Q&A with Ahmed Faraz, TMMBA Class of 2018

Recent Technology Management MBA (TMMBA) Program graduate, Ahmed Faraz ( known as just “Faraz”) shares with us his student experience, jaw-dropping commute and post-graduation accomplishments.

Faraz commuted from Portland, OR twice a week to be a part of the TMMBA Program.

About Faraz

Faraz was one of two Class of 2018 students who commuted back and forth from Portland, Oregon twice a week in order to attend and graduate from Foster’s TMMBA Program! During the program Faraz was a Process Engineer at Applied Materials, working in Intel’s Fabrication LAB in Hillsboro, Oregon where he worked on enabling Intel to improve their yield on its latest chip fabrication process. In the span of 18 months, Faraz balanced not only challenging full-time work and an accelerated MBA program, but he also bought a house, welcomed his first child Aahil into the world, and commuted at least 12 hours a week to the UW (over 40,000 miles total). Apparently, Faraz is superhuman.

Faraz entered the TMMBA Program with an impressive technical background. With two previous master’s degrees in electrical engineering and applied mathematics, Faraz sought out Foster’s TMMBA Program to develop his business acumen and advance his career prospects. Leveraging his new Foster MBA, Faraz will be taking on a brand new role next month in sales as an Account Manager at Applied Materials, a leading player in the semiconductor industry!

Faraz junior (Aahil), youngest TMMBA graduate.

Why did you choose the TMMBA Program at the Foster School of Business, especially when you live in Portland, Oregon!?

Being in the technical field for more than five years I was looking for my next career move. Looking into various options and talking to the experienced professionals in my field, I decided to transition into technical sales. I have always wanted to build a business skill set on top of my existing technical background, and therefore I began my search for an MBA program that would help provide that opportunity. Many factors went into making my decision to apply to TMMBA:

Living in Portland, I had the choice of either going to one of the local schools or driving/flying to other out of state schools. For me, the MBA degree was not just a piece of paper; instead, I wanted to obtain a degree from one of the best schools in Northwest, one that will have the everlasting impact on me personally and professionally. Additionally, one of the most significant Return on Investment (ROI) for a business school is its student and alumni network. It was also important for me not to miss out on the social and networking gatherings with my cohort after or before the class sessions.

Faraz with his wife Manjul – the most prominent source of energy and the person who made TMMBA possible despite all the odds.

The U.S. News and World Report ranked the Foster School’s flagship MBA program #1 in the Northwest and #13 nationwide making Foster one of the top choices among business schools in the Northwest. At the time of my search, there were five MBA programs offered by Foster – Full-time, Evening, TMMBA, Executive MBA and Global Executive MBA program. Since I was keen on the technology focus and short duration of the program, I found TMMBA to be best aligned with my criteria and career goals. With my time constraints and my desire to focus mainly on technological companies, I felt that this 18-month program was well-suited to my needs.

Another reason I chose TMMBA was Foster’s brilliant faculty. I found that the Financial Times ranked the UW Foster School of Business faculty #7 in the world, #6 in the nation and #1 among public universities for research productivity. I believe that the faculty’s involvement in research is essential part of being a first-rate teacher. The Foster faculty not only bring the most up-to-date material to the classroom, they also tend to be inquisitive, demanding and evidence-oriented.

Also, I researched the TMMBA alumni career paths pre- and post-MBA, and found many with the same career curve that I would like for myself.

Lastly, I consulted a few leaders in my company in Portland and received positive feedback about the University of Washington, which further boosted my confidence and helped to solidify my decision.

Dinner at Faraz’s home during the Local Study Tour in Portland, OR.

What key skills and/or mindset did you acquire during the TMMBA program?

TMMBA made me realize that it’s not sufficient to have quantitative and analytics training to be a transformative leader. An MBA graduate can add more value through their ability to lead and manage others than through their talents as individual contributors. When I look at my industry, I still see a scarcity of soft skills and real leadership, as well as the ability to work with and through others. I learned how to fill that gap and create opportunities for a better future through leadership courses such as Leading Organizational Change and Leadership Development taught by some of the most influential professors in the industry, Bruce Avolio and Michael Johnson, respectively.

The entrepreneurial practicum in the second half of the program was another great learning platform that gave me an opportunity to get feedback from top ventures and judges with immense entrepreneurial experience. The entrepreneurial practicum gave me a chance to develop an idea, from conception to launch. This experience taught me valuable skills that will be useful in the workplace – not only as an entrepreneur, but also in my new role.

An MBA journey would be incomplete without marketing courses. We had Strategic Marketing Management course taught by the Associate Dean of the Foster School of Business, Dan Turner. This course provided me with a set of evidence-based theories, tools, and frameworks to create, communicate, and deliver superior customer value. By the end of this course I was a better marketing decision maker. I am excited to use the knowledge, tools and frameworks that I acquired from my TMMBA program experience in my new adventure.

Faraz with his TMMBA study team.

Describe your typical schedule on a class night (including your commute).

On Wednesdays, I would leave Portland after lunch around 2:00 p.m. to avoid rush hour traffic. Often, I would reach the Eastside Executive Center (EEC) in Kirkland with only seconds to spare. Thanks to the TMMBA staff, fresh coffee and dinner awaited me and that would re-energize me for a 3-hour class ahead. Also, discussions with my classmates over dinner on the articles to be discussed that evening in class was a brilliant motivator for class.

The first one and half hour of the class was always very energetic and cheerful followed by a 15 minute break, which was a time where we would refuel ourselves with coffee and ice cream. The second half of the class was always a little difficult after the long day at work and driving. Thanks to the funny and sometimes informative discussions on our cohort Slack channel, that would keep the spirit up and the environment lively.

Unless we had a happy hour following class, in which case I will tend to hang out for another hour or so, I started my return trip to Portland and would reach home by midnight.

What were your impressions of the faculty? Is there a particular faculty member who stands out in your mind as being truly exceptional?

TMMBA has one of the best faculties in the Northwest. All the TMMBA faculty made the classes very engaging by style of inquiry; pushing, asking questions, and encouraging back and forth exchanges.

I believe that Lance Young of Finance is one of Foster’s best instructors. I thoroughly enjoyed his classes. In the classroom, he moves around like a human tornado, whirling this way and that, and waving his arms up in the air. His energy, passion, and persistence for Finance makes the subject fun and easy to understand.

Faraz (right) with his partners in crime, Sanjay (left) and Anupa (middle), also TMMBA Class of 2018 graduates.

Are you planning on changing industries or job functions? If so, how has the TMMBA program equipped you for the career change?

I aspire to be a sales leader in my industry. With that in my mind, I wanted to transition into an appropriate sales and marketing job; but like many engineers, I was worried that I would be overlooked when applying for non-technical jobs. One of the most critical skills that I learned from TMMBA was “how to market yourself.” From courses such as Professional Communications, where we were required to develop an elevator pitch, to the Resume Challenge, a career management exercise that guided us to build our brand, TMMBA has been a confidence booster in every respect.

Additionally, courses such as Corporate Financial Strategy, Negotiations, and Competitive Strategy equipped me to successfully carry on conversations during the interviews and make a great impression on the interviewer. TMMBA also has a rich data-driven curriculum that taught me how to analyze data and drive decision making, which significantly attracts employers.

With my focused efforts and the practical training that I have received during my TMMBA journey, Applied Materials offered me an opportunity that I craved over the last two years. Within a couple of weeks following graduation, I received a job offer for an Account Manager role in Sales at Applied Materials. For me, this career change is a significant ROI from TMMBA. I believe that this change will have a positive impact on my career both in short- and long-term.