June, 2012

A Time of Transition

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

There are a number of reasons an individual may choose to pursue an MBA.  Here is one account of how an incoming first year student found her perfect fit with Foster, and has begun transitioning to the program.

By Liza Green, Full-time Class of 2014. Upon graduating from University of Virginia, Liza moved to the Rocky Mountains. Her experience there spanned various industries, from restaurants to biotechnology and education. Liza hopes to one day run her own food-related business, and in the meantime is eager to explore marketing and entrepreneurship at Foster.

Applying to boarding schools at the age of thirteen was as rigorous as the processes I would later experience for college and business school. I recall writing numerous essays and completing short answer questions in the style of Mad Libs, albeit a bit more serious. One that I distinctly remember was “What I like most about myself is that I am ____.” My answer: well-rounded. To this day, I would probably answer that question the same way, as I have worked in real estate, education, biotechnology, retail, restaurants, and more. But, I might also give the same response if asked what I like least about myself.

I recently started to feel that I was not only a jack of all trades, but also possibly a master of none. I realized I wanted something different, something more; I wanted an expertise and a committed direction. I had billed myself as an administrative specialist, and while I had contributed significantly to various organizations, I was having difficulty taking my career to the next level. I knew I had a lot to learn, so my natural decision was to return to school.

Having grown up back east, my over-generalized image of MBA students consisted of little more than i-bankers in business suits. I had lived in the mountains for years and had never once donned a suit, so when I visited schools on the east coast, I wasn’t quite sure if I fit in. I wanted to be around people whose experiences were as diverse as mine, whose perspectives were as unique, and whose motivation and goals were as individually-driven and tailored. In my search process, Foster emerged as the only school that truly excited me. What I found is a community that I believe will allow me to excel while pushing me to develop the skills that I need. The energy at Foster seems contagious, and my own excitement about the program is reinforced by every interaction I have with students, staff, and alumni.

When I first committed to Foster, the start of school could not come fast enough. I was ready to quit my job, pack a UHaul, and get to Seattle. Thus far, I have only made the first step in that transition – quitting my job. I am now heeding the advice of current Foster students as I relax and spend time with family and friends. I have recently returned from two months with my family in Virginia and New York. Soon, my boyfriend and I will depart on a two week trip to whitewater raft, hike, camp, and recharge in the mountains of Idaho.

Yet behind all of this leisurely personal time lurks an ever-expanding to-do list. I have been out of school for nine years and I was a History major in college, so my prep list might be a bit more extensive than most: purchase and complete online coursework in Accounting, Finance, and Statistics; do some soul searching to better direct my studies and focus at school; research potential careers and employers; schedule and complete informational interviews with potential networking connections found on LinkedIn. On top of that, I need to ensure my financial aid is in order, rewrite my resume yet again, find a place to live, and possibly transition to the world of smartphone users. The list goes on, and I will do my best to manage it all while making sure to enjoy the calm before the storm.

Rush-Order Internship

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

A number of channels exist to help Foster MBAs find summer internships following their first year of business school, from on-campus recruiting to internal and external job boards, to alumni connections and corporate networking contacts.  Here is one account.

By Gwyn Gaubatz, Full-time Class of 2013.  Gwyn graduated from Smith College with a double-major in Computer Science and American Studies.  After teaching two years in rural Mississippi with Teach for America, she spent five years in the educational testing industry before her interest in organizational behavior and development drew her to business school.

A week ago Tuesday I got a call around 2 PM.  I was still in my pajamas, heating up some pea soup for lunch after an early nap on a grey Seattle afternoon.  I had a To Do list, of course: laundry, cleaning, and a growing list of even more internships opportunities that needed my attention by way of resume revisions, tailored cover letters, research, and networking connections to be made.  But also, I had the whole week wide open in front of me, with plenty of time to do that all…after I caught up on some season finales on hulu.com.  Such was the lovely state of my life after finals!  I turned from the stove to answer my cell and was greeted by an enthusiastic recruiter.  Her company would like to interview me!

Well, this was a lovely turn!  I stumbled through the beginning of the conversation because, you see, I did not know this company off the top of my head – and did not recall directly applying for any position with them.  But once I was told she had received my resume from the Foster School of Business, everything clicked into place.  The career center had put me forward as a candidate for a new internship that had suddenly become available.  So I expressed that I would be delighted to interview, and pulled out my calendar book.  We quickly scheduled a series of three (three? Yes, three!) interviews for that Thursday, beginning at 8 AM.

After I got off the phone (and helped myself to some organic Trader Joe’s soup), I sent a quick note to my career counselor, Susan Canfield, and looked up the company on the internet.  As I was perusing their web site, my career counselor responded – congratulations! and also yes, we should meet to prepare – so I turned it around and arranged to come into the career center the very next day.

My meeting with Susan was very busy, but very productive: we talked about the company and the likely project opportunities, and she gave me a laundry list of further research I should do that night to prepare: reading up on the industry, not just the company; scoping out the LinkedIn profiles of my interviewers, looking into similar positions on the Foster job board to get a better sense of the responsibilities and requirements of typical product management work.  Susan also drilled me on my responses to typical interview questions and helped me brush up (and abbreviate) some stories I tried that felt shaky.  Finally, before I left, she identified a Foster MBA alumn already working at the company, and sent a quick introductory note suggesting we talk.  Phew!  I had a lot to do that evening to get ready!

