Category Archives: Why TMMBA?

TMMBA Program with a New Born

Mike Kennewick,  TMMBA Class of 2013 

On October 18, 2011 my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our first child.  The TMMBA program started in December of 2011.  When I started my daughter was just 6 weeks old.  Everyone thought that I was crazy.  I was.

Ignorance was bliss for a while and then I woke up.  Not just in the middle of the night to check on the baby but also to the fact that I had a lot of work to do. Attending a masters program and working full time was no easy task.  It was difficult at first but I managed.  Over time I was able to get into a rhythm and things became much better.   There were several reasons for this:

  1. My Wife.  She was on board with the program from the start and really helped pickup the slack when I needed it.  It could not have been easy for her.
  2. A great TMMBA team.  Each person was committed, reliable and organized.  This meant that I could schedule really well.  We also reviewed assignment due dates which helped make sure nothing fell through the cracks.
  3. The TMMBA staff.  Books were ordered for us, the web portal was up to date and assignment due dates were coordinated between classes to avoid too much overlap.
  4. Flexibility at Work.  I wasn’t able to put in the same ridiculous hours I was before but others graciously helped out or stayed late when I had to leave.   I also learned to focus on productivity to get more done in less time.
  5. Learning Curve.  It is impossible to do everything.  Overtime I got much better at identifying the right areas to focus on and where to spend my time to maximize my experience at TMMBA.

Balancing work, school and family was difficult, but also incredibly rewarding.  Over the past 15 months I learned many new things that are helping me personally and professionally: what risk is in finance, transformational leadership, and how to give a killer 5 minute pitch.  I never would have learned these things otherwise.  I’ve also been lucky to have met many incredible people along the way.  Each day I am impressed with my classmates for their enthusiasm, the faculty for their unique perspectives and the TMMBA staff for their dedication.  With just 12 sessions left I am both relieved and sad that the journey is coming to an end.

So the real question is: Would I do it all over again knowing what I know now?  Absolutely!  The TMMBA has changed my life forever exceeding all my expectations.  What next?  Maybe Disneyland.

It will change your life forever!

Ayman Kaheel,  TMMBA Class of 2013 

A few years back I met a friend of mine after a long period of not seeing each other. My friend told me he had just finished his TMMBA at UW. “Did you find it useful?” I asked, his answer was “the world is no longer the same”. After my first quarter in the TMMBA, I understood why he said what he said, because the TMMBA student undergoes a mental change with every subject that he studies, such that he will never think the same way again.

I have a strong engineering background both by training and experience. I came to the TMMBA program thinking I will learn some business tools that can help me grow faster in my career, and boy I was wrong! The TMMBA program gives you much much more than some business tools. The TMMBA reminds me of the movie “Vantage Point” that tells a story about an event as seen from a different set of vantage points through the eyes of different characters. In the same way, the TMMBA tells you the story of starting, running, growing and selling a tech-related-business from  all different angles.. Each course you study in the TMMBA  puts one piece into the puzzle,  be it accounting, finance, leadership, economics (both micro and macro), marketing, strategy, entrepreneurship, and list goes on and on.

When people now ask me about the TMMBA program, I say “it’ll change your life forever!”

If true wealth is discretionary time, how rich are we?

Sarah McCaffrey, TMMBA Student, Class of 2014

After reading Million Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss, I considered a point he reiterated several times as it applies to the TMMBA. In his book, Weiss identifies his true measure of wealth: discretionary time. The idea is that wealth should not be measured by a bank account balance, a stockpile of resources, or the difference between monthly income and monthly expenses. Weiss asserts that the only way to measure our personal wealth is by measuring the amount of time with which we can do whatever we like.

MDCImage courtesy Amazon.com

Executives making seven figures, who work eighteen hours a day? Not wealthy. Small business owners who set their own hours and do what they love? Filthy rich. Parents who want music lessons and summer camp for their kids? That depends. If we must budget so closely to reach our goals that we sometimes require an injection of overtime pay, extra cash from babysitting or listing items on Craigslist, we may be doing just fine, but we are not rolling in discretionary time.

