Thinking about earning an MBA? When you’re ready to take the next step, Andy Chen, Assistant Director of Admissions, describes the many ways you can engage with staff and students to learn more about the program.
The Foster Full-time MBA Program has four deadlines each year for applying for admission. Which deadline should you shoot for? It depends. The most important thing is not to rush. Make sure you’re ready to submit your best application, advises Erin E. Town, Director of Admissions.
Genevieve Cohen (MBA 2013) needed experience. An elementary schoolteacher trying to make the considerable jump from education to business, Cohen knew she’d have to prove her mettle to employers, and demonstrate that she could apply her MBA knowledge to real-world challenges.
She found myriad opportunities to do just that at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. Internships with leading companies. Projects featuring live businesses and brands. And the MBA Strategic Consulting Program which, for the past decade, has deployed teams of graduate students to analyze business problems for a variety of successful firms in the region and beyond.
Gordon Neumiller, the program’s director, says that these education-in-action projects provide good value for clients—and essential value for students.
Foster School Dean Jim Jiambalvo agrees.
“The classroom is a great environment for learning theories and frameworks,” says Jiambalvo. “But it’s critical that students know how to apply these theories and frameworks to real-world problems. The MBA Strategic Consulting Program directly addresses this critical need, and ensures that our students can roll up their sleeves and solve the complex, unstructured problems they’ll face on the job.”
Ten years ago, Dave Albano (MBA 2004) was an MBA candidate with an English degree who had stumbled into the wireless telecom industry. “I found that I enjoyed solving problems and making businesses run more efficiently,” he says. “I became an internal consultant wherever I worked.”
At Foster, Albano parlayed this passion into an existing MBA student organization called the Business Consulting Network. As president, he worked—along the margins of his academic work—with Neumiller to recruit area businesses with strategic problems to solve, assign student teams, and provide quality control.
He and Neumiller believed that the experiences were so valuable—and time-consuming—that they should be worth class credit. They pitched the idea to school administration. And soon there was a formal class, then a requirement, then an official program of the Foster School.
Today the Full-time MBA Program requires a 10-week Applied Strategy project in the first-year core, and many second-year students and Evening MBAs elect to take on a longer Field Study project through the MBA Strategic Consulting Program.
“These projects are an invaluable counterpart of the academics in that you get actual experience and really get engaged,” says Albano, now a consultant at Accenture who continues to advise Foster teams and has delivered a “Consulting 101” intro to many Applied Strategy classes. “It’s critical to have a quality work experience to point to, especially when you’re a career changer like I was.”
This year’s model
The program’s portfolio of recent clients includes Fortune 500 corporations (Starbucks, Intel, PACCAR, Alaska Airlines), smaller firms (Outdoor Research, Web Turner, OneEnergy Renewables, Isernio’s Sausage), non-profits (Seattle Children’s Hospital, Seattle Opera), and, increasingly, firms farther from home (Machine Perception Technologies of San Diego, Scharffen Berger Chocolate of Hershey, Pennsylvania).
The type of project ranges from supply chain efficiency to expansion strategy to brand management to database marketing and anything in between.
One of last year’s collaborations was with Saltchuk Resources, a diversified holding company founded by long-time Foster Advisory Board member Mike Garvey.
The challenge? To develop a more robust and integrated Saltchuk corporate brand across its family of 35 distinct companies that are loosely assembled around a theme of transportation and distribution.
“This task was not in our skill set,” admits Saltchuk president Tim Engle (MBA 2002). “So we looked outside for help.”
He found the team of Foster Evening MBA Students—Etta Mends, Tyler Edgar, and Rose Tucker—was more than up to the task. They worked closely with the company’s many stakeholders to produce a set of guidelines, both internal and external, designed to make Saltchuk a stronger and more cohesive company.
Mends, who works full-time in finance at Boeing, found the deep dive into the unfamiliar waters of branding and organizational structure to be exhilarating. “Not only did this project offer me a completely different perspective on business,” she says, “it also gave me a glimpse into a smaller company that moves so quickly to adapt and evolve.”
