On Friday, May 8, the Consulting and Business Development Center hosted the Undergraduate Consulting Challenge, pairing three local small businesses – Big Time Brewery, Gargoyles Statuary, and Panache206 with teams of students who were given a week to create a plan that would aid in the growth and development of each client.
Approximately 60 students formed teams of three or four to research and analyze the companies in order to develop recommendations to present at the competition. For the first time, the Consulting and Business Development Center extended the invitation to compete beyond UW to business students from community colleges throughout the state. South Seattle College and Yakima Valley Community College each sent four students to compete in the challenge – with the South Seattle team winning first place for their recommendations to Big Time Brewery!
Each student team presented dynamic ideas and data to the business owners and panel of judges from event sponsors Key Bank and Target as well as professionals from Community Sourced Capital, Crown Moving, PaintBox Labs Media Group and Project Management Institute who volunteered their time and expertise. Following the presentations, all attendees gathered in Deloitte Commons for a celebratory lunch and networking opportunity for students, business owners and professionals. After lunch the winning teams for each business were announced and each winning team member received a $200 gift card prize.
Congratulations to all involved with the 2015 spring Undergraduate Consulting Challenge!
A growing company of armed forces vets is choosing the Foster School to transition from military to corporate careers, and the benefits go both ways
Dan Boirum was leading a search-and-destroy operation up the remote Arghandab River valley of Afghanistan when a 100-pound improvised bomb exploded under his armored vehicle, wounding four crewmen, one critically.
The blast knocked Boirum unconscious. But he recovered to resume command of his US Army Stryker platoon and its mission: stabilize this volatile region at the front lines of the war on terror—a task that required a precarious balancing of military might and cultural diplomacy that is perhaps unprecedented in wartime history.
Today, just a few years removed from the dust and dangers of Kandahar Province, Boirum is back in his home town of Seattle, learning to manage in a very different context at the Foster School of Business. His combat experience and leadership credentials aren’t exactly typical at Foster. But he’s hardly alone, either.
In the past few years, a growing cohort of veterans of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have come to Foster, looking to power their transition from military to corporate careers.
“I came to Foster hoping it would give me the ability to learn about the various aspects of business and then give me a path to a new career,” says Boirum, a first-year student in the Full-time MBA Program. “I didn’t come in with a plan. I came knowing that it would be a place where I could figure it out in a safe environment and with all the support I could possibly ask for.”
Back to school
Foster is part of a nationwide surge of military veterans flooding into colleges and universities to plot civilian careers. Recent troop withdrawals and military budget cuts are expected to send 1.5 million service members into the civilian workforce by 2019.
At the same time, the education benefits available to veterans and active duty military have never been better. The largest is the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers tuition, books and housing costs.
“The GI Bill made all the difference to me,” adds Matthew Nutsch (TMMBA 2014), a recent graduate of Foster’s Technology Management MBA Program who served in the Navy as an electrician on a nuclear-powered submarine and is now a senior management systems analyst at Seattle City Light . “It’s an amazingly good deal and the TMMBA Program is so dynamic that it would feel wasteful not to take advantage. The education has changed my life.”
Tony Casement, lead counselor at the University of Washington Veterans Center, says that’s a common sentiment: “Instead of getting out and trying to go straight to work, many military vets are taking advantage of the benefits to advance their education and enter the workforce with a better job.”
A great place to restart
It happens that one of the best places to advance that education is the UW. U.S. News & World Report named the UW second nationally in its 2015 ranking of Best Colleges for Veterans.
Casement believes the reasons for the ranking begin with proximity to multiple military bases, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Whidbey Island, Kitsap and Everett Naval Bases. He also factors the university’s generous tuition waivers and other assistance for veterans; a proliferation of military student organizations; and a high-functioning Veterans Center that advises students, offers career counseling, and removes the pain of finding and applying benefits so veterans can focus on their studies.
The university’s sterling international reputation doesn’t hurt, either. “The UW is not only military friendly, but also a great name academically,” Casement adds. “It makes a lot of sense to go here.”
He says that more than 1,500 students at the Seattle campus are receiving some form of military benefit, which is transferrable to dependents. Of that number, around 700 are veterans or active duty service members. And nearly 80 of them are enrolled at the Foster School.
Casement believes that business is a popular field of study for veterans because it opens doors to so many lines of civilian work, and because many of the management and leadership skills mastered in the military—especially by officers—are transferrable.
