Networking

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

 

It Takes a Village

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

My first contact with a representative of the Foster School of Business occurred at an MBA admissions networking event hosted by Kaplan.  After I found an opportunity to introduce myself as being interested in the program, the conversation clicked, and I found we had more in common than I had anticipated.  I secured a business card and made arrangements to follow-up with her.  We met once more before I submitted my application, and her enthusiasm for the program and the opportunities she has had since finishing was both contagious and compelling. I kept in touch throughout the admissions process, sharing the news of my admission and acceptance, and maintained sporadic contact over the course of my first and second year.

As I am now entering the last 6 months of my MBA, we met up again to touch base.  Of course, one of the first things she asked me about was the progress of my career search.  Ah, yes; my career search!

Since completing my summer internship I had been quite busy!  Busy with classes, busy with club involvement, busy with my role on the admissions team, busy with extracurricular activities…but not so busy with my career search, not lately.   I have been neglecting to schedule meetings with my career coach, scheduling commitments that conflicted with professional networking events, and side-stepping the issue when probed by classmates.

“You need to get on that,” I was told.

In fact, to emphasize her point, my alumni mentor requested that I submit to her a list of SMART goals for my career search – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound tasks that I would commit to accomplishing over the coming months to ensure I would stop slacking off and begin making progress.

And so I have gotten to it.  Last week I emailed her some goals:

  • By the end of January, identify 8 companies to research and make contact with during winter quarter.
  • Develop a list of functional areas to research (e.g., market researcher, product manager, etc) by mid-February.
  • Schedule at least 2 informational interviews during winter quarter and at least 4 informational interviews to be conducted during spring break.
  • Meet with career services every other week to conduct practice interviews to hone interview skills.

And now I am following up with my career coach (who I am sure has been waiting for something like this to happen!) and reaching out to networking contacts to learn more about companies and positions that interest me.  And of course, the career center is thrilled to see me moving forward, and my friends and colleagues are offering to make connections to help schedule informational interviews with other well-placed alumns.  I’m sure most business schools have similar systems and networks to help  students move their careers forward.  What I think is uniquely special about Foster is that our alumni network is so committed to remaining engaged with the Foster community that individuals don’t simply take meetings and make connections on a student’s behalf, they care enough to take you to task when they know you could be doing more, and to find a way to re-light the fire that brought you to business school in the first place.

~Blogger Gwyn Gaubatz, Full-time Class of 2013

Networking, Networking, Networking…

Monday, October 29th, 2012

As any MBA student will tell you, networking is a must do, but finding the time between school and networking is tough. Meeting the right people, connecting with the right organizations, all are factors in where to spend your “extra” time.

For me, the business roundtable event held by the Japan-America Society and the Foster Global Business Center called, “Social Media: For Your Business?” was a no brainer; I had to go. Having spent nearly seven years living and working in Japan, as well as interning over the summer at one of the world’s largest PR and ad agencies (that also has a big social media team), I knew this would be a good opportunity to network and meet industry leaders that work internationally, have a connection to Japan, and are involved in social media.

Companies that were represented in the panel discussion were Starbucks, Microsoft, Ivyworldwide, pspinc.com, Nikkei Concerns, and NicoNico, Inc. Each company representative also gave a 10 – 15 minute presentation on their social media strategy and some of the impacts that social media has had on their organizations.

I learned that effective social media strategy is about leverage, or as Nick White (Partner and General Manger of Ivy Worldwide, Inc., a word-of-mouth social media marketing consultancy firm) called it, “Social Media Judo”. He said if your firm is going to have an effective strategy you need to:

  • Listen;
  • Contribute on other sites;
  • Publish your own content and make sure to link back, cite, and propagate;
  • Don’t sell, rather soft sell [your product or service]; and
  • Listen even more.
Seems simple, but in the ever changing social media world, it is anything but simple. The buying process has changed, the customers are changing, and the frameworks that we have grown to love/hate in our MBA studies are changing. Thankfully, events like these allow real-time perspective from industry leaders in organizations that many of us will end up working for one day. The opportunity to meet, mingle, exchange business cards, and practice your elevator pitch with the panel and other attendees is a great way to go that extra mile and make genuine connections, because you never know how when you might come across the same people when searching for an internship, or in my case, a job.

~Guest Blogger Ryan Loren, Full-time Class of 2013 and President of the Global Business Association

Networking My Way to an Internship

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Last year as I began my internship search I found myself at an event that would require me to confront a situation I had worked hard to avoid in the past, networking at a job fair. I had always found the idea of shaking hands with recruiters and company reps to be almost alien. To me, these types of events always felt very forced and I really don’t like being forced to do anything. I have had coworkers and friends who seem to excel in these types of situations, who could network naturally, almost instinctively. They could walk into a room of strangers and leave with a room full of friends and contacts. When I entered a room, I was met with a paralyzing social anxiety. Oh, I’m affable enough, love telling jokes, sharing stories and the like and when I tell my friends about my anxiety, they refuse to believe that someone who seems so outgoing would be so internally anxious.

