The Milgard School of Business is proud to feature our next Alumni Spotlight on Judi Griffin, ’01, Business Administration, ’09 Master of Business Administration
Judi has always lived in the Puget Sound area and enjoys the many water activities available here. She and her husband currently live in Maple Valley where she spends spare time outdoors – gardening, hiking, or playing in the local rivers and lakes. She is a Sr. Supply Chain Program Manager for Amazon.com and works with a team that opens new fulfillment centers in the US and around the world. In addition to being a cool place to work, this role allows her to travel to interesting places for free.
Dean Altaf Merchant chatted with Judi Griffin about her education, lessons learned while in school and after and to gather advice for current students and alumni. he has helped guide several students into fulfilling careers, serves on the Milgard Executive Council, Outreach Committee and in countless ways that are almost too many to name.
Tell us about why you chose the Milgard School, your thoughts on the quality of your education and some of the differences you found while attaining both undergraduate and graduate degrees?
I have always had a high regard for the University of Washington and knew that a degree in business from UW would carry name recognition and retain its value on my resume. I lived in Puyallup while I was a student, so the convenience of being able to attend in Tacoma was a bonus. The business department – because it wasn’t the Milgard School when I first enrolled in 1999 – offered all that value plus small class sizes and a convenient location. It was an easy decision.
Returning to the school for my MBA was interesting because I had gained 8 years of business leadership experience in between degrees. That experience gave me different perspectives on case studies and had my mind constantly turning on how to apply those lessons in my day job. I may have thought that the MBA would just be a continuation of my undergrad studies, but the MBA experience is really delivered in a different teaching mode. As I moved into more senior roles, I needed to be able to solve much bigger problems and consider how they affected many areas of the company. The MBA helped prepare me for those roles and taught me to think through problems in a much more comprehensive way.
In what ways did your education change the trajectory of your career after attending the Milgard School?
My undergraduate and graduate studies both provided a solid foundation that allowed me to move into a variety of industries including glass, pharmaceuticals, dentistry, technology, maintenance supplies, and now Amazon. That wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t gained a broad array of highly transferable skills. I came out of the school with a solid understanding of business and leadership, and that has made all the difference.
It is clear to me that my time in the school really shaped many of the ideas I hold true today and helped me raise the ceiling on what I thought was possible for my career. I had a narrow view of the world and my options in it when I first enrolled. Learning about leadership and change management made me realize that I could shape my career in a new direction. I also learned how improving my written and spoken communication skills so that my ideas would be heard more effectively enabled me to advance more quickly. (Thank you, Dr. Kent Nelson!)
What advice would you give us as we plan for the future?
I have been really impressed by how the Milgard School has evolved over the past 25 years. Business moves fast, and you must continue to bend to meet the needs of tomorrow’s students. The recent additions of programs in cybersecurity and business analytics are great examples of the school ensuring that it continues to be relevant. It will be important to continue that evolution to stay ahead of future changes.
You’ve done a great deal for the Milgard School; continually recruiting students to the companies that you’ve worked for, volunteering your time in various leadership capacities, giving back financially, and advocating for support from our regional community. What has inspired you to do so much?
My son was in elementary school when I started as an undergrad. We didn’t have much money and even less time. I wouldn’t have been able to succeed if it weren’t for the flexibility of the program, its convenient location in Tacoma, and some very generous scholarships. I received several scholarships – including a Milgard Scholars award – that enabled me to work less hours so that I could balance parenting and school more successfully. That meant that I got to immerse myself in my education and really got the most out of the experience. I want to make sure that other students get that same opportunity.
What are the most important pieces of educational and professional advice that you would impart on our future/current students and alumni?
I encourage students to not be afraid to ask for help – from friends, family, professors, and alumni. Don’t hesitate to ask for a few minutes of their time to look over your resume, help you prepare for an interview, or give you an overview of their job or industry. We all want you to succeed, and we are happy to help!
Students and alumni should also be prepared to accept opportunities that take them off their original path. Many of the jobs that I have had took me in a new and unexpected direction. Take a risk on a job that may not be the perfect role, company, or title that you had in mind. Each experience adds to your skills and introduces you to new people, industries, and ways of thinking.
In a story about increasing exposure to wildfire smoke in our region, Associate Professor Robin Evans-Agnew talks about the resulting increased prevalence of asthma and its inequitable burden on society.