Meredith Heestand just finished her first quarter of the Evening MBA Program. Below she discusses what she learned about teamwork and how she’s excited that this is only the beginning.
It’s not always easy, but the reward is worth the work.
You might think that this point is fairly obvious. Come on, it’s an MBA program! But for a molecular biologist that mostly works independently and has played individual sports her entire life, let’s just say the learning curve was rather steep.
Thankfully, my team: 7, aka “Seventh Inning Stretchers” (named for our shared love of music and sports), have been unconditionally patient and encouraging since day one. Looking back, I keep wondering how on earth I got so lucky to be chosen as a member of this group of intelligent, witty, and hard-working individuals who were even game to do awkward yoga poses in front of our entire class two days after meeting each other.
I also remember how scary the thought of relying on other people for certain projects and assignments was. What if someone didn’t pull his or her weight? What if someone just dropped the ball and didn’t show up to a team meeting? Oh, the horror!
Well, honestly, these things happen. LIFE happens. And that is why you have a team. There is an imbued sense of reciprocity that if paired with the right people happens pretty organically. Being newbies to the whole MBA thing, many of us overscheduled our lives in the beginning, thinking this program was something we would just fit into the mix. WRONG. But you have to accommodate. You have learn to be a willow that bends but does not crack in what feels at times like the biggest windstorm you’ve ever endured.
New beginnings are immense times of change and my teammates were there for each other through it all. At times when people get sick or are out of town, you have to improvise. Getting a group of five adults that work full time and have family/life obligations together can sometimes be a challenge likened to herding cats. Thankfully, with Skype and shared Google Docs (and snacks) we made it work!
But your team is not just there to catch you when life runs its crazy course. They push you to think outside the box in new ways. I surely would still be scratching my head about economics if it weren’t for outside of class discussions on approaches to homework. Even if the only reason I showed up in the first place was for the snacks. Good thing I now realize incentives change behavior…
Teamwork is also about celebrating your successes. One of the best moments of the quarter came right after finishing our Economics final where I found myself singing karaoke alongside my class of 2017 team and the one and only Professor Ed Rice. We work hard but play harder!
To sum it all up, it feels like I just finished the first quarter of the rest of my life, not just the next three years. My Team 7 comrades and the entire evening class of 2017 have showed me the enduring power that good teams hold.
And when I say the work is worth it?
Let’s just say I’m exhausted but I can’t stop smiling.
As the days shorten and we head into the holiday break, I think that now is a good time to reflect back on my first quarter as an Evening MBA student at Foster. To say that I’ve been challenged in new and interesting ways would be an understatement. I hadn’t been in a degree program in over 10 years and it took some time to adjust, but with the finish line in sight I can say without a doubt that I’ve had an incredible time.
Here are some of the things I learned this quarter.
Ambiguity is the order of the day. As with life, things are not always clear cut and tidy in business. There’s almost never one right solution or approach, and sometimes you need to make decisions without having all of the relevant information. Our first quarter classes really delivered this message – to succeed, get comfortable with not having all of the answers.
There’s no “I” in team. Most everything we do is team based – even when you’re not working on a team assignment you study as a team. Reaching consensus in a group of smart and experienced people can be a really difficult task, but my team has been amazing – Aaron, Darius, Pete’ and Bing are the best teammates I could ask for. In fact, most of my classmates love their team as much as I do. We build on each other’s strengths and are better as a team than alone.
Leading in partnership. My classmates elected me and my classmate Tyson as class representatives, and we’ve had a blast working together to make the MBA experience as amazing as it can be. Two people with different ideas but with a common goal can work together, and thrive.
Socializing – it’s what’s for dinner. Academics is only about 50% of the MBA. The other 50% is socializing with classmates, alumni, and business leaders. My classmates are going to be my primary professional network for my entire career, and I love getting to know everyone. Happy hours every week, class-sponsored sports, monthly TGs, random trips to the bar after a team meeting, even a scavenger hunt – all necessary if you want to maximize your experience.
