Category Archives: Career Development

Don’t wait for the right moment

By Marcelo Alcantara, TMMBA Class of 2013

Earlier this year I decided to leave my job and start a new venture. It wasn’t an easy decision. I was well employed in a prominent role at my previous company. I helped them grow from an unknown Brazilian start-up to a global leader in the enterprise mobile application space. I was in the comfort zone. On top of that, I had just started the TMMBA program. Any time I had left to invest on parallel projects or leisure was gone. Definitely not the right moment to start a time-consuming and money-draining entrepreneurial venture.

But entrepreneurs do not wait for the right moment. As a matter of fact, if you wait for the right moment it may never come. This is one of situations where you need to trust your gut and go for it. And so I did. I left my job and I co-founded Qoiza.

Qoiza is my third entrepreneurial experience, but it is the first one in the US. We are privileged to live in a region that is known as one of the main tech hubs in the world. Seattle has a great ecosystem that makes life easier to any startup: large talent pool, specialized lawyers and accountants,  well established VC firms, and a large and active angel investment community. Everything you need to be successful is right here.

So far it has been a very rewarding and life-changing experience.  The indescribable feeling of creating something out of napkin notes into an usable product. The multiple pivots on which direction should we go. The long hours executing and developing the product. The pitches to VCs and angels. These are experiences that help you develop as a professional and as a leader no matter where your start-up will end up.

It has also been a great real-life opportunity to apply the concepts and theory we are learning in the TMMBA program. Some examples include setting up T-accounts and the first set of financial reporting documents (Accounting); create term sheets, define valuation and risk beta (Corp Finance); set the product value proposition and go-to-market strategy (Strategic Marketing).

Taking the first step is always the hardest part. For those of you who are thinking about starting a new venture, don’t wait for the right moment. Do it. You will not regret.

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.

TMMBA Professional Communications course help students excel in today’s competitive business environment

Lorraine Howell, Professional Communications instructor

Communication is NOT a soft skill! You can draw a straight line from how a company communicates internally and externally to the bottom line results. The Professional Communications curriculum in the TMMBA program is designed to give students the skills, tools, and strategies they need to excel as leaders in today’s competitive business landscape.

In the first quarter topics include identifying and understanding different communications styles, communications across generational divides, the basics of effective presentations, and how to craft an “elevator speech.” These courses form the foundation of the content that follows in subsequent quarters. Students have an opportunity to practice their speaking skills, be videotaped, and receive individual feedback and coaching.

The next sessions focus on business writing skills, particularly email and other electronic communication, and non-verbal communications, including body language and cultural influences.  Other course topics include elements of persuasion and how to think on your feet and respond in any situation.

In the final stages of the course we dive deeper into the elements of great presentations. Students will learn how to create engaging introductions and compelling closes to their public presentations. They will have additional hands-on practice with more feedback and coaching.

In addition to the Professional Communications course work, instructors in the TMMBA program incorporate additional presentation practice opportunities in their classes. Over the eighteen months students develop confidence and a broad communications tool kit they can use as they pursue their individual career goals.

5 recommendations for professional growth during the TMMBA Program

Susan Buysse, Associate Director, Career Services & Company Outreach

As TMMBA Class 12 students attended Orientation in December, we introduced new tailored features to the TMMBA career development program. Each student self-selected one of six groups that best align with career goals. Since 18 months moves quickly, we believe it is critical to start early with positive actions that foster professional growth.

