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International student uses Foster MBA to test career paths

As a kid growing up in Mexico City, Pedro Del Castillo was fascinated by machines.

“I became interested in how things work and how you can make them work better,” he says. “I guess that’s what drew me to mechanical engineering. It was about looking at things and their touch and feel, putting them together, taking them apart, and putting them together again.”

This fascination with the way things work has never left him.

When he grew up, he studied mechanical engineering at Universidad Iberoamericana and went to work for GE Aviation after graduation. Later he moved back to Mexico City, worked for Chrysler and earned a master’s degree from Georgia Tech via distance learning.

Throughout his career, he had gained satisfaction through solving problems. But he began to feel that the problems were too technical, and were taking him deeper and deeper into a specialized niche.

“I started feeling like I was a cog in this huge corporate machinery,” he says. “I really wanted to take a step back, get a wider perspective. With that in mind, I started thinking about going back to school and earning a master’s in business.”

His search led him to the U.S., where many of the world’s top universities are located.

“I wanted a to be in a place that could offer a lot of different options, from very large companies that work in technology to big manufacturing companies like Boeing,” he recalls.

The Foster Full-time MBA Program’s small size, international focus, and diversity of industry contacts drew him to Seattle.

“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do afterwards, so it was really important for me to have so many options, so many different industries,” he says.

Seattle’s natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities also attracted him, as did Foster’s reputation for environmental stewardship. He joined the school’s nationally-recognized chapter of Net Impact, an organization that supports social and environmental change through business, and took on a role coordinating “greening” activities with other groups across the UW campus.

As he acquired business knowledge in the classroom, he tapped Foster’s extensive network of business contacts to explore his options for a new career path. A project for Puget Sound Energy, helping the utility explore the possibility of selling solar power, let him pursue a longstanding interest in sustainable energy, but also led him to conclude that the industry was too slow-moving for him. An internship with Planetary Power gave him exposure to the startup environment, but he decided he needed more structure at this point in his career.

Eventually, management consulting began to look like a good match for his strengths. Working with MBA Career Management, he actively pursued opportunities in the industry, and ultimately landed a job with Alvarez & Marsal, a global professional services firm.

He’s still fascinated about the way things work, and how he can make them work better. Only now, he’ll be working on businesses rather than machines.

With job secured, she helps other MBAs succeed

Xiaoou (Olivia) Wang knows  the value of opportunity, and how holding a door open for someone else can change a life.

As a high school junior in her native China, a teacher unexpectedly called Olivia into her office. The teacher told her she had an opportunity to attend college in the United States, and asked her if she would be interested.

“I had never thought about going to the United States for college,” she says. “But I thought, yeah, that sounds interesting.”

Olivia wound up at Marietta College in Ohio, and later transferred to USC, where she graduated with a degree in business administration. Over the next few years, she gained experience in marketing and public relations in the U.S. and China.

Olivia saw earning an MBA at the Foster School as an opportunity to dig deeper in the business disciplines she had studied as an undergraduate, build leadership and teamwork skills, and network her way into her next career in the U.S.

Learning how to prioritize effectively and manage her time was an unexpected bonus.

“I’ve had jobs where I had to work eighty hours a week to finish all my work,” she says. “But here at Foster there are so many things going on at the same time. You have classes, homework cases, and team meetings, but you also want to talk to employers, talk to other students, and go to networking events. I finally found it impossible to finish all the things I wanted to do. I realized that, here at Foster, I really needed to learn how to prioritize my tasks, what I wanted to do and how I wanted to use my time.”

The hunt for a summer internship and a job after graduation was never far from her mind. A career coach in the MBA Career Management office helped her focus her search and provided her with contacts for informational interviews. “

By talking to different people, getting to know their experience at different companies, what their roles were, and what their work was like day to day, I got a better picture of what I wanted to do,” she says. “I decided that Microsoft was one of the companies I wanted to pursue.”

With assistance from the career coaches and peer advisors – second year students who had been through the process of interviewing for internships – Olivia refined her résumé and honed her presentation skills in practice interviews. Finally, she landed her internship at Microsoft. The fit with the central marketing unit at the tech giant proved a good one, resulting in an offer of a permanent position after graduation. Olivia leapt on that opportunity.

