Category Archives: Women In Business

Briana Rubens takes helm as President of the Evening MBAA

On April 1st, rising third-year student Briana Rubens will be assuming the role of President of the Evening MBA Association (MBAA).

Briana Rubens, Evening MBA Class of 2016, is President of the Evening MBAA for 2015-16
Briana Rubens, Evening MBA Class of 2016, is President of the Evening MBAA for 2015-16

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA, especially a part-time program at Foster?

There were many driving factors in my decision to pursue a Foster MBA.  My desire to learn from those around me and share my enthusiasm for what I do was one of the primary reasons I decided to pursue a MBA with Foster’s Evening program.  When I was initially contemplating applying to Foster, I had a few opportunities to meet current students in the Foster program and was extremely impressed, not only with their professionalism, but with their enthusiasm for their peers and their stories about the collaborative environment in the program.  I made the decision to pursue a part-time program instead of a full time program because I wanted to tackle the challenge of learning useful skills in a classroom environment, and then immediately apply and practice these skills in my job.  Also, I found it very appealing that the Foster Business School emphasizes a connection with the broader Seattle/Washington business community, because maintaining that connection with the community during and after my time in the program is extremely important to me.  Foster is also a leader in business and is an organization that values international input and a diverse student body.  All of these key characteristics significantly align with my career aspirations and personal values.

What motivated you to be involved in MBA student leadership?

I distinctly recall showing up at a welcome BBQ before the program had officially started, and meeting members of the student leadership team, the MBA Association (MBAA). I remember having a conversation with one of the MBAA board members, who said she joined the leadership team because while she wanted to have a valuable experience in the program, she also wanted to end the program knowing that her fellow classmates also felt the value of the MBA experience. This memory has stuck with me, and I’m motivated to keep the tradition of creating value for students alive with this year’s MBAA and carry this over to future years of the leadership team.

What goals do you have for the MBAA this next year?

My primary goal for the MBAA this year is to advocate on behalf of evening students, so that we all have the opportunity to leave this program having accomplished what we set out to do during our three years with Foster.  My goal is to continue to grow the broad mix of new experiences and leadership this past year’s MBAA team has provided.  I believe it’s important to make sure that the offered experiences and resources continue to expand, and in a way that is explicitly tailored for us evening students.

What has been your experience with being in the Evening MBA Program?

My favorite experiences in the Evening MBA Program have been meeting, and sharing academic and social moments with the women and men in the program with me. I am constantly impressed with my classmates, and while learning from the professors is exceedingly valuable, participating in discussions with my peers in the classroom has made the experience extremely worthwhile. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that there have been challenging moments as well, especially with adapting to the lifestyle change that comes with pursuing an MBA while also working. Having a core student team where we’ve helped each other through the challenges and being able to share this experience with my peers has alleviated quite a bit of the stress.

What advice would you give someone looking at pursuing an MBA?

My advice would be to carve out a healthy amount of time to consider both why you want to pursue your MBA and what you hope to get out of your MBA experience.  Three years flies by quickly, and I believe it’s important to know what you plan to do during those three years, and what you want your MBA to do for you when you’ve graduated from the program.  I also would highly encourage connecting with either current or former students from Foster, scheduling a classroom visit and attending the MBA application workshops to get a better sense of what makes Foster unique and what the MBA experience will be like.

 

 

Learning to Lean In

A Post by Jana Morrelli, Evening MBA Class of 2014

Jana Morrelli, Evening MBA 2014
Jana Morrelli, Evening MBA 2014, with her copy of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

As a woman with big career ambitions, I’ve known for some time that Foster was the place for me. In the MBA program, I’m gaining the tactical skills I need to make a difference in a company. I’m learning how to think strategically and see the bigger picture. I’m meeting the people that will be business partners and mentors for life. But there was one problem in my grand plan. I wasn’t sure I could achieve it.

For my whole professional life, there has always been a niggling sense in the back of my mind that no matter how hard I worked or how much I learned, I was not qualified for the big jobs. How could I promise an employer that I could be a top performer if I’d never done it before? That lack of confidence, the lack of trust in myself to learn new things caused me to take jobs I was overqualified for, and I ended up getting incredibly bored very fast.

Enter Lean In. Lean In is the 2013 book by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Sandberg has been a widely known advocate for women in leadership since her TED talk in 2010. Among other things, she shows (using mountains of scholarly research) that women are far more likely to doubt their own abilities and decline to take on huge career challenges- the challenges that typically lead to top leadership roles.

It was amazing to me that this could be a gender issue and not a “me” issue. Are you telling me that other women feel this way, and yet no one is talking about it? Well, it turns out that’s exactly true.

Leanin.org is a non-profit organization Ms. Sandberg set up with the proceeds from Lean In. One of the goals of Leanin.org is to help women set up professional development support groups, called Lean In Circles. Think book club, but instead of a book, we focus on Lean In created content like videos and discussions around Negotiations, Managing Difficult Conversations, and Power & Influence.

I founded a Lean In Circle in July 2013. The group was about half Foster classmates and half former colleagues of mine and friends. From the first meeting, we were spellbound. This was finally a place we could talk about our career ambitions freely, in an incredibly supportive environment. For example, when someone was going to bat for a promotion, we’re there to share things that have worked for us and work through the details of a salary negotiation. But most importantly, we’re there to cheer her on, remind her she deserves this and when needed, tell her the self-doubt she’s feeling is simply not true.

Some members from Seattle's first Lean In Circle
Some members from Seattle’s first Lean In Circle at a meeting in summer of 2013

That circle grew so quickly, we split into 2 groups, then added new circles with growing demand. We now have 8 circles with almost 80 members and are working with Lean In headquarters to develop a scalable model to on-board new circles, which will be distributed world-wide soon. Our circle members are getting huge jobs, promotions, raises and taking on massive challenges. Most importantly, we are believing in our own ability- raising our hands for projects where we have little experience and rising to the occasion.

Our circle leaders had the amazing honor of meeting Sheryl Sandberg last week at Facebook Seattle. She was incredibly impressed with the progress the members have made and how we are embracing our leadership potential. She is an inspiring role model for us as leader, as a business person and as a woman.

Leaders from several Lean In Circles meet with Sheryl during May 2014 visit to Seattle
Leaders from several Lean In Circles meet with Sheryl during May 2014 visit to Seattle

With the support of our Lean In Circles, we have stopped putting limits on ourselves and are open to the possibility of opportunity bigger than we could have imagined. I can’t wait see what is around the corner!

Want to get involved in Lean In? Visit www.leanin.org to learn more or feel free to email me at jana3@uw.edu. Additionally, the Foster Women in Business group is forming a Lean In group- contact Kelsey Ingram at kingram@uw.edu for details!