Category Archives: Networking

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!

Conversing like a pro at a business meal

Guest Blogger: Arden Clise, Clise Etiquette

Clise_ArdenOn December 3, I had the pleasure of giving a dining etiquette presentation to the new UW TMMBA students. I covered everything from how to juggle a drink and a plate of food at a reception to how to conduct yourself at dinner at the bosses house to the difference between Continental and American styles of eating. It was a wonderful diverse group who seemed very interested in the topic and asked great questions. 

I thought I’d offer a tip related to one of the questions. The question was, “how do I bring up business topics over a meal without sounding pushy?” 

There is a flow to business meal conversation. When you sit down at the table, start by having casual, non-business related talk. Avoid talking about anything personal or controversial such as politics, your diet, your health or religion. Instead, find out what your guests are interested in. When you ask good questions and show a true interest in others you will be seen as a great conversationalist.

 If you were to host a business meal meeting this week, an obvious topic of conversation would be the Super Bowl game.  Whether you’re a football fan or not there are many areas you could take the conversation – the game itself, the commercials, how empty the shelves were at the supermarket when you went grocery shopping, the halftime show, American’s love of football.  You get the idea. Once you have placed the order you may move into talking about business.

 A side note here; when conducting business over a meal, it’s important to order something that is easy to eat and not messy. The focus should be on the conversation, not the food. Also, take small bites so that you can chew quickly and continue talking.

 Once coffee and/or dessert are served, assuming your guest wants coffee or dessert, move the conversation back to small talk if you are finished talking business. You want to end the meal on a light note.

 If you practice this conversation flow you will not have to worry about coming across pushy and you’ll have more success with the business at hand.  I hope this helps you feel more comfortable and better able to enjoy the meeting.

Arden Clise, President of Clise Etiquette, is a business etiquette consultant, radio show host and columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal. As a speaker and corporate trainer, Arden is an expert in the field of business etiquette. She can be reached at 206-708-1670 or arden@cliseetiquette.com. If you would like to get etiquette tips please “Like” the Clise Etiquette Facebook page. 

The TMMBA Network – A Lifetime of Connections

Tina Bassir, TMMBA Associate Director

When you join the TMMBA Program, you become part of the accomplished TMMBA community: a powerful network of nearly 800 professionals, including entrepreneurs, CIOs, senior managers, and directors.

As an alum, the TMMBA program continues to provide opportunities to learn and to stay connected to this network of top technology leaders. By staying connected and involved, alums continue to gain the networking and educational benefits. A variety of events happen throughout the year ranging from continuing education and networking, to family fun and recreation.

“In today’s economy, a vibrant network is even more critical than normal.  Thanks to the TMMBA program and all the alumni events it supports, I’m able to easily stay in touch with my fellow classmates.” 
–Steve Montgomery,    TMMBA Class of 2008

Continuing Education:

TMMBA alumni are invited to audit classes with current students as a refresher to particular topics, and they have access to a variety of continuing education courses each year. (In fact, a course on Selling Professional Services is happening this week.) These courses provide a chance to connect with fellow alumni and Foster School faculty while returning to the classroom.

Additionally, the TMMBA Alumni Book Group has been meeting quarterly for over two years, spanning topics from strategy, leadership, ethics and finance. The book group is a great opportunity for alums to dig into a business topic then gather to discuss the book in an academic setting. Book groups are facilitated by Foster School faculty members.

“The TMMBA book groups help me maintain a connection with the program while keeping me up to date on current topics.  I’ve been able to apply the books we’ve discussed to my current work.”
– Tamaira Ross, TMMBA Class of 2008

Networking:

While a great deal of networking happens at the education events, there are also events focused on reconnecting with classmates and meeting other members of the TMMBA alumni network. From speed networking night to happy hour, alums are able to meet fellow graduates from practically any local company or functional area. If someone isn’t currently working there, chances are good that someone has at some point in their past. 

Graduates from TMMBA also become part of the Foster School of Business alumni network of nearly 48,000 graduates. Each year, the Foster School welcomes all MBA graduates.  The Foster MBA Reunion held in Oct 2010 brought together all MBA programs at the Foster School from Classes of 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2005. 

“To me, the value of the alumni network has been mainly of social value.  It feels good to be connected with good, smart people.”
 –Sumant Hattikudur, TMMBA Class of 2005

The TMMBA Alumni Network truly provides a lifetime of connections and a lifetime of learning!

Dashing to Success: Foster MEANS Business on race day

Aaron Lykken, Manager – Academic Services & Technologies

TMMBA staff and students laced up their running shoes with other Foster MBA programs to raise money for University of Washington student scholarships by participating in the 2010 Dawg Dash.  Little did we know that epic sheets of rain and gusty wind would greet us on a chilly and grey Seattle Sunday morning (we’re talking the type of day where you curl up with a book or movie next to the fire place and drink a hot cup of coffee).  Instead I found myself shaking my head and grumbling as I pulled together my race gear.  On my way to Husky stadium I remember at least 4 distinct times when I almost aborted on the race and sought refuge from the elements back at my house.  The guilt of abandoning my teammates brought me back to focus each time and soon I was parked and deciding when I was ready to fling open the car door.  Through the waves of water running down my windshield I saw a teammate and decided that it was time.  Stepping into this kind of rain meant being wet and cold instantly and set the tone for the rest of the morning until the “Purple Wave (10k)” was called to the starting line.  The scarcity of covered areas was apparent as I observed runners hiding in every stadium tunnel    To the amazement of the runners, the rain ceased as we lined up and executed some last minute stretching, leg shaking, and jumping in hopes of staying loose and warm.  And then the gun popped…

Come race time the Foster runners shook off the rain and cold and found racing success in both the 10k and 5k flavors of the race, with finishers in the top 15% of their division.  The race spans the length of the UW Seattle campus from Husky Stadium in the south to running up the hilly campus past the Foster business school campus in the far north.  It was a painful race but certainly one with an intense feeling of accomplishment at the finish due to the inclement weather.  2010 was the 25th anniversary of the Dawg Dash tradition which raised more than $10,000 last year.  Record attendance last year was beaten by more than 800 registrants this year.

Go Huskies!

Lights, camera, action! A look inside the UW Business Plan Competition

Sara Jones, Assistant Director

Last quarter, 12 TMMBA students successfully made it into the Investment Round of the UW Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) Business Plan Competition.  This is no small feat since only 36 out of 92 teams were accepted.  During the Investment Round, 230 judges each had $1,000 CIE dollars to “invest” in the teams.  The 16 teams with the highest investment advanced to the Sweet Sixteen Round.  I really enjoyed attending the event this year. There was a lot of excitement in the room and it was fun to see our students pitching their business ideas to local venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and investors.  This year TMMBA had 7 students on 3 different teams make it to the Sweet Sixteen Round!

Here is a short video from the Investment Round to give you a feel for the competition.

UW Business Plan Competition – 2010 Investment Round from Foster School of Business on Vimeo.