2018 MBAs To Watch: Courtney Wenneborg, University of Washington (Foster)

Courtney Wenneborg

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

“Incessantly curious, adventurous and enthusiastic about tackling diverse, complex problems.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Sammamish, WA

Fun fact about yourself: I spent five years working in conservation ecology before transitioning to the business world, conducting field research in locations as diverse as the sub-alpine meadows of Mt. Rainier to penguin colonies in Argentina.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Washington, B.S. Biology

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Amazon, Program Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Nike – Beaverton, OR

Where will you be working after graduation? Nike – Finance Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

MBA Consultant – Homegrown Trailers
VP, Marketing – Outdoor and Sports Industry Club
Board Member – Strategy Club
Ally Board Member – Foster Veteran’s Association

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Each year, the Outdoor and Sports Industry Club (OSIC) coordinates an MBA Mt. Rainier summit attempt. In addition to dryland training and many, many hours spent at the gym, we completed a series of smaller climbs as part our training progression. One of these trips was a group summit of Mt. Baker, and that experience created one of my proudest moments of my MBA career thus far. There are a lot of parallels to be drawn between wilderness adventures and leadership, and this experience reinforced many of them – specifically how powerful it can be to accomplish a group objective after months of hard work and training. Unfortunately, I had to start my internship before the Rainier trip last year, but I’m looking forward to having a similar moment at the top of Mt. Rainier this June!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of how diverse my professional experiences have been. Following a career in conservation ecology research, I’ve worked in retail operations, human resources, and finance. Through these roles, I’ve come to realize that one of my greatest strengths is being able to apply what I’ve learned across highly diverse settings. For example, it may not seem like experience in penguin research would be a great precursor for a successful business career – but as it turns out, understanding how a species differentiates itself in an ecosystem isn’t that different from identifying a company’s unique competitive advantage. The key is in being able to take what you’ve learned, strip away the context, and apply the meat of a framework in a completely different environment. This strength, and an insatiable curiosity to understand how things work, have led to professional opportunities I couldn’t have imagined.

Who was your favorite MBA professor
Thomas Gilbert teaches the first-year core finance class, and he’s funny, genuine, and passionate – it’s clear that he truly cares about creating learning experiences that impact students far beyond the classroom environment. The first quarter of business school can be stressful and at times overwhelming, but Professor Gilbert’s classes make finance approachable and he uses humorous examples to show how to apply concepts in real-life situations.

What was your favorite MBA Course Lance Young’s Entrepreneurial Finance class connects finance to strategy in a way that goes beyond spreadsheets and financial statements. He guides students to understand how good financial decisions make or break a company, but he doesn’t do the work you! I appreciated that his case-based classes put students in charge of driving the conversation and thinking critically about each other’s’ points of view.

Why did you choose this business school? By the time I submitted my MBA application, I had talked to dozens of alumni about their experiences at Foster, so I came into this program with my eyes wide open. I was blown away by how enthusiastic everyone was in sharing their experiences. I also knew that I wanted to stay in the Pacific Northwest. Through the alumni I met, I saw how well-represented Foster was at many of the companies I was interested in working for. It was clear that Foster’s culture creates a community that persists well beyond graduation, and I knew this was a community I wanted to be a part of.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Talk to as many alumni as possible to get a real feel for what this experience is like and do some real soul-searching about why you think this program in particular is the best fit for you. Don’t be afraid to bring some emotion to the table. The more honest you are about why this experience is important to you, the more compelling your argument will be for why you deserve to be here.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about business school is that the most important lessons you’ll learn are how to “do” accounting, or finance, or marketing. Yes, these are skills you learn, but the bigger lessons come in understanding how to think strategically, see the big picture, and work with others to prioritize the pieces that will yield the greatest impact.

What was your biggest regret in business school? If I could do it over again, I would take advantage of more MBA consulting projects. It is one thing to learn within the classroom environment, but learning how to take skills from the MBA and apply them to real-world problems is the real reason we’re all here. I’m working on an independent study project now that involves aspects of finance, marketing, and organizational design and it’s been a truly valuable experience. I plan to do another consulting project during my final quarter as well, but I think these are such valuable experiences and I wish I could have started incorporating them into my education earlier.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I can’t pick one person, there are too many classmates I respect and admire beyond words. Christian Merz has an uncanny ability to look at problems and distill them down to the most important components in no time flat, Chris Hall inspires me with his determination to squeeze every ounce of knowledge possible out of this experience, and Gillian Van Der Schaaf juggles countless responsibilities regarding our program experience with effortless grace. I’m honored to be peers with such talented, genuine, and hardworking professionals.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I met a Foster alumni while working at Starbucks, and in many ways I owe my path to the MBA experience to him. He met with me regularly for over two years while I prepared to apply for business school: providing career guidance, connecting me with other alumni, and reviewing my application materials. His mentorship left an indelible mark on my career, and paying that gift forward by mentoring others is incredibly important to me.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…finishing a PhD in wildlife ecology.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would front-load much of the initial career development work during the first few weeks of the program. It can be easy to get distracted from things like refining resumes, working on cover letters, and case interview preparation as classes build and professional networking becomes a priority. Tackling these basic components right off the bat through an intensive week-long experience would be a great way to establish a solid foundation for fall recruiting season.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? To work abroad in Europe, and thru-hike the PCT.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want to be remembered as someone who makes people feel seen, valued, and included.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Big Short. I graduated from college just as the financial crisis was starting, but didn’t have the context to understand what was happening at the time. Watching this movie helped connect some of the dots I missed, but the biggest lesson I learned was how powerful incentive structures can be in driving either moral or immoral decision making.

What would your theme song be? “Long White Line” by Sturgill Simpson

My favorite vacations are long road trips to outdoor adventures in some of the most remote parts of the US, so the lyrics “looking for the end of that long white line” hits home with me in a big way.

Favorite vacation spot: Wind River Mountain Range, Wyoming

Hobbies? Backpacking, mountaineering, baking

 

DON’T MISS THE FULL LIST:

100 MBAS TO WATCH IN THE CLASS OF 2018