General

How It All Gets Done

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Ever wonder how Foster MBAs gear up for a new week of classes, manage their career searches, and manage to keep themselves sane?  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.

It is 9:30 Sunday morning when the homework panic hits.  Over coffee and an English muffin, I start running through the present status of my weekend To Do list. Due to surprisingly gorgeous weather, I only completed one assignment on Saturday, a review and self-evaluation of a speech I gave last week in ‘Finding Your Voice,’ a business communications course…which means that I have a lot to do on Sunday.

I have to:

  • Update my resume and draft and submit cover letters for 2 internships
  • Review the speech of one of my classmates and provide peer feedback
  • Read Bill Gate’s Harvard commencement speech as a sample exhortation to ‘Change the World’
  • Read 2 assigned articles for my Ads & Promotions class
  • Complete an online problem set on MyAccountingLab
  • Complete a case write up for Managerial Accounting
  • Prep for a 5 PM team meeting on our first Operations case of the term
  • Write a personal statement and submit my scholarship application for the coming school year

Oh, and also:

  • Clean my apartment
  • Do two loads of laundry
  • Go grocery shopping
  • Prepare dinner and fix lunches for the beginning of the week
  • Go to bed on time!

My mind spinning, I feel myself getting sucked into an anxiety-driven negative feedback loop.  How will I get everything done?  There are not enough hours in the day!

And then I remember that I have given myself a mantra to get through days like this: I can only do one thing at a time, and it is going to be OK.

OK.

First things first, I run my laundry down to the basement.  Easy. Done.

Next!

In sequence, over the next few hours, I diligently work my way through my chores and most of my homework assignments, and even manage to submit my scholarship application.  Every time my mind tries to distract me with dire warnings – you have so much more to do! Don’t forget you have a meeting tonight!  And there is no food in the fridge! – I remind myself: I can only do one thing at a time.  It is going to be OK.

And so, one step at a time, I work my way through the afternoon, completing my course work.

An hour into my team meeting, my colleague and I are stuck with only two out of three case questions answered.  Reviewing the case and our class notes illuminates nothing, so we agree to break early. He makes plans to follow-up with our professor the next day while I agree to turn our preliminary notes into workable text; we will reconvene with the rest of our team Monday evening.  Sometimes, the best solution to a knotty problem is to know when to take a step back.

I stop by the grocery store to stock up on food for the week and when I get home I decide to take an hour (or two…or three!) off of work to make myself dinner, watch some TV and browse the Internet.  At 10:00 PM it’s back to work to finish off the night with my Managerial Accounting write-up.  But wait – have I forgotten something?

The internships!

I check the Foster MBA Jobs website and confirm that two internships I have flagged as possibilities have applications due tonight.  Do I have time to write both cover letters AND finish my case?  I certainly don’t have time to panic, so I set to work.  After checking in with some friends online and getting both advice and encouragement, I return my attention to the two internships.  One of them, I realize, was flagged in haste; the job description matches neither my background nor my interests.  Well, that’s one less thing to do!  In the next hour I shine up my resume and craft a new cover letter, with notes I saved from the Career Center to serve as reminders of format, content, do’s and don’t’s.  After reading through my materials twice, I submit my application just under the wire.  Phew!

I quickly shift gears back to my Managerial Accounting case and begin to work on my write-up but find myself struggling to make simple connections.  I look at the clock and have to acknowledge that I am pretty much useless this close to midnight; if I keep plugging away it will be nothing but diminishing returns for the rest of the night.

And so I go to bed.

At 7:30 Monday morning, I return to the task at hand.  Over coffee and an English muffin, I work my way through a comparison of a traditional costing system and activity-based costing at a small commercial bank.  In less than an hour I’ve completed the case and posted responses to the course’s page on Blackboard.

The sun is shining yet again as I head out of my apartment towards the bus.  I can tell that this week is off to a great start!  I can only do one thing at a time, and right now I’m going to enjoy blue skies above my head and the blossoming trees that line my route towards town.

