Posts Tagged ‘teamwork’

One Person’s Experience: The Benefits of an MBA

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Guest post! Brennen Ricks (Class of 2015) wrote a 4-part series on his blog,, to answer the question: “Was the MBA worth it?” We’re featuring an abbreviated version of the 4th and final part of the series here. For the full version of the article and more from Brennen, be sure to check out his blog!

The Benefit of an MBA

This is my last post of a series on if an MBA was worth it, even though there is still plenty more I could say.

This isn’t going to be a ‘tooting-my-own-horn’ essay. It’s an objective list of what I got out of the Foster MBA program that I could not have received through my own self-directed learning from books or online tutorials. 

Let’s also be real and acknowledge that a formal upper-tier MBA program gets you access to some things that self-directed study just can’t…such as (brace yourself for buzz-words) access to networks of people, certain hands-on experience, job-placement systems, friendships, and a unique way to learn about yourself.

I have 4 main topics, and if you read any of them, I hope you read the last section.


Reflections on Group Work At Foster

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

I’ll admit to approaching my first quarter at Foster with some nervousness. I had heard a lot about the core teams and knew a lot was riding on how well my team functioned. In the first quarter at Foster each student is assigned to a core team of five or six students. This team you are assigned for every class during your first quarter. To understate it somewhat, you spend a lot of time with your team. The idea of being assigned a team of people from different professional backgrounds, with different skill sets, and different goals for their MBA experience made me a little nervous.

Now I am nearly at the end of my first quarter, and am pleased to report back on my experiences with Team 4. I have quickly become friends with each team member and would heartily recommend them for any sort of project. Each member of the team is incredibly hard working, sharp, and genuinely nice. We meet an unusually high amount – every weekday for at least two hours. We’re even meeting up to play tennis this weekend. We don’t do it because we have to. We could meet less and we would still get our work done. However, I think there are several reasons we choose to meet so often. The first is that we genuinely enjoy being around each other. The second is that we are much more productive when we are together than we are individually. My experience working in a core team has truly facilitated my learning and (I believe) the learning of those around me. I also would not have been able to attain nearly as high of levels of productivity on my own as I could when surrounded with such a great team. I can wholeheartedly endorse the core teams as one of the best parts of my MBA experience so far and I know the same will be true of next year’s incoming students!

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

Winning the Foster Winter Case Competition

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

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 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

Fall Core Team – We don’t get to pick our teams?!

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Those of you who have already done your bschool research will most likely discover that team work is a big part of any MBA program. And like many of you, when I first realized just how big a part teams were, I groaned.

Having done my research and interviews with current and past business school students, I have heard ALL the stories that need to be told. From the slackers who take advantage of the team to the Type A Personalities that micro manages everyone. The overall advice I was given, just take it like a man (or woman)!

Upon arriving on campus and getting my team assignment, I was extremely nervous. I knew the team would be diverse, not only in terms of background, work experience, and culturally, but also in personality. I was immediately surprised at just how different five people could be from each other. I knew the semester would not be easy, but it is all a learning experience.

We went through every single phase possible for a new team, from forming to the performing phase. We had our moments of great success and we had our moments of extreme stress. We were all very aware of the typical conflicts that could occur and did our best to look at the entire experience positively. We tried our best to take into account each personal goals and priorities and worked around each other’s schedule. We had our tense meetings and we had team meetings where we confided in each other about our concerns and troubles. But through it all, we kept our focus on our goal, of getting through the quarter without killing each other!

Having been through the majority of the quarter with my team, I have to say we did really well. My prior reservations and predictions did not come true and I am truly impressed with how well my team has gotten along with each other. We may not be best friends for life, but I know we definitely learned a lot from each other and have a connection with each other that cannot be broken just because we are in different teams next quarter. Interestingly enough, at the beginning I could not WAIT to get a new team, but as this quarter comes to a close, I will miss each and every single one of my team member. They are all truly exceptional colleagues and I am glad I got the opportunity to work with such amazing individuals.

~Guest Blogger Jessica Ma, Full-Time Class of 2013

Leadership Fellows: First Quarter Core, Round 2

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

I vaguely remember the first quarter of my MBA career. It went by so quickly, yet seemed to take such a long time. Former Alumni Association President Eddie Pasatiempo put that first quarter in perspective for me, “It’s like spending three minutes…under water.” Starting an MBA program happens only once, and it’s the kind of experience you don’t fully grasp while it is happening. This is part of the reason I was so intrigued by the opportunity to be a Leadership Fellow, a second year student who works with a core group in the first year class as they deal with the complexities and challenges of the first quarter of business school.

