Category Archives: Student Advice

A Typical Day – Having ONLY 24 Hours in a Day Can Be a Good Thing

Guest post by Ron Cornell, Class of 2013

Eat. Pray, Love? Kids, Family, Career? What words describe your life? No question these days, WORK, SCHOOL, SLEEP describe mine – and in that order!

I knew life would get busier when I started the TMMBA program at Foster last year but I didn’t quite grasp exactly how busy it could get. “Work-life” balance has transformed into “work-school” balance since my life is now all about work and school!  That pretty much sums up my last 9 months and I’m confident the next 9 months will pretty much be the same.

While each day is different and brings new challenges, I have tried to create some “rules” and come across a few “tips” that allow me to maximize productivity and better cope with a busy life.

Sunday Nights are No Longer Mine.
Sunday nights watching True Blood with friends has been replaced with a lot of reading, reviewing lecture notes, working on class projects and discussing homework with classmates. My study group primarily meets virtually, as hectic business travel and distance often makes meeting in person prohibitive. Sundays tend to work best for us and we kind of accept that the day and most of the evening will be dedicated to the group and whatever assignments we have due that week.  At first it was annoying but once you accept that it will only be for 18 months and a necessary component to success in the program it becomes second nature and you adjust.

Manic Mondays.
Monday has become my busiest (and surprisingly favorite) day of the week.  And that’s not due to the “Monday Morning Madness” that typically plagues most of us at work, but because I have class on Monday nights from 6-9:30 pm.  I adjust my entire day (and sometimes week) accordingly – I wake up earlier (4:45 am), schedule all conference calls in the morning, push my morning workout to lunch, turn lunch into a heavy, mid-afternoon snack since I eat dinner (provided by TMMBA before each class) earlier and hit the freeway early enough to avoid rush hour traffic on the East Side.  Monday night dinners before class are a great way to catch up with classmates, finish some reading or put the last minute touches on a class presentation.

Traffic Schmaffic.
Traffic has become my friend and that’s only because I learned to stop fighting it.  And to be clear, I work from a home office so I don’t have a typical commute like many of my TMMBA colleagues.  Getting out of bed on my way to the computer in my home office by way of the coffee machine each morning puts my commute time at a grueling 45 seconds.  However, when I have work meetings in the city or need to get to class I can be in traffic anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours each way.  I try to make the most out of this time and do something productive for class.  Almost every lecture has a few discussion points that should be considered and/or prepared prior to each class and I use this time to think about those or sometimes practice a speech that I am about to deliver.

The 180 Rule.
My TMMBA class photo taken last November changed my life.  I was ridiculously overweight and tipping the scales at over 285 pounds – there, I said it!  Seeing that photo gave me the motivation to lose weight and could not have come at a better time in my life.  I knew that I needed to get back into shape if I was going to have any chance at successfully taking on the rigors of academic life in addition to an already crowded plate.  Believe it or not a MORE hectic schedule now forces me to plan better and that includes eating healthier and working out consistently.  The one non-negotiable task I set for myself every day is exercise – above all else, exercise. I am now down 68 pounds in 9 months and have 37 more to go to get to my goal weight of 180.  More importantly, I am sleeping better, feeling better, waking up earlier and have more than enough energy to dedicate to my class load every quarter. Oh some nice side effects – my blood sugar is no longer at pre-diabetic levels and my jeans fit better!

Making Choices.
The old saying “too much to do, not enough hours in the day to do it” was certainly true before I decided to go back to school.  I’ve always been obsessed with “to do” lists and now that obsession has become a critical tool for me to get through the day.  The BEST days are when I get through the entire list, the WORST when I get through none but MOST consist of getting through some but not all. I am 100% ok with that now.   Adding business school to my life, it is impossible to get through everything that I used to which forced me to learn the art of making choices. The first thing I do when I sit down at my desk is take everything on yesterday’s list that didn’t get done and write them on today’s “to do” list. I add everything else I’d like to accomplish that day, re-prioritize it whole list and begin my day.  I make a point of handwriting this out so that it becomes ingrained in my head.  I keep the list taped to a corkboard behind my monitor so that I am able to visually see the list get smaller as the day progresses.  Seeing the big picture allows me to make choices, separating “nice to get done” tasks from “need to get done” tasks. TMMBA blog now crossed off the list!