This may explain why the largest jump in military enrollment at Foster is occurring in the MBA programs. The Full-time MBA has seen a doubling of veterans and active duty officers in the past couple of years alone.
Why Foster? Start with its reputation and ranking in the upmost echelons of American b-schools. Add its personalized approach to teaching, advising and career services, plus its long tradition of assisting dramatic career transformations.
But the thing that seems to appeal most of all to military veterans is the school’s genuine culture of collaboration. “There is definitely a different culture at Foster,” says Chris Wigley, a second-year MBA who has compared notes with Army buddies studying in MBA programs across the country. “For me, the collaborative environment here has been enormously beneficial.”
It’s familiar territory for anyone who has served in any branch of the military where, as Boirum says, “everything is a collaboration.”
The full package
Collaboration goes both ways. And Foster veterans give as good as they get.
According to Dan Poston, assistant dean for masters programs at Foster, students with military backgrounds add immeasurably to the shared learning environment.
“We’re looking for classes with a diversity of perspectives,” he says. “Military students bring a facility with structure and organization to get things done. These are very positive traits to have in any team. Plus, they share their leadership training, both formally and informally.”
“What you see in our military is what we expect from our leaders in business: authentic, ethical, adaptive, agile role models who focus on development and put collective interest above themselves,” Avolio says. “This comes from a program of training and development that exceeds any business organization in the US or likely on Earth.”
But leadership is not the only asset that veterans bring to the management classroom. Avolio adds that they offer wisdom from having dealt with the most difficult decisions in life. They are comfortable working in hostile environments and ambiguous situations. They have a deep sense of team and self-sacrifice. They appreciate the ultimate importance of ethics. And they bring a learning orientation that challenges others in a respectful way.
Brave new world
So why do they need a business degree? Part of the value is simply in the time and opportunity to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives—especially for people with little work experience or professional network outside of the service.
“It’s hard for military people to start over,” explains Norma Domingo, a former aircraft mechanic in the Navy now studying human resources management in Foster’s Undergraduate Program. “You’ve earned a rank and a name for yourself. But that doesn’t carry over to the civilian world. I’m the same as every other Foster undergrad. We’re all here to start something new.”
Beyond career discernment and the acquisition of technical knowledge in the business disciplines, many veterans use Foster to “demilitarize” themselves, as Ryan McCarthy puts it. “In the Army we wear our rank on our chest, so you always know a person’s level of authority,” says the former artillery officer now pursuing his Foster MBA. “Here in business school and in corporate America, you have to be persuasive without the rank.”
Transferring soft skills is only half the battle. The other half is translation. “Bragging about your accomplishments is frowned upon in the military,” says Wigley. “But when you interview with a company, that’s exactly what you have to do. When you’re not used to telling that story, it can come out raw and unrefined.”
Poston says that Foster’s program staffs and career services excel at helping veterans communicate the assets they bring to any organization: “We help with the meat and the message, framing their experience in a way that has relevance to a recruiter.”
Military and ex-military students at Foster report a kind of sixth sense (or is it radar?) for finding each other in class. Maybe it’s their age. Or something in the way they speak, or carry themselves. Whatever it is, the bond is inescapable, the product of a shared experience, whichever their flavor of military service.
Now Foster vets have a more formal place to find each other. The student-organized MBA Veterans Association is only a few years old, but it’s rapidly evolving from social club to network hub.
The current officers are working with undergraduate leaders to charter a BA chapter of the organization. They are advising prospective students, coordinating with the Husky United Military Veterans organization (HUMV) to create a mentor program, hosting career development and networking events, and connecting with military bases and area employers to develop a military-to-corporate pipeline.
“The MBA Program administrators talk about how we have a golden ticket as a student,” says Veterans Association president Wigley. “I think we have a second golden ticket as veterans. If you reach out to vets at all kinds of companies, they’re usually more than willing to help.”
An old habit that dies hard.
Dan Boirum describes the connection between veterans in familial terms. He recalls suiting up for an interview with Liberty Mutual when a couple of classmates stepped in to perform an informal class A uniform inspection—even swapping watches so he’d look sharper. “It was just an instinctive thing,” he says. “Your buddy is going into an important meeting, so we’ll look you over, straighten you up. There’s a definite brother/sisterhood here—all within the larger Foster family.”
Passion and purpose
That’s the ultimate expression of the Foster student experience.
Matt Pescador, an executive officer in his 20th year with the Navy, enrolled in Foster’s Executive MBA Program preparing for an eventual second career, ideally at a comparable level of seniority. What he’s found is the definition of a symbiotic relationship. And endless inspiration.
