Category Archives: Networking

Experience, Explore, Entertain

By Pritam Das, TMMBA Student, Class of 2014

Experience,
Explore,
Entertain

That’s the Tagline of Novelty Hill Januik Winery.

We surely did experience the bottled poetry called wine from one of the world’s ten “Masters of Merlot”,
We surely did get entertained by the award winning building design of the Novelty hill that rhythms with the geometry of linear rows of grapes in vineyard, and
We surely did explore the perfect food with local, sustainable ingredients, including organic fruits and vegetables.

But that’s not all. The two hour holiday social organized by the TMMBA staff on 18th of Dec, 2012 at the Novelty Hill Januik Winery exposed us to a ton of opportunities these networking events hold.

Within a frame of two hours, I was able to explore what it takes as an entrepreneur to launch a radio station in Seattle, debate over a supply chain issue of recycled raw materials for a manufacturing company, discuss the possibility of a future HBR case study exploring the famous delay in the delivery of the 787 airplanes, find out how a doors and windows manufacturing company have a lot in common in launching a new product when compared to that of a multinational software company…. The list is endless.

I used to think that who would match the variety of our class 13 that has 72 students from 13 different countries with an average 12 year of work experience from 44 different companies. But after meeting TMMBA seniors and alumni at the social, I was just mind blown with the brain power, diversity, and breadth the UW’s TMMBA program has to offer us.

Last but not the least; it was great getting advice from seniors and alumni who have gone through the same intense MBA program (probably the most rigorous in the state of WA) in the past.

Ending with a famous quote from Robert Kiyosaki –

“If you want to go somewhere, it is best to find someone who has already been there.”

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”. :-)

New benefits for TMMBA students and alums!

Sara Jones, TMMBA Assistant Director

The Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) is one of the largest statewide tech trade associations in North America, and we’re it’s newest member!  What does this mean for you? Through the TMMBA WTIA membership our students and alumni now have access to their wide mix of member benefits, including:

  • Free and discounted attendance at WTIA events
  • Access to the WTIA network (800 member companies and 100,000 tech workers statewide)
  • 13 community and special interest groups to join
  • Access to online WTIA Job Center
  • Discounts through WTIA Marketplace (health benefits, human resources, 401K, computer equipment, personal insurance, and more)

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.

Sage Advice about Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are an important part of the job search process, but many people shy away from them or feel uncomfortable reaching out.  Here are 4 good points to remember about informational interviews,  from Jennifer Vancil in her post “The Informational Interview: It’s Just About Having Coffee”.

  1. It sounds a lot like asking for a job interview and it certainly feels like a big thing to ask.  Asking for a meeting with someone you barely know (or don’t know), when you don’t know if a job exists, or whether you would be a good fit for an available position, is enough to send most job-seekers back to the online job boards to continue sending resumes into the void.
  2. An informational interview is not a sales call or an interview.  Bringing a resume to an informational interview is like bringing a wedding ring on a first date.  It puts too much pressure on that first meeting.The goal is to have a conversation that leads to finding a great job in a field you are excited about.   It’s simply “I’m interested in learning more about you and your company.  Would you be   willing to meet with me for 20 minutes?”  You don’t talk marriage before you’ve gotten to know each other and it’s the same in an informational interview.  You’re not at the commitment stage yet.
  3. You should be genuinely interested in the other person and the discussion should center on asking questions, not your needs and trying to “sell” yourself.Someone who asks good questions is considered engaging and interesting – just the kind of person they would like to work with.  Someone who is genuinely curious about them and open to advice would make a wonderful colleague.
  4. Often an informational interview will lead to a great referral and insider information about the company or upcoming projects or positions.  This is a great outcome of lowering the stakes and removing the pressure of a first meeting.

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!

Takeaways from Pitch, Don’t Spin: How to Create Buzz Around your Start-up

Rae Wang, TMMBA Class of 2003

TMMBA sponsored an MIT Enterprise Forum Northwest entrepreneur meet up last night, the topic was Pitch Don’t Spin.  I was very excited that the TMMBA program reached out to the community to connect with other tech enthusiasts, meanwhile making such events available us, the alums, to attend.  I have a two years old startup and customer acquisition through new media is always on my marketing agenda, so this topic caught my interest right away.

The panel consisted of the co-founder of GeekWire, Founder of Newsvine, editor of Seattle Business Magazine, Seattle Times Technology Columnist, and the senior editor of Xconomy.  They gave us a wide range of opinions on how to approach media in this new media age. General challenges in the tech media today are:

  • Too much information is flowing around
  • A lot of people are writing
  • New media and old media provide a lot of choices for entrepreneurs, it can get overwhelming

The panel presented very interesting points and suggestions on how tech entrepreneurs can effectively tackle these challenges:

  • Be authentic, be honest, and be yourself
  • Sell your true story not your credentials
  • Have a story: just because you have an app, it does not mean you have an interesting story
  • Explain your technology in layman terms
  • Get the reporters interested in you
  • Know your audience and use the correct channel to pitch: no need to do Twitter etc if nobody reads it
  • Get your interesting nuggets of news prepared ahead of time before meeting the press
  • Rethink press release and don’t be afraid to use new media, such as emails

If you would like to learn more about this event, my fellow note taker over at fireundereverybutt.com posted a visual note from the event. Check it out at http://fireundereverybutt.com/visual-note-taking/.

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.

It’s Business Time!

Aaron Lykken, Manager of Academic Services & Technologies

The smell of fresh cut grass.  The afternoon summer sun shining bright. The company of good friends. Loads of exercise.  Tons of fun.  These all help describe the opening season for the TMMBA alumni ultimate frisbee team, It’s Business Time.  The TMMBA program fielded a team for DiscNW‘s 2011 Summer Corporate League and saw a lot of success, going deep into the playoffs and playing for 3rd place in a league long dominated by titans such as Microsoft Corporation, Amazon.com, and the Boeing Company.  The league pitted Seattle area companies head to head each Wednesday evening on the fields of Magnuson Park.  Plastic flew, the chants were loud, sportsmanship high, and the victories sweet.  We started as a mixed band of talents, with alumni from over the years with varying athletic abilities and staff.  As the season pressed on we learned each others playing habits, grew as players, got in better shape, and saw our offense and defense come together in harmony.  The experience was unique from other alumni activities in that we were able to strengthen connections with people we already know but also to meet new people and get to know them over the course of the season.  There is already discussion of an end of season BBQ and putting together a team for next summer!