TMMBA Study Groups: Team Fantastic Five

(L-R) Bryant Ng, Electrical Systems Engineer, Boeing; Eric Vernon, Principal Test Manager, Microsoft; Matt Feeney, Senior Project Manager, Metia; Thiago Pizzirani, Operations Manager, Microsoft; Chris Rosenquest, Software and Database Manager, Callison Architecture, LLC.

(L-R) Bryant Ng, Electrical Systems Engineer, Boeing; Eric Vernon, Principal Test Manager, Microsoft; Matt Feeney, Senior Project Manager, Metia; Thiago Pizzirani, Operations Manager, Microsoft; Chris Rosenquest, Software and Database Manager, Callison Architecture, LLC.

Meet Team Fantastic Five

Immersed in case studies, presentations, and exams, TMMBA is second nature to Team Fantastic Five (Fan5). It wasn’t long ago, however, that these five teammates were in the thick of evaluating MBA options and navigating the TMMBA admissions process. Read their insider tips and recommendations for applicants considering TMMBA.

Bryant Ng: I work for The Boeing Company as an Electrical Systems Engineer on the 787 Program. I chose TMMBA to gain business skills to complement my current technology degree while still maintaining the technology component. I wanted to go to an in-class program rather than an online program in order to make networking connections in the greater Seattle area.

Eric Vernon: I’m a Senior Test Manager at Microsoft. I chose TMMBA because I wanted to move out of engineering into the business side of software. TMMBA is a good fit because I get to keep the technology focus and learn the business aspects as part of an MBA program.

Matt Feeney: I’m a Senior Project Manager at Metia. We’re a digital marketing agency. I chose the TMMBA Program because I was looking to move from managing projects to managing business and people. I have a technology background and have worked for technology companies in the past. I also thought it would be a great way to network in the greater Seattle community given the focus of the program.

Thiago Pizzirani: I have worked for Microsoft as an Operations Manager in online advertising for the last eight years. I researched a lot of different options (online, full-time, out-of state) when looking for an MBA program. One of the big requirements for me was a program that would balance improving people’s business skills while still maintaining a technology focus. I was planning to grow in both areas (business and technology), so TMMBA was the program that made it possible.

Chris Rosenquest: I’m a Software and Database Manager at Callison Architecture. My primary responsibility includes managing all internal and external software development for the 600+ employee architecture firm. I’ve chosen TMMBA because I was looking for a masters program to move my career out of hands-on technology and into management. Specifically, I was looking for a masters degree focused in technology. When I found this program, everything came together – technology management and a masters in business.

What advice do you have for someone considering TMMBA?

Matt: The first suggestion I have is to figure out what your goals are and what you’d like to do with your career. Set these goals first and look for programs that match. If your goals match the TMMBA Program – that’s fantastic. TMMBA, however, does not match everyone’s goals. For you to be successful in the end, you need to be honest with yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Eric:  Don’t underestimate the time commitment involved with TMMBA. A lot of courses will state how much time is required, and I’d say that it is pretty spot on in terms of the amount of time we have to devote. If you are a person who can devote substantial time, this can be a good fit. Make sure that your friends, family, and co-workers are on board. It’s not just “me” going through the program – it’s “me and all of my friends”. You need to prepare them as much as yourself.

Thiago: My advice is to explore and participate. For me, I attended an information session, visited class, talked with students and staff and understood how TMMBA requirements would impact my schedule.  That was the key difference when determining if TMMBA was a good fit. My questions were answered during these processes.

Why did you choose TMMBA over other MBA programs?

Eric: Part of what drove me to TMMBA was the technology focus. I compared this program to others in the area as well as the Foster Executive MBA Program. A friend of mine also graduated from the Foster School and spoke very highly of it. Finally, I checked out school rankings when making my decision.

Thiago: My general manager graduated from TMMBA, and my director graduated from Foster. I saw a lot of successful leaders at Microsoft who graduated from Foster so that was an indication of the quality of the program. I also chose TMMBA because of the Foster brand –I interview a lot of people at Microsoft, and the brand of your MBA matters. The nonstop 18 month schedule was also important. I had to have a program that would push me to completion. If I had the option to stop for a quarter and relax, it would take too long to complete.

Finally, staff support was amazing. I judge the program itself on the staff and service.  I looked at one other MBA program, and they barely replied to my emails. With TMMBA, they provided response right away. They provided a great level of service and treated me like a professional.

Bryant: I wanted to go to a prestigious university in the area.  I also needed classroom time versus an online program. It’s important to come to class and interact with the faculty and students. The 18 months was also important – it’s a highly accelerated program and it’s the fastest way to get the degree. Also, staff helps with scheduling of class and planning meals. While you’re still working and going to school, it’s very convenient to have this taken care of.

What TMMBA activities did you participate in to help you decide on TMMBA?

Thiago:  It’s a big commitment, so I explored every activity that was available (information session, application workshop, meetings).  When I attended class I was impressed with the instructor, class structure, and the questions that students asked. I wanted to be part of this smart group of people – I wanted to be taught by a PhD. The class visit was a big selling point for me.

Matt: I knew people that had gone through the program, so I talked with alumni. They give you an honest opinion of what they went through and got out of the program. It made me a lot more comfortable because those were the people that I really trusted.

The application process itself is a good tool to evaluate whether or not TMMBA is a good fit. It makes you think through certain questions.  By the time I got done with the application process I was much more comfortable about this being the right program. There are a lot of questions about who you are and what you want to be. You should be authentic to yourself throughout your evaluation of whether or not this is the right program for you.

What recommendations do you have for an applicant navigating the admissions process?

Bryant: Don’t put off applying until the last minute if you know this is the program you would like to attend. It’s a highly competitive program with a lot of people vying for the spots. Take the GMAT early and submit your application.

Chris: Just go for it –there are so many times when I questioned myself throughout the process. There’s really nothing that you have to lose.  Also, I’d recommend that you don’t wait to study for your GMAT and give yourself some time to study and take in all the material. Finally, be authentic during the interview – the last thing you want to do is to try to sell yourself. You need to represent who you are and be true to yourself.

Thiago: In preparing for the interview, you need to prepare as though it is a job interview. You need to show business maturity and passion for the program. Why are you specifically applying to TMMBA? As a student, we want passionate individuals who will represent the brand well.

A lot of candidates are concerned about the GMAT. TMMBA assured me that the GMAT is part of the package – TMMBA considers your professional background, leadership potential, and how you can contribute to the class. I wasn’t just a score, and they were willing to invest in my potential. For me that made a big difference.

What tools or strategies have you found to be most effective in managing your time?

Matt: There’s a large difference between seeing 25 hours of class time on a piece of paper and experiencing it in real life. At first, I didn’t have the skills and the capabilities to do it right up front. I learned over time – I’m much better at managing my time and much better at executing the responsibilities I have in my life now that I’m six months into the program. I build a rhythm and have a very regimented lifestyle. I have time set aside for studying, family, work, etc. As long as I focus on those things while I’m at them I can do all of them.

That’s one important aspect to think about with this program. As we move up in our career, demands are going to be more and more. TMMBA teaches you how to deal with the demands of an intensive environment. Coming out of this program, we’ll be better at managing our lives.

Chris: My biggest challenge was organizing common work amongst five people for whom I don’t know their time management habits. Right now, we all manage the same calendar and it has all of our assignments, classes, review sessions, etc. Our team works very well together. We get the work done and have a good time doing it.

Life needs to be a balance. I wouldn’t say to put one thing over the other otherwise it devalues everything else. I have taken one day out of the week to spend with my wife. That has provided the balance that I need.