Mentoring

18 Pieces of Advice to First-Year MBAs from Two Seattle Entrepreneurs

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

On Friday September 12th, 106 first year MBA students headed across Lake Washington to the headquarters of Microsoft where they had their Career Management Orientation. Below is a summary of the advice they received from two Seattle-based entrepreneurs, as collected by incoming student Nelson Tang.

Richard Tait and Foster alumnus Chris Howard spoke to new MBA Students at the MBA Career Management orientation.

Richard Tait and Foster alumnus Chris Howard spoke to new MBA Students at the MBA Career Management orientation.

Last Friday, the UW Full Time MBA students went to do a full-on career management day at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA.  We did a ton of activities, including a Q&A panel with recruiters in various industries, a ‘speed career date’ session with alumni and recruiters, and so on.  But the highlight for me was the keynote speech by Chris Howard (founder of Fuel Capital) and Richard Tait (inventor of Cranium, founder of Golazo, and tons of other companies!).  I was floored.

Because memories are fleeting, I’m writing this as a reminder to myself and my fellow MBA students so we don’t forget this advice!

  1. You’re gonna hear “no” over and over again.  Remember: it’s not about how many times you get knocked down – it’s how many times you get back up.
  2. Never blow out someone else’s candle.
  3. What do you want written on your tombstone?  Let those words guide your decisions and chart your path.
  4. Grades don’t matter.  There are 3 legs to the MBA experience, and networking is the most important.  While everyone else is playing fantasy football, you should be having informational interviews.  When you request someone’s time, be super prepared, have a super specific request.
  5. When the door opens and the opportunity arises, hit it with every fiber of your being.
  6. A good mentoring relationship should feel like osmosis…there’s an ebb and flow to the relationship, an exchange that goes both ways.
  7. On informational interviews:  Show up early, and do your research.  Have at least 10 awesome questions ready to go, and follow up with a handwritten note.  Keep them informal.
  8. Make a list of the 10 people you want to meet in the MBA program.  Have a tight filter/criteria for why you want to meet them.
  9. It’s not about grades or the classes you have to take.
  10. Go where the action is.
  11. You will make sacrifices to achieve your dream.
  12. Build a ‘Board of Advisors’ (about five people) for yourself that help you open closed doors and make big decisions.  Each person should have different backgrounds and specialties, but they should have some common values.  Check in with them at least quarterly.
  13. Be present.  Put the phones down.  These moments are the most impactful.  You owe it to yourself and your team to give 100%.
  14. Build a business plan for your life.  Check with your Board of Advisors.  Constantly re-evaluate your goals and values.
  15. Be open to “yes.”  You’re going to have to manage your time and say no to some opportunities to protect your time, but you never know what might happen if you say “yes.”  It might turn into something amazing.
  16. You’re going to be thrown a lot of opportunities.  Take risks, try things you’re uncomfortable with…whether it’s classes, clubs, activities, etc.  What do you have to lose?
  17. If you’re new to the region and don’t have a network – get on LinkedIn!  Networking takes a lot of work and you gotta hustle.  Seattle is a small town – everybody knows everybody.  Connect with all your classmates.
  18. After an informational interview, ask if there are two more people to meet.  See if they can help with the introduction, and include a form letter to make it easy for them.  And finally, for further reading, Richard recommended that we read “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel, one of the founders of Paypal.  The book basically includes notes from teaching the entrepreneurship class at Stanford.

For more from Nelson, check out http://www.nelsontang.com
Image creditwww.boomboombrands.com

My First Meeting with My MBA Mentor

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

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

 

First Year Highlights: Advice from an MBA Mentor

Friday, September 7th, 2012

The Foster MBA program provides so many opportunities to meet with and talk to people in business, from meet-the-firms to happy hours to career fairs sponsored by MBA Career Services. While all of these opportunities are excellent, the one I found the most unique was the MBA Mentor Program. I knew this program was something very different early last fall when it held an “NFL draft” of mentor meet-and-greets, only this time the mentors were the prospects instead of the students! The mentors spoke about their areas of expertise and then were unleashed to the students for more getting-to-know-you conversation before students voted for their top three mentor choices. The mentors provided such a great opportunity to learn more about an industry, gather information about what to (and not to) spend time worrying about throughout the next couple of months, and garner any wisdom that they could pass down. The meetings with mentors provided an outlet for true curiosity and learning because the mentee groups were small and people did not have to wonder if they were asking enough thought-provoking questions or smiling enough, or worry if a recruiter was interested in their types of questions.

One of my mentors was Herb Bridge, chairman of Ben Bridge, a jewelry company with stores all over the western U.S. While the jewelry industry is not at the top of my priority list, I found myself drawn to Mr. Bridge’s experience, dedication, and no-nonsense responses to questions. As a career-changer in an MBA program, I gravitated to his resolute and definitive decision-making and responses. I was the coordinator for my small group so I was responsible for setting up each meeting between mentor and mentees. This role gave me additional opportunities to speak with Mr. Bridge and pick his brain. Most mentors have one meeting with their mentee group, but Mr. Bridge held two meetings: one with him where we discussed paths, what we wanted to do, and his thoughts; the second with additional people from his office (his CFO, etc.) where we had the opportunity to gain further information and different perspectives. Each meeting was left very open-ended, with contact information exchanged and an invitation for further communication.

Thanks to my meetings with Mr. Bridge I was able to get answers to my personal questions regarding business, sacrifices, and potential opportunities. His comments were really tailored to the goals of each person. Often I find that speakers and industry representatives generalize their answers for the wide audience, but Mr. Bridge really took the time to tailor his remarks to each person.

After speaking with classmates with different mentors, my experience of multiple visits and introductions, open invitations for further communication, and definitive answers and opinions on how to achieve our desired goals was unique to Mr. Bridge. His interest in the students and successful business experience created a unique atmosphere and one that I have yet to find in any other MBA or business networking opportunity.

~ Guest blogger Jennifer Yanni, Full-time Class of 2013