“I have deep experience in leadership, and the executives in my program bring a fast-paced technocracy that I’m not familiar with,” he says. “The relationship between what they learn from me and what I learn from them is exactly what the program is trying to foster.”
For Boirum, those relationships—with people from every background who share a genuine passion—are the keys to his transformation to a successful and meaningful civilian life.
“When you transition out of the military, one of the things you’re most concerned about is finding another place where you belong, where there is a shared sense of purpose to make the world a better place. I was afraid that I’d leave the Army and be lost,” he says. “But at the Foster School I’m surrounded by people who want to be part of something special together, something bigger than themselves. I never feel lost here.”
Guest post by Cristina Stefan, Foster undergraduate and Certificate of International Studies in Business student
Through the Certificate of International Studies in Business program (CISB), I had the incredible opportunity to attend the 27th edition of the Specialty Coffee Event, which took place April 9–12 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. Josef Moreno and I volunteered to work with the honorary consulate of Peru, located in Seattle, to help translate and interpret for the coffee roasters that had come from all over Peru to show their merchandise and enter the international coffee market. For some it was their second or third time attending the event, but for others it was their first time outside of their home country. We did our best to support them and help them in their interactions with the consumers and retailers present at the trade show.
It was an unimaginable experience and a perfect way to put my Spanish language skills to use. While Joe helped with a private meeting among the Peruvian vendors, I interpreted for the coffee roasters–some of whom spoke a very distinct Spanish dialect specific to the region they had come from. I facilitated information exchanges and future travel arrangements between coffee growers, toasters, vendors, and buyers from all over the world who had come to the Peruvian booths to learn about the delicious coffee grown in Peru.
Being so closely involved not only enriched my vocabulary and stretched my thinking, but also opened my eyes to a new industry few people know the details of. Among the coffee types we tried were Geisha, Catuai, Caturra, Colombiana, Arusha, Kona, Java, and Pache. We discovered “cupping,” a very unique coffee tasting technique, using a spoon and very briskly sipping the coffee. Who knew being a coffee taster also requires a specific certification?
We were able to observe how coffee is toasted, bagged, and even roasted and prepared in the different machines and then served. We tried iced coffees, frappes, Italian sodas, and many other delicious coffee based products.
Above all, the cultural experience and the ability to interact and network with professionals in the coffee industry was invaluable. Observing the different negotiation techniques and all the cultural differences based on the country of origin of the attendees reminded me of all that I’ve learned about international business in my classes here at Foster. This was probably the most authentic international business setting I have participated in.
Guest post by Rick Carter, assistant director, Foster Professional Sales Program
Foster Professional Sales Program students Collin Lea, Amy Tachasirinugune, and Laurel Rice competed in the National Collegiate Sales Competition on April 8-10 at Kennesaw State University. They placed eighth out of 67 universities, sending one student to the quarter finals and one student to the semi-finals. Thirty-five corporate sponsors acted as judges and buyers for the twenty minute sales calls.
The NCSC undergraduate competition is a sales call skills challenge which is run as an elimination-style tournament. The goals of the competition are to promote the sales profession; provide an opportunity for corporate sponsors to interact with top collegiate prospects; furnish a venue for students to exhibit and enhance their selling skills; and provide a venue for students, professors, and sales executives to network.
Collin Lea said, “The competition is based on real situations, needs ID, product demos, and plenty of buyer objections. Knowing that any of us can go into a room and lead a sales call from beginning to end is invaluable. This is a skill set we are using right now as we seek our first career job.”
The competition is designed to be challenging, engaging, and rewarding. Laurel Rice said, “I had to go back into the wild card round and felt very discouraged, but I flipped my mindset and forced myself to smile, work hard, and stay in the competition. That evening the news came that I had made the quarter finals, and we were overwhelmed with excitement.”
Amy Tachasirinugune said, “This was an experience that was unforgettable and helped me build confidence to compete in the real world. I’m much more comfortable in high-pressure situations and have been more relaxed in recent job interviews.”
Congratulations to the 2015 National Collegiate Sales Competition UW Team!
What can undergraduates do to develop their leadership while at UW?
That’s what over 150 undergraduates came to a Leadership Conference on a recent Saturday to learn about. Hosted by Delta Sigma Pi (a professional co-ed business fraternity)* in conjunction with the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, the one-day conference gave attendees a real-world perspective on what they can do now to develop the leadership skills that will be vital to their professional success. The conference included representatives from companies such as Accenture, PepsiCo/Frito Lay, Boeing, Microsoft and Target.
