Winning the Foster Winter Case Competition

On a bright and sunny morning early in January, our six-person team found ourselves deep in discussion about how to mitigate REI’s environmental impact without losing any profits.  Each of us had spent the past two hours researching a different aspect of the project, and we were debating vigorously about the best ways to accomplish the goals of the project.  After all, we only had twelve hours to solve all of REI’s climate issues…

A case competition is designed around giving teams a complex problem to solve and limited time to solve it.  Teams can take any number of approaches to solving the problem, but the end goal is to produce and explain the team’s solution to the problem, and hopefully that solution proves to be better than the competition.  These competitions are a test of how well a group of people can mobilize toward a common goal, understand a complex problem, compartmentalize that problem into bite-sized chunks, research quickly, and assimilate all of those chunks into one polished presentation.  For first-year students like us, the process was a little challenging.

This particular competition, put on by the Foster School itself, was the first of its kind for most of our six-person team, although two of our members had had prior experience with case competitions.  We decided to approach the case by using an outcome-oriented approach, focusing on what REI was hoping to get out of the strategic recommendations, like reduced energy use, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced waste generation.  We then critically examined each part of REI’s business, analyzing potential strategies that could create both environmental and financial benefit.  Finally, we took these strategies and attempted to quantify the benefits to the environment and the bottom line as best we could, culminating in the development of a Powerpoint presentation that communicated our solutions.

The format of the competition was to present in a semi-final round, before a group of second-year students, professors and professionals from the larger Seattle community.  Those teams who made it through that first round had the opportunity to present in front of their entire class, as well as professionals from the company that the case was written about.  There were a multitude of learning experiences from this case competition, but for me the most impactful was getting through that first round and presenting in front of our peers.  “Adrenaline rush” is a term thrown around quite a bit when talking about being in front of people, but presenting our solution in front of 100 peers and representatives from industry made that term an understatement.  After we had finished presenting our case, we had the opportunity to see the great work that all of the other teams had done, and I can honestly say that I don’t know how the judges made their decision.  The team-based focus of the Foster School really seemed to shine through, since the work of all four top teams was of excellent quality.

Luckily though, my team prevailed in this competition, and we were incentivized with a nice Amazon.com gift card.  In truth though, even though winning this case competition was a great experience, the experience I gained was significantly more impactful than that.  I’m walking away from this experience with a definite understanding that I’m surrounded by 250 of the most intelligent and driven people I’ve ever been near, 100 of whom I was able to compete against directly in this competition.  The sheer amount of creativity and strategic thinking shown in the final presentations was astounding, and it speaks to the quality of the people here at Foster.  I’m proud of our achievement in claiming victory, but I’m more excited at the future opportunities to work with these smart people over the next year and a half.

~Guest Blogger Robert Schmitt, Full-time Class of 2014


Posted by admin - January 31st, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



It Takes a Village

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


Posted by admin - January 22nd, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Experiencing Global Business – India Consulting Project

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


Posted by admin - January 8th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Multiple Bottom Lines: Ethics in Business

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


Posted by admin - January 1st, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Foster Photo Blog: Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What does a day in the life of a Foster MBA look like? The Foster Photo Blogging project follows individual Foster students through their daily routines to give you a glimpse inside the life of an MBA living, learning, and working in Seattle at the Foster School of Business.

Dennis is a first year student at the Foster School of Business. He previously worked in digital marketing and wholesale mortgage lending before that. He is interested in product management, finance, and consulting upon graduating. He currently is a member of the Marketing Club, Consulting Society, and the Strategy Club.

~Photo Blogger Dennis Grubbs, Full-time Class of 2014

1.

Start of my day; I overslept a little.

2.

Sun is out in Greenlake where I live. That will change!

3.

I never leave home without this.

4.

Parking at school is expensive if you don’t carpool. King County Metro is my limo.

5.

First class of the day is Marketing. Very “interesting” topics we covered today.

6.

In-between classes, took a quick look for a table to hang out at and it looks like they are already all taken.

7.

Found a chair and a table to do some reading. Weather has turned a bit.

8.

15 minutes later.

9.

Reading spot got a little loud so I hit the Business Library. I find I move spots a lot during the day.

10.

One of the group meeting rooms in Paccar Hall. I was the first of my group to get there.

11.

The results of our brainstorm session for a Marketing deliverable.

12.

Quick break so I grabbed a chair to get some more reading in.

13.

Despite the days getting shorter, I managed to leave campus with a little daylight left.

14.

Working into the late night on a Finance case. These are challenging but fun.


Posted by admin - November 27th, 2012 - 0 comments - Permalink



Foster Photo Blog: Thursday, November 8, 2012

What does a day in the life of a Foster MBA look like? The Foster Photo Blogging project follows individual Foster students through their daily routines to give you a glimpse inside the life of an MBA living, learning, and working in Seattle at the Foster School of Business.

