Category Archives: Alumni

The TMMBA ROI Series: Part 3

Ally Wewers, TMMBA Recruiting and Admissions Coordinator
ROI

In Posts 1 and 2, there’s already been ample discussion about the ways that TMMBA students and alums calculate their return on their investment. While we conclude today with three final categories to the TMMBA ROI, it’s safe to say there are still many components to add to this conversation:

Powerful Network

The TMMBA alumni network is truly one of the greatest assets of the program. With close to 800 TMMBA graduates, it is a diverse community that represents a variety of industries, functions, and companies. Additionally, the larger Foster School network connects more than 50,000 business professionals – creating a huge presence in the Puget Sound region and beyond.

 So how do TMMBA alums relate network to ROI? For many, the value comes from the exposure and access to new contacts, companies, and most importantly – opportunities. As alumnus Kevin Croy (TMMBA ’12) can attest, “The caliber of people on your team and the network you’re exposed to directly impacts your career.” Through an introduction from one of his TMMBA teammates, Kevin met his current business partner, leading to the development of 9MileLabs, a Seattle based high-tech accelerator.

 Another value of the TMMBA network is that it never stops growing. With each new cohort, the TMMBA community expands and provides access to more support, resources, and connections. “My network has exploded almost exponentially” remarks student Chris Zilich. “The connections I’ve made via my team and other classmates have been invaluable.”

 Personal Growth

Can you put a price on confidence? How about personal development and leadership skills? TMMBA alumnus Ameya Bhatawdekar (TMMBA ’10) explains that “it’s hard to put a dollar value on the measurement of ROI. But my most important indicator is knowing that I’m a different person today for having completed the program.”

 While the TMMBA program offers a comprehensive business curriculum, the learning in the program goes beyond business concepts, calculations, and frameworks. Emphasis on strategic decision making, effective leadership, and innovation challenge the individual and change their ways of thinking. 100% of recently surveyed TMMBA alumni cited an increase in confidence as a result of the program. Coupled with increased self-awareness, time management skills, and a sense of accomplishment, the return for the individual is unparalleled.

 Convenience

While it’s not a typical return, the convenience, support and services that the TMMBA program provides helps some students substantiate part of their investment decision. Many alums point to the convenient Eastside location- there’s less time and money spent commuting to class (especially in comparison to other non-local MBA programs). The 18-month program and work-compatible schedule also allow students to continue their current careers – without having to forfeit years of income and career experience to pursue their degree.

By providing textbooks, electronic course materials, registration services and more, students can focus on homework or family time, not worrying about the logistics of classes. Similarly, catered meals on class days allow students to come  from work and network with classmates over dinner – or finish up on last minute homework. As alums have noted– everything about the program is designed to make students as successful as possible.

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With the variety of topics that we’ve covered in these last few posts, it’s obvious that the ROI for TMMBA students is multifaceted. From network to rankings, salary increases to personal growth, every TMMBA student and alum calculates their return in their own way.  We’ve started the discussion – now how will you calculate the ROI for your own MBA?

Missed a post? Catch up!  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The TMMBA ROI Series: Part 2

Ally Wewers, TMMBA Admissions & Recruiting CoordinatorROI

Last week’s post addressed a few of the many ways that TMMBA students and alumni calculate the return on investment for their MBA experience. The discussion today centers around three additional consideration points- salary growth, career progression, and the lifelong resources of the TMMBA program.

Salary Growth

Compensation increase is often the focus of ROI conversations given that it’s easily quantified. While  sole emphasis should not be placed on an MBA’s monetary value, it is still an important piece to the ROI puzzle.

TMMBA graduates continue to see considerable return for their initial investments. As knowledge and skills grow from an MBA program, pay raises often follow as employers see the benefits of the education.  In fact, in a survey of TMMBA alumni two years post-graduation, 95% of respondents reported an increase in salary – with an average increase of over 20%.

Career Advancement

Oftentimes, career growth goes hand-in-hand with salary increases. Whether students are looking for promotions, functional changes, or to start their own companies, TMMBA helps to advance the timeline for these goals.

“When I think of the next levels I wanted to achieve in my career, TMMBA significantly accelerated my ability to achieve those milestones. In the classroom, I learned concepts that could take years to grasp on-the-job,” remarks alumnus Jeremy Hutton (TMMBA ’13).

