Meet Washington Foster’s MBA Class Of 2020

Aaron Sachs

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

Motivated by a challenge, inspired by meaningful work, and inclined to confront the status quo.”

Hometown: East Brunswick, NJ

Fun Fact About Yourself: Everyone has something they do to unwind. For me, it’s cooking. After a long day of work, coming home and going through the mindless motions of chopping vegetables and preparing a meal are therapeutic for me. My wife will often offer to cook for me if I have a particularly busy day to which I’ll politely ask for some space in the kitchen to unwind myself.

Undergraduate School and Major: Boston University School of Management majoring in Business Administration (with concentrations in Finance and Operations & Technology Management)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: ThoughtWorks – Lead Consultant // Product Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Forging a sense of community amongst the Product Managers at my firm was always something I took an interest in. Early on in my 4+ years at ThoughtWorks, I founded a community newsletter that collected articles and content written by North American Product Managers. After two years, we had collected over 100 articles, reached 300+ monthly average readers in six countries, and even inspired several people to turn their articles into conference talks. Based on my success launching and sustaining the community newsletter, I was elected by my peers as one of two lead Product Managers for all of North America (overseeing PMs from 6 cities) with the mission of advancing the interests and acting as an advocate on behalf of our community.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Adventurous. I’ve met so many people with different backgrounds and resumés than I have. All have demonstrated a level of adventure and willingness to take risks that I’m continually impressed by.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Foster was the only school that I applied to where I got a profound sense that every member of the staff truly and deeply cares about the success of the MBA students. On my first visit, I walked into the career office without an appointment and had a long conversation with a career advisor, I attended an intentionally small-group info session where I had the opportunity to really dive into the Foster experience, and I got to spend time after that session talking with one of the assistant Deans who later continued correspondence with me over email. Even upon being accepted, I received a personalized letter from the admissions staff member who interviewed me. These personal touches and interactions assured me that Foster would take an interest in the career path that I want to forge and will do everything in their power to help me achieve my goals.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? CoMotion at UW. This program brings together students from various disciplines and offers resources and mentorship opportunities to help stimulate innovation. I’m excited to explore what opportunities might exist for a partnership between an MBA student and students from the Pharmacy or Medical schools.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? For the last five years, I’ve progressed rapidly as a Product Manager at a software consultancy building custom software for our clients. While I consider myself to be a proficient Product Manager, the best Heads of Product that I’ve worked with in my career have a deep and broad business sense that extends far-beyond the constraints of the product they’re building. An MBA was an opportunity for me to build this knowledge-base, in an environment that is free of commercial obligations, such that Heads of Product positions become available to me.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I don’t recall there being a single moment where I decided that an MBA was the right path for me. Rather, I employed a strategy often used in software design delaying a decision until the last responsible moment. For me, the decision to pursue an MBA was a journey that I took one step at a time. Ultimately, the impression that I got from Foster, the opportunities to study and do work for the pure reason that it interests me, and the experiences that I’ll gain two years removed from a commercial setting justified the time away from work knowing that an MBA will make me a more well-rounded candidate.

What other MBA programs did you apply to?

  • Stanford University – Graduate School of Management
  • UC Berkeley – Haas School of Business

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The decision criteria I used to select a school were not only mine. My wife will be joining me as we leave our home for the past seven years and the decision of which school we’d attend was as much her decision as it was mine. For us, we used the following criteria to decide which school to attend:

  • Is the school in a city that has a strong tech industry?
  • Is the school in a city that my wife could work remotely from or find other meaningful work?
  • Is the school in a city that we’d want to live and explore in?
  • Does the school provide individualized attention to all MBA students and take a purposeful stake in the success of each student? For me, class size factored into the evaluation of this question.
  • Does that curriculum offer opportunities to apply what we learn in the classroom in ways that will affect real people, with real problems?
  • Will the financials involved put us in an uncomfortable financial situation and restrict our options after the program?

With these questions in mind, I put together an initial list of schools after having spoken with a number of recent MBA grads and current MBA students, and in doing my own research. My wife and I visited several schools and ultimately were convinced that Foster best met the criteria we put together.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Before I joined ThoughtWorks, I was working at a Management Consultancy staffed as an operational consultant helping clients achieve operational efficiencies. In reality, the work was uninspiring, and I was feeling unmotivated. On one project, I was staffed on the same client as a group of technologists from ThoughtWorks using emerging technologies in a traditional brick-and-mortar retail grocery. My mind was opened to the applications of technology that had only seemed to me to be science-fiction. Product Managers and Engineers were collaborating in a way I hadn’t seen before and customers were engaged early and often to test and give feedback. I recognized early on in my relationship that this environment was much more captivating, and I leveraged those relationships to pivot my career. Since then, I haven’t looked back, and have done some of the most exciting and fulfilling work of my career.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? One of the more interesting projects I had the opportunity to work on was at a Biotech where I was a Product Manager on a team building an application for research scientists to track the data and processes associated with the research of pre-clinical therapeutics. I had the chance to interview research scientists, observe the lab work, acquire a deep understanding of the biology behind the development of large molecule therapeutics, and ultimately turn this knowledge base into working software. I found the work to be immensely satisfying and I hope to continue on this path after I graduate. For me, without a biology background, I see myself bringing to the table an approach to drug-development that puts software first and tries to see the problem not as a biology problem, but as a technical problem to be solved with innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Where do you see yourself in five years? At this time, I hope to be leading a team of motivated scientists with diverse backgrounds in areas such as biology, pharmacy, artificial intelligence, and computer science. I envision designing candidate molecules with this team that will have been sourced from a data model, as opposed to other more traditional discovery techniques, and can be researched and applied in the more traditional drug testing modality.

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