2022 Year in Review – First year at Foster

Paccar Hall UW

In August 2021, after a year of lockdowns, working from home and deferring my admission, I arrived at Foster to kickstart my business journey. I was excited to meet people from around the world, develop new skills and, most of all, be a student again. Today, I look back at my first year in the Full-time MBA program and reflect on the amazing journey so far.

Adjusting to the in-person student life

Having actively stayed away from people for such a long time, getting back to in-person learning was both exciting and challenging. I could no longer just join meetings in my pajamas. I had to actually wake up early in the morning, take a shower, get ready and go to school. But boy was it worth it! Looking back, I’m glad that the majority of classes in 2022 were in-person and not virtual.

The MBA orientation starts a month early with JumpStart. It gives students an opportunity to get to know their peers and learn foundational concepts so that everyone is at the same starting point. Since our class was the first to resume in-person learning, I truly appreciated the sensitivity of the MBA program office to support us in the transition to a new classroom experience. There was a sincere focus on everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing along with readiness to tackle COVID-enforced changes through hybrid classroom setup.

This understanding and empathy shown by the Foster community helped me settle into the MBA student life.

Building business foundations

However, being an engineer with zero business background, I was nervous about the MBA courses. I was worried if I’d be able to ramp up my understanding of finance and accounting in the US in a short amount of time. While it wasn’t easy, I’m grateful for all professors who recognized this and tailored classroom sessions to ensure that everyone has internalized concepts. Moreover, because most faculty members work closely with large companies in Seattle, they were able to tie class learnings to real-world actions. I constantly found myself thinking, “Ahh! That’s why they did it.”

Across all courses, what I found particularly interesting was the deliberate cross-referencing of concepts. I never felt that I was learning a core course in isolation. The professors had ensured that concepts were timed correctly so that we had the necessary foundation and context to understand and appreciate them. By the end of the year, I felt equipped with the fundamentals of business administration and ready to put them into practice during my internship.

Teams Galore!

Amidst the busyness of first year – academics, networking, case competitions and internship hunt – there is one element of consistency: MBA core teams. Each quarter, you are assigned to teams which work together on case studies and projects. Coming to a new country, these teams helped me find my footing and provided a safe space to learn. With them, I have learnt so much about different cultures, explored new cuisines and developed an understanding of working in cross-cultural teams.

Apart from core teams, case competitions gave me an opportunity to form teams based on specific interests. I participated in the Dempsey Startup Competition with students from the MBA, Computer Science and Human Computer Interaction programs. Each of these team experiences enabled me to meet new people and explore different ways of working together.

Apply your Learnings

Foster MBA is known for its focus on experiential learning. It starts as early as the second quarter where you get to work as an MBA consultant with companies in and around Seattle. I worked with a hardware technology firm focused on enterprise collaboration. Our goal was to perform market analysis and provide recommendations for the launch of a new product. Like many of my peers, this was my first foray into consulting. To support us, we had professors and mentors with years of experience, guiding us throughout the project. This experience was a great sneak-peek into a possible career path and helped me focus my job search.

This is one of the many experiential learning opportunities at Foster. I also got a chance to develop a business and product strategy as a part of Business Plan Practicum. Many of my peers opted for courses with industry collaborations (Consumer Insights, CDL, etc) or independent consulting where they worked with companies of their choice.

Focus on Community and Service

In my opinion, what distinguishes Foster from other business programs is its small, close-knit community. A cohort of just over 100 students, we get to interact one-on-one on a regular basis. As a result, learning is much more immersive and you get to know people on a personal level. Moreover, special interest groups like Tech Club, Consulting Society, Wine Club, etc. consist of students who have a genuine passion for the area and organize some truly inspiring programming.

But across all this, there is a commitment across the Foster community to be of service to the people around us. This is demonstrated by the incredible work which students do under C4C (Challenge for Charity) club. From working at food banks to organizing auctions, each student volunteers hours at local charities. This dedication has led Foster to winning the Golden Briefcase, four years in a row. But apart from competition, I believe C4C has given me a social context to complement my business studies.

So much more

Unfortunately, in this blogpost, I cannot do justice to other highlights of 2022 at Foster like the core case competition, mentorship, leadership development and so much more. It was a year full of challenges, learnings and fun. I look forward to spending 2023 with the Foster community.