Assume that Alan Weiss has it right and this is the way we should measure our success: what does that mean for the TMMBA? Now that Class 13 has adjusted to the rigors of the program, how might we apply this concept to our new reality?

Working toward the TMMBA is a major investment. Not just of our finances, but of our wealth… our time.

As we invest our time in the TMMBA, what type of return on investment will we see? Remember, we’re still thinking in terms of wealth as discretionary time. For the hours that we put into the program, what kind of hours will we get back?

With Immersion Week and half of our first quarter under our belts, I can already see some of the time coming our way. As we continue in Financial Reporting and Analysis, I see a future in which I do not have to chase down an accountant, or plug an income statement line by line into a search engine to make sure that I understand what it’s telling me. I look forward to seeing how much time I save in future workplace conversations as our classes in professional communications, negotiations, and ethics prompt me to communicate exactly what I think, as opposed to hacking away at my point as I struggle to carve closer and closer to what it is I really mean but can’t quite get across. Finally, the knowledge we are accruing, every lesson we take home, will result in days when we have the answer to a problem, days without hesitation or desperation.

I see the TMMBA paying dividends.

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)

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…

Singapore, China: Excites, Adventures and More

Guest post by Xiaoyuan Su (TMMBA Class 2012)

As a native Chinese, this International Study Tour to Singapore and China is special to me, as Singapore is a nation with a majority of population as Chinese ethnically, and China is my homeland.

The trip was exciting, and I think it is different for each person. When I did a survey during the farewell dinner in Beijing, a majority of the non-vegetarians think the most exciting portion of the trip happened in Singapore. However, as I observed, ISTers spent more money in China, especially in the jade market and tea store. For Westerners, Singapore is more comfortable and China may be more interesting (Quote from Lisa). While some classmates especially like the Singapore guide Lim’s comments during her guidance for us, I am not a fan of Lim, who kept complaining that Chinese from mainland China are willing to take jobs at lower salaries etc.

The company visit to GE Water was great. As we had a case study of GE in our leading organization change course, we were well prepared to the culture of the company. At the same time, the director of GE Water gave us a high-profile presentation and Q&A. Singapore Airlines was fantastic, the onsite experience of emergency handling training field, the pilot room, and the first-class cabins were all exciting. I hope there were not too many of us got offended when the presenter of A*Star stated that only a few students there know UW as more go to MIT to pursue higher education. As I learned from a friend of mine who is working for A*Star, Singapore students have multiple sources of funding so that they can get admitted by elite universities without the need to get sponsored by scholarships there. It’s interesting to mention that three of the four presenters of our company visits in Singapore were from foreign countries and all of them apparently work and live there happily.

I might miss a lot of fun in Singapore during the free time on March 14. I gave a talk on recommender systems (which is my research topic) at Nanyang Technological University. I was 15 minutes late due to a series of episodes, and found a group of young researchers sitting in the room waiting for me, each having a representative paper of mine in his/her hand. I got many good questions during the talk, and I used the TMMBA professors’ (especially Bigley and Ali?) favorite answer to handle the questions: I will get back to this question soon. After the talk, the hosting professor asked me to attend a research meeting with his graduate students.

What’s the buzz in China? Is it shopping? I hope not. Telling the truth, I really don’t know what the true values of the jade works are, even if they are authentic, jasmine+gold, and whatever; and I don’t have a close estimate of the sales margin of the fancy teas. I bought 50-yuan rose tea from the market Jack (the popular Chinese guide) led us to and none for jade as I have many jade products at home already. So I hope the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Hotong tour are much more interesting to my classmates. Otherwise, eating out for Peking duck, drinking at night bars, massaging, exploring the street at night are also fun.

Wait. Did we visit any companies in Beijing ? Yes? at least Amazon. The supply chain management principles are applied well in the Amazon fulfillment center in China. The purchased products are efficiently dispatched to ordering customers there. We visited the office of US China Business Council, which made our trip to China appearing official. The TEDA visit happened in Tianjin, another big city in China. The port city appears dusty everywhere, which is a reflection of China: the factory of the world develops fast at the cost of environment. TEDA administrates a big economic and industry zone of the city of Tianjin as it hosts foreign companies, JVs, and incubates startups with attractive policies. We also visited two foreign company-controlled local logistic companies, one with a small conference room, one was presented by a less-than-fluent English speaker (where TMMBA turned to be PMBA in their greeting display in the lobby).

