Conversations on Careers and Professional Life
Conversations on Careers and Professional Life
Gregory Heller
Conversations on Careers and Professional Life, from the Foster School of Business office of MBA Career Management Host Gregory Heller has conversations with University of Washington and Foster School faculty, staff, alumni, executives, current MBA candidates and other experts relating to career development, planning, and resilience. If you're navigating a career change, pursuing your MBA, or looking to develop a resilient mindset to help you with your job search, this podcast may be for you!
Case Competitions and MBA Recruiting as an International Student with XJ Cai
I speak with Class of 2022 Foster MBA grad, Xiajin "XJ" Cai. XJ is originally from China, and started her MBA at Foster in the Fall of 2020, while classes and most activities were being conducted remotely.  I was impressed with the way she engaged not only in the Foster community, through clubs, and recruiting activities, but also participated in case competitions beyond Foster. I wanted to have her on the show to talk about her experiences as an international student, how she handled internship and full time recruiting, and the experience and skills she gained through case competitions.   Learn SQL or other programming languages with online education sites like Coursera, EdX, or OpenCourseWare from MIT The After Hours podcast from the Ted Radio Collective Look for resources on mock interviews, case interviews, google mock interviews + consulting firm name, find videos about how they are conducted. AT&T She Counts case competition, read about XJ and her teammate on the Foster Blog and to find companies that have sponsored H1B Visas previously.
Feb 21
35 min
Alumni Advice to Students on Effective Interviewing
In late 2022, I had the opportunity to speak with four Foster School of Business MBA Alumni who are now on the other side of the interview table about what they are listening for from candidates in behavioral interviews.  This episode features: Adam Schmidt at Accenture Sam Ead at Google Claire Herting at Walmart Skyler Brown at Goldman Sachs I talked to each one separately, but as you will hear, in this compilation of their answers -- across industries and roles, there are some very clear trends: authenticity, enthusiasm, preparation.  For more advice on preparing for internship interviews and job interviews, check out more episodes with interview tips.
Feb 17
24 min
ClimateCap and Pursuing Careers in Sustainability with Doug Beach and Connor Almon-Griffin
On this episode, recorded in March of 2022, I spoke with two Foster MBA students, Connor Almon-Griffin (MBA 2023) and Doug Beach (MBA 2022) about their experience attending the ClimateCap -- The Global MBA Summit on Climate, Capital and Business in February of that year. ClimateCap, as you'll hear, brings together MBA students from around the world with corporate leaders in sustainability to discuss the 21st century's biggest business issue. The past year has seen the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act and the Inflation Reduction Act, two pieces of legislation that will pump billions of dollars into renewable energy, decarbonization and other solutions to the climate crisis. IN the last few months, as headlines have covered layoffs in big tech, other headlines have told a different story of hiring by companies focused on climate tech, and sustainability. The Foster School has also rolled out an ESG Concentration within the MBA program. Interest in climate jobs is hot inside and outside of business schools. Connor and Doug shared so much great advice in this episode, but the thing I want to underscore the most is the importance of networking, both within the program -- as Connor said, find your people -- and as Doug said, even after you have secured your internship or job. The economy has changed since we recorded the episode a year ago, and having a strong professional network is critically important to personal and professional resilience in times of economic uncertainty. Insights on the most important issues for today’s MBAs from Duke's Fuqua School of Business @Katie_Kross on Twitter and her Sustainability Jobs Twitter List an online community with over 16k members Resources for learning about and finding climate jobs. for information on climate jobs and education on climate issues   Business Schools Must Do More To Address The Climate Crisis Full Time and Evening MBA Programs Introduce ESG Concentration (UW Foster Blog) Wind Power Eclipses Coal and Nuclear For First Time (NPR) Solar Power Podcast Clean Tech Talk ReCharge podcast At Scale Zero from Bloomberg How We Survive Podcast from Marketplace
Feb 17
33 min
Gabriel Scheer on Clean Tech and Climate Solutions Startups
