Though Alessya Labzhinova (MS 2018) was born in Kazakhstan, she considers herself a citizen of the world.
“I feel at home anywhere there’s coffee and WiFi,” she says, “though I can live without the WiFi.”
Happily, both are plentiful in Seattle, Labzhinova’s current and most frequent port of call. She came to Washington during high school, and discovered a passion and extreme aptitude for mathematics. She earned a BS in applied mathematics at the UW then went to work in software development at Amazon, eventually helping establish a machine learning research center.
Wishing to expand her business acumen and exercise the entrepreneurial genes handed down from her enterprising parents, she enrolled in Foster’s new Master of Science in Entrepreneurship Program. The all-access pass to Seattle’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has been well worth the tuition.
“Aside from the solid business foundation I am getting, I’m building relationships that will open doors,” she says. “I’m cultivating a network of people who are advancing technology I am passionate about—artificial intelligence—in meaningful ways.”
“There’s no way to know where technology will be even a few years from now,” she says. “But there are a few things I want in my career: to remain knee-deep in technology, surrounded by scientists and engineers who challenge and inspire me; to contribute to solutions that improve lives; and to never stop learning.”
That includes, in 2018, learning to sail, achieving conversational competency in Greek, exploring three new countries and finally getting a driver’s license.
More about Alessya:
What has been your most impactful experience so far at Foster?
As we were just starting our program at Foster, we had a “Seattle Startup Ecosystem” workshop with five amazing speakers, each representing a key resource for entrepreneurs (venture capital, angel investment, incubators, legal services etc). We walked into the workshop as new students of a business school program, and three hours later walked out well-connected individuals, equipped with the critical resources to start our own venture. All of the speakers were well-known leaders in the community, willing to connect and share their expertise and their network. That was an eye-opening and indelible experience. It would take an outsider years to get access to all these resources and we got access to them in one workshop.
How are you leveraging your Foster experience to prepare for future success?
Aside from the solid business foundation I am getting in the classroom, I am building relationships that will open doors. Behind every successful venture, every life-altering technology, there is a team. Behind every team there is a network of people who power it. Through the various activities and opportunities offered by the Foster program, I am cultivating a network of people who are advancing technology I am passionate about—artificial intelligence—in meaningful ways.
What aspect of the Foster culture do you believe will particularly serve you in your career?
One of my favorite aspects of the culture at the Foster MS in Entrepreneurship program is that students are encouraged to immediately apply what they learned in class in their own ventures. The program is designed as a startup accelerator, so if you are in early stages of a startup (as most students are) everything we have been learning in class is directly applicable in surmounting challenges commonly encountered in starting a business. I like how in many classes we learn concepts through the case method, which forces us to exercise our core entrepreneurial muscles – analysis, judgement, and decision making. Moreover, the program fosters a sense of camaraderie and cooperation among the cohort of students. I strongly believe that for many years to come I will maintain productive and cooperative relationships with my peers, professors, mentors and the administrators of the program.
Do you have a favorite class?
So far, it’s Entrepreneurial Strategy and Decision-making (ENTRE 567) taught by David Tan. The class kind of feels like a season of “Black Mirror” or “Game of Thrones”—it’s intense, sometimes mind-boggling, and I know I will be a little sad when the season is over. David Tan’s energy kept our entire cohort on the edge of their seats. He has a unique approach to teaching students how to think, analyze and logically process information.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Travel to places off the beaten path in faraway places. If the fun is constrained to the vicinity of Seattle, I enjoy hiking, skiing and scuba diving. On gloomy days, tango, baking and board games.
What is a “fun fact” about you?
I like to make things with my hands. On any given day you can find me engaging in some kind of prestidigitation, whether it’s making artwork, animations, or culinary delights.
Foster Futures is a series highlighting some of the students who are leading the Foster School into its second century—and themselves into promising careers. The series began in the winter issue of Foster Business magazine.