Almost an adventure in my homeland. I extended my stay in China to visit my parents and other extended family members in Suzhou, a neighbor city of Shanghai. I spent an afternoon and evening for our high school classmate reunion, a special reunion for me. During the dinner, when I tried to show off my recently acquired US green card to my classmates, I found the one in my wallet was something else (I took that by mistake due to a hectic pre-trip rush). The mistake forced me to stay two more days in China as I have to hold my own green card to get out of China and return to USA. I therefore had chance to spend more time with my parents, my brothers and their families, and my friends in my hometown. As I was lucky enough to get timely help from a Chinese lady who was returning Shanghai from Seattle and took the green card to me, I did not get stranded aboard because of my insanely careless mistake. However, I had one more problem: I got a cold during the two days beyond schedule.

Adventures in Singapore

Sara Jones, TMMBA Class of 2012 & Assistant Director

The study tour flew by and I haven’t had a chance to blog. It was a packed trip, but amazing. Here’s a rundown of my time in Singapore. I’ll share more about Beijing in the next post.

Our guide taught us about the local people, culture, and current affairs. 

Our guide, Lin.
Our amazing guide!

Singaporeans are primarily of Malay, Indian, and Chinese descent. This creates a melting pot of food, traditions, and customs.  On non-company visit days we toured Little India, the Arab Quarter, Chinatown, and the downtown area. Lin was a character and taught us about the local culture through jokes and stories while we were on our bus. Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • The 5 C’s of Singapore: cash, car, credit card, condominium, and country club.  In the Singaporean culture there is a bit of an obsession with material goods. Lin shared that this is due to a cultural importance on impressing others. For example, cars in Singapore are extremely expensive to own, but this is a symbol of status and so many families still own a car.
  • The national bird of Singapore is the crane. Everywhere we drove there were cranes working. Singapore has a huge port that is the mainstay of their economy. We learned that Singapore doesn’t produce much raw material or food and is really dependent on trade. There was also a lot of construction going on all over town.
  • Compulsory savings accounts & housing. Housing costs were crazy in Singapore! We learned that many local homeowners purchase through a public housing program and pay for it out of a compulsory savings account, the Central Provident Fund (CPF). According to our guide, employees have to put 20% of their salary into the fund and employers pay in 16%. Employees may use a portion of the CPF savings to purchase a home through the public housing program. The remaining amount stays in the fund for healthcare and retirement costs.
  • Hawker Centres: I loved the food courts. There were lots of options for dining in Singapore. My favorite was to just head to a local hawker center. These look and feel like food courts, but the have an awesome selection of food and are much better quality than the stereotypical food court in the U.S. Some were outdoor stalls, others were in the basement of malls. All were delicious!

The company visits.

While in Singapore we visited Johnson & Johnson, Singapore Airlines, A*Star, and GE Power & Water.

At Johnson & Johnson we learned about regulatory affairs for medical devices in Singapore and Asia. J&J setup in Singapore because it’s a hub for access and transportation to Asia and had very attractive tax incentives for international companies. However, medical device is one of the scariest areas for US companies in Asia due to JV and regulatory compliance issues.  J&J participates in the Asia Harmonization Working Party, which is a primary platform for exchanging information about medical device regulations. One thing that stuck out to me from their presentation is the complexity of what they are dealing with in Asia.  For example, before a group of countries can agree on regulations for a device, it first needs to agree that a specific item is considered a medical device.

During our visit to Singapore Airlines we had a presentation on the airline, it’s competitive landscape, and difficulties facing the industry as well as a tour of their flight-crew training center. The presentation was great, but the tour of the training facility was even more fun. The selection process at Singapore Airlines was likened to American Idol. They hold 6 walk-in crew recruitment sessions a year. Applicants have 1 minute to pitch themselves during rounds of panel interviews. After they narrow it down and select the hires, the new crew head to training.  The training program is twice as long as the industry average. It was really interesting to see the training center and how flight attendants are trained– from understanding the airline’s philosophy on customer service to preparing for emergencies.

