Radical Collaboration Week 2020 Brings Together MBAs and Seattle’s Iconic Companies

Now in its second year, the Foster full-time MBA program’s Radical Collaboration Week is an opportunity for first year students to build crucial relationships not only with their cohort, but with Foster alumni and the iconic companies where they now work. Foster alums helped organize the real-world business challenges brought to this year’s Radical Collaboration participants and the visits to Starbucks, Microsoft, Expedia and Amazon where students presented their solutions.

Here is a snapshot of the experience:

It’s Foster alums who helped organize these company visits and the real-world business challenges brought to this year’s Radical Collaboration participants. This year welcomed six alumni representing four of Seattle’s heavy hitters: Jeff Jessie from Starbucks, Rachel Curry from Amazon, Paras Gandhi and Chris Loeffler from Expedia, and Josh Anderson and Nick Ferderer from Microsoft.

Leslie Meagley, Sr. Associate Director with Stacy Duhon, MBA Career Management, at the opening session of Radical Collaboration Week 2020

Our graduates know the value of their Foster MBA and reach out to help our students; that’s part of the culture here. -Leslie Meagley, Sr. Associate Director, MBA Career Management

The morning included a series of workshops to help students build a strong foundation for their working teams, power up their presentation skills and learn more about strategic business models.

Jeff Jessie from Starbucks

After an intensive working introductory lunch session at Anthony’s Forum at Dempsey Hall, the four breakout groups split up to receive briefings from Foster alum on their respective companies’ business problems. Students then digested the finer points of the challenge and had the opportunity to ask questions and hear advice from their mentoring alum.

Students learned about the business case prompt that their team would be working on during the week. Then, students broke into four groups to receive briefings from Foster alums from Amazon, Expedia, Microsoft, and Starbucks for their presentations to the company representatives on Friday.

This year welcomed six alumni representing four of Seattle’s key companies: Jeff Jessie from Starbucks, Rachel Curry from Amazon, Paras Gandhi and Chris Loeffler from Expedia, and Josh Anderson and Nick Ferderer from Microsoft.

“We are so grateful for our engaged graduates,” Assistant Dean-MBA Career Management Naomi Sanchez. “This is just one example of a time when they actively reach out to support our students; that’s part of the culture here.”

Rachel Curry, MBA ’17, a Finance Manager at Amazon, coached students on stakes and expectations for the week’s Friday on-site presentations, urging them to ask “What happens to the customer experience if this [proposal] fails?”, suggesting to “back up any points and ideas with hard data,” and resist the temptation to take a stab in the dark when faced with tough questions.

When in doubt, “I don’t know” is always the right answer. -Rachel Curry, MBA ’17, a Finance Manager at Amazon

Paras Gandhi from Expedia

Paras Gandhi from Expedia

Jeff Jessie from Starbucks

Be comfortable with ambiguity. -Nick Ferderer, MBA ’19, Business Architect at Microsoft

At Microsoft’s Josh Anderson and Nick Ferderer’s breakout session, they speculated on the kind of ideas that make managers happy. They suggested that it’s not always imprudent to reach for lower hanging fruit: “The easy to think of things that we didn’t think of.”

Chris Loeffler from Expedia

Friday of Radical Collaboration Week 2020 brought students on-site to our mentoring alum’s respective companies after two days of presentation prep by breakout groups.

Alumni Josh Anderson and Nick Ferderer of Microsoft and their MBA breakout group.

At Microsoft’s visit, “We saw great collaboration among the teams. The teams identified real problems, and had great answers to questions. As you get through the rest of the quarter, a lot solutions come down to the fundamentals of thoroughly understanding the problems. We already saw that in the teams.” observed Josh Anderson, MBA ’17, Business Program Manager at Microsoft. It was impressive how professional and polished everyone was. For the first project, this was really amazing.”

At Amazon, the on-site presentation was well-received. “We loved doing this for students; it was good last year — and this year! All of the ideas were great. It’s hard to believe it was done over just a few hours. They did great!”

And the presenting students?

“It was a great opportunity to quickly bond with our new team by having a low stake and open-ended case prompt which allowed for our creativity to flow without feeling a large degree of pressure.”

Career Services ALWAYS does an amazing job at well-organizing events and ensuring the response to each and every student with a personal approach.

Events like Radical Collaboration Week are what we consider part of the “secret sauce” to the Foster MBA program’s 99% post-grad job placement rate, helping facilitate networking connections with top companies, building strong relationships within cohorts, and facilitating an engaged process of self-reflection and active learning to truly understand and make good on the opportunities afforded by a Foster MBA.