20 Years of Impact & Innovation from Technology Management MBA Alumni: Part 1

For 20 years, the Technology Management MBA (TMMBA) program has fueled disruption, producing talented innovators who have lead the transformation of technology in Seattle and across the globe.

Before “disruption” was the name of the game, before billion-dollar unicorns, before IoT, blockchain and meme stocks, the Technology Management MBA program (TMMBA) was ready to build what’s next — fostering business leaders equipped to take on an ever-changing technological landscape.

To properly celebrate this milestone, we caught up with a Foster TMMBA alumni, one from each graduating class, to learn how the program and the UW Foster community transformed their careers. We look forward to sharing their stories with you over the year.

We are proud to introduce you to our first featured alumni. Here is a preview of these conversations.

Yasser Ibrahim
TMMBA Class of 2011

Now: Senior Vice President of Artificial Intelligence, Computational Imaging and IoT Devices, Axon

Then: Sr. Program Manager, Microsoft Corporation

I strive to be authentic as a leader. The lessons I incorporate from the leadership courses shape my goal to be a world-class person. This goal informs my professionalism, ethics and life outlook.

The Dean of the Foster School, Frank Hodge, has centered our school purpose around our ability to “Better Humanity.” How has what you learned in the program helped you improve the human experience, big or small? 
Can’t agree more with “Coach” Hodge. It was during my TMMBA study that I was deeply inspired by the model of a leader that is simultaneously ethical and transformational without sacrificing business outcomes. This comes in very vividly, almost every day, for me as a leader in the area of responsible

Artificial intelligence where I have deep conviction about the importance of assessing the societal impact as a pre-condition for deploying new technologies.

Yaser with his TMMBA team at graduation

Yasser celebrating his TMMBA graduation with classmates, 2011

Is there something you learned or experienced during the program that has really stayed with you?
The concept of authentic leadership which emphasizes the need for congruence between one’s values, feelings and communication style. This concept and associated body of literature helped me view my challenges/opportunities as a leader from the wider angle of human development (for self and other).

I framed the following quote from my leadership development class with Professor Bruce Avolio:

You simply cannot be a world-class leader if you are first of all, not a world-class person, and you cannot be a world class person if you are not authentic.

Colleen O'Brien speaking to audience of thousands

Colleen O’Brien
TMMBA Class of 2016

Now: Chief Marketing Officer, M12 – Microsoft’s Venture Fund

Then: Marketing Manager, Microsoft Corporation

My team came in second place in the pitch competition! That achievement sparked my entrepreneurial spirit and encouraged me to work on several projects outside of my day job — a podcast, a YouTube series, video production work — to stay inspired and creative.

In what meaningful ways has the TMMBA program helped advance your career? 
The team-driven approach to learning has been the most impactful framework that I took from my time in the TMMBA program. Early on in my career, I spent too much time focused on improving my weaknesses. While self-improvement is a noble cause, my TMMBA teammates helped me understand the importance of leaning into my strengths instead. On a resource-constrained team, human capital is a fixed asset. The most strategic use of my time is to focus on the areas of the business where I can have the most impact. I no longer fixate on my areas of weakness. Instead, I’m leading with my strengths, and inviting teammates to work with me to fill in the gaps.

Do you have favorite memory or experience you want to tell us about?
We traveled to Japan for our international study tour, and I remember spending time at a smaller-scale marketing services startup in Osaka: Silver Egg Technology. An expat founded the company and had built a very successful business serving several Japanese clients. This was so memorable because it made me realize how narrow my understanding of career success had been: working at a US-headquartered Fortune 100 company with a global footprint. It was inspiring to be confronted by an entrepreneur who had shaped a professional life he loved so far outside of those terms.

Colleen O'Brien doing a live podcast

Colleen O’Brien with co-host Sonia Dara, interview inclusive design expert Kat Holmes at a live recording of their podcast, Women in Business & Technology


Adarsh KhaneAdarsh Khare
TMMBA Class of 2012

Now: Senior Director, Security Engineering at Salesforce

Then: Sr. Software Design Engineer, Microsoft Corporation

With the TMMBA program, I developed some lifelong friendships. Even after 10 years, the personal touch still exists.  We meet or call each other to bounce new ideas, discuss the challenges we are facing in company, or just to catch up on changes in our career paths.

What is your current role?
Leading a team of software engineering at Salesforce, tackling cybersecurity challenges. Our goal is to secure Salesforce cloud infrastructure and customer data, so company can continue to maintain leadership position in its #1 value “Trust.” I am leading a diverse global engineering team that is spread across all time zones.

Adarsh and his wife on a hike

Adarsh and his wife on a hike

In what meaningful ways has the TMMBA program helped advance your career?
TMMBA program content was very nicely designed to learn a vast domain in a very short amount of time. I can’t think of any other method to learn so much in depth in such a short period. I will say, the most important lesson I learned from the program is identifying and understanding the situations I face in everyday work. I excel at work due to my ability to identify and understand complex problems.