She was so grateful for the help she had received in her job search that she took on a role as a peer advisor for first year students during her second year.

“I helped first year students get through the very difficult time of job hunting, internship searching and interviews,” she says. “Students came to me for general advice, help editing a résumé or cover letter, and tips for interview preparation. I wanted to guide them in seeking a job they would actually like after they graduated.”

Olivia sees this impulse to help others as part of the culture at Foster.

“People who come to Foster believe in the culture here, and they learn about it before they arrive,” she says. “We are a group of people who are warmhearted, who really want to help society but are also self-motivated in our own careers as well.”

Army vet leverages MBA for shift to consulting career

A commitment to service is rooted deep in Ryan McCarthy’s DNA.

Ryan’s father was in the Air Force, and was assigned all around the world while Ryan was growing up. The family relocated frequently, but finally settled in Spokane, where Ryan graduated from high school.

Attending college at the University of Portland, he majored in mechanical engineering and joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Five years as an officer in the Army followed graduation. Assignments in air defense units took him to Korea and Qatar.

Next came a three-year stint with the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia, where he played a significant role in helping the Guard manage its 358,000 personnel. (He continues to serve as a reservist.)

By 2013, Ryan had married and started a family. Ryan decided it was time to leave military and government service and put his management expertise and problem-solving skills to work in the private sector. Acquiring business expertise was a first step toward his goal.

“In the military, there’s a lot of management and leadership training but nothing as far as finance or accounting or ways to help for-profit organizations,” he says.

Earning an MBA was a logical solution to this problem. Both Ryan and his wife had roots in the Pacific Northwest, so he concentrated his search for a program there and ultimately chose the Foster School.

As Ryan began filling in gaps in his knowledge of the core disciplines of business, he also learned to adapt his leadership style through working with teams in the MBA Program.

“Leadership is very different between the military and the corporate world,” he says. “In the military, a soldier or an officer can wear their rank on their chest. You know what kind of authority they have with that rank. Here in business school and in corporate America, it’s much different. You have to be convincing and persuasive without using that rank. You also have to be ready to lead not only subordinates but also your peers.”

Career search, which begins when MBA students first enter the program, was another area where Ryan knew he had to adapt.

“I think from the initial shock of leaving the military, where everything was very regimented, I had to demilitarize myself,” he says. “I had to change the way I talked about myself and my past. The MBA Career Management staff has helped me out immensely with that. They helped me communicate better with recruiters and companies.”

After earning his MBA, Ryan and his family want to stay in the Pacific Northwest. The Foster MBA Program has given Ryan a chance to explore career opportunities in Seattle and Portland.

“I’d like to be in the consulting industry,” he says. “I enjoy helping organizations out here. I’ve taken on several consulting internships to develop those skills. It has given me a perspective on how consultants with fifteen to twenty years of experience interact with their customers.”

Desire to lead and serve drives Foster MBA

Kelsey Ingram’s decision to apply to the Foster Full-time MBA Program was driven by a desire to explore new career opportunities in her hometown, Seattle.

“I’m originally from Seattle, and I really wanted to build my professional network in the Seattle area, so that was a huge reason for coming to Foster,” she says. “The relationships and the reputation that Foster has with the Seattle community just don’t compare with any other school.”

Kelsey’s route back to her old stomping ground took detours through South Bend, Indiana, where she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration specializing in Information Technology Management at Notre Dame, and San Francisco, where she started her career at a major accounting firm.

“My IT management degree was a great segue into my career with Ernst & Young,” she says. “After working there for a few years I felt a bit siloed into technology and decided that I want a broader foundation of business skills. That was the main driver for going back to get my MBA.”

The process of applying for admission at Foster led Kelsey to some surprising insights about what was really important to her in her future career.

“The application requires you to sit down and think about why you want to get an MBA and what you want to do here,” she says. “And while most people’s plans change between the time they apply and the time they graduate, I really was able to use that as a driver for what it was I wanted to focus on.”

Writing her application, Kelsey found that service and leadership emerged as important themes.

“In my application, I wrote about joining a non-profit organization eventually. When I came to Foster, I realized that was more of a passion and that it might not be a career path for me, but I was able to use that passion to focus my energy on the Challenge 4 Charity organization. Serving the community is something that I’m very passionate about and something that I was reminded of looking back at my application.”

