Rita Jabbouri: How to THRIVE in the Evening MBA Program

Incoming students often ask what they should do to prepare for the Evening MBA Program, and how to best navigate the three years of the curriculum while working full-time and balancing other competing priorities. Rita Jabbouri, Class of 2017 alumna, shares her top 10 tips to thrive in the Foster Evening MBA.

Rita Jabbouri, Evening MBA Class of 2017
Rita Jabbouri, Evening MBA Class of 2017

Rita Jabbouri is in Airplane Product Development Finance at Boeing where she is a trusted business partner to chief engineers, program leaders, and directors. When she’s not dreaming about the future of aerospace, she loves to run, hike, cook healthy meals from scratch, read articles from a variety of sources to satisfy her curiosity on a range of different topics, and do anything that involves making memories with loved ones. Rita spends a considerable amount of time with Foster classmates and alumni who have become close friends.

Here are my top 10 tips for successfully navigating the Foster Evening MBA. A huge thank you to classmates, professors, fellow alumni, and mentors who taught me so much over the course of the program!

10. What to read during the program (besides what’s required). If you read nothing else, make sure to review the Weekly Newsletters that the Program Office sends to all evening students. This will have the latest updates on academics and extracurricular activities and will keep you on top of administrative items such as managing your elective courses. Second, sign up for a journal subscription so you can stay up to date on business news. As a student, you get a discount through the University of Washington for a Wall Street Journal subscription, for example. Professors will often bring in news articles that apply to the course to discuss in class, and they invite students to do the same. It will help reinforce what you learn in the classroom.

Rita with her Case Competition team
Rita with her Case Competition team

9. Take time to slow down. The next three years of your life will be extremely busy. It’s important to take time to rest, to reflect, and to remind yourself why you started this program in the first place. Do whatever keeps your mind sharp and helps you manage stress. For me, it was jogging. Although I couldn’t do it as often as I would like with how crazy my schedule got, I would fit in 20-minute workouts that made a world of difference in my energy level and how alert I was in class and team meetings. Do it for you! You owe it to yourself to get the most of out of this program, and you won’t be able to do that if you don’t take care of yourself first. The basics apply more than ever during these three years- get at least seven hours of sleep per night, drink lots of water, and make sure to eat three meals a day. You would be surprised how easy it is to skip one because of back to back commitments. You will likely develop a new appreciation for Jimmy John’s sandwiches delivered directly to your classroom on those especially busy days.

Hiking with fellow Huskies
Hiking with fellow Huskies

8. Plan on everything taking at least a half hour longer than expected. Building in buffers in the second year of the program was a lifesaver for me. Whether it’s meetings running over, traffic being …well…worse than usual, parking being full, etc., you’ll save yourself a lot of worrying if you budget at least 30-minute buffers in between your various commitments. And if everything goes as planned, you’ll get to your next class, team meeting, informational interview, academic advising session, MBA Association meeting- you name it- early and can review content or grab a coffee and catch up with a classmate prior. Pat yourself on the back! You’re running your day, not the other way around.

Rita presenting to VCs, judges, entrepreneurs, and community leaders in the final round of the UW Business Plan Competition
Rita presenting to VCs, judges, entrepreneurs, and community leaders in the final round of the UW Business Plan Competition

7. Pencil in family and friend dates at least a month in advance. Expect busy weekends and plan accordingly. This might seem a little silly at first, but talk to any current students or alumni and they will most likely agree. It’s tough to schedule only a week in advance- not to mention on the spot- because your calendar will fill up quickly with MBA-related commitments, whether they’re required or you sign up for them. Life doesn’t stop during the MBA- there will be numerous engagements, weddings, newborns, career changes, etc. You will start to notice your friendship and classmate circles overlapping and this community will be your support system throughout the program.

Attempting a mid-air shot with friends at The Color Run!
Attempting a mid-air shot with friends at The Color Run!

6. Take advantage of the experiential learning opportunities. Step outside your comfort zone. There are so many Experiential Learning opportunities available to you throughout your three years at Foster. Whether it’s a field study, independent study, an internship, the Business Plan Competition, case competitions, study tours, Mentor Program, consulting project with a nonprofit, leadership experience via the MBA Association—each of these will add to your education in a way no book or lecture ever can. When you apply what you learn by doing it, that’s when it truly starts to sink in. Not sure where to start? Talk to Jean Gekler and Sally Templeton in MBA Career Management, Connie Bourassa-Shaw and Amy Sallin at the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, or Jennifer Bauermeister at the MBA Strategic Consulting Program. They love working with students and they will connect you to contacts who can help you reach your goals.

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Rita with Business Plan Competition (BPC) partner and classmate Ellyce Shulman. As first-year MBA students, they placed 4th out of 103 teams in the BPC.