With a relevant business curriculum incorporating technology, innovation, and professional development, TMMBA students find that their MBA is a competitive advantage in the market. For those looking to move up, an MBA opens to door to greater responsibility and management roles. Some TMMBA students are hoping to change functions or industries – and upon graduation are more qualified to pursue outside opportunities. Entrepreneurs can also improve future success when equipped with knowledge and resources from the program.

Lifelong Resources

Speaking of resources, it’s important to note that the benefits of the TMMBA program don’t end upon graduation. TMMBA alumni still have access to workshops, guest speakers, networking events, career coaching – even classes. Whether it’s a new course that’s been added or a subject that needs refreshing, many alums take advantage of class audits and lifetime learning.

TMMBA Career Services adds notable value for both students and alumni. From resume workshops and panel discussions to 1:1 coaching and Career Mixers, there are plenty of ways to leverage TMMBA career resources.

Given these potential value propositions of an MBA, it’s still up to students to leverage their education and capitalize on growth. As Jeremy can attest, “It’s never going to be less expensive to get an MBA than today. The return starts immediately – as soon as you learn the concepts in class and start applying them. Take advantage of the opportunity.”

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Missed a post? Catch up!  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Capping the TMMBA experience

blog cap

The goal of any MBA capstone is to measure students’ ability to synthesize and demonstrate their understanding of key business and managerial frameworks, concepts and insights taught through the MBA coursework.  The capstone experience varies from program- to- program.  In researching and talking with my MBA and EMBA colleagues from around the U.S. it seems that capstones fall into three main categories:  case competitions, integrated or consulting projects and business plan competitions.

Remember your TMMBA capstone course or competition?

The TMMBA capstone experience has included case competitions (2002-2007), technology commercialization course and competition (2008-2010) and most recently a Venture Capital Investment course and competition (2011-2012).  To varying degrees, each of these capstones met the goals of a capstone and we appreciate all our various stakeholders for making each one a success.

As you reflect on your experience what comes to mind? 

I’m looking to our TMMBA community for constructive input, suggestions and ideas to move this experience forward.  I’m a firm believer that none of us are as smart as all of us – and while there may not be a “silver bullet” for the capstone experience, I’m certain with your help we can get very close!

There is always room to improve, innovate and evolve.

In the next monthly alumni TMMBA email we’ll announce the date for an early January dinner meeting – we’ll catch up and talk capstone!

I hope you will consider helping.

 

Tracy

Tracy Gojdics is the Director of the TMMBA Program and an alumna from the Class of 2007. Outside of the office you might find Tracy out hiking, running, reading, or spending quality time with her family. Tracy can be contacted at tracylt@uw.edu or via phone at 206-616-2610.

An MBA… makes you happier?

Ally Wewers, TMMBA Program Coordinator

Despite taking a “Philosophy of Happiness” class in my undergraduate years, I definitely would not consider myself an expert on the subject (philosophy OR happiness). But a recent article on Forbes.com caught my attention, claiming that (gasp) happiness is the newest benefit of an MBA degree.

I know what you’re thinking- everyone expects salary raises, increased confidence, or a larger network post-MBA. But an increase in happiness? Not the end-result I imagined.

In the article describing the MBA Happiness Index 2013, the organization MBA50 asked 1,108 participants from business schools around the world to evaluate their happiness levels 12 months before their MBA, during their MBA, and post-MBA. Here are the results:

Though their survey may not be the most scientifically valid study conducted, it still brings to light some interesting data about MBA graduates. With happiness being such a relative term, you do have to take any data with a grain of salt. Beyond the numbers though, it’s intriguing to evaluate why MBA degree holders might report elevated levels of happiness. For this question, I agree with the survey’s authors. They cite that common studies on happiness have come to the consensus that ” ‘meaning’ (or values, or community, or empathy, or engagement with the public good) correlate strongly with peoples’ reported happiness”. So, consequently, people must be finding meaning during and after their MBA. Happiness is different for everyone, and therefore “meaning” is also different for everyone. Maybe one student finds meaning in the Ethics curriculum, and is able to effectively apply it to his/her job. Maybe one student finds meaning in being productive and accomplishing a goal, and receiving a diploma. Maybe another graduate finds meaning in the network and community that they’ve built over the course of their program.