Digital technology is a fast-changing domain. In my roles, I have leveraged the lessons from the classes like Tech Innovation Management and Leading Organizational Change several times to lead highly innovative teams that are sharply focused on solving customer problems and delivering quality solutions.

Chetana Desai in a Diversity Reboot 2021 hatChetana Desai
TMMBA Class of 2019

Now: Senior PM Manager for Microsoft Store

Then: Technical Program Manager, Expedia

Post MBA, I have found ways to pursue ideas, start taking calculated risk and live life on my own terms. The truth is studying here in United States (or anywhere outside of birth country gives you a new perspective) opened my horizon, opportunities, exposure, thought process which I wouldn’t trade for anything!

How has the TMMBA program helped advance your career?
TMMBA helped me understand the business landscape! I learned the importance of why and how to ask the right questions and speak the business language. When I must make the decision, I look at the holistic business vision/mission and how our team and I can align to make our work impactful.

Chetana doing her podcast

Recording of episode 1 for Gritty Serendipity

What does it mean to you to be part of the TMMBA community?
TMMBA changed my perspective on networking and entrepreneurial endeavors. I cannot say enough about the power of network once you become part of Foster School of Business & UW. It automatically opens opportunities of all types. My current role is the result of that network at Microsoft. Of course, the key is to know how to navigate it.

My cherished experience are the friendships, UW network and our discussions on program concepts & beyond continued till today  – thank you WhatsApp group!

Do you have another concurrent role you want to tell us about?
I’m the founder and host of a podcast named “Gritty Serendipity.” I get to exercise my creative muscles and at the same time showcase some of the seldom heard voices in the world of STEAM (STEM plus “A”: artistic/creative).

Thaddeus Hanscom
TMMBA Class of 2004

Now: Principal, Program Management, Global Consumer and Operations, Amazon 

Then: Newsroom IT Manager, Seattle Times

I fell head over heels in love with spreadsheets during my TMMBA program. Is that weird? I don’t care. It’s 2022. Nerds won.

In what meaningful ways has the TMMBA program helped advance your career?
The TMMBA program helped de-mystify the business world for me. My dad was a frustrated entrepreneur who built several successful businesses before some catastrophic failures. All of that world was a black box to me. The TMMBA program exposed me to great leaders across multiple disciplines in a variety of industries. The book learning was awesome, but I especially enjoyed the engagement and interaction with my class and my study group. They were such awesome people doing amazing things for Amazon, Microsoft, and other cool, local companies. The TMMBA program gave me confidence to pursue my curiosity.   

How has the TMMBA experience shaped your leadership philosophy?
The TMMBA program gave me several wonderful mentors. I was lucky. Lucky to have the study group I did. Lucky to have graduated with such an amazing class. Lucky to have had such fantastic professors.

Beyond good fortune, I had the chance of learning with some all-stars who showed me that you can be both kind and successful. And, if you wake up one day to find you’re operating in a space where being a jerk is helpful for your career development, it’s really important to get out. 

Because life is short, and the person you are at work will inform the person you are — period. The diversity of the TMMBA program taught me how important it is to stay connected to authentic, warm leaders, and continue to emulate their kindness and humanity.

Do you have a favorite project from your time in the program?
My graduation thesis, in 2004, was on a customized “Clippy” for Microsoft Windows. I imagined Disney producing custom companions for the desktop, and users could buy these custom avatars in a marketplace…

Fast forward to 2022, Amazon recently opened up Alexa and Echo devices to Disney, “Hey, Disney” will now be the prompt for Minnie, Mickey, or Goofy to respond.

So, Satya Nadella and Bob Iger, give me a call. Let’s talk. I’ve got that thesis on a floppy disk, somewhere.


Cortney JacobsenCortney Jacobsen Headshot
TMMBA Class of 2009

Now: Senior Director of Product Management at Aduro

Then: Product Manager, Datalight, Inc.

My TMMBA classmates are trusted colleagues to whom I feel comfortable reaching out at any time – no matter how much time has passed. We have a shared understanding of each other’s background, knowledge and passion to excel.

How has what you learned in the program shaped the leader you are today?
My TMMBA Building Effective Teams leadership course was one of the most impactful courses I took, ever. For example, the mantra of “people, structure, culture” has always stuck with me, guiding me to always evaluate the bigger picture when it comes to helping an individual or a team succeed.  If you don’t have that triad, then your people are not set up for success.

Cortney with partner and furbabies

Enjoying the outdoors with her family

Similarly, I often recall the decision-making trifecta of “the head, the heart, and the gut,” which reminds me that making big decisions is not always about data, or what you know, or your past experiences; it is about all these things. You must balance all three in order to make decisions that benefit yourself, your team, company and community.

What is something that has really stayed with you and why?  
The international trip to Eastern Europe was a wonderful and unique experience. It was a privilege to be exposed to industries and cultures that I never would have otherwise encountered. Observing and learning from other cultures, I’ve found, is one of the best ways to open your mind to possibilities. 


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