Here are five initial recommendations:

  1. Set a clear career direction
    This can be a difficult step but one of the most important. We share a framework to review values, personality traits, strengths, skills, and interests (really important). These results guide decision making on MBA career possibilities followed by individual planning.
  2. Boost your personal network
    The art of networking is probably the most important career skill. Oh – the payoff! Since many positions are never formally advertised (do not want rush of applicants/prefer to be selective), you will uncover career opportunities with far less competition.In addition to fellow classmates, you will meet students and alumni from other MBA programs. Take advantage of these rich opportunities to practice and elevate this skill.
  3. Reflect on your personal brand and identity
    It is important to know yourself (unique value/ strengths/weaknesses), your competitors, and target audience. This understanding builds and evolves during the program and is linked to leadership insight and capabilities.
  4. Determine avenues to communicate your brand
    Your written repertoire may include a resume (that gets results), business card and professional biography. Most TMMBA students and alumni are on LinkedIn and other types of social media. We cover the principles and importance of being a well-represented user.Spoken elements are equally relevant as career stories create meaning and connection.
  5. Think about your presence
    This is another key facet of relating and engaging with others. Since professional communications are part of the program, you will have neat options to think more deeply about how you show up.

This article from Forbes has a few related tips: 7 Ways and Why to Treat Your Career Like a Startup.

Highlights from 2011

Sara Jones, TMMBA Assistant Director and Class of 2012

2011 was a busy and exciting year for TMMBA. As we embark on a new year and welcome the Class of 2013, I wanted to take a moment and share a few highlights, happenings and milestones from 2011:

  • We celebrated our 10th anniversary!  It’s hard to believe how much has changed over the past 10 years.  From curriculum improvements to increased networking opportunities and enhanced alumni continuing education and support, the TMMBA team is always focused on how to make this the best program possible and provide a great experience for our students and alumni.
  • TMMBA expanded the career resources available.  We added new and fresh content to the career resources that we provide to better help our students navigate the career development process. This includes new written materials, workshops on topics such as crafting an effective resume and LinkedIn, and content customized to the unique needs of the various career paths that students are pursuing. Here’s a LinkedIn tip sheet with a few takeaways.  In 2012 we will continue to offer new career workshops topics and individual coaching sessions for our students.
  • Students traveled to Munich & Istanbul on the International Study Tour.  There was record student participation in the 2011 International Study Tour.  Students spent 10 days in Munich and Instanbul  learning about international business through company visits and the exploring the rich culture in these two cities. You can read a brief summary of the study tour here and information about the various companies that were visited here.
  • One of our beloved professors joined the Libyan revolutionary government as Minister of Finance and Oil.  Ali Tarhouni had taught in the TMMBA Program for several years. His class was fun, engaging, and a favorite of many students. This past spring, he took leave from the Foster School to join the Libyan revolution. Students have continued to follow and discuss his journey through news stories of the revolution. One student shares his account of Professor Tarhouni’s last class session here.  He has now taken a role as special envoy to the US and returned briefly this month to spend time with him family and thank the US government for its support of the revolution. You can watch a video of his recent press conference and Q&A session held at UW this week and read about his experience as Finance Minister in this Seattle Times article.
  • TMMBA launched a Professional Communications course. Presentation and communication skills are essential for business leaders today. TMMBA recognizes this and has created a Professional Communications course to address this need. The class runs the entire duration of the TMMBA program with a different topic of focus each quarter. The course series kicks off during Orientation with an Etiquette Dinner and a class on the Elevator Pitch. Instructor Lorraine Howell shares her perspective on the importance of communication skills in this post.
  • Study teams switched it up at the half way point.  TMMBA modified the team structure so that groups changed after the 3rd quarter. Students get to practice their teaming skills with a new group, expand their perspectives, and make closer connections with more of their classmates. Learn more and meet a few teams.
  • Alumni tossed a disc on our first Ultimate Frisbee team. TMMBA expanded our athletic adventures beyond golf and created an Alumni Ultimate Frisbee Team last summer to compete in a local corporate league.  It was a great way for our alums to show their school spirit, make friends, and stay fit! I hope we continue to find new and exciting ways for our alums to stay connected and have fun in 2012.

These are just a few of my memories at TMMBA from 2011.  I’m looking forward to the year ahead – onward and upward!

Networking at The Keg

Sara Jones, Class of 2012 and TMMBA Assistant Director

Over the years TMMBA students have created a tradition of going to The Keg for drinks after class.  When I joined Class 11 I told myself I’d try to make it at least a few times per quarter.  But the 1st quarter came and went and I only made it once. It was too easy to say “I’m tired” or “I’ll go next week”, and before I knew it the quarter was over. The 2nd quarter came and the same thing happened.

