1. 12 | Foster Business SPRING 2016 | 13
“Don’t be humble.”
Jean Gekler, a career coach in the Foster School’s MBA
Career Management office, darkens a large whiteboard with
adjectives describing Darius Chen, a Foster MBA student transi-
tioning from his career in US Army Special Forces. He is here to
refresh his personal “Brand Essence.”
The process begins with an inventory of professional roles
and personal traits. With Gekler’s facilitation, Chen distills the
most pertinent into three brand statements then, finally, a tagline:
one simple expression of Chen’s professional essence with the
economy of a haiku: “Strategic collaborator driven to cultivate
excellence in people and organizations.”
Gekler explains that some students use their brand essence
statements on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Most consider
them background prep for career exploration and interviewing.
“I consider it an exercise in self-reflection,” says Chen. “You
don’t understand how valuable that is until you get into the inter-
view process and see that the people getting the best offers are
the ones most comfortable and confident and self-aware. Being
able to articulate your value in a way that’s compelling, meaningful
and genuine—that’s incredibly important.”
This exercise in self-reflection exemplifies the Foster School’s
distinctive approach to career development and management—
across every degree program.
It’s an approach that is innovative, proactive, personalized,
responsive to market demand, and informed by close relations
with classmates, alumni and recruiters.
And, perhaps most importantly, it’s considered part—rather than
postscript—of the business curriculum.
“At Foster, we measure our success on much more than
providing a fantastic education,” says Dan Poston, assistant dean
for graduate programs. “We must open doors to exciting career
opportunities, give our students the job search skills to take
advantage of those opportunities, and provide a deep network of
successful classmates, alumni and industry connections on which
our graduates can launch and build a career.”
Nobody does it better than Foster’s MBA Career Management,
the gold standard in its industry.
Foster’s full-time MBA job placement rate is perennially ranked
among the top schools in the nation. It is one of an elite list of 22
MBA programs whose graduates average more than $110,000 in
starting base salary. And Foster leads the nation in placing gradu-
ates in technology and consumer products positions.
“The reason for our success is that we’re not a traditional
career office,” says Naomi Sanchez, assistant dean for MBA
career management. “We do things differently here—both at the
individual and the systematic level.”
It begins with the Pro Dev program, a required series of
workshops and bootcamps that serves as a 6 a.m. wakeup call
to the rigors and realities of the job search. First-year MBAs
create a comprehensive leadership and career plan that includes
a personal GAP analysis, marketing plan, brand essence and the
compilation of a board of advisors.
And this is only the beginning. Sanchez’s shop offers full-time
and evening MBAs numerous recruiting and networking events,
a high-level mentor program, MBA peer advisors, regional career
treks, “Foster Days” at select corporate campuses, job skills work-
shops and one-on-one career coaching by in-house experts with
deep industry experience.
The goal of this investment is to foster competence, confi-
dence and connections—in every student.
“That no-student-left-behind philosophy is pretty unique,”
says Sarah Eytinge (MBA 2014), a recruiter at Microsoft. “Other
schools offer personalized attention if you ask for it. Foster tracks
Foster also tracks each recruiter. Sanchez’s team tirelessly builds
and maintains close ties with the perennial employers of Foster
grads—Amazon, Microsoft, Philips, Liberty Mutual, Starbucks,
Accenture, Deloitte, among the most active—and companies
such as Intel and Goldman Sachs which successfully tapped into
Foster’s wide-ranging talent pool last year.
This means frequent check-ins and invitations to recruiters and
employer advisory boards. And continuous requests for feedback.
Eytinge appreciates the hustle: “It’s nice to know they’re
seeking out the customer and trying to satisfy our needs.”
Paramount among those needs is finding the right MBAs for
the job. “Other schools operate on an algorithmic search for quali-
fied candidates,” Eytinge adds. “Foster knows all of their students.
And they’re not afraid to recommend or even advocate for them.”
The goal is not simply to place graduates. It’s to place them
perfectly. “At the end of the day, it’s about finding individual fit,”
Sanchez says. “It’s matchmaking, really. But at a strategic level.”
Move up, change up, start up
Career change is the central objective of full-time MBAs. But
students in Foster’s work-compatible programs are also looking to
make some kind of significant change.
