MBA Alumni Profiles

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Alumni Profiles

Check back for more profiles, to learn more about Milgard MBA alumni & students read our MBA newsletters.


Philemon Yeboah

MBA Class of 2018

 

"I chose UW Tacoma because of three main reasons - proximity, the “UW” name and class sizes."

"The articles, cases and team projects in coursessuch as Financial Statement Analysis, Marketing Management, Organizational Change, Individual and Team Dynamics, and Strategic Managementnot only helped me gain hands-on knowledge on how to apply academic concepts in the real world, but also made me appreciate the challenges that managers face during decision making."    
 

Tell me a bit about yourself. 

I am from Kumasi, a city in Ghana, West Africa. I completed my bachelor’s degree in business administration at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana. Prior to college, I had a dream of pursuing academic career abroad, and I kept this dream alive when I was at KNUST.  It felt surreal when I found out that I had won the US DV-Lottery as a junior in college for a chance to come to the United States. I was successful in securing a VISA to the US after going through the lottery processing an and interviews. Surely, my dreams were coming true! Two years after graduation I moved to the USA where I worked with people with developmental disabilities in a direct service personnel role for about 3 years before starting the MBA program in Fall 2016. I chose UW Tacoma because of three main reasons - proximity, the “UW” name and class sizes.As a Washington State resident, I knew about the financial benefits as well as the social support I would enjoy should I pursue my education here. Additionally, UWT combines the prestige of UW with much smaller class sizes - a combination that has contributed immensely to my success here at the school.


What has been the most rewarding part of the program for you? 

I must say that all my professors have wonderfully contributed to my career development.  Dr. Merchant and Dr. Saudagaran have been extremely gracious in advising me on how to position myself to realize my personal goals. Similarly, despite their busy schedules, Dr. Eberly and Dr. Weller did not hesitate to provide me with endorsements for a couple of programs that recognizes students. These professors took it a step further to impact positively on my personal life.


What has been the most challenging part of the program?


The challenge I faced in the program was finding the same success I enjoyed on my individual assignments, in our group projects. Although my team members and I did our very best, it was disappointing to see us receive the lowest score on a number of occasions. A major tool that helped me overcome this challenge was resilience. I pushed myself to gather more information, engage my professor, and take more responsibilities for the group. In the end, our group score improved. In talking with my professor later, she mentioned ‘resilience’ as one of my strongest qualities. It boosted my confidence and reassured me that I can make any A situation better so far as I maintain a growth mindset.
The second challenge is the “lone ranger” life I’ve had to adjust to here in the United States. It has been very challenging living thousands of miles away from my family. I come from a large family - 2 brothers and 3 sisters along with our extended relatives - and we all lived together until I moved to USA. 5 years here without seeing them has brought on a home sickness that will certainly be cured when I visit Ghana for a few weeks immediately following graduation in June.

Are there specific projects you’ve learned from or enjoyed? 

The best of the program was my team project in Marketing Management, where I helped develop a marketing plan for a local business. My team worked with the business owner to assess his potential market, perform a SWOT analysis, measure brand awareness, and make practical recommendations that he could use to help improve the business. The best part is that in the second year of our program, we did another project with the same business, and realized that he had implemented most of our recommendations for the marketing plan with marked positive returns. As a team, we really felt proud that we have been able to contribute positively to the development of a local business. 
Secondly, I really enjoyed writing an organization change case on a department of a local non-profit. This was an individual project in our Organizational Change class in Fall 2018. The process was a little challenging because most of the literature as well as frameworks that we used for the project were based on for-profit organizations. This meant that I had to make several adjustments to these models so they could suit a non-profit. The professor for this class was very helpful in guiding me as I made the changes to the models, and in the end I came up with a very informative case. The rewarding part came this quarter when the Department head invited me over for coffee. I was very proud.
Now, the light-bulb moment is if one would put in enough resources in the project work and collaborate with the professors in finding solutions to challenges one faces in the process, one will realize double benefits. Let me explain the double benefits. It means that your projects will be very helpful not only to the businesses but also to yourself. Example, it has been helpful to me in the sense that now I know that what I was taught in class works in the real world (well, you need to make a few adjustments though). Also, it has given me credibility with these local firms, and who knows where this might take me?

What’s next?

