All posts by tmmba

Welcome TMMBA Class 16!

Class 16 students showing their UW pride
Class 16 students showing their UW pride

Last Thursday evening marked TMMBA Class 16’s first official gathering as a cohort for the Welcome Reception at the UW Burke Museum.  Excitement was in the air as students mixed, mingled and met TMMBA faculty and staff who they’ll be working with over the course of their 18-month journey. The “grand reveal” of the TMMBA study groups was a major highlight of the evening – students learned which five other students they’ll partner with for the first three quarters of studies for projects, case discussions and countless hours of studying. A powerful bonding experience to say the least!

The students also heard words of encouragement from TMMBA Program Director, Tracy Gojdics, and TMMBA Professor of Management, Bruce Avolio, as well as some sage advice from current student, Brian Ames, a Senior Manager at the Boeing Company. One year ago (nearly to the date) Brian stood in the same spot as the new students found themselves in – ready to embark on an educational experience of a lifetime. He’s now just over two quarters away from graduation. He broke his advice down into 12 important (yet simple!) takeaways for students to tuck in their back pocket to help them navigate the TMMBA Program:


  1. Get to know your study group on a personal level – invest heavily in this early as you will be spending a lot of time together
  2. Go to all of the social events – take any opportunity you can to get to know the people outside of your study groups and section
  3. Go on the tours career services lines up – you don’t get these opportunities in normal life
  4. Take advantage of all the University has to offer – free bus, cheap football tickets, driving range


  1. Pay attention in class – sometimes it’s hard after a long day of work but the professors are excellent and then you will have less to do outside of class
  2. Stay organized – exams are typically open-book, open-note and that format rewards those who are organized so create your system early
  3. Do as much as you can and play your own game – don’t feel bad if you have different study habits than your classmates, do what works for you
  4. Take a day off of work every once in a while to get ahead – set that expectation early with your manager and co-workers and don’t feel bad about it!

Personal Life:

  1.  Cut a hobby that takes a significant amount of time – like golfing, pick it back up after you graduate
  2. Take at least one night off of school work per week – try consolidating your work into a few evenings so you have time to spend with your family and friends
  3. Find a good daily stress reliever – exercise and clear your mind
  4. Take advantage of your time off – take time off of work during school breaks and take a vacation

So, who are the students that make up Class 16? We have a diverse and experienced group of professionals that we’re excited to introduce to the TMMBA community …

Looking sharp!

61 Students

  • 70% Male, 30 % Female
  • 35 Companies Represented (Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, Ericsson and many more!)
  • 6 Countries Represented (US, India, China, Thailand, Ukraine, Turkey)
  • Average GMAT Score = 590
  • 21% with advanced degrees (masters, doctoral)

These 61 students are now one milestone down. The next milestone awaits just after the Thanksgiving holiday – the TMMBA Program Immersion. The Immersion is a 7-day orientation/immersive experience that will surely help the cohort get back into the student groove. More to come!

Students learn about global business through travel

The Technology Management MBA (TMMBA) International Study Tour gives second year students an experience to see how people live and work in another culture.  Through company visits with executives and managers and cultural excursions, it adds valuable context to learn about and understand the increasingly global economy.  A few previous tours include Vietnam (2014), Dubai and Abu Dhabi (2013) and China (2012).

Students recognize how this trip relates to professional development.  Viveka Raol said “Multinational companies are looking to hire leaders beyond the average MBA, instead they want leaders who have no problem working with cross-cultural teams and are able to adapt to different kinds of settings.  I need to be able to fully comprehend consumer perceptions and preferences across the globe.”

From March 15-21, 2015, fifteen students traveled with faculty member Bruce Avolio and TMMBA staff to the vibrant developing country of Peru.  Before departing, students studied the country and companies and set personal learning goals.  They also reflected on how this trip would contribute to their development as a leader and influence future interactions with classmates.