Regardless, there I was, a fresh faced first year MBA candidate on the hunt for an internship. I watched classmates converse with the various company representatives, shake hands, exchange business cards and resumes and leave with a solid prospect for an internship at a company that I would have loved to work at. Seattle is home to some of the top companies in the world, across a range of industries ranging from aerospace to software developers. Yet there I was, standing in the middle of a room with the people who could help me get a foot in the door and I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other to go talk to them.

That’s when my career coach, whom I had had previous conversations with in which we talked about my fear of such situations. She could sense my level of discomfort and encouraged me to head home for the day and come by her office the next day to talk about an alternative strategy in regards to finding an internship. So that’s what I did. I grabbed my jacket, headed home to work on my marketing case for the next day and made plans to come by the career center the next day.

After my morning class the following day, I headed over to meet with my coach to start laying out my alternatives, of which I was hoping there were many because I was getting worried that I would never land an internship. During our meeting we talked about how vast the Foster alumni network is and how eager they are to help fellow Foster-ites in the internship search. Knowing my distaste for large recruiting events, we talked about the possibility of setting up informational interviews, which were more personal and far less stressful for me. My coach showed me the catalog of former student resumes that career services keeps on file and encouraged me to look through them to see if any of the alumni were currently working in an industry I was interested in. She also encouraged me to use LinkedIn to reach out to Foster alumni as well as my personal network to see if there was anyone I could schedule an informational interview with. She even went so far as to reach out to her personal network to help me schedule informational interviews. Over the coming month, when I wasn’t powering through a case with my team, I set up a number of interviews with alumni, people within my personal network, second year students who had interned at companies last summer. At these interviews I would ask about their experience at the company, how they applied what they had learned as an MBA candidate and closed each conversation by asking if they new anyone else that they felt I should talk to.

After a number of these interviews, I met a former Foster student who worked at one of the larger advertising agencies in Seattle. We bonded over not just over having both having experienced the gauntlet that is the workload of first-year but non-academic interests as well. We closed our conversation with him letting me know that he would go by human resources in the morning to share my resume and to find out what the situation was with the agency’s internship program. One week later I received a call from the HR director inviting me in for an interview. I couldn’t believe it! My weeks of informational interviews had paid off! I went in that Friday for my interview and on Monday I had an email in my inbox with an offer.

If there was to be a moral from this story, it’s that there are many alternative paths to finding a summer internship, not just the job fairs. Find what works for you, work with your career coach and exercise your network. The perfect internship is out there, the trick is finding it.

~Guest Blogger Ben Reid, Full-time Class of 2013

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

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

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.

Operations and Opportunities with the Ops Club

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Question: Which one of these things doesn’t belong?

  • Steel Mill
  • Chocolate Company
  • Hospital
  • Fulfillment Center
  • Distillery

Answer: Trick Question – they all belong, at least to the Operations Club.

This is just a sample of the tours and events that the Operations Club has held over my first year at Foster. It was exciting to be a member of a club that purposely went into the community to secure tours and speakers is such a wide variety of industries. The events provided the best opportunity to learn about companies & industries as well as to network with industry leaders. Interestingly enough, some of the people we met on the tours were the same people that interviewed students for internships and full-time jobs. It was an added benefit to not just already know the interviewer but also to have in-depth knowledge of a company.

I made a conscious decision to purposely join clubs and attend events that offered an introduction into a variety of industries. After attending club fairs and informational happy hours I settled on a conservative 3 clubs with one of them being Operations Club. I felt that the club was highly motivated to organize tours and speakers from a multitude of industries to help the members see that 1) operations exist in every industry and 2) help open doors in whatever industry members were interested in. I am extremely happy with my decision to join the Operations Club and I’ve heard a number of my classmates confirm my belief that the Operations Club is the best club at Foster.

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

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

Foster’s Secret Weapon to Invading New York

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Here’s a little known fact: the Michael G. Foster Finance Society has been connecting UW Foster MBA students with investment bankers in New York City though an annual Finance Road Show.

UW is not your typical Finance school; we are not one of the few “core schools” that investment banks pick and choose from. But our school has no less hardworking and determined MBA students who are interested in pursuing a career in Finance.

We demonstrated our desire to go the extra 2,852 miles by going to New York City for 2 solid days of firm visits. We met with various representatives from different departments of several banks and with Husky alumni in New York. It was a tremendous opportunity to make connection on the East Coast, and learn insights about individual company culture and organizational structure, as well as what it would take to make a successful transition from one coast to the other.

The New York Road Show was a very well-organized trip, and I’m looking forward to our San Francisco visit in November. I would recommend those who are seriously looking to go into investment banking or relocation after graduation to take advantage of these opportunities.

Read more about the Finance Society here.

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