The 2015 UW Business Plan Competition: Co-chair perspective

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

Last year, I had the pleasure of serving as one of the two MBA co-chairs for the Buerk Center of Entrepreneurship’s annual Business Plan/New Venture Competition. This was a priceless experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone considering working in an early-stage startup or starting a new venture.

the business plan competition

Follow your Passion

“Just follow your passion.”

That’s the career advice I’ve heard countless times. Follow your dreams, and the rest will come. If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. When I was in the Air Force, I thought about life on the outside and imagined how great it would be to be your own boss, to be in control of your own destiny. I devoured stories about people starting their own companies, and learned how veterans can be amazing entrepreneurs.

Trouble is, I didn’t know what I was passionate about. I didn’t have one singular problem that I wanted to solve. So I was hoping that a full-time MBA would help me find that problem, and lead me on the path toward becoming the next great entrepreneur. I dove headfirst into the Seattle entrepreneurship community, and went to all the events that I could find through the University of Washington’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship.

That’s when I got involved with the UW Business Plan Competition. And it would change my life forever. (more…)

The Venture Capital (VC) Fellowship – How two MBA students are connecting Foster MBAs and the Seattle VC community

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

venture capital fellowship blog post

Meet Ken Horenstein and Rob Skatrud, two first-year MBA students who are partnering with the Buerk Center of Entrepreneurship to start a Venture Capital Fellowship for future Foster MBA students. They met through the Venture Capital and Investment Competition class at UW, which prepares students to compete in the global competition. UW won the Silicon Valley region and placed second in the in world in 2015!


Making an Impact: Sustainability Resources at Foster

Monday, August 10th, 2015

Interested in using your MBA experience to be a force for social good? It’s my pleasure to introduce this guest post by Phoebe Lipkis (Class of 2016), our 2015-2016 Net Impact Club President. She’s a truly inspired leader and an amazing classmate. This is her guide on all the resources available to Foster MBA students who are interested in maximizing their social impact.

Sustainability resources at foster The Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of social entrepreneurs, environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts, and do-gooders. New Foster students looking to use their MBAs for social or environmental good will find an abundance of resources at their fingertips. Here’s a guide to make it easier for you to navigate these resources and create new opportunities.


My Experiences of a Study Abroad Exchange Program in Japan

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015


To be honest, one of the main reasons I chose to apply to the Foster MBA program was for its excellent exchange programs with 16 partner schools in 14 countries around the world, which include Japan. I had always wanted to do an exchange program in Japan.

As I recall my study abroad experience and think about how to fit an extraordinary 4-month experience in one short blog, all my senses are awakened once again as if I’m seeing the beautiful red autumn leaves, eating a plate of fresh sushi and meditating in a quiet temple.

To me, Japan is a land of inspiration. Beauty lies in everything, from the Japanese language to the sophisticated art forms, but this beauty is not obvious on the surface. One must carefully observe and learn about Japan to fully appreciate it. In Osaka (a major city in Japan), people call a potato “o-imo-san,” where only “imo” means potato. “o” is a term which is used to show respect, “san” is a suffix used after a person’s name to show affection. In brief, people from Osaka call a potato something like “Dear Mr. Potato.” The Japanese rock garden is an art form in itself, composed by an arrangement of rocks, trees and sand which create different forms and images. The largest rock garden in Japan, which I’ve seen and really liked, depicts the image of a pair of dragons emerging from a sea of clouds.These are just two among tons of examples showing the uniqueness, creativity and inspiration the Japanese culture carries.

As exchange students in Japan, we got a chance to grasp the creativity of Japan in an MBA elective at Waseda Business school called Creative Thinking and Ethics in Business. Nobody would expect to have such a class in an MBA program where you learn abstract painting, talk about meditation and the different functions of the left and right brain. It was one of my favorite classes at Waseda. In a nutshell, the class taught us how to practice creativity through understanding which side of the brain we use more often, through abstract painting to express feelings and how important creativity is to various fields of life, including business. We also learned about intriguing research on the difference between a native Japanese speaker’s brain and the brain of those with other native languages, which explains why the Japanese love the sounds of insects and their cHaounterparts don’t. This class, to me, provides excellent evidence of the fact that creativity is an integral part of the Japanese way of doing things.