Over the course of my first year at the Foster School of Business my fellow second year students proved themselves to be an indispensible part of my learning experience. Though some of them were younger than me, they were full of information about how the program worked, life in Seattle, the dynamics of a team in stressful situations and the dangers that lurked ahead in the first quarter of business school. An important question for the Class of ‘13 is how to tap into the resources of the Class of ‘12. When I first showed up at school, it was my Leadership Fellow that provided the initial window into the class of second years and the Fellows continued to provide great support throughout the school year.
– This year the Leadership Fellows program is different from past years. Previously, the Leadership Fellow was responsible for guiding a team through the quarter and a Leadership Coach was responsible for guiding its individual members through personal development plans. This year the fellows must mentor first year students on their personal development plans and the Leadership Coaches offer the Fellows advice on how to take on that role. This means not only watching team dynamics, but sitting with students individually and helping them not only outline their goals for business school, but also come up with a plan to achieve those goals.

There are two distinct aspects of the Fellows program this year and in both – watching team dynamics and assisting in a personal development plan – the Fellows get an insider’s perspective without actually being inside. It is an opportunity to mentor, to coach, to teach and to learn about what it means to be a leader. Foster is a small community and the Fellows program is an important step in students reaching their goals and becoming great leaders and ambassadors for the Foster brand.

~Guest Blogger, Lee Sherman, Full-Time Class of 2012, and Leadership Fellow

More information about the Leadership Fellow program can be found here

MBA students consult for Seattle shipyard

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Pacific Fishermen Shipyard and Electric is attempting to branch out from its traditional lines of revenue with new facilities for preparing and painting industrial equipment. To market its new capabilities and hopefully add jobs at the shipyard, Pacific Fishermen has tapped the marketing skills of MBA students through the Field Study Program at the University of Washington Foster School of Business.

Click on image to play video.

The Field Study Program offers selected consulting projects proposed by businesses and non-profits to MBA candidates as an opportunity for Foster students to get real-world consulting experience while having a positive impact on the economy of the Puget Sound region. This is the first of two videos to document the collaboration between Foster MBAs and Pacific Fishermen Shipyard and Electric. At the end of winter quarter 2011, we’ll check back with the MBA team to see what they have been able to accomplish for this historic Seattle shipyard.

– Reposted from the Foster Unplugged Blog

First-Year Case Competition

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Case competitions are a rite of passage at most business schools and Foster is no exception.  We recently completed our annual spring competition, the topic of which was:  How and where should Costco expand?

My five-person team, along with all of the other 20 first-year teams had 7case comp winners2 hours to research Costco, develop recommendations for the company, and present these recommendations to a panel of professors and local business leaders.  After several long days, my team decided to pitch a more unconventional strategy—a launch in Chile.  We knew that the company was intent to expand in Asia and Europe, but we also saw great potential in South America and found ways to prove it.  To our surprise, this strategy paid off.  My team was one of the four groups selected for the finals and had the opportunity to present our findings to high-level Costco executives.  At a reception following the presentations, Jim Sinegal, the CEO of Costco, awarded us with the grand prize and an over-sized $2,000 check.

What I enjoyed the most about this experience, was the chance to integrate so many of the things I’d learned this year: teamwork, finance, marketing, public speaking, etc.  It was a wonderful learning opportunity and I hope to get involved with more competitions next year.

— Kaia Laursen, FT 2011

Calling it Quits at 18 Hours

Monday, March 29th, 2010

How grueling can a day in the life of an MBA be? Honestly, it can be pretty bad. What exactly is “bad”? Here’s a glimpse of what a recent day looked like for me as we approached the end of the quarter and classes were coming to a conclusion.

March 9, 2010

6:00 – 7:30 am – Awake. Ironing. Putting the final touches on several Powerpoint decks I’d be using later in the day.

7:30 – 8:15 am – My carpool picks me up to head from Capitol Hill to campus. It’s a few minutes of peace, chatting with classmates, before a crazy day truly begins.

8:30 to 10:20am – Brand Management class. My team and I presenting our quarter long project results – an analysis of The Gap’s rise and fall as a national brand. 20 minutes of presenting and 15 minutes of questions and we’re done with the class.

10:30 to 12:20 pm – Business Ethics class. My team and I (a different team from the Brand Mangement one) present a proposal for Microsoft’s Corporate Responsibility Program for their operations in Italy. Presentation is 15 minutes in front of the class, professor and the Director of CSR at Microsoft, Dan Bross. Our proposal is followed by 10 minutes of questions and some critical feedback from Dan. Unfortunately, there’s still a take home final for Ethics so we’re not done with this class yet.

12:30 – 1:30 pm – Quick lunch followed by returning emails that have piled up in the inbox all morning.

