Why I chose the TMMBA

Teagen Densmore, TMMBA Student

Halfway through my first quarter of the TMMBA program, I can absolutely say that I picked the right program for me. The TMMBA has great professors, helpful staff, a schedule that works for me and ice-cream! OK, ice-cream doesn’t really compare to the first three things I mentioned, but it sure is nice to have some frozen yogurt while your brain catches its breath during break.

The TMMBA is a rigorous program, certainly not for the faint of heart, but if you are looking for immersion into a great program, the TMMBA is worth checking out.

What time is it anyways…

Hani Rachidi, TMMBA Student

The TMMBA has started to stretch my time more than I had initially anticipated. From my first couple of months in the program this is my typical week at bottom of the post. I imagine from talking to a sample of colleagues this is the norm and a larger range of min to max hours invested exists but I would say no more than +/- 8hrs.

The time invested, though, does not reflect the real learning returns. The study of Business is so fluid and so dynamic. I found that I can learn one concept in five minutes and a whole other in five weeks. The richness of the curriculum and the caliber of the students in the program have met my expectations so far. Since practicing the concepts in this program in the real world make the learning stick and refine it I am starting a measure that I will update through each blog post. I am calling it the Relevance Factor. It measures how relevant the learning in each course is to my job. Two components will make up this factor:

1. T – Aided in thought processes or discussions at work – did it get me to an answer faster or more thoroughly
2. I – Implemented a concept or learning from the program to my job

So far I have implemented Feedforward (a concept introduced by Prof Greg Bigley on giving/receiving feedback) in my workgroup. 1pt for I.

So far I have used learnings in Rev Recognition from an Accounting perspective to understand at a more fundamental level a project that I am working on in the Rev Recognition space. Understanding the pros and cons of recognizing revenue in either a time of sale or amortized manner (over a period of time in increments). 1pt for T.

Relevance Factor = 2

The schedule:
Mondays – Team Meeting 1 to 3hrs
Tuesdays – Preparing for Wed class 2 to 4hrs
Wednesdays – Attending class 4hrs (incl dinner and after class chats)
Thursdays – Attending review session 1 to 3hrs (incl team quick synchs or after class chats)
Fridays – Preparing for Sat class (only every other week) 1 to 3hrs
Saturdays – Attending class 8 to 9hrs (incl breakfast and after class chats)
Sundays – Homework usually due or Preparing for upcoming week 1 to 4hrs

Range of hrs spent 18 to 30hrs (when week incl Sat class)

The Semiahmoo Experience

Lucas Perin, TMMBA Student

The MBA kicks off with an intensive orientation week. Ours was to the Semiahmoo resort. We had our first classes on Team Buiding, Accounting, Microeconomy, Statistics and “Presentation Techniques”, and, most importantly, we got to hang out with each other.

I was very impressed with how great the professors were. I had high expectations, and my expectations were exceeded by far. I really learned a lot in the first week, but we barely get to see the resort – the schedule is packed. When we were not having classes, we were studying for the next class. Well, most of the time. My group was pretty good at hitting the bar at night and we got to know each other way better. And it helped a lot.

On the last evening, we had an impromptu Karaoke “competition” – it was not part of the program. We had a rather large number of people (mostly engineers) trying to hook up a computer to the Semiahmoo bar sound system, while another rather large group of people (again, mostly engineers) was trying to find a way of getting free karaoke songs on YouTube. It worked. One of the other bloggers (don’t know if I can tell who it was) sang “Landslide” beautifully. And a Microsoft colleague sang a song from the Phantom of The Opera quite professionally.

All in all, a good end for such a good start.

Before the first class…

Lucas Perin, TMMBA student

Make no mistake: the TMMBA starts at the welcome reception. Before the reception we had to fill some questionnaires that would help sort us into groups. At the reception, we had our picture taken for the yearbook, and then the program director and a former student tried to tell us how hard the program was. And we got a bag quite full of books and pre-read materials.

In summary, the TMMBA depends very much on the pre-reads. It is a good program that covers a lot of material. It is well-recognized. And it is short. The catch is that you will have to read a lot of material before the classes, between quarters and even before the program starts.

We got assigned to read the whole material of the “Team Building” class (some HBR articles), an entire book and a couple chapters from another book for “Financial Reporting & Analysis” (fancy name for accounting), some material for Microeconomics, the “Blue Ocean Strategy” book and some chapters for Statistics. To do that, we had about six weeks.

We then got to meet our groups. We are assigned to a group of about five students for the whole length of the program. Apparently the questionnaire works – my group is a very good fit for me.