Oh, I forgot to mention coffee – lots and lots of coffee…

Don’t wait for the right moment

By Marcelo Alcantara, TMMBA Class of 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 recommendations for professional growth during the TMMBA Program

Susan Buysse, Associate Director, Career Services & Company Outreach

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

Here are five initial recommendations:

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

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

TMMBA b i e s

Wei Huang  Class of 2012

As I was headed out to the MBA Forum at UW this spring, I checked my voice mail.  I heard our midwife telling us to take my wife to the hospital because she had a case of preeclampsia, which is a pregnancy disorder that affects the mother and unborn baby.  Our baby was full term at 38 weeks. On April 5, 2011at 10:59 PM PT, our first baby Hana was born. It was amazing to see the little one who was kicking my wife all those weeks.

Since the TMMBA program started, nine babies have been born to date (still working on getting the pictures of the others).   Many of the fathers are new and some of the fathers are already experienced.  The first 3 months were the hardest and I advise anyone entering the program to get a lending hand while adjusting to their new lives.   I was fortunate to have my father-in-law and mother-in-law help out.   I also had a great team (C5) to pick up the slack for me.  I’m not sure how my classmates who have multiple kids do it but they an amazing group of people.  Can you imagine going to school and work full-time with children?  I’m envious of how my classmates with multiple kids survive school and work.  But in case you have kids and you are interested in the TMMBA program, having a baby or having kids in the program can be done!

Here’s the unofficial TMMBAby stats.

1 baby – January

2 babies – March

3 babies – April

1 baby – May

2 babies – September

1 girl (Hana), and 5 boys.

My little Hana!
Proud father to Xiaoyuan
Proud father to Chongguan
Proud father to Adarsh
Proud father to Jason
Proud father to Amador

Khan Academy – my favorite website (and pastime) for 2011 (Tracy Gojdics, Director TMMBA)

Have a hard time remembering exactly how things work  or exactly how to explain something?  Then you’ll want to check out my favorite website for 2011!

Chances are good if we have talked for any length of time in the past month that I have probably mentioned the entreprenuerial venture Khan Academy (KA).  I am one of its biggest fans (along with Bill Gates).  I first became aware of KA during the 2011 Eastside Leadership Conference hosted by the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce.  During the conference they featured innovators/leaders in the education space with companies such as DreamBox Learning and KA.  For KA  they showed a Ted talk featuring Salmon Khan where Khan discusses the use of  video to reinvent the classroom (also referred to as “flipping the classroom”).  I have been hooked on KA ever since.   

There is so much to learn via KA – from GMAT Prep to Organic Chemistry to Statistics to the Credit Crisis.  I have learned something about all of these subjects, I am by no means an expert.  In fact, I find that sometimes it can be difficult for me to explain concepts such as confidence variables or currency trading to others.  I know that I know the basics and  maybe more than some given the rigorous TMMBA curriculum, but watching the 10-12 minute video segments has really helped to cement my learning. 

The videos are not for everyone as you do have to watch them instead of just listen, but I really recommend giving them a shot.  Some of the topic areas will make a wonderful supplement to your in-classroom learning.   For me,  they have served as a great refresher for subjects and topics I’ve learned  over the years and best of all –  KA is free. 

Some people wonder where I find the time to watch these videos.  Good question.   I usually read for an hour every night.  Now I read for 30 minutes and watch 3 videos.  I’m up to 4 books and 30 videos since October.   Check out my favorite website for 2011 and leave me a comment with your thoughts.   

What I didn’t know about the UW Libraries

Sara Jones, TMMBA Class of 2012 & Assistant Director

Last Saturday a Foster librarian came over to TMMBA to give a quick lunchtime presentation about the Foster Business Library.  As a TMMBA staff member, I felt like I had a good understanding of the resources available. They have an amazing list of research databases, meeting rooms for students, access to computers, and librarians available to help with research. I still went to the presentation though because I had struggled summer quarter with a macroeconomics research project and wanted to find out what I could have done differently.  They didn’t have a perfect solution, but I learned that they could have helped point me in the right direction for credible sources of data.

What I was really excited to learn about though were two resources that I didn’t know the libraries offered:

MP3s of articles
Don’t have time to read the most recent issue of Harvard Business Review? Looking for something to listen to while you’re on the go? Many of their articles are available as MP3s that you can download. I’ll definitely be trying this out on my commute.

Digital scans of hard copy materials
There are a lot of resources that are available in hard copy only. With our classes located in Kirkland this can be difficult to find time to go and get them.  I was excited to learn that they will scan and email articles that they have in hard copy format.  Awesome!

You can check out these and other resources at the Foster Business Library.

Advice to the class of 2013

Jared McInelly – TMMBA Class of 2012

Last night I had a chance to talk to the incoming class of 2013. I still can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I started this program. The time really has gone by fast. I’m also really surprised by all that I’ve learned this year as well.
Here are the three stories I shared with the class and the main points from each.

