General

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

8 Tips from an Evening MBA

Monday, October 4th, 2010

As a 3rd year Evening MBA Student here is some advice that I’ve found particularly helpful over the last two years that I recently shared with the Evening MBA Class of 2013. Please take it for what it’s worth…chances are my advice won’t work for everyone, but it may be helpful to think about.

1. Try not to be intimidated by the workload.  I usually go into a class thinking that at the end of quarter, I want to better understand 5 core theories/topics.  Everything else is “filler.”  If you start to fret about your grade and acing everything, you may drive yourself crazy (i.e. trying to drink from a fire hose).

2. Don’t worry (too much) about your test grades.  No one cares about grades anymore…it’s about whether or not you understand the basic principles.  If you don’t, get in touch with the professors to make sure you do.  I have gotten 50% on some exams and felt like I was lost.  After follow-up meetings with the professor I was able to walk away feeling more confident of my knowledge.  The grade didn’t change, but my experience did. And even after a couple sub-60% grades, I ended up with a 3.2 GPA.

3. If you have (or are in the process of having) kids/spouse, you may find that things get “tense” now and then.  One thing I found helpful: I get my wife a card every 2 – 3 weeks during the quarter and thank her for all of her patience and work while we’re going through the MBA program. Basically, a $2.99 investment helps show that you really appreciate what they’re going through for you.  A random night out for dinner could get you even further.

4. If you can’t get dinner before heading to class (and don’t want to eat what they have on campus), I highly recommend getting a Jimmy Johns sub. They’re about $11 (for a sandwich, coke + cookie), and they deliver really fast (to campus).  Their phone # for ordering is 206-548-9500.

5. I try to remind myself that the University of Washington is a business / brand, and that business is never perfect.  You may run into professors who use an approach that you don’t find helpful, or perhaps a professor that’s presenting information that’s more academic than it is “real-world” worthy. Remember that it’s up to us to help shape the future of the program and ultimately make the University of Washington’s MBA brand stronger.  Be critical of your experience in the program, but be positive, be fair, and
be helpful.

6. Look for ways to build on two critical skill-sets: leadership + presentations.  It seems to me (and it may to you, as well) that the corporate world could really benefit from better leaders (utilizing transitional methods) and people who deliver focused, succinct presentations with meaning.

7. Bond with your team as much as you can.  Get personal with them so you can appreciate each other for who you are (strengths, weaknesses, etc.). Also, make sure you take the time to check in with each other during your work to make sure everyone understands what’s going on.  It’s easy to want to finish up projects as fast as possible, but I would argue it’s ultimately not the best approach if someone in your team is left in the dark.

8. Don’t feel like you have to join clubs, etc.  Yeah – I have no doubt that they’re awesome, and they’re a great to expand your horizons.  But at the end of the day, you only have “so much time” to give.  If joining a club means you can’t spend some time relaxing or hanging out with your family, I’d think hard about whether it’s worth the commitment.

Just my two cents. Good luck to everyone!

– Guest Blogger, David W. Griffiths, Evening MBA Class 2011

Advice from an Old Timer …

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I remember this moment exactly one year ago, the first day of orientation fast approaching.  You are no longer working (At least you shouldn’t be. Go out there and travel while you have a chance!).  You don’t really know what to expect.  You are excited to start this journey, but you’re scared because you can’t remember the last time you added 5 and 7 without a Smartphone.  Let me be the first to tell you not to worry.   I got my undergrad degree in biology, and hadn’t taken a business class since econ in high school!  Don’t worry if you know nothing about accounting or finance or what an exponent is; it will all come to you like it did to everyone the years before you.  Now, I’m not saying it is going to be easy, but I am saying it is going to be an amazing experience.  You will study and stress and lose sleep and stress some more, but through all of this you will make amazing friends, learn amazing things, and apply yourself like you never have before.  I don’t know about you, but those are exactly the reasons I wanted to get my MBA.  It is an unbelievable experience for so many reasons.  It will be challenging, frustrating, incredible and transformational.  There is nothing to be afraid of, and everything to look forward to.  Enjoy your summer and get even more excited for the two years that will change your life.

Guest Blogger, Michael Arbuck, MBA FT Class of 2011

“Jeff, does that make sense?”

