Opportunities

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

 

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

Foster Supports Women’s Business

Friday, September 28th, 2012

As my second year at Foster begins ramping up, one of my most exciting responsibilities is being the president of the Women in Business club. I am proud to run a club that includes so many amazing women.

What does WiB do?

We are a group of Foster MBA students that support the personal and professional development of women at the Foster School of Business, especially focusing on growing women into leadership roles. We have themes for each quarter that rounds out this mission: connecting (fall), confidence (winter), and competence (spring).

Why did I want to be involved with WiB?

Coming from an all-women’s undergraduate college, representing women in spaces where we are largely underrepresented is important to me (in fact, this was the topic of my essay for Foster!) From discussions on negotiating salaries to golf lessons, I think it’s important that women have a space to reflect on being a minority in business.

Who runs WiB?

I am proud to be the president, but I would get nothing done without my trusty board of eight amazing women. They head up everything from our mentoring program with the Undergrad Women in Business club, Alumnae networking events, golf lessons and events for the evening students at Foster.

As a board, we meet two times a month—each meeting covers upcoming speakers, event planning, ideas for getting involved in the community and more.

Each spring, WiB runs a spring retreat. Last May, we rented a house out in Hood Canal (in Eastern Washington) right on the water. We shucked and ate oysters right on the beach, ate steamed clams for dinner, played a golf scramble and we held our first official board meeting for the upcoming year. It was an amazing way to reflect on the year that had past and prepare for all the great events we have planned for 2012-2103.

~Guest Blogger Kara Gibson, Full-time Class of 2013 and WiB President

Preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

I spent my internship helping to usher in the zombie apocalypse. And by that, I mean I worked at PopCap Games – developer and publisher of titles such as Plants vs. Zombies, Bejeweled, and Zuma.

These are exciting times for casual gaming, as the industry is shifting at a remarkable pace. There has been a rapid movement away from the premium download model, where players pay once for unlimited use of the game, to a freemium model, where the player can play for free, but is encouraged to make in-game purchases.

Under the premium model, the key to success was convincing a large group of players to pay upfront for your game. Whether those players played the game for 3 days or 3 years had a limited impact on the developer’s bottom line. Under the freemium model, however, player retention is critically important. The more often players play, the more opportunity they have to make in-app purchases.

For one of my internship projects, I wrote a white paper on how competitors used virality mechanics within Facebook games (friend invites, gifting, posting updates, etc.) to enhance viral user acquisition and retention. So yes, I spent a big portion of my internship playing games on Facebook! But when I reflect on what I learned about customer acquisition and retention in casual games, I realize how applicable and valuable this knowledge is even in industries far removed from gaming.

Several of my smaller summer projects involved gaming analytics. Cue first quarter stats (especially regression and hypothesis testing)! With the shift to freemium games, some developers have found success by placing a heavy emphasis on testing and iteration. Imagine your game has a few million daily active users. Will total revenue go up if you decrease the price point of a particular in-game item? Will players invite more of their friends if they see a green “Invite” button or a blue one? Will players send more free gifts if they have one gifting option, three gifting options, or 20 gifting options? Rather than making a game-wide change and hoping for the best, developers can use A/B testing (or even multivariate testing) on small subsets of users, and only implement game-wide changes that show statistically significant improvements over the existing game features.

But perhaps the biggest takeaway from my internship was that my MBA experience has given me the skillset to add value, even in an industry where I had no previous experience. As a result, I am confident in my ability to significantly contribute to my fulltime employer – even if they are not in the zombie proliferation business.

~Guest Blogger Ethan Anderson, 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

Why Settle for One When You Could Have Two?

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Foster is committed to providing students with the knowledge and skills to compete in a global marketplace.  Learn about one student’s unique experience pursuing dual MBA degrees in the U.S. and China.

By Robert Gardner, UW Foster Full-time MBA Class of 2013 / PKU Guanghua International MBA Class of 2013. After graduating from Texas A&M University, Robert worked in New York in Architecture, later moving to China to work work in a NASDAQ-listed education corporation before starting his unique MBA experience at Peking University. He is looking to get into international business.

Taking the GMAT, sending in applications, gathering transcripts and getting those verified, paying tuition and finding housing are all a part of the process to getting into an MBA program, but this was the second time, as I was applying for the double-MBA program’s second year at the University of Washington (“UW”). I’m already an MBA student at the prestigious Peking University (“PKU”) in Beijing, China, but I had decided I wanted to pursue the double-MBA opportunity when I first applied to PKU the year before.

Most people have no idea that these programs exist, and when I tell them I’m going to Seattle for my second year, they think it’s just another exchange program. When I explain that it is a dual-degree or double-degree, they ask what the second degree is. It usually takes a little effort to explain it is an MBA from each university.

Why would anyone pursue a program like this? It’s fairly simple, but much more complex at the same time. By obtaining PKU credentials, you get “China Expert” forever written on your resume, while UW credentials show that you have enough stuff to complete a degree in the USA. In China, the PKU credentials are extremely venerated; it is no wonder the PKU Guanghua School of Management has been called the “Harvard Business School of China”.

The program still lasts two years, you spend the first in Beijing, and the second in Seattle; and the result however, is double. PKU has multiple partners set up in this arrangement; there is the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, and the new partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School that grants an M.S. degree in Management in lieu of an MBA. Other options are in Canada, South Korea, Singapore, France and Germany. These programs are really allowing students to expand their education beyond just the one at Peking University, and allowing a China perspective combined with another perspective, creating a truly international MBA experience, and hopefully, allowing me to become an MBA graduate better suited for international business opportunities between the USA and China.

There have definitely been challenges on the way, but it is those experiences that are impossible to convey by words alone that prepare me for doing business cross-culturally. I cannot deny that I am sad my time with my classmates at PKU seems cut short, the truth is many of us will be taking the second year at other schools around the world, either as full-year double-degree students, or one-semester exchange students. In the meantime, I look forward to meeting my new classmates at UW and look forward to the friendships and challenges that will arise in another location.

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