My short-term goal is to work as a financial analyst or in a consultancy role and climb into the chief finance officer of a firm that believes in equity and career development. In the long run, I will be working towards establishing a micro finance organization in Ghana to support small scale business access funding. However, these goals are subject to change at any point in time. That’s one thing that going through this program has taught me.


If you could share advice now that you've been through the program?


Pray, focus, enjoy! These are the three things I would say. 
Pray: As a Christian, I prayed a lot, and this was one way that I refueled my inner being. The program is challenging and can be very overwhelming so during such times, it would be advisable to do something that would give you inner peace. And praying to Jehovah gave me more than that; it gave me new strength to soar up high.
Focus: Have a goal or purpose for the MBA program and keep your eyes fixed on it. My goals were simple- to be a first generation masters graduate as well as to fulfill my personal dream. With my entire attention on these goals, I was able to keep going even when the going got tough. In such situations, I looked back and saw that my 5 siblings in Ghana are looking forward to me, my dad and mom are hoping I do well, and lastly I did not want to be disappointed when I look back at my days here and realize I did not put my best foot forward. 
Enjoy: Combining the MBA program with a job (I worked part time through school) would mean that one would have very little time to spare. However, I would encourage current and potential students to find time to have fun. In my spare time, I tried as much as possible to hang out with friends and family, go to the movies, or attend social events in the community. One thing that I found very helpful is the UWY. Go there, do some cardio exercises, work on your muscles, practice yoga, or go for a swim at the community Y, which is about 2minutes from the UWY. It is part of your tuition guys! I am proud of not only getting a degree but also gaining muscles.

Photo of Philemon Yeboah, graduating MBA class of 2018


Karen Janz

MBA Class of 2018

 

“Say "yes" when asked to attend a special presentation or attend a meeting. From experience, it makes the school experience richer and enables me to learn something from every opportunity.”        

Tell me a bit about yourself. 

I obtained my undergraduate degree from Central Washington University. 25 years later, I found that the degree began to feel outdated and I was between jobs, having just sold my interest in a local business. In 2016, I deemed the MBA program as a great next step for my career, as it felt like an ideal time to reinvent myself. I chose UW Tacoma for its positive reputation, evening classes, and intimate nature of classes.  


What has been the most rewarding part of the program for you? 

Relationships that I have developed with my professors, UW staff and cohort are the most rewarding about my experience at Milgard. Soft skill classes on communication and teamwork were also rewarding, as they are so necessary in today's environment.


What has been the most challenging part of the program?

The most challenging of the program was finding the stamina to finish each quarter. Every quarter, there came time when I thought I didn't belong back at school; the coursework felt beyond my ability and I wanted to quit. At those times, I reached out to my cohort, who were always there for reassurance. I don't think I would be graduating today without their support. 

Are there specific projects you’ve learned from or enjoyed? 

The board governance class gave me the opportunity to work with Hilltop Artists in Residence to learn more about how the non-profit world works. They use art to connect at-risk youth to a better future. For my project, I helped a student leadership group develop bylaws, set goals, and sell raffle tickets. 


What’s next?

After graduation I am looking forward to having free time. After taking a little break, I will begin looking for a job in education or non-profit management. I am also looking forward to becoming a Master Gardener next year.


If you could share advice now that you've been through the program?


Make friends with your cohort and leverage each other’s strengths. Take advantage of office hours, as professors are incredibly supportive and helpful.

Karen Janz, graduating MBA student class of 2018


Lewis Griffith

MBA Class of 2018

 

"Be prepared to say no to other commitments while you are in the program – you will need all the time you can get. Recognize the resources you have in your classmates – this is an opportunity to learn from a wide variety of experiences and build relationships for the future.”

Tell me a bit about yourself. 

I grew up in Forest Grove, Oregon and came to Tacoma after high school to attend University of Puget Sound in 1991, graduating from UPS in 1995 with a BS in Mathematics.  I loved my experience there and decided to stay in Tacoma.  After graduating, I had an interest in working in social work, potentially with children, and I explored that possibility by working for 4 years for Comprehensive Mental Health at Chance, a therapeutic foster care program. I decided to go back to school for Civil Engineering and completed a BS in Civil Engineering at UW in 2001.  During my time in engineering school, I was hired as an engineering intern with the City of Tacoma Environmental Services to work on solid waste management facility projects.  That turned into a permanent engineering position after graduating, and I have worked with the City of Tacoma Environmental Services ever since.  The highlight of my time as an engineer was working as project manager for design and construction of Solid Waste Management’s new Recovery and Transfer Center, which was completed in 2011. In 2013, I moved into management, as the Assistant Division Manager for the Solid Waste Management Division.  I completed the Essentials of Management Program at the UWT in 2014 and enrolled in the MBA in Autumn 2016.  The MBA appealed to me as an opportunity to develop my skills as a manager and leader in my job with the City.