Working as a TA

Monday, February 13th, 2012

A handful of MBAs typically become Teaching Assistants – most do it primarily for the compensation, but in my case it was a mechanism to gain valuable experience in my post-grad area of study, accounting. Because of the time commitment, TA’ing is generally a 2nd-year MBA activity, but three of my classmates actually did TA as first years (with very little sleep, no doubt!). There are a variety of departments that hire MBAs as TAs – international business, statistics, accounting, marketing, etc. I have colleagues who TA’d for an MBA course they had previously taken, for a Technology MBA course where they had previously earned a top grade in the comparable MBA course, and for a variety of undergraduate courses. To gain a TA position, depending on the class, you must either contact the professor or the department you are interested in TA’ing for. Then, they usually collect resumes and hold interviews to make final selections.

After signing on to intern for an accounting firm, a friend who had TA’d in the undergraduate accounting department his entire first year, asked if I’d be interested in TA’ing as a 2nd year. There were several other activities and leadership positions within the MBA program that I was planning to apply for, and so TA’ing meant that I would have to forego those opportunities. Time is always a huge issue as an MBA student – you have to choose your obligations wisely! So, after much thought, I decided to do it – one – because I love teaching and may have an interest in lecturing in the future, two – post-grad I would work in accounting, so it would be a great way to brush up and acquire new knowledge, and three – TAs are compensated with a full tuition waiver, medical benefits, and a monthly stipend (which covers most of my rent and necessities like food). The worry of accumulating more debt would be over!

Therefore, I approached my ‘job’ with full energy and commitment. I balanced out my schedule so that each quarter I could take 3 full classes + TA, while still meeting all of the Foster graduation requirements. I think of TA’ing as about a class and a half’s worth of work. TA’ing for Financial undergraduate accounting requires: attending lecture (3 hrs a week), teaching section to two classes of 80 students (4 hrs a week), holding office hours (2 hrs a week), and the remaining hours prepping, grading, and answering all those student emails. In total, it’s about a 20 hr/wk commitment. TA’ing for other classes/departments require different amounts of commitment – in many classes you don’t actually have to teach students, so the teaching section component would be eliminated. Again, it all depends on the department, the class, and the professor.

All in all, I love the experience, and wouldn’t trade it for any other activity that could have been. It does take time & work, but TA’ing was the right decision for me experience-wise and money-wise. Having to get in front of 80 students weekly means you have to develop command of the subject matter, establish a presence where you are respected but also approachable, and learn techniques for proper classroom management to engage the students. I find each of these challenges rewarding, particularly in the instances when students tell me how helpful I was in enabling them to understand the material. I am lucky enough for my post-grad career to perfectly align with an accounting TA position that gives me a glimpse of what it would be like to potentially teach full time as a lecturer, while at the same time paying my bills. Depending on one’s objectives and obligations, becoming a TA isn’t for everyone, but it is a position worth considering.

~By Guest Blogger Catherine Chin, Full-Time Class of 2012

The Board Fellows Program

Monday, January 16th, 2012

As actors performed the play Robin Hood at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, I stepped backstage, watching the performers change costumes and prepare to step back out in front of the curtain. This backstage tour was part of my orientation to the Board of Directors. As this year’s Board Fellow for the Seattle Children’s Theatre I’ve had some unique opportunities to see the inner workings of the theatre and gain insights into the world of nonprofit boards.

I applied last spring to be a Board Fellow because of my interest in serving as a nonprofit board member after graduation. During college I studied drama and continue to be interested in the local arts community, so I sought out theatre and arts boards from the list of potential Board Fellows positions. After interviewing with a couple organizations I was happily matched with the Seattle Children’s Theatre.

In addition to attending regular board meetings I am also participating in the Development Committee. This involvement allows me to utilize my marketing background to brainstorm strategies aimed at bringing new patrons to the theatre.

As a Board Fellow, we are supported with a bi-quarterly workshop. The workshop introduces information on the various board structures and common challenges for nonprofit boards. As a part of the program we will use the information presented in the workshops to compile a research paper for our organization based on the organization’s needs and challenge areas we identify.

Overall, I am enjoying my involvement in the Boards Fellows program. I love the Seattle Children’s Theatre and am happy I can contribute my knowledge to help the organization. I am also enjoying the unique opportunity to “preview” what it means to be a nonprofit board member.

~Guest Blogger Sherry Gardella, Full-Time Class of 2012

Network Effects: The San Francisco Road Show

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

In November, we followed up on our New York trip with a round 2 visit to San Francisco. This is a shorter trip, with just 1 full day of company visits, but just as valuable as our visit to New York City. Being on the West Coast, we have a lot of alumni connections in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

As you may have read in various articles on tips for anyone who wants to get into investment banking, switch to a new career, or relocate in general, such trips can help you access three of the most important keys to transition: connections, connections, connections.