On this episode, I speak with Gabriel Sheer, Director of Inovation and manager of the energy and mobility portfolios at Elemental Excelerator, a nonprofit startup accelerator about the current state of the climate tech/climate solutions startup space at the beginning of 2023. Gabriel is also a good friend. We first became acquainted through his work organizing Seattle Green Drinks in the bid '00s, we later worked together at a sustainability tech startup in Seattle.  Gabriel has had an interesting career leading up to where he is now, from the early days of car share working at Flex Car (and then Zip Car), independent consulting, product and strategy consulting, helping launch Lime Bike, and now working with Elemental Excelerator. Gabriel shares advice for job seekers interested in working in climate solutions startups: build your network, do your research, find a team that you feel like you can trust. Working in a startup can be like riding a rollercoaster and you want to feel like everyone is all-in. Gabriel shared some resources, and I've added a few more to the list below. ClimateTech VC - CTVC.Co Slack Community for coverage of sustainability issues and businesses I've compiled a list of job boards for sustainability and impact jobs and will keep adding to it. Here are a few of my favorites, and I know Gabriel would endorse many of them because we have traded links and episodes from these sources: which also has a number of great newsletters Bloomberg Green Climate Forward from the NYT Spark from MIT Technology Review The Impact – Website, newsletter and podcasts about sustainability startups and VC Volts Podcast and newsletter with Dave Roberts Zero Podcast from Bloomberg If you are looking for a few books to help you get up to speed on topics related to the climate crisis, solutions and decarbonization: Speed and Scale Regeneration Drawdown IPCC reports
Feb 2
23 min
Shine a Spotlight In Your Next Job Interview
Photo by Blondinrikard Fröberg on Flickr under CC by/2.0 As a job candidate, it’s up to you to shine the spotlight on the skills and experiences you've had that are relevant to the job or company you are interviewing for. Too often, candidates prepare scripted answers and don't adapt them to the specific interview questions, company or interviewer. On this episode, I share some advice on effectively communicating during job interviews. Take a moment It is not enough to have a dozen well-rehearsed stories that illustrate examples in response to the interview questions you anticipate. Invariably, you will get asked a question that you haven’t prepared for. In a few seconds you will have to decide which story fits the question best and start your answer. The danger is that you will tell the story as you've prepared it without tailoring it to your audience or the exact question. Interviewers remember when a response doesn't answer their question. But they don’t remember that you took an extra few seconds before starting your response. Focus on what your audience wants to hear The AIM framework from Lynn Russell and Mary Munter is a great tool to employ when preparing any communication, including job interview responses. The acronym stands for Audience, Intent, Message. The audience is the person or people receiving the communication. The intent is both your intent: what you want to happen, and the intent you want to create in your audience. The message is both the delivery mechanism and the content. When preparing for any interview, take the time to really think about your audience. Are you speaking with the recruiter, or the hiring manager? These are two different audiences, and your intent will be different. For the recruiter, your intent is to communicate that you are a strong candidate with relevant skills; you want to advance to the next round of interviews. The recruiter needs to believe that you are the right choice for the role she is trying to fill. For the hiring manager, your intent is to communicate that you have the relevant skills, right fit with the team, and ability to do the job; in this case, you want to get the offer. The hiring manager needs to believe that you are capable of doing the job, fitting in with the team, and growing to be a valuable asset to the company. Start with “the end in mind” Reminding yourself of your intent before preparing, and before your actual performance (the interview) will help you shine the spotlight on the right facets of your experiences and respond appropriately to questions that you did not expect. This starts with the most common interview question: Tell me about yourself. The interviewer wants to know just the relevant details about what you've done that led you to this company and this role at this moment. For example, the fact that you used to build Contact Relationship Management systems for nonprofit organizations may have nothing to do with the work you do today. Your ability to analyze voter data and cut turf for political canvassers? Irrelevant. Scrum Master and Scrum Product Owner certifications? Who cares. But throughout your career, maybe you’ve always been committed to helping the people around you and your clients communicate more effectively. BINGO. I might be talking about myself here... When answering behavioral interview questions ("Tell me about a time when…") don't get sucked into the trap of sharing a very procedural (and generic) explanation of the situation, and what you did filled with every detail you can think of.  Think about your intent: why are you telling this story? What does it demonstrate about how you think and work? What skill or competency does it demonstrate that is relevant to the role or company you are interviewing for? It’s all about structure and focus And remember that the human you are talking to is hardwired to look for structure. Stories have a beginning, middle and end. Gustav Freytag mapped out the classic narrative arch: Introduction, Initial incident, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution, Denouement over 160 years ago. People retain structured information 40% more reliably and accurately than information that is not structured. When you are answering a question, make sure that the content fits into a structure and is relevant to the audience and the question. There are many interview answer structures or frameworks: STAR is the most common: Situation Task Action