A Summer Strategy Internship at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Kate Thorson InternshipAs I near the end of my internship at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and take stock of my experiences this summer and what I’ve learned, I am repeatedly humbled to be part of this remarkable organization. The campus is teeming with the foremost experts in a plethora of fields from around the world. As interns, we’ve been given an incredible opportunity not only to attend the many talks and fireside chats with people like Peter Piot and Bill Nye, but also the chance to sit down with C-level executives from across the organization and ask them about their experiences, leadership approach, and vision for the organization. I’ve taken away many lessons from these chats, and equally important have learned much from the incredible cohort of interns from across the country.

I’ve been thrilled to dive head first into strategy work for one of the global health programs. In reflecting on what skills I’ve most applied from my first year at Foster, I think, at a high level, it’s a structured way of thinking: which I practiced through a combination of strategy and marketing classes, my applied strategy and Service Corps projects, and case interview preparation. There’s a wonderful sense of gratification in knowing that I’ve approached my work this summer differently as a result of my first year in the MBA program, and that I’ll approach my second year differently as a result of my experiences this summer.

I had high expectations for this summer…they’ve been far surpassed.

Guest post by Kate Thorson, Class of 2015 MBA Candidate


Posted by Megan Lewis - August 18th, 2014 - 0 comments - Permalink



A Summer Marketing Internship at a High-Growth, High-Tech Firm

Rachel_A internship compressed

Unlike many of my classmates who came into Foster with a laser focus on working at Amazon/Microsoft/Starbucks, I came into Foster with a desire to work at a certain type of company. I wanted to work at a high-growth, high-tech firm that was on the late side of early stage. One that was established and well-funded, but still operated like a start-up. I wanted to work at a firm that challenged the status quo and came up with a new way of doing things—a disruptor or a creator of their own space in the market. One that placed a high value on creativity, innovation, and new ideas. I also knew that I was interested in a Marketing or Communications role that was strategic. After spending a significant portion of my career in risk-averse, bureaucratic environments, I was excited to see what it was like on the other side.

I first heard of Apptio when taking the Software Entrepreneurship class with Greg Gottesman and Matt McIlwain, who are both managing directors at Madrona Venture Capital, where Apptio is a portfolio company. Through a random mix of networking, serendipity, and luck, I was contacted by an Apptio recruiter in the spring about interning with the Marketing Department on the Content Marketing team. Content Marketing turned out to be a great opportunity to combine my strategic communications background and the quantitative and analytical skills I have learned in the MBA.

Apptio is the most measurement-oriented company I have ever worked for. They measure everything and analyze all actions, tying them back to outcomes and results. All of the Marketing efforts are tied to sales goals. The company has a sophisticated sales funnel, and tracks all prospects on a detailed level.

My project is creating the SlideShare strategy and then creating presentations to post on the Apptio SlideShare channel. It is a fun challenge to come up with engaging and compelling content that explains a solution to complex, technical problems.

At my job before going back to school, I was the person everyone came to when they wanted to know what the latest social media and collaboration tools were. When I arrived at Apptio, I was greeted with a plethora of tools I had never heard of, such as Slack, Trello, and Marketto.

I am currently one month into the internship, and I have already learned so much. From the exposure to new tools to meeting great colleagues to understanding the sales funnel, this internship has been an excellent opportunity to see what it is really like to work at this type of firm.

Guest post by Rachel Azaroff, Class of 2015 MBA Candidate


Posted by Megan Lewis - August 11th, 2014 - 0 comments - Permalink



A Summer in Consulting at McKinsey

I’m a little over half way through my sJohnCzerniakMcKinseyummer as a consultant at McKinsey and I still don’t truly know how to describe what a consultant does. I can say that what we do, we do for many hours a day during the week and earn a few hotel points and airline miles along the way. This summer, I am involved in a high-level, corporate strategy project with a Fortune 100 company. It blows my mind that someone like me, only half-way through my Foster MBA, is influencing the strategic direction of a corporation with executives who have lived and breathed the industry for decades.

I knew going into my summer at McKinsey that I would have the opportunity to have real impact on big problems, but I never thought I would meet so many great people. I have to admit that prior to starting my internship, I had a certain stereotype in mind. However, aside from employees referring to McKinsey internally as “the Firm,” any notion of pretentiousness has been shattered. The nature of my project makes it fairly top-heavy, but despite my relatively minimal experience, I’ve been encouraged to speak up about my ideas and exercise an “obligation to dissent.” Inside the team room, all ideas are considered and reacted to based on the same criteria. The goal is client impact – whose mouth that impact comes from is unimportant.