CLST’s role in the event was to help students build their Developmental Readiness, their willingness and ability to develop when faced with challenging leadership situations. (It’s worth noting that the students certainly demonstrated their willingness to develop by showing up to a leadership conference early on a sunny Saturday morning.)
Research on leadership development has shown that only about 30% of leadership is hard-wired, while the other 70% can be developed, and that the extent to which one develops through experiences differs from person to person. In other words, facing a similar challenge, a person with higher developmental readiness might thrive and grow while another struggles and gives up. Further, this ability to develop can itself be developed. CLST’s goal was to help catalyze this process.
In a workshop format, CLST coaches helped participants craft a plan for working on an aspect of their developmental readiness, including specific actions they could take on a daily basis. Sienna Landry, a member of Delta Sigma Pi who helped organize the event, said that the attendees “have absolutely walked away from this conference with a new sense of how they can impact their leadership styles.”
The event was a huge success, and the fraternity plans to hold it again next year. This collaboration with Delta Sigma Pi is a great example of how CLST is reaching out to UW undergraduates to help develop critical leadership skills during their time at UW.
*Delta Sigma Pi is a professional fraternity organized to foster the study of business in universities; to encourage scholarship, social activity and the association of students for their mutual advancement by research and practice.
This Saturday, the Global Business Center hosted its 17th annual Global Business Case Competition (GBCC) – where twelve teams representing eight countries competed for the title of GBCC Champion.
Each of the undergraduate student teams spent 48 hours analyzing a business case on First Solar Inc. In 2010, First Solar was the global leader in production of solar panels. However, by 2013, Chinese producers dominated the world market, helped by generous government subsidies. First Solar was also challenged by falling prices for solar panels made with a competing technology. First Solar responded by vertically integrating into the solar systems business, making the company a “one-stop shop” for utility customers. First Solar’s sales have been concentrated in the US market, but they are exploring opportunities outside the US. The GBCC student teams were tasked with identifying the external forces affecting First Solar’s business over the next five years and then prioritizing the non-US target markets.
Four teams were selected to move on to the final round: the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Florida State University, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Southern California.
Our final round judging panel commented that this was one of the most difficult and complex cases in the history of GBCC. In the end, the judges chose the Chinese University of Hong Kong as this year’s GBCC Champion.
GBCC would not be possible without our major sponsors. A special thank you to The Boeing Company, Costco Wholesale, F5 Networks, Russell Investments, Starbucks Coffee International, and Wells Fargo for their generous support.
Bangladesh and Brazil. Egypt and Estonia. Israel and Italy. Jamaica and Japan. Korea and Kuwait. Pakistan and Peru. Serbia and Singapore. Uganda and the United Kingdom. In all, 52 nations have sent their best and brightest undergraduate business students to match wits in the GBCC since its 1999 launch.
Now this long-time importer of competitors is exporting inspiration.
Kindred competitions in Portugal, New Zealand, Belgium, Sudan and Colombia have been inspired by unforgettable GBCC experiences and informed by its best practices.
After Brendon Potter, student development and engagement manager at the University of Auckland Business School, brought a team to Seattle for its first international experience in 2004, he was moved to launch his school’s own champions league of case competitions. “Because of that invitation to the GBCC, we have established a significant case program of our own,” says Potter. “And it was the motivation to instigate our own Champions Trophy Case Competition in 2008, to which we’ve been delighted to welcome the Huskies on several occasions.”
Some 12,000 miles and a hemisphere away in Portugal, Renata Blanc de Melo had a similar response when she brought a team of students from the Universidade do Porto to the 2007 GBCC. The lecturer and senior consultant began drawing up plans to replicate the competitive and cultural experience and in 2013 launched the FEP–UPORTO International Case Competition. “There is no case competition culture in Portugal, so being invited the first time was a departing point for us,” says Blanc. “And regarding our own competition, GBCC was undoubtedly a benchmark.”
This year, two former Foster students are instigating GBCC-style competitions to serve students in their respective corners of the world. Aysa Miller (BA 2004) and Nathan Bright (BA 2014) are both alumni of the Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB), Foster’s nationally-ranked specialty program that gives undergrads a competitive edge in global business through language immersion, study or work abroad, and practical experience.