Inspiration came from not only the language, the art, and the classes, but also from the people I met. A young Japanese couple who has two little boys hosted me in Kyoto for several days. Since they have kids they could not travel, even though they both love travelling and learning about new cultures. Instead, they host visitors from around the world who come to Japan to exchange culture and ideas. Spending a wonderful time eating, talking with them and their friends, and playing with the boys made me think about my future family. It would be a great idea to host international guests once I have my own family. I’d love to bring in people from around the world who come visit my country, to share stories and experiences with them.

In a few words, this is how I remember Japan: beautiful natural scenery, mesmerizing old streets and houses, unique and exciting culture, and delicious food. And yes, the slogan of its tourism industry is absolutely correct: Endless discovery. Yet, all these features seem static. Thinking about them will bring me back to some points in time in the past. There is one thing I took from Japan that I know will go with me for a very long time: Inspiration.

Ha Tran
MBA Candidate, Class of 2015

Our way of giving back to the community and also having fun – C4C Fundraiser and Weekend

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

The University of Washington’s Foster MBA students believe community involvement is an integral part of being a business professional. As a result, each year we participate in the MBA Challenge for Charity (C4C), a non-profit organization that draws on the talents, energy, and resources of MBA students from nine west coast business schools to support our local Special Olympics and Boys & Girls Clubs. The objective is to develop business leaders with a lifelong commitment to community involvement and social responsibility.

What is the C4C Auction?

Every year, Foster C4C hosts an auction that serves as our primary fundraising event. The auction is 100% student planned and coordinated. To date, Foster MBA students have volunteered over 20,000 hours and donated more than $1.4 million to the Special Olympics Washington and the Boys & Girls Club of King County!

The 2014 C4C Auction was the best attended in the event’s history and saw 290 new and old friends alike come together to make the event a huge success. Our Live Auction highlights included an African safari, a getaway to Hood Canal, a private catering experience, and a soccer clinic with the Seattle Sounders, to name a few. Adding to the excitement, for the first time in years, Foster took back the #1 spot in fundraising over the 8 other West coast schools in attendance at C4C Sports Weekend! We want to keep the momentum going, and the planning for the 2015 Auction is already underway. We hope that our incoming students will help us make 2015 even more amazing by continuing to support these wonderful charities. It’s time to bring the golden briefcase back to Foster, where it belongs!









The C4C Sports Weekend

Sports weekend is partly for competition, partly for ego, but mostly, it’s for a lot of fun. It’s a break from the busy routines of school and a chance to get to know classmates better, meet students from other programs, and enjoy a nice, sunny weekend in Palo Alto. It’s also a reward for thousands of hours volunteered in the community and over hundred thousand dollars raised for charity throughout the year (not to mention the bumps and bruises preparing for sports!). Seen all around the Stanford campus were UW shirts, hats, blinky party sunglasses, mustaches (both weird and impressive), purple & gold party beads and temporary UW tattoos. Foster’s Student Band – Death Spiral killed it at Battle of the Bands. The weekend proved that we are as intense with our sports as we are with our studies!

What an exciting weekend we had! Over 180 Full Time, Evening and Blue Dots trekked down to Palo Alto this April and Foster definitely represented at C4C Sports Weekend at Stanford. All year long, students from nine MBA programs on the West Coast raise money and donate thousands of volunteer hours to Special Olympics and local charities. Then, every year in mid-April, we trek down to sunny California and compete in sports events and some non-sporting events with the likes of Stanford, UCLA, Berkeley, and USC. Whether it was Basketball, Dodgeball, Ultimate Frisbee, Trivia, the Dance Competition, Tug of War or Battle of the Bands, we participated in almost every event and showed the other schools that UW is there to win. And we did!

