Why MBA? Let me tell you…

I am very excited to announce that I will be enrolled in the UW Foster Hybrid MBA program this upcoming fall. My program kicks off on September 17th and I will be once again wearing a cap and gown in June 2020.

Izzy and me in our Foster swag

But why MBA? Why not full-time? Why this program? Read on for answers!

Why business school?

While an MBA has been on the brain for several years, I first began to seriously consider business school last summer. At this stage in the decision process, I needed to determine if the content and curriculum would help me grow my skills as a product manager and more importantly, as a leader.

During my early research, I stumbled upon Smartly, an online MBA program designed to teach the modern professional that is 100% administered through the mobile application provided. Its curriculum covered everything from finance & accounting to organizational change. The content was taught and assessed through the mobile application and web portal with a few cases studies and projects done offline. While the content of Smartly was only touching the surface, I still found value in learning the basics of fields I never had the chance to explore in college. I was even able to directly apply my learnings to my role at Uber, but more importantly, this program left me wanting more.

Why part-time?

Once I had decided that the curriculum of business school would be valuable for my professional growth and development, I need to figure out how to make it happen. The first question I needed to answer in this stage of the journey was, part-time or full-time?

At first the answer to this question was incredibly obvious. Why would I spend $200K+ on a full-time program which would require me to move away from my beloved Seattle and drop out of the workforce for two years?? While cost savings and the inconvenience of uprooting are certainly good reasons against full-time, I needed to better understand if I would be able to juggle the demands of work and school, but also if I would come out the other side having learned as much as possible.

Exhibit A of “why I love Seattle”

Learning can take on many forms and there is not a one-size-fit all solution. From my years in school, I have discovered that I learn best through application. While in school, I often felt frustrated that I couldn’t directly apply the skills I was gaining in a real-world context. Likewise, during my summer internships, I wish I was gaining more skills to better approach my projects. For me, part-time was an opportunity to learn in the way I learn best and Smartly even helped me put this theory to the test.

While Smartly has a suggested curriculum pace, mastery and retention of content is up to you. Making the most of the program required a high level of commitment, discipline, and self-direction. I got creative with creating time to complete the modules and case studies. Even with the demands of work, I learned how to fit in coursework with my busy schedule. While at times, it was challenging to keep up, I gained a better understanding of the content because I was able to immediately apply concepts to my day job. This actually increased my job performance, rather than detracted from my focus.

With all of these benefits, obviously, I needed to do part-time…I made up my mind and pushed forward in my research of programs and action plan.

However, this past spring, a recent visit to Harvard campus made me seriously question my decision. I was in Cambridge to present a guest lecture to an undergraduate course I used to teach. While there, I attended a few HBS classes with a good friend who is currently a full-time student. I was blown away by these classes. Never before had I seen such engagement in a classroom setting (keep in mind I was a CS undergrad, no one went to class). The discussion was thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating. On top of this, students form incredibly strong bonds with their sectionmates from their weekly social events to literally traveling the world together.

Pretty much an accurate depiction of some of my 10 am CS lectures

Like anything in life, there are pros and cons to every path you take. While this experience certainly challenged my original thoughts on the matter, ultimately, I chose part-time. I’d be lying if I said that walking away from the possibility of a full-time MBA program wasn’t a difficult decision. It meant closing some doors and potentially missing out on meaningful experiences. However, with all that I would be giving up, there was ultimately much more that I’d be gaining.

Why Hybrid MBA?

I originally had set the goal to use the first half of 2018 to research part-time programs and apply for my top choices in the second half of the year. During my extensive googling, I stumbled across the UW Foster Hybrid MBA program. To quote their website:

“The Hybrid MBA Program is a new work-compatible, mostly online MBA option from the top-ranked, accredited University of Washington Foster School of Business. Taught by Foster’s high-caliber MBA faculty, this two-year, interactive program is designed for working professionals who need flexibility not offered by traditional MBA programs. The first of its kind offered by Foster, the Hybrid MBA combines the rigor and reputation of a Foster MBA with the convenient schedule of online coursework and quarterly in-person sessions. Created to fit a busy lifestyle, the Hybrid MBA enables working parents, frequent business travelers, and young professionals to learn where they are while also taking advantage of the region’s unique, dynamic, and innovative business community to advance their careers.”
The beautiful Paccar Hall

Not only was this program incredibly flexible in that I could attend class from the comfort of my own home (or whichever city I find myself in for work), but it also had an in-person component that would allow me to form bonds with my cohort. Even better… it had a June 1st deadline… meaning I could make my dream a reality much sooner than I had anticipated. This felt right to me, so I decided to apply.

Sneak peek into my new Saturday morning routine #studyhard

Being able to “learn while you earn” is great and all, but a major component of business school is the intimate and engaging case study discussion. Ultimately, what sold me on my decision and gave me #noregrets was my interview for the Foster Hybrid program. Through this conversation, I was able gain insights into the values of a part-time program that you can’t quite understand from just reading a promotional webpage. I was able to better understand the magic behind the scenes that goes into making the “Foster Live” case studies engaging and intimate. In the Hybrid MBA program, the administrators and instructors really go the extra mile to ensure that students are able to form bonds with their cohort, to help students gain a deep understanding of the curriculum, and most importantly, to mimic the feeling of a full-time program.

Why now?

Honestly, there is no better time than the present! This past year at Uber has been an amazing time full of learning and growing. Part of my DNA is to always be looking towards the next set of challenges. While there is never a shortage of opportunities and problems to tackle at Uber, I wanted to grow in a different way. I want to invest in myself and in my future in a way that doesn’t require me to step away from an exciting company.

Can’t wait to root for the Huskies, this time as a student!

I am #superpumped to begin class next month!!