Amazingly, within 5 minutes the alumn had responded with contact information and a time to call that same night – and I realized how truly phenomenal the Foster network can be.  Later that evening, he spared a half an hour to walk me through the industry, the company, and the staff I would be meeting with the following morning.  I was incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with him and gain his perspective and support.

Armed with his insights and notes from my own research, I put myself to bed.  I slept well for maybe the first 4 hours before waking once to use the bathroom, and then every half hour afterwards in a fit of nerves, glancing at the clock to make sure I had not missed my alarm (I never miss my alarm! But still…).  I finally broke the cycle at 5:30 AM when I arose to shower, eat, and suit up.  And then I grabbed my folio, checking to make sure it was stocked with copies of my resume as well as business cards, and hopped into the car hoping to beat rush-hour traffic to Bothell.

By 10 AM I was turned around and heading back home – all my manic prep work had paid off!  Each of my interviews had gone well, I believed, developing into something that felt more like a conversation than a critical back-and-forth.  I was able to speak about the MBA program, my experience with teams; my interests in the industry and the ties between the position and my experience; my goals for the future and how they oh-so-snugly fit with this company, right here – and this position, right now!  Better yet, after all my  research and this series of conversations, I felt genuinely excited at the prospect of working there, with the team that had interviewed me, on the projects that had been discussed.

Later that afternoon – a mere 48 hours after I became aware of the opportunity! – I got another call, this time one I had been told to expect – and I was offered the internship.

I enthusiastically accepted.

Inside Admissions: So You’re Thinking about Business School – Now What?

Friday, June 15th, 2012

September 2013 seems like it is a long ways away. Here in Seattle, all we can think about right now are the beautiful summer months ahead of us. Seattle truly is one of the most incredible places in the entire world during the summer months. And boy do we appreciate it here. Quite frankly I’m not even ready to start thinking about September of 2012, much less 2013!

But in the world of MBA Admissions, 2013 will be here before you know it. If you are considering applying to MBA programs next year, right now is a great time to start making application to-do lists, scheduling GMAT test dates and thinking about who might write your recommendation letters.

These steps, and in particular the GMAT, often cause a great deal of anxiety for applicants. However, they’re not even the most important parts of the process. That’s right, I said it! The really important stuff can unfortunately get overlooked when we get too wrapped up in the details. Ideally your MBA application should be a way for you to show us that you’ve put a lot of thought into this. That you have researched the potential paths you might take after business school and how the MBA will help you get there. That you have had experiences that will add value to the program. And that you are prepared for the program’s rigorous curriculum.

Researching your career goals, and why you need an MBA in the first place, shouldn’t start with your “Why I want an MBA” essay (virtually every program has one of those). It should start today. If the idea of doing informational interviews makes you a little uncomfortable, start with a friend or a co-worker. Then meet with one of your friend’s co-workers. You would be surprised how much people enjoy telling their life stories. Pretty soon you’ll be an informational interviewing machine and, more importantly, you’ll know a whole lot more about those career paths that you had always thought sounded kind of interesting. And to get back to the topic of MBA applications, you’ll know the most important thing of all – why you want an MBA and what exactly you want to do with it.

This may all sound fairly obvious, but in my years of working in MBA admissions I have seen too many people get buried in the application process before they have really stepped back to make sure this is what they want to do in the first place. First figure out if you really need an MBA, and then go to work finding the programs that will help you accomplish your unique goals. At this point you’ll be able to put together an application that accurately represents the amount of thought and effort that you have put into this decision. That’s why we have you write those essays and gather those recommendation letters…and, of course, take the GMAT.

And speaking of the GMAT, my advice to you is this: Give yourself ample time to study. Take a class or get a tutor if you’re scoring outside the range of the schools you’re targeting. Retake the test if you don’t get the score that you know you’re capable of. And once you do get that score, you can move on to bigger and better things. Like informational interviews, self-reflection (summer is a great time for that) and, of course, a visit to campus. It is never too early to start connecting with us. We look forward to getting to know you!

~Featured Blogger Erin Ernst, Director, MBA Admissions

Foraging for Fun

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

I am from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. This probably conjures up thoughts of pristine sandy beaches, sailing on the blue seas, and Dawson’s Creek. Although I grew up in a place famous for the seafood, I must admit I have never actually procured the seafood on my own, whether on the Cape or elsewhere. This all changed at the annual Women in Business retreat.

Each year, the Women in Business Club hosts a weekend-long retreat. Members and non-members alike travel to a “remote” location and get away from the mayhem of everyday business program life. This year’s house on Hood Canal literally sat on the water, and our first order of business was to forage for snacks. Armed with rakes and a big bucket, we started digging for clams. I dug up my first clam (see picture for proof)! On the short walk home, we walked through the oyster fields and easily plucked them from their beds. I did not participate in the subsequent shucking, but I definitely enjoyed the results the next night when we feasted on steamed clams and fried oysters.

Aside from clamming for the first time, it was a weekend filled with other adventuresincluding:

  • A riveting and competitive card game
  • A scramble golf “tournament”
  • Midnight kayaking through the phosphorescence algae
  • S’mores and more s’mores
  • Scary stories around the campfire

Of course, there was much more, but the rule “what happens at the retreat stays at the retreat” has my lips sealed. When you join Foster, though, let me recommend you join WiB. And definitely attend the retreat – you won’t regret it!

~Guest Blogger Carly Massey, Full-time Class of 2012, former WiB President