Foster placed 2nd in

  • Co-ed Soccer
  • Co-ed Softball
  • Table Tennis
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • The Spelling Bee

Foster placed 3rd in

  • Women’s Basketball
  • The Trivia Bowl

All results can be seen here. Go Dawgs!!

So how did we do?

Between the 2013 and 2014 Sport Weekends, UW raised over $112,000 and donated over 2,600 hours of community service! These two components count for a combined 80% of the total score. Together with the sports during the weekend, UW got a strong 2nd place finish! Awesome job everyone!

Sadly, in the end, the famed “Golden Briefcase” went to USC for another year. Foster placed second overall, just nipping at the heels of USC in the competition for the Golden Briefcase. While we raised the most money per capita of any school, we were just shy on our volunteer hours and not able to restore the Golden Briefcase to its proper home at Foster. But that was 2014, with everyone’s help, we can prevail in 2015!! Here are some stats:

Overall Score

  • Foster —78
  • USC —80

Hours Volunteered Per Capita (40%)

  • Total Hours Volunteered—2,621 hours
  • Total Foster Hour per Capita—11.3 hours
  • Total USC Hours per Capita—12.8 hours

Fundraising Per Capita (40%)

  • Total Amount Raised—$112,068
  • Foster Fundraising Amount per Capita—$485
  • USC Fundraising Amount per Capita—$480

Sports Weekend Performance is weighted 20%

  • Foster Sports Weekend Ranking—5th
  • USC Sports Weekend Ranking—4th

As you can see, Foster and USC are neck-in-neck! Let’s step it up this year and show everyone what Foster is all about at Sports Weekend 2015!

Let’s start volunteering NOW!!

Your efforts begin to count now, 2015! And 2014 hours count until graduation. Begin getting out into community and giving back!

Sign up here: https://depts.washington.edu/mbaclub/mba-clubs/challenge-4-charity/c4cvolunteer/

Log your hours here: https://depts.washington.edu/mbaclub/submit-your-c4c-volunteer-hours/

And even if you’re not in the Seattle area, you can still help! Remember to use our affiliate link for all of your Amazon purchases and any money raised goes straight into the C4C donation bin (with no added cost to you!). Do what I do and bookmark it right on top so you don’t forget!










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:



Taking Advantage of Career Resources

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

One of the best things about Foster is the amount of career resources that are available. When you arrive you will quickly discover that a large number of people stand ready to help you develop a wide variety of skills. Nowhere has this been more apparent to me than in my work developing my public speaking skills. Every week I meet with Heidi Mathisen, a Business Communications Advisor at Foster. Every Wednesday we spend an hour developing my speaking skills. I prepare a one to five minute speech depending on the week, Heidi films me delivering it, and then we watch together and analyze my performance. Heidi’s feedback is extremely valuable and specific. First we spend time working on my content to ensure that my points are clear and memorable. Then we work on things like my posture, gestures, phrasing, tone of voice, and use of filler words. Soon we are going to begin working on public speaking while integrating visuals such as PowerPoint. Since each speech is filmed I can directly watch myself improve from week to week. Though I came into the program a reasonably confident public speaker, I have seen my skills steadily improve over the last quarter.

An awkward still from my first session. I’ve gotten better since then.

An awkward still from my first session. I’ve gotten better since then.

I realize that I am at a point in my career where I am able to intensively develop skills of this nature. Never again will someone be willing to sit with me for an hour a week to help me develop such an important skill. Public speaking isn’t the only skillset that offers enrichment opportunities of this nature. Career services offers interview workshops, primers on different industries, and the opportunity to hear about a variety of exciting new technologies. Overall I have gained immensely from my meetings with Heidi and am excited to see how much I will develop over the coming quarters.

~ Guest post by Dave Stecher, Class of 2015 MBA Candidate

Experiencing Global Business – India Consulting Project

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

This winter break about 20 students had the opportunity to do something different with their free time by going to India for the Global Consulting Project. The GCP is a school program that is designed to give students immersion in business in another culture (specifically India), but also to use their knowledge and experience to help less fortunate individuals. I’ve always wanted to visit India and the project seemed amazing so I knew right away I’d want to take part.

