Category Archives: TMMBA Student Experiences

The TMMBA experience: A Q&A with current students and an alum

Sara Jones, Associate Director & 2012 alum

I recently hosted a live chat on Twitter with two current TMMBA students and an alum to talk about their experience going through the program. From why they chose the program to favorite classes and career impact, here’s a recap of what they had to say.

Perspectives from TMMBA

Author: Kengo Baba, TMMBA Class of 2013

TMMBA opened my eyes from the first month of school experience and every month has been a fresh learning opportunity although it can be tough and painful sometimes. We got exposed with a room full of energetic and experienced class mates to share their own perspectives and approaches to solve the problem or generate new idea.

We all knew to some level in our head that everyone sees the same object from different angles and have different opinions. But we do not often get to actually experience the formation of common team’s point of views from various view points from peers as we discuss wide range of business management subjects outside of work environment with a level of hierarchy structure.  Some discussions made us looked at other in disbelief of grossly different point of view. Who is right, who is wrong?

When our point of view significantly differs from others, the first reaction is to tie our own historical knowledge data point to justify your view to defend our point of view. But after exchanging and sharing various point of view and opinions from intelligent peers, each of us realize that other peers’ point of views also make sense and they are not necessary wrong.  The answer is not right  or wrong.  “It depends……”

Unlike engineering study where there is clear right or wrong answer, we learned soon learned that most  of MBA class answers are “It depends…..”.  Depends on what?  Well, it depends on so many things that one person cannot cover all angles. One individual may not effectively come up with the best answer from limited point of view of his or her knowledge from historical data point and intuition.  Realizing that there are so many ways of looking at the same thing and sharing various views would create refined collective team point of view which covers many more angles of dependencies.

Some of those lengthy and heated discussions that I recall were the greatest learning opportunities that I would remember for a long time, although I may not remember Modigliani and Miller Theorem. TMMBA provided me the practical learning lesson to effectively generate solutions and new ideas from peer’s different perspectives that I cannot possibly come up with by myself.

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!”

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…