Category Archives: Networking

How to Choose a Startup Company to Join

This guest post is from Daniel Stein who graduated from the UW TMMBA program in 2014 and is a product manager at Smartsheet.  Prior to Smartsheet, he worked at Microsoft for four years as a program manager for Office.com and Excel.  In his free time, he performs as a professionally trained classical flutist and appreciates the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Many of us enrolled in an MBA program with a desire to transition to a smaller company, where we could have a broader role with more challenge, growth, and responsibility.  But it isn’t obvious how to identify the startup that best aligns with our career goals.  In making the transition from program management at Microsoft to product management at Smartsheet, I found it useful to evaluate opportunities in terms of three criteria: role, product, and people.

Your role should be indispensable to the company

It isn’t enough for a company to have the role you are looking for; the company should consider your role to be critical to the business.  I was looking for a product management role where I could work broadly across the company to ship great software that would delight customers and grow the business.  But I knew that I would only be successful at a company that understood product management and valued it as part of the core culture.  At Smartsheet, there are posters on each floor with the names and faces of the product managers, to ensure that everyone in the company knows where to direct product feedback.  Smartsheet’s CEO Mark Mader personally interviews prospective product managers because of the high-profile nature of the role.  Through these signs and others, I could tell that Smartsheet realizes that their product needs to be great for the company to succeed.  This in turn makes it a good place to make an impact as a product manager.  If your company truly understands and values your role, both you and the company will be set up for success.

The product should benefit from your unique expertise

People often talk about working on a product you are passionate about.  Ideally, the product you work on should also use your unique knowledge and experience.  In making a career transition, it’s important to balance what you change versus what you keep constant from your prior job.  Among the factors of role, company size, and product area: shift the factors where you want to grow, and keep some factors constant to hit the ground running and offer a competitive advantage versus other candidates.  In my transition, I shifted role (program management to product management) and company size ( >100k to <200) to gain the experience I wanted.  In choosing Smartsheet, I kept good alignment with my past product experience to make the transition successful.  At Microsoft, I had worked on Office, so I felt right at home at Smartsheet, which focuses on business productivity and also includes a spreadsheet interface.

If you are considering two companies that both have the role and team you are looking for, favor the one where you can offer unique expertise.  It will serve as your bridge to get the job in the first place and be successful once you are there.

The team should be the right size, with the best people you can find

Choosing the right team is the single most important factor in choosing a company.  It goes without saying that you should work with the best people you can possibly find. You should be excited to learn from and work long hours with everyone you meet in your interview loop.

It’s also important to choose a company whose stage matches the experience you want to gain.  This depends on how much “learning through doing” vs. “learning through others” you would like to have.  If you join a very early stage company, you’ll likely be the only person in your role, so most of your growth will be through experience.  If you choose a more established company, there will be at least several others who are experienced in your role.  If the company is too large, you may have less breadth and responsibility than you would like.  I was looking for a company between 100-300 people so that I could work on a small team of strong product managers and still have broad responsibility.  I found this stage to have a good balance of “learning through doing” and “learning through others.”

Of course, financial risk is also an important aspect of choosing a company size.  A smaller company will have greater risk in both compensation and job stability, but it can be worth it if you love the product and team, and you want experience of building a company from scratch.  It’s never a good idea to join a company with the primary expectation of a large financial upside.  That sort of thing is very difficult to predict, so optimize for what you can control: loving the team and the product.  If you consistently choose great people and optimize for your own learning, you’ll do well over the long term of your career.

Getting started: Identifying candidate companies

Once you know your framework for choosing a startup, it’s time to create a specific list of companies to explore.  Many great startup companies are not yet widely known, so it takes some research to identify them.

One of the best ways to identify companies is through the portfolios of top venture capital firms.  Companies that have received funding (especially repeat funding) from well-respected VC firms have already undergone vigorous vetting and have access to resources that will help them to succeed.  In Seattle, Madrona is the largest VC firm, so it is worth researching their portfolio to find companies that meet your size and product criteria.  Some of the Bay area VC firms have also invested in Seattle companies.

