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

All-Access Pass

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

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.

Sometimes, very small things can have a sizable impact.

For example, just this past week I had my photo taken, and within a day was given a picture ID to attach to the set of secure-entry badges I wear clipped to my waist at work.  It wasn’t a big deal, but I felt a very strong sense of place and belonging when I slipped it onto the loop and snapped it into place.  There was my face, smiling back at me!  And there I was, sitting in my cubicle, working away at my computer, pulling together my analyses for my upcoming presentation to the company executives.  Just another workday at my MBA internship.

But the interruption of the photo-ID gave me a moment to pause, and to reflect on the last photo-ID I had worn for work – in a flash of memory I recalled my last day of work at that job, a position I had held for exactly 4 years, 6 months and 2 weeks – how I had slipped the ID badge from my lanyard and deposited it in the HR mailbox before hustling out of the building to make it to my good-bye party, which had apparently started without me!  And in remembering that transition, of course I also had to consider everything that had happened between then and now: my move to Seattle, my decision to apply to business school and the resultant search and application process, my acceptance to, and acceptance of, Foster, and the entire first year of my MBA.  Two whole years had flown by since I last wore a photo-ID!

I have to be honest, there were times in the past 2 years that I wondered whether I was making the right decisions: was it really so smart to leave behind a good job and start again in a new city – in the middle of a recession?  Was an MBA the right next step for me?  Would business school help me learn the skills I needed, or help me find a career that I cared about?  Or, would some of the habits I acquired as I learned to navigate student life again – pulling all-nighters and banging on the snooze button in the morning, rolling into class in yoga pants and a sweatshirt because I couldn’t be bothered to wear anything less comfortable during lecture, working all week with my classmates but also hanging out all weekend with the same group, the lines between ‘colleagues’ and friends ever-blurred – somehow detract from my ability to put on my office game-face and rock it like a professional when I had the chance again?

Well, there’s now a badge swinging from my waist that features a smart young women, sharply dressed in a button-down and cardigan, staring confidently back. I still hit the snooze button in the mornings, but I arrive at the office on time and ready to work.   I’ve certainly re-discovered the business-attire side of wardrobe (and used my first paycheck to expand it!) and take pride in coming into the office dressed like I mean it.  I am on excellent terms with my team and superiors and have maintained a healthy divide between my work life and personal life.

And those other questions, the big picture ones, about my MBA and my career, and the direction of my life?  I don’t have final answers, that’s for sure, but I’m starting to figure some things out.  I’ve discovered interesting new possibilities for a career in marketing and become somewhat passionate about the ways social media can be leveraged to develop a brand.  I’m making connections in the technology sector, and learning how products are developed and released within the SaaS (Software as a Service) space.  I may find full-time work in the area I am now, or maybe the electives I take in my second year will send me in a new direction.  Everywhere I look I see a lot of possibilities as opposed to dead ends; this is definitely something that my MBA has helped me to achieve.

And in the new realities of my day-to-day life, when I encounter a door that’s locked: hey, look at that! My badge grants me access, and I forge ahead.

Operations Club Roast: Dillanos Coffee Roasters

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Seattle is known for its coffee; maybe it’s the weather or maybe it’s because there is a coffee shop on every corner.  Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure- Seattleites love their coffee and so do MBA students.  As a Foster student, a delicious cup of coffee is never more than an arm’s reach away.

Dillanos Coffee Roasters was voted 2011 Roaster of Year by Roast Magazine and was featured in CNN’s “The Coffee Addiction.”

One Friday in May, the Foster Operations Club visited Dillanos Coffee Roasters. Our visit started out with a tour of the roasting operations; from the bean delivery to the distribution of packages. On the tour we saw machines that could roast up to 400 gallons of coffee beans an hour! We also so where Dillanos makes their flavored coffees. Did you know that coffee is like baking soda in that it absorbs any of the scents around it? Because of the absorbing nature of the coffee beans Dillanos makes the flavored coffee in a separate and sealed off room, away from the roasters.

After the tour we had a coffee tasting with the head roaster at Dillanos, Bjorn. Bjorn filled us on what he looks for when trying coffee samples provided by potential suppliers. Our group got to taste two coffees brewed in different ways to experience how different brewing methods alter the taste of the coffee. My favorite brewing technique is the pour over method although, once brewed, I do not turn down coffee no matter how it’s brewed.

Fueled by caffeine we spent the next hour or so listening to and speaking with Dillanos’ operations executives. We spoke about operating with limited inventory, the implementation of the balanced score card approach, and how cross training employees could lower costs. Between the tour, tasting, and conversation with executives the Operations Club’s appreciation of all things coffee got stronger and richer – just like, well, a nice cup of coffee!

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

Inside Admissions: So You’re Thinking about Business School – Now What?

