Category Archives: Career Development

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:

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!

Exploring New Careers

Susie Buysse, Associate Director

TMMBA Career Management Consulting hosted a summer event where three talented alumni shared insights on the fields of business development, consulting and product management.  Information spanned the elements of each discipline, required skills/traits, compensation, typical day, career path, and risks/rewards.  The evening was a compelling and valuable 2.5 hour informational interview!    

I liked this description of product management (and resources):

Product management is the process of researching, designing, building, marketing and maintaining a good or service. Technology companies use a product management process to ensure that they are not just manufacturing a technology, but creating a product that people will want to buy and continue to use. To be sure, a “cool” technology may be at the heart of the product, but product management ensures that the customer’s voice is not lost in the rush to bring an exciting technology to market. Product management adds things like market intelligence, market and product requirements use cases, roadmaps, pricing, financial analysis, competitive differentiation, market launch, and sales support to the technology to create a complete product offer. 

~Philip Windley, Ph.D. — CIO, State of Utah

Pragmatic Marketing:

280 Group:

Product Management Consortium (local):



For more information on how the program assists with career discovery, please contact Susie Buysse at  Enjoy the final days of summer!

Is it a play on words?

Susie Buysse, Associate Director

In my work with TMMBA students, we sometimes talk about the difference between the classic informational interview versus an effective informational meeting in job search.

An informational interview is a meeting that you schedule with practicing professionals for the purpose of learning more about their jobs. This type of interview provides a rare opportunity to gain invaluable, up-to-date knowledge about a specific business or industry from an “insider.”[i]

Informational interviewing can be really hard work!  You need to leave the interview and be satisfied to have made a new contact in person and received a wealth of new information, not knowing if anything else meaningful will come from the effort. 

When conducting a job search, your ultimate goal is to connect with the decision-makers at your target companies. Your approach should be different.  The goal is to build trust in order to determine if this company is a good fit or (if already determined) navigate to others who can assist in search.  Remember this person has the power to refer based on a positive first impression.


  • You will be judged on the quality of questions asked so the homework is essential.  It definitely will show and speaks to credibility.  For example, the interviewer asks “What do you know about the mission of this organization?” (What if you can’t immediately articulate?  It’s also probably on the company website.)
  • It is important to put the interviewee at ease; it’s critical in making a good impression (relates to trust).  Never risking putting them on the spot!  Some questions could tend to do this, including questions on compensation and hiring plans.  It puts the interviewer (job-seeker) back in the credibility swamp….Is this individual quickly looking for a job or foot in the door?
  • Bring a resume and share if asked.  Do not ask for a job.  Bring and share your professional summary instead.
  • Remember these are informational meetings.  When talking to someone, make it clear that you are not asking for a job. (If one of your leads knows of a position and is interested in hiring you, he or she will certainly mention it.) 
  • Also, if you’re lucky enough to uncover a “star” contact in the right department of a company you’d most love to work for; don’t call him or her first!  Instead, talk to people farther out from your “career bull’s eye.”  That way, you’ll gain practice with your lower-risk contacts.  And by the time you call your star, you’ll be that much more confident and knowledgeable. [ii]

[i]Lorenz, K.  How Does an Informational Interview Work.  Retrieved from


Content developed by S. Buysse and A. Girarde.

Your Resume

Susan Buysse, Associate Director

TMMBA students often inquire about a resume tune-up.  The outcomes of a well-crafted resume are:

  • Functions as a carefully tailored personal sales & marketing tool (can shorten job search significantly).
  • Enables you to meet (or speak) with hiring manager or person who can move you to next step in hiring process.
  • Guides an interview.
  • Serves as a reminder.

Typically, the first third or half of a resume is read at first glance.  You have just a few short seconds to make a strong first impression of your professional standards.  So, how can you write a resume that stands out in the crowd and gets noticed?  This article on Career Journal (one of my favorite sites) outlines key tips: 

Improve Your Resume in Twelve Simple Steps

LinkedIn continued

Susie Buysse, Associate Director

An April blog shared information on LinkedIn, one of the biggest and most successful networking sites.

Here are a few additional tips and resources on your brand and LinkedIn:

  • Recommend contacts who you can professionally endorse and receive recommendations.  (The best ones are specific.)
  • Create your own LinkedIn URL.  Add to your e-mail signature.


  • Identical to resume writing, incorporate keywords into your Profile.  These are specific industry or position words or phrases that originate from experience, education, and skills, i.e. MBA, strategic planning, change management, ISO 9001, etc.
  • When making several changes to your Profile, click Settings, Profile & Status Updates.  

Click “No” under Publish profile updates, recommendations and companies you follow?  Convert to “Yes” when you are happy with the changes.


Two articles located at the top of the home page under category “Help”: Ten Tips on Building a Strong Profile &  10 Ways to Use LinkeIn, by Guy Kawasaki.

Learning Center and Blog located at the top of home page under the category “More.”

New feature — “Follow Company” that provides key developments (including job openings) for over one million companies.  This feature can be part of a tracking your target companies if conducting a job search.

Your Career & LinkedIn

Susie Buysse, Associate Director

Did you know that 87% of recruiters begin their process of identifying potential candidates through LinkedIn?  Yet, 90% of professional rate their Linked Profile as fair, not even good?

 In April, Cindy Pain from Lee Hecht Harrison shared key tips for creating and protecting your brand on LinkedIn.

 Create a Profile with Purpose:

Write a compelling concise Summary (30-second soundbite) that is tailored to what your audience wants to hear.  Use personal pronouns.

 Consider separating the key element of your Summary with white space.  Your audience will then see snippets and can choose what to read. 

Remember to include keywords (generally nouns), industry-specific qualifications and job-specific buzzwords related to:

  • Industry jargon
  • Education or Certifications
  • Job Titles
  • Skills & responsibilities
    • Examples: strategic planning, market research, etc.
    • Software or hardware proficiencies (acronyms)

Consider using a brand tagline/personal title as a Headline (example: Wireless Industry Executive and Technology Entrepreneur).

Complete your total profile, i.e. Summary, Specialties, etc.  Include responsibilities and accomplishment for positions, when interested in hearing about career opportunities.

Create your own LinkedIn URL.

Creating a Winning Career Plan

In my work with students, I usually ask these two questions at the beginning of their program:

  •  How would you like your TMMBA degree to advance your career?
  • What is it that you really want to do during or after your TMMBA program?

 Some students are interested in changing careers, often desiring a broader view of an organization with business orientation.   Career planning then becomes an important component, essentially charting this course and taking action.   One suggested tool is structuring career goals into three categories:

  1.  Short-range: Critical for present position (less than 1 year)
  2. Mid-range: Important for growth within present or future positions (1 to 2 years)
  3. Long-range: Helpful for achieving long term career goals (3 to 5 years)

 A new career group starts this month.  It is designed to walk-through the process of deciphering/evaluating options, making a decision, and planning next steps.   Although a highly individualized process, synergies will occur while working together.  Since career exploration begins with self-exploration, this is the starting place.   The members will evaluate skills (Which ones are transferable/portable?), values, interests (key factor), motivating factors, etc.

I am excited about the energy and insights from the group members, and certainly look forward to witnessing and supporting their progress!