You get what you give. If you’re just there for the piece of paper you get in three years, you’re going to miss out on a lot. The more effort, time, and energy you put into the experience, the more you’ll get out of the program. I made it a point to attend every career management workshop (although I’m not looking for a job), go to as many networking events as possible, join the clubs that looked the most interesting, and connect with people in other classes and programs. The more you put yourself out there, the higher the chances of having a serendipitous encounter that just may change your life.
And here is some advice I received from upperclassman and which I think helped immensely.
Be sure to make time for yourself. Between family, school, and work, you need to find time to just turn off your brain. Don’t feel guilty taking a weeknight to just veg in front of the TV or play a board game. You’ve earned it.
Don’t take it so seriously. We are all committed and want to do well, but don’t lose perspective – it’s just school. This is where you can make mistakes with minimal consequences. One low score won’t make or break you. Stop yourself once in a while and make sure you’re enjoying yourself.
Don’t be afraid to keep your options open. There are so many opportunities in the program, if you close yourself off to new experiences you are selling yourself short. I came in laser-focused on entrepreneurship and global business, and though that’s still my focus I also never thought I’d actually like accounting. I’m also looking forward to learning more about careers in consulting and marketing.
Overall, it’s been a fantastic experience. Yes, I’m exhausted and look forward to the winter break, but I’m also excited about what awaits us in winter quarter.
It’s back to school time and the Foster MBA Admissions team couldn’t be more excited to welcome 112 individuals into the Evening MBA Class of 2017. The decision to return to school differs from person to person, but the reasons for why they chose Foster all sound familiar: they are excited for the collaborative, challenging environment that Foster provides and everybody cannot wait to meet their incredible network of classmates.
Meet eight of these incoming students – all who have agreed to document their first year in the program through the Foster Evening MBA Blog. Like the rest of their class, they come from diverse backgrounds and have a myriad of interests. And, like the rest of their class, they can’t wait to meet each other!
ROSE ANTHONY: Rose is a member of the 2017 Evening MBA class and currently a systems engineer at the Boeing Company. Her background includes a BS in structural engineering from Washington University in St. Louis and a BS in mathematics from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Rose grew up in the Chicago suburbs and moved to Seattle after graduation in 2009. Rose loves the Northwest, as it fits greatly with her active lifestyle and keeping busy. In Rose’s free time she is an avid distance runner, enjoys downhill skiing, hiking, eating, traveling, and spending time with her friends and family.
MICHAELA BYRNE: Michaela is joining the incoming class of 2017 in the Foster Evening program this fall. Originally from Alaska, Michaela has spent extensive time living overseas, graduating from High School in Thailand and spending long periods of time in Europe and other parts of Asia. Since graduation, Michaela has pursued a career path that combines both her love for Business and passion for Technology, by successfully contributing to digital companies, both large and small. Currently, Michaela is the Global Operations Manager for Zooppa.com Inc., a crowdsourcing platform for online media, based out of Seattle. In her free time Michaela loves running, yoga, exploring Seattle’s music scene, and traveling. She is eager to begin her graduate school experience at Foster and looks forward to the opportunities to get involved!
ANNA CASCIARI: Anna is an avid reader of the novel variety. You’ll find her in the kitchen on Sunday nights cooking up a variety of dishes and treats to last her the week. She Crossfits most mornings at 6AM, and the other days she’s outside running the Burke Gilman trail. And although she would love to fill my days with hobbies, she also needs to work: Her current role is as a Supervisor on an implementation project to replace Costco’s HR/Payroll System. She has been on the project two years, but she’s worked at Costco for over four and have had positions in Accounting and HR, moving from entry level to analyst positions. After this current project, she will move into a role supervising a department that oversees the Organizational Management (Org Structure) portion of the new HR/Payroll System. This is a brand new department at Costco, which she imagines will make the next year interesting as her department learns what their roles require.
ANDREW CREIGHTON: Andrew joins us from the food manufacturing industry, where he has worked since getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering in 2010. His career interests include manufacturing operations and consumer marketing. Outside of work, Andrew likes to spend time in the outdoors, especially in both the mountains and the waters: he’s a scuba diver and snowboarder.
