Category Archives: Student Life

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.

Student managers celebrate the 15th anniversary of GBCC

by Alex Brechner, GBCC Student Manager

2013 GBCC Student Managers
2013 GBCC Student Managers

It’s finally here! The 15th annual Global Business Case Competition (GBCC) started this week. Our GBCC
student management team
has been preparing for this competition since the fall; recruiting ambassadors, training volunteers, planning events, and preparing the teams. Our team is made up of eight Foster School students, and we are very excited for the final round presentations to take place this Saturday, April 13, at 2:00 pm in the Shansby Auditorium (Paccar Hall 192). Last Friday, I wrote about the history of the competition after interviewing some past competitors; today I’d like to share what is happening this year.

Monday night, students from around the world arrived in Seattle. Teams flew in from the Philippines, Singapore, Belgium, Spain, Mexico, Egypt, New Zealand, China, Canada, and Arizona. The GBCC Management Team has been keeping our visitors entertained – we toured the UW campus and visited Pike’s Place Market, worked with three local high schools on a short business case, and met with five companies: Amazon, Port of Seattle, Russell Investments, Tableau Software, and Zulily.

Lots of Foster School students also got a chance to talk with these talented international students last night at our Global Networking Night. There is still a great opportunity to meet these students – come watch the final round on Saturday! We want to make our visitors feel welcome, so come support them.

The business cases and student charge were passed out on Thursday, and presentations will take place after exactly 48 hours of analysis. Each school has its own team, but GBCC offers a unique twist: the 12th team, called the Global Team, is composed of four members from four different schools. These students have only one week to get to know each other, and they are up against teams whose members have been working together for months. Against all odds, the Global Team has found success in the past by drawing on their diverse backgrounds. We wish all of this year’s teams the best of luck.

Every year, GBCC brings students from all types of cultures and backgrounds together for an incredibly rewarding experience. The GBCC management team has worked hard to make sure that this is a week that everyone – from the volunteers to the competitors to those who just want to stop in and take a peek – will not soon forget. We are excited to bring the world to UW for the 15th year in a row!

More than a case competition

Guest post by Alex Brechner, GBCC Manager 2013

UW GBCC Students visit Esterline
UW GBCC Students on a Corporate Visit

Another year, another competition. Not this year! It is the 15th anniversary of the Foster School’s premier global competition, the Global Business Case Competition (GBCC).  Don’t allow it to slip past without recognition, instead stop for a minute and consider the impact of this competition over the course of 15 years.  Over 100 business schools from over 50 countries have sent teams to compete in GBCC.

Each year, for one week, universities from around the globe bring some of their best and brightest to the University of Washington (UW) to share in the competition and cultural collaboration. Students who would otherwise never have met gather together as friends and friendly competitors to share their wealth of knowledge. For one week, business as usual becomes something much greater – a chance for the UW to change from a dot on a map to a learning mecca where connections are built and memories are made. For those who get involved, it is a week not soon forgotten.

After speaking with past competitors representing UW, Katie Emoto and Michelle Lefler, it is clear that GBCC is far more than the average case competition. The participants are more than competitors; as Katie puts it, “by the end [of the week], everyone was so close.” Michelle adds that her favorite part of the competition week was “hanging out with everyone outside of the competition. It made the actual competition seem unimportant.” While both Katie and Michelle rave about the skills they took away from GBCC and the competition’s status on their resumes (both students are set up for employment after graduation), the true power of GBCC is in the sharing of culture, both inside and outside of the business environment. For instance, Katie used the intricacy of the Portuguese team’s PowerPoint as inspiration for her future presentations, and Michelle learned about a new employment program that led her to her future internship. They have also maintained contact with their fellow competitors a year after the competition. To the students and community members involved, GBCC is more than simply another case competition put on by the Foster School of Business

The 2013 competition is coming up next week. For the 15th time, there will be a week of laughs, spreadsheets, and newfound friends. This time, take notice and take part. After all, it only comes around once a year.

If you are interested in getting involved with GBCC 2013, come to the Global Networking Night on April 10 from 5:30 to 6:30 pm in the Anthony’s Forum (Dempsey Hall), where you can meet the international student competitors. Also, join us for the GBCC Final Round on April 13 from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm in the Shansby Auditorium (Paccar Hall 192). You’ll learn a little bit more about business and a lot more about the rest of the world.

Mad about Montpellier

Guest post by Kelly Nealson, junior and Certificate of International Studies in Business student

Kelly Nealson
Kelly is second from the right.

