Michaela Byrne recaps eLEAD- the first class students take as MBA Students.
This last weekend, the class of 2017 completed their very first Foster MBA school credits. eLead was a full weekend complete with personal reflection, team building, creative peer presentations and of course, meaningful happy hours. Now that the work week is back in full swing and we’ve had a chance to reflect on the weekend, below are a a few of my takeaways.
Just because you’re in grad school, does not mean that you’re a faster reader than before grad school. Noting the number of students pouring into our readings the morning before class tells me that we may have fooled ourselves into thinking we’re capable of reading 20 plus pages just before class begins. Fortunately, students proved just fast enough to get through the pages to have engaging discussions with both Professor Bigley and Professor Fong.
The UW bars haven’t changed much, but the company in them may have. As a former UW undergrad, I swapped countless stories with other two-time Husky’s on their past experiences on the Ave. Twenty-one runs, Thursday night outings, and the unbeatable food offerings of the late night hours were all reminisced by those who had spent four years here before. But now the conversations have shifted towards entrepreneurship, technology, or maybe even politics… Undoubtedly an incredible class of students to share insights and a beer with.
Just because you’re getting your MBA does not mean that the touchy feely stuff doesn’t matter. It matters more. Professor Christina Fong’s Leadership class gave us the opportunity to reflect on feedback from our peers, while Professor Bigley challenged us to share tips with one another on ways to combat some of our weaknesses. While diving into deep discussions about one another and ourselves, it became very apparent that this program will serve as so much more than a tool to polish our business acumen, but an opportunity for personal growth.
This program is exceptional. We have yet to begin our first class and already our start to Foster has been an amazing one. We’ve shared personal stories, gave semi-embarassing presentations, learned that Tim truly does like to stand on things before he makes an announcement, and have begun to build strong and lasting friendships. Class of 2016, and 2015, watch out. 2017 is starting at full strength, ready to take advantage of all that Foster has to offer.
Lavanya Venkateswar is a rising third year Evening MBA Student and scheduled to graduate this upcoming spring. Beginning her career as a product developer in the food industry, she’s using Foster’s Evening MBA Program to transitioning into a marketing role. Here she reflects upon her experience in Foster’s Evening MBA program.
I started off the Foster MBA program with a very conservative and achievable goal – get a Masters of Business Administration to move ahead in my current career path. I started my career off as a food scientist and after seven years of product development, I found myself wanting more: I wanted to work with consumers, making business decisions on what products to launch and how to make them profitable. I knew that marketing was the right spot for me to do what I wanted. But when I applied for the MBA I only gave myself permission to want to move into management in R&D in the food industry. I didn’t even want to say in my application essay that truly I wanted to move into marketing at the risk of sounding pretentious.
Once I started the Evening MBA program at Foster and started talking to other students in the 2nd and 3rd year of the program, I found out that it was quite common for folks with many years of experience in a particular function to move into other functions within the same industry or other industries. I felt more confident in voicing my desire to move into marketing. I also found that knowing other people had similarly wanted to move into new roles and were successful in their roles gave me confidence that I would do well in a marketing role. Within 9 months of starting the Foster program, I moved into a product manager role in marketing at the current company for which I was working – Continental Mills. During the first 6 months, I learned by leaps and bounds the various skills I needed to be successful in my new position. I also found that the learning experience at school and learning experience at work went hand in hand. There were times when I did a class at school before I had to experience it at work and there were times that I did something at work that made more sense after I learned why it was done a particular way at school.
My classmates were one of the greatest resources in helping me make the decision to move into marketing, as well as after I moved into my new role. Talking to classmates who were in marketing roles helped me understand the different kinds of marketing roles in different industries, the day to day activities of these roles as well as the skills required to be successful in the roles . These conversations helped me determine the skills and knowledge I would need to supplement what I already had, ultimately leading to a plan for what classes and electives I needed to take.
Going to the coffee breaks and weekly happy hours gave me the greatest opportunity to talk to my fellow classmates and bounce ideas off of them. The word “networking” always gave me the jitters. What am I supposed to say? What do I ask? What could I possibly have common with random people? After a year of weekly happy hours, I got it – networking just means talking to people and listening to them…that is something I could do! It got me comfortable with talking to new people about what they did, how they did it, what is common and different between the skills they needed to do what they did and what I did. Also, I got to learn this in the safest environment to practice the skills needed for networking – with friends trying to learn about you and practice their skills as well.
The next step in this discovery process was to engage with the Career Management team. One “ah-ha! moment” for me was when I realized I had access to the entire Foster Alumni in the Seattle area. It was truly humbling to see how the Foster alumni are so helpful and ready to talk to you. Every alumna and alumnus I have reached out to, whether through the Linkedin Alumni group or through introductions from the MBA office and Career Management office, has made time to meet with me or at the very least have a phone conversation. This is a great way to discover and understand different company cultures, different roles and how the Foster MBA helps you be successful in these roles, ultimately determining your interest in it and fit for you. The best way to make the right decision is to have all the facts and the easiest way to get these facts are through people who have done it.
You don’t know what you don’t know – that is something I found to be true time and again in this program. As I have talked to people in different industries and business functions I began discovering roles and opportunities that I had never known existed before. This has intrigued me and has made me think about possible future opportunities. I have given myself permission to not limit myself to a particular role or industry. What I ultimately want is to have transferrable business skills that would be applicable to multiple industries. I hope to continue this discovery process as I get into the final year of the evening MBA program and see where this exciting road takes me! -Lavanya Venkateswar Evening MBA, Class of 2015
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.