The best part of my summer has been the chances I’ve had to spend time with fellow West Coast interns. At this moment, I’m at the Reno Airport getting ready to come back from a weekend spent with 50 other interns in Tahoe. Combining that with a conference in Florida and a training in San Francisco, I’ve developed friendships with some incredibly talented people. They come from colleges and business schools all over the country and from a wide range of experiences. I’m humbled to be part of this group and the amount I’ve learned from my new colleagues and friends has been invaluable. I’m excited to bring this experience back to Foster in the fall.

Guest post by John Czerniak, Class of 2015 MBA Candidate


Posted by Megan Lewis - August 4th, 2014 - 0 comments - Permalink



It Takes a Village

Rachel Azaroff bikingThe weekend before the last week of class, I set out on a bike ride with three friends from school. We were excited to enjoy the afternoon outside, and three of us were training for a triathlon that we had signed up for together. On the way home from the ride, my wheel got caught in a railroad track, and I was thrown from my bike. When I came to, I was on the ground and had no idea how I got there! I looked up and immediately felt comforted by seeing a familiar face, one of these friends, telling me that I was going to be OK.

The other two pulled up by bike, and one quickly called 911. One rode in the ambulance with me. She and two other friends from the class who met us at the hospital stayed in the E.R. with me for five hours on a Saturday night to make sure I was okay. I ended up with a broken wrist, stitches in my forehead, and road rash down the right side of my body.

I credit co-chairing the 2014 Business Plan Competition for bringing me together with a friend who generously offered to take me into her home and take care of me in my recovery. She drove me to all of my appointments and took copious notes. She managed all of my medicines for me and checked in on me constantly to make sure that I was comfortable and had what I needed. She even washed my hair for me over the side of the tub—creating a salon-like set-up with a camping chair and a removable shower head—since I did not have the dexterity to do it myself. She took me to my surgery at 6:30a.m. Keep in mind that all of this was during the last week of school and finals, which is a stressful time for everyone.

Throughout my recovery, I was flooded with texts and calls from classmates, professors, and the program office to make sure I was okay. Numerous classmates stopped by to bring dinner, snacks, flowers, and to see how I was doing. One even picked up my mom from the airport when she got to town after my surgery, even though they had only met once briefly.

A few weeks later, when I moved into a new apartment and could not lift anything with my right hand, the Foster family stepped in again. Classmates helped me unpack, hang things with a power drill, assemble furniture and dispose of boxes.

I am from the East Coast, and it was scary to go through something like this and not have family nearby. It was comforting how quickly the Foster family stepped in to take care of me and make sure that I was OK.

Guest post by Rachel Azaroff, Class of 2015 MBA Candidate


Posted by Megan Lewis - July 28th, 2014 - 0 comments - Permalink



My First Meeting with My MBA Mentor

January 30, 2014. 10:30 a.m. A coffee shop on Mercer Island.

“So Karshit, tell me, what’s the most pleasant surprise or the best thing that’s happened to you after moving from Mumbai to Seattle?”, I was asked.

This was during my first meeting with my mentor, Dennis Karlinsky, a UW alum and a senior director at Microsoft. Before the meeting, I was a little nervous. Dennis is such a senior executive and had committed an hour of his time, and I didn’t want to sound stupid.

My meeting with Dennis was scheduled from 10:00–11:00 a.m. At 8:30 a.m. I got an e-mail notifying me of a location change request from the earlier planned Redmond location to Mercer Island. I frantically reserved a cab and ensured I reach Mercer Island on time.

Right from the first impression, Dennis came across as a very humble, and a down to earth person with a contagious smile and a positive welcoming aura. During the conversation, he made me extremely comfortable and started asking me about my background, the experience in the MBA program so far, and what I intend to get out of the program. He also told me about his journey from modest roots to now, his rationale behind pursuing an MBA and the various difficult choices he had made during his career. I asked him for advice for the upcoming MBA internship season, and what qualities he saw in successful candidates during an interview and in the corporate world.

Perhaps, the most valuable thing that I got out of the interaction was how to convey my personal story better and build an emotional connect during an interview. Having left my family and friends and moving across seas to a totally new culture, risking a significant financial loan, and quitting an existing job to build skillsets to invest in advancing my career — after having sacrificed so much, I knew I wanted nothing but the best. Within such a short time, Dennis helped me tell my own story in a much more inspiring and effective manner.

