Exceeding expectations: Q&A with Houston Gossett, MBA 2018

Houston Gossett

Why Foster?

I chose to come to Foster mostly due to its strong network within Seattle and the impressive job placement statistics. However, it was more than just the statistics of the program that drew me in. Up to the point of entering the Full-time MBA program, I had garnered a lot of experience over eight years within an organization, but I still wasn’t getting the type of leadership roles that I wanted. I recognized that if my employer wasn’t going to recognize that I was ready to take a leap in my career, then I was going to have to take a more proactive role in my career growth. As an African-American male, I also recognized that unfortunately I needed to prove that I was ready to be placed in a leadership role beyond just my work experience. All of this helped me conclude that an MBA provided the best opportunity for me, and the collaborative community of Foster is where I knew I could be unapologetically myself and fill the leadership gaps that were in my resume.

Student experience

What has been the highlight of your Foster MBA experience so far?

The highlight of my MBA career was getting the opportunity to hear Amy Hood, the CFO of Microsoft, speak to our class. What stood out to me about this talk was not only how incredibly smart she was, but also her vulnerability by verbally recognizing that she has a certain responsibility as a successful business woman, but also stating that the reason she was able to get where she is was largely because she is white and came from a stable economic background. For me, this moment felt so fulfilling because it’s not me having to tell this story, but instead a major business leader standing up in front of us acknowledging the differences in the obstacles that each of us face. This was an experience I truly believe I couldn’t have received anywhere else, and that’s exactly what I came to Foster for, these goose bump moments.

Curriculum

What has surprised you about the MBA experience?

The quality of the teachers and their interest in you as an individual and their investment in you truly learning throughout the program. Whether you struggle or thrive in their classroom, their goal is that you learn and not just go through the motions to get a specific grade. The ability to use speakers, cases, and course materials help students learn and practice the tools that are being taught.

Describe your experience with the team aspect MBA program

Foster is all about collaboration and that’s what I believe will make one of the largest impacts in my career as I move forward. Working with people from wide ranges of backgrounds helps you recognize ways in which you work well and ways in which you could grow. These experiences are going to truly help once we re-enter the business world, and provide us with experiences that will remain relevant as we continue to interact with wide ranges of people.

Faculty

What are your impressions of the faculty?

The faculty has by far exceeded my expectations. I’ve never been described as a book worm, but the teachers make you want to work hard and learn he material. For me, the finance teachers were so good that I decided to switch my career towards finance because I found it to be so interesting. Beyond just the finance professors, the faculty is incredibly engaging, and you not only get the opportunity to have them teach in class, but also get the opportunity to engage with them in social settings outside of the classroom that helps create a warm faculty-student environment.

Career impact

What are you planning to pursue post MBA? How has Foster helped you toward this goal?

Post MBA I’ll be working for Nordstrom as part of their Leadership Rotational Program. This opportunity allows me to leverage my past retail experience in a variety of leadership roles throughout Nordstrom, while also transitioning toward a new career path in finance. If it weren’t for Foster and our career advisors I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to pursue this opportunity, and if it weren’t for our finance professors I wouldn’t have been able to successfully create a detailed financial model analyzing the viability of a new retail project that Nordstrom wanted to pursue. Foster has made a substantial impact in my growth as a professional, not only in helping me develop new tools but also providing me with a new-found confidence.

Did you participate in the mentor program? What was your experience like?

Participating in the mentor program during my first year helped me shape my approach toward a new career, not only in my next job but five and ten years down the line. I had the opportunity to be mentored by Chris Dorr, Sr. Director of Human Resources for Nike, who helped advise me throughout my internship search and provided constructive advice on how to attack my newfound career. The amount of time he was willing to take out of his busy schedule to speak with me on a regular basis was far more than I bargained for, but the impact was far reaching. Chris was an amazing mentor, and I know beyond just the two years that I’m at Foster I’ll continue to stay in contact with him for years to come.

Work / Life balance

What strategies do you use to balance the demands of the MBA as well as your life outside of the program?

Time is precious in the MBA program, so allocating it requires you to prioritize what matters most. For me family is always first, so I made a deal with my wife at the beginning of the program that every week night we’ll spend at least an hour together where no school work was involved. This helped me focus and get my assignments done within the time frames I had, and it always made me check myself to make sure I was delivering on a promise that I made. Every MBA student reaches their tipping point where they over commit to the seemingly endless opportunities within the program, but by establishing and recognizing your priorities helps center you and keeps you focused on what matters most to you.

Social life

What is the most fun or enjoyable aspect of the program?

Pub Club and Saturday morning pickup basketball games are the perfect outlets to help clear my mind from everything that’s going on at school. Getting to connect with classmates outside of the halls of PACCAR is really what helps create the strong connections that make Foster so special

Seattle

What are your overall impressions of the Seattle? What do you enjoy about living in Seattle?

I’m a born and raised Seattleite, so I love this city. I love the fact that in the summer I can strap up my hiking boots to hit the trails, and in the winter, I can grab my skis and be at the mountains in an hour. Seattle is thriving right now; just looking at our skyline you’ll see countless cranes working to construct buildings to house tech companies that hope to establish roots here. I’m excited to live in this city at this time, even if real estate is getting more expensive, because I know the Foster community is strong throughout the region and the future is bright for Seattle.

Final thoughts

Foster has by far exceeded my expectations from the quality of the faculty to the genuine student body. Foster has changed my life and I’m forever grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to take these two years to explore a new career choice with this tight knit community from which I’ve developed lifelong friendships.