The client was more than satisfied. “We got a heck of a deal,” says Engle. “In terms of return on investment, it’s tenfold, easily. Their work will guide our thinking for a long time to come.”
The largest and most consistent client of the Field Study Program is Microsoft, which generated five different projects this past year.
One of the longest running collaborations is with Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing venture. Under the guidance of Suresh Sathyamurthy (MBA 2007), group product marketing manager at Windows Azure (who recently joined EMC), Foster MBAs have helped scale the business, identify market opportunities, understand the partner ecosystem, and analyze strategy over the past few years.
“The quality of work has been extremely good,” says Sathyamurthy, who was introduced to Microsoft while doing a student consulting project defining value bundles for the Xbox console. “The Foster students collaborate well and work with the end outcome in mind. This collaboration stands out in every presentation and in every meeting.”
At the end of the day, standing out is the name of the game for every MBA looking to leverage rich experiences into interesting and impactful work.
“We always tell students that the way to turn their project into a good job is to do a good job on the project,” says Neumiller. “It may not land you a job with your client company, but it will help you get a job.”
Mends already has a good job, and really came to the Foster School to remain competitive. But she says that challenging experiences like the Saltchuk project have opened her world. “My ambitions of what I want to do are growing as I grow with the program,” she says.
For Cohen, the former schoolteacher, the MBA Strategic Consulting Program was an essential facet of her management education. Working with different combinations of classmates, she delivered a business development plan for Ecologists Without Borders, a supply chain solution for Alaska Airlines and an international expansion analysis for Starbucks, as well as a dynamite brand audit for Tequila Partida.
“Understanding the different types of clients, different personalities, different challenges that each consulting project brings were a critical piece of my education,” Cohen says.
Her first job after graduation from Foster? Consulting.
Guest post by Naomi Sanchez, EdD, CMC, Assistant Dean, MBA Career Management
Employers 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:
- Know your professional brand
- Have the drive to make things happen
- Write thank you notes regularly
Thank you to Starbucks for hosting Career Day for the MBA class of 2015 on Friday, September 13.
Learn more about the Leadership Fellows program here.
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.
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.
Meet Team Gangnam: “Work Hard, Play Hard”
Team Gangnam’s name comes from the popular Korean pop song “Gangnam Style”. Gangnam is the name of a district in Seoul, Korea where people are trendy, hip, and work very hard during the day, but play much harder at night. This represents the team’s spirit and motto for working together in the Technology Management MBA Program.
They met for the first time last November at the Welcome Reception. Now, halfway through TMMBA, Team Gangnam reflects back on their experiences to-date in the program and as a team.
Sujeet Jha is a program manager at Microsoft and manages a team that delivers data insights to business leaders. He joined TMMBA to gain the skills to successfully manage a business – either his own or as a P&L owner in a larger organization.
Sejo Kim was most recently an interactive project manager with a video game publisher based in South Korea. He has 13 years of experience in the tech sector and chose TMMBA because of the technology focus.
Farhad Teymurian works at Boeing as a project engineering manager. His goal in the TMMBA program is to fill the gap between his engineering and management experience.
Ajith Prabhakara is responsible for developing the product strategy and roadmap for GoSmart Mobile, a sub-brand of T-Mobile. He chose TMMBA because the program fit within his work schedule, had in-class learning, offered a rigorous and broad-based curriculum, and had a strong reputation and alumni network.
Jay Iyengar has a background in IT program and project management. She joined TMMBA to gain a broader perspective on how people, process, and technology relate to each other, especially in the global economy.
How has your study group enhanced your learning experience?
Sejo: I think that the best part of TMMBA program is the team activity. TMMBA students are extremely busy juggling their jobs and studies. Therefore, mutual aid among team members is essential for academic success. My team members are very smart, active and passionate so I get huge intellectual and moral support from them. On top of that, all my team members have different styles and strengths, which is very beneficial for me as well because all of them created a huge synergy effect as a team.
