Tag Archives: Evening MBA

Foster MBA class explores entrepreneurship through the investor’s eyes

susan-preston1713-XLHow to be a better entrepreneur? You might start with understanding what investors are looking for.

That’s the insight behind the Foster School’s distinctive Angel Investing course, a year-long practicum offered to a select group of advanced MBAs by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship.

Actually, practicum may not be strong enough a word for what occurs over the course of this immersion into the world of early stage entrepreneurial investing.

It begins in the classroom with the principles of investing and how to spot a viable startup team, opportunity and technology. And then pairs of students embed with one of seven Seattle angel groups. Alongside the pros, they hear pitches, perform the due diligence, and eventually invest real money, on behalf of the University of Washington, in one or two startups that show the most promise.

This year, the class invested $50,000 in C-SATS, a Seattle startup using online crowd-sourcing to accurately and inexpensively assess, via video, the skill of surgeons and other medical practitioners.

The point of the class, though, is not only to make money on an early stage investment or two.

“A principle I teach is that if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to understand your market and your audience,” says Susan Preston, the Buerk Endowed Fellow for Entrepreneurship at Foster. “One of your first audiences is investors. So we try to understand how they think when they’re considering an investment. The learning curve is massive for everyone.”

Expert instructor

susan-preston1678-XLIf you engineered the perfect instructor for such a course, you’d come pretty close to Preston. A general partner of the CalCEF Clean Energy Angel Fund and managing member of the Seattle Angel Fund, Preston is also co-founder of the nation’s first all-women angel investing group (Seraph Capital), an advisor to the National Science Foundation, a former entrepreneur-in-residence at the Kauffman Foundation, author of two books on entrepreneurial financing, and architect of a pending federal bill on private equity investing.

“I’ve been living and breathing this for almost two decades,” Preston says.

A self-described opportunistic risk taker, she jumped at the chance to take over this unique course created and taught at Foster for its first two years by Robert Wiltbank (PhD 2003), a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Willamette University and partner at Montlake Capital.

Preston has been energized by her first year teaching the class.

“I really enjoy the students and their energy,” she says. “They are demanding, because they want to get their money’s worth out of every credit. And I deeply respect that. It’s wonderful to see that level of interest and commitment.”

Interest and commitment

Esther Perman (MBA 2015), a member of last year’s class, typifies that entrepreneurial zeal. She was a UW Business Plan Competition finalist, a Gates Fellow in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Technology Alliance, president of the Foster School Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club, and runner-up at the International Venture Capital Investment Competition. “Entrepreneurship is pretty much where I planted my flag,” says Perman, who came to Foster from a biofuel startup and hopes to leverage her education into a startup of her own someday.

She was in good company. “Most of us in the class aspire to either start or work for an early stage company,” says Greg Akselrod (Evening MBA 2015), a Microsoft program manager with entrepreneurial ambitions. “We saw the class as an opportunity to view entrepreneurship from the other side. By seeing how investors react to so many different entrepreneurial pitches, we learned to pattern match to see, oh, this is what they’re looking for.”

For Kate Thorson (MBA 2015), whose background is in global health, the Angel Investing class brought to life all of the core components of the Foster MBA. “By interacting with entrepreneurs and evaluating real companies from an investor perspective, we learned to grasp the whole picture of a business—from the broader economic context and the contours of the individual industries to company strategies, financial viability and makeup of the team,” she says.

“…With actual investment on the line.”

Foster MBAs take first in their division at ethics competition

Evening MBA students  Kayla Erickson, Garin Wedeking, and Naveen Ahmed
Kayla Erickson (MBA 2016), Garin Wedeking (MBA 2015), and Naveen Ahmed (MBA 2016)

Foster Evening MBA students Naveen Ahmed, Kayla Erickson, and Garin Wedeking took first place in their division at the International Business Ethics Case Competition (IBECC) on April 23 in New Orleans.

The International Business Ethics Case Competition is the premier international competition of its kind. It is jointly sponsored by the Ethics & Compliance Officer Association, the Center for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University, and the Opus College of Business of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Foster MBAs competed in the full presentation competition. The team identified an ethically-problematic issue and designed a presentation to address that issue. They picked the use of technology at Uber. In their presentation they explained the legal, financial, and ethical dimensions of the issue and recommended a solution that addressed all three dimensions. The presentation was judged by professional corporate ethics and compliance officers. The purpose of the competition is to show students it is possible to do business profitably while acting ethically.

