Education enables the extraordinary potential that lies dormant in all of us. I have often heard respected leaders quote that an EMBA degree helped them expand their network to connect with the best and brightest across various industries, transition to general management, get promoted to executive positions or make the entrepreneurial leap. I was able to accomplish all these and more in a span of two years while I pursued an EMBA degree at the prestigious University of Washington, now ranked 4th in the US amongst Public Universities in the Financial Times, 2020 report. I am honored to share my UW EMBA story below.
I hail from India and came as an immigrant to the USA to pursue my dreams in the software field although my family had invested in the media space for four generations. Now, I have 25 years of software industry experience, 19.5 of which was at Microsoft. In addition to my love for technology, I have an innate sense of giving back to those in need, a trait I believe I received from my forefathers. It was unclear how I was going to bring these two passions together and had no clue that an EMBA degree would get me there.
My journey to the EMBA program at the University of Washington (UW) *only* took 19 years. I always wanted to pursue an MBA but did not understand the true impact of doing so till I noticed industry leaders and role models, all sharing a common attribute, an MBA from a reputed university. As I grew in my career, I noticed that most executive positions required some level of business acumen and knowledge of the business function. While you can get some of it on the job, the fit and finesse shone through from those that had an MBA. I have always been very driven and wanted to have immense positive impact both in the tech industry and society. Thus, pursuing am EMBA felt like a no-brainer.
On a fine summer day, in August 2018, after being in the software industry for 23 years, leaving at 7:30am in the morning wearing a business suit, seemed like a daunting task and I questioned whether I knew what I was getting into, till I walked into the Orientation Hall for the EMBA program. The day was action packed; we were assigned teams where some plotted world domination while others committed to having fun above anything else. I was on a team that prioritized fun, to be clear. We were introduced to a wonderful course on leadership that day and I felt energized by the end of the day. I could tell I was going to do this and for good reason.
At the start of the second quarter, I was interviewed for an executive position at Hulu. Having gone through an exec interview prior to joining the EMBA program, I noticed that I could talk strategy and business in a much more seamless manner albeit in the tech industry. I certainly noticed a difference in how I presented myself and eventually accepted the role of VP of Software Development at Hulu. A global, multi-disciplinary executive role with all the elements of general management. The required qualities were ingrained into my demeanor because I was rubbing shoulders with incredible leaders for several days every month. The change was happening though I could not perceive it directly. My tech background helped as well, but this is the fit and finish that I was referring to earlier. During class, breakout sessions and class projects you were constantly learning from your cohort, guest speakers that comprised of CEOs and CFOs from massive organizations, and the world-class faculty that taught the courses. It makes a huge difference.
Through the various business and leadership courses, and opportunities to present your creative ideas, I started to rediscover myself in a safe and trusted environment. I received well rounded feedback and was pleasantly surprised at how much value I brought to the room. A fearless and authentic version of myself started to emerge as the months rolled by. The cohort blended into extended family and were always supportive, ensuring that everyone was successful. Brilliant ideas were formed through group effort and we all grew from each other’s diverse experiences and thought processes. The staff of the program provided an immensely supportive environment. There was no way you could not improve and grow to become a better version of yourself even if you tried.
At the end of the 4th quarter in Year 2, we were introduced to the Capstone project requirements that would get you thinking like an Entrepreneur. The courses up until then had already prepared the cohort with the tools and information needed to get started on this adventure where you eventually present your business idea with a full-fledged business plan to industry leaders. Seen Shark Tank? It is a similar setup with a potential for possible investment in the ideas presented. It is during these final months and the last quarter, that an idea started to form in my head. I had a lot of questions about my future. How would I use all this knowledge going forward? How would I use it in practical ways to not lose touch? Being at Hulu also connected me with my roots in the Media space. How can I continue to innovate in the tech and media space? My team for the Capstone project investigated building an app to prevent suicide. How could I give back to society in a meaningful way and combine that with my career?
I realized the time was right to pursue the idea of a Storytelling venture that not only brought everyday stories to life but also shared inspiration and hope. My cohort and the faculty at the Foster School of Business were an extraordinary source of support and inspiration. I was going to leave an executive role to take this plunge with no guarantee of what the journey would evolve into. But I knew it could be done. As part of the Entrepreneurship class, we got to meet and have extensive conversations with other trailblazers who started their own venture. We had in-depth conversations about what it takes, to start, to keep going and to succeed. And, thus, I started my own venture Kadha at www.kadha.com and officially launched the company in December 2020. Would I have made the leap had I not completed an EMBA at UW? I sincerely doubt it. The program, the people, and the spirit of the EMBA program gave me the lift-off into this new world of unlimited possibilities. Its’ only a start but the first step matters. And I am here, thanks to the program and the wonderful cohort family. They continue to support me in my efforts every step of the way, in any way possible. Most of all, I’m grateful for having these wonderful, accomplished individuals in my life.
Thus, I was able to expand my network to connect with the best and brightest across various industries, transition to general management, get promoted to an executive position and make the entrepreneurial leap. Pursuing an EMBA at UW is undoubtedly one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I hope this story convinces you to explore and gift yourself an EMBA at UW; a gift that never stops giving.
– Julie Madhusoodanan