Result, but I like CAR: Context (or Challenge) Action Result. These are not the only two that are out there: sometimes you want to add a learning or a take-away (CARL or CART) at the end, or a summary at the beginning (SCAR). Consider the level of detail, language and analogies that may be relevant to your audience. For example: if you are interviewing for a data analytics role, you might focus on the part of the story where you extracted insights from data. If you are interviewing for a role that focuses on interaction with customers and clients, you might focus on that part of the story where you determined what your client (internal or external) really wanted to know from the data and how you delivered the insights on-time. If you are interviewing for a role that requires cross functional collaboration, you might focus on how you worked with multiple teams to pull together the dataset you needed. Think of these as different facets of a multi sided die. The die is the experience or story, but depending on what question you are asked and what role you are interviewing for, you will expose different facets. That’s how you can shine the spotlight on the parts of your experience that are most relevant to your audience and, ultimately, land the job!  
Feb 1
7 min
Graduating With an MBA into a Recession With Melissa Schneider
Leadership Coach Melissa Schneider graduated from the Sloan School of Management at MIT with her MBA during the Global Financial Crisis. On this episode, she talks about the power of her network in charting her career path from Product Manager to Marketing Executive at Intuit, LinkedIn and GoDaddy before changing careers into coaching. Learn more about Melissa Schneider and her coaching practice at
Dec 22, 2022
41 min
Christopher Barnes on Sleep and Work
My sleep hasn't been great for years. I never have trouble falling asleep, but I wake after about 5 hours and then have trouble getting back to sleep.  I average about 7 hours of sleep a night, sometimes more, sometimes less (an improvement over a few years ago). A few years back, after hearing author Matt Walker talk about his book, Why We Sleep on a podcast (watch his TED Talk), I went down the rabbit hole (not for the first time) on ways to improve my sleep. I'm happy to report, that it many ways, it has gotten better and my relationship to sleep has as well.  I write this as a preface for why the topic of this episode is so important to me. Sleep is important for mental and physical health, and for the quality of our work product, our relationships, and the broader work environment as we'll here from my guest, Professor Christopher Barnes. Christopher Barnes is a Professor of Management and the Michael G. Foster Endowed Professor of Management at the Foster School of Business. His recent research over the past few years focuses on sleep and its impact on work, ethics, decision making and work place engagement. His research has been featured in the Foster Business Magazine, Harvard Business Review, and a TEDx Talk I've long wanted to have Professor Barnes on the podcast, somewhat selfishly, because of my own interest in -- and challenges with sleep. In April of 2022, I invited him to present to faculty and staff as part of my work on the Health, Wellness and Professional Development Committee at Foster, and after that, I knew I what he had to say would be important to my listeners. We discussed how sleep hygiene can improve sleep: Stick to a schedule for wake time and bed time. Avoid alcohol, caffein and nicotine too close to be time, up to 12 hours prior for caffein. Use your bed for just two things, sleep and sex.  Don't stare into your smart device screen before bedtime, We briefly touch on his research on Blue-light filtering glasses, and we discussed one reputable supplier, Swanwick Sleep. I'll add: keep your bedroom dark and cool. Consider lowering the lighting in your house in the hour or two before bed Get bright  (preferably natural) light upon waking. For those of us in the PNW, you might want to get a "happy light" for these dark winter months, and use it for 20 minutes upon waking. (I have one from Verilux.) Some other important resources: If you suffer from insomnia or sleeplessness, the best experts now recommend avoiding sleeping pills. From my reading, the jury is out on Melatonin except at low doses for short periods of time (like around dealing with a time change). One reason why sedatives and melatonin aren't great is that while they will bring on sleep, they disrupt the best kind of sleep for your brain, deep wave sleep. I learned about this from Matt Walker, so if you want to learn more, follow the links in the first paragraph, or check out this three-part podcast.  The gold standard is now Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, or CBT-I. You can even get apps and online programs to that deliver CBT-I therapy, some are actually FDA Approved. Chris mentioned Sleepio.  There is also a free email based program from Insomnia Coach that I found helpful.  There are some supplements that can help with sleep, but you should talk to your doctor about taking anything regularly for help with sleep, whether it is over the counter, or prescription. Chris also mentioned Arrianna Huffington's book, The Sleep Revolution (you can watch a talk she gave for Talks At Google, or read an interview with her), Dr. Nathaniel Watson (also at UW) and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. There is also a great recorded talk from the Whole U Speaker Series with Dr. Michael Vitiello on Getting a Good Night's Sleep.