When the clock struck midnight on January 1, I found myself ringing in 2013 somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on a one way flight to Montpellier, France. Despite the fact that I had been planning to study abroad before I knew which university I was going to attend, I was nervous. Would six years of French, countless hours in the UW International Programs and Exchanges office, and months of mental preparation be enough to survive six months of living and learning in a foreign country? Would I ever be able to feel at home where I was headed? I can remember sitting on that plane, alone and a bundle of apprehension.

Now, over two months into my study abroad experience, I can say with confidence, while I doubt I could have ever been fully prepared for what awaited me, I could not be having a more incredible experience abroad. I can’t say it’s been easy to jump into taking five classes entirely in French or that navigating the French university and government administrations has been simple for me. I can say, however, that I have made so much progress with my French, made great friends, and most of all, made this city my home. Living in Montpellier has given me the chance to improve my language skills, expand my horizons, and ultimately have a much better perspective on what I want to do in the global business world.

Learning and living my day to day life in French has given me the opportunity to see and experience the world in a different way. The French way of life is slower and calmer than the American style I am used to. It is much more focused on taking time to enjoy the little things, like starting the day with petit dejeuner (breakfast) in a café or sitting in a park in the sun with friends in the afternoon. At this point in my experience, I am surprised now and then how everyday life in France has become so normal. The four of us UW students who are here for spring semester all live in the student dorms, cook our own meals and live and go to school like any other French student. Though dorm life is not exactly glamorous, living so independently in France has really helped me feel like I can more fully integrate into the culture. We have had the opportunity to travel around France during so many of our long weekends and, most recently, spent our break traveling around Spain.

I cannot emphasize enough how glad I am that I took advantage of the study abroad experiences UW provides. Being a part of the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program (CISB) gave me the opportunity to more easily build studying abroad into my academic plans and I am grateful for it. Spending the second half of my junior year abroad has turned out to be just what I needed to take a step back from the UW business environment and gain some perspective by spending some time in other cultures. It has shown me I ultimately want to steer my career path so I can work abroad someday. I’ve definitely come a long way since getting on the plane to come to France, and I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store.

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program.

Apple products in cars?

On March 8, 2013 Foster undergraduate students competed in a case competition, which also served as the students’ capstone experience for strategic management—a required course for all Foster undergraduates. The case, “Apple Inc. in 2012,” was developed by Harvard Business School. The premise: Apple, like other firms in technology, has a number of successful products, but they also need to remain competitive. The students had to determine whether Apple can innovate on current products well enough to survive and prosper or whether they need to create new products to remain competitive.

The students had two weeks to analyze the case and develop their recommendations for what Apple should do. In the competition the students presented their analysis of the company, discussed the various paths Apple could take and made their recommendations.

Twenty teams competed and five made it to the final round. The final round teams made varying recommendations for Apple. Several suggested Apple should improve Apple TV, one of its current products. The winning team, however, presented a completely different solution. They recommended Apple create an integrated mobile device for cars, similar to the Ford SYNC® from Microsoft.

Case Competition Winners
Winning team: Shaun Maurer, Cory Scancella, Alex Auerbach, Hadis Ali, and Ben Peven

According to the team, “We compared the various strategies and decided the car system strengthens what Apple already offers, and it stays within one of their core competencies, which is producing disruptive technology. The problem with TV isn’t the set-top box, it’s that the cable companies own all the content.”  They felt Toyota would be an ideal initial partner due to shared corporate values between the two companies. The judges appreciated the team’s comprehensive analysis. Jeff Barden, assistant professor of management said, “They carefully considered the user experience, where people would use the product, and absolutely picked the right partner in Toyota.” Winning team members were Hadis Ali, Alex Auerbach, Shaun Maurer, Ben Peven, and Cory Scancella.

The second place team recommended innovating on Apple TV by focusing on making content available to consumers by forming a strategic alliance with Comcast. They felt a key improvement to the current situation would be to allow customers to consume TV content à la carte. The judges were impressed with how this team tailored their solution to the market. Team members were Gwendolyn Moruzzi, Aaron Dentler, Katie Emoto, and Rachna Hajari.

Rick McPherson, lecturer in management at the Foster School, added the case competition to the strategic management course last fall. He said, “It is an enrichment of the course to give the students real life experiences of analyzing and making recommendations to an upper management team.”

Leadership Team teaches STEM lesson to local middle school students

Guest post by Jackie Nguyen, Foster undergraduate

Being the founders of the annual Foster Week of Service, the Business and Economic Development Center Leadership Team members were excited to volunteer at the Renton/Skyway Boys and Girls Club for the third year in a row. This year, LT members were challenged with a new task in educating 5th to 8th graders about careers and opportunities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). However, being primarily business students, the LT members put a fun spin on educating the kids about STEM by tying business into the concept of STEM.

