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Real Humans of the Washington Foster School of Business MBA Class of 2022

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Christine Pham, Foster MBA Class of 2022

Age: 28
Hometown: Orange, CA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of California, San Diego; Computer Science
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 5 years, Software Engineer (Tech)

Why business school? Why now?
Learning how to program was like being on a roller coaster, there were ups and downs but the thrill of figuring out that last piece of code gave me a similar adrenaline rush. Unfortunately, that rush started to fade as I found the creativity I enjoyed with coding was not what I would have liked it to have been. I found myself at work being assigned tasks rather than being involved in the decision-making process. Business school became my top option because I wanted to gain those skill sets necessary to go beyond just saying “yes” to a task. To be able to challenge myself by making a career pivot reminded me of that same thrill I had when I started to learn computer science. Even though I applied pre-COVID and was accepted during the beginning stages of quarantine, I think this is an opportune time to be in business school. My belief is that I will graduate with the tools that will allow me to be successful in this newly emerged workforce post-COVID.

Why Foster? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
The reason I chose to attend Foster was based on a few factors that I heavily weighed: the class size, location, and recruiting aspect. Having attended an undergraduate university with a large student body, I initially thought that I wanted a similar experience. The fact that I was a small fish in a big pond did not really bother me but after conversing with current students along with staff, the thought of having a greater opportunity to stand out became more attractive. In comparison to some of the other business schools I got accepted to, I could immediately tell that Foster would be able to spend more time on me in terms of recruiting and even in class. The student-led culture was alluring because I knew I could come in and help build an environment alongside my classmates. Besides the community that Foster has, I knew that the location was ideal. Being situated in Seattle meant access to a lot of local companies such as Microsoft and Amazon which is important when having to network. Lastly, in the long term, I wanted to ensure that the opportunity cost of foregoing a salary would be worth it. Foster’s commitment to its students and location makes it a great spot in terms of companies coming to recruit. Ultimately, I knew that Foster could provide me the tools to reach my long-term career goals which was an extremely important part of my decision.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
As a current Consortium member and one of two First-Year Diversity Representatives, I knew that cultivating diversity amongst current and prospective students would be one of my top priorities. Foster is fairly new to the Consortium, with my year being the second class, so I already knew our community was smaller in comparison to others. In order to not only recruit more members for the Consortium next year, I am working on helping to improve our representation amongst all groups of students such as people of color, LGBTQIA, or those with disabilities. To do that, I have been working closely with staff to create a new buddy system for prospective students of color so that we can strengthen our relationships with them and help them start to build a network. Alongside that, I am also trying to make sure our current student body feels comfortable in the virtual space we are in now. One area I am exploring is starting a diverse mentorship program since we know that mentors from various backgrounds are in scarce supply. My goal while at Foster is to make sure they do not just say diversity is important to them but to allow them to showcase that it is on the forefront of their minds and that they are actively trying to make Foster a more inclusive place.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I have donated my hair four times to organizations such as Locks of Love which totals to about 40 inches plus!

Post-MBA career interests?
Since the creativity that I yearned for was not found while I was an engineer, I found that I started to enjoy situations where I was involved in the decisions for the products I was developing. This led me to want to pivot towards product management because I could be the bridge between engineers and customers. Having only worked at enterprise companies, one of my main goals is to move towards B2C companies so that I could design features that consider aspects such as accessibility or even sustainability.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I would definitely say keep your options open! I think that I initially wanted to apply to schools that were on the West Coast since I am from California. I felt that was limiting my possibilities and narrowing my scope of what all programs had to offer. It is costly, but I would say just do your research on schools so that you know you will be satisfied with your choice in the end.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
One aspect I would have liked to have done differently is trying to either do more school visits or look at more virtual events being held. Reading about a school versus being able to learn about them through students or the staff can give you a better understanding of what the culture is actually like.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
If I had to choose something to skip, it would have been doing the extra events or networking close to interview times. It makes more sense to attend these types of events before interviewing so that I could focus on interviews and relax after. With the few on-campus interviews I did, I wanted to make sure I got the most out of my experience by stacking on all the informationals I could do. Usually, after the interview, I would ideally want to go relax but I knew these were important to attend since it would help further increase my understanding of what the school is like. Knowing that these extra events could help me make a decision was what helped me get through the long days.

What is your initial impression of Foster’s students/culture/community?
One of my initial worries about going to Foster was the idea of the Seattle Freeze, which meant that most people in the area tend to be cold towards new people. Luckily, there was a large chunk of students who were already trying to initiate hangouts via Zoom or even create socially distanced events during the summer before classes started. It was great to see that even though we would be in a virtual environment, everyone was trying to cultivate a community already. My other worry was about the diversity of the class since business schools’ demographics trend down in terms of that. To know that Foster has and is working on diversity through partnerships such as MLT, Consortium and ROMBA made it easy to see that this is an area that matters to them.

One thing you have learned about Foster that has surprised you?
The fact that the staff readily accepts your feedback and then immediately acts upon it. As a diversity representative, I have been able to voice my concerns from myself and other students to the staff and to see them acknowledge it has been rewarding. I appreciate all the work they are doing to ensure that our words do not fall on deaf ears.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
A big worry has been the fact that I must transition back to a school setting since it has been a few years since I graduated from undergrad. Not only that but having to do so while in a virtual environment made me anxious about making connections with other classmates and being able to learn via zoom.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Recruiting is one of the areas that I am most excited about. This process can give me time to explore other industries or paths that I would not have considered beforehand. One of the main reasons I wanted to go to business school was so that I could make that career change and recruiting will let me further figure out whether or not product management is the right path for me. It is exciting to interact with these companies and I know I would not be likely to have these opportunities if I had not decided to pursue my MBA.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.