EMBA friendships are as good as gold

Hello from Team Gold, Class of 2000!

EMBA team gold in 2015

We send our greetings as a former Executive MBA program study group, now a book club gathering regularly since we graduated, because we’ve been unable to endure life without one another for eighteen years and counting. From the seven of us to the multitudes of you, we reach out as a yet-united group and a testament to one of the greatest benefits of the EMBA program: lifelong friendship. To our fellow alumni, we send our collective hopes that you’ve all shared relationships of similar quality and duration. To the current cohorts, we submit this glimpse of your potential future, in the hope that you’re looking at your own study group members and appreciating the fact that they could one day be age-old companions who have sevenfold compounded both your success and happiness.

Think of it as an inimitable professional network if you must. Like every study group, my team came together from distinctive industries, from banking to aerospace to software development to chain-store ownership to investor relations to equity management to publishing: seven approaches to business administration; seven flavors of strategy; seven executive perceptions; seven chances to see a challenge from seven angles. When we were alone as “Team Gold” for the first time, we found no remarkable commonalities among ourselves, but we nevertheless took immediate comfort in our differences, instantly recognizing that they made us stronger, together.

I, myself, functioned as the team scribe, which is why I write here on behalf of my Golden Group, and why I in particular have the happy privilege of telling you a bit about us. Back then, I was a director at the Renton-based game company Wizards of the Coast, so I brought to the program my insistence that everything can and therefore must be fun, and relentlessly pursued the position of class clown. Today, I head the AV department at Quarles & Brady LLP, an Am Law 200 firm, where I still have a pretty good time, although I’ve mostly had to give up the whole “clown” thing. Mostly.

seven approaches to business administration; seven flavors of strategy; seven executive perceptions; seven chances to see a challenge from seven angles

Supremely gentle of spirit, yet magnetically energetic in every utterance, Bob Davidson reads the newspaper every day, in between devouring every book he can put his hands on. He knows the history of Seattle History, with which he captivates his audiences as he discloses of each tidbit of information, displaying boyish delight in the telling, like he just learned it himself this morning. During the program, he worked at Alistar Capital; today, he’s the CEO of the Seattle Aquarium, of course, because anything less fascinating would not be Bob’s style.

Evan Fein was VP Finance at eProject, back in the day, and now is CFO at Impinj. As a kid, this guy dared entire classrooms of students with calculators to solve equations like the square root of umpteen, divided by the cubic root of half minus infinity, while he did it in his head at the same time, and he always finished first. A consummate Husky fan and an all-around sports aficionado, Evan up-ends the nerd stereotype by competing in iron-man events on his free weekends.

While we were all laboring under the general pressures of the EMBA program, Lacy Fitzpatrick was simultaneously and singlehandedly raising three young kids while holding the sweaty hands of overwrought shareholders as Director of Investor Relations at ICOS Corporation, all as the company prepared to go to market with a little pill called Cialis. That kind of pressure could melt nerves of steel, but Lacy has always and invariably carried herself with the composure of a monk in evening meditation. Now on the Investor Relations team at Nordstrom, she’s still the picture in the dictionary next to “poise,” but with more style and taste than ever.

we found no remarkable commonalities among ourselves, but we nevertheless took immediate comfort in our differences, instantly recognizing that they made us stronger, together

A lawyer and executive team member at her family-owned Hart’s Athletic Clubs in her 20s, before she returned to school for her EMBA, Mieko Hart spins intelligence, energy, optimism, and integrity into achievement. Assiduously caring and fair, she was PC before PC wasn’t cool. But nobody can make you laugh like Mieko does! Today, Mieko is considering what she wants to do next in the business world, having recently taken a few years to manage an active home environment for her family.

The perfect mix of analytical and intuitive, the first word out of Jenny Payne’s mouth was often “process” each time we approached a new group project, but it quickly became clear that she was always thinking “goal.” As Regional Director of Airline Analysis in the Marketing Department at Boeing Commercial Airplanes then, and the company’s Managing Director for Marketing, North America and Leasing now, Jenny is an engineer and marketing professional, working out of both halves of her brain at the same time.

Gary Strand was a VP at Bank of America, but now he owns and runs McKinnon Furniture, which tells you something about how he can do whatever he wants. Gary quietly graduated in the top ten percent of EMBA Class of 2000, but his mastery of the practical joke might make you think he was the class clown. Blond, good-looking, a veteran still in fighting shape, he made business school look easy. He made every damned thing look easy . . . and that’s great, because he made everything look doable to the rest of us too.

EMBA team gold in 2000

That’s Team Gold 2000, and I hope you find your study group as wonderful as I do mine. All of us enter the UW EMBA program with an expectation of some positive impact on our careers, and not without reason. But take care not to minimize or overlook the ancillary benefits – the unfulfilled latent needs, shall we say – that lie beyond the books, in the friendships that we form while we struggle together in the trenches of the business school curriculum. In the same way we make each other better businesspeople in the classroom, we continue to make each other better businesspeople in life, so don’t leave behind that zero-cost/infinite-benefit equation at the graduation ceremony! Besides, simple joy in simply being together is an added, and maybe the best, fringe benefit.

Guest post by David Wise, EMBA 2000.