I was most surprised by the strongly developed and lively metropolis that is Lima. When I thought of Peru before the trip, I thought of the less-developed indigenous tribes of the highlands and jungle.  I expected Peru to be a mixture of my experiences from remote areas of Mexico and India.  I found Lima to be more like Spain – modern and with its own unique culture and flair for life.  I was surprised to find so many foreigners in the capital city, and found the climate for business much more favorable than I had expected.” (John Koehnen)
“I was most surprised by the strongly developed and lively metropolis that is Lima. When I thought of Peru before the trip, I thought of the less-developed indigenous tribes of the highlands and jungle. I expected Peru to be a mixture of my experiences from remote areas of Mexico and India. I found Lima to be more like Spain – modern and with its own unique culture and flair for life. I was surprised to find so many foreigners in the capital city, and found the climate for business much more favorable than I had expected.” (John Koehnen)

For John Koehnen, his goal was to experience and embrace another culture and discover how life and business fit together in South America.  He said “In preparation for the trip, I studied some of the recent macroeconomic trends of Peru and other countries in South America.  This helped frame my expectations, understand what would be important to the people of the region, and ask better questions to uncover nuggets of information that I couldn’t get from a business journal.”

Viveka wanted to learn how the United States is perceived in Peru and practice her intercultural communication skills.  She said “Simple gestures such as direct eye contact, and smiling broadly which are commonplace in the United States can be interpreted very differently in different countries and have the potential to harm business relationships.”

On our first day of company visits, we left the cool comfort of the hotel and boarded a tour bus.  While the driver navigated Lima traffic, three pairs of students balanced in the aisle and presented interesting facts, figures, and stories about each company on the day’s agenda.

Our first presentation was the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) of Peru that promotes and fosters trade, investment, and exchange between Peru and the United States. Chief Economist Rodrigo Acha explained macroeconomic indicators, the business environment, and U.S. relations with Peru.  We learned about the fading of traditional class divisions, growing middle class, and trade balances.  The #1 destination for exports in 2013 was China (U.S. #2) and Peru imports more U.S. goods than other countries.

“It was great to see my classmates outside of the classroom context.  Interacting during, before and after class, it is easy to see everyone only as serious and focused on studies, but the trip provided an opportunity to see the goofy and relaxed side of them.” (Phil Ramey)
“It was great to see my classmates outside of the classroom context. Interacting during, before and after class, it is easy to see everyone only as serious and focused on studies, but the trip provided an opportunity to see the goofy and relaxed side of them.” (Phill Ramey)

I found my classmates to be incredibly engaged and dynamic” said Phill Ramey.  “They asked intelligent and informed questions that drove the collective learning forward during all of our company visits.”

We met and learned about seven more companies over the next few days.

Zhifeng Wang and Philip Xie with leaders from Ofertop.

Ofertop is a fast growing e-commerce startup who sells discounted deals.  “They are a vivid illustration of TMMBA global strategy concepts and a great story of how a business can flourish by adapting to its local environment” noted Zhifeng Wang.  “Unlike Groupon, Ofertop does not focus on mobile users due to low mobile penetration.  Instead email is a primary channel.  And since a large part of the Peruvian population still relies on cash transitions, they invented a cash payment option to make their business model feasible.”

Marga, a 50-employee textile producer and exporter, sells exquisite Alpaca knitwear. We entered the factory floor, with whirring machines and work tables, and squished into a showroom where Gonzalo Diaz, the new General Manager, explained their manufacturing steps, business markets, and expansion strategy for seven retail stores in Lima.

MargaMarga 2

A student presentation started our last full day in Lima.  Maureen Nash fearlessly sung these lyrics to the tune of “Come Together” by the Beatles:

Hey pay attention, Alicorp sells pasta, milk, and trades
Value to their custo-
– Mers to make them happy
Keeping business money
Founded 1956, going public 1980
Pay attention, right now, Alicorp!

Alicorp is a leading consumer goods company with 160 brands, operations in six Latin America countries, and 39% income from outside Peru.  With 33 bakery brands, we were struck by their marketing strategies.  They don’t market to children.

After visiting Lima, we traveled to the ancient city of Cusco, Peru, located at 11,200 feet in the Andes Mountains.  Motorbikes roared through cobblestone streets while llamas grazed freely on the mountainside.  We took a 2-hour drive through the rolling hills, green valleys, and jagged peaks.  Another 2-hour train ride brought us to the village of Aguas Calientes, where we boarded a bus and ascended to the entrance of Macchu Pichu.

Many adjectives describe a first glimpse of looking down on the lost city of the Incas, 200 ancient stone buildings perched between four mountains.  One student said “I’m speechless.”