According to Elizabeth Umphress, associate professor of management at Foster, “The team was extremely well-prepared, and did a fantastic job!”

Liberal Arts Grad Finds Community at Business School

Meet Lisa Dahlby, MBA 2015

As an undergraduate, Lisa Dahlby majored in journalism and political science, but she had grown up in a family where business topics were discussed around the dinner table. She always knew she would pursue a career in business, so earning an MBA was a long-term goal. When the time came to go for a graduate degree, she decided to look for a part-time program that would allow her to stay actively involved in her career in advertising. The Foster Evening MBA offered not only a high-quality education, but a sense of community. She found professors welcoming and classmates supportive. Her experience at Foster has not only helped her broaden her knowledge of business and given her new skills to apply on the job, but also, she believes, has made her “a better citizen of the world.”

Watch other Evening MBA Faces of Foster videos.

Desire to lead and passion for sport drive future MBA

Meet Kevan Brown, MBA 2016

Earning an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering was an important achievement for Kevan Brown, but he never planned to stop there. He sees pursuing an MBA at the Foster School as a way to develop business knowledge and skills and tap into Foster’s extensive alumni network, but also as a way to realize his potential as a leader. Outside the office and the classroom, Kevan has a passion for basketball. He’s using what he’s learning in the Evening MBA Program to pursue that passion through creating a recreational basketball league for working professionals. He’s building a business around something he loves while creating community and encouraging others to follow a healthy lifestyle.

Watch other Evening MBA Faces of Foster videos.

Arts advocate uses MBA to think outside the box

Meet Graham Mills, MBA 2015

How does an undergraduate drama major end up in an MBA program? An internship with a theatre company introduced Graham Mills to the business side of the nonprofit sector, and piqued his interest in applying ideas and techniques from the private sector to develop more sustainable models for arts organizations. When he considered earning a graduate degree, an MBA was an obvious choice. Since enrolling in Foster’s Evening MBA Program, he has applied “thinking outside the box” not only to his work, but also to planning his future career. The knowledge, skills and network Foster offers has provided him with wide range of opportunities and the confidence to pursue them.

Watch other Evening MBA Faces of Foster videos.

Real Estate Pro Gains Competence, Confidence and Connections

Meet Chinu Randhawa, Evening MBA Class of 2015

Chinu Randhawa, employed in real estate, had reached a plateau and decided to pursue further education as a way to explore options in her current field or other fields. When she enrolled in the Foster Evening MBA Program, she found an instant network among her classmates – active professionals with diverse career backgrounds. She also benefited from participation in Foster’s MBA Mentor Program. In her second year, she connected with a mentor who had changed careers several times and had applied her talents successfully in several industries. Entering the second half of her program, Chinu says the program delivered on its promise to supply her with “the three C’s”: competence, confidence and connections – a great foundation for the next stage of her career.

Watch other Evening MBA Faces of Foster videos.

Marketer with a Passion for People Values Classmates

Meet Allison Waddell, Evening MBA Class of 2015

An undergraduate degree in marketing helped Allison Waddell launch her career, but she wanted to expand her knowledge base and gain the strategic perspective on business offered by a Foster MBA. Sharing experiences with, and learning alongside, a talented group of classmates at the Foster School keeps her motivated. The Evening MBA Program offers her opportunities to apply what she’s learning in her day job and in field study projects with other companies. Along the way, she has mentored fellow students, served in a leadership role with Foster’s MBA Association and bonded with classmates on a study trip to Brazil. For someone with a passion for people and a drive to lead, the Evening MBA Program offers plenty of room to grow.

Watch other Evening MBA Faces of Foster videos.

Evening MBA transformers: David Zern

David ZernOnce: fraud analyst, T-Mobile
Now: marketing manager, T-Mobile

Tell us about your previous career: Before starting at Foster, I worked my way up through the ranks at T-Mobile, starting in retail and moving to my then position as a risk analyst. The role involved combing through databases to determine who was committing fraud on our network. The role gave me some good experience, but unfortunately did not offer much upside.

What are you currently doing in your role? My current role is a marketing manager supporting base communication at T-Mobile. I ensure that our marketing messages go out correctly, on time and with relevant information. I assist the strategy team on what the best method of communicating with customers is and what can be deemed successful once the campaign has finished.