We shared common beliefs and topics of interest–our belief in the power of good Karma, and building genuine relationships with people around. We talked about the Seahawks and the then-upcoming Super Bowl. The discussion continued, and a one hour meeting extended to three hours of a great conversation. Sadly, it was time to end this conversation and leave for a class.

Upon knowing that I had taken a cab in the morning to come meet him, Dennis was slightly infuriated [that I had to spend the money] and made it a point to drop me back to Foster. It was completely unexpected. Every single second of this meeting had left me overjoyed, and given me a whole new perspective.

As I walked back to the class, I pondered back to the question Dennis had posed, and I was convinced, this meeting with Dennis was the best thing that has happened to me in Seattle, yet! I feel lucky to have Dennis as my mentor, and intend to carry on the mentor-mentee relationship not just through the MBA program, but also beyond.

Moments like these have also made me reaffirm my belief in paying it back to the school and helping the future generations of MBA students with any help they may require of me.

I would also like to thank Susan Canfield and the MBA Career Management team for helping organize the Mentor Program, which is certainly invaluable for all the MBA students.

– Karshit Shah, MBA Class of 2015

 

More Information About the Mentor Program for MBA Students:

http://www.foster.washington.edu/mbacareers/Pages/MentorProgramStudentInfo.aspx

 


Posted by Karshit Shah - May 1st, 2014 - 0 comments - Permalink



First Quarter at Foster

18th of December, 2013

Lost around 15 pounds;  Gained a truckload of knowledge; Earned a GPA of 3. Something; Formed hundreds of friendships: All of this in the first 12 weeks of the Foster MBA.

December 18th, 2013: As I entered the program office, I had this weird feeling. It felt like I was standing in the same place finishing my admission formalities just yesterday. The past 12 weeks went by so fast that it’s unbelievable.

I had done research on the Internet to prepare for the upcoming move from corporate to student life. But as we started orientation and attended Jump Start courses (a quick crash course in business fundamentals) I was amazed at how smooth my transition was. Of course, all of my preparation was not a waste of time, but a second year student’s advice was right; the best way to prepare oneself for the program is to relax as much as you can because once you start, you will never (and in my case I don’t want to) stop. All the doubts that I had about myself being able to adapt to a new country and culture were cleared when I saw the amount of support I got from professors and students alike. To quote Albus Dumbledore –“Help will be given to those who ask for it.”

The pure high that I got from learning new things and broadening my perspective kept me going. As I continued my daily reading online, I started the applying new finance and accounting knowledge to interpret business news. All the homework, case studies, and career research was overwhelming at times but what kept me motivated was that I was in love with the constant battle of mind over body.

I had heard that the 3C’s mantra – confidence, competence and connections -help one to succeed in this world. Well, they forgot the most important C – Care. By that I mean the care given by family, friends, and professors to support MBAs in winning this battle of mind over body. I am so grateful to all who helped me make it through the first quarter!

~ Guest post by Vishwa Shanti Vaddi, Class of 2015 MBA Candidate


Posted by admin - February 6th, 2014 - 0 comments - Permalink



Taking Advantage of Career Resources

One of the best things about Foster is the amount of career resources that are available. When you arrive you will quickly discover that a large number of people stand ready to help you develop a wide variety of skills. Nowhere has this been more apparent to me than in my work developing my public speaking skills. Every week I meet with Heidi Mathisen, a Business Communications Advisor at Foster. Every Wednesday we spend an hour developing my speaking skills. I prepare a one to five minute speech depending on the week, Heidi films me delivering it, and then we watch together and analyze my performance. Heidi’s feedback is extremely valuable and specific. First we spend time working on my content to ensure that my points are clear and memorable. Then we work on things like my posture, gestures, phrasing, tone of voice, and use of filler words. Soon we are going to begin working on public speaking while integrating visuals such as PowerPoint. Since each speech is filmed I can directly watch myself improve from week to week. Though I came into the program a reasonably confident public speaker, I have seen my skills steadily improve over the last quarter.

An awkward still from my first session. I’ve gotten better since then.

An awkward still from my first session. I’ve gotten better since then.

I realize that I am at a point in my career where I am able to intensively develop skills of this nature. Never again will someone be willing to sit with me for an hour a week to help me develop such an important skill. Public speaking isn’t the only skillset that offers enrichment opportunities of this nature. Career services offers interview workshops, primers on different industries, and the opportunity to hear about a variety of exciting new technologies. Overall I have gained immensely from my meetings with Heidi and am excited to see how much I will develop over the coming quarters.