I am a first year Full-time MBA student and just moved to Seattle 3 months ago for school.  I spent some time in the Army and then later teaching soldiers computer technology as a consultant. I came back to school to switch careers in my area of passion, sustainability. I’m involved with Net Impact, Women in Business, Consulting, Operations, Diversity in Business and Part ii.

~Photo Blogger Jessica Cameron, Full-time Class of 2014

1.

How I start everyday….

2.

My morning commute.

3.

Entering the sweet, sweet Halls of Paccar where I spend most of my days.

4.

Professional Development Class on Professional Writing.

5.

Net Impact Speaker Series: Jobs in the Nonprofit Sector. Free Pizza!

6.

Have to go pick up my bike at the Hub.

7.

Look at those awesome fenders! Now the water won’t splash up on me as I tear through those puddles.

8.

And I’m working on the John Deere Memo till 2am again.

9.

Oh I should have unpacked from that conference, maybe tomorrow.

10.

And a little light reading before bed…


Posted by admin - November 15th, 2012 - 0 comments - Permalink



Foster Photo Blog: Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What does a day in the life of a Foster MBA look like? The Foster Photo Blogging project follows individual Foster students through their daily routines to give you a glimpse inside the life of an MBA living, learning, and working in Seattle at the Foster School of Business.

I am a second-year Full-time MBA student. I have been living in Seattle for nine years, all except for 4 months on Capitol Hill. Before the MBA, I was in biotech and I was also an entrepreneur. The focus of my MBA is Finance and Strategy, and I am involved with the Finance Society, Strategy Club, and Foster Foodies. 

~Photo Blogger Zaher Hulays, Full-time Class of 2013

1.

Coffee, New York Times, and Ethics paper.

It was going to be a long day of tracking election news and homework.

2.

The Eastlake Stairs on Howe Street.

Working out regularly is a great way to keep focus and sanity in the MBA program.

Plus, the Howe St stairs are a great exercise for the Mt. Rainier C4C climb.

3.

Catching the bus from Capitol Hill to the U district.

4.

Seattle Skyline on Election Night from my balcony.

I was trying to do anything to make the time pass quickly.

5.

Election night grilling with friends.

6.

Obama Wins!

7.

The party on Capitol Hill after President Obama won reelection and it became clear that R-74 (gay marriage) passed.

The party went on for a while.

8.

The only way to end the night on Capitol Hill, a trip to Dick’s for some late night burgers and milk shakes.


Posted by admin - November 8th, 2012 - 0 comments - Permalink



Thank Goodness

Thank Goodness. After a long day, they might be the only words you can say (especially after finishing off another midterm). But sometimes, it’s as much about being thankful for the week being over as it is being thankful for your friends, your family/significant other, and even the occasional professor who have been around you every step so far on this journey.

Just because we’re business students, doesn’t mean we don’t have time to enjoy life every once in a while. Throughout the quarter, we have what are known as a “TG’s”, which literally stands for “Thank Goodness”. Over the course of the quarter, having a moment to take a step back from the stress of cases, team meetings, and exams and to just enjoy the company of your new “family” in Paccar is a welcome break. TG’s are just one of many chances students have here at Foster to grab a drink, share a few laughs, and just reset before the cycle begins again.

Our last TG happened to coincide with both Halloween and MBA Preview Weekend, and gave students a chance to go beyond their quantitative abilities to showcase their creativity. So whether you were a first year or an evening student, prospective or a “blue dot” (significant other), it was a fun night of getting to know new people as well as catching up with some familiar faces.

~Guest Blogger Jimmy Wong, Full-time Class of 2014

     

      

      

… and beware of Fruit Ninjas (especially if you’re dressed as a fruit)!

 


Posted by admin - November 7th, 2012 - 0 comments - Permalink



Networking, Networking, Networking…

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

Posted by admin - October 29th, 2012 - 0 comments - Permalink



Preview Weekend

Friday, October 26 and Saturday, October 27 marked the first Preview Weekend of the year.  Foster Preview Weekends provide prospective applicants with a glimpse into the Foster MBA program.  The organized events provided a range of experience and sources of information for prospective students, including a mock class taught by one of Foster’s world-class faculty members, student and alumni panels, a Halloween-themed TG (Thank Goodness it’s Friday) party, a program overview presented by Assistant Dean Dan Poston, a tour of the Paccar Hall facilities, and a discussion of Foster’s career services.  The weekend was also peppered with multiple opportunities for visitors to mix and mingle with each other as well as as current first and second year full-time MBA students.

The next Preview Weekend is scheduled for January 11-12, 2013.

     

     

 


Posted by admin - October 27th, 2012 - 0 comments - Permalink