After a group photo, we hiked for 2-3 hours to reach the Sun Gate, the official end of the Inca Trail.  Viveka reflected on her experience:

“I felt a sense of humility as I connected with the 'Pacha mama' (mother earth) as Peruvians would call it. The vastness of the Andes Mountains and the openness of the sky reminded me that life is transient and that we need to make the most of our life journey.”  (Viveka Raol)
“I felt a sense of humility as I connected with the ‘Pacha mama’ (mother earth) as Peruvians would call it. The vastness of the Andes Mountains and the openness of the sky reminded me that life is transient and that we need to make the most of our life journey.”

“Peruvians are selfless people who seem to put others before themselves. My most vivid memory was the long hike to the Sun Gate in Machu Picchu.

The high altitude, congested sinuses, and sleepless nights culminated in a long and treacherous hike for me. Our tour guide was patient, empathic, and encouraged me every step of the way. I can still hear his soothing voice in my head, sharing stories of the Inca and their architectural prowess. His storytelling and kind persona helped alleviate my pain and at one point he even offered to carry my bag and heavy jacket to help lighten my load.

My learning from this is to make sure that I do my very best to develop and intellectually engage my direct reports.  Only if there is a pure cooperative dynamic, between employee and employer, will there be a desire to perform optimally.”

We traveled home to Seattle the next day and fondly remember the people and learning beyond the classroom walls of the Technology Management MBA program.  If you’re a future or current student considering the international trip, John advises “Just go.  Sign up.  Explore.  Take a chance.  It is life-shaping and a real-life case study of all TMMBA learnings to-date.”

Photos courtesy of Paul Jeyasingh.

Bruce Avolio: Traveling Globally, Inspiring Locally

Our tour bus glided through snarled Lima traffic while Bruce Avolio kneeled in his seat to face 17 members of the TMMBA International Study Tour (IST) in March 2015.  We had just finished visiting Ofertop, an e-commerce startup, and Graña y Montero, a group of 26 engineering and infrastructure service companies.

Bruce recapped our visits with these local and multinational companies.  We had learned about the dynamic economic, political, and cultural landscapes of their businesses, asked questions during the presentation, and informally talked with leaders.

He announced “How did we today, on a scale of one to five?”  The group laughed yet listened closely.   “I’ll give you a 4.8.”  It was a high score yet with a gap to improve to 5.0.  I replay this exchange when I think about our trip, as his motivating and engaging style contributed significantly to our memorable week in Peru.

Bruce also joined a study tour to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 2014.  All student travelers completed his course International Business & Cultural Immersion.

Bruce Avolio, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking (CLST) at the University of Washington Foster School of Business.  Appointed as the inaugural Mark Pigott Chair in Business Strategic Leadership in 2013, he is widely recognized for his outstanding research, consulting, and graduate-level teaching on transformational and authentic leadership.  He has authored more than 150 published articles and 11 books.

In this interview, Bruce shares his perspectives on the distinctive value of a TMMBA International Study Tour and his path to the Foster Business School and TMMBA.

Q.  What stands out to you as rewarding and meaningful in a TMMBA IST?

A.  Two things come to mind.  Number one is the group.  The group came together so quickly and supportively in Peru.  I keep reflecting on how much they did for each other.  They were fun to be with and conscientious and focused on what we needed to do.  They were present.  On the company visits, they were told several times, “that if you keep asking questions, we won’t be able to get through everything.”  The number of questions was terrific, informative, engaging, and reflected well on all of us.

The group in Dubai and Abu Dhabi needed time to acclimate because it’s quite different ─ particularly for women as it’s a very different experience ─ but they came together as a group and achieved everything I hoped they would.  First, that they would be great brand representatives of Foster and the TMMBA, and second, that they would help each other in every sense and leave no one behind.  They exceeded both goals in terms of my expectations.

I also think the pre-trip preparation was valuable to get everyone in the mindset of what they would learn through this experience: what would expand in your knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs and how to set goals and prep for this so you come back with something that has a tangible effect.

A lot of people talk about the first time they went to a different place – could be Paris, NYC, or Cambodia.  In our daily lives, you kind of know the place ─ and even though there are probably many things to learn – you may not be thinking about what you’ll learn.   When you go away, I think there is a greater sense of awareness that something there that can be extracted.  You’re ready to learn and your motivation level is higher.

Q.  You describe a trigger moment in development as a little tiny intellectual nugget that drops in and affects your thinking for a long time. What was a trigger moment or experience that stood out on the trips?

A.  Early on the Peru trip, it struck me when someone said I’ve come to know people in my class better in the last three days than I did in the last 15 months.  I told the new TMMBA class that the trip is a great chance to expand your knowledge and also get to know each other, but I hope you get to know each other earlier.  This is your future network and networks really build the success of programs.