Friday, June 15th, 2012

September 2013 seems like it is a long ways away. Here in Seattle, all we can think about right now are the beautiful summer months ahead of us. Seattle truly is one of the most incredible places in the entire world during the summer months. And boy do we appreciate it here. Quite frankly I’m not even ready to start thinking about September of 2012, much less 2013!

But in the world of MBA Admissions, 2013 will be here before you know it. If you are considering applying to MBA programs next year, right now is a great time to start making application to-do lists, scheduling GMAT test dates and thinking about who might write your recommendation letters.

These steps, and in particular the GMAT, often cause a great deal of anxiety for applicants. However, they’re not even the most important parts of the process. That’s right, I said it! The really important stuff can unfortunately get overlooked when we get too wrapped up in the details. Ideally your MBA application should be a way for you to show us that you’ve put a lot of thought into this. That you have researched the potential paths you might take after business school and how the MBA will help you get there. That you have had experiences that will add value to the program. And that you are prepared for the program’s rigorous curriculum.

Researching your career goals, and why you need an MBA in the first place, shouldn’t start with your “Why I want an MBA” essay (virtually every program has one of those). It should start today. If the idea of doing informational interviews makes you a little uncomfortable, start with a friend or a co-worker. Then meet with one of your friend’s co-workers. You would be surprised how much people enjoy telling their life stories. Pretty soon you’ll be an informational interviewing machine and, more importantly, you’ll know a whole lot more about those career paths that you had always thought sounded kind of interesting. And to get back to the topic of MBA applications, you’ll know the most important thing of all – why you want an MBA and what exactly you want to do with it.

This may all sound fairly obvious, but in my years of working in MBA admissions I have seen too many people get buried in the application process before they have really stepped back to make sure this is what they want to do in the first place. First figure out if you really need an MBA, and then go to work finding the programs that will help you accomplish your unique goals. At this point you’ll be able to put together an application that accurately represents the amount of thought and effort that you have put into this decision. That’s why we have you write those essays and gather those recommendation letters…and, of course, take the GMAT.

And speaking of the GMAT, my advice to you is this: Give yourself ample time to study. Take a class or get a tutor if you’re scoring outside the range of the schools you’re targeting. Retake the test if you don’t get the score that you know you’re capable of. And once you do get that score, you can move on to bigger and better things. Like informational interviews, self-reflection (summer is a great time for that) and, of course, a visit to campus. It is never too early to start connecting with us. We look forward to getting to know you!

~Featured Blogger Erin Ernst, Director, MBA Admissions

New Foster Club Supports Veterans

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Military veterans typically constitute a small but unique subset of MBA students at the Foster School of Business. In recent years, however, this number has risen significantly. We expect there to be over 20 veteran students enrolled at Foster spanning the day and evening programs by the start of the 2012-2013 academic year – and this phenomenon isn’t just limited to the Foster MBA Program. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal indicates that veteran enrollment is on the rise at top tier business schools all across the country. As major overseas operations wrap up and militaries begin to drawdown their numbers, service members are increasingly looking towards pursuing an MBA to complement their leadership and combat experience with fundamental business skills that will ultimately help them make the transition into the private sector; a two year business “boot camp,” if you will.

So what does this have to do with my experience as a Foster MBA student? Well, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a military veteran; so naturally I made it a point to seek out schools that had a club or networking group for former military members. When I couldn’t find any information on the Foster website about a veterans club, I made the assumption that it still existed – but perhaps it just wasn’t widely publicized. It wasn’t until after the start of first year pre-term activities (Prime/LEAD/JumpStart) that I realized I was mistaken.

Foster Veterans with Dave Chonowski, Co-founder of MBA Veterans

While there is a sizeable contingent of us here, we don’t have the support structure offered by other top business schools. Many of my prior-service classmates came to the same realization either during the application process, or soon after starting the program. In fact, most of my non-veteran classmates were also surprised to learn that Foster did not have a club for current and former military members. Of course, it wasn’t long before I started hearing the same repeated comment: “Someone should start a veterans club.”

Fast forward nine months.

I’m proud to announce that, as of last week, the Foster School of Business now offers a club specifically geared towards supporting military veterans enrolled at Foster, as well as applicants considering a Foster MBA. The Foster Veterans Association was cofounded by myself and another vet from the Class of 2013, Gene Ahn, with the support of the Assistant Dean, Dan Poston, Foster MBA Admissions Office, MBA Career Services, MBAA leadership, and of course, our classmates, both military and non-military. It’s my personal hope that this club provides veterans with a strong platform for professional, academic, and personal support, not only during their
two or three years here at Foster, but well into their post-MBA careers.

Check out the Foster Veterans Association webpage for more information.

~Guest Blogger Edward Hwang, Full-time Class of 2013, 2012-2013 Foster Veterans Association President

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