July, 2012

Just Call It “Foster-bucks”

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

As soon as I moved to Seattle for the Foster full-time MBA program, I set my sights on Starbucks. I wanted to be open-minded, but Starbucks was the only company that fit my broad internship vision: a large corporation in the food and beverage industry with ethical and environmental values, a well-known brand, located in the Seattle area. Okay, so maybe my focus was incredibly narrow. Nevertheless, during the Fall quarter I made sure to attend every Starbucks event and network with the Foster alumni that work there. I hoped getting to know partners (what Starbucks calls their employees) would help me receive an internship offer. It’s unlikely it actually did, but my ability to speak to my dedication to learning about Starbucks may have. What I did not anticipate was how crucial Foster alumni at Starbucks would become during my internship experience.

Fast forward to day one of my internship and I’m introduced to my “mentor” who is a Foster alum from a few years back. He’s set up at least 20 “immersions,” brief one-on-one chats, with people in my department and with recent Foster grads throughout the company. Each of the alumni gives me advice on potential internship pitfalls, how to best navigate communications at the company and offers to serve as a resource. I find out that Foster alum have an email group when the other Foster interns and myself are added to it. A lunchtime “coffee tasting” is set up for alumni to share their experiences and spare us from their mistakes while also just introducing themselves. A happy hour for Foster alumni and interns is planned and they offer to listen to our presentations and give us feedback before we present. It is amazing how supported I feel.

Moreover I’ve been very impressed by the Foster alumni at Starbucks in how honest and kind they have been, but also by how professional and accomplished they seem. I’ve been in several meetings where a recent Foster alum is leading the discussion and going through the agenda. I’m proud to say I attend Foster and people seem to respond well to it. UW in general has a huge presence at Starbucks so there is a lot of husky pride going around. It’s cool to see that Foster alumni stick together even after they graduate and that they want to give back by reaching out to current students and offering to help, without being asked to.

~ Guest blogger Laura Peirano, Full-time Class of 2013

All-Access Pass

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

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.

Sometimes, very small things can have a sizable impact.

For example, just this past week I had my photo taken, and within a day was given a picture ID to attach to the set of secure-entry badges I wear clipped to my waist at work.  It wasn’t a big deal, but I felt a very strong sense of place and belonging when I slipped it onto the loop and snapped it into place.  There was my face, smiling back at me!  And there I was, sitting in my cubicle, working away at my computer, pulling together my analyses for my upcoming presentation to the company executives.  Just another workday at my MBA internship.

But the interruption of the photo-ID gave me a moment to pause, and to reflect on the last photo-ID I had worn for work – in a flash of memory I recalled my last day of work at that job, a position I had held for exactly 4 years, 6 months and 2 weeks – how I had slipped the ID badge from my lanyard and deposited it in the HR mailbox before hustling out of the building to make it to my good-bye party, which had apparently started without me!  And in remembering that transition, of course I also had to consider everything that had happened between then and now: my move to Seattle, my decision to apply to business school and the resultant search and application process, my acceptance to, and acceptance of, Foster, and the entire first year of my MBA.  Two whole years had flown by since I last wore a photo-ID!

I have to be honest, there were times in the past 2 years that I wondered whether I was making the right decisions: was it really so smart to leave behind a good job and start again in a new city – in the middle of a recession?  Was an MBA the right next step for me?  Would business school help me learn the skills I needed, or help me find a career that I cared about?  Or, would some of the habits I acquired as I learned to navigate student life again – pulling all-nighters and banging on the snooze button in the morning, rolling into class in yoga pants and a sweatshirt because I couldn’t be bothered to wear anything less comfortable during lecture, working all week with my classmates but also hanging out all weekend with the same group, the lines between ‘colleagues’ and friends ever-blurred – somehow detract from my ability to put on my office game-face and rock it like a professional when I had the chance again?

