Meet Sharyn Tom, Class of 2023

Photo of Sharyn TomCan you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. I studied in Marketing and Economics in undergrad, then started my career in insights. I really enjoyed understanding where the data came from and how it informed the roadmap, but I wanted to be closer to the action. I found my way into a core marketing role and realized I enjoyed building marketing initiatives from scratch. I’ve been doing that ever since and get to fold all my learnings from school into my projects.

Where did you start your career and what led you to choose the Evening MBA program at the UW Foster School of Business?

Location was the primary factor in deciding where to start my career.  I’ve seen some incredible cities, but Seattle just felt like home.  I visited it once after my gap year and immediately fell in love with the water and the mountains. I could see myself in my third career already and knew that if I wanted to work with tech companies, Seattle was the perfect place.  

Years after, I started looking at MBA programs by talking to mentors and found out about a Forte event in South Lake Union. I was on the fence because I didn’t want to leave Seattle and I still enjoyed my job, but the people from the UW Evening program had it all. They had their career

s at Microsoft and Boeing and an entire community at UW. They invited me to a class – Entrepreneurial Finance with Lance Young. That really sealed the deal. I’d taken business classes in my undergrad, but everything he said made sense. His lessons came from the sticky situations of real life – some of which I was wrestling with at work. I went to work the next day energized and more engaged than before. 

How do you balance family/friends, work and school?

Compartmentalization is a big help. Work gets my hours during the weekday, school gets three of my weeknights (plus a couple hours on Sunday) and my friends/family have the rest. At least once a week, I have a floating evening or morning block, where I make zero plans and do absolutely nothing. This is the most important time and it preserves my sanity. Setting those expectations upfront was the easy part, consistently enforcing them is a constant work in progress.

How have your fellow classmates influenced your experience in the program so far?

Community is one the top reasons I decided to do my MBA. The collaborative and laid-back environment is also something that drew me to the Evening program at UW. Most of us have jobs and aren’t competing for internships at a company. We came to learn and grow and be of service to others. 

The experience was different than what I was expecting because of the pandemic, but I don’t know how I would have gotten through COVID without them. We were all navigating changes to work and personal life during an uncertain time, and my classmates kept me grounded. I looked forward to seeing them everyday. They helped fight the loneliness we all battled with when we couldn’t see all our friends or family. During the pandemic, our cohort welcomed new jobs, promotions, and babies and supported each other in loss. I’ve hired people my classmates recommended, I received work opportunities from an alum, and I’ve met countless people at incredible companies in different roles through the UW network.

Students hiking on a trail

Is there a faculty member who stands out in your mind as being exceptional?

Beth Blankespoor is one of the best teachers I’ve had. Period. She taught Financial Accounting our first quarter and set the bar incredibly high with current events at the top of every class followed by the exploration of a new concept or set of company 

books. She allowed you to work alongside her as she illustrated how to balance some of the most common transactions and what they meant for the company. The conceptual learning also exceeded expectations as she took us through real cases and some of the toughest accounting challenges today. I’m the furthest thing from an Accountant, but she empowered me to think like one.

What have you learned in your experience in the Evening MBA program that you are able to apply to your current role?

So much! Lance Young’s Entrepreneurial Finance class is about as informative as it gets for understanding how much companies are worth and how they create value. I’m also learning plenty from my core Strategy class with David Sirmon. That class influenced a new set of projects I’ve proposed, and the projects will shape my company’s roadmap for the next six months.

Tell us about your experience participating in extracurricular activities or clubs. Which ones would you recommend to other students and why?

MBA Student Engagement

Women in Business is a great club for all evening students, women and allies alike. There’s strong representation from the Full-time and Evening programs so events are offered when all can attend. WiB also hosts signature events such as the Pay Negotiation workshop with Christina Fong and the Powerful Speaker Event that featured Sue Bird last year. 

What is the most challenging part of the MBA?

The most rewarding and most challenging part of the MBA is practicing new behaviors you’d like to exhibit more at work. If you’ve always wanted to be a better manager, now is the time to experiment with different styles of influence. If you’ve always wanted to speak more, or take lead on a finance project, now’s the time to advocate for it and let your team support you from the wings. It can be anxiety-inducing to let go and try new things, but there’s no easier or safer place to experiment than Foster.

What are some of your favorite memories of the Evening MBA program so far?

I really enjoyed our first summer together, when were finally allowed outside and we planned trips to Oregon, kayaked Lake Washington, and rented tennis courts in the middle of the week. It was the summer vacation we needed. 

MBA Class Photo