At the beginning of our 3rd quarter our study groups had to give a persuasive presentation as part of a Professional Communications course. One of the teams decided to use this as an opportunity to try and increase attendance at the post-class nights at The Keg. I hope they got an “A” on their presentation, because it worked! I made an effort the rest of the quarter and have only missed once or twice since then.

So this week after class on Monday night, I went to The Keg with some of my classmates.  It was a normal night and people chatted about their jobs, whether or not they’re going on the International Study Tour, and other news.  As we were  chatting, I started to think more about the network that I’m building as a part of the TMMBA Program.

Everyone knows that networking is important. At TMMBA there are several events throughout the year to give students and alums the opportunity to connect. These include speed networking nights, our Tech @ the Top guest speaker series, an alumni book group, quarterly socials and happy hours. We also focus an entire quarter to networking in our newly launched Career Development Program, which you can read about in this postBut what I’m realizing is that sometimes it’s the simple things that can have the biggest impact.

What I didn’t get at first is that going to The Keg is about more than just a quick drink after class.  It’s about building relationships that will last well beyond graduation.  Week after week we go for drinks and I feel like I have a deeper connection with my classmates because of it.  We talk about hopes and aspirations, our hobbies, where we want to go next in our careers, and I regularly hear someone sharing a potential career opportunities at their company and an offer to forward a resume.

So what’s my takeaway? It is important to build your professional network and meet new people, but don’t forget to make time to focus on the connections you already have.

Preparing for a Career Change

Bhaskar Dutt, TMMBA Student (Class of 2012)

Many of us here in the TMMBA come from technical backgrounds and are interested in taking on roles that have more of a business component. Career changes can be challenging and stressful, but also very rewarding. Having just completed a career change, I felt it might be a good idea to talk a bit about the process and how I was able to leverage my TMMBA experience to stand out as a candidate.

My background is very technical – I have a Bachelor’s in Math and Computer Science and a Master’s in Computer Science, and I have been working as a developer for Microsoft for the last ten years. Over the last few years, I had increasingly begun to become interested in broadening my horizons and exploring roles that give me a better understanding of the business as a whole, and not just the technical part of it. Within Microsoft, the Program Manager role seemed perfect for me – it retains a strong technical aspect, but also has elements of marketing, product design, project management, and interfacing with partners and clients.

So once I had an inkling that Program Management was potentially where I wanted to be, I began to act on it. I will break my process down into a few steps that I think make sense regardless of the kind of transition you are interested in making.

Do your research:  

Before you decide on the career change, it is essential to know exactly what the new role is like, warts and all. The grass may seem greener at first glance, but you need to verify that that is indeed the case. Every job has its perks and its pain points, and you need to gain a good understanding of them both. I talked to friends who were already program managers and read various articles and blog entries about what the discipline is all about.

Understand why and be able to articulate it:

Why exactly do you want to change careers? Why do you think you will be successful at it? Are you running away from something or towards something else? Hint: the latter is much preferable to potential employers, so if the former is true, it is probably best to keep that to yourself. What is it about your background or skills that give you a competitive advantage in this new role? Be very clear in your own head about the answers to these questions and be able to articulate them at various levels of detail. This is important for a couple of reasons – firstly, you want to ensure that this career change is indeed the right move for you and secondly, because these are questions that will come up over and over again as you interview with potential employers.

For me, it boiled down to two main reasons. I realized that I had various strengths (communication, collaboration, project management, team alignment, etc), that while somewhat useful in my current role were part of a program manager’s core competencies. The second reason is that my long-term goals had to do with understanding the business holistically and at a strategic level, and within Microsoft, the ideal role to gain this kind of perspective was program management. Some interviewers asked me this in a cursory sort of way while others drilled down into my reasons for ten minutes or more.