~ Guest post by Dave Stecher, Class of 2015 MBA Candidate


Posted by admin - December 28th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



An Engineer in Business Land

I hadn’t always planned to go to business school. In high school I had always done my best in numbers, calculations, cold logic. Everything else was an abstraction. It made no sense to me that there could be more than one answer, or that responses to questions could run a spectrum of right and wrong. In undergrad I studied aeronautical and astronautical engineering and thrived. We used to say that we were really just glorified math majors and we’d joke to each other that “this isn’t liberal arts; we should all get the same answer.” I had always been most comfortable when there was one – and only one – right answer; when it was black and white, yes or no, true or false. It seemed incomprehensible to me to want it any other way, when there was a world of concrete, verifiable absolutism that just made sense.

Fast forward a few years to a few weeks before making the big move to the West Coast. Up until this time, there were two sides to the world that I knew: there was engineering – that marvelous straight-forward world where, if you got your numbers right and all your decimals and arithmetic signs aligned, it was guaranteed to work – and there was everything else. “Everything else” was a big, grey, fuzzy ether on the other side of the wall that separated my small corner of the world from them. I knew there were business people at my old job – financial analysts and planners, human resource managers, accountants, auditors, market analysts and salespeople – but I never saw them. Nor did I really have any clue what it was that they did, or how they did it, or even how it affected the company.

And yet, with each new person that I spoke to, I became increasingly convinced that an MBA would be the wisest course of action. It would open up more doors than a focused engineering degree. It would open up a plethora of new career paths and options to me. It would diversify my skill set. It would bring clarity to that amorphous, hazy something that I called “the rest of the world.”

Now I was poised to hurl myself over that wall and into that foggy, non-specific void to find out what lay beyond. In addition to the usual anxieties and what-if’s that everyone faces when going through a major life change, I was preoccupied with another set of trepidations. Would I be the only engineer in a class full of business majors? Would I be struggling to grasp concepts while everyone around me enjoyed a leisurely review of fundamentals? How could I survive in an environment where there was no single correct answer to any question? To what had I so blindly committed myself, my savings, and the next two years of my life?

I’ve found from prior experience that it never does well to dwell on anxieties, as they have a way of blowing themselves out of proportion. In the weeks leading up to my relocation and subsequent plunge into the frigid, icy unknown, I embarked on an 8,000-mile solo road trip, half conceived by wanderlust and half escapism. I spent three weeks alone, avoiding civilization, and going places I had no business going to with a rear-wheel drive coupe.

If you’ve ever spent any considerable amount of time in solitude, you know that your mind tends to drift towards subjects you’d rather not think about. Anxieties become amplified; insecurities you thought were safely in the closet come marching back out. More than once I thought (if only fleetingly) of turning around, canceling my enrollment and heading back to the comfort of my known universe.

Three things kept me steadfast in my commitment to attend business school. Firstly, I knew that I needed a change in my life and this was to be it. I get restless and bored if I stay in one place for too long, and five years on the East Coast was my limit. Secondly, I focused on what the workload might be. In undergrad, a 20 hour day was not atypical for me. If that’s what it took to succeed in business school, then I could do it. Thirdly, and most importantly, I knew that if I turned away from a defining personal challenge such as this, it would be a long time before I earned back my own self-respect.

So, now here I am, at the end of my first quarter as an engineer-turned-MBA student. At this stage, I can only say one thing for certain: I made the right choice, and in the words of a certain 16th century English playwright, I had made much ado about nothing.

For one, my apprehensions about sleepless nights have thus far proved baseless. I have finals coming up, but I’ve still managed to find the time to write this saga.

It also turned out I’m not the only engineer in the class, and as I got to know some of my classmates I found that regardless of our backgrounds many of them had the same or similar reservations about coming to school. We all came to this place with different strengths and weaknesses. Whether someone’s background was in engineering or computer science, finance or marketing, music theory or underwater basket-weaving, we were all in the same boat, on a more or less even playing field.

The career management center and professional development team work tirelessly to analyze your skill set, drill down to your fundamental essence and help you discover your transferable skills; the skills needed to succeed in business that you didn’t know you already possessed.

Even with this new-found self-discovery, the classes are still challenging; the workload burdensome at times. But the shared drudgery becomes the commonality that knits the class together. And the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.