5. Be intentional. This applies to your daily routine, as well as the three-year outlook.

Daily Routine: When do you do your best work? For me, it’s in the morning- before emails, work, and before the ubiquitously connected world we live in starts to pull you in different directions. Pick one or two things you want to accomplish and commit to those before you answer any emails. Whether it’s reviewing a tough lecture, getting a heavy reading done, or researching your next career move, plan your toughest work when you are most alert.

Three-year Outlook: Be intentional in goal-setting for each of the three years. How to get started? Meet with Kara Fichthorn, the Evening MBA Director of Student Affairs. I recommend at least once a year, although I can tell you I met with staff a lot more often than that. The staff members at Foster are so helpful and they want to see you succeed. Get to know them, share your goals, and they will help you focus your energy and prioritize your time at Foster to achieve what you set out to accomplish each of the three years.

Snacks- the usual centerpiece at Foster MBA team meetings
Snacks- the usual centerpiece at Foster MBA team meetings

4. Be a “resource hog.” I can’t take credit for this one- Professor Mark Westerfield is known for this phrase, advice he shared with us at eLead. There are so many opportunities, contacts, and resources available at Foster- take advantage of as many as you can. If your team is struggling with a particular topic in a lecture, don’t hesitate to ask your questions in class. The rest of your classmates will benefit from the discussion. If you’re still struggling on a topic after working through it with your team, reach out to your professor to set up some one-on-one time to walk through your questions. Foster professors are so passionate about what they do, and they really are experts in their field- having done the research and the work in the real world that informs their teaching. They are in the business of creating futures: they want to help and are there for you when you need them.

Professor Ed Rice (Business Economics and Finance) never disappoints with his jokes
Never a dull moment with Professor Ed Rice (Business Economics and Finance)

3. Get involved. Go to Wednesday night happy hour, join a club, run for a position with the MBA Association, become a Peer Mentor, volunteer to help with Challenge for Charity, or simply spend time with classmates outside of class. Your experience will be that much more enjoyable if you get involved and make an effort to get to know the talented people around you. The network you build at Foster is priceless both during and after the program. And it goes without saying that authenticity is critical: yes, be yourself. You are supposed to be part of this program- you were selected amongst a pool of talented individuals. Be confident in your strengths and open about what you would like to improve. Your classmates can’t help you if you’re not honest with yourself first and foremost.

Rita with her #OneFoster Scavenger Hunt team!
Rita with her #OneFoster Scavenger Hunt team!

2. Invest in your teams. This is important throughout the program, but especially so in your first year as you’re still getting to know your class. Your teammates will likely become some of your best friends- your strengths and weaknesses will complement each other and you will help each other get through the most challenging parts of the program, together. Ask yourself how you can help your teammates. What do you bring to the table that is different from everyone else? And, more importantly, how will you leave Foster better than you found it?

Rita's first year team at the annual Foster Fun Run. As the MBA Association VP of Community Outreach, Rita led the planning of the Foster Fun Run benefiting Special Olympics and Boys & Girls Clubs.
Rita’s first-year team at the 4th annual Foster Fun Run. As the MBA Association VP of Community Outreach, Rita led the planning of the event, benefiting Special Olympics and Boys & Girls Clubs.

1. Remember your “why.” What was the reason you wanted to get your MBA at Foster? Write it down now. You’ll want to revisit it often to keep yourself grounded and focused. That and your teammates will help you not only survive in the program, but THRIVE in it. Don’t jump into everything because you don’t want to miss out, but don’t sit on the sidelines either your first year to “scope things out.” How do you choose where to invest your time? That brings us back to your why. This will probably evolve over your time at Foster. There won’t be an “aha” moment that will tell you exactly what you should be doing. But the culmination of the coursework, workshops you attend, people you meet, skillsets you develop, and experiences you have will point you in the right direction for you post-MBA.

Rita with her Peer Mentees at the annual Frosters MBA event
Rita with her Peer Mentees at the annual Frosters event

The Foster Evening MBA Program isn’t for the faint of heart. Getting into the program says a lot about who you are. Whether you aspire to change up, move up, or start up, embrace this opportunity! Challenge yourself, invest in your classmates, focus on shared success, and have fun along the way. Before you  know it, you’ll be a master at navigating ambiguous business problems and you’ll have a massive network to tap into. Best of luck and enjoy the program!

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Wondering if the Foster Evening MBA Program is the right fit for you? To make an appointment with the Foster MBA Programs Office, call 206-543-4661 or toll free at 1-866-778-9622, or email us at mba@uw.edu.

Get to know us!  Don’t hesitate to reach out to our Admissions Team and check out our upcoming Evening MBA Admissions Events.

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