2016 Best MBAs: Becky See, University of Washington

Becky See Washington

Becky See

 
Foster School of Business, University of Washington

“Relentless advocate and communicator” fosters a culture of inclusive leadership.

Age: 36

Hometown: Mt. Pleasant, Iowa

Undergraduate School and Degree: Drake University, BA Economics, 2002

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? The firms below are a mix of for- and non-profit international development organizations:

Chemonics International in Kyrgyzstan, Strategic Investment Fund Manager
Chemonics International, New Business Representative for Central Asia Region
Chemonics International, Project Manager
ACDI/VOCA, New Business Services Proposal Coordinator
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Program and Communications Specialist
Nathan Associates, International Talent Recruiter
US Peace Corps, Economic and Education Volunteer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? I was selected to receive the Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship from the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at Foster. I designed my Fellowship to work at the Washington Business Alliance, a nonprofit focused on statewide policies. I conducted primary and secondary research and published the report “A More Renewable Grid: A five-part series on the challenges, benefits, and attributes of solar energy in Washington.” I also provided the organization with some internal organizational consulting.

Where will you be working after graduation? At Alvarez & Marsal as a Consultant in their Performance Improvement division.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

  • Dean’s List, Winter 2016
  • Recipient, Albert O. Foster Endowed Fellowship
  • Recipient, James B. Potter Scholarship
  • VP of Diversity, MBA Association
  • Founder and Chair, Council on Diversity & Inclusion
  • MBA Ambassador
  • NGO Board Fellow for TeamChild
  • Student Leader of the Month (May 2015)
  • Selected to be member of Off-site Tour Task Force for Net Impact’s 2015 National Conference, organizing multiple tours of Starbucks and Bullitt Center, and leading tour of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Board member of Women in Business and Diversity in Business clubs,
  • Member of: Foster Veteran’s Association, Jewish Business Society, Out in Business, Foster Talent, Finance club, Net Impact, and Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club.
  • Social Entrepreneurship Fellow, summer 2015
  • Participant in Leadership LAB, 2014, 2015 and 2016
  • Teaching Assistant, International Business, 2015-2016. Over three quarters I’ve taught approx. 240 undergraduate students about global trade, culture, exchange rates, and modes of foreign investment.
  • Inside of Foster events I’ve managed or helped lead: Emceed for two annual Foster Talent shows; led one Improv workshop at Foster; organized brownbag lunch on equity in public education; organized WIB speaker event with former Apple SVP.
  • Outside of Foster: elected delegate to 36th legislative district and volunteer member of grant committee for garden renovation project.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The achievement I’m most proud of is my launch of the Council on Diversity & Inclusion (CDI) and service as the first VP of Diversity. When I arrived to Foster, the student clubs for underrepresented minorities included Diversity in Business and Women in Business. There was talk of forming an Out in Business club for LGBTQ students, but this would have splintered from the Diversity in Business club and left behind the few students of color. A group of us sat down and started to discuss the structures that made sense for us; what might help with sustainability; what diversity in business meant; if we would fracture identities by forcing people to choose a club; about how we make sure everyone feels represented, etc. We wanted every MBA at Foster, if they did or didn’t “check a box,” to feel comfortable and celebrated. However, we didn’t think our current system was up to the task.

In answer to those questions, I proposed to the group that we create a new, permanent position on the MBA Association specifically for diversity; someone to make sure each of the clubs would coordinate with each other and ensure that no group or student interest is left out. The position would work on higher-level issues like recruitment, climate and curricula, which would leave the clubs to focus on inclusion – activities that supported and celebrated their specific members. The new position would do all this through formation of a Council of D&I clubs. Myself and two other students – Phoebe Lipkis and Marcus Dover – were passionate about this and worked a lot over the first year to create the CDI and tackle diversity issues. I didn’t expect that I would get the position after creating the proposal; Phoebe, Marcus and I essentially drew straws for it.

Since launching, CDI has invited in Foster Veteran’s Association, Net Impact, and International Affairs, and we helped launch Jewish Business Society. Hands down, it’s the biggest achievement of my time at Foster. I’m very proud of how I’ve shaped the role and CDI, but Phoebe and Marcus – and many other students – were integral to getting this off the ground and pushing conversations at Foster. It’s truly a Council.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? These names may not mean much, but my proudest moments were the promotions I made of my staff in Kyrgyzstan: Malika, Marat, Anar, and Alisher. Even though my official job in Kyrgyzstan from 2011-2013 was financial and compliance-related, I believed that local staff development was my real job. I hired and coached my teams to be self-sustaining and self-managing. I pushed my staff to assume greater management roles and take the front seat, always providing “cover” and coaching from behind, but ensuring the team had a voice at the decision-making table. I groomed my successor in this way as well, even going so far as to switch desks with her in the last month so she could serve as Acting Manager while I was still there to support her. It felt incredible to leave Kyrgyzstan knowing that I had helped others develop confidence and embrace their own management styles.

