TMMBA Study Groups: Team Confluence

Team Confluence

(L-R) Mary Minoo, Program Manager, Microsoft; Frank Sellinger, Deployment Network Engineer, AOL; Phillip Allison, Regional Account Manager, Datalight Inc; Erin Aselas, Web Team Leader, Bastyr University; Hani Rachidi, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft.

Meet Team Confluence

Team Confluence has discovered the key to success – equipped with a unique blend of business skills and expertise, these five teammates have launched their innovative business venture (TrueLight FLIIP) and secured a position in the Sweet Sixteen Round of the UW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition.

Phillip Allison: I’m currently working as an Account Manager responsible for software licensing and business development. For the past six years my work has focused on global business development in the technology industry; prior to that period, I spent ten years working in several fields as an engineer. I chose the TMMBA Program because of the excellent faculty and the central theme of technology within the business education, which aligned well with my experience and aspirations.

Erin Aselas: I am not your standard-issue TMMBA student. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Classics. My 12 year career has primarily been in the non-profit industry with very little to do with technology. However, through the years, I have been repeatedly asked to serve in the role of layman-IT liaison (if you will). I was always the one assigned to work with IT to figure out solutions for the rest of the non-IT groups (primarily operational and marketing-related solutions). It hasn’t been until the last four years of my career that this has actually been my full-time position. Now I serve as the team leader for the web team at Bastyr University. The odd thing is I am a member of the marketing team and not the IT team. I consider myself a full-time marketer, but some days will find me wearing my ‘code and spec’ hat. While it can be a challenge to balance these two things, we have found it is the most effective way for our two teams to meet common goals, and I enjoy the variety it offers.

I think it is this background that led me to choose the UW TMMBA Program. I knew I wanted to pursue a Foster MBA, but I specifically chose the TMMBA Program because I enjoy interacting with technology professionals. I find they are often pensive, humble and curious. These are qualities I value, and I felt like I could get more out of the experience by joining a group that carefully and analytically considers new ideas and concepts.

Mary Minoo: I’m currently working as Program Manager at Microsoft in the online advertising space. I previously worked for a wireless start up that provided location based services to major carriers (6 years project management).

Hani Rachidi: I am at the intersection of business and technology and have a passion for creating solutions in the enterprise computing space. I have over a decade of experience leading and contributing to high impact application development and business process transformation in the world’s leading firms. Currently, I’m a Senior Program Manager leader at Microsoft Corporation in their Enterprise Experience division working on billing and pricing scenarios for cloud services. The Technology Management MBA was the best option for me to broaden my perspective and skills while accelerating my career.

Frank Sellinger: Currently I’m working as a Technical Project Manager and Senior Deployment Engineer for AOL Mobile. In the past, I have held many technology related positions from systems administration to data center management. I chose TMMBA because I felt it was a good match for my work background and would enable me to pursue my business goals while still focusing on technology. Another important factor was that it fit my schedule and time goals.

How do you benefit from the different perspectives that your colleagues bring to the study group?

Mary: My teammates’ diverse backgrounds lead to richer conversations around the course work. The continuous exposure to a broader set of ideas, opinions, and problem solving approaches has expanded how I think about business and how I tackle problems in my current job.

Frank: In many ways, I believe that the team experience is the most important aspect of this program.  It forces you to work with other people that may not always have the same goals and ideals as you.  By doing this, you learn how to compromise, resolve conflict, negotiate, and cooperate. All of these skills are a value-add for any organization that you may end up working with.

What has been your favorite class and why?

Erin: I really enjoyed Financial Reporting and Analysis (aka Accounting) first quarter.  I am sure for many this is an odd choice, but I have always enjoyed the financial roles I have had in my various career positions, and I was pleased to discover that my interests and abilities are well aligned. This course has helped me shape my post-TMMBA career plan, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been taught by Frank Hodge who is an excellent practitioner and very effective instructor.

Mary: My favorite class has been Marketing High-Technology Products and Services. Coming from an operations background, I’ve had little exposure to marketing, let alone marketing philosophies. This class changed the way I think about the marketing function and provided me with a framework to make informed marketing decisions and develop smart marketing plans.

How have the TMMBA and Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) networks been beneficial to you?

Phillip: I’ve met many people through the program, not only in my class, but also at networking events with the UW, the CIE, and the UW Center for Commercialization (UWC4C). At the UWC4C monthly social events, I’ve made network connections with entrepreneurs, investors, and university researchers; they’ve introduced me to many intriguing technologies and individuals. I’m confident that this network will continue to expand and provide me with opportunities that would otherwise not be presented to me.

Erin: I believe that it is highly likely that our next career opportunity will come from the TMMBA network.  We have bonded over the last 18 months; we understand each other’s world view, know each other’s unique talents, and respect each other’s intellect and integrity. I know if an opportunity comes around that I think is a good fit for a classmate, I will definitely present that opportunity to him/her and I believe the same courtesy would be extended to me.

CIE has provided great exposure to the tech commercialization and entrepreneurial community in Seattle. We have met and been advised by investment bankers, lawyers, VCs, start-up entrepreneurs, industry experts, you name it. It has been an invaluable experience and a great complement to the classroom.

Why did you decide to participate in the CIE Business Plan Competition (BPC)?

Phillip: I decided to participate because of the excellent opportunity to develop a full business plan for commercializing this revolutionary technology and then having the forum to present it to the entrepreneurial and investment community.

Frank: I decided to participate in the BPC because it’s a place where the rubber meets the road. It also gives you invaluable insight on how classroom subject matters are applied in a business setting. Not all classroom theory is applicable in real-world scenarios.

How has the BPC added to your TMMBA experience?

Mary: Overall the experience has been challenging but very rewarding – challenging in that we’ve taken on work above and beyond our course commitments.  We all work full-time, so squeezing in an extra project requires some serious sacrifice and team dedication.  However, the process of integrating and applying our MBA skills has not only helped solidify certain skills and concepts, it has transformed theoretical class work into something very real and useful.  Additionally, the feedback we’ve received from the business community has been invaluable. I can honestly say all the extra effort is well worth it.

Hani: The business plan brought together my passion for entrepreneurship with strong business fundamentals. I am responsible for our marketing plan and strategy. I drew most heavily on my Entrepreneurship course and the two Marketing courses. The concepts in those courses, like the technology adoption lifecycle, 4Ps, and branding, translated very well into the BPC.

Frank: As a team, we were able to apply much of the classroom subject matter to our business plan. We touched on subjects from finance, accounting, entrepreneurship, marketing, management and organizational strategies, and public speaking. I would recommend that everyone try the BPC in order to gain invaluable experience applying newly learned topics and subjects to an actual business idea; it really puts the program into perspective and gives you a springboard to the business/startup world. Finally, it gives you the opportunity to think on your feet – nothing is static and numerous adjustments are needed when navigating the BPC.