After the reception, time to get started. Most people will tell you that doing the pre-reads (in particular, the Accounting pre-read) helps tremendously on being successful in the program. I did. Time will tell.

The TMMBA and I

Amit Ghosh, TMMBA Student

I am about 7 weeks into to TMMBA program at the UW. So far, its been a very eye opening if hectic journey. Life has been a blur of Accounting, Strategy, Microeconomics and Statistics. Throw in student presentations, midterms and a 9 month old baby (in my case) and you have the makings of a perfect storm.

Despite all that, I absolutely enjoy the fact that I have already started looking at business and financial news with a new kind of understanding. For instance, now that I know that for a business, Revenues are not the same as Cash Flow. I understand what VCs and financial experts mean when they ask startups to focus on Cash Flow to stay alive in this downturn. On that note, check out this very interesting presentation that a VC firm, Sequoia Capital, gave at a mandatory meeting to 100 CEOs. http://slideshow.com/presentations/244-sequoia_outlookpdf

The basic program itself has been structured to cater to busy professionals, so the program staff does a phenomenal job in taking care of things you would not want to spend your time on. Your books and case studies are ordered and delivered to you before the quarter begins. Food is catered in during class times, so you do not have to rush out to grab a bite. You really appreciate these thoughtful timesaving touches as you try to balance your student, professional and personal lives. One of my classmates even created a blog about the food served at the TMMBA at http://tmmbafoodie.blogspot.com

Will keep writing as more interesting things keep happening..

First things first . . .

Lucas Perin, TMMBA student

In the first post, we are usually supposed to talk a little about ourselves. But hey, if you wanted to know more about me, you would probably be stalking me in Facebook. So I am guessing that the reason for having a reader (hi mom!) is because you want to know more about the TMMBA. Is it hard? Is it good? Is it worth it? Let’s see how much I can help. And for quick answers to those questions, my answers in the middle of the first quarter would be: “not that much”, “oh yes” and “I still don’t know”.

It may be helpful to know that the MBA starts “for real” on the day of the welcome reception, usually in mid-November, not on the day of the first class. In later posts, I’ll detail some parts of the experience before (and after) the first class.

I WAS RUDE!!!

Kalpesh Shah, TMMBA Student

In the early 1990s, I was taking courses in software development. After the first quarter, the instructor asked the class to give feedback on each student, with 3 areas of strength and 1 area of improvement for each student.

This was not done by secret ballot. Students would stand up one by one, and the class would voice their opinions for everyone to hear. When it was my turn, the majority of the class thought that I was intelligent, good at spotting problems and solving them and very helpful. When it came to the liabilities side of the balance sheet, the class was unanimous: I was rude. Of course, this was shocking to know. When I was pointing out their mistakes, I thought I was helping my classmates. I did not realize that I was perceived as being rude.

A big part of a manager’s is to get things done through other people. Being rude will not make things easy. Therefore, I have looked to improve my people management skills ever since. After attending the TMMBA program, I certainly feel that I am a better manager than before. Specifically, “Managing People in Technology Companies” and “Negotiations” are two subjects that have helped me along the way. I also attended a 12-week seminar from Dale Carnegie that helped me be a better person.

Remember: “Perception is reality in the mind of the beholder”.

What a difference a quarter makes

Tom Mackey, TMMBA Student

This post is mostly personal, and medical related; I’m posting in hopes that some of the lessons learned and pain experienced may spare someone else down the line. No TMMBA content — You have been warned.

After my annual physical in September, I started experiencing increased shortness of breath, momentary dizziness, momentary chest pains, irritability, and extreme fatigue. By the time Quarter Four was underway, I was getting worse, and I also started to experience rather severe back pains. My physician called me back into the office and told me my blood pressure was going up and she wanted to put me on a mild med to bring it down. She also told me to get more sleep. Between the worries over my health, and a conscious decision to limit my stress and anxiety level, I pulled back some on my studies and tried to get more sleep. By late November, my blood pressure had started to come down to just a little over optimum.

I was told to track my BP daily if possible, and since we have one of those BP measuring stations in my building, I could do that. Of course, I could not resist keeping track of my BP in a spread sheet, and then running stat pad on the results and creating a plot of Systolic, Diastolic, and Pulse along with date and time. That confirmed to my physician that I was a Class-A Nerd! But it also showed that the med and lifestyle changes were working.

While shuffling Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations down from and back into the garage attic, my back ache got progressively worse. I was starting to wonder if this was it and I would be reduced to hiring someone to do the work for me. Then about two weeks before Christmas I woke up one Saturday and could not bear to even sit on the bed. I could not stand, could not walk for sure. I had to crawl on my hands and knees to the toilet, and finally a full 30 minutes after I awoke I could finally stand and sort of shuffle around. The next day was much better — just a bad back ache mostly on my right side.