Water evacuation training area
The water evacuation training room at Singapore Airlines

Performance chart in Singapore Airlines lobby

A*STAR is the Agency for Science, Technology, & Research. We spoke with the Managing Director, Professor Low Teck Seng. A*Star works to promote research and talent that will develop Singapore into a knowledge-based economy.  They have 14 science and engineering research institutes and six centers located on their two campuses, called Biopolis and Fusionopolis. They have three areas of current strategic focus. These are to develop their human capital in the areas of science, engineering, and technology; increase the intellectual capital of Singapore; and promote the commercial application of science and technology in Singapore.

GE Power & Water was one of my favorite visits in Singapore. We met with Adil Dhalla, the Director of the Singapore Water Technology Center. He was an engaging presenter and it was interesting to learn about the water reclamation projects in Singapore. His center houses scientists and engineers that are working to solve global water challenges including seawater desalination and water recycling. In Singapore the Public Utility Board calls their reclaimed water NEWater. It’s potable but is mostly used for industries that require high-purity water.

Here are a few more photos from our adventures in Singapore:

Singapore Slings
Drinking Singapore Slings at the Raffles Hotel

Trishaw Ride
Group trishaw ride through Little India and the Arab Quarter on Day 1

Welcome Dinner
Our welcome dinner at the Jumbo Seafood Restaurant.

Dragon Fruit
Dragon Fruit at Tekka Centre, a Little India market
TMMBA Class of 2012 at Singapore Airlines
Hanging out at the Singapore Airlines training center

TMMBA Professional Communications course help students excel in today’s competitive business environment

Lorraine Howell, Professional Communications instructor

Communication is NOT a soft skill! You can draw a straight line from how a company communicates internally and externally to the bottom line results. The Professional Communications curriculum in the TMMBA program is designed to give students the skills, tools, and strategies they need to excel as leaders in today’s competitive business landscape.

In the first quarter topics include identifying and understanding different communications styles, communications across generational divides, the basics of effective presentations, and how to craft an “elevator speech.” These courses form the foundation of the content that follows in subsequent quarters. Students have an opportunity to practice their speaking skills, be videotaped, and receive individual feedback and coaching.

The next sessions focus on business writing skills, particularly email and other electronic communication, and non-verbal communications, including body language and cultural influences.  Other course topics include elements of persuasion and how to think on your feet and respond in any situation.

In the final stages of the course we dive deeper into the elements of great presentations. Students will learn how to create engaging introductions and compelling closes to their public presentations. They will have additional hands-on practice with more feedback and coaching.

In addition to the Professional Communications course work, instructors in the TMMBA program incorporate additional presentation practice opportunities in their classes. Over the eighteen months students develop confidence and a broad communications tool kit they can use as they pursue their individual career goals.

Highlights from 2011

Sara Jones, TMMBA Assistant Director and Class of 2012

2011 was a busy and exciting year for TMMBA. As we embark on a new year and welcome the Class of 2013, I wanted to take a moment and share a few highlights, happenings and milestones from 2011:

  • We celebrated our 10th anniversary!  It’s hard to believe how much has changed over the past 10 years.  From curriculum improvements to increased networking opportunities and enhanced alumni continuing education and support, the TMMBA team is always focused on how to make this the best program possible and provide a great experience for our students and alumni.
  • TMMBA expanded the career resources available.  We added new and fresh content to the career resources that we provide to better help our students navigate the career development process. This includes new written materials, workshops on topics such as crafting an effective resume and LinkedIn, and content customized to the unique needs of the various career paths that students are pursuing. Here’s a LinkedIn tip sheet with a few takeaways.  In 2012 we will continue to offer new career workshops topics and individual coaching sessions for our students.
  • Students traveled to Munich & Istanbul on the International Study Tour.  There was record student participation in the 2011 International Study Tour.  Students spent 10 days in Munich and Instanbul  learning about international business through company visits and the exploring the rich culture in these two cities. You can read a brief summary of the study tour here and information about the various companies that were visited here.
  • One of our beloved professors joined the Libyan revolutionary government as Minister of Finance and Oil.  Ali Tarhouni had taught in the TMMBA Program for several years. His class was fun, engaging, and a favorite of many students. This past spring, he took leave from the Foster School to join the Libyan revolution. Students have continued to follow and discuss his journey through news stories of the revolution. One student shares his account of Professor Tarhouni’s last class session here.  He has now taken a role as special envoy to the US and returned briefly this month to spend time with him family and thank the US government for its support of the revolution. You can watch a video of his recent press conference and Q&A session held at UW this week and read about his experience as Finance Minister in this Seattle Times article.
  • TMMBA launched a Professional Communications course. Presentation and communication skills are essential for business leaders today. TMMBA recognizes this and has created a Professional Communications course to address this need. The class runs the entire duration of the TMMBA program with a different topic of focus each quarter. The course series kicks off during Orientation with an Etiquette Dinner and a class on the Elevator Pitch. Instructor Lorraine Howell shares her perspective on the importance of communication skills in this post.
  • Study teams switched it up at the half way point.  TMMBA modified the team structure so that groups changed after the 3rd quarter. Students get to practice their teaming skills with a new group, expand their perspectives, and make closer connections with more of their classmates. Learn more and meet a few teams.
  • Alumni tossed a disc on our first Ultimate Frisbee team. TMMBA expanded our athletic adventures beyond golf and created an Alumni Ultimate Frisbee Team last summer to compete in a local corporate league.  It was a great way for our alums to show their school spirit, make friends, and stay fit! I hope we continue to find new and exciting ways for our alums to stay connected and have fun in 2012.

These are just a few of my memories at TMMBA from 2011.  I’m looking forward to the year ahead – onward and upward!

Preparing for a Career Change

Bhaskar Dutt, TMMBA Student (Class of 2012)

Many of us here in the TMMBA come from technical backgrounds and are interested in taking on roles that have more of a business component. Career changes can be challenging and stressful, but also very rewarding. Having just completed a career change, I felt it might be a good idea to talk a bit about the process and how I was able to leverage my TMMBA experience to stand out as a candidate.

My background is very technical – I have a Bachelor’s in Math and Computer Science and a Master’s in Computer Science, and I have been working as a developer for Microsoft for the last ten years. Over the last few years, I had increasingly begun to become interested in broadening my horizons and exploring roles that give me a better understanding of the business as a whole, and not just the technical part of it. Within Microsoft, the Program Manager role seemed perfect for me – it retains a strong technical aspect, but also has elements of marketing, product design, project management, and interfacing with partners and clients.

So once I had an inkling that Program Management was potentially where I wanted to be, I began to act on it. I will break my process down into a few steps that I think make sense regardless of the kind of transition you are interested in making.

Do your research:  

Before you decide on the career change, it is essential to know exactly what the new role is like, warts and all. The grass may seem greener at first glance, but you need to verify that that is indeed the case. Every job has its perks and its pain points, and you need to gain a good understanding of them both. I talked to friends who were already program managers and read various articles and blog entries about what the discipline is all about.

Understand why and be able to articulate it:

Why exactly do you want to change careers? Why do you think you will be successful at it? Are you running away from something or towards something else? Hint: the latter is much preferable to potential employers, so if the former is true, it is probably best to keep that to yourself. What is it about your background or skills that give you a competitive advantage in this new role? Be very clear in your own head about the answers to these questions and be able to articulate them at various levels of detail. This is important for a couple of reasons – firstly, you want to ensure that this career change is indeed the right move for you and secondly, because these are questions that will come up over and over again as you interview with potential employers.

For me, it boiled down to two main reasons. I realized that I had various strengths (communication, collaboration, project management, team alignment, etc), that while somewhat useful in my current role were part of a program manager’s core competencies. The second reason is that my long-term goals had to do with understanding the business holistically and at a strategic level, and within Microsoft, the ideal role to gain this kind of perspective was program management. Some interviewers asked me this in a cursory sort of way while others drilled down into my reasons for ten minutes or more.