The future still remains murky and unclear. I don’t know where I’ll end up when I graduate, in both a career sense and a geographic sense. In a previous life, when I was dependent on the need to have a clearly defined sense of the right and wrong directions to take, that might have given me insomnia. But now I know that I can learn how to pick the right answer within the context of the situation. That erstwhile shapeless and formless “other-world” becomes tangible and I can define my own path without the need for the crutch of absolutism.

~ Guest post by Kevin Cotter, Class of 2015 MBA Candidate


Posted by admin - December 12th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Reflections on Group Work At Foster

I’ll admit to approaching my first quarter at Foster with some nervousness. I had heard a lot about the core teams and knew a lot was riding on how well my team functioned. In the first quarter at Foster each student is assigned to a core team of five or six students. This team you are assigned for every class during your first quarter. To understate it somewhat, you spend a lot of time with your team. The idea of being assigned a team of people from different professional backgrounds, with different skill sets, and different goals for their MBA experience made me a little nervous.

Now I am nearly at the end of my first quarter, and am pleased to report back on my experiences with Team 4. I have quickly become friends with each team member and would heartily recommend them for any sort of project. Each member of the team is incredibly hard working, sharp, and genuinely nice. We meet an unusually high amount – every weekday for at least two hours. We’re even meeting up to play tennis this weekend. We don’t do it because we have to. We could meet less and we would still get our work done. However, I think there are several reasons we choose to meet so often. The first is that we genuinely enjoy being around each other. The second is that we are much more productive when we are together than we are individually. My experience working in a core team has truly facilitated my learning and (I believe) the learning of those around me. I also would not have been able to attain nearly as high of levels of productivity on my own as I could when surrounded with such a great team. I can wholeheartedly endorse the core teams as one of the best parts of my MBA experience so far and I know the same will be true of next year’s incoming students!

~ Guest post by Dave Stecher, Class of 2015 MBA Candidate


Posted by admin - November 21st, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Making the Most of Your First Year as a Blue Dot

For some of us, it may have been a little while since our last “First Day of School.” Beyond that, many of us may have never experienced a First Day where it wasn’t even us going to school! My student had a month to get ready for Foster classes to begin, and it still seemed like the first day came very quickly, and his calendar filled up so fast that I barely knew what hit us.

What exactly is a Blue Dot? We are the spouses and significant others of students in the program (legend has it the name was born from the blue dots that used to adorn our name tags at welcome events). Even though we may not actually be taking classes, the Blue Dots are a big part of the Foster experience for our Students. Whether it’s preparing dinners for them to fuel long nights of studying, or listening to them use a ton of acronyms that never seem to make sense (worst offender is NPV or Net Present Value), being a Blue Dot is an important job to have. Here are a couple tips as your Student and you start your first year as MBA and hMBA (honorary MBA) students:

  • Share a calendar – Club meetings, due dates, happy hours and late night happy hours creep up quickly, so the best thing to do is share visibility into each other’s lives as early as possible!
  • Dress yo’ self – Your student might be getting some new UW gear to show off their Husky pride, so don’t forget to get some yourself (insert shameless plug for the Foster Huddle/official tailgate club here).
  • Reaching out – Whether you’ve been in Seattle for ages or you just moved here, the Blue Dots know what you’re going through (frustrations and joys!) so don’t forget to say hello. Excusing yourself from a Student conversation after 3 aforementioned acronyms is a perfect time to scan the room for a Blue Dot to chat up!
  • Lunch planning – We’ve been trying to eat healthier and cheaper in our house, and the temptation to eat on the Ave is strong. A bento box has been a time/money/lifesaver and it’s super easy to fill with leftovers from the night before (and carrots or almonds in our case). Our favorite is Zojirushi brand.
  • It’s never too late – as a non-native Seattleite, I feel like fall is one of the craziest and busiest times. It can be easy to realize that it’s December and you still haven’t socialized with your Student’s classmates or their Blue Dots as much as you wanted to the first quarter. But don’t worry, you’re always a part of the clan and we’ll welcome you with open arms in January… or May :)

Shameless plug #2 – if you haven’t yet joined the Foster MBA Blue Dot group, please do! We’re at https://www.facebook.com/groups/FosterMBABlueDots/ and we hope to see you soon. Good luck this year!

~ Guest post by Christina Green, 2014 Blue Dot


Posted by admin - October 1st, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink