A Week in the life of TMMBA student Slava Agafonov

We asked Slava Agafonov, current Technology Management MBA (TMMBA) student to share a week in his life. Juggling work, an MBA and family life is not an easy task, but many of our TMMBA students find the fast-paced, work-compatible curriculum very rewarding.

This quarter is full of entrepreneurial spirit and I am excited to share what a week in the life of a TMMBA student looks like. Before I dive in I would like to give you some context and to tell you a bit about myself and why I chose the TMMBA Program.

Five years ago I relocated from the Ukraine to see how the biggest software company in the world operates. Today I still work as a software engineer for the Microsoft Bing team. I have a Master’s degree in computer science from Kharkov Aerospace University, but I decided to pursue an MBA to understand the business side of things and to learn how to build my own company. After researching MBA programs, I decided the best option for me was the TMMBA program because it is work compatible and only 18 months. Now I am 4 months away from graduation. The program is intense, but well thought-out to make your life easier.

Sunday: 15 Jan 2017

I went to enjoy nice weather with my friend Marat and my wife Anastasia at the Alpental ski resort (it is just a 45 minute drive from Seattle for folks who don’t know). On the way to the resort and back I read a few chapters from Disciplined Entrepreneurship, which explains 24 steps to a successful startup. I read about calculations for TAM (Total Addressable Market) size for your beachhead market. Here are few pictures from Alpental:

Slava Mountain 1

Slava Mountain 2

After a day well spent in the mountains, we visited Twedes Café in North Bend. This is a famous place from the Twin Peaks TV show with a famous cherry pie.

Slava Twin Peaks

David Lynch’s Twin Peaks was one of those improbable, instant phenomena that almost gave you nostalgia for the days when network television had an iron grip on American culture. I watched the series when I was kid and it was one of those mysterious shows from rainy Washington State. They are working on a second season of the show now.

Monday: 16 Jan 2017

I don’t always stick around for events near UW campus, but I am trying to visit all the ones related to entrepreneurship and startups. A few months ago, at a team formation event, I met a PhD student who was interested in tools to build better batteries. He is studying in the Materials Science & Engineering Department and they need help with better data analytics software for R&D. I am working with him on this startup idea and we are planning to participate in upcoming UW competitions like SEBA (Science & Engineering Business Association), the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge and Business Plan Competition. We are also planning to participate in Amazon Catalyst and Berkeley Cup. This week my goal was to participate in the UW SEBA competition and I am working on a poster to showcase our idea. After a full day of work, I returned home and worked on the poster for the competition and I talked to my startup team about final touches. Around midnight I reviewed the homework assignment for Entrepreneurship class.

Tuesday: 17 Jan 2017

I had no school and a full productive day at work. I prefer to work long hours when I have energy and no school. At work we are building one of the biggest knowledge graph teams in the world. We crawl data from Wikipedia, LinkedIn, IMDB and other websites. Today, I made our Natural Language Processing service responses run faster and 30% smaller with the new Bond schema.

Also today, our payment was due for the 7 day International Study Tour. The International Study Tour is one of the main attractions of the TMMBA program. In March we are going to Germany (Berlin) and Estonia (Tallinn). The main idea of this tour is to build stronger connections to our classmates and gain a better understanding of global businesses. Some of the companies we are going to visit are Cisco, Siemens, Mercedes–Benz, and Skype.

Wednesday: 18 Jan 2017

Running is fun and I am trying to do it on the days I can. Today there was a bit of rain that made it very refreshing–9 laps in the nearby soccer field helped me to plan for the day ahead. Today at work, we discussed a couple of problems with our project and how we can increase accuracy of our results. At 5:15 PM it was time to go to school. Our professor Ben Hallen is one of a kind, he is good to learn from because he has experience as a founder, CEO and CTO for Topik Solutions. He also has a PhD in Entrepreneurship from Stanford University. I really enjoyed the class session with guest speaker Avni Patel, the CEO of Poppy. Avni Patel was talking about successful startup experiences and how she raised money from top venture capital companies in the area. Poppy is a company that connects you with your neighborhood’s best sitters, only a text away. Based on this presentation by a real-life entrepreneur, our assignment was to write up an ‘Opportunity Analysis Memo’ regarding the attractiveness of the opportunity, your biggest concerns, and metrics and factors you would track with the venture going forward. The main idea around opportunity analysis is to use frameworks that we learned in class like DWI (Doable? Worth it? Am I right person?) and it is 20% of our grade.

Thursday: 19 Jan 2017

After a standard day at work I am heading to UW for the SEBA competitions to pitch our startup idea:

“Battery technology will enable greater penetration of renewable energy sources, electric vehicles, and other energy efficiency solutions. However, battery testing infrastructure used for research and product development is both expensive and compromised by 15-year-old software packages. The limited functionality of these data processing tools wastes time. Therefore, manufacturers cannot catch defects in time. For Samsung and its Galaxy Note 7, this failure has been a $17 billion liability!

For our go-to-market strategy, Cloud Instruments is building a platform for battery testing and analytics. In the future, this analytics platform will be extended to address additional Internet of Things devices. Our platform automates data handling, storage, and visualization – tasks that take between 25 and 50% of a battery engineer’s time! We provide real-time access to battery production data and send alerts when quality standards are not met. Our analysis tools provide deeper understanding beyond surface-level performance statistics and focus on predictive analytics with machine learning.”

Slava SECB

The competition was great! We raised money from University of Washington on a prototype, made connections in the startup community, and we recruited new people to our team.

Friday: 20 Jan 2017

I had a long day at work to cover a few missing hours from the week. Later at night, I had a lot of readings to prepare for pitch class tomorrow, one that I really enjoyed was “The Art of the Pitch” by Guy Kawasaki.

Saturday: 21 Jan 2017

As an entrepreneur, your success is directly tied to your abilities to communicate effectively. Our professor from TMMBA Entrepreneurial Influence and the “Pitch” is Julie Sandler and she is VC and partner at Madrona Venture Group. This class was about entrepreneurship and the role that verbal communication, influence, and persuasion play in shaping your success in starting, growing, managing, leading, and even exiting a venture. We also had 3 amazing guests, leaders of local companies: Aaron Easterly (CEO of Rover), Mark Britton (CEO of Avvo), and Eric Scollard (VP of Sales for Qumulo). We talked about fundraising, sales and best practices for a pitch deck.

It was an awesome week with a lot of fun.. Please reach to me if you want to get in touch of if you have any questions: http://agafonovslava.com

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