“There were also parts of my application that related to leadership development, and that dovetailed into my involvement with the Fritzky Leadership Fellows Program,” she adds.

Kelsey’s post-MBA position with a consulting firm promises opportunities to combine her passions for service, leadership – and business. With help from Foster’s MBA Career Management office, she landed a summer internship that turned into a great job after graduation.

“In the summer between my first and second year I was lucky enough to work for Point B. It’s a management consulting firm with an office here in Seattle,” she says. “I was working on an IT project for a large family foundation in the area. It was a great learning experience, and I’m really excited to go back this coming August for my full-time position.”

Friendly, inclusive Foster MBA culture embraces international student

Jessica Green’s relaxed, approachable manner might lead you to think she’s a Seattle native. You might not guess that she was born in Great Britain and has lived much of her life in London, Tokyo and New York.

“My mother is Japanese and my father is British,” she explains. “I grew up in both England and Japan in my younger years. I came to the US originally for my undergraduate education. After graduating, I went back to Japan to work for a while before getting my MBA.”

Jessica worked for four years as an equity trader for Merrill Lynch before she moved on to a sales account management job for Expedia, also in Japan. But she began to see that her career prospects would be limited without more education and a change of scene.

“Being female and in Japan, it’s a fairly traditional culture,” she says. “I felt it was very difficult to move up in the ranks. I also felt that earning an MBA would help accelerate my career trajectory.”

Jessica’s search for the right MBA program led her back to the US, with a focus on the West Coast.

“I was looking around at West Coast schools and Seattle popped up to me as a location, and Foster eventually came to be my top choice,” she says, “mostly because of the smaller school fit. It was also a smaller community, a better environment for me.”

“Seattle was a big draw for me,” she continues. “I knew there were a lot of good tech companies in the area. That industry would be an option for me going forward. But what ultimately made my decision was when I visited and met students, faculty and some of the staff at Foster.”

At a “welcome weekend” event, she made an immediate connection with current Foster students.

“I felt like I had known them for a week or two already, though it was just the first day,” she recalls.

With her diverse background, Jessica wanted a school—and a community—that welcomed international students. Foster, and Seattle, turned out to be a good fit in that respect, too.

“Foster has a very diverse student body, especially in terms of international students,” she says. “There are communities within the international student body that offer you a home away from home, which keeps international students from missing their real homes too much.”

Visiting Seattle’s International District, where she saw street signs in Japanese, and discovering a great sushi restaurant, Sushi Kappo Tamura, in the nearby Eastlake neighborhood made her feel at ease in her new community.

While Jessica ranks students and courses at Foster among her favorite aspects of the MBA experience here, leadership development has been her biggest challenge.

“I haven’t managed people before,” she says. “In the MBA program, I’ve led more within teams, and in the various activities I’ve been involved in, than ever in my life.”

To develop leadership experience and give back to her fellow students, Jessica took on a leadership role as the voice of international students within the MBA Association and committed her second year to serving as a Fritzky Leadership Fellow.

In the classroom, Jessica developed an interest in marketing, and scored a marketing internship with Amazon.com during the summer between her first and second year. The internship led to an offer of employment after graduation.

She won’t be alone.

“As an intern, I helped organize a happy hour for Foster alumni and current Foster student interns,” she says. “Looking at the list of Foster alumni at Amazon, I just had to keep scrolling. I think that’s part of the reason why Amazon keeps coming to Foster to recruit. Foster grads stay and work and do great things there.”

For Foster MBA, practical experiences add real-world perspective

Nick Amland sees himself as a hands-on problem-solver, but he combines a practical approach to business with a streak of idealism.

Majoring in business administration and finance as an undergraduate at the University of Puget Sound, Nick developed an interest in microfinance. That led him into the social sector. After graduation, he worked for organizations involved in implementing global health programs, traveling to places like Mozambique and Tanzania. The experience opened his eyes.

“I’d never been to Africa before,” he recalls. “I’d never had any exposure to those cultures, or had the opportunity to work closely with people in those countries. That was super rewarding.”

“That motivated me to earn an MBA,” he says. “I was able to see where a broad MBA skill set could be applied, where knowing how to look at a complex problem and how to break it down could make a difference.”