Well, there’s now a badge swinging from my waist that features a smart young women, sharply dressed in a button-down and cardigan, staring confidently back. I still hit the snooze button in the mornings, but I arrive at the office on time and ready to work.   I’ve certainly re-discovered the business-attire side of wardrobe (and used my first paycheck to expand it!) and take pride in coming into the office dressed like I mean it.  I am on excellent terms with my team and superiors and have maintained a healthy divide between my work life and personal life.

And those other questions, the big picture ones, about my MBA and my career, and the direction of my life?  I don’t have final answers, that’s for sure, but I’m starting to figure some things out.  I’ve discovered interesting new possibilities for a career in marketing and become somewhat passionate about the ways social media can be leveraged to develop a brand.  I’m making connections in the technology sector, and learning how products are developed and released within the SaaS (Software as a Service) space.  I may find full-time work in the area I am now, or maybe the electives I take in my second year will send me in a new direction.  Everywhere I look I see a lot of possibilities as opposed to dead ends; this is definitely something that my MBA has helped me to achieve.

And in the new realities of my day-to-day life, when I encounter a door that’s locked: hey, look at that! My badge grants me access, and I forge ahead.

The Time Value of Joy

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Ding!  Anyone going to that launch party for that thing we worked on?  Ding!  No.  Ding!  Maybe.  Ding!  Let’s do 4-6 for our happy hour team catch-up.  Ding!  I’m out of town.  Ding!  RARRRR!!!!!  Ding!  Guess we’ll have to wait for the summer.  Ding!  Don’t forget to print the ticket for that event you signed up for!

The background noise of the Foster MBA is the perpetual ding of the gmail notifier.

Ding!  Tech Club wants you to come to our event!  Ding!  Here’s a third reminder for that launch party.  Ding!  Congratulations to this year’s Leadership Fellows!

I thought I would never figure it out- how to juggle this constant influx of information- the outrageous flow of opportunity, commitment, connections, responsibilities, and tasks of all kinds.  I remember the strange stillness that became of my life after I quit my job, sold all of my belongings in Detroit, and flew to Seattle with only two suitcases to my name and the idea that I would carve a niche for myself in the world with help from the Foster School of Business.  “Niche” is the key word here.  You can’t do everything in the MBA- so how do you choose?

Ding!  We’d like to interview you tomorrow for an internship position.  Ding!  Yes, former president of my club, you are invited to Happy Hour!  Ding!  Friday works for me.  Ding!  I’d also prefer Friday.  Ding!  Yeah Friday!  Ding!  You’ll have to go without me.  Ding!  Great- see everybody there then.

Some things are obvious- clearly you want to pay attention when someone wants to interview you for an awesome internship.  But, what about all this other noise?  The clubs constantly bombarding you with scheduling; the speaker and networking events promoted by the program office; the coaching sessions solicited by the career center; the (sooo many!) contacts you can make with alumni, second years, partners of partners of business partners; cousins of classmates of alumni of classmates; special projects…

Ding!  This project looks harder than I thought.  I need help!  Ding!  When should we close the survey?  Ding!  51 sounds like plenty of people to me.  Ding!  Let’s divide and conquer!  Ding!  Let’s keep it open- more is better!  Ding!  Here’s my valuation: what do you guys think?  Ding!  Something’s not quite right there…  Ding!  Here’s your add-code for that class you want.  Ding!  Should we get together Friday to talk about the next case study?  Ding!  Yes we should!  Ding!  I agree!

Also you have to do your classwork- there is that too.

Ding!  Here’s your graded Accounting exam.  Ding!  What terminal growth rate did you use?  Ding!  What kind of speech am I supposed to give tomorrow?  Ding!  This kind of speech!  Ding!  Ok.  Ding!  We just heard that you were all too busy to apply for the India Consulting Project, so we’ve extended the deadline.

At times, it feels like triage.  There is a constant flow of tasks coming in.  You can’t possibly treat all of them at once, so you have to assess the severity of each.  “This one’s critical!  We need to operate now!”  or “This one’s dead- just delete it,” or, and this one gets messy- “file this one for later.”