Apart from VC firms, it’s also worth following local industry news & networking organizations.  Geekwire is a primary source for tech news in Seattle, and they maintain a list of startup companies on their site.  Local meetups like New Tech Seattle and New Tech Eastside are also great ways to connect with local startups.

Finally, your own network is a good way to identify candidate companies and also the single best way to get your foot in the door at any company.  Once you have identified a startup company of interest, use LinkedIn to see if you have any connections at that company.  Regardless of what department they are in, ask them to meet up for coffee to learn more about the company culture.  If you are intrigued, ask them if they would feel comfortable introducing you to someone in your target role.  It doesn’t matter whether the company currently has openings in your department, because if they are successful, then they will soon!  It’s all about making the connections and keeping in touch.

Happy startup hunting, and I look forward to hearing about what you learn.

Hooked on Entrepreneurship

When Robert Moehle (Class of 2015) decided to apply to the TMMBA Program, he knew he wanted to attend the nationally ranked Foster School of Business and gain access to a strong alumni network to help him accelerate his career. What Robert didn’t know at that time was that the TMMBA Program would introduce him to a new passion – entrepreneurship – and open up an unexpected and entirely new career path for him.

Robert started the TMMBA Program in January 2014 and decided from the get-go to fully immerse himself in his coursework and opportunities that the Program provided. With a technical role in the aerospace industry, he soon saw an increased confidence in his ability to “speak the language” of the business world as he applied his classroom learnings at work.

“TMMBA provided me with the context for how companies operate and why certain business decisions are made.”

He also found himself drawn to the courses and opportunities that extended beyond his current aerospace role – in particular, those in the realm of entrepreneurship.

Midway through the TMMBA Program, Robert made the decision to leave his corporate job to pursue his new-found passion for entrepreneurship. He directed his efforts to the annual UW Business Plan Competition (BPC) where he became a student representative for the TMMBA Program and an active participant in the planning committee. Through the process, he made invaluable connections with various start-ups and ultimately partnered with Hook – a smart home hub that makes inexpensive remote controlled outlets and bulb sockets “smart” to enable home automation on a budget.

BPC
Team Hook celebrates their 3rd place victory at the 2015 BPC

Hook saw great success at the UW BPC, placing 3rd overall in the 2015 competition (out of 139 teams) and claiming the “Best Consumer Product Idea” prize. They also  won 2nd place at the UW Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge earlier in the year. The BPC acted as a powerful catalyst for the company’s early success.

“The BPC gained us exposure to well-respected members of the entrepreneurship community to tap for advice and to grow our customer base when we launched.”

After the BPC, Hook’s momentum continued as they were accepted  as part of the 2015 cohort to the exclusive Foster+Jones Accelerator Program. The Program provides six-months of mentoring from Seattle entrepreneurs and investors, a framework for defining measurable milestones, guidance in achieving those milestones, and the opportunity to earn up to $25,000 in follow-on funding.

Robert has proved to be an integral team member of Hook – both during the BPC and well beyond the competition. He’s leveraged his business skills and knowledge gained in the TMMBA Program to complement the technical skills of his other teammates.

“I negotiated the seed round of investment for our company using the frameworks of Entrepreneurial Finance, managed the company’s accounts using principles from Accounting, and have proper context for our team’s Marketing discussions as a result of my academic knowledge. “

What’s next for Robert? In addition to his continued work with Hook, he recently accepted a business development role at MVP.Aero –  an aerospace company aimed at designing and building the world’s most versatile aircraft.

“I found it remarkable that with my bachelors/masters in aerospace engineering, commercial pilot certification, seaplane rating, and Boeing engineering background, it was the Foster TMMBA that impressed the (MVP.Aero) president the most.”