Nov 7, 2022
44 min
Nivedita Kumar on Recruiting During Year 2 of the MBA
This episode features a conversation with Nivedita Kumar, Foster MBA '22. Prior to coming to Foster, Nivi worked at Philips as a technical sales manager and then in a variety of roles culminating in Program Manager at Swiggy, a local delivery startup in India.  Nivi interned in a Program Manager role at Amazon during the summer of 2021 and then recruited for full time roles throughout her second year in the MBA program landing a full time role at Microsoft as a Product Manager. Nivi shared the importance of building a strong network with fellow classmates, Foster alumni and others, and how this network was instrumental to her getting interviews and the role she is in now. Some of the resources we mentioned during the show include: Exponent: online courses and prep for product management Inspired: How TO Create Products Customers Love, by Marty Cagan The Lean Product Playbook, by Dan Olsen Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, by Nir Eyal Podcasts: Product Podcast from Product School Product Thinking with Melissa Perri The Product Experience from mind the PRODUCT  
Oct 18, 2022
31 min
Jeff Perry On Coaching Engineers
Jeff Perry, Foster Hybrid MBA '20, and founder of More Than Engineering, talks about his transition from engineer to coach of engineers and offers advice for how engineers can articulate their experience and value when switching careers. Visit for full episode show notes. Find additional resources at
Sep 15, 2022
35 min
Portia Obeng on Updating Your LinkedIn Profile
  Portia Obeng is a social media strategist with over 10 years of experience in social media strategy and content management. Her current focus is supporting individuals and organizations in their use of LinkedIn and Instagram. Our conversation focuses on how anyone, but especially job seekers can use LinkedIn to build their person brand. This is episode complements last season's conversation with Jeremy Schifeling about his book Linked, and using LinkedIn for job search. We talk about: Why you should pay attention to LinkedIn even if you are happy with the job you're in, and why companies should want their employees to be active on LinkedIn. How to get started with interacting and making content on LinkedIn from: Making comments that add value on other people's posts. Commenting on your own company's posts Writing LinkedIn articles Making images with Canva both for posts and for your profile banner image Portia's top advice for updating your profile: Get a good profile photo and make sure it is set to visible to all people If you need a new photo, book a photo shoot with Shoott, or AirBNB Experience, or get a friend to help out. Be sure to smile. Don't be afraid to be bold and show your personality. Natural (and indirect) light is your friend. You can read an article I wrote with four tips for taking a LinkedIn Profile Photo. Update your headline and use key words for the role you want. Her formula for the about section:  What you do, how you do it, and why you're so good at it. Highlight your results. Update your LinkedIn Banners with and image made on Canva. The banner is a free billboard to advertise your value proposition We also talk about getting recommendation from colleagues or clients for your LinkedIn Profile. Portia recommended the Brown Ambition Podcast and an older show called Joblogues, and the following influencers on LinkedIn Cassey Ademola Lisa Orbé-Austin Tinu A and the Luxury Career Club You can find and follow Portia on LinkedIn.
Sep 1, 2022
36 min
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