Miller, the economic and deputy commercial officer at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, has assembled a team of students representing three Sudanese universities to compete at this year’s GBCC. He’ll follow up with a local case competition hosted by the Ahfad University for Women—the first in the east African nation.
Bright, a teacher of international business, technology management and marketing at the Universidad de Manizales in Colombia, decided that a GBCC-style competition would benefit his students. To pull it off, he’s been working with Kathleen Hatch, assistant director of undergraduate programs at the Global Business Center.
Hatch offers open source guidance to Bright, Miller and any others seeking to replicate the life-changing experience that the GBCC annually delivers through its heady mix of company visits, social events, professional development, cultural exchange and rigorous competition to solve a real-world international business challenge.
She’s not surprised to see the competition’s effect rippling so far and wide.
“I think that GBCC has been an inspirational model to other business schools because it incorporates everything that is so critical to business education today—cross cultural communications, team work, and strategic thinking,” says Hatch. “It forces students to grapple with the complexities of doing business in today’s global landscape.”
Guest post by Joyce Tang, Foster undergraduate and Certificate of International Studies in Business student
At a recent Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) Alumni Panel, I heard a woman say she wished she had spent more time during her study abroad experience building a professional network, rather than only engaging with other students. I couldn’t agree more because I personally benefited from this decision while I was an exchange student at Peking University, the most prestigious higher learning institute in China.
After a meaningful summer internship in Shanghai, I knew I wanted to have more work experience while I was studying abroad. My resolve led me to find and accept an internship at a social enterprise called Khunu. This company produces premium yak wool apparel, while supporting the yak herders from whom the wool is sourced. With a great passion for social entrepreneurship and fashion, this was the perfect opportunity for me. Three days a week, I took a 45 minute commute—if I was lucky enough to squish my way onto the first subway that came during rush hour—to work and 45 minutes back to school.
During those three months, I learned things that turned my assumptions about China upside down. For example, I assumed most luxury fashion brands produced their products domestically to maintain quality and workmanship, but found out the factory we produced our apparel in was also used by a big name luxury label. It was also a lot smaller than I expected, as the picture in my head was of an enormous factory designed for mass production. Many people immediately think low quality when they hear the words manufacturing and China in the same sentence. However, this is not always the case. Khunu is one fashion label that is trying to redefine the “Made in China” tag.
What I learned at Khunu was reinforced at a panel discussion I recently attended on ethical sourcing, which was sponsored and organized by CISB and AIESEC. The vice presidents of global sourcing from Costco and Brooks Running Company spoke about the manufacturing, supplying, and operations practices of their respective companies. They emphasized the importance of setting a new market standard where businesses create value chains at every step of the process, rather than just supply chains. To accomplish this, the players at each stage of the chain—from cotton farmer to spinner to business to consumer—must demand and be provided fair compensation for the part they play. As I pursue a concentration and future career in operations and supply chain management, my experiences in CISB have played an invaluable part in helping me understand sustainable supply chains from both sides of the Pacific: Seattle and Beijing.
Guest post by Josina Garnham, experiential learning manager
The warm chocolatey-caramel notes swirling through the air is what you notice first–often times before you even open the door. When you do enter the storefront, you are enveloped by the sound of well-selected jazz, the buzz of the espresso machine and the friendly baristas calling out the names of customers and their made-to-order beverages.
Starbucks, a ubiquitous brand globally and especially here in Seattle, is seeking to extend this experience from their stores to meet its customers’ just-in-time demands. Graduating seniors from the Foster School were invited to join Starbucks in developing solutions on how to deliver fresh beverages without compromising on quality and maintaining the company’s value of “delivering our very best in all we do.”
Each quarter the Foster School partners with a Seattle-based company to develop a customized business case as part of a required capstone course (MGMT430) for all graduating seniors. The case, written by Anna Fung, Foster PhD student, and overseen by Rick McPherson, course coordinator, presents an urgent business issue in a condensed format. The Foster Strategy Development Case Competition is one of the largest single-day case competitions in the world. This winter’s competition with Starbucks featured 54 teams comprised of over 225 students.
For Dave Twehues, director of Global Corporate Strategy, the decision to partner with the Foster School was an easy one: “I think the value of the case competition from Starbucks is twofold. First, the participation of our partners as judges is a great way for Starbucks to connect with future business leaders and second, the exposure to the creative solutions delivered by the student teams brings fresh perspectives to really difficult business problems.”