Through in-person and follow-up interactions over time, our name and personal profile gets circulated in the San Francisco investment banker circle. The alumni connections we make on these trips are also great sources for information interviews, through which we can learn more about the company, industry and city from the inside. Moreover, alumni are often tremendously helpful in polishing a resume for the industry. Finally, they would be the perfect mock interview partner as they are often hiring managers themselves and can give pointers.

The Finance Road Shows got us the first “in”; now it will be up to us to follow through.

~Guest Blogger Kim Chan, Full-Time Class of 2013

We’re #10! We’re #10!

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Foster MBA

So proud to be a part of Foster!

Business Week just published their rankings for the top part-time MBA programs in the country and Foster is number 10! This is a jump of 30 spots since the last published rankings in 2009. This ranks Foster above other prestigious business schools such as Chicago – Booth, NYU – Stern, Indiana – Kelley and USC – Marshall!

As a current evening student, the data points that jump out at me the most are the valuations of Teaching Quality, Caliber of Classmates, and Curriculum. Each of these categories was evaluated based on student surveys. Foster achieved an A+ for each of these categories! And, I can’t argue with this at all.

- Our professors are industry experts who not only have a wealth of practical and academic knowledge but also care about their students.
- My classmates are a trusted and diverse set of professionals representing a wide array of companies and industries. They are my cohorts in the classrooms and have become great friends outside.
- The curriculum in varied and challenging. The standards are high and we are driven to excel. This is exactly what I would expect from a top business school.
- The program offers a wide assortment of career services, mentoring programs, networking opportunities, clubs, global study programs and social activities to extend the value of my education beyond the classroom.

Business Week’s rankings only confirmed what I have known since I started in the program; that Foster is one of the top business programs in the country and delivers a world class education to their students. I can’t wait until the 2013 rankings when Foster climbs to Number 1!

Proud to be at Foster!
~Guest Blogger, Mark Ninomiya, Evening Class of 2013

Foster from an International Perspective

Monday, November 21st, 2011

As an international student from India, I did not have number of channels to get firsthand information about Foster school of Business. In my experience, the very first thing international students look at is the ranking of school on different websites. I had the mindset that the better the ranking the better the school. This is true only to certain extent, but once the school is in top 30 or 40, the rank does not matter that much. What matters most is what suits you the best.

When I did my research about Foster School of Business, my only source of information was the official website. But if you take efforts to dig deep in it and read through all available content, you get most of the information you need. The striking feature of Foster is in its different outlook towards the career after MBA. Instead of telling you where you should go, you get help to understand where you WANT to go. Along with the excellence in regular topics like finance, marketing, accounting, Career Services also consider the sports/athletic industry as appealing as finance or investment banking. If you are a person who is into sustainability, Non Profit or cleantech, there are different clubs and supporting events that would help you to get a jump start into that field.

The detailed information on the site about the MBA clubs, activities, and alums helps to understand the school to greater extent. In addition, the student blogs officially published throughout the web help a lot; most often those are international students writing about their experiences in the program. This gives a personal touch and good insight as they were in the same position one/two years back. These resources, though, give only a 40% idea about the school. When you arrive here after admittance you get to know the real value of this school. School is challenging because there is so much to offer, but it’s up to you how much you can take.

~Guest Blogger Sushant Wad, Full-Time Class of 2013

Evening Program Events

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

I can’t believe Spring quarter and my first year in the Evening MBA program are coming to an end. Thinking back on the past year, so much has happened that my head is still spinning:
- Meeting future classmates at Evaluation Day & EPRIME
- 6 rigorous core courses and 5 amazing professors
- Weekend study group sessions with 4 exceptionally talented and smart guys
- Participating in mentoring events at Russell Investments and SeaBear
- Flying off to Peru for the best study tour Foster students have ever seen
- Meeting future Foster hopefuls at campus night events and class visit
- Not to mention all the extracurricular fun like playing on two Foster intramural volleyball teams, happy hours, TG’s and the Fall Ball

Through it all, the one common aspect that made everything enjoyable and the experience invaluable was that I connected with so many different people in the Foster community. Everyone from the professors, faculty & staff, classmates and especially my study group members have made the journey thus far, an incredible one. And, now that I am able to serve as the Evening MBAA VP of Membership, my goal is to help build the MBAA community that will further bring everyone together and add value to everyone’s educational and career goals.