Undoubtedly, a bright future lies ahead of Robert with new business challenges, entrepreneurial endeavors and opportunities to put his skills and knowledge acquired in the TMMBA Program to the test.

Annual TMMBA Holiday Happy Hour 2015!

Last Tuesday evening, TMMBA students, alumni and staff gathered for the annual TMMBA Holiday Happy Hour at Vino at the Landing, a vibrant wine bar in Renton founded by TMMBA Class 5 alum, Rick McMaster.

Happy Hour 2015-3Happy Hour 2015-1Although students were in between finals, the TMMBA Holiday Happy hour provided a great opportunity for both class 15 and class 16 students to switch gears for an evening. Alums and students really enjoyed the opportunity to get updates from their classmates and connect with new members of the TMMBA network. All attendees also walked out with a new pair of cozy TMMBA socks to keep them warm for the winter months.

The Holiday Happy Hour event is an opportunity to relax, connect, and celebrate their accomplishments with their classmates and alumni.

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:

School:

  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

Class:

  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!

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

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:

photo 4

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!

Students visit Amazon and Tableau Software on inaugural TMMBA Tech Trek

The inaugural TMMBA Tech Trek launched Friday, August 16th.  A terrific group of 23 current TMMBA students ventured to Tableau Software and Amazon to build knowledge around product innovations and strategy while getting a first-hand glimpse of the work environment & culture. The Trek also provided a chance to mingle with company leaders and fellow classmates.

TMMBA loves dataamazon1

Here are a few words from two attendees:

Kulkarni, ArvindAnother fantastic opportunity called TMMBA TECH TREK was presented to us in our third quarter.  We were able to visit two great companies in Seattle’s backyard and experience their work culture by interacting with employees in a casual environment.

First, we visited fast-growing Tableau Software, which just went public with their IPO in May 2013. They really love data!  The software demo and the Q&A sessions with Thierry, Ellie and Neelesh followed by a mixer with other employees was very insightful.  I was able to hear more about their future growth and hiring plans and learn that I need not be a software geek to work there!  We need to watch out for this company as it has great potential to grow.

The second company we visited was Amazon.  We already experienced the enthusiasm of Amazonians in second quarter when they visited the Eastside Executive Center, and I didn’t notice any drop in the levels when we went onsite.  We all enjoyed a warm welcome from Dina, Stephanie, Michael, and Bill and got to know more about their roles and work life balance in Amazon. Reading about Amazon in newspapers and then hearing some of their current projects makes me think that they are really on a mission to sell everything everywhere and to everyone under the sun one day.  Bill Burkland’s short presentation gave me a behind the scenes snapshot of B2B operations as I have been using their services to save on purchases in alternate sourcing at my workplace.  Thank you all for a warm welcome and opportunity to learn more about your organizations!  – Arvind Kulkarni, TMMBA Class of 2014

Pongracz, JuditThe inaugural Tech Trek was an excellent example how the TMMBA Program and staff come up with new and inventive ways to enrich student experience. The event gave us an opportunity to peek behind the curtains at two sizzling hot technology companies and do some serious, targeted networking. The level of enthusiasm was clearly palpable and no questions went unanswered at either of the hosts. My only question now is: When can we go next? – Judit Pongracz, TMMBA Class of 2014

Students and Alumni Make Key Connections with Employers at TMMBA Career Mixer

Last month the Technology Management MBA Program held its first-ever Career Mixer.  You might be familiar with the traditional career or job fair, but this event was different by design to provide an event rich in connections.

A traditional career fair or job fair is structured around employers with a list of open positions and prospective employees passing out a one-size-fits-all resume.  Since networking is the number one way to find a great job, there is tremendous benefit in connecting with peers and hiring managers. The TMMBA Mixer was designed to help student and alumni make these key connections with regional employers.

The event was a huge success with a great turnout of students and alumni and a diverse mix of 19 companies.  We invited three individuals from each company: a TMMBA alumnus, an HR or Recruiting leader, and another individual from the management/leadership team.

