Category Archives: Why TMMBA?

TMMBA – A Transformative Experience

Author: Ganesh, Editor-in-chief: Anu, TMMBA Class of 2013

I am passionate about building great technology products. After moving to the US in 2010, I started enquiring about b-schools in the area. TMMBA program stood out because it is fast-paced (18 month program) and the emphasis is on technology management. I signed up to visit couple of classes and after attending a Finance class and a Macroeconomics class, I decided this was the right program for me. However, I was really skeptical about my ability to manage the program and a highly demanding job at Amazon. It didn’t help when a few of the TMMBA alumni confirmed my skepticism. In order to convince myself that I could do it, I came up with a two week challenge for myself – getting a good score on GMAT with only two weeks of preparation. The fact that I am writing this post now might give you an idea whether I met my goal.

My wife, who works for Microsoft, shared similar career aspirations and felt TMMBA was the right program for her. After some thought we decided that it was smart to do the program together. Firstly, expectations were automatically set while we went through the same set of challenges together. One of us was not planning a vacation while the other crammed for an exam :-) Secondly, as the program progressed, we realized that learning was twice as much, mainly because we could discuss our points of view on topics ranging from personal finance to business strategy right at the dinner table. Some people might consider this extreme and they might be right. Our social life during the program was close to nil. Our close friends jokingly comment that we come out of our hibernation only once in 3 months (which is not completely untrue). However by doing the program together, we saved ourselves 18 more months of crazy hours. As our economics professor would put it, there is something to be said for opportunity cost of time.

Based on our first-hand experience, I would highly recommend TMMBA for couples who live and work in the Greater Seattle Area, and are brave enough to attempt it. Almost 17 months into the program, we think our decision to do TMMBA together was spot on. Although it was challenging to juggle personal, professional and student lives, career-wise, both of us are in a much better place.

The MBA program is so well structured that it has enabled me to build a mental map of approaching problems from various angles such as strategy, marketing, sales, accounting, finance, tax, legal and so on. At work, I am now able to contribute at a strategic level because my perspective has broadened significantly through interactions with amazing professors and smart classmates. In my opinion, TMMBA is creating a small but growing group of unique professionals who can analyze every article in the “Wall Street Journal”, talk “Blue Ocean Strategy” and at the same time create innovative technology products. The program has transformed my personal and professional lives forever in ways I never imagined possible!

Foster Means Business

Author: Kshitij Tambe, TMMBA Class of 2013

I have spent a large chunk of my professional career in engineering/technical roles so it was easy for me to think people in management/business careers as sitting on the ‘wrong’ side of the table. Spending 18 months in TMMBA changed this perspective. It has empowered me with the knowledge and tools needed to ‘cross the table’ and understand how and why particular decisions are made by the people sitting on ‘the now right side’ of the table.

When I decided to pursue my MBA, like any prospective candidate I was looking at several options in the Seattle area. What pulled me towards TMMBA were the following factors:

– Term: 18 months seemed perfect to remain focused while remaining employed.
– Reputation: Foster means business! The leading business school in the northwest meant a lot.
– Faculty: I had heard great reviews about the faculty from several of my friends and from alumni.
– Support Staff: TMMBA staff is amazing. They take care of registration, parking, provide dinners, lunch, breakfast (depending on the class day). All books are taken care of.
– Location: The classes being held on the east-side (close to work and home) meant no long commutes at rush hours.

None of the above would have made any impact if I did not have the support from my wife. As we keep saying at home ‘all of us in the family will graduate on June 3rd’.

Apart from the knowledge about several business topics like Marketing, Finance  Accounting, Strategy, Supply chain, Leadership & Economics TMMBA taught me to think like an Entrepreneur. It provided numerous opportunities to network with students from other Foster MBA programs, alumni, business executives and entrepreneurs. Class discussions were of high quality. How people with relatively similar professional background can come up with diverse business strategies was fascinating to learn. TMMBA taught me to look at solutions from perspective of a customer in addition to that of an engineer.

I can go on and on, but in short ‘TMMBA changed my life forever!’

Learning the Language of Business

Author: Dylan Rhoads, TMMBA Class of 2013

Growing up, I was fascinated by computers. Through school and as an undergraduate, I took every opportunity to learn about how to control and connect computers, eventually obtaining a degree in computer science. After learning the language of computers, I also became fascinated with foreign languages, eventually becoming proficient enough to obtain a certification in Japanese and combine it with with my technical skills to turn it into a career.
But even with these unique skills, there was a barrier in every company I joined; an invisible wall that held me back from fully participating in the leadership of the organization. This barrier was the language of business — just as subtle and nuanced as other languages, with its own culture and history, a powerful force driving the energies of the world. It was only by learning the language of business at TMMBA that I was able to break down this barrier and truly participate in conversations at my company and in partnerships and negotiations with others.
Combined with my other skills, I now know that the language of business will be with me always, assisting me in my career and in my exploration of the business world. I would recommend the TMMBA program without hesitation to anyone who feels limited in their organization and who would like to expand their global perspective. TMMBA is a truly life-changing experience.

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