The jump from ecology to corporate finance might seem a big one, but it has actually been a slow migration for Courtney Wenneborg (MBA 2018).
Born and raised in Sammamish, Wenneborg earned a BS in biology at the UW and spent five years doing field work that took her from the subalpine meadows of Mt. Rainier to the Patagonian coast of Argentina, where she studied penguin habitats.
When she decided to come in from the cold, Wenneborg worked in retail management at Starbucks and as a program manager for Amazon Books (its first brick-and-mortar bookstore) and Amazon Go (the “just walk out” grocery concept).
At Foster she has become a classic connector, the cross-stitch in the fabric of the MBA Program. She seems to be everywhere: Strategy Club, Veterans Association, Finance Society, Marketing Association, Outdoor and Sports Industry Club.
The last one is more than a passing fancy. Wenneborg merged her longstanding passion for sports and growing interest in finance into an internship at Nike. She’ll rejoin the global athletic apparel company as a finance manager upon graduation.
But she hasn’t gone totally corporate. Wenneborg plans to bring the full measure of her MBA to bear in helping organizations protect the environment. “Preserving wild places is complex,” she says. “It’s an endeavor that requires diverse skill sets in scientific research, education, politics, public outreach, social psychology and business strategy. I want to marry my background in ecological research with the business acumen I’m building to add value in this space.”
More about Courtney:
What has been your most impactful experience at Foster?
Notoriously challenging, the first quarter of business school set the stage for all the experiences I have had at Foster. From learning the MBA fundamentals to building relationships with my classmates, this experience confirmed that not only had I had made the right choice in pursuing an MBA, but that choosing Foster was best decision I could have made.
What did you take away from your internship at Nike?
My internship experience reiterated that knowing how to ask the right questions is just as important as functional expertise. I worked on the Finance team supporting Global Sourcing and Manufacturing at Nike, and when I started my summer internship, I didn’t know anything about footwear or apparel manufacturing. Even though my project was on a finance team, I found myself asking questions inspired by things I learned in my strategy, marketing, and economics classes. It highlighted that, even though business school is comprised of discrete classes, the real impact comes from understanding how these components weave together to create value.
What would be your dream job?
My experience in retail management is what made me decide to pursue an MBA, and it’s the connection to customers that makes me passionate about what I do. When I think about my attainable dream job, I think about being a part of a cross-functional team that focuses on revolutionizing the consumer retail experience.
How are you leveraging your Foster experience to achieve this potential future?
The next step in my career is in a finance role, so I am doing everything in my power to learn as much as I can about how finance impacts real-world business decisions. In addition to finance courses, I’m also seeking out opportunities to apply what I’m learning to real-world problems through independent study projects with local companies. These experiences are invaluable because they put me in cross-functional, complex, and time-bound environments that are hard to recreate in the classroom and give me the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned across different industries and work cultures.
What about the Foster culture do you believe will particularly serve you in your career?
When I think about the culture of Foster, two words come to mind: gratitude and grit. Foster takes pride in its collaborative environment, and I think an underlying contributor to this collaborative spirit that students here are grateful—grateful to be part of this program, grateful for the diverse value their peers bring to the table, and grateful for the community that we share. Paired with this gratitude is a willingness to roll up sleeves, dive in, and get stuff done. Seeing these two characteristics so well married in a professional environment has been inspiring and will have a profound impact on how I think about building and working with teams throughout my career.
Do you have a favorite professor or class?
I can’t pick just one, because Thomas Gilbert and Lance Young tie for first! Their finance classes are hands-down the best courses I’ve taken during my MBA. They make finance real for their students, going beyond the spreadsheets to understand the meaning of the metrics and how they impact business strategy. They’re funny, real, and passionate—it’s clear that they truly care about creating learning experiences that will impact students far beyond the classroom environment.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I spend as much time as possible backpacking. Most recently, I spent six weeks exploring the public lands of southern Utah, the Trinity Alps in California, and the Wind River mountain range in Wyoming.
Foster Futures is a series highlighting some of the students who are leading the Foster School into its second century—and themselves into promising careers. The series began in the winter issue of Foster Business magazine.