Another was meeting an entrepreneur in Dubai who was getting his company off the ground.  He was so enthusiastic on the prospects and bounced around his small office that we all tried to fit in.  But he also talked a lot about how hard it is to find people like him.  And then we met a similar entrepreneur in Lima and it felt like you could be in SoHo New York or Palo Alto, California.  He was very quiet and watched his COO talk about the business.  But then he got up and threw energy and passion into his talk.  Here are two entrepreneurial leaders where it would be so cool to have a global entrepreneurial meeting of people who come from very different cultures and similar motivations to create something to make a difference.  One comes from wealth and probably doesn’t need to do it and the other has to create opportunities.  They were so similar in their enthusiasm and interests, yet they may never meet.

In Peru, I noticed how gracious people were and their sense of community and family.  People take time and we don’t take time like you see in other cultures, and I think we’re missing this and it’s always reinforced when I go to cultures like Peru.

Q.  You describe global mindset as how an individual and organizations do business in the geographical and cultural context of another country.  A core purpose of the IST is to expand global mindset.  How does global mindset affect leadership strengths and performance?

A.  I see global mindset applying to their leadership in the TMMBA program, how students work with each other and how they come to understand each other.

From a leadership perspective, it’s thinking about the different cultures that are part of your experience and how you look and relate.  They are global ambassadors.  They are going to run companies and divisions of companies, and could have a lot of challenges with respect to global mindset.

It’s thinking about how to grow your business in different cultures.  Our markets are saturated in the U.S. and North America and we’re all looking for places to grow business in other places in the world.  For example, we don’t think a lot about Africa.  It’s a billion person market and we’re starting to see some things happen there that point to positive growth in markets.  If you don’t have a global mindset, you’re never going to think of those markets.

Even within a TMMBA class it’s really important.  This is poignant for me because I really respect Narayana Murthy, the Co-founder of Infosys.  I have a case study in technology, and it’s about this leader.  I’ve had several students come up since I started using the case and say thank you so much for bringing him into the program.

I do it because I want them to know it’s not just teaching about some of our CEOs in the U.S.  We want to look at the world.

Q.  What life lessons or surprise takeaways have you heard from students after the Peru trip?

A.  A lot of it is preconceptions they had going in and how they really changed through the experience.  It turned out to be a much more in-depth experience and even for people who have traveled a lot.

We had some people who hadn’t traveled so it was the preconception and then the adjustment, which I would say is global mindset.  We all learned through observing how we interacted with different cultures or just simple things like meeting and interacting with people on the street.

Q.  What advice would you give a student considering the trip?

A.  This is a unique experience that you will carry forward in your life that you probably won’t replicate in your career.  When you look at your entire life, there is not a lot of time for this.  You may want to travel and relax and sit on the beach.

When we go on these trips, the task is learning.  This is a time when you can take a week or ten days and just heads down learn.  You have opportunities to show what you’ve learned.  You have an opportunity to connect with people that could sustain relationships with the program and their networks.  And you have an opportunity to add to your global mindset.  Why wouldn’t you do it if you could afford it?  Why wouldn’t you do it if you could manage it with your family and job?

There is something rich about this experience because it’s not a requirement.

Q.  Before TMMBA study tours, you decided to move from the University of Nebraska to the Foster Business School. Tell me about a key factor behind your decision.

A.  The interest in leadership was central to my decision.  I also grew up on public education and the vision to be the best public business school was energizing.  I felt it was really important to demonstrate that we could be as good as any other university and business school in the public domain.

As an explorer, I wanted to try a different place.  I had only been here once or twice – never out of downtown ─ so I didn’t even know there were mountains here.

Q.  How did you start with TMMBA and what do you most enjoy?

A.  It was really serendipitous. There was an opportunity to be involved in the program and teach a leadership class in summer 2009.

What I like about TMMBA is being in a bunch of different worlds every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, since students come from different parts of the world. They have a really strong interest in learning and there is a cohort-feel, which you don’t necessarily feel in other programs.

I really enjoy them as a group. I like the diversity. I like the cohort. I like the way technologists think systematically and I like being able to challenge them, when I get the chance, to think a different way.

And there is the staff.  This is unique as the staff are all present when you walk in to the Eastside Executive Center so you have different feeling here than in other programs.