Ding!  Time for the Foster Cup Cycling Event!  Are you participating?  Ding!  Join us at the Student Budget Roundtable!  Ding!  We heard there was some concern about the club budgeting process- here’s a giant email full of words that you don’t have time to absorb.  Ding!  Thank you for taking my (four-hundredth) marketing research survey!  Ding!  Whoops- believe it or not, that giant email I sent a minute ago wasn’t done- there’s more!  Here you go!

All of these emails came on May 15.  And this is only a fraction of the noise when you consider that there are also classmates all around you promoting their own club’s events, and text messages and phone calls to boot.  And don’t forget about those pesky professors lecturing at the front of the room!  My calendar for this particular day included a 2-hour Accounting class, a 2-hour Marketing class, a meeting with my therapist (to talk about how overwhelmed I was) and (thankfully!) a birthday party including multiple artisan cupcakes, glasses of champagne, and an adorable newborn baby being all baby-like.

So how did I choose on this particular day how to prioritize?  There is clearly a trade-off between being comfortable and happy now verses being successful and content later.  Many people will often say- resist instant gratification!  Sacrifice!  Persevere!  I say this:

Just as there is a time value of money, there is also a time value of joy.

Joy/(1+r)^t

Don’t forget that what makes you feel happy, accomplished, and at ease in the here-and-now is worth more than the same in the future.  Also, it’s better to figure out who you are now- to connect with people over your interests, and to succeed at what really makes you happy today- than to guess at what will make you happy in the future and scheme and plot to put yourself into position to make that happen.  That being said, the “r” in the above equation will be different for everybody.  Some people will value present benefit over future benefit to a lesser degree than others.  There’s no one right way to approach the MBA.  Do I wish I could have done even more on May 15?  Of course.  But do I regret capping my day with a glass of champagne and a Neapolitan cupcake from Cake Envy?  Absolutely not, because without a doubt, the relationships you build at Foster are the most important takeaways you can get.  I guess what I’m saying is: that cupcake was a serious investment in my future.

~ Guest Blogger Edward Chinevere, Full-time Class of 2013, 2012-2013 Diversity Club President and Leadership Fellow

Operations Club Roast: Dillanos Coffee Roasters

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Seattle is known for its coffee; maybe it’s the weather or maybe it’s because there is a coffee shop on every corner.  Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure- Seattleites love their coffee and so do MBA students.  As a Foster student, a delicious cup of coffee is never more than an arm’s reach away.

Dillanos Coffee Roasters was voted 2011 Roaster of Year by Roast Magazine and was featured in CNN’s “The Coffee Addiction.”

One Friday in May, the Foster Operations Club visited Dillanos Coffee Roasters. Our visit started out with a tour of the roasting operations; from the bean delivery to the distribution of packages. On the tour we saw machines that could roast up to 400 gallons of coffee beans an hour! We also so where Dillanos makes their flavored coffees. Did you know that coffee is like baking soda in that it absorbs any of the scents around it? Because of the absorbing nature of the coffee beans Dillanos makes the flavored coffee in a separate and sealed off room, away from the roasters.

After the tour we had a coffee tasting with the head roaster at Dillanos, Bjorn. Bjorn filled us on what he looks for when trying coffee samples provided by potential suppliers. Our group got to taste two coffees brewed in different ways to experience how different brewing methods alter the taste of the coffee. My favorite brewing technique is the pour over method although, once brewed, I do not turn down coffee no matter how it’s brewed.

Fueled by caffeine we spent the next hour or so listening to and speaking with Dillanos’ operations executives. We spoke about operating with limited inventory, the implementation of the balanced score card approach, and how cross training employees could lower costs. Between the tour, tasting, and conversation with executives the Operations Club’s appreciation of all things coffee got stronger and richer – just like, well, a nice cup of coffee!

~ Guest Blogger Jennifer Yanni, Full-time Class of 2013, 2012-2013 Operations Club President