Q&A with David Lam, TMMBA alumnus

David LamDavid Lam (TMMBA 2013), senior product manager at Expedia, shares his experiences in the UW Foster School’s Technology Management MBA program.

How has the Technology Management MBA experience impacted your career since graduation?
I actually shifted my career from program management to a product management role literally the same day the program started. In a way, I benefited from the MBA program even before I started as it helped prove to my hiring manager that I was serious about the shift from a technology-focused role to one that was business focused. I have since changed companies, but continue to work in a product manager capacity.

Can you expand on your way of thinking before the program and how you use those skills acquired today?
On my journey towards graduation of the MBA program, I developed a deeper appreciation of how to build and operate a business. Courses that stand out in particular for me were marketing and entrepreneurship. I continue to apply the lessons learned in the these courses at work. In particular:

  • Marketing: Develop a stronger awareness of the environment as constantly changing (acting and reacting). Know who the decision maker is.
  • Entrepreneurship: Focus on the customer. The secret to success is not the idea but the execution.

As a byproduct of undertaking a very intense MBA program, in addition to a full-time position and raising a young family, I also discovered the art of time travel. That is, learning the truth of the phrase, “I don’t have time to do that.” It really means, “I have other priorities.” Ultimately, it comes down to balancing priorities and also learning how to collaborate with others, whether it’s colleagues or family, to get things done efficiently.

What impact did the Business Plan Competition have on your career goals and way of thinking?
Participating in the Business Plan Competition in combination with the incredibly useful entrepreneurship course was easily the toughest yet most rewarding experience in the TMMBA program. Building a team and developing an idea into a plausible business that went through multiple iterations provided lessons that, even working in a fortune 500 company today, I find useful. Do we really understand who the customer is? Have we talked to the customers enough to know if the proposed solution is a band-aid or cure? What should the business model be and how do we determine the marketing channels?

Are there any other benefits from the TMMBA experience you would like to mention?
After many years working in technology focused roles, I became quite experienced in how to get from project kick-off through to implementation. My shift to business was driven by the desire to better understand why.

Final thought—there are three parts to undertaking an MBA program:

  1. Identifying the benefit in doing so.
  2. Researching the options.
  3. Doing it.

I procrastinated for a while with step three and have talked to many others in the same situation. To those at this stage, I would like to leave you this quote:

“Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.” – Vaclav Havel

Best of luck!