“Graduate business students don’t just want to learn some-
thing new,” says Poston. “They want to transform their career, to
make a bigger impact on the world.”
In the Technology Management MBA Program, that trans-
formation can take many forms, from advancement in the same
company or industry to a shifting to a new function or industry to
“The classic trajectory is from technologist to strategic
manager,” says Susie Buysse, the TMMBA’s senior associate
director for career services and company outreach. “We offer
tools, frameworks, support and coaching—pretty much anything
students need to take their careers to that next level.”
zulilyThe Foster School’s comprehensive, innovative
and personalized approach to career management
catalyzes opportunities of a lifetime with some
of the world’s best businesses
by Ed Kromer
2. 14 | Foster Business
This is not to mention frequent networking opportunities, such
as company “Tech Treks” and casual TMMBA Mixers that capi-
talize on the tightly-knit cohort of TMMBA alumni throughout the
region’s tech industry.
The newest innovation is the TMMBA Job Search Team, facili-
tated by Buysse.
Viveka Raol (MBA 2015) became a member of the inaugural
group of alumni career seekers after her long-time employer,
Amgen, shuttered its Seattle office. An experienced research
scientist seeking work in product or project management, Raol
has found enormous value in the team’s structure, networking,
empathy and good humor during a challenging time.
After a run of dead ends, she says her search has been
reinvigorated by her teammates’ encouragement to approach the
subset of TMMBA alums working in Seattle biotech. That advice
has already yielded numerous productive meetings and opened
doors. “The TMMBA has been like an extended family,” Raol says.
“The support during school and after by my cohort, professors,
administrators and alumni has been amazing.”
Executive MBAs at Foster, despite their most senior standing, are
no less invested in career transformation.
“Foundationally, Executive MBAs are looking for something
different,” says Louise Kapustka, executive director of the EMBA
Program. “They want to contribute at a more strategic level in their
organization or do something completely different for their—or
another—organization or industry. Our faculty give them great tools
for every business discipline. But we need to give them a forum to
explore where they can make the biggest impact, and the career
tools to help them get there.”
Heading up that effort is Lewis Lin, the program’s dedicated
career and executive coach. Though Executive MBAs share many
of the MBA Career Management resources, Lin, a veteran of
Google and Microsoft, provides an executive suite of career work-
shops and personalized advising.
“Career reflection is one of the great hidden values of the
program,” he says.
Kapustka adds that a more long-term value to career
management is the program’s powerful—and welcoming—alumni
community which is stocked with senior leaders at the region’s
top firms. The network begins with the bonds within each class.
“Very quickly our students come to trust each other in a
way they would never have thought possible,” Kapustka says.
“Throughout their careers, they become a sounding board, a
support group with no ulterior motive.”
Of course, the spectrum of job seekers at Foster spans execu-
tive level to entry level. Since 2012, the EY Career Center has
provided dedicated services to the latter—undergraduates and
specialty masters in accounting, information systems and, starting
next year, supply chain management.
By necessity, founding director Andy Rabitoy runs more of
a volume business than his MBA counterparts. Last year his
team hosted 230 events and workshops, 1,300 career advising
appointments, and more than 2,300 on-campus interviews by 221
firms. The annual Business Career Fair connected 1,100 students
to 129 employers.
Rabitoy’s eight-person team works hard to personalize the
proceedings. They find fit for employers. And to students, they impart
information, advice and access at every opportunity, from mock inter-
views to a new career building elective that explores topics ranging
from networking and LinkedIn to branding and emotional intelligence.
But for students who have had little or no experience in the
workplace, perhaps the most essential function is getting them
out of the classroom. “They know they’re going to get strong
academic rigor at Foster that will challenge them, make them think
differently,” Rabitoy says. “But that’s not what gets them a career.”
So his team relentlessly pushes internships, case competi-
tions, club leadership, industry treks, informational interviews, and
networking events with alumni and recruiters.
It adds up to jobs. A student survey revealed an 85 percent
placement rate through Rabitoy’s office last year—to a galaxy of
hiring firms, including Deloitte, Accenture, EY, PwC, Alvarez &
Marsal, Liberty Mutual, Amazon, Boeing, Wells Fargo, Microsoft,
KPMG, Macy’s and many others.
“If we can get our students to be prepared, polished and able
to communicate their point of difference,” Rabitoy says, “I know
they are going to be successful.”