Sujeet: My study team brings diversity, different context, and different ways of approaching the same problem.
Ajith: My study group has made an incredible impact on my overall TMMBA learning experience! In addition to the teamwork and leadership skills that we’ve all learnt, I have especially enjoyed how our team discussions have exposed me to new ways of analyzing each situation. In addition, I’ve loved the cultural learning since our team had folks who lived in 5 countries between us.
Farhad: They have provided much needed moral support, added diverse experiences, enhanced each homework assignment and class lesson with After Action Reviews and group meetings. I benefit by hearing new ideas and seeing different approaches to tasks which I would never have thought of. In addition, their work knowledge and previous experiences are invaluable.
How much time do you spend studying individually and meeting with your team? What is a typical week’s schedule?
Jay: As a team, we meet every other Saturday and have a phone session on Tuesdays to check in on upcoming tasks, homework, and group projects. On an individual basis, most Monday/Tuesday evenings are spent getting ready for the Wednesday class and Thursday/Fridays are mostly spent getting ready for Saturday class – all depending on the workload of course. (Take home exams are a whole different story. In my case, everything else is set aside until I have completed the exam).
Sejo: I usually spend 8 hours per week on individual study. Additionally, our team normally gets together every other Saturday morning to do group work. We actively utilize technology like Dropbox or Google Groups to improve efficiency of team activities. By doing so, we can collaborate very well as a virtual team.
Sujeet: In reality there are two kinds of weeks for us, one with classes on Saturday and one without any class on Saturday. We meet as a team for 3-4 hours on Saturdays (face to face, when classes are not scheduled) with two additional sync meetings over the phone on Tuesday & Friday evenings.
Ajith: A typical week’s schedule includes 3 hours of class time each Wednesday and an all-day class on Saturday. In addition to class time, I spend 10-12 hrs studying on my own and 3-4 hours with the team as needed. Over a period of time, we did figure out more effective ways of reducing individual study time by working more efficiently with the team.
What classes have been the most valuable to you so far and why?
Ajith: Accounting, Finance and Marketing have expanded my knowledge. Ethics and Leadership have made me think critically about values that matter and leadership skills that I can continue to get better at.
Jay: It is hard for me to choose one course in particular, as I have found that the basic concepts and learnings from each course can be applied across other courses as well.
In general, most are fairly new to me, such as Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Micro & Macro Economics, Competitive Strategy and Decision Modeling. I pleasantly discovered that a concept from one subject, when applied across to another subject, helped me understand the newer concepts even better.
Farhad: Leadership allowed me to become more self-aware and learn from every person and every event in my life. It also showed me personal areas for improvement which I might not have ever seen otherwise.
How has the TMMBA network been beneficial to you?
Sujeet: I recently interacted with a TMMBA alumnus at work who also happens to be one of my business stakeholders. This helped me hit the stakeholder relationship ground running. Other than that – having an interaction pool of so many bright professionals in our class gave me quite a few pointers on potential opportunities I may pursue in the near future.
Farhad: I have met the greatest people, staff, and instructors through TMMBA, including CEOs and guest speakers. I have made friends and helped friends, and have learned a lot about the inner workings of other companies as well.
What’s the glue that holds your team together?
Sejo: A spirit of mutual respect is the key to our team’s success. Actively exchanging in feedforward (not feedback) among team members helped our team move forward.
Farhad: Respect and caring for each other. We have all become friends, meeting as each other’s houses and going out together for non-school dinners and picnics.
Ajith: It’s that we enjoy working together and want to have fun. I have a great time whenever we meet in person for our team meetings. Online collaboration tools and an effective team charter also make a difference.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering the program?
Ajith: Whole-heartedly commit to it! This program is intense but, as I can unequivocally confirm, it is also a lot of fun! So, when you are ready, have the requisite conversations with your family and at your work place and take the plunge.