Foster MBA Program + MBA Internship at Kaiser Permanente = A Better Me

Lisa ChenIt’s been an incredible summer working at Kaiser Permanente Washington as an MBA intern in Finance & Strategy Leadership. During my internship at Kaiser Permanente, I was inspired by my colleagues every day. I had a great pleasure of learning from them and supporting them on the company’s mission: “to provide affordable, high quality healthcare services to improve the health of our members and communities we serve.” As a career switcher from consulting to corporate finance, I could not accomplish all without the help from Foster MBA program.

Before the internship

MBA Applied Strategy Project

Applied strategy projectIn the second quarter of my MBA program, I participated in an applied strategy project, working on a marketing initiative for Kaiser Permanente, which offered me the first-hand experience in health care industry where I had zero experience before.

Foster MBA Mentor Program

My mentor this year is Jean-Francois Heitz, ex-Microsoft Corporate Treasurer and Deputy CFO. One of the takeaways from our meeting is his job selection criteria: “your direct report, company and job function are the top three considerations.” I applied this rule to the choice of my internship, which turned out to be an amazing decision.

Foster MBA Career Management Team’s Support

Foster has a very strong career management team. Shawn Lipton coached me on storytelling, Gregory Heller helped me improve presentation skills and structure of interview answers, Naomi Sanchez connected me with leaders in different organizations, Jean Gekler encouraged me to utilize my strengths in the interviews…I believe what I learned from them will benefit me lifelong. “Know yourself well and be confident. Try your best and you won’t regret.”

Second-year Peer Advisers

Talking with second years to learn about their job-hunting experience is indeed helpful. Shout out to Dan Gardner, Bhagath Ganga, Oluyinka Awobiyi, Bijeta Chakraborty, Phil Dreher, Kelsey Zhou and Laura Jia for helping me with my resume review and interview practice! I am amazed by how collaborative and supportive Foster community is!

MBA Classes

Ted talk classOne of my goals of doing an MBA is to further develop my soft skills. The courses of “Finding Your Voice” and “TED Talk 2” by Lee E. Hochberg are impressive. The classes focused on effective communication. I was really fortunate taking these classes in the past quarter and able to apply the tips on communication directly in my summer internship.

Consultation with professor

Before I started my internship, I talked to Ken Meyer, the MBA lecturer of Leading Teams and Organizations, asking him for advice on how to succeed in my internship and develop leadership skills. “Do not surprise your boss. Update constantly to keep her in the loop.” “Forget about your intern title. You can find opportunities to be a leader if you take the initiative.”

1:1 with My Future Boss

After I accepted the internship offer, I scheduled 1:1 with my future boss Anne G. Schaefer and asked her about potential projects I was going to work on and how I could best prepare for it. I followed her suggestions which allowed me to jump into my work quickly after I started the internship.

During the internship:

1. Networking with colleagues

NetworkingMBA program taught me how important networking is. The main reason of doing informational interview is not asking for jobs but embracing the opportunity to get to know my colleagues and learn from them, understanding the company’s culture and the industry better. Being proactive to reach out is my biggest takeaway. I cannot believe how nice my colleagues are. No one rejected my informational interview invite, even the executives. I learned so much about their career paths, their insights about the industry, their lessons learned in career and so on. Everyone was generous in sharing their stories with me and giving me career advice to help me grow. They were very supportive and willing to help me succeed in my internship. Amazing coworkers is one of the reasons that I love Kaiser Permanente.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask

My boss Anne G. Schaefer told me: “When you need something, ask. When you are not sure about something, ask. When you would like to propose something, ask. You will get a yes or no, but if you don’t ask, you may get nothing.” By asking, I got additional learning opportunities, received help from colleagues in other teams, and proposed new ideas to improve the process to work more efficiently.

3. Think one step further

I always believe that no matter the job is big or small, one can make a difference if one thinks one step further. One of my tasks during my internship was building a SharePoint site for my team to set up a proactive and streamlined process for capital requests. After building the site, I did not stop there. I created a workflow and also wrote a playbook for my colleagues with the details about how to modify and maintain the site to help my team after I leave. There’s always much more to do than boss tells me to…and I enjoy finding these opportunities to support as much as I can.

4. Take the Initiative

Leadership is in everyone if one takes the initiative. As I mentioned earlier, thanks to my professor Ken Meyer’s advice on leadership development, during my internship, I initiated and hosted some learning series for Finance team to share my knowledge and helped my colleagues learn new things. I enjoyed developing my leadership skills through every opportunity and felt excited applying what I learned about leadership theories from MBA classes to my job.

5. Show appreciation

At the end of my internship, I wrote thank you cards to my colleagues, who helped me, whom I did informational interview with and who inspired me. I really appreciate that they spent time meeting with me, sharing their experience and wisdom with me. I benefited so much from our conversations. I am very grateful for their contribution to my wonderful experience at Kaiser Permanente this summer!

It’s hard to say bye, but I have to go back to school to resume my MBA studies. I am ready for new challenges and looking forward to the next chapter ahead.