Category Archives: MBA

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.

Standing room only: celebrating “entrepreneurial speed”

Outside the sun set gloriously over Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains.  Inside, even the sky couldn’t distract the entrepreneurs, student teams, judges, press and guests in Seattle’s Pier 66 ballroom from the excitement of the main event—the 15th annual University of Washington Business Plan Competition (BPC) awards.  Having no idea how the finalists had placed for the $68,000 in prizes, the crowd listened with rapt attention to each team’s one-minute pitch.

The diversity of the four finalist start-ups made it difficult for audience members to venture a guess who would take grand prize. Would it be Xylemed or Joey Bra? Bicycle Billboards or Urban Harvest? As each student ended his or her team pitch minute, you could almost hear guests thinking, “Fantastic idea!”

What Zulily CEO Darrell Cavens then shared during his keynote speech was how to get such fantastic ideas to market by leveraging what he calls “Zulily time.” Called “an entrepreneurial speed freak if there ever was one” by Geekwire, Cavens emphasized not only the importance of “going fast” but of using the Internet as a tool to tweak the offering, making it better each day along the way. “Don’t spend five months on your business plan—apologies to the professors in the room! Put that plan together, and try it, innovate on it, adjust it, move forward.”  Now launching 1,400 new styles of kid products a day, Zulily focuses on beating rivals to the punch while delivering exceptional customer service. “It’s what we do every single day,” Cavens explained.

The BPC prize winners are now putting that sentiment into practice.

The $25,000 WRF Capital Grand Prize winner, Urban Harvest, will soon convert one of Microsoft’s Redmond parking garage rooftops into an active garden, allowing them to “grow their own” lettuce and herbs rather than continue to truck their food service salad fixings from the Salinas Valley. The team of two Foster School of Business MBAs, Chris Sheppard (MBA/JD)  and Chris Bajuk (MBA/MS real estate), intend to put many more  commercial rooftops to better use as hydroponic gardens that serve building owners as well as the local community. In addition to delivering the benefits of local agriculture, the Urban Harvest co-founders, both former military, have made hiring fellow veterans a priority.

Xylemed, the winner of the $10,000 Jones Foundation second-place prize, provides cloud-based electronic patient tracking and operations management system for hospitals. Their  goal is to eliminate patient care white boards used in surgery departments and replace them with 60-inch screens that can be updated with current information from any hospital computer. Ben Andersen and Marc Brown led the team of Foster School Technology Management MBAs that designed the system.  Xylemed’s product is already used in several of Seattle’s top hospitals—including Harborview Medical Center and the UW Medical Center—to improve safety and communications while reducing costs and administrative headaches.

After gaining incredible national press coverage with their initial product launch, Joey Bra’s fashion- forward bra with a discreet cell-phone pocket garnered the team one of the BPC’s $5,000 finalist prizes. Marketed initially to female college students who need a place to stow their phone and keys while out on the town, the two Foster School undergraduate co-founders, Kyle Bartlow and Mariah Gentry, are now working quickly to introduce a sports bra version to market.

Finally, Biking Billboards, which brings mobile marketing focused on building strong, personal customer connections, won the second $5,000 finalist prize.  The company, whose founding team includes Foster undergraduates Curtis Howell and Claire Koerner as well as two non-students, is now expanding to Los Angeles. As existing clients T-Mobile and PEMCO can attest, Biking Billboard “brand ambassadors” are able to more authentically engage with micro-targeted consumers on specialized routes.

Former Schwab CMO and “mad woman” illuminates “talk to Chuck” case study in MBA advertising class

 
It’s Thursday afternoon, and in one of the University of Washington Foster School of Business classrooms, former Charles Schwab Chief Marketing Officer Becky Saeger was talking to MBA students about the experience of digging deep to revitalize a major brand. As the architect and marketing protagonist of the integrated “Talk to Chuck” campaign platform, Saeger had plenty to offer the students on this Harvard Schwab Case.
Former Schwab CMO Becky Saeger (middle) with Associate Dean Dan Turner and Senior Lecturer Elizabeth Stearns

She discussed the importance of the big picture marketing process. From there the focus was on the decision metrics, advertising strategy and execution, and ultimately how that contributed to Schwab’s overall brand objectives.

Saeger’s also great in her capacity as guest lecturer, which was her role in Marketing 540, taught by Elizabeth Stearns, senior lecturer. Saeger brings to life the lay of the land at Schwab. The year was 2004 and the CEO who hired her was replaced by Charles “Chuck” Schwab himself, reclaiming his role as CEO of the $4.2 billion company he founded in 1971. Saeger reinforced the problem as described in the Harvard case, on the potential for losses and eroding customer loyalty, as the company struggles to fulfill its promise to the individual investor.

Following Professor Stearns’ lead, Saeger asked as many questions as she answered. One interesting aspect of this class is that Stearns does not play the role of professor—but rather that of a marketing client. Students have formed teams acting as advertising agencies vying for Stearns’ business. There’s very little handholding – and that’s good, because as any marketing agency veteran will attest, clients expect initiative and brilliance. The students demonstrated considerable chutzpah—one memorable moment occurring when a student agency, Drapers’ Disciples, turned down Saeger’s request for an additional $50 million budget with their excellent ROI analysis.

In the end Saeger won out with exceptional rationale; moreover, she proved success.

This teaching model brings intense realism into the classroom, as do guests like Becky Saeger.  There was an exhilarating quality to the session, and an overwhelming sense that Foster MBAs are getting the best of rigor where it intersects relevance to their futures.

As a side note, there was some irony that the ‘agency’ challenging Saeger’s budget request was “Draper’s Disciples.” As it turns out, she began her career at Ogilvy & Mather in NY, where she made a name for herself with global brand campaigns for American Express, among other clients. A true Madison Avenue prodigy.