By Joshua Holland
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Seattle area is a hub for global companies changing the world, thanks to innovators like Amazon, Microsoft, and many others. However, the sizzling economy has done more than just attract headlines. It’s attracted some of the world’s best and brightest to the region. To ensure many of these future leaders are grown locally, the University of Washington (UW) has fine-tuned its Michael G. Foster School of Business’ Master of Business Administration program to prepare students for jobs in the Seattle area and beyond.
In recent years, Foster’s approach to MBA education has been noted by outside observers who have come to admire the school’s 98 percent employment rate.
“We’re very proud of the employment rate, but it takes great talent to be prepared and ready for MBA interviews that are not easy,” said Naomi Sanchez EdD, Assistant Dean of the UW Foster School of Business. “MBA students are often given a case during their interview and need to be able to think quickly on their feet. It’s a different type of interview situation.”
Having worked previously as a senior executive at American Express, Sanchez knows first-hand how competitive it is for talent today. Armed with this knowledge, her team and the school sought out to create a robust career development program that begins long before students step foot on campus for their first day of class.
The process formally begins with a week-long career development boot camp in September designed to help students polish their business skills to articulate value and craft a professional compass to navigate through career challenges. Additionally, students meet with half a dozen companies in Seattle, where they have a chance to connect with Foster alumni, learn about different business functions inside of companies, and help solve real business problems. This intense training helps prepare students for recruiting, which happens only a few months later in November for coveted summer internships at top companies.
“Understanding your strengths, designing a career plan, and having some experience are all important factors in today’s job market,” said Sanchez.
“Companies expect fast thinking and you need to be well grounded in who you are and the strengths you have to offer.”
Fortunately for students, their career training doesn’t stop once the school bell rings for the start of autumn quarter. Each student is assigned a career management coach that helps them develop goals, research opportunities, and prepare for intensive interviews. On average, students participate in more than 20 mock interviews during their studies. This regular practice helps them move away from the mindset of appealing to employers on a purely technical basis and helps them think strategically about real world problems and how to solve them.
“Before I enrolled, I was a young, energetic person who was focused on narrow points,” said Kyohei Kanamaru, 2018 Foster MBA candidate. “After coming to Foster, I’ve come to realize how important it is to think about issues strategically and holistically. Not only about sales, but also finance, accounting, marketing, and operations. Foster has equipped me to have a broader view and the business language I need to communicate. Now I’m able to ask better questions of different departments and
have skills to be a good manager.”
To help ensure students are more than just book smart, Foster employs a 3c model focused on helping students develop technical competency, confidence in their skills, and connections with relevant industry players.
This helps students tool up their hard and soft skills, so they have the confidence needed to present themselves to potential employers.
“Regardless of whatever MBA or graduate program you’re in, recruiters know you have to be smart to begin with,” said Jonathan Ng, 2018 Foster MBA candidate. “Large companies for instance can throw enough time and resources and mold you to become the type of person they want you to be in terms of skill set. But they want to know if you’re a culture fit. Can you collaborate with other people from different cultures and working styles?”
The second important element to Foster graduates’ high employment rate is its close relationship with companies in Pacific Rim cities. Through advisory boards, Foster meets with international companies twice a year in Seattle, the Bay Area, and Shanghai. The school is able to keep in touch with global business trends and forge bonds with multinational companies like Amazon, Apple, Nike, and many others. This helps Foster match students with prospective employers.
“Career management introduced me to a great position at Johnson and Johnson in Japan,” said Kanamaru. “I was able to talk with a lot of current management officers at the company and do one-on-ones that ultimately led me to interview for and accept the role.”
In Seattle, Foster’s presence is also remarkably strong with many of its alumni not interested in relocating once they graduate. Name just about any Seattle company and chances are you’ll find Foster alumni there. This particularly helps students who are interested in technology jobs. Foster is currently number one for all MBA programs for technology hiring.
“Since I was pivoting my career, I knew I wanted to go to an MBA program with strong ties to the tech industry,” said Ng. “Foster is fantastic. It’s in the backyard of local companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Expedia. It also has connections to Bay Area companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple.”
Not all students come to Foster knowing what they want to do. Many enter highly motivated and driven, but unsure of what’s next. Once they go through Foster’s approach to business, they better understand their strengths, interests, and develop the stamina needed for the hard journey of securing their first job after graduation, often leading to multiple job offers.
“Placement to me means helping students take advantage of all the support to be successful throughout that process,” said Sanchez.
“We want our graduates to leave Foster ready to make decisions and thrive.”
Joshua can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.