Value your team
I remember the first time I met with my team. We met before dinner one night to discuss our answers to the Microeconomics homework. We were supposed to turn in one assignment for our group. As we went around the circle and explained what we got for #1, I was shocked to see that we each of us had a different answer. I thought, “what are we going to do now? I know I’m right, how can everyone else be wrong?” As we discussed the problem further, we figured out what the right answer was. It turned out that, big surprise, I was wrong.
I learned from this experience that the work we would do as a group is better, and more often correct, than the work I do on my own. I’ve really come to enjoy working on assignments and projects with my group. I look forward to their insights. Know that you are on a team with smart people. Learn to work with them and value the insights they bring.

Make a plan with your friends and family
Six weeks into the program I got a call one night as I was driving to class. When I answered, all I could hear was sobbing on the other line. After a few minutes I figured out that it was my 5 year old daughter asking me why I wasn’t going to be home for dinner. After talking to her for awhile and calming her down, I began to think about the effect this endeavor was having on my family. That night my wife and I talked and came up with a detailed plan of how we would use the time I had available to make sure we did things together and as a family. We decided that Friday or Saturday nights would be a date night for us and that Sunday nights would be dedicated as a family night. This plan has really worked well for us. I know that I’ve only have these couple of time windows to spend with the people I really care about, so it makes the time we spend that much more intense.
As you start the program, make sure you have a frank discussion with your friends and family about the program and when you will be around for them. I suggest you come up with a plan that takes into account the people you really care about. You’re going to graduate in a year and a half and those people are still going to be in your life. You don’t want to neglect them for that long.

You are a select group
My brother and I studied for and took the GMAT around the same time. We were talking one day after we’d gotten our scores back. He said something that I thought was interesting (which was something I’m not used to hearing from my younger brother).
“Of all the people in the world who have careers, we are the kind of people who have taken the time and energy to study for and take a really hard test. That puts us in a small minority.”
For TMMBA students I would say that we are the kind of people who have scored well enough on that test to apply and get accepted into the best program at the best university in the Seattle area. And we are willing to do it while we are still working full-time! We really are a select group. Your classmates are a select group. Get to know them well. Reach out to people and sit with new people at dinner, lunch and breakfast on class days.
Right when we started the program we all started adding each other on LinkedIn. About a year later, we all started adding each other on Facebook. You are going to make great friends in this program. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet strong, intelligent people like you.
Good luck to the incoming class of 2013. You will love this program. It’s intense but very rewarding!

Prepare for going back to school: advice from current students

Sara Jones, Assistant Director and Class of 2012

Tonight is the Welcome Reception for the newest class of TMMBA students.  They will get to meet their study groups for the first time and pick up their reading materials and assignments for the orientation weekend.  To help prepare for the journey ahead, we talked to a few current students to see what advice they have for new students or people who are considering  TMMBA. Here’s what they had to say:

  • View every experience as a learning opportunity.  Put yourself out of your comfort zone and you will be surprised what you learned about yourself.
  • Talk to family who are going to be impacted by going back to school.  Set aside time to be with your family and make it a priority.
  • Know what you want to do or where you want to go after TMMBA.  Be conscious about it and find opportunities to gain the right experience during the program.
  • Have a strong support system in place to help get you through the program.
  • Seriously consider the amount of time it’s going to take. You can’t do everything, so pick your activities and be really good at time management.
  • The program is a safe environment to stretch yourself.  If you see an opportunity, go for it!

What would you add to this list?

How do you keep up with technology and business events?

Jared McInelly, TMMBA Class 11

Everyone is very busy.  There are so many demands on our time, work, family, school, etc.  I’ve found that school has taken all of my leisurely browsing-the-web-to-keep-up-on-technology time.  So, I have to boil things down to a few key resources.  Here are the things I use to keep up on technology and business issues along with a short description of each.


I love podcasts.  By subscribing to them in iTunes, new updates are downloaded to my iPhone automatically.  I have an FM transmitter that allows me to listen to them on my car radio while driving around in the wonderful Seattle traffic.  Here are my favorites.  All of these can be subscribed to in iTunes by searching for them by name.  (Sorry Andriod users, I have not joined your secret society and so I don’t know how to help you get these).

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series.  Stanford University.  This is a weekly (during the school year) speaking event open to Stanford students.  They record it and post the talks online.  This is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to.  Because it’s Stanford, they get some of the best speakers from some of the most interesting companies in the world.

TWIT:  This week in technology.  Leo Laporte is the moderator with a panel that changes weekly.  They discuss the tech news of the week.  This is a great way to find out what is new and upcoming.  Plus, there are some great personalities in the group (and some consistently grumpy ones).

HBR IdeaCast.  This is a 20 minute interview with the author of one of the main articles for the week’s Harvard Business Review.  Very insightful and a quick and easy way to get the point of the article without having to read it.