Q.  What did you want to be when you grew up?

A.  First, I’m making the assumption that I haven’t grown up yet.  I’m still working toward that.  Grow old but never grow up!

Every boy I knew growing up in New York wanted to play for the New York Yankees.  And I did.  On a summer evening with friends, I was playing Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris and thinking someday I would put on the blue pin-stripe suit and play for the Yankees.

I also really remember being very interested in archeology.  I don’t know the origin of this.  I thought and actually still do love history and seeing the layers of how things are built.  When we were in Peru, I was interested in Inca everything.

Q.  How did you become interested in Industrial Psychology?

A.  In college, I found a lot of things interesting and I declared my major in psychology in my senior year.

I was really interested in the area of criminology but then I took a course in Industrial Psychology.  I thought my interests in applying psychology to organizations may be broader than just correctional institutions.  I thought about what to do with that.  My girlfriend broke up with me so I decided to leave NY and that’s when I left for Ohio and started my graduate work.  It turned out to be one of the best Industrial Psychology programs at the time.

Bruce recalled a wise observation by Renee, our tour guide at Machu Picchu, “This is a way of thinking not a way of necessarily walking on stones.  Don’t look at the physical structure – this is a place of learning that students and their mentors would come to.”
Bruce recalled a wise observation by Renee, our tour guide at Machu Picchu, “This is a way of thinking not a way of necessarily walking on stones. Don’t look at the physical structure – this is a place of learning that students and their mentors would come to.”



Team Hook On A Roll

Following Entrepreneurship courses in the Winter quarter, Class 14 was abuzz with new business ideas. This was evident by the TMMBA program having the strongest turnout in its history for the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition (BPC).

One new venture with close ties to the TMMBA program is Hook, led by Class 14 student Robert Moehle. Hook won 2nd place at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, and is currently in the Sweet 16 of the BPC.

The team, whose members met through an event hosted by the Buerk Center, has set out to make smart home technology accessible to everyone by offering “home automation on a budget.” One Hook device in the home offers control of anything electric from the user’s smartphone. This allows for energy savings, improved home safety, and convenience.

Hook is currently taking pre-orders on Kickstarter, with a little under two weeks left to reach their funding goal of $25,000 for an initial production run.

“I’ve been able to apply the concepts learned from my TMMBA classes directly and almost instantly,” remarked Moehle. “I am thankful for the program and opportunities offered by Foster, which have given me the chance to pursue my entrepreneurial desires. The TMMBA faculty and staff have been incredibly supportive in every way.”

Please support Hook on Kickstarter, and share their project with your friends and followers!

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Hola from Peru!

Traveling 4961 miles from Seattle, our group of 18 began the 2015 TMMBA International Study Tour today in Peru. The country is approximately the size of Alaska and has 28 different climates.

Our first visit is Lima, the capital city of nearly 10 million people and 43 neighborhoods. It’s the industrial and financial center of Peru.

We boarded a tour bus and enjoyed an afternoon city tour. Our first stop was Huaca Hullamarca, an ancient pyramid from AD 200 to 500. We were greeted by a Peruvian Hairless dog and saw a preserved mummy.

We then traveled to Lima’s historic center. The San Francisco Convent, rebuilt in 1672, was a highlight.

Part of our group in front of the San Francisco Church
Part of our group in front of the San Francisco Church

It’s a working monastery with 26 monks living there. We cooled off next to a lovely courtyard with walls decorated in colorful Spanish tiles, before we continued underground to the eerie catacombs of hundreds of bones and skulls.

We finished the day with a welcome dinner at the spectacular ruins of Huaca Pucllana.

Group Welcome Dinner
Group Welcome Dinner

Over the next few days, we’ll visit several companies ranging from one of the largest Peruvian consumer goods company to an e-commerce leader and the #1 startup in Peru. We’ll then fly to the city of Cusco and Machu Picchu, an ancient city in the Andes mountain range, the 2nd tallest in the world.


This will surely be a memorable week of meeting new people and developing a deeper understanding of how Peruvians live and conduct business.

The International Study Tour is an optional tour that takes place in the second year of the TMMBA Program. Students who participate broaden their business knowledge base and immerse in a different culture. This includes visiting companies, touring manufacturing facilities, and meeting business leaders and government officials.IMG_3023

TMMBA Alumni Profile: Rick McMaster (TMMBA 2006)

McMaster (TMMBA 2006) @ Vino at the Landing in Renton
McMaster (TMMBA 2006) @ Vino at the Landing in Renton

After competing in the UW Business Plan Competition and graduating from the Technology Management MBA (TMMBA) Program in 2006, Rick McMaster caught the entrepreneurship bug.  McMaster made an unconventional shift from a career in technology at Intel to pursuing his passion for the local Washington wine industry. Today McMaster has put his TMMBA skills to work and is the Owner and General Manager of the thriving Vino at the Landing in Renton.