For all you skeptics who say that happiness for MBA grads comes from the higher salary or finally an end to the nights of endless statistics problems, sure- I imagine there’s a bit of truth to that. But the same study also asked respondents which aspect of the MBA program made them happiest. Coming in at #1, was “Self-Development”, with 42.2% of the answers. “Financial Reward” on the other hand, only clocked in with 2.7%.

While I don’t plan on conducting a happiness survey of my own anytime soon, I think it’s definitely a topic worth bringing up in conversations with TMMBA Students. Granted- with less than one month to go til Graduation for the Class of 2013, I’m sure the responses may be a bit skewed….

In conclusion, I’ll close with a quote from my “Philosophy of Happiness” Class (Professor Alfino would be so proud…). Fittingly, it comes from Aristotle, who said “Happiness depends upon ourselves”. In that sense, I think connecting an MBA to a personal journey of self-fulfillment and happiness is quite fitting. Of course we’ll let our students and alums be the judges.

My experience at the Kirkland Startup Weekend

By Sreenath Pudukudi, TMMBA Alum, Class of 2012

I got my ticket and was thrilled to go to Startup Weekend. Little did I know this would be one of the great opportunities in my life. For those who don’t know about Startup Weekend, you can see the details here http://startupweekend.org/about/. The idea is to form teams at the Startup Weekend event and create a startup over the weekend. At the end of the event, the best startup would be judged and rewarded.

And then the long-awaited day arrives. Friday, as I entered the event, I could feel the positive energy in the room. There were lots of people passionately talking about their ideas. During the event, you have a minute to present the idea. There were around 40 people who pitched their ideas. Wow, that was 40 ideas in 40 minutes. Each person gets 3 voting cards and could vote for the top 3 ideas they liked. The ideas that received the most number of votes could build their teams for the weekend.

Developing the startup

I voted for the idea of building a platform for matching fashion stylist to consumers. I always wanted a personal stylist but was never ready to spend big dollars. The idea resonated with me very well and I thought people would be ready to pick a personal stylist if the cost of the stylist is reasonably low.

The team Eliza was formed and we had a nice blend of diverse skill sets. We started off by creating a work plan for the next 2 days.

It was Saturday morning. We delegated the tasks to focus on the following areas:

  1. Business Model Generation
  2. Customer Validation
  3. Marketing Plan
  4. Competitive Analysis
  5. Developing the website

The team synched up every 2 hours to gauge the progress. Time was running fast. By Saturday evening, we were successful in,

  1. Reaching out to 3500 customers for validating customer pain points.
  2. Building the business model, identifying the customer segment.
  3. Creating the Cost & Revenue Model.
  4. Creating Marketing Plan and competitive analysis.
  5. Signing up 2 Stylist and 4 customers.
  6. Building a working website with the basic features.

I was pleasantly surprised with the progress a team can make just 1 day.

Pitching the business

It was Sunday morning. Most of us were focused on finishing the last bits and pieces of our work to get the final product in shape for the presentation. A few of us were focused on how to get our final pitch in front of close to 100 people. We practiced our final pitch over and over again.

And the time arrives. Clock ticks 5:30pm and the teams started giving their final pitches. It was our turn. We confidently presented our pitch as a story focusing on the need for the product, the value add it brings to the customers and how we build it into a great business. After our presentation there were a few questions from the judges and we were done.

All the teams presented and the wait to find the best startup begins.

The outcome

Out of the 12 teams in the competition, our team made it to the first position. We WON!!! It was indeed a great feeling and one of the most productive weekends I had. It was worth the effort.

Over the last two days, I learned a lot of new stuff, met great minds, built good networks and realized that it’s “The Team” that matters the most. I learned this again and again in my TMMBA classes. The lessons I learned during TMMBA made a difference in the way I think and I must say, I love TMMBA.

For all the entrepreneur enthusiasts out there, I would just say “attend one of the Startup Weekends and start your journey of building your own startup”. :-)

TMMBA + Seattle 2.0 Startup Day = winning combination for entrepreneurs!