Find a great mentor:

Find one or more individuals who are already successful in the kinds of roles you hope to have in five to ten years. Very often people will be more than happy to mentor or at least advise you. I was lucky enough to have a great former manager who went out of her way to help and advise me (thanks, Debbie!), but even if you don’t know anyone suitable, it is eminently possible to find a great mentor through networking. The TMMBA and your own professional network will be good starting points. A great mentor will not only be able to guide you and answer your questions about the career you are targeting, they may also be able to provide you with valuable leads and contacts.

Engage early with the TMMBA career development staff:

We are very lucky to have Susie Buysse to advise us on career development, job searching and interviewing. Use the wonderful resources we have available through the TMMBA to fashion a compelling resume and LinkedIn profile. For me, the LinkedIn profile was less important since I was looking for jobs within my current company, but Susie’s advice on fine-tuning my resume was invaluable. One quick tip: for those looking to change careers, a skills-based resume may be more appropriate than a chronological job-based one. Talk to Susie about creating one!

Build up relevant history:

Depending on the amount of time you have before you start your job search, you should do what you can to build up some work history that would be relevant in your new role. Pick up tasks that give you a taste of what working in your target role would be like. I’ve been interested in program management for a few years now, so where possible I have tried to volunteer for tasks that involve design, coordination, communication, or project management.

You may well find that you are not as interested in such tasks as you thought you were, in which case finding out early is a good thing. In the event that you do in fact enjoy those tasks, you will have built up a set of relevant experiences that you can point to during your interviews. And you don’t need to restrict yourself to on-the-job experiences – for program management jobs, a good understanding of the customer is essential, so I was able to use a lot of what I had learned in our Marketing class to show interviewers that I did indeed have the ability to think about segmentation, differential advantage, and positioning.

Try to identify  the various skills and competencies that are important in your target role and aim to be able to point to at least one thing in your work history that shows you exercising each of these. Is cross-group collaboration essential in your target role? Point to that time you coordinated a bug investigation and QFE deployment across three teams. Is clear written communication a priority? Show them a document you wrote to align your team around a new organizational directive. You get the idea.

Do your research, part 2:

This is probably something you should do for any interview, but researching the specific position you are applying for is a very good idea. Learn about the industry, the product, and the specific constraints and concerns involved. This will give you a chance to show the employer that you are serious about the position and systematic in your preparation. Plus, it will likely give you a major leg up on the sorts of questions you are likely to be asked. A hiring manager in Hotmail may ask you about scaling services, for example. One in Xbox may focus on how to design features for hardcore gamers.

Be convincing about why you would be an asset:

When you do finally land an interview, be prepared to make a strong argument for why you are an exceptional candidate for the role. Acknowledge the fact that you may be new to the discipline, but then show them why your background from outside the discipline is actually a good thing. Turn that liability into an asset! (Note that this may not be in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles – ha ha.) As a developer, for example, I was able to point to my technical grounding as a strength many existing program managers could not match.

Creativity in a professional context is often the result of being able to see things from two different perspectives (for example, from the point of view of a marketer and that of a developer), a consideration wise hiring managers will keep in mind as they review your background. Point to past successes you have had that exemplify the kind of qualities they are looking for. A history of success is a very compelling argument.

Tell your interviewer about your experience in the TMMBA. One of the most valuable things about the program in my opinion, is that it gives you the ability to apply several different frameworks to a problem. You can evaluate a product in terms of Porter’s Five Forces, or in terms of the 5 Cs, or in terms of how it affects the present value of future earnings for the company. Aside from that, the very fact that you are pursuing an MBA at the most prestigious business school in the Pacific Northwest implies a certain level of competence and ambition, along with a desire to better oneself. That you are likely pursuing this degree while you work full-time is additional evidence that you have a rock solid work ethic and serious time-management skills to boot.

 

If you do all of the above, and cast your net fairly widely for the appropriate transition role, I am convinced that you stand a great chance of getting hired. I was able to get several different offers for some very interesting program management jobs and I have just accepted an exciting position in Bing.

So what are you waiting for?