What’s next for McMaster? In January 2015, he purchased a second location, Reds Wine Bar at Kent Station, and sees even more growth in his future. Much to the delight of McMaster’s patrons, more chardonnay, merlot and syrah possibly await! Read more about McMaster’s story below.

On Career

What is most rewarding about your job? What makes it all worthwhile?
I love the community atmosphere that we’ve established at Vino through great food, delicious wine, and wonderful service.  We have a lot of regular customers who patron Vino on a daily or weekly basis.  It’s great to know our customers on a personal level, learn about their personal lives, and know that Vino is the place that they go to relax and unwind.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career?
Growing Vino from a staff of 3 to 20 has been extremely challenging.  When we started there were no policies and procedures in place.  We now have an employee manual in place with a more disciplined performance management process.  Resourcing has also been challenging.  As we’ve grown it has been difficult figuring out when to hire and how many people to hire.  There is a lot of turnover in the restaurant industry so it’s also challenging to retain good employees.

What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
We were honored by the Renton Chamber of Commerce for Outstanding Customer Service for 2012 and 2014.  And we were just recently honored by the Washington State Wine Commission with a Grand Award for our locally focused wine program.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
My first boss at Cummins Engine, Mike Carney, was the biggest influence on my career.  He was a huge proponent of The 7 Habits and building highly effective teams.

What are you most excited or passionate about?
I am most excited about the personal development of my employees.  Most of my staff started at Vino in their early 20s.  It’s been wonderful to see them grow into management positions.

Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years?
I purchased a 2nd location, Reds Wine Bar at Kent Station in January 2015.  I’d love to open a 3rd location in the next 5-10 years.  I’ve also been working on a business plan for a cocktail bar and would love to open that concept in downtown Renton as part of the city revitalization efforts.


What were your goals upon entering TMMBA?
I was working at Intel when I entered the program.  I had worked primarily in program management and had an engineering background.  I knew that I needed the business education if I ever wanted to advance my career at Intel.  I thought the TMMBA program would help me to achieve this.

How has TMMBA impacted your career?
There is no doubt that I never would have had this opportunity with Vino at the Landing & Reds Wine Bar without my experience in the TMMBA program.  As a small business owner, every part of the TMMBA program curriculum is used on a daily basis.

On Life

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m an avid golfer.  Vino opens at 11am so I’ve been known to get 18-27 holes in prior to opening.  My girlfriend is an avid runner and running coach so I see many 5K races in my future too.

Are you involved in any community organizations?
Vino contributes to many local charities including the Renton Clothes Bank and we are heavily involved in the Renton Chamber of Commerce.  I just began mentoring with the Renton School District.

Business book recommendation?
I’m going to go old school with this one… Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People.

 Read more TMMBA alumni profiles here.

TMMBA Mentoring Program

A conversation between a TMMBA alumnus and student is usually one of mutual understanding around career paths and aspirations.  It’s an easy genuine exchange.  In fall 2014, a TMMBA Mentoring Program launched and 44 TMMBA alumni (mentors) were paired with TMMBA students (mentees).

The beginning:
For mentors and mentees, it started at the Program Networking Night on the evening of September 30th.  The Eastside Executive Center, painted in Husky purple and gold, was dressed for the occasion.  Tall cocktail tables draped in black floor-length linens were positioned so that mentees and mentors could mingle and learn more about each other.

Students submitted their mentor preferences after the reception.

Who are the mentors?
The community of mentors is ambitious and generous.  They are respected business leaders from many industries, companies and functions from Consulting and Operations to Marketing, Data Analytics and Entrepreneurship.  As mentors, they offer specific feedback and encouragement on important MBA career and professional development areas.

How is the Program designed?
The program timeline for mentoring relationships extends from October 2014 to June 2015.  The expectation is for each pair to meet once per quarter (minimum) as well as be available for dialogue via e-mail and/or phone.  This provides at least three in-person meetings for mentees before graduation.

What are mentees saying?
Two students shared feedback on how their mentoring relationship has complimented their TMMBA experience and professional development.