Why did he choose the Foster MBA?

“One reason was that it has a very good reputation for being collaborative and entrepreneurial, especially in terms of social entrepreneurship,” he says. “I’m really passionate about that.”

“And secondly,” he continues,” the Foster program is known for having a strong network in Seattle. I grew up here, and that’s something I wanted to come back for.”

Nick especially values the opportunities to gain practical experience that a Foster MBA offers.

“You know, MBAs are ruthlessly practical,” he says. “It’s really nice to learn something in the classroom, but you really want to apply what you’re learning in a real-life setting. Foster provides lots of opportunities to do that.”

Nick lists the Applied Strategies course, the Net Impact Service Corps consulting program, and a research fellowship with the Global Business Center as practical experiences that have given him a chance to apply what he’s learning and test his skills.

“All three of those experiences put me in a consulting environment, where I’ve had to deliver results,” he says. “That has prepared me for what life is going to be like after school.”

From the beginning, Nick’s plan was to put his business knowledge and problem-solving skills to work in the consulting industry after graduation.

“I came into the Foster program really interested in consulting,” he says. “I thought that going into consulting, I could take advantage of the natural momentum that I had coming out of the program and hit on some of the skill sets that I really wanted to build.”

Nick achieved his goal, landing a job with Alvarez & Marsal, a prominent management consulting firm with offices in a number of cities, including Seattle. But he admits that he had a lot of help.

“I couldn’t have done it without support from MBA Career Management, other members of the Consulting Society who helped me with practice case interviews, and just the students around me,” he says.

Change as strength

While introducing Bsquare CEO Jerry Chase as the April 22 Leaders to Legends Breakfast speaker, Dean Jiambalvo described the tech leader as an “accomplished executive with decades of experience leading public and private companies through times of transition and growth.” With the theme of “transition and growth” clearly in mind, Chase spent his time at the podium discussing the importance of listening to customers, company adaptability, and the burgeoning “internet of things” industry.

Watch his full lecture below.

MBA leaders experience transition under pressure

This post was written by staff members from the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking

MBA studentsOn Friday March 13, the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking (CLST) and Foster MBA Association (MBAA) celebrated the upcoming leadership transition as elected 1st year students prepare to take over the reins from soon-to-graduate 2nd year students. This event is part of our year-long Leading Across Boundaries (LAB) workshops series. The theme chosen for this half-day event was to Transition under Pressure.

MBA studentsWorking in four parallel teams of six to eight students, each team was charged with designing a giant Rube Goldberg machine! Teams consisted of both 1st and 2nd year students. Machines were required to involve at least 4 transfers of energy from one “mini” machine or component to the next culminating in a final machine that would drop a weight into a cup. Armed with an array of materials including dominoes, mouse traps, springs, and marbles, second-year students were instructed to work on the upstream portion of the machine and first-year students were instructed to work on the downstream or terminal portion of the machine. Midway through the event, the facilitators transferred a key player from each team to another team and added design requirements. The purpose of this challenge was three-fold:  1. To focus on how well, under extreme time pressure, the 1st and 2nd year MBAs coordinated the effort and communication needed to make all parts of the machine connect and work as one; 2. To examine how well teams adapted to unexpected and disruptive changes in their structure and resources; and 3. To observe how leadership emerged and was shared to achieve the team’s objectives.

MBA studentsFollowing the ending of the game competition, feedback about how the teams worked to achieve their goals was provided by the judges – CLST’s Bruce Avolio and Chelley Patterson; 2012 alumnus, former MBAA Executive Vice President, and co-founder with CLST of the LAB series, Colin Beazley; and Director, Full-time MBA Student Affairs, Sigrid Olsen.

Many thanks to outgoing MBAA Executive Vice President, Soleil Kelley, for keeping the LAB tradition alive and for all his thought- and leg-work putting together this Rube Goldberg event! And now we move on to working with the new MBA leadership on the next LAB event as we move into the Spring quarter…

Watch video of the event below:

 

L.A.B. sessions enable MBA students to discuss topics of interest with business and community leaders while  developing their own leadership skills. The sessions are sponsored by MBAA and CLST. Visit CLST’s website to learn more.