Rachel was interviewed by Dr. Sandeep Krishnamurthy, Dean, UW Bothell School of Business, in July 2010. She is now Vice President, Development, at Vertafore.
Sandeep: What did you get most out of your MBA education?
Rachel: I wanted to learn the language of my business world. I had practiced or been exposed to many of the concepts covered in the coursework, but did not necessarily understand the complete picture. The MBA program helped fill the gaps. When I build a product strategy or business case, or am looking for budget or process efficiencies, I now have a comprehensive toolkit with which to do so, rather than a mixed bag of partially learned tools.
Sandeep: Why is the UW Bothell MBA special?
Rachel: People and focus. The students are all mature, engaged and ambitious. The professors are seasoned and genuinely interested; they seem to enjoy the students and teaching. The focused, cohort-based curriculum creates a really special unified learning experience that was much more valuable than a series of disconnected courses.
Sandeep: What do you remember from your MBA courses?
Rachel: The velocity. We started out with a strategy course which established the big picture framework, and where I was engrossed in a project analyzing Google’s philanthropy. Not only did it influence my career aspirations, but as a first project it seemed daunting. In retrospect, the project was a mere warm-up to the overall program pace.
Sandeep: What is the biggest challenge you faced after graduation? How did you deal with it?
Rachel: Integrating the tools and frameworks back into practical daily use was sometimes a challenge. It was tempting to treat a real problem like a case study and apply whatever tools seemed to suit it best, but ultimately you have to exercise intuition, common sense and leadership to integrate these tools with your circumstances, because it’s really not a case study, and you’re not being graded on the best theoretical solution, you’re affecting a real business’ success.
Sandeep: What advice do you have for future MBA students?
Rachel: Be prepared to treat the MBA like a second job, figure out in advance how you are going to make time to succeed and learn. This is your chance for major growth, so be willing to put yourself out there – be the one who writes, presents, asks questions, has opinions, takes risks. Be open-minded and listen; you are surrounded by brilliant people from whom you will learn and who will also learn from you. Make connections, and then make more connections – not only will building relationships make the classes more enjoyable, collaborating with different students will expose you to a variety of working styles. Grades are important, but leaving the MBA program as a well-rounded, informed, articulate business leader is more important.