Each LT member was assigned to a team of four to five students. The LT helped guide the teams in researching and creating a short presentation about their company. The focus of this activity was to help the kids think outside of the box and see that there are a great variety of jobs in companies that are not as obviously STEM related.
blog_LT_FWSTeams researched companies including Target, McDonalds, Nestle, and Microsoft. The activity helped the students see that having skills in STEM and business could open a lot of doors to fun jobs; from being a pharmacist at Target, a game-designer at Microsoft, a food scientist at Nestle, or a social media manager at McDonalds.

After the learning activity was over, it was time for the kids to be kids and enjoy what they do best: play! LT members had a great time hanging out afterwards to play Dance Central and Fliers Up on the playground. Overall the event was a success and the BEDC LT members are looking forward to returning to the Boys and Girls Club for the next Foster Week of Service. Learn more about the BEDC Leadership Team.

Student Consulting Program – student perspective

Guest post by Rai Huang, Foster undergraduate

BEDC Student Consulting ProgramI initially enrolled in the BEDC Student Consulting Program without really understanding what consulting means; my impression was that consulting is the dream job of many of my peers at the Foster School of Business, yet it wasn’t something I particularly cared for.

I expected to walk away from the class with experience in conducting market research and formulating online marketing/public relations strategies, which is related to my dream career after graduation. And I liked the idea of working with a team; the communication skills learned would prepare me for work in any field. The fact that it would look good on my resume didn’t hurt either.

My team’s assignment is to formulate online marketing and social media strategies for our client, Concourse Concessions, who currently operates a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf franchise in the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. A newcomer in the Seattle market, they wish to grow brand recognition through traditional and non-traditional public relations methods as they expand to locations outside of the airport within the next year. It was an exciting task to take on, as the overall business environment and market for coffee in Seattle is very saturated, and would require creative thinking to accomplish the mission.

The first step for our team was to identify the strategy and comparative advantage of the franchise.  Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has only been in operations for about three months, and there was lack of substantial data for us to analyze. Challenged by our advisers and mentors, we were able to take a step back and look at the project from a wider perspective. We learned to think in terms of what is most valuable for the client every step of the way. With the support of our mentor and advisors, we came up with a framework in which every question raised had to be answered in a way that would help the business.

During the research phase of the project we gathered survey data and took a close look at local competitors such as Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Uptown Espresso, Espresso Vivace and Café Vita. We examined how they are utilizing social media and promotion strategies to maximize brand equity. Marketing concepts we’ve seen play out in real life include: how social media is being utilized for Customer Relation Management; how Search Engine Optimization is becoming increasingly intertwined with social media; why it’s essential for all business owners and managers to understand the marketing concept; how to really use a business’ competitive advantage; and how to communicate through interaction with the consumers.

As we come near to the end of the project, I now understand what consulting really comes down to is communication. It is important to practice the art of listening to your client and really hearing their needs, and finding resources and formulating recommendations with your team to create value for them. Through the process of tackling the different obstacles, my team and I have bonded together and grown both professionally and personally.

I look forward to applying the skills I’ve learned to a future career in Public Relations. I now understand what it is like to work with a real client, how to identify their wants and needs, and strategically come up with solutions that would benefit the client and heighten awareness of the brand. The Student Consulting experience is not just a line on my resume, but truly a real-world experience I was fortunate to have as an undergraduate student.

Learn more or become involved in the Student Consulting Program as a client or volunteer advisor.

Student-funded scholarship is a first

UWiBThe student organization, Undergraduate Women in Business (UWiB), recently established an endowed scholarship–a monumental achievement. UWiB is the first student organization to establish an endowed fund and they raised $32,000 in a little over 2 years. Additionally, this initiative was completely student driven and a team effort.

Foster undergrads Amber Waisanen and Raychael Jensen started UWiB in 2005. They were inspired by a similar organization at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Their core mission in starting UWiB was to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders. They are very pleased with how the organization has grown and evolved over the past eight years.

“UWiB was founded on the premise of serving others and giving back, with an underlying mission to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders.

As founders, we feel extremely proud of how far UWiB has come. We are strong supporters of this fund and look forward to securing a long-term future for the organization.

For UWiB to reach an endowment status is truly a dream come true, as it was part of our list of things we hoped to accomplish one day. To see that goal come to fruition is a very rewarding and exciting opportunity for us, our members, the Foster Business School and the community at large.”