Meredith Heestand: Meredith was born and raised in Bothell, WA and after graduating with a degree in Molecular Biology from University of Denver, she returned to Seattle in 2008 where she has been a Molecular Biologist and part-time cycling instructor at Flywheel Sports. Meredith has six years of professional experience under her belt; nearly four years at Seattle BioMed spent researching the parasite causing African Sleeping Sickness, and two years and counting in biotech at Theraclone Sciences where she develops cancer therapeutics. Aside from work, fitness and volunteering are her main hobbies. Meredith loves to road cycle, run, rock climb, snowboard, and lift the occasional heavy barbell at CrossFit. She’s completed one marathon, several half marathons, 10 century bike rides, and last year finished the STP 204 mile bike ride in one day. She co-captains a Bike MS Washington fundraising team and sits on the Ambassador Board for Friends of the Children Washington, a non-profit providing full time mentors to vulnerable youth in Seattle. She also enjoys cooking, spending time with her 1-year-old niece, and indulging in good wine and bourbon.
RAY LOYOLA: Ray has been an engineer at Boeing for over 10 years. He is currently an engineer in the passenger seats group, where he is responsible for the electrical integration and certification of seats into the 747 and 777 airplanes. The organization works constantly with seat suppliers around the world, to ensure on-time delivery of their seats into Boeing’s customer’s airplanes. Prior to working with seats, he spent 7 years on the 787 Dreamliner program as it went through initial design, ground / flight testing, and the delivery to the first few customers. Outside of work, Ray enjoys playing soccer, watching the Sounders, Mariners and Gonzaga Basketball, traveling, and doing anything and everything in Seattle – he loves this city!
NICK PERNISCO: Nick has been an entrepreneur since the age of 11, when he helped his parents run their hotel in a small coastal town in Argentina, finding new ways to please guests and increase revenues. Over the years, he has had the opportunity to launch a variety of companies, particularly in the media and tech industries. His latest company is TeleBEEM, which focuses on bringing unique digital content to mobile and to the web. Nick is heavily involved in the community, volunteering as a math tutor and serving on several non-profit boards. As a person living with Parkinson’s Disease, Nick is involved in various efforts to help raise awareness and to help find a cure. Nick earned his Bachelor’s degree in Radio-Television-Film, and a Master’s degree in Mass Communications, both from California State University, Northridge. He speaks fluent Spanish, intermediate Italian, and basic Russian, and he holds dual citizenship with Italy. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, practicing yoga, playing tennis, and following international news and politics. Nick lives in Seattle with his wife Rosaline (Foster MBA 2014), and their two cats.
DANIEL WEBB: Daniel is a major gifts officer for the College of the Environment at the University of Washington. He received a BA in Business from Southwestern University, a liberal arts school near Austin, TX, and has six years of experience in higher education fundraising, getting his start in the development office with his alma mater. Daniel serves on the board of directors for the Northwest Development Officers Association. He enjoys hiking, camping, playing soccer and adventuring in the Northwest with his wife and friends.
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Name: Dan Le Age: 29 Graduation Year: 2015 Profession: Technology Consultant
What has been your most valuable academic experience at Foster?: By far, the most valuable academic experience for me has been the collaboration and learning I have done with my teams and class cohort. We all come from varying industries and professions where our views and ideas in class can greatly differ, but that’s what adds so much value. I start to think about a discussion or case differently based on the contributions and debates of my peers, that as a result, deepen my perspective as well. From our initial Evaluation Day through all the course we have taken thus far, I feel a real sense of community learning and collaboration.
How are you involved with Foster outside of the classroom?(i.e. Clubs, Groups, Programs, Activities, Committees): I’m involved outside the classroom as an Evening MBA Ambassador to prospective students, as a peer mentor for the Class of 2016, and recently elected as Representative for the Class of 2015 in our graduating year. Additionally, I’ve teamed with classmates to participate in case competitions, offered both through Foster and nationally. Lastly, I can’t forget to mention participating at C4C charity and sports weekend (while rocking an outstanding UW mustache).