I’ve been working for a big company for almost a decade now and for some time have thought about what it would be like to start something of my own.  While working for a big company has given me experiences that have helped polish and expand my technical skills, it has given me very little insight into what it would take to successfully run a company or even where to start.  Through conversations with my mentor, I’ve been able to get a perspective of what it takes to start a company from the point of view of someone with a background similar to mine, who has been successful at it, and who had similar questions and hesitations to those that I’ve been having.  Being able to ask questions and get honest and candid feedback has been a great compliment to the class lectures and discussions with classmates.

Another mentee said,

For one, I don’t think I would have been able to know my mentor if it wasn’t for the TMMBA program.  That alone is a great example of the benefits that come with the program.  Secondly, I feel that she is one person who I can trust and has a ton of credibility as an advisor in my professional development because of her accomplishments.  Her career progression somewhat overlaps with my own situation, and that is a big reason why I wanted her as my mentor.

In one of our conversations, she reminded me about the big picture of doing an MBA.  That has helped to reinforce a few things that I knew but tended to de-prioritize because of the everyday schedule. She provided some really good insights and perspectives.  She has also forced me to think more deeply about certain things.

I feel I am ready to work on a tangible action plan based on her feedback. I plan to share my work-in-progress with her in our next meeting, and we’ll go from there!

What’s next?
We’re gathering midpoint feedback and will highlight more perspectives, from mentees and mentors, in a future blog.  In summer 2015, we’ll hold Information Sessions for Class 15 to learn about the program design, timeline, and how to participate.

What would I do differently?

Mike McCarter, TMMBA Class of 2014
Mike McCarter, TMMBA Class of 2014

I always knew someone would ask me this question.   I’d supposed it would happen sometime after I graduated.   Or maybe the question would come from my children someday when I was old and gray– I certainly didn’t expect it in the last quarter of the program, but there it was.   The TMMBA Program Director, Tracy, asked the question;  “If you could do this whole MBA thing over again, what would you do differently?”

OK, so maybe she didn’t ask the question exactly like that.  She may have actually said something closer to “How’s it going?” or maybe just “Hi”.   Regardless of what had prompted Tracy’s inquiry that day in the hall, she deserved to know the answer that had plagued me for a solid month.

Here’s the background.  About a month earlier my team and I had set up a meeting with the executive director of a local non-profit to talk about a social media project.  We booked the meeting to occur a couple of hours ahead our Wednesday class session– and miraculously it finished up a bit early!   After treating myself to a second helping of taco buffet, I had found myself in the rare-yet-luxurious state of not having any plans.   I recall mingling in the buffet area for a while and then ambling into the Tech @ the Top room after hearing some mention of cheeseburgers in there.

Shortly after I found a seat, Tracy shut the door and introduced Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezburger Network.   Then it all clicked for me.   Five minutes earlier I had been joking with this guy at the taco buffet, wondering if he was going to take the last chalupa, and now I find out he is a legendary entrepreneur?!  The next hour flew by like it was fifteen minutes.   I learned about how Ben had quit a perfectly good job to see if he could parlay a funny cat picture into an multimillion dollar internet humor juggernaut (spoiler alert:  he did it).   Ben gave a fast-paced presentation followed by a wide-open Q&A session.  I got an incredible view into the mind of a truly creative entrepreneur with a street MBA and a truckload of wisdom.  More importantly, I got to ask Ben as many questions as I wanted about being an entrepreneur and scaling a company, which is a topic that interests me greatly.


A few weeks went by and I still found myself reflecting on Ben’s presentation and several impactful things he had shared.  I figured this must have been an anomaly– of course they couldn’t all be that good, right?  I secretly hoped so, because I’d been ignoring Tech @ the Top emails for over a year.  With small kids at home, a demanding job, a couple side ventures and an MBA-in-progress, I felt like I couldn’t afford to take on anything else.   Nonetheless, when the next Tech @ the Top Speaker Series event came along there I was, privately hoping that Jens Molbak, founder of Coinstar, would flop and confirm my anomaly theory.