Our trip included ten days in India working with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Ahmedabad, followed by 4 days of travel. My project (team of four) was with the waste pickers team, Gitanjali. Gitanjali is a business that helps female waste pickers earn fairer wages than previously made available to them through middlemen. It then also provides jobs for former waste pickers and daughters of waste pickers through the manufacture of recycled paper products.

In our ten days in Ahmedabad, my team got to visit the dump, interview waste pickers, visit a slum and the home of a waste picker, visit a sorting facility, meet with suppliers and retailers, go over financials, and actually take part in the assembly line. It was eye opening to really be exposed to the way business gets done in India because it is considerably different than America. After ten days of immersion, we had a final presentation about our experiences and learnings, and presented a scope document and letter of engagement outlining all things we will be covering over the next three months (winter quarter).

Then the group was off for sightseeing and fun! First stop was Jaipur, where we ate meat and drank our first alcohol (Ahmedabad is dry and vegetarian!). The Kingfisher was pretty good! Jaipur was beautiful and we saw palaces, temples, and the world’s largest sundial. We even rode elephants (I’m not sure I liked that part…).

After a few days in Jaipur, we went to Agra. At 6am we were up to visit the Taj Mahal at dawn. What can I saw about the Taj Mahal other than breathtaking? Wow. Definitely a highlight!

After the Taj, we were off to New Delhi to eat our final meal and see some sites. We did some shopping and then said our goodbyes as we parted ways. Some people were home in time for Christmas while some of us stayed on for further traveling. I extended my time in India by a week and went north to the foothills of the Himalayas for some yoga and relaxation.

India was amazing and I am so glad to have been able to do the things I did. I am looking forward to working further on the Gitanjali project this quarter and creating a business plan that will help create more jobs for underprivileged women.


~Guest Blogger Amanda Soloway, Full-time Class of 2013

Multiple Bottom Lines: Ethics in Business

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

I think one of the things Foster does very well is keeping us all grounded.  For a long time (long before me or any of my classmates were here) Foster has tried to uphold a reputation as being the MBA program with a heart. MBA curricula are jam-packed with cases that make you think about ROI, value ad, and all sorts of business mumbo-jumbo that increases the bottom line.

But there are human factors that don’t show up on financial statements, and we’re reminded of those everyday at Foster.  And that’s the part of the Foster DNA I think we’re all most proud of.

For several years now, Foster has taken part in the Case Competition for Ethical Leadership hosted by Baylor University, which brings 12 MBA programs from around the country to tackle an issue in business that presents an ethical dilemma.  Like other national case competitions Foster is chosen to take part in, the Foster Administration covered all costs for us to go participate.   I was fortunate enough to take part with my classmates Ed, Alan and Cate  in representing Foster.

This year’s case explored the dynamics of a Maquiladora near the America/Mexico border, and some of the very sensitive issues that are considered in such relationships with American companies.  Like most case competitions, you’re given a five-to-ten page business case simultaneously with the other teams, and each team has 24 hours to come up with a plan and presentation on your findings, which you present to a panel of judges.  It’s a recipe for very little sleep, but they’re 24 of the most memorable hours I’ll take away from my two years at Foster.  (When you’re sitting on the floor of an airport terminal playing rock-paper-scissors for the last McNugget Sauce, you’ve bonded in a way that nothing else quite compares to.)

And on that note, aside from the experience of the process at the competition, what happens in around the process is equally valuable.  We were dreading the 4-hour layover that loomed on our trip back to Seattle at Dallas/Fort-Worth Airport all week, but we ended up spending it inside an airport bar eating Texas BBQ with MBA students from Pepperdine, Iowa and Minnesota (some of which we’ll see at Stanford this Spring for C4C Sports Weekend.)

The bottom line?  When you decide to enroll (and seriously, why haven’t you yet?) make sure you take part in events like these.  They’re moments you won’t want to miss.

~Guest Blogger Brandon Scheller, 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