Monday, September 21st, 2009

For those not familiar with Jump Start, it’s basically a crash course in Accounting, Quant, and Finance designed to bring all incoming MBA students up to speed on concepts we’ll be expected to understand come the start of classes. It’s been a great way to get back into the swing of the school mentality without the pressure of handing in assignments and taking tests (that count, because we did do multiple quizzes and even finished off our accounting course with a ‘final’).

In addition to the academic side of things, Jump Start has also been a great way for me to meet some of my classmates and become close with those proficient in Excel. My own lack of expertise was made public very early on by our Quant professor, Thomas Gilbert, when we were asked, by raise of hands, who had limited experience with Excel. Sitting in the back row, I had no problem saving face and I raised my hand high over my head. I didn’t realize I had just sealed my fate as the barometer for the rest of the week for how well the class was understanding the Excel functions. “Jeff, does that make sense?” “Jeff, are we good?”. Those questions definitely kept me on my toes during my first week of the MBA experience, and also served as the means of meeting a lot of my classmates.

Beyond the classes, it was really good to see the MBA culture take shape during this first week. There seems to be a lot of talk about the collaborative environment and a culture of teamwork fostered in most MBA programs. I got to see this teamwork first-hand as classmates seated around me offered a helping hand throughout the Quant and Finance sections. Some even fell behind as the professor pressed forward, just to make sure I was understanding all of the content. It was nice to see it wasn’t solely lip service, but that our collaborative culture within the Foster family has begun forming just in this first week.

Wrapping up the adventures of the Jump Start experience, it’s worth noting the incredible experience that served as the grand finale. Our beloved Huskies beat the #3 ranked USC Trojans and I rushed the field with my Foster colleagues! So much for my feelings of disappointment for choosing a school with a sub-par football program. Go Dawgs!!

Guest Blogger: E. Jeff Hullinger, Foster MBA Class of 2011

Countdown to Fall Quarter

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

As several months back in “the real world” for the second years wind down, it’s beginning to feel like school obligations and opportunities are appearing in our email inboxes more and more. On Monday morning I’m heading to campus to be part of a photo shoot with Phyllis Campbell, chairman of JPMorgan Chase PNW. She was gracious enough to serve as a mentor to a group of us during our first year at Foster and has requested that her Foster mentees be part of a profile a Seattle magazine is doing on her. (Photos to follow if I can get my hands on them!) Tuesday evening I’m being interviewed on camera about Foster for use in informational sessions over the next year or two. Hopefully I’ll be articulate and composed considering it will be immediately following my very last day of my internship and about 12 hours before hopping on a plane to head to Spain to hang out with a classmate for a week. My trip will be a quick whirlwind, but she’ll be there for the entire quarter studying in Madrid.

On top of those things, I’ve been trying to update student club websites and plan events for the fall quarter. I’ve been arranging coffees between all of you interested in Foster and current students, as well as attending a few myself. With more than a month until classes officially begin, all things MBA are ramping up already!

Connect with a current Foster MBA

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

It has been a busy summer as many of us are working full-time at internships between our first and second years of the MBA Program. In addition to this schedule, many of my classmates have generously made themselves available before work and during their lunch hours to have coffee with those of you considering applying to or attending Foster. I can’t think of a better, more valuable method of research – to hear firsthand about the Foster experience, the common values held by the students and details of the classroom atmosphere, all from a current student. We’re happy to find time in our schedules to answer all of your questions and share stories of our first year in the Foster MBA Program. All you have to do is ask!

Feel free to email mbalink@u.washington.edu or post a comment here to contact a current student.

Welcome to the Foster MBA Blog

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

With the help of the Foster MBA Admissions Office, we have launched a blog! We’ll be focusing on the student experience, from applications through graduation and beyond. Returning to graduate school for an MBA is a life changing decision, but we hope to provide valuable insight into what student life is like here at Foster – helping you make a well informed decision about your MBA pursuit.

I know as I researched schools and contemplated an MBA I had countless questions. After surviving my first year in the Foster MBA program and working full-time at my summer internship, it’s hard now to remember what those questions were so please feel free to send me yours by posting them in the comments section of any entry.