NS:  If you’re a prospective student, I think you’re coming in at a time when the leadership of the school has realized the importance of career development, and has put resources in this area, and has built a world-class team of people that cares about every individual student. We provide advising, training for the recruiting process, help with salary negotiations, and outreach to the best companies that hire MBAs today – globally — and we are there to make sure that every student has the optimum opportunity to find a great job. As a result, I have full confidence that every student is capable of finding a great job – not just any job – but a great job.