Written by:  Tracy Gojdics, Director & 2007 TMMBA alumnus

The UW Foster Technology Management MBA Program (TMMBA) is a premier sponsor for the 2012 Seattle 2.0 Startup Day on September 22 at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.  In fact, this is the third year we will have a presence at this one-of-kind conference designed to inspire, inform and bring together budding entrepreneurs as well as veteran entrepreneurs.

Why do we like to sponsor this event? 

  • We have a growing student and alumni network full of entrepreneurs.
  • 50+% of  TMMBA applicants want to start their own company.
  • Aligns with our mission to educate, inspire and support the aspirations of our TMMBA community.
  • We are fans of Geekwire!

I often get asked, “Does an entrepreneur really need an MBA?”   The answer is “it depends.”  It depends on business knowledge and experience, the kinds of issues and business problems one has been exposed to (and tried to solve!) and how deeply one understands strategy, microeconomic and macroeconomic factors, finance and market risk.  For some they will have a solid understanding of all of these areas, but the vast majority of people do not – this is when a well-rounded MBA experience is an asset worth having.  The time and investment of an MBA is small when compared to the great ROI with the ability to achieve a dream – strategically and intelligently!

TMMBA has the honor introducing the following speakers at the conference:

Adam Tratt – CEO, Giant Thinkwell / HaikuDeck (10am)
Brenda Spoonemore, Co-founder and CEO Dwellable  (3:25pm)

Here is a complete list of speakers and activities for the 2012 Seattle 2.0 Startup Day.  We will have a booth there as well – stop by to say hi to Ally and Tina. As always, we look forward to seeing TMMBA students and alumni at the event and meeting new and interesting people!

Networking on the Ultimate Field

Sara Jones, Class of 2012 and TMMBA Assistant Director

This summer I played on the TMMBA Alumni Ultimate frisbee team in the DiscNW Summer Corporate League. This was my first time playing Ultimate and I captured my initial thoughts in this earlier post.  The season wrapped up two weeks ago and it’s time for an update.

There were lots of opportunities during the season to improve my actual frisbee skills, but the game stretched me to grow in other areas as well. On the field you need to be adaptable, deal with ambiguity, and learn to read your own team members as well as the other team. Of course, communication with your teammates can make or break the game. These skills are important in the workplace and also as a student in the TMMBA program.  It was great to work those muscles in a new setting!

That said, the best part of my experience this summer was the people.  I got to know more of my fellow alums (post-game celebrations helped), their family members that came to cheer us on, and met some really cool folks from the other teams. We played teams from REI, Microsoft, Google, King County, Fred Hutch, Tableau Software, Apex Learning, and Boeing. The sidelines and post-game cheers were great opportunities for casual networking.

All-in-all it was a great experience and I’m looking forward to next season. We’re even talking about some TMMBA pick-up games this fall.

The spirit of the game

Sara Jones, Assistant Director, Class of 2012

Last month I helped organize the launch of our 2nd annual TMMBA Ultimate team for the DiscNW Summer Corporate League. Along the way, I was convinced to sign up for the team and then thought,  “What have I gotten myself into?”.

Let me explain. Although I had been involved in performing arts for the first 20 years of my life, I hadn’t played a team sport since I was about 5 or 6. Frisbee is not something I’m good at and I’ve seen the level of competitiveness and skill of some Ultimate players.

I went into our first game on June 6 nervous, anxious, and a little overwhelmed. I wanted to do well and not let the team down, but I also didn’t know a thing about Ultimate. I read up on the rules and watched video clips ahead of time, but I still didn’t feel very confident.

Tonight is our 4th game and we’re playing against Cotton Kills, the REI team. They have some talented players, but I’m actually looking forward to the game.  So, what’s changed in the last month? Here’s my rundown of the first three games and what I learned along the way.

Game 1: We played Royal Flush and won, 15-14. We had a lot of beginners that night and spent pre-game time trying to get the basic rules.  I ended up guarding a really good female player, felt stressed-out, and was trying to learn defense.  I was so wrapped up in my own head that I don’t really remember seeing the frisbee more than once or twice the whole game. According to my teammates there was a strong back and forth battle throughout the game with some amazing plays by a few of our very skilled players. Here what I learned from this game:

  • There’s a lot more to the game than throwing a frisbee, and it’s a killer workout!
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Keep your ears open – teammates on and off the field have a different view and can help coach you along the way.
  • Ultimate is guided by the  “spirit of the game” – fair play, good sportsmanship, respect of others, and the joy of the game.