The Sunday before Christmas I woke and sat straight up in bed, with incredible pain. It felt like someone had stuck a spear in me. It was in my lower right abdomen. Marilyn looked up symptoms on the internet and there was a possibility that it was acute appendicitis. Another possibility was a kidney stone, but I did not seen to have the kind of pain over my kidney that seemed indicated. Now I warned you there would be medical content. After a bout of diarrhea I felt much better. By lunch I felt well enough to eat, so I did. Immediately the pain returned, worse than before, and radiating all the way through me, still centered in my lower right abdomen. It was well below freezing outside, and after trying and failing to install tire chains (I had been sold the wrong size, but that’s another story), we headed out into eight to ten inches of snow to get to the hospital. The pain was so intense that I came close to blacking out several times. Once there, the triage nurse told me that it was probably not a burst appendix, but was probably a kidney stone. I said that of the two, a kidney stone was probably less serious, and she agreed, but said the appendix would be less painful After five hours, chucking my lunch, three morphine drips, and a cat-scan which verified a 3mm stone two thirds of the way towards my bladder, they sent me home with a prescription of “Good Drugs” ™ and a filter funnel to catch the stone.

I think I paced a mile in the house that night, as anything else was too uncomfortable and the pacing seemed to make the pain more bearable. The drugs, by the way, when you have “Real Pain”, don’t really do that much. The ER doc said every six hours, but the effects were wearing off in three and I was hanging on until four. He also said to drink extra fluids to “flush it out”. My doctor was out on Monday so it was not until Tuesday that I could talk to her. She called her Urologist and then called me back with more bad news. It turns out that once a stone is moving, drinking more fluids just increases the pressure behind it, causing the duct to balloon, and thus causing even more pain. She sent in a prescription that would relax the ducts and I ceased fluid intake as much as possible.

Christmas Eve morning I awoke drenched in sweat but to no pain. I figured that the stone had passed into my bladder as I mercifully slept through the final burst of pain. Sure enough, the little bugger was captured in the funnel filter — a little black BB was all I was able to show for my efforts. The next day was the best Christmas I ever had: pain free!!!

So where are the lessons learned? Interestingly enough, my Blood Pressure is now within the “good” range. My back ache has also disappeared. I put all the Christmas stuff back into the attic without any problem. Turns out that pain can increase your BP, as well as stress, lack of sleep, and diet. Also, in further reading, “flank” pain like I had is an indicator of kidney stone issues. I suspect strongly that the Saturday I could not move was the day the stone started it’s journey and the back pain was the result of its movements through and out of the kidney. If passing a kidney stone, reducing, not increasing, fluid input may be best. And in the case of the type of stone I had, which is most typical (calcium oxalate monohydrate), drinking more water and some minor diet modifications (the same in many respects that help lower blood pressure) will help prevent future stones.

Finally, I hope that this nasty week-long cold that I just shook is the last of the medical challenges I face for some time to come. This getting old stuff really bites

Looking back over the past year: Winter Quarter 2008

Tom Mackey, TMMBA Student

The TMMBA class 09 has begun their journey, and our class is into our 5th of the six quarters in the program.

I’d like to share some thoughts, some memorable moments, and some tips.

The Residential was both intense and enjoyable. We left with a draft team charter, and the start of a good team working relationship. I understand that this year’s residential lasted an extra day and took place right before classes started. Our’s was the first week of December, then we had the stats workshop sessions, Christmas break, and then our classes started. I’m not sure which I like better.

Stats Workshop:

Speaking of the stats workshop, ours was given by Russ Fish, and he gave me permission to share the web site he maintains.

Russ Fish home page: http://faculty.washington.edu/rfish/
Stats workshop: http://faculty.washington.edu/rfish/tmmba_stats/

In the tmmba_stats page, near the top, you will find a tips and tricks link, and a keyboard shortcut link. There is a lot of good info there and I thank Russ for making my everyday computer work much easier. If you haven’t loaded and started using stat pad yet, do so now. I find that I use it regularly in my job, and even for personal use such as tracking and graphing blood pressure readings (More on that in my next post).

Statistics:

Martha is a great stats instructor and I am grateful for her efforts and help. I downloaded all her notes from blackboard and refer to them fairly often.