What has been the most rewarding part of the program for you? 

The most rewarding part of the program has been getting to know my classmates, learning from their experiences and ideas. Professor Nelson, who taught our cohort’s first class, Business Communications, did a great job encouraging us to build relationships with our fellow students, teaching us tools for communicating, and giving presentations. I also really enjoyed the Negotiations class, in which we got to work in small teams and practice simulated negotiations.  

What has been the most challenging part of the program?

The most challenging part of the program has been time management.  The coursework, on top of working full-time, has been a large commitment of time away from family. I have been able to overcome this challenge with the support of my employer, who has been nothing short of accommodating. Efficiently delegating tasks and managing meeting times have also helped with time management.   

Are there specific projects you’ve learned from or enjoyed? 

Our class project for Marketing Management was a fun experience.  Professor Merchant really pushed us to learn all the aspects of marketing through case studies, applying them to our own experiences. I was part of a team that developed a marketing plan for the City’s commercial food waste program, which I have since been able to implement at work.

What’s next?

I have earned a promotion to Division Manager of Solid Waste Management, which I started in January of this year.  This has provided and will continue to provide endless opportunities to apply leadership concepts from my MBA experience, including helping with the implementation of the Environmental Services Department’s new strategic plan, which has just gotten underway.  This will be a great opportunity to drive positive change and develop the culture of our department. I hope to continue to serve for many years as a leader with the City of Tacoma Environmental Services Department.

Photo of Griffith Lewis, graduating MBA student, class of 2018


Rajbir Deol

MBA Class of 2017

I am pleased to share little bit about myself and my MBA journey.  I am married and have an 8 year old son and 10 year daughter.  I get my educational inspiration from my immediate and extended family.  I completed my Bachelor of Applied Science in 1998 from University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. I then worked in both Canada and US spanning disciplines engineering and technology for roughly 15 years, with 10 of those years in managerial role.  Although I was generally pleased with my career progress, I felt I needed to do more on my business skills to be a better leader and to better understand business aspects of technology.  The ad-hoc courses in people management, leadership, communications, etc. were helpful, but were not giving me the foundational business skills I was really looking for.  Hence, I went into UW Tacoma MBA. 

The part time nature of the program allowed me to keep my job as well enroll in evening MBA classes.  I was really challenged by full evening course-load while having a busy job and family demands, so I split up several semesters into single courses.  That extended my MBA to 3 years but allowed me to balance family, work, and education.  Another benefit I got from this set up was that I was able to better apply the newly learned tools immediately to my work.

Now, having completed the UW Tacoma MBA program, I feel a tremendous difference in my skills and approach to leadership and problem solving.  My approach in past was mostly technical with focus on immediate problem.  I now approach problems using systems thinking with global and strategic mindset.  On staff supervision, I also feel more confident and less stressed when dealing with tough situations.  As a result, I am directly seeing greater impact from my work efforts and my team’s effort.  With core business knowledge in finance, operations, strategy, and managerial decision making, I am now more effective in my engagement and negotiation with other managers and executives.  In fact, in the coming months, I will be leading several high impact executive workshops on my organization’s future state business capabilities and business operating model. While I would have dreaded doing something like this in past, I am now very excited about the opportunity and look forward to the results. 

I enjoyed most of the courses, however my favorite courses were Marketing, Integrated Systems, Business Ventures, and Negotiations.  With tools from these courses, I am looking forward to establishing first innovation lab for my agency.  The class room style teaching was also a great opportunity to learn from peers in both public and private sector, grow my network, and make new friends.  My advice to those who are contemplating whether to pursue MBA, just go for it!  The business skills and tools learned in classroom style MBA, especially for those who do not have business background, are too valuable to pass up.  My only suggestion is that you will find the learning and tools more effective if you have good work experience coming into the program.     

Although my learning will never end with advent of the digital technologies, with my newly acquired MBA tools, I feel poised to take on leadership roles in helping businesses go through successful digital transformations.  I am currently leading the digital transformation strategy for Washington State Department of Licensing.


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