Favorite MBA Courses? Corporate Strategy, Women at the Top, Nonprofit Board Fellows, Core Finance, and Problems in Corporate Planning and Financing.

Why did you choose this business school? My primary reason for choosing the Foster School was location. I had lived in Seattle once before, right when the recession hit. I wound up unemployed and on food stamps. So, I wanted to return under better circumstances. When I applied I was living Kyrgyzstan. I had saved enough that I could go anywhere in the world. I was unfettered. I thought about where I wanted to invest money and decided on myself. I considered the MBA and MPA at the University of Washington. Foster has a great reputation, its in-state tuition is low and they have an incredible job placement rate. I was sold.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Faculty and staff at Foster encourage us to be creative, think outside the box, and fail often and fast. It’s very freeing to have spent the last two years working in a setting that wants my boldest ideas and actions.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? The biggest lesson I gained from business school is that I need to be a relentless advocate and communicator. An example of that was our Class of 2016 gift. I was convinced that all the work done by our class around diversity and inclusion had built a foundation on which I could easily convince our class gift to go towards financial aid for underrepresented minority applicants. When I got on the gift committee, I had to face competing ideas. I put a lot forward but didn’t re-communicate why the financial aid would be so critical, and I didn’t push 150%. Eventually, the gift was divided among a number of areas, including supporting a Center at Foster that works with underserved businesses. It was a fine outcome overall and I’m proud of our class for 100% participation in the gift. However, I think I could have helped us do more if I had done my part better. It was a powerful learning experience.

What was the hardest part of business school? The hardest part of business school was finding the place where I fit in and wanting everyone else to find their fit as well. It’s also one of the hardest parts of life.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? The best advice I can give to someone applying to Foster is to be yourself. That may sound trite, but it’s true. At a recent prospective student weekend, an international student reminded me that some cultures would encourage an applicant to tailor their responses to what the school is about. Don’t. Be brave.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was in Kyrgyzstan in 2011. I was trying to assess the financial health of grantees and just couldn’t make sense of the financial statements the organizations had submitted. I had to ask someone else to give advice to the grant evaluation committee on the finances, and I didn’t like outsourcing this critical decision-making piece. I knew I needed to conquer that skills gap in order to be a better advisor and advocate for small businesses.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…in Seattle, working somewhere and taking night class electives in accounting and finance.”

What are your long-term professional goals? I have a professional bucket list. It includes serving on the board of an NGO throughout my career. It also includes serving on a for-profit board. I want to be involved in public service or policy, whether it’s behind the scenes or running for office. Eventually, I want to lead a grant-making organization or community lending institute. No matter the means, I want to help provide financial resources to small businesses in underserved communities.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? While I don’t feel I have any outstanding “success,” I’d love to thank all the teachers, professors, mentors, and sponsors who pushed me to take risks or not give up on my dreams. My 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Strohman, and my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Rupp, saw I was going through a tough childhood and each went out of their way to encourage me to keep writing poems. Mr. Watts from 9th grade Geometry sought me out and helped me apply to a college preparatory summer program called Upward Bound. That led to my taking more math and science classes in high school or college than I probably would have otherwise. I’ll stop there- it’s a long list!

Fun fact about yourself: I studied and performed improvisational comedy and musical improv for a year in Washington DC. “Yes, and…” is a way of life.

Favorite book: The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged.

Favorite movie: Beaches. (I was so inspired by The Divine Miss M that I wrote her fan mail as a kid. I received an autographed picture of Bette Midler in return, which I still have!)

Favorite musical performer: Miles Davis

Favorite television show: Parks and Recreation

Favorite vacation spot: Grandma and Grandpa’s house

Hobbies? Long distance road biking, yoga, reading, and watching comedy.

What made Becky such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Becky See values diversity and inclusion.

Before Becky even arrived at Foster, she was wrote to inquire if she would be welcome at a “Fostering Diversity” event, wondering how diversity was being defined at the Foster School and how inclusion was being addressed.  She quickly immersed herself in that conversation with other students asking the same questions.

In the fall of 2014, she helped form the Council on Diversity & Inclusion which led to the formation of two new positions on Foster’s MBA Association Board, including a VP of Diversity. Through the formation of those roles, future classes will have a sustainable position through which to address biases, micro cultures and inclusive leadership.

Becky’s role in these difficult conversations and the resulting change made her an invaluable addition to Foster’s Full-time MBA class of 2016.” — Andrew Krueger, Director of Alumni Engagement, Foster School of Business, University of Washington

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