Q&A with Alyssa Lachner, Class of 2020

Why did you choose the Evening MBA Program at the Foster School of Business?

I chose the Evening MBA at Foster because I wanted a work compatible program that was competitively ranked where I could immediately take what I learned and apply it back to my current role.  After listening to Dan Poston, Assistant Dean, talk so passionately about the Foster culture and academics, I knew Foster was where I belonged. Sitting in on Weili Ge’s accounting class later that evening further solidified that feeling.


Student Experience

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

Balancing work, family, friends (and all the rest) with a challenging course load can be difficult at times. Getting my MBA really forced me to prioritize where I placed my time. Maintaining my physical and emotional health was critical for me to help balance the stress of getting an MBA. I’m very relationship oriented, so making sure I was able squeeze in quality time with those closest to me was equally important. I quickly realized that giving myself a little grace and not beating myself up when I didn’t succeed in balancing all of these things in a given week was going to be important. No one is perfect. I will say it is amazing what you learn to accomplish in a given day – sometimes juggling things down to the wire and finding 15-minute increments to complete the remaining parts of your life – scheduling appointments, feeding the dog, snagging a quick meal to go or coffee before heading to class.

How have your fellow students influenced your experience in the MBA?

I have met so many wonderful people at Foster, a few of whom have become some of my closest and dearest friends. It can be intimidating at first because everyone seems so accomplished and successful at such an early stage in their careers. I remember being particularly intimidated my first year in many of the quant heavy courses like econ, statistics, and finance because I had taken no business classes in undergrad. However, this is where I learned to lean on my team and their expertise in areas where I was lacking initially. In this program, everyone truly wants to help each other succeed and it was crucial for me to realize that I had knowledge and skill sets of my own that I brought to the table.

Did you participate in any extracurricular activities or clubs?

Absolutely. I got the most out of my Foster experience by participating and networking outside of the classroom. One year I was a student ambassador – a program that allows prospective students to connect with current students and get a feel for the program by attending class. Another year I was a student mentor for incoming students by offering insights and advice on navigating through the first year. I also participated in Challenge for Charity, which is a year-long competition between top West Coast MBA schools to fundraise money to support Boys and Girls Club, Special Olympics, and local food banks. It ends in a competitive sports weekend at Stanford University where each school competes to take home the Golden Briefcase. Trust me – it’s a BIG DEAL and by far one of my more memorable moments at Foster. I also participated in our husky football huddles and annual Whistler trips and organized foodie group outings and a supply chain tour for my class.

Curriculum

What is the classroom environment like?

The classroom environment is extremely hands-on and you can expect a lot of class participation. Students are accepted into the program not just for their vast range of knowledge and broad experiences, but also to bring their perspectives and share them with others. While it can be intimidating at first (I initially thought my comments might not be as valuable as others) I realized that being vulnerable and asking what I thought was a “dumb” question, allowed myself and others to learn even more because the professor often added on more than what was  initially asked. The classroom is designed to make you really (and I mean really) use your brain and apply new concepts to real life scenarios. Expect to lean heavily on your classmates – you will do a lot of prep with them beforehand. Don’t feel afraid to call a lifeline.

Faculty

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

There are so many great faculty members at Foster, it’s truly hard to pick a favorite. I loved my strategy classes and thought David Sirmon and Tiona Zazul did an amazing job at getting us to think about all the elements that tie into strategy, helping us navigate why some companies succeed against all odds while others fail completely. Lance Young’s Entrepreneurial Finance class is a must. It ties everything together from all previous classes and really helps to solidify earlier concepts learned. Expect to dive deep into the value chain and learn how to evaluate a company’s worth. Even though extremely challenging, I learned so much from Simha’s Customer Analytics class around using regression analysis to effectively target marketing efforts. Macro Economics with Debra Glassman was another favorite – it was so rewarding to finally understand how everything ties together on a larger level and real time examples.

Career Impact

How has your MBA experience enabled you to see your industry/company/career differently?

As I mentioned earlier, I love being able to take what I learn in class and apply it back to my job. My current role is in marketing and I love being able to apply analytics and tactics learned in class back into my current role. Getting my MBA has helped me think more strategically about value proposition, return on investment of taking on certain projects over others, and so much more. I also feel more confident in interpreting our quarterly and annual earnings reports now that I understand which factors impact our bottom line.

What surprised you about the MBA experience? 

I think what surprised me most is how much I grew as an individual. I think many of us start off  thinking getting an MBA will primarily be focused on the academic experience and career growth, but I think it has just as much to do with personal growth. In one of our leadership classes, we learned about “crucibles” (refining life moments), and I think the MBA is just that – a “crucible” – a moment in time full of opportunity for growth and learning not just about business and leadership, but about life, about others, and especially about yourself.

What part of the MBA experience did you enjoy most?

There isn’t a single thing I enjoyed the most. It’s the combination of it all – the people, the faculty, the education, the extracurricular experiences, the lifelong friendships I’ve made that make getting an MBA one of the most invaluable experiences I’ve had…and traveling the world with some of my closest friends.