Business Schools

Working for Change at the Foster School


Going to business school will not change who you are, but it will provide the opportunity to change yourself and redefine your career path

"Change" is not only the mantra being espoused during these tumultuous times, but it also defines this brief period in history and my personal life. Before the presidential campaigns were in full swing and Senator Barack Obama was calling for change, the class of 2009 was already taking a big step toward altering their lives and careers, hopefully for the better.

The first year was one of learning while hibernating in study alcoves. The library was my cave and forays out only took place during the darker hours of the day. As a business student, I shunned the light. It sounds bleak, and at times it was. But not every moment was spent indoors. It's only when I really think about what the first year was like that I remember the long hours. Instead, what I keep with me from the first year was proof of my mettle, a sense of accomplishment, knowledge to aid in the transition from one career to another, and a family that became more close-knit.

The lessons I learned in business school enriched my perspective much like seasonings enhance a meal. The main components do not change form with the additions of more thyme or rosemary, but they become more appealing and honed for a particular purpose. I am confident that the new skills I learned in B-school have enhanced my ability to contribute and therefore increased my value as an employee.

Striking a Balance

Professionally, business school was everything that I hoped for and more. Socially, I did not gain as much as I could have but that was because of specific choices I made. I decided early on that my family was going to sacrifice as little as possible during my time in school. I wanted to spend as much time with my new daughter as I possibly could. If there was one thing that I would have changed to enhance the balance between the time I spent with family and time spent cultivating relationships, it would have been to live closer to the university. I live about an hour away from campus, and I believe that closer proximity to the school would have increased the opportunities for spending time with my classmates and for quality family time.

Sometimes you find yourself in a situation that necessitates a specific course of action, and at other times you are faced with a broad range of paths. In choosing a business school, my focus was narrow—very narrow…one school narrow. There is an increased amount of risk when you lack diversification (finance 101), but you can be compensated for the risk. The University of Washington ended with a big payoff. I have a job, but it goes beyond that. The job was not what I was interested in when I started school, but the administration and staff exposed me to career ideas I had previously not thought of. The key differentiating factor at the University of Washington is the personal focus that the program takes in all aspects of supporting students' success. Students are on a first-name basis with their professors. For some students this takes some adjustment. For others it might not ever feel comfortable. For students at the University of Washington, it means being able to eat dinner with your professor or catch them in the hallways for a brief discussion.

Going to business school will not change who you are, but it will provide the opportunity to change yourself and redefine your career path. I write these words shortly after returning from one of our final social gatherings as a class, where some of my fellow classmates performed in a band. While listening to them play tonight, I was reminded of how talented these people are and that they arrived at business school already talented. Now, they are just as talented but are better equipped with the tools necessary to create the success they desire. Do not attend business school thinking that it will change you because that is very unlikely. Business school is for those who have already formed themselves and are now looking for the building blocks that will lay a foundation for change.

Kolmodin is an MBA Journal writer for BusinessWeek.com and a member of the University of Washington's MBA Class of 2009.

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