What lead you to pursue an MBA?: As a senior consultant growing into a new manager role, I wanted to further develop my leadership and management skills to support my company’s developing business. I also wanted to extend my personal network by building relationships with classmates and future leaders, as well as alumni of the program.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned at Foster?: Sometimes you have to wear a lot of different hats, and sometimes, many at the same time. As working professionals, balance can be challenging, but by keeping perspective and the goals that you set forth for the program and your career, the Evening MBA program at Foster is incredibly rewarding. It also is exactly what you make of it. I’ve experienced personally and through the eyes of my peers that life events can happen, but the support of the Foster community is both amazing and accommodating. It might require you to take lead in certain projects or be a keen listener and contributor in others; however, almost all the experiences I’ve gained through the program have been valuable and applicable to my work and life.
So, what is the C4C thing?: C4C stands for Challenge for Charity. It is a non-profit organization that supports Special Olympics, Boys and Girls Club, and other local charities. The organization helps to develop business leaders that encompass a lifelong commitment to community involvement and social responsibility. Nine MBA programs on the West Coast participate and compete each year in fundraising, volunteerism, and Sports Weekend hosted at Stanford University in hopes of bringing home the Golden Briefcase.
What’s one thing that surprised you about the Foster Evening MBA Program?: In the beginning, it’s easy to get caught up sometimes with a heads down mentality of going to class, getting your work done, and repeating. However, when you talk to your peers, you will be inspired to hear all the amazing things they are doing in the program such as field studies, study tours, resume workshops, and various clubs. It just makes you want to be more involved and get the most out of the program. In the end, you’ll most likely remember all those added opportunities and the people you meet as a result.
What are your plans for summer break?: Having the time off in summer from the program certainly feels like a vacation, so being able to enjoy the perfect Seattle weather has been rewarding enough for me. I plan to spend my weekends hiking, playing outdoor sports, attending weddings, and doing some light traveling to visit friends, etc.
How do you find time to do all of your hobbies and activities? Is balance an option in the Evening MBA program? I certainly knew coming into the program, that it would be a large investment of my time for three solid years; however, I learned that if I managed my work and school commitments correctly and did not procrastinate, I still was able to commit time to friends and family, as well as my favorite hobbies. Balance is definitely achievable if you are truly committed to it. This means having clear communication with all relevant stakeholders, prioritizing, being able to say “no” when you just don’t have another inch on your plate to spare, and perhaps just a little bit less sleep.
Name: Shane Kigin Age: 32 Graduation Year: 2016 Profession: US Navy Pilot
My background: I’ve been in the Navy for eight years since graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2006. After two years of helicopter flight training in Florida, I was stationed in San Diego, California. I deployed twice: first in 2010 off the coast of Central America to conduct counter-narcotics trafficking operations, then again in 2012 to Afghanistan part of a provincial reconstruction team. I began working at the University of Washington Naval ROTC in January, 2013.
What has been your most valuable academic experience at Foster?: Establishing a firm foundation in basic financial language and practices, including accounting, finance, economics, and statistical analysis.
What lead you to pursue an MBA?: Faced with decreasing budgets and a “do-more-with-less” mindset from our congressional financiers, the US Navy needs men and women with sound financial understanding. Given that my profession operates in a “move up or move out” promotion system, an MBA will hopefully help me promote within my organization and serve the nation and its Navy in the best way possible.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned at Foster?: I CAN trust other people — the teamwork-centric approach to learning at Foster was daunting, as we’ve all had bad luck with teams in the past… but it turns out our teams are pretty awesome and we produce high-quality products.
Summer Plans?: Between working a full time job and taking an extra MBA class this past quarter, I haven’t been this excited for summer since I was a kid! I’ll still be working, but plan to enjoy plenty of free evenings and weekends of Seattle’s beautiful summer weather. We’ll also head out of town once or twice to introduce our seven-month-old son Oliver to his extended family and to the world.
On May 29th, over 50 current students, faculty, staff and alumni joined Foster’s in-house Sommelier, Smitt Rojanasthien, Evening MBA ’14, for an evening of fine wine education and food pairings. The event was sponsored by the Evening MBAA, with support from the Evening MBA Excellence Fund.