This Summer, the MBAA will be looking to plan events that will strengthen the connections made over the past year. Some events that have already been calendared are:
- The Evening MBA End of Year Celebration & Leadership Recognition on Saturday, June 4th 7PM start at Woodshed Studios in South Lake Union
- 1st Annual Challenge For Charity Walk on Wednesday, June 8th, 6PM start at the Greenlake Community Center
- Death Spiral’s last stand – The MBA Band’s last performance on Thursday, June 8th, 10 pm start at Rendezvous/Jewelbox Theater

Additional events that are being planned include:
- Summer BBQ
- Mariners/Sounders Game Night

So, as I look forward to closing out my first year in the program, I am even more excited to find out what lies ahead in the second year. And, these Summer events will be the perfect springboard to dive in!

~Guest Blogger, Mark Ninomiya, Evening Class of 2013 and Evening VP of Membership

A light at the end of the tunnel

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

The summer before beginning the Foster MBA program, graduation and the job hunt seemed a long way off.  Though I knew in the back of my mind that pursuing an MBA would change the career opportunities available to me, the return to school in itself seemed like the impactful change I needed, not so much the new job I’d take on afterward.  Just over a year after joining Foster, I’m fortunate to have landed a post-graduate job I’m thrilled about, though the process of getting there was not what I expected.   

Figuring out the right position and right employer begins the moment you set foot on campus.  For my first two quarters, I felt like I kept adding options instead of narrowing my search.  Anytime I spoke to someone who was passionate about their past or future career, I began to add it to the list to explore it as an option for me.   Looking for the ideal post-graduation fit became a process of elimination.  At Foster, you will feel like you have too many options, from clubs to internship choices to social events.  You’ve certainly heard before that you should take advantage of as much as you can handle, and I agree with that.  But pay special attention to how these experiences make you feel.  When you’re working in your core team first quarter, what role do you naturally fall into?  When you try to push yourself outside of that role or take a lead on a project that is not in your traditional skill set, how do you feel – does it excite you, make you want to work harder, or just frustrate you? 

In the end, what made the biggest difference was to try things I wouldn’t normally label as “me.”  Though I had initially focused on product management internships and a few positions with logistics companies, I decided to work with a small marketing strategy consulting firm, Bridge Partners Consulting, as part of a work stream for a beta launch with Microsoft.  I had been adamant that consulting was not a good fit for me; and as a late-adopter, I never thought that technology was right either.  By the time Fall quarter began, I felt as though all the little discussions I had with classmates, team experiences, and mini-projects I had taken gave me the confidence to know that what drove me. 

Reflecting on my summer internship, I realized that the things that made me tick there were the same that had made me tick in my previous work; the people.  I spoke with a number of alums and contacts at a variety of consulting companies, spoke with the mentors I’ve made through the years to discuss the ways they’ve seen me be successful in the past, and made the decision to join Bridge Partners.  Having a job lined up after graduation is of course a weight off of my shoulders.  I’m afforded the chance to continue to strengthen the amazing friendships I’ve made here, and begin to plan a fantastic summer trip.  At the same time, there is a bittersweet edge:  signing the contract has made me come to terms that my stint at Foster is almost over.  It’s a mix of excitement and pre-emptive nostalgia, that I think will make me appreciate the next few months that much more.

Guest blogger – Lacey McCann, FT 2011

How to describe the first quarter of an MBA?

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Let’s see… imagine this: After months of preparing for a bareback horse riding lesson, you finally arrive at the stable to see a shiny new horse staring you square in the eye.  You’re excited for the lesson and only a bit nervous about the size of this behemoth ahead of you.  You swing your leg over this jet black stallion and no sooner do you get your hands on its mane than it bolts off at breakneck speed.  Your fists turn white with intensity as you struggle to stay on board.  With each gallop the pace quickens and before you know it everything around you has blended into an indiscernible blur of colors and amorphous shapes.  The only thing that keeps running through your mind is “don’t let go… Just Don’t. Let. Go.” In one instant you begin to feel like you’re hitting your stride and in the next the horse gives a kick and you begin to feel yourself slip…. Your fingers begin to cramp and you think you may be in for a quick introduction with the ground.