Of course Jens didn’t flop, he was brilliant.  I still don’t know how he crammed it all into one hour, but we learned how he started Coinstar as a secret project during his MBA.  Jens told us about how he had interviewed 1500 people in front of grocery stores to refine his idea.  We sensed Jen’s pain from the continuous rejection by VCs.   Then we learned about the eventual revelation that enabled him to not only get seed funding, but ultimately raise $200m in VC investment (hint: it wasn’t about selling his idea better).   In less than 10 years, Jens succeeded in taking Coinstar public, caused the Mint to stop making coins, and enabled the donation of millions of dollars to a litany of charitable organizations.    As with my prior Tech @ the Top experience, I was blown away by the openness and accessibility of this inspiring entrepreneur.

Tech @ the Top Speaker Series - Jens Molbak

So there it is.  Not the answer I’d expected it would be, but true nonetheless.  If I could do it over again, I would go to every single Tech @ the Top speaker.  The absurdity is that I was already there on Wednesdays anyway– how hard would it have been to forgo that extra trip to the buffet and open my mind to meeting a new entrepreneur or business leader?  I’ll never know, but what I do know is that I missed the opportunity to get direct learnings and close interaction with senior executives from Costco, Docusign, Concur, Outerwall, PCC, and many others.    Here’s my advice to future Foster MBA students:  skip that extra chalupa and go to Tech @ the Top!

Xin Chào from Vietnam!

Mikaela Houck, Assistant Director

I’m currently writing this post from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where 22 Class 13 students have just kicked off their 10-day International Study Tour experience. Jet lag didn’t hold anyone back as we hit the ground running and began to explore this great city and all it has to offer.

Our first day of the tour acted as a great way for everyone to get our bearings – we started the day with a city tour of Ho Chi Minh City and explored the Presidential Palace and some beautiful French colonial buildings including the Notre Dame cathedral and city post office.

For the afternoon, we ventured out to the Mekong Delta and meandered through a maze of waterways. We had a couple stops along the way where we enjoyed local fruits and tea, music, and encountered a python (yes – I said a python). And a few folks were even brave enough to snap a few pictures with it. I was not one of them!

We capped the day with a celebratory welcome dinner to mark the beginning of an exciting tour to come. From a dynamic group of company visits that includes industries as such banking, technology, automotive, logistics, tax and inward investment, and market research and media (Ford, Cisco and Citi Bank to name a few companies) to unforgettable cultural experiences and phenomenal Vietnamese cuisine – the next 10-day will surely be a whirlwind that will not disappoint.

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About the TMMBA International Study Tour:
The International Study Tour experience is an optional tour for TMMBA students that occurs in the second year of study and gives students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a different cultural and business context than the one in which we all typically operate day-to-day.  Students who partake in the tour have the opportunity to visit companies, tour manufacturing facilities, and meet business leaders and government officials. Click here to view blog posts from past Study Tour experiences.

Above & Beyond: TMMBA Students Participate in Recording-Breaking Holiday Drive for Food Lifeline

Mikaela Houck, Assistant Director

Earlier this month, TMMBA Class 13 & 14 joined forces during the annual holiday drive for Food Lifeline to raise a combined (unofficial) total of 1370 lbs of food donations! We’re pleased to share that this impressive contribution marks an unparalleled effort to that of any past TMMBA holiday food drive and certainly sets the bar high for future holiday drives to come. What’s even more notable is that the food drive took place during an extremely busy period for both cohorts, and yet the students still made this holiday food drive a shining success. A true testament to the strength of the TMMBA community!

In addition to our annual holiday drive, each year TMMBA also partners with Food Lifeline for a volunteer day at their Shoreline Distribution Center.  Our TMMBA group spent last Saturday afternoon repacking over 2800 lbs of wheat flour. Over the years, TMMBA students, alums, faculty, staff and family members have volunteered to repack over 12,000 lbs of food that has contributed to countless meals over the greater Western Washington region. The volunteer day serves as a great opportunity for the TMMBA community to connect with each other and support the tremendous need to end hunger in Western Washington. In 2012, Food Lifeline distributed more than 36 million pounds of food, the equivalent of more than 30 million meals, to feed hungry people throughout Western Washington.

A look @ the numbers:

  • 30 million: number of meals provided by Food Lifeline in 2012.
  • Over 12,000 lbs: total amount of food repacked by TMMBA volunteers @ Food Lifeline over the years.
    View past event photos
  • 1370 lbs: 2013 unofficial holiday food drive total.
  • 21: number of TMMBA volunteers @ 2013 volunteer event.

A look @ TMMBA in action:

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guys putting on aprons







Thanks to everyone at TMMBA who has volunteered or contributed to Food Lifeline over the years – we greatly appreciate your efforts and generosity!