Throughout the evening, guests sipped on five different wines with four different food pairings hand selected by Smitt to provide the perfect balance. This included:
Solletico Prosecco for reception and toast
New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc, paired with Citrus Lime Shrimp
Sagelands Riesling, paired with Spicy Coconut Curry with Naan
Primarius Pinot Noir, paired with Hardwood Smoked King Salmon
Sterling Vintner’s Cabernet Sauvignon, paired with Sirloin Steak Strips
Smitt reminded the crowd that it pairing wines with food is not only about determining between a red or white wine, but selecting the right foods to match the tannins, acidity levels, and sweetness of the wine. Common knowledge suggests that red meats are best paired with red wines because the tannins help break down the fat and balance out the flavor. On the other end of the spectrum, white wines pair well with lighter foods, like salad and fish dishes because of higher acidity levels. One interesting fact that Smitt offered: “The old adage is that red goes with meat and white goes with fish. However, there are multiple things to consider when pairing wine with food. You have to consider different aspects of the dish… fat, acid, saltiness, sweetness, bitterness, and texture. Each element will affect the flavor of the wine, and in turn, the flavor of the food. Feel free to do white wine with meat and red wine with fish… the trick is to find the right wine”
“While there is no technically wrong or right pairing, some matches work better than others. The idea is to have each enhance and complement the other to increase the overall dining and drinking experience. But, at the end of the day, drink what you enjoy.”
Finally, understanding the audience of young business professionals and acknowledging that selecting wine can be a difficult and daunting task, Smitt laid out some tried and true rules for choosing wines during a business dinner.
When in doubt, go with a sparkling wine, especially Champagne. The effervescence and acidity make it great for pairing and cleansing the palate.
A Riesling is great for ethnic food… particularly anything spicy.
The sauce or seasoning of a dish impacts the pairing more than the main ingredient. Keep that in mind. Big flavored sauce? Big flavored wine.
A little about Smitt: Growing up in Wenatchee, Washington, Smitt attended the University of Washington as an undergrad, earning a degree in German Cultural Studies. After college, he focused on the Hospitality Industry and studied wine through The Court of Master Sommeliers, earning his certification as a sommelier. He then decided to go “Double Husky” and entered the Foster School of Business for his MBA. Smitt currently works for Southern Wine & Spirits as the Moët Hennessy Portfolio Manager, partnering with Seattle’s top wine and spirits accounts, focusing on consumer and event marketing, as well as education. Smitt loves to travel, but when he’s in Seattle, he can be found spending time with family and friends, enjoying a glass of champagne.
What has been your most valuable academic experience at Foster?: My classmates and teammates have contributed significantly to my academic experience at Foster. Questions and discussions presented in class continuously focus on “real world” applications of the course subject matter, which helps translate how we can use the skills we’re developing in class while on the job. My teammates have also been extremely supportive over the last three quarters. We are all willing to spend more time on projects and assignments together to ensure we all understand the concepts, and make a point to not move on until we are all comfortable with the subject matter.
How are you involved with Foster outside of the classroom?(i.e. Clubs, Groups, Programs, Activities, Committees): In my first year I haven’t been extremely involved outside of class, but I do try to attend happy hours on Wednesdays and larger events like the C4C Gala. I plan to become more involved in my second year now that I feel I have adjusted to the work-school-life balance.
What lead you to pursue an MBA?: Job security, upward mobility within my career path, increased marketing knowledge and skills (particularly in the area of quantitative analysis), and networking.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned at Foster?: Focus on gaining knowledge, not just getting good grades. I’m dedicating a lot of resources to this program and if all I finish the program with is a 3.6+, not a sustained knowledge of the course material, then I did myself a disservice by not utilizing the resources available to me to increase my skills and knowledge.
Plans for summer break?: I plan to enjoy all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer during the summer and spend more time with friends and family.
Saloni Sonpal is a 2014 graduate from Foster’s Evening MBA Program. She has her B.E. in Information Technology from the University of Mumbai and an M.S. in Computer Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She has been a Software Development Engineer at Microsoft for the past 7 years. Below is a post that she shared with her social network on graduation day.
Some things that will stick with me after the nine quarters of Foster’s Evening MBA program:
Debits and Credits
Incentives change behavior
Positive NPV projects
4Ps and 3Cs
Bottlenecks, Kanban and Kaizen Bursts
GDP and volatility
Conjoint and bundles
Listen to your customer
What’s your BATNA?