Business Week – Behind This Week’s Cover Story.  Similar to the HBR IdeaCast, this is a short interview with the author of the latest Business Week cover story.

Manager Tools.  I don’t know where these guys came from but they are pretty good.  They discuss, sometimes in painstaking detail, specific, actionable tools you can use as managers.  My favorite Manager Tools podcast was the one that had 17 steps to remember for a perfect handshake.  I don’t bother trying to remember all of their items but I do find the overall point of each podcast very helpful.

RadioLab.  If you like science, even a little bit, you’ll love this podcast.  I look forward to a new episode of Radiolab like I look forward to Christmas.  Yes, I’m a geek.


Geekwire.  This is a site founded in Seattle to cover the tech beat in the Seattle area.  These guys are good.  They also have a podcast but it tends to be boring.

Google News:

I set up alerts on topics I care about and check it on occasion.  I include on this list all of the blogs that I like to read.  That way I get to see them all at once and it’s easy to tell if they have a new update.  Which is much better than checking them all individually.

I’m interested in what you have found helpful, please respond in the comments if you know of a good site, podcast, etc. that you use to keep up on the latest business ideas and technology.

Meaty Meetings – No Filler!

Bhaskar Dutt, TMMBA Student

Class 11 had a great session a few days ago with the always-entertaining Greg Bigley, in which we discussed how our study teams were working out. While on the subject of team meetings, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that the team I am part of, Team Blue Chips, had some of the most efficient and productive team meetings in the cohort (yay, team!). I thought others might want to hear about our meeting practices, so if that sounds useful to you, read on!

We average a little over one meeting a week (usually on Monday nights, starting at 7 pm) and rarely have our meetings go over two hours – apparently this is on the low side compared to other teams. Last quarter we invariably met virtually, over Skype, since commute times made it hard for us to meet much in person. While there is certainly a loss of communication fidelity when the meeting is voice-only (it is amazing how much communication happens through facial expressions, gestures, and body language!), we tried to make the best of it and on the whole were satisfied with the experience. Here are some of the things we did to keep our meetings meaty and free of filler:

  • Send out meeting request in advance, with agenda: The current Coordinator (a role rotated on a monthly basis within our team) is responsible for creating a meeting request for the team. This should contain an itemized agenda of what the team plans to cover during that meeting. This is essential for setting expectations.
  • Be on time: The team will wait up to but no more than 5 minutes for late-comers. If a team member can’t make it, they should try to inform the team via email in advance if possible. Time is extremely short for all of us, and so we have tried to build a culture of punctuality to maximize the efficient use of our time.
  • Decide on time frame for meeting: Based on the amount of material we have to cover, at the beginning of the meeting we estimate how much time it will take and try to keep to that schedule thereafter.
  • Assign meeting leader: A team member is designated the meeting leader for each meeting. This role is rotated and involves going over the agenda to open the meeting, keeping the meeting on track, taking notes during the meeting, and sending out meeting minutes afterwards. This gives each of us some practice in running tight meetings, and leaves the team with a record of things discussed and decisions taken during the meeting.
  • Assign leader for each case discussed: This is not exactly meeting-related, but certainly proved to be a good practice. We assign a leader for each case (ahead of time, of course), and rotate the responsibility, like all others. The case lead is expected to prepare the case thoroughly, lead the discussion around it, and prepare any case materials for submission. As far as possible, other team members should also prepare the case and provide their perspective during the team discussion.
  • Cover meeting items thoroughly, but keep it moving: The meeting agenda items are then covered in order, with each case lead driving the discussion for their cases. The meeting leader and case leader should keep the team focused during discussions, making sure that we don’t rat-hole or digress too much, so that we can end on time.
  • End meeting with AAR: At the end of the meeting, we have a 5-minute after-action review (AAR). This consists of each of us quickly and frankly listing things that either went well or need improvement. These could be things that we recognize ourselves doing or feedback for other team members. The emphasis is on continuous improvement as a team, so we aim to leave the AAR with specific action items.
  • Send out meeting notes: After the end of the team meeting, the meeting leader sends out the meeting minutes by email. These contain a bullet-point summary of what we did during the meeting, and in particular, list the AAR discussion points along with action items, if any. These notes are also listed in our online repository, where we keep all team materials.

And that’s about it. It’s not particularly complicated, but it takes discipline to be prepared for each meeting and stick to the plan through it. The advantages are definitely worth it, though – we have more time to ourselves, and generally end up well-prepared for class as a result of these meetings. I can’t guarantee that these exact practices will work for everyone, but they have certainly made life that much easier for Team Blue Chips!