It is in this moment that you take a look around and realize that you’re not the only one on this horse.  You lift your neck a little and see there are just over a hundred others on this crazy beast and each one has the same crazed fear-stricken determination to survive.  Just as the last vestiges of strength are sapped from your body and you feel yourself begin to fall, a group of hands from all sides push and pull you back into position and your strength is renewed.  This same dance plays itself out over and over.  Sometimes you are the one about to fall to the dirt, more often you’re a helping hand to save an unknown fellow rider.  As you begin to forget what it feels like to be in any other situation the horse rears up and with one giant kick you use all your strength to hold on…

The horse slows to a walk and you realize you have come further from the stable where you started than you ever could have imagined.  As you gaze into the faces of your companions, you see that not only have your surrounding changed but yourself as well.  You realize that each step of the horse was a measured step to push you to your limits without ever giving you more than you can handle.  You have created a bond with your fellow riders that can never be broken and know that this is only the beginning.  You give the horse a spur and begin quarter number two…

Okay maybe it’s not really a whole lot like riding a horse bareback (not that I would know, I live in cities) but you get the impression.  It’s fast, it’s crazy, and without a bunch of other people all in the same situation you would never make it out alive. 

The greatest about this program is how much you learn in such a short period of time!  I hear the words coming out of my mouth now and think, “I wouldn’t have understood a fifth of this 4 months ago.”  Working in the “real world” you forget how easy it is to fall into a routine where you are not challenged and just keep on earning that paycheck (and yes, I really miss that part) but at Foster, you can’t sit idle.

There are too many opportunities to spend a moment without direction. Is this for everyone? No way, you must love the intensity.  Could anyone do it forever? Not a chance, there’s a reason that an MBA only lasts 2 years.  Would I go back home if I could do it all over again? Never.

- Guest Blogger: Trent Huntington, FT 2012

Take that, Week One.

Monday, October 11th, 2010

I just survived the first, full week of school. Survived is the key operating term here, since it did resemble a marathon. Or, perhaps a hurricane. Our deans and advisors told us quite explicitly during orientation that we should expect to be assigned far more than we could possibly finish. It seems now they weren’t kidding. Looking back over the past five days, and then further, over the past month, I’m startled to see how much we’ve already done- and we’ve just begun! We have hit the ground running and clearly there’s no looking back.

I’ve noticed an interesting trend in the Facebook status updates of my classmates. Either they consist of pleas for sympathy because of sleep deprivation or pleas for study camaraderie down at the local coffee shop for ‘study Sunday.’ So, we’re busy. Yes, we’re tired. We’re working hard for long hours and we have come to accept by now the fact that we’re poor students again. This is tough. Going back to work is starting to look a lot more like a vacation.

If it weren’t for an incredible sense of accomplishment and purpose, lesser mortals might be convinced to throw in the towel. Finance Boot Camp at 7 AM? I can do that. Maybe a breakout study session to value a plot of timberland over future decades for Prof. Gilbert’s class? Done. And then strategy with Prof. Hill, who will cold call and cold call until he reaches the limits of your knowledge and preparation, and then cold call once more. I can do that. And then, why don’t we wrap up the ten-hour day with a networking session with local recruiters over dinner? Normally, I would celebrate such a busy day, but I need to crash so I can be up tomorrow morning at 5 to start it all over again.

My classmates are one stellar, diverse group. From derivatives traders to IT consultants to traffic engineers to European vacation designers, this is a motley crew. In a mere day or two, I have met some of the most fascinating and talented people I’ve ever come across. One classmate (thank Jason!) organized our entire quarters’ worth of assignments in a spreadsheet…and then sent it out to everyone. Unbelievable. And the former private equity and investment bankers help me with finance (and I need a lot) and there are a handful of CPAs to teach me the nuances and merits of the indirect method of cash flow statements.

This first week was brutal. But thanks to my colleagues, now fast friends through struggle, I made it. And with them, I know I’ll get to the end of the quarter and beyond. I’ll find a summer internship, sure, and later land a great job, but I’m not so concerned about that right now. All I want is to get to know these amazing people better, learn as much as is humanly possible (which looks like a realistic goal), and push myself to the very limits of what I can do. Foster students have modest goals, you see.

Guest Blogger, Ryan Anthony, Full Time MBA — 2012