- Amber Waisanen & Raychael Jensen, Co-Founders of UWiB

The recipient of scholarship for the 2012/2013 academic year is Amanda Hamilton. She is junior at the Foster School pursuing marketing and a certificate in international business. According to Amanda, “The scholarship will help me further my international interests as I study abroad in Spain.” Last year Amanda served on the executive committee for UWiB as the fundraiser associate.

You can learn more about UWiB by visiting their website: http://uwuwib.com/

Sludge, China, and the Freshman Direct Track winning team

The 2012 Holland America Line Global Case Competition involved 48 hours of intense analysis of sludge, soil remediation, and joint ventures in China. The case for the November 17th competition was Phase Separations Solutions (PS2): The China Question, and over 60 Foster School undergraduates teams were asked to recommend a course of action regarding PS2’s opportunities in China.

Teams were asked to tackle difficult questions in the charge and even more challenging ones from the panels of corporate and faculty judges:  Which JV option should they pursue? What challenges are posed by partnering with the government? What about intellectual property theft? What are the bankruptcy laws in China?

Among these teams were sixteen Foster School Freshmen Direct students. They made up their own track in the morning rounds and competed for a $500 prize. The panel of judges for the Freshman Direct Track was impressed by the ease with which these teams presented and the depth of their research and analysis after only a few months at the Foster School.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the winning team of the Freshman Direct Track about their experience. Here is what the winning team members Tim Kim, Barrett Stapleman, Erik Meister, and Ben Hagen had to say:

 What did you learn? Lots of different business terminology; how to prepare, conduct research and how to play the role of a consultant; we learned what a real business presentation looks like, and how to creatively think on our feet.

What did you take away from watching the upperclassmen presentations in the Final Round? Teams need to know everything inside and out – the numbers, the strategy, the facts. The organization of their PowerPoint presentations was impressive, and the team members all presented in a professional tone that was very direct, clear, and to the point.

What was the most challenging part? Time management, researching obscure aspects of the case, and the formulation of the actual presentation – how to include relevant content without overwhelming the slide – were all difficult.

What would you tell other students? Even if you don’t have any background in case competitions, it is a good learning experience to throw yourself into this difficult situation. Just attack it. You will learn skills that will prepare you for the future like time management, presentation skills, and teamwork. Just go out and get involved.

Will you compete again?  Yes!

The Global Business Center would like to give a special thanks to our sponsor of this year’s competition Holland America Line. To learn more about the Holland America Line Global Case Competition, visit the Global Business Center website.

Sell it, win it

UW undergrads Hayden Krall, Hannah Hanson, Hanna Klemm, and Megan Smith beat out 20 other schools and won the 2012 “Can’t Beat the Experience” National Team Selling Competition at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

Guest post by Megan Smith, UW undergrad and Sales Certificate student

National Team Selling CompetitionWe received the case approximately two weeks before the competition. The case was an internal sale and we were a “special task team” of employees that needed to make a presentation to our company’s CEO and VP of Human Resources. Our company was a research firm called “Abaci.” As the special task team, we were charged with creating a Workplace Wellness Program that introduced a new fitness device: the GetFit wristband.

The two weeks leading up to the competition were filled with preparation, devising plans, and a lot of coaching. We had fantastic support from our coaches and advisers: Jack Rhodes, Jeff Lehman, Joe Vandahey and last year’s NTSC team (Eric Hotaling, Dorine Rassaian, Julie Reynolds, and Neil Carter).

The competition day was split into two presentations: a morning session for needs analysis (15 min) and an afternoon sales presentation (20 min). The need analysis was a meeting with the VP of HR, “Casey” whom we were able to talk to about the issues facing the company, the data we were given, and uncover any other information that wasn’t included in the case description. Discovering all of the company’s needs was vital for success in the afternoon presentation. In the three hours between our morning session and afternoon presentation, we modified our presentation to incorporate the needs uncovered in the morning session and fit in as much practice as we could. We presented our Wellness Program to the company CEO, “Doug,” and our VP of HR, Casey. We addressed all their questions and received approval to implement the program.

Winning was surreal. There are not words to describe the feeling of having many late nights and hours of practice pay off. It is impossible for us to give enough credit to our coaches for their unparalleled support and guidance. Their support in combination with how well our team was able to work together made it possible for us to create a comprehensive and creative Wellness Plan that pulled us through to win. The amount we learned and the enjoyment and excitement of the competition truly made the experience unbeatable. Watch the morning and afternoon sessions.

The Sales Certificate Program at the Foster School provides students with the knowledge and real-world experience necessary to be successful in sales.