In general, take advantage of everything that the instructors post on blackboard. Some of the text books come with a CD or a web site where you can download extra information. Again, if you load the info on your laptop, you can appear a lot smarter than you are in meetings and so forth… Ask me how I know

Hint: In both Stats and Micro Econ you might find yourself needing to write complex equations in MSWord. Here is a link that explains how to add the Equation Editor toolbar into MSWord, and use it to make techie looking output. Sweet!!

http://www.ele.uri.edu/Courses/ele343/tutorials/word.equations/wordequations.html

Micro Econ (and Strategy)

Micro Econ is an interesting class, and much more math-intensive than I had expected. Since I like math, that was a good thing. But since I was a bit rusty on derivatives, especially partial derivatives, I made sure I attended all the Thursday study sessions. Hint: Micro Econ concepts form the basis of Business Strategy — but we didn’t hear that directly until this quarter in Global Strategy. It makes sense, and I think it would have helped in both classes if I had started to make that connection earlier.

Memorable moment with Ali: The morning he came in after taking his wife out for their anniversary dinner, and then going out for a night cap after — he made some mention of his indifference curve going higher and higher — until they decided to take a taxi home!
More fun with Ali: try counting how many times he uses pizzas as examples in class

Financial Accounting:

I’m not an accountant, nor based on my grades in this and the later Managerial Accounting class, will I ever be one! That said, I really enjoyed the class. Frank does a great job of trying to cram his vast experience into our heads in a short amount of time. The course is a lot of work. It is the first time that many of us experienced the time warp that occurs while taking an accounting exam. What warp is that you ask? Well, when Frank and his TA say that the exam should take you 6 hours, plan on a lot longer than that in real time. A lot longer. It will be interesting to hear what Frank has to say about the planned demise of GAAP in light of the recent scandals here and abroad. I know he has championed GAAP, and according to what I read last fall, IFRS is the coming thing. Web search GAAP vs. IFRS if you are interested in seeing lots of people argue about the differences. Hint: Pay special attention to the discussion on WIP. I came away not really understanding how to handle WIP and paid dearly on my exam…

Well, except for Teamwork, which I more or less covered in an earlier post, that wraps up my first quarter of the program.

“I did it myyyyy way”

Tom Mackey, TMMBA Student

I called the program late;
And almost missed the final end day,
One week, to GMAT take,
I did it myyyyy way.

(With apologies to Frank Sinatra)

…but maybe not the best way.

So how is it to get revved up and into an MBA program at an age that not long ago would have been considered “over the hill”? And what if you’re up against a deadline? A quick aside, first.

I was five, and my sister just born when my family took a vacation to Florida to visit former neighbors who had just moved down there, and to visit some of the places that my dad had seen while stationed there with the army sixteen or so years earlier. The year was 1958, and my dad would have been just a few months shy of 40. It was my first visit to the South and even to my young eyes, there were signs of racial discrimination everywhere. Florida was still pretty much unspoiled, not the sea of mobile home parks and strip malls it is today. There were still quiet little fishing towns on the coast and I remember my dad and his friend going out for a day charter. I recently ran across a tourism magazine and a picture he had from his army days, and I remember the coast looking pretty close to this image:

WPalmBeach1940_t

I had a great time — it was my first exposure to Southern cooking and I really took to the hush puppies, scallops, grits, and other tasty treats. My mother was miserable. It was hot, humid, and she was struggling with caring for a new-born while on the road. I remember arriving back home after a few weeks and seeing the yellow envelope on the door. Now in those days, if you had a message that you had to get to someone, and know they got it, you used the Western Union Telegraph company. When the Western Union man came knocking on your door, it was rarely good news. I imagine the message went something like this:

MR MACKEY STOP YOUR POSITION ALLAN CASH REGISTERS ELIMINATED STOP PLEASE PICK UP TOOLBOX AND FINAL PAYCHECK EARLIEST

My dad had been laid off while we were on vacation.

For two years he struggled to find another job. He took a series of odd jobs, but none paid very well — he even worked on the road crews for awhile, literally, digging ditches. With a shovel. He took me out a few times to help light the smudge pots alongside the construction sites. No one wanted to hire someone who was over 40. In the end, it was Southern California that providing him a chance to reinvent himself — he was hired by a company supplying precision gyros and other electro-mechanical devices to the aerospace industry, perfectly fitting his expertise in complex electro-mechanical devices filled with tiny parts.

These days, we have it much easier, since the passage of various anti-discrimination laws. And, generally, we are in much better health today. Even after nine months of the siren call of the ice cream freezer in TMMBA HQ, I still regularly hoof it nearly a mile from my front door to catch my preferred bus downtown, then make the two-and-a-half block dash to the bus tunnel for a connection down to SeaTac. And, having spent a good part of my career in various SW development roles involving applied mathematics and logic, I figured I could keep up with the academic challenges.