Segregate gains, aggregate losses
Be Lean and Agile!
Less is more.
Oh wait, did I mention the awesome people, life-changing experiences and the endless fun?! That stuck more than anything else!
Name: Kim Hickey Age: 32 Graduation Year: 2014 Pre-MBA Profession: Human Resources Post-MBA Profession: Sr. Specialist, Veterinary Systems at Trupanion
What lead you to pursue an MBA?: I have a bachelor’s degree in biology but my career has led me into the corporate world. In order to move forward I knew it was necessary to get a solid business education that would serve as the foundation for my professional growth and development. I appreciated that Foster balanced elective and core classes and felt that this program offered the most balanced experience. In coming to the end of the program, I can say that it has exceeded my expectations.
What did you do prior to the Evening MBA Program and what do you do now? How did the Foster Evening MBA program impact your career? My career path has had several twists and turns, but with the support of the Foster Evening MBA program I was able to combine my past experience with my education to get the job of my dreams. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in 2003, I managed a veterinary hospital in Phoenix, AZ for five years. Upon moving to the Northwest, I transferred those skills to work in human resources. While I enjoyed the strategic planning and business insight that came with the role, I knew I wanted to get back to my roots and return to the veterinary industry.
Throughout my time in the Evening MBA program I attended most of the workshops hosted by Career Services. During these sessions I improved my networking, interviewing, and communication skills that were critical to switching careers. I also had several one-on-one meetings with Career Services to map out my job search strategy. I started researching Trupanion, a pet health insurance company based in Seattle, in winter quarter of my last year and with the help of Career Services I was able to connect with an alumni at the company. Two months later I had my job offer and I successfully moved from a human resources position to my current role, which focuses on growing a new product that Trupanion offers to vet hospitals. My experiences in the Evening MBA program, including taking advantage of all that Career Services has to offer, definitely gave the confidence to pursue and make a career change!
What has been your most valuable academic experience at Foster?: Aside from gaining exposure to accounting and finance, my most memorable class has been Finding Your Voice. I was not comfortable with public speaking coming into Foster and it was a goal of mine to improve upon this skill. Despite being nervous before presenting in each class, I knew it was a safe environment to practice the public speaking tools we were learning. The feedback I received from the instructor and my classmates, both constructive feedback and positive recognition, helped me gain confidence in my presentation capabilities. Although I still get a little nervous, I often reflect back and pull from those experiences to help me give an impactful presentation. This class not only gave me vital business tools but also helped me grow personally as well.
How are you involved with Foster outside of the classroom?(i.e. Clubs, Groups, Programs, Activities, Committees): Student Ambassador (2nd and 3rd year) and Group Mentor (2nd year); travelled to India on the Global Consulting Trip.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned at Foster?: That it is possible to work and get an MBA! It seemed like such a daunting task at the beginning but the time has flown by. It’s amazing to look back and see what has been accomplished.
Age: 33 Graduation Year: 2015 Profession: Program Manager
What has been your most valuable academic experience at Foster?
Although I’ve found something in every class to apply to my job directly, I think the most valuable academic experience at foster has been valuing projects from corporate finances, particularly projects with reasonably long timelines. It has given me a framework to quantify trade-offs that used to be made from ‘gut feel’. These lessons have been immediately applicable to both my professional life and my personal life.
How are you involved with Foster outside of the classroom?
I’ve participated in case competitions, visiting speakers, and the weekly happy hour.
What lead you to pursue and MBA? I had a strong background in technology and so I felt I was reasonably strong on my ‘depth’ skills, but as almost all of my formal education and work experience was in Computer Science, I wanted to establish a wider breadth of knowledge to develop into a more ‘T-shaped’ individual.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned at Foster?
The value of a strong personal network cannot be understated, Since moving to Seattle in ’05 most of my network are people that had grown out of connections through work, which led to a reasonably heterogeneous set. Foster has given me an opportunity to directly meet many more diverse people, and an opportunity to reach out to those I haven’t met, but share the Foster bond with.