To develop a winning solution, the students focused on Starbucks’s mission and values: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Madeline Sykes, a senior finance major, noted, “it is important to do research on the company’s values and we knew Starbucks values its customers very highly. We started off our presentation by presenting a story about a target customer and the customer’s needs.”
Student teams have three weeks to research the issue and prepare presentations summarizing their recommendations to business leaders—both Foster alumni and Starbucks employees who serve as judges. For Matt Hansen, an accounting major, “the Q&A section…is the hardest part to prepare for. This is one area that our team spent a lot of time focusing on because it is where groups can differentiate themselves by their ability to think on their feet and shows how confident they are in their business proposal/strategy.”
The winning team of Renee Chiang, Allison Gaylor, Matt Hansen, Rebecca Ruh, Kamal Sohal, and Madeline Sykes proposed meeting the challenge of delivering Starbucks beverages with the solution of creating smaller satellite “stores” which would focus on preparing drinks for delivery exclusively. Current stores maintain a brisk business with customers walking in the doors. The student’s research—including frequenting area Starbucks cafes—led them to hypothesize that increasing demands on these storefronts for delivery orders would slow service in both areas. From these small-scale, delivery-focused beverage outlets, bike messengers would be deployed to deliver both hot and cold drinks in specially designed temperature controlled bags.
Beyond understanding the company’s values, having a strong situation analysis, well-justified idea, and presenting their solution in a clear and compelling way, what really differentiates teams are their interpersonal dynamics. Ruh said, “Our success in the case competition was rooted in the relaxed, yet focused environment we created. Our vision developed alongside our team synergy. Taking this experience into the future, the strengths of lightheartedness and creativity, are key components that will define future teamwork endeavors, essential in today’s business world.”
“What I learned about teamwork and team dynamics I will definitely…take with me to my future career” said Renee Chiang. “This was my first time participating in a case competition and it taught me to be confident with myself and my ideas. That confidence would definitely be something I hope to apply to my career—from negotiation to pitching my ideas.”
On March 18, 2015 Starbucks announced the launch of delivery services in Seattle and New York City. Foster School of Business students will be amongst the first to be delighted by having a perfectly prepared, hand-delivered cup of coffee to fuel their last quarter of studies before graduating in June.
Guest post by Joyce Tang, Foster undergraduate student and Certificate of International Studies in Business student
It’s never too early to start. That’s what I was thinking when I replied to a vague email about a summer internship opportunity abroad. After getting the internship, what ensued was the development of my skills as a professional designer, project manager of programmers, and an expert print shop price haggler. The first role I was able to experience from the comfort of my own room and the last two I did across the Pacific Ocean in China.
The company I interned at was a startup in Shanghai called Sino Society. The business specialized in international real estate marketing to wealthy Chinese home buyers. Real estate was never an industry I expected to be in, but the promise of getting to live and work in China for a summer sounded like an invaluable experience. With that in mind, I said yes to working remotely for seven months on a probationary basis. During this time, I conducted weekly conference calls that led to a greater understanding of the company’s business model, China’s consumer environment, and–to my delight–that I was capable of being a graphic designer.
Since junior high, I had taken up design as a hobby and almost majored in design, but chose to pursue business because I wanted the skills to build my own business. I figured the design projects would come later, but here I was at my first internship getting to do what I loved most. It seemed like no coincidence when I found out in a conference call that I was to start a project using Adobe Indesign during the same week I had taken an introductory course on the program through Odegaard Library’s free workshop resource. This initial assignment led to creating an entire series of business collateral used for sales pitches to our company’s international clients. My design was translated into Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Chinese. Without receiving extensive training, I was able to learn by doing real-work assignments and am now proficiently using the program.
At the end of May, my probationary period ended and the company asked me to come to Shanghai to continue for the summer. Contrary to what many might expect of startups, Sino Society provided my round trip ticket to Shanghai. Working in the heart of the city, I continued my marketing projects, but secretly wanted a hand in the technology side of things. My involvement in the Lavin Entrepreneurship Program built up my experience and fascination with the tech space. I asked my boss if I could take on more projects relating to the technology side of the business, which led me to being a project manager of Chinese programmers. After only one meeting, it became pretty clear there was a language barrier, so I gave myself the goal of learning the Chinese phrases for IT terms. Meanwhile, I was occasionally tasked with the grunt work of making print shop runs with the goal of lowering our cost for bulk print jobs. By the end of the summer, I had perfected things I always thought were my weaknesses: communicating about technical topics in Chinese and haggling with locals. And guess what? I’m still happily doing side design projects with Sino Society in my free time.