Of course, not every student fits into the corporate mold.
For those of a more entrepreneurial persuasion, the Buerk
Center for Entrepreneurship offers coursework, competitions,
cross-campus networking, mentoring, even an accelerator—an
astounding head start for the student startup.
Some start their own business. More join another in progress.
“There are students who don’t want to be a cog in a big machine,”
says Buerk Center director Connie Bourassa-Shaw. “They want to
work for a company that has a clear social or innovation mission
and an entrepreneurial ethos. They don’t want to be typecast in
For these, the center collaborates with the career management
offices to track students and employers in the startup realm. And
it hosts the annual Startup Job Fair that brings to campus smaller
but fast-growing companies like Zulily and Porch.
“Entrepreneurial skills serve students in whatever job, industry
or organization they pursue,” Bourassa-Shaw adds. “That ability to
make a cohesive and compelling pitch, to stand in front of a room
and convince people that you know what you’re talking about and
can make it so—that’s huge.”
The Foster School’s mission doesn’t end with education. The
mosaic of career resources and workshops and coaching
sessions and networking opportunities is dedicated to catalyzing
meaningful careers and transforming the lives of every student.
Sundas Khalid (BA 2015) is one. She came late to Foster, after
an arranged marriage in her native Pakistan, immigration to America,
two children and a life-threatening illness. Despite taking some
early advice to build her business experience, she struggled to land
an internship. So she worked hard with Rabitoy and his team to
polish her interview skills, then connected with Amazon through a
networking event which led to an internship and now a job in busi-
ness intelligence—a tale of inspiration she was asked to recount at
last year’s Undergraduate Program commencement ceremony.
“Being an immigrant, the first female in my family to graduate
college and get a good job, this was a life-changing event,” Khalid
says. “I cried a lot that day.”
Such stories of transformation are what drive Rabitoy and
Foster’s other career management professionals. Theirs is a privi-
leged place in the lives of students.
“The beauty of working in career management is you get to
be a part of some huge defining moments,” he says. “I think this
is why you find so many Foster alumni wanting to take part in our
events and engage with our students. They want to share in this
discovery, to help them with their roadmaps of their lives.” n
Assistant Dean, MBA Career Management
You have to view yourself as a product in the
marketplace. Know your strengths (and weak-
nesses). Take a self-assessment. Get feedback
from those you know and trust. Build relation-
ships that will open doors. Identify—and learn
to communicate—your points of difference.
Create a document—a resume or social media
profile—that really explains who you are and why somebody should
Career Coach, EMBA Program
Take a step back. Build a career plan to get
clarity on what you want to do next, then figure
out what kinds of skills and experience and
network you need to get there. Remember that
your value becomes less about technical skill
and effort and more about your ability to collab-
orate and communicate. And make sure your
LinkedIn profile is in top shape. It’s the key database for recruiters.
Read “Job Search with Social Media” by Joshua Waldman.
Director, Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship
If you are thinking of starting a business, start
by talking about your idea. Pitch it constantly
to smart people (generalize any sensitive IP, of
course). What you will get is validation or refu-
tation. Both are invaluable. You will constantly
refine the idea based on the feedback, the
pushback, the questions and the enthusiasm
of the people you present it to. Read “The Lean Startup” by Eric
Ries. Then stop studying and start doing.
What to do when you’re mid-career and looking for a new opportunity? We asked the Foster experts for advice.
SPRING 2016 | 15
Director of Career Management,
Undergraduates and Specialty Masters Programs
To find opportunity, you have to work your
network. Seventy percent of jobs are
unpublished, and things move really fast.
It’s about who you know. You have to get
in front of decision-makers or at least
people who can make introductions.
Learn to articulate the value-add you’ll
bring beyond the job description. If you’ve been typecast,
change the story. And don’t underestimate the importance
of your presence on LinkedIn.
Senior Associate Director for Career Services and
Company Outreach, TMMBA Program
Complete a feasibility analysis of your
career goal. Create a clear, compelling
and consistent message and image
across your personal marketing. Develop
a clear job search plan with company
targets and metrics. And build and
expand your network over time. Don’t
wait until you are searching for a new job. If you learn
this critical skill and continue to manage your network
throughout your career, you’ll most likely never need to look
for a job again.