Game 2: We had a 15-10 win against the Tableau Tuple Tossers.  We started off pre-game with a whiteboard and end zone drill.  Although a simple exercise, I felt much more confident going into the game after seeing the objective drawn out and a few small successes during the drill.  This game we had a pretty good mix of skill level in both genders and did well in both defense and offense. Afterwards, the team headed out for post-game food and drinks. A few takeaways:

  • Have fun – it’s just a game! Our closing cheer to the Tableau team was a great reminder of this and the spirit of the game: “Tableau, Tablooo, Yahoo, We Loved [Playing] You!”
  • Watch the other team’s players so you can assess their skill and match appropriately on defense.
  • A little organization goes a long way. We had a clear strategy for the game and it helped everyone perform their best, no matter their experience level.

Game 3: Our first loss was to Blue Screen, the Microsoft team (5-15). Last year they were the season champions, so I didn’t feel too bad about it.  They played a strong game and used a different defensive strategy than previous teams. We had to adapt our offensive approach and many of us were learning on our feet. We had less players attend than previous games, so everyone had to play more. The women only had 1 substitute player! My thoughts post-game:

  • Relax and take your time on offense. It’s easy to feel rushed to throw the frisbee when you’re holding it, but you have ten seconds. That’s actually a lot of time to let your teammates get into place and help you out!
  • The post-game and sideline socializing with teammates makes a difference! It really started to feel like a team during this game. We were supportive, talked to each other on the field, had great sideline coaching, and recognized when teammates needed assistance. I attribute some of this to the off-field bonding.
  • I can do this! I walked away feeling like I did okay. And considering the skill level of the opponent, I feel much more confident that I do bring value to the team even though I’m a beginner.  I even had a few good laughs on the field during the game!

We have several more games to go this summer and I look forward to seeing my own personal progress and the progress of our team as we continue to work together. Go TMMBA!

Here are a few photos that I took during down-time in Game 2:

       

Is entrepreneurship for you?

Jeff Levy
Jeff Levy at the TMMBA & EMBA spring networking night

By Sara Jones, TMMBA Assistant Director & Class of 2012 Candidate

We recently had a networking night for students and alumni of the TMMBA and Executive MBA programs. Our speaker for the evening was Jeff Levy, an entrepreneur, coach, and mentor who has helped hundreds of individuals open their own franchise or small business. He’s also the co-author of Making the Jump into Small Business Ownernship (read an excerpt in this GeekWire post).

Jeff shared his entrepreneurial journey and views on what it takes to achieve small business ownership. He highlighted his personal challenges and achievements and the who, what, when, where, and why of entrepreneurship.  We followed-up with Jeff after the event with a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:

What is your proudest moment as an entrepreneur?

There have been many times in my career where I felt pride and a sense of accomplishment.  These usually came after achieving something that no one thought possible. Probably,  the most significant moment was when my partners and I put together a $35million package to buy the three division from Flow International to form Safeworks, LLC.  No one, including ourselves, during the process, knew how it would exactly come together. We never gave up on our dream and made it happen.

It’s not easy to take a leap from being employed (and the primary earner) to being an entrepreneur.  When is the right time to start my own business?  Is there a strategy that would provide the least impact to my family?

You are very right that it is not easy to leave the comfort of a regular paycheck. However,  workers today function in what is called the “new career economy.” A paycheck is not necessarily a synonym for security. At the executive level it is not uncommon to be in a different job, or in career transition every 3-4 years. What you want to avoid is having to start a business when not working as a result of a layoff. That is a lot of pressure unless you have a good severance and possibly Self Employed Assistance Plan benefits provided by the State of Washington.  I think the best strategy is to work on the planning part of your business while you have the comfort of the regular check.  Give particular thought to the capital side of the business. Do you have enough money set aside to meet your living expenses for up to a year (or more) in addition to the capital requirements for investing in the business. Once funding is secure it still takes the difficult task of balancing your dreams versus your fears. My family has always been supportive of my entrepreneurial pursuits.  They believed that my early career success working for others would be transferable to my own venture. As my wife said. In her wisdom, you have made money for others, it is time that you do it for yourself.

With the dramatic changes in technology and impending talent war, what are the pros and cons of being a full-time employee versus self-employed?