1:30 – 3:30 pm – Finish a team Investments project that is due at 6pm tonight. Our project is a valuation of Murphy Oil Company and, after all edits, is 42 pages long. At the same time I’m also editing our Powerpoint presentation to be given this evening. After the paper is completed a teammate runs off to print and bind it all at the nearest Kinko’s.

3:30 – 5:30 pm – Head off to a different team meeting, this time with my team working on a social media project with Microsoft. Our final presentation to a roomful of Microsoft executives is less than a week away so we’re still working hard to flush out our ideas and put it all into a cohesive presentation. We’re feeling good but I’m always nervous not knowing who will be in the room and what types of questions we’ll be asked.

5:30 pm – Inhaling a quick dinner and changing into a suit before heading to Investments class.

6:00 – 9:30 pm – After rushing across campus to Mary Gates Hall (15 minute walk from the Business School), I get into the classroom and realize I’ve forgotten our final Powerpoint version on a external jump drive on a chair back in the MBA lounge. Oops! Do I have time to run back and get it? No. What’s the next best solution before we present to a full classroom of students and three professionals from local investment firms? A teammate and I quickly edit the version we have on our computer and  throw it on a borrowed jump drive from a classmate. I have time to take a few deep breaths before heading up to the front of the lecture hall to present our valuation. Even after the presentation there’s aren’t many signs of relief – we still have a closed book final exam next week before being finished with the class.

9:30 pm – The day is finally over and I can head home. As I drive, I’m thankful that not all of my days at Foster are like the one that just ended, but confident that returning to the working world will come with comparable hours and challenges.

“Jeff, does that make sense?”

Monday, September 21st, 2009

For those not familiar with Jump Start, it’s basically a crash course in Accounting, Quant, and Finance designed to bring all incoming MBA students up to speed on concepts we’ll be expected to understand come the start of classes. It’s been a great way to get back into the swing of the school mentality without the pressure of handing in assignments and taking tests (that count, because we did do multiple quizzes and even finished off our accounting course with a ‘final’).

In addition to the academic side of things, Jump Start has also been a great way for me to meet some of my classmates and become close with those proficient in Excel. My own lack of expertise was made public very early on by our Quant professor, Thomas Gilbert, when we were asked, by raise of hands, who had limited experience with Excel. Sitting in the back row, I had no problem saving face and I raised my hand high over my head. I didn’t realize I had just sealed my fate as the barometer for the rest of the week for how well the class was understanding the Excel functions. “Jeff, does that make sense?” “Jeff, are we good?”. Those questions definitely kept me on my toes during my first week of the MBA experience, and also served as the means of meeting a lot of my classmates.

Beyond the classes, it was really good to see the MBA culture take shape during this first week. There seems to be a lot of talk about the collaborative environment and a culture of teamwork fostered in most MBA programs. I got to see this teamwork first-hand as classmates seated around me offered a helping hand throughout the Quant and Finance sections. Some even fell behind as the professor pressed forward, just to make sure I was understanding all of the content. It was nice to see it wasn’t solely lip service, but that our collaborative culture within the Foster family has begun forming just in this first week.

Wrapping up the adventures of the Jump Start experience, it’s worth noting the incredible experience that served as the grand finale. Our beloved Huskies beat the #3 ranked USC Trojans and I rushed the field with my Foster colleagues! So much for my feelings of disappointment for choosing a school with a sub-par football program. Go Dawgs!!

Guest Blogger: E. Jeff Hullinger, Foster MBA Class of 2011

Leadership Fellows

Sunday, September 20th, 2009
The Meg(h)an(n)s: Leadership Fellows

The Meg(h)an(n)s: Leadership Fellows

Teams are a central part of the Foster MBA Program. During the first year nearly every class requires you to complete work with your core team of 5 or 6 students, whether it’s a research paper, a presentation or both. Foster’s Leadership Fellows program matches a 2nd year student with a 1st year team to provide support and guidance. As 2nd year students, by now we’ve all learned a thing or two, from tools for facilitating a brainstorming session to the secret for cheap parking on campus. Yesterday twenty Leadership Fellows spent our Saturday preparing to fill this role, revisiting communication frameworks we learned last year from The Glasers, as well as brainstorming how to best support the 1st year students during their upcoming LEAD Week, beginning tomorrow.

It’s shocking to realize that an entire year has already gone by since we were just plunging in to our first year at Foster. Although our heads are spinning a little from the lightning speed of the past year, we’re all very ready and willing to pass on the knowledge we’ve gained in that time. It’s a perfect example of what makes the atmosphere at Foster so unique in the MBA world.