Find a great mentor:

Find one or more individuals who are already successful in the kinds of roles you hope to have in five to ten years. Very often people will be more than happy to mentor or at least advise you. I was lucky enough to have a great former manager who went out of her way to help and advise me (thanks, Debbie!), but even if you don’t know anyone suitable, it is eminently possible to find a great mentor through networking. The TMMBA and your own professional network will be good starting points. A great mentor will not only be able to guide you and answer your questions about the career you are targeting, they may also be able to provide you with valuable leads and contacts.

Engage early with the TMMBA career development staff:

We are very lucky to have Susie Buysse to advise us on career development, job searching and interviewing. Use the wonderful resources we have available through the TMMBA to fashion a compelling resume and LinkedIn profile. For me, the LinkedIn profile was less important since I was looking for jobs within my current company, but Susie’s advice on fine-tuning my resume was invaluable. One quick tip: for those looking to change careers, a skills-based resume may be more appropriate than a chronological job-based one. Talk to Susie about creating one!

Build up relevant history:

Depending on the amount of time you have before you start your job search, you should do what you can to build up some work history that would be relevant in your new role. Pick up tasks that give you a taste of what working in your target role would be like. I’ve been interested in program management for a few years now, so where possible I have tried to volunteer for tasks that involve design, coordination, communication, or project management.

You may well find that you are not as interested in such tasks as you thought you were, in which case finding out early is a good thing. In the event that you do in fact enjoy those tasks, you will have built up a set of relevant experiences that you can point to during your interviews. And you don’t need to restrict yourself to on-the-job experiences – for program management jobs, a good understanding of the customer is essential, so I was able to use a lot of what I had learned in our Marketing class to show interviewers that I did indeed have the ability to think about segmentation, differential advantage, and positioning.

Try to identify  the various skills and competencies that are important in your target role and aim to be able to point to at least one thing in your work history that shows you exercising each of these. Is cross-group collaboration essential in your target role? Point to that time you coordinated a bug investigation and QFE deployment across three teams. Is clear written communication a priority? Show them a document you wrote to align your team around a new organizational directive. You get the idea.

Do your research, part 2:

This is probably something you should do for any interview, but researching the specific position you are applying for is a very good idea. Learn about the industry, the product, and the specific constraints and concerns involved. This will give you a chance to show the employer that you are serious about the position and systematic in your preparation. Plus, it will likely give you a major leg up on the sorts of questions you are likely to be asked. A hiring manager in Hotmail may ask you about scaling services, for example. One in Xbox may focus on how to design features for hardcore gamers.

Be convincing about why you would be an asset:

When you do finally land an interview, be prepared to make a strong argument for why you are an exceptional candidate for the role. Acknowledge the fact that you may be new to the discipline, but then show them why your background from outside the discipline is actually a good thing. Turn that liability into an asset! (Note that this may not be in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles – ha ha.) As a developer, for example, I was able to point to my technical grounding as a strength many existing program managers could not match.

Creativity in a professional context is often the result of being able to see things from two different perspectives (for example, from the point of view of a marketer and that of a developer), a consideration wise hiring managers will keep in mind as they review your background. Point to past successes you have had that exemplify the kind of qualities they are looking for. A history of success is a very compelling argument.

Tell your interviewer about your experience in the TMMBA. One of the most valuable things about the program in my opinion, is that it gives you the ability to apply several different frameworks to a problem. You can evaluate a product in terms of Porter’s Five Forces, or in terms of the 5 Cs, or in terms of how it affects the present value of future earnings for the company. Aside from that, the very fact that you are pursuing an MBA at the most prestigious business school in the Pacific Northwest implies a certain level of competence and ambition, along with a desire to better oneself. That you are likely pursuing this degree while you work full-time is additional evidence that you have a rock solid work ethic and serious time-management skills to boot.

 

If you do all of the above, and cast your net fairly widely for the appropriate transition role, I am convinced that you stand a great chance of getting hired. I was able to get several different offers for some very interesting program management jobs and I have just accepted an exciting position in Bing.

So what are you waiting for?