I think that there will be a talent war. It actually exists today for certain software engineers and programmers.  I do believe the jobs of the future will be “newer and fewer”. No matter what the demand may be for talent in a salaried environment, I don’t think it competes with the benefits of being your own boss.  Clearly, I have a bias in this regard. Workers tend to get comfortable living at the level of their W-2 income and don’t do enough to create real wealth or to control the most valuable thing they have, their time.  I also believe that technology will create many more opportunities for self-employment.

What is the number one personality trait you see in successful entrepreneurs?

I think the # one personality trait is optimism. The ability to look for the opportunity no matter what the difficulty or the challenge may be.  There are certainly other very important traits but you asked for one. If you are a pessimist trying to go into business, game over!

What is the single biggest obstacle encountered by aspiring entrepreneurs?

Here I need the latitude to give a few obstacles.  You might think it is the lack of capital, but I don’t believe that is what holds entrepreneurs back although it might delay entry or slow down the ramping up of the business. My story is a good example of working the plan until you make it happen.  Raising $35m looked like climbing Mt. Everest. The two biggest obstacles are being close minded and not having developed mastery of basic business management skills.

The Power of the TMMBA Alumni Network

Photo of Tim CookeTim Cooke, TMMBA Class of 2005

What are the top reasons professionals return to school to earn an MBA?  I’ll speculate that the top two reasons are to help foster a career change and for acquisition of knowledge.  Whether you’re considering an MBA or have already graduated from the TMMBA program, I propose that you add a third reason for attaining your MBA: access to a powerful and growing network of networked professionals.

Rather than give you the top five reasons for considering your alumni network as a powerful resource, allow me to appeal to you through a simple story.

The TMMBA program sponsors many opportunities for graduates to connect including an event called Technology at the Top which features a technology executive from a local company sharing their perspective on a current topic or sharing insights and lessons learned from their own professional journey.

Like many of you, I mark evening events on my calendar weeks in advance with great intentions of attending, but as the evening draws close, many competing interest seem to rear their needy heads. Technology at the Top was no exception. I had both business and personal interests competing for that small 60 minute investment I intended to make. I did have a loose personal connection to that evening’s speaker, so rather than miss the opportunity to make add a network connection, I dragged myself to the meeting at the Eastside Executive Center.

Being in business development for twenty years has taught me that passive participation in events will not yield the return necessary to keep you coming back, so I listened intently to that evening’s guest, ready to pounce on any opportunity to engage. Forty minutes into the session, that opportunity came in the form a statistical presentation of where the company’s leads come from. My hand shot up and I let fly my sortie in the form of a deep probing question into how the company is tapping into their knowledge that peer influence is the number one entry point into their sales cycle. My reward was that familiar wrinkling of the brow and cock of the head to the side as the speaker thought for a moment and said, that’s a great question and a challenge we’re actively engaged with. Target acquired.

While the hook was set, the fish was not yet in the boat. At the end of the session I sprang to the occasion and stood in line for my turn to thank our guest. I mentioned the one common friend we both had that would forever bond us, then I started to reel by reminding him of the question I asked and letting him know more about R2integrated’s Influencer and Communities of Interest practice that seeks to identify top influencers and communities and then activate them. Whether he was genuinely interested or just wanted to get rid of me I’ll never know, but he immediately offered to introduce me to their Chief Marketing Officer.

By morning, the fish was in the boat in the form of a flattering email introduction to the CMO. I’ll cut the story short here to conclude with a few facts. We kicked off our first project with this client exactly one month after the email introduction. I don’t know about your industry, but for mine, that’s an incredibly short sales cycle. The first project has opened up the desire for a second phase and a project unrelated to the first. The initial value of the engagement was modest in the tens of thousands, but brought us a new local client whose CLV should reach into the millions as we help them to grow.

Would I have been able to close this customer without TMMBA? We’ll never know, but I do know that with the connections TMMBA affords me as an alum, my access to resources is much greater than without. 

So what is it for you? Are you looking for that next great career move? Are you looking for a business partner to join you on the exciting journey of a startup? Just looking for some new friends to discuss current business issues? Whatever your desire, I encourage you to resist the temptation to skip that next networking meeting. Jump in. You’ll never know the outcome if you don’t participate!