How did the Evening MBA Program help you transition to your new role? Transitioning to my new role was somewhat of an accident. I went with my fiancé to the Foster alumni poker tournament where she happened to be seated at a table with one of my current co-workers, who was an alumnus of the Evening MBA Program. She introduced us and, after talking with him for a bit, he mentioned his team was looking to hire. I was able to leverage what I had learned in my brief time in the program to move into my current role.

What advice do you have for part-time MBA students interested in making a career transition? Networking and asking your fellow classmates never hurts when looking for a new role. I stumbled upon my role by accident, but would not have been in that position had it not been for my networking abilities and my fiancé introducing us. If you are interested in a new career, find out who works at the company you are looking to move to or ask around to see if anyone has advice. I’ve been asked on several occasions and have referred several people to T-Mobile now that I’m in a role where I can do that. Networking is key!

Evening MBA transformers: Savitha Swaminathan

Savitha Swaminathan Once: research associate, Seattle BioMed
Now: commercialization associate, Device and Tools Global Program, PATH, Seattle

Tell us about your previous career: Prior to enrolling in the Foster School of Business, I worked at the Center for Infectious Disease Research as a research associate. I managed and conducted research projects on agents of critical infectious diseases such as the influenza virus.

What are you currently doing in your role? I am currently a commercialization associate with the Devices and Tools group at PATH. PATH is a global health nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring transformative health technologies to the developing world. PATH does this through product development, innovation, and effective private sector partnerships. In my current role, I focus on ensuring that effective partnering with the private sector, global access, intellectual property, and market development perspectives are integrated into product development plans. I support strategic product development through analysis, such as market segmentation, economic and stake holder analysis, and develop value propositions to evaluate the commercial viability of the technologies in our portfolio.

How did the Evening MBA Program help you transition to your new role? The MBA was key in making a successful transition from research to business strategy. In particular, the internship I did with the Center for Commercialization laid the foundation for a very successful interview process and created an easy transition into my current role. The MBA also created many opportunities to network and meet the right people who were able to guide, mentor, and recommend me to potential employers.

What advice do you have for part-time MBA students interested in making a career transition? “Lean in.” While Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg has used this phrase to create a movement of epic proportions to help women catalyze their careers, it can be borrowed to summarize your strategy to make the most of the MBA program. If you are looking to make a career transition, it is likely you will have less experience in the area you want to move into. It is important to position your past experience as relevant to the new role you are seeking and also make the most of the opportunities the MBA program provides to make up for this gap. Actively engaging with MBA Career Management to improve your interview skills, participating in case competitions to expand your exposure to real-world business challenges, and engaging with Foster’s rich alumni network to seek informational interviews are all highly effective strategies to help overcome this lack of direct experience. For evening students life can get very busy juggling full-time work and MBA assignments. Therefore, be strategic and focus on one or two areas to support your professional development through the program.

Evening MBA transformers: Peter Olagunju

Peter Olagunju Once: compliance manager, ZymoGenetics
Now: director global operations, Dendreon

Tell us about your previous career: Prior to starting the Evening MBA Program in 2009, I held the role of compliance manager with a local biotechnology organization, ZymoGenetics. In this role I had responsibility for ensuring that our external partners (manufacturing, transportation, storage and shipping) were in compliance with various regulatory requirements. When I started this role it was as an individual contributor, but I transitioned to managing a small team halfway through the MBA program.

What are you currently doing in your role? In my current role, I have responsibility for the European supply chain which includes contract manufacturers, international couriers and raw material providers.

How did the Evening MBA Program help you transition to your new role? Unequivocally, without the Evening MBA Program, I would not have been able to land my current role. The program helped provide leadership, time management and executive skills that not only enabled me to land my current role, but have also allowed me to thrive as a high performer. Additionally, during the recruitment process, the hiring manager mentioned that a strong consideration in my candidacy (compared to other applicants) was the fact that I had completed the Foster MBA Program.

What advice do you have for part-time MBA students interested in making a career transition? The number one recommendation I have for all students in the part-time MBA program (and specifically for those looking to make a career transition) is to participate in the UW Business Plan Competition. This is a great opportunity to develop an idea/plan that potentially could allow for the student to explore another discipline of business outside of their current career role.