Attendees interested in working for one of the companies now have new connections to reach out to for a conversation and additional information. This tailored approach is highly recommended and focuses on relationship-building.

For those that were not currently looking for a job or change in company, the Mixer was an opportunity to practice introducing themselves to many individuals and build out their professional networks, so it’s ready when they need it.

There are many other career services provided to TMMBA students, including coaching and workshops. Learn more on our website.

LinkedIn Alumni offers powerful tool to leverage your alumni networks

Sara Jones, TMMBA Associate Director and 2012 alumnus

According to John Hill, 85% of job opportunities will come through someone that’s a 2nd level connection on LinkedIn. John is LinkedIn’s Higher Education Evangelist and last week he came to the Foster School to share tips and strategies for getting the most out of LinkedIn.  Although it wasn’t all new to me, John was a great presenter who could really tell a story and make his message stick.

The three big points of the night were:

  1. Build a network before you need it.
  2. Build a quality network not a quantity network.
  3. Dream big.

The rest of the talk was on how to use LinkedIn to manage relationships and help accomplish these big points. He shared several great tips, but I want to highlight one feature that you might not be as familiar with: LinkedIn Alumni.

Here’s a screenshot:

linkedIn alumni

If a fellow TMMBA or Foster alum reached out to me, I’m likely to take the call. Why? Because we have something in common. With LinkedIn Alumni, you can now find fellow alums of your university or b-school AND you can filter by where they live, work, what they do, skills, and several others.

For example, if I was looking at relocating to the Bay area and interested in Google, I can drill down and see that I have 19 fellow Foster alums that graduated in the past 5 years.  Or maybe you’re sick of the Seattle rain and ready to move to the islands.  In my case, I have 87 fellow alums that I could reach out to in Hawaii.

That’s a pretty powerful tool to help you leverage your alumni networks. Check it out and let me know what you think.

TMMBA Acts: Taking Immersion Week Ethics to Heart

Sarah McCaffrey, TMMBA Student, Class of 2014

I have an ethical dilemma.

By pure chance, I subscribed to a Facebook page for a student veterans group that recently shared a link to an upcoming event. This link took me to an announcement of an enticing opportunity, an all-expense-paid weekend summit with one of the most sought-after technology employers in the United States. During this summit, the company will celebrate core military values, offering a small group of undergraduate and graduate business student veterans a chance to network and learn about their company culture.

As a Marine veteran and TMMBA student, I want to attend this summit. Every business student veteran reading this post wants to attend this summit, and every non-business non-veteran student reading this post wishes they met the criteria so they could attend this summit. I want it so much that I can feel the temptation to become secretive.

top secretImage via handpickedcollection.com

Several other veterans attend the TMMBA program; countless others study at the Foster School of Business. If they apply, how will that affect my (already slim) chances? Why should they benefit from my Facebook group subscription diligence? Am I under any obligation to share this information?

Fortunately, we took an Ethics seminar with Dr. Scott Reynolds during Immersion Week. I have the tools to resolve this dilemma.

If every person in the world withheld information to suit their goals, would that be a good thing? If every veteran withheld information to suit their goals, would we find that admirable? Would I personally benefit from such a standard?

Lost in thoughts

Image via 123rf.com

Which choice would add more value to the world as a whole? At its simplest, to withhold the announcement of a veterans summit, I gain the value of reduced competition, while each veteran who does not hear about the opportunity loses the value of a chance to apply. To share the news, I lose the value of better odds, while many more veterans gain the value of a chance at being selected. Lastly, the tech company, Google, gains the value of a diverse, competitive group from which to select their summit participants.

I hope every eligible person bookmarks this link to the Google Student Veterans Summit; applications open in the spring of 2013 with the summit to follow in July. If any University of Washington student finds a place in this select group, I will celebrate with justifiable pride in our entire veteran community. Good luck to all of you – just not too good.