TMMBA launches Career Development Program

The business environment is always changing with company reorgs, mergers, and strategic shifts, causing people to face career transition. Additionally, as students in the TMMBA Program broaden their knowledge of business they frequently desire a new career direction.

Many students take time during or after the program to explore and possibly change directions.  Each student’s path is different so a wide continuum of time and effort exists in evaluating this career change.  Some gravitate toward a particular class subject and then supplement it with practical experience or exposure, evaluate their transferable skills, and conduct a job search.  For others, the process requires greater introspection, soul searching, and analysis before making a decision. Some students plan for an incremental transition, such as a lateral move or the next step in their current company, while others make a more significant move or seek to start their own venture. The constant element across all paths is a desire for personal and career growth.

The TMMBA Career Development Program (CDP) provides students with a step-by-step foundation to explore and evaluate what they want to do with their MBA and tools and strategies to help them get there.  Our goal is to provide sufficient granularity and resources for a thoughtful approach to this process.  The program also provides tools to identify opportunities and secure a great fit position, one that interests the student and prolongs or produces a vital and satisfying career.

The program is divided into six modules:

Module #1 Evaluate Self and Explore Careers
Module #2 Create Career Communications
Module #3 Increase Your Contacts and Successfully  & Network/Build Professional Relationships
Module #4 Research and Target Next Position
Module #5 Ace the Interviews
Module #6 Negotiate an Offer

The CDP offers a powerful combination of resources, events, and unique opportunities that will set TMMBA students apart from the crowd and help cement a solid foundation for their career transformation. We look forward to the progress to come!

Event sneak peek: On Tuesday, August 2, CDP students will participate in an interactive LinkedIn Workshop, presented by subject matter expert, Cindy Pain from Lee Hecht Harrison. Students will learn how to improve their personal brand as well as how to maximize LinkedIn for job search. This is just one example of the many unique opportunities available to CDP participants.

TMMBA alum puts his degree to work

Sara Jones, TMMBA Assistant Director
TMMBA Alumnus, Andrew Zydel
Andrew Zydel, TMMBA Alumnus, Class of 2009

Alumnus Andrew Zydel and the Technology Management MBA Program were featured in a recent article in the Horizon Air Magazine about students in innovative degree programs in the Northwest. Andrew is a graduate from the TMMBA Class of 2009 and now manages a team of IT professionals at Swedish Medical Center in his role as Manager of Informatics. He leveraged his TMMBA education, informatics experience, and networking skills to make the switch to his current position.  Read the full article.

Tis the Season

Susie Buysse, TMMBA Associate Director

I can’t believe the holidays will soon be here .  I heard “Silver Bells” on the radio yesterday! 

With upcoming holiday social activities and parties, I am reprinting a blog with tips for these valuable opportunities to meet new people and connect with old friends. 

Do …

  • Bring personal business cards.  It serves as a reminder of who you are.  It doesn’t need to be fancy; include key words and/or phrases from your elevator pitch.   
  • Keep your conversations light and friendly.  If appropriate, weave a concise consistent message of who you are (include strengths) and your objective into each conversation.  Keep it to one to two sentences and find out where the individual works and his or her title.  If the timing isn’t quite right, ask if you can briefly meet at a later date to discuss professional issues. 
  • If you are currently seeking a new position, be forward thinking and upfront about your search, i.e. “I’m excited about transitioning to a product management position with a multinational company in the software industry.”  Select your words carefully if you are currently employed and want to keep your job search confidential.    
  • Networking is about making connections through a common interest and exchange of information.  Look for a commonality and offer to be a resource (recommend giving first).  Here is a relevant and fascinating article: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/11/seize_the_persuasive_moment_af.html

Additional productive December tasks might include updating your LinkedIn profile (if necessary) and joining LinkedIn groups of interest.  Two benefits exist: 1) You will quickly and significantly broaden your number of contacts 2) You will update your online resume and professional brand.  (Companies can find top talent faster and more economically; eBay cut cost per hire by half with LinkedIn compared to that of traditional job boards.)

Enjoy your holiday season!