By the way, I found that one of Google’s StreetView cams recently caught the same scene shown above. Sixty-five years can certainly change the look of a place… Check out the aerial view showing the area from the water side!

WPalmBeach2006_t

WPamBeachOH2006

For an entire summer I watched the buses with the TMMBA ads and wondered if I could hack it. Then, with a boot from a co-worker who got interested in going for his MBA, I decided to call the program to find out what it would take to apply. I sure cut it close. My completed application, and a late fee, with transcripts from my undergrad degree, a written “personal statement”, and a passing grade in something called a “GMAT” test, had to be received at the TMMBA HQ the following Monday. Well, having nothing to lose, I decided to go for it.

A visit to the Western Washington University web site, with credit card in hand, got my transcript on its way and an extra small fee ensured that it would be sent out that day. Then off to MBA.com to register for a GMAT test. That would take three business days, meaning I could not download the practice material until Thursday at the earliest, nor register for the test. I did a little web surfing to find out what I could about this “GMAT” test and started writing my personal statement.

As soon as I had a sign-on to MBA.com, I downloaded the practice test and started registering for a test. Hmmm….. No test spots available in Seattle for several weeks out. Not good. Now what? OK. How about other cities? None in Western Washington. OK. How about Eastern Washington? Super! I snagged a spot first thing in the morning on Friday in Yakima. A call to the TMMBA HQ verified that as long as I took the test by Monday, the results would be accepted. This is Thursday afternoon. I can do this! I have a few hours to look at the practice test, see what kind of math I need to review, and bone up on my written work, hit the road at oh-dark-thirty and be in Yakima in time for the test at 0900.

So let’s take a look at the sample test. The essay part I figured would be easy — long ago I learned to write an acceptable 5-paragraph paper, you know — introduce 3 topics, write a good paragraph on each, conclude by tying the three topics together. So what about the language usage and comprehensive parts? Yikes! I would have blown those questions. They are way-tricky and I will need to pay very close attention to parts of speech, punctuation, verb conjugation, and such. Sure glad I took a look before I got there.

Now the math part. First crack open my old calculus text. Let’s see… 2-D geometry is pretty cake. 3-D not too much harder. Heck, I’ve written graphics sub-systems so once the synapses start firing again, should be no problem. Now areas and volumes. Pi-D, 1/2 base*height, pies are square, Pythagoras Theorem, factoring polynomials, FOIL, Cramer’s rule, oh dear… What have I gotten myself in to??? Let’s try some sample problems. First three, pretty easy. Then number 4 takes 10 minutes, then number 5 stumps me. I’m tired. I have to get some sleep so I don’t fall asleep driving over the pass. Worst case, I fail the GMAT and try next year.

I’m probably not the only one who has ever crammed math by dawn’s early light while watching for wayward deer and elk driving over the pass at 70 mph; I am reasonably certain, however, that the club is rather exclusive!

The essay part was first. They give you what is essentially a little white board to use for notes and I scribbled an outline, then started writing. I didn’t leave myself quite enough time and the system cut me off about 3 1/2 words from the end. Would it at least take what I had typed? I can’t let that question bother me. On to the next section. When I came to the math part, I was pretty wiped emotionally, but I was also revved up mentally. Then, about 1/2 way in, I came to a problem on which I spent way too much time. I had to really move if I was going to finish the test. With 5 minutes to go I still had 10 problems. Now on the GMAT, and other adaptive tests, if you miss a problem, the next one is easier, and if you get one correct, the next one is harder. If you guess, and get it wrong, the test will magnify that error by leading you back to easier problems. I also knew that some of the problems, up to four, if I remember correctly, are “candidate” problems, meaning that they are not counted. Weighing my options, I decided that to get a score high enough to get into the TMMBA program, I would need to finish the math portion as best I could. So, I eyeballed each of the last problems and if I couldn’t solve it within 30 seconds, I took my best guess — hoping if I guessed wrong, it would be a candidate problem. The clock ran out and the last two problems went unanswered. Completely drained, I filled out the list of programs to which I wanted my score reported, retrieved my belongings taken during the pat-down search, and took my time driving home. I still had to write my personal statement; that is a story I told earlier.

In the end, I scored 600, which is at the high end of the dome of the bell curve. That is, 2/3 of the test takers score between 400 and 600 out of the 800 possible. It still irks me that I did worse in math than language, but I can live with that. Several weeks later, I received my acceptance letter. I was in the program!!!

- Students, staff and a few alumni blog about the experience of earning an MBA via the University of Washington Foster School of Business Technology Management MBA Program, covering events, learning-in-action, life after graduation, networking opportunities, and so much more.