Q&A with Samantha Sangrey, Class of 2021

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

Sam Sangrey_1I loved my experience as an undergraduate at Foster. I always intended to go back for my MBA but did not want to impact my career at Microsoft. Foster’s Evening MBA program was a perfect way to join a world class MBA program to advance my career academically while continuing my career path forward at Microsoft.

The commitment to both a master’s program and a demanding day job can be daunting. Foster’s community was the key driver in my decision to start the program. Having a cohort of working professionals that were balancing the same commitment as I was provided a group that would both support me and hold me accountable to growth and learning.

Foster has provided incredible opportunities to gain exposure outside of the classroom, such as mentorship programs with alumni, case competitions, and more. One of my most meaningful experiences was participating in the Board Fellows program as a second year student. I served as a board member for Northaven Senior Living, a non-profit organization devoted to affordable housing and compassionate care.

Student Experience

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

Sam Sangrey_4

As a first-year especially, I weighed heavily towards school to invest fully in my coursework, my team, and my cohort. My husband, family, and friends were very supportive, even though it meant less time with them. Instead of having available time, I had to shift to making a conscious effort to plan meaningful time with the important people in my life. My manager was also incredibly flexible with me, allowing me to take a Friday off when needed to study for a final, and understood when I needed to leave early to commute.

I believe to be successful in the program, you should not make this decision alone, but should align with your partner, family, friends, and manager in advance. By bringing these key stakeholders along from the beginning, not only do they cheer me on, but they are also able to share in my successes and celebrate milestones with me.

In December, my husband and I found out the very exciting news that we were expecting our first baby. With core classes ending and electives beginning in my second year of the program, I knew I would be able to manage pregnancy with work and school with the support of my classmates, teachers, manager, husband, and family. 

I also loved the support of the fellow mothers and fathers in the MBA program, including those that had a baby during the first and second year. I appreciated the program’s flexibility in allowing me to take more classes in second year, so I could fully take fall quarter off in my third year and still plan to graduate on time in Spring of 2021. Work life balance is constantly shifting as different pieces of your life require prioritization — being clear on your priorities is key to success.

Work / Life / School Balance 

What’s the most challenging part of the MBA?

Sam Sangrey_2In February, the world and my job at Microsoft changed with the novel coronavirus. As part of our Real Estate and Security organization at Microsoft, we began a global response in partnership with our Crisis Management Program Office, HR, Corporate Communications, Legal, and more. What started with closing a couple sites, led to a series of strategic discussions and decisions required for a global pandemic response.

We quickly created a response team focused on putting life safety and employee wellbeing above all else. With this mindset, we worked with country leadership and health experts to close sites early and move to a remote working model. At the same time, we worked on a global approach and playbook on best practices, first closing sites, and more recently, opening back up as risk levels lowered in certain countries. Our team was a key driver in policy, preparedness, and process development for the company wide response. Simultaneously, our team helped plan to continue paying for our hourly workers and diverting our budget to provide meals for community members in need and donations worldwide.

For me personally, to work on a global pandemic response team meant a change in my priorities as I finished my second year of my MBA. As school moved remote, it meant longer hours on virtual calls. I made a conscious decision to prioritize my final core class, and team projects, but to de-prioritize any optional material in order to focus more time on my day job. My classmates and teachers were very supportive, and I was able to successfully balance an increased workload with school with the critical demands of work. 

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

Our cohort has been the most influential part of my MBA experience. Learning to work with others from a variety of backgrounds and styles has made me a better collaborator, team member, and leader. This approach helped broaden my views, pushed me outside my comfort zone, and accelerated my learning.

I cannot imagine my MBA experience without my fellow classmates. Our class is incredibly social and takes full advantage of our time together, from Wednesday night happy hours, class trips to Whistler, tailgating at UW football games, and more. It takes a special kind of person to try to balance school, work, and family all at once and bringing those people together created a truly special community; one where everyone is invested in each other’s success. I am excited not only for the network I’ve built of current and future leaders across industry, but also for the lifelong friends I’ve made. 

Have you participated in any extracurricular activities or clubs?

In my first year, I was a part of the MBA Board as a Class of 2021 Student Representative. This was a favorite position of mine as it allowed me to meet everyone in our class and create networking and bonding opportunities. As a second year student, I continued on the board as the VP of Student Affairs, planning our larger student body celebrations. I strongly encourage everyone to take a leadership role in this program as it provides an opportunity to give back to the program while working with passionate students, professors to foster leadership in Foster community.

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