Meet Washington Foster’s MBA Class Of 2020

Kirsten L. B. Franko

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

“Some people call it obsessive, I call it attention to detail.”

Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have a passion for cooking. I have planned several cross-culture multi-course meals for my family and friends. I had the enjoyment of getting to plan a menu for my dad’s 60th surprise birthday party. Which to my astonishment we managed to keep a surprise!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Wisconsin – Madison, M.S. and B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: HNTB, Transportation Engineer

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My greatest accomplishment thus far in my career has been leading the roadway design efforts for a 20-million-dollar roadway reconstruction project. It allowed me to grow as an engineer and have the autonomy to work independently on the roadway design efforts. We as a project team continued to meet all deadlines, under budget, while maintaining client appreciation and excitement for what was to come next.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why?

The classmates I have met so far have such diversity, in terms of educational backgrounds, country of origin, marital status, future goals and current employment. Everyone has such a unique background and story.  was attracted to the Foster program because it values this diversity in the student body.

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? The key factor that played into my program selection was class size. Foster has a relatively small class size compared to other MBA programs. This was attractive because it will allow me to develop relationships with all my classmates. The smaller class size of Foster also supports the group learning style employed by the program. Our future careers will necessitate that we work successfully with our colleagues and clients. Having this opportunity to work with diverse groups, throughout the next two years, is a bonus to an already prestigious program.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am most looking forward to joining Women in Business. With an undergraduate and graduate degree in engineering I have primarily worked with men during my career, which holds true statistically for business as well. As a Forte Fellow, I have already enjoyed meeting many accomplished women in the business community. I am looking forward to expanding this network of powerful and driven women, through joining Women in Business.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? The decision to pursue my MBA followed my annual engineering review with HNTB, my previous employer. We were discussing 5-year and 10-year outlooks, and I began to reflect where the careers of my coworkers were at these landmark stages. I realized that I was not going to be satisfied continuing down the career trajectory I was on. My passion for my future was not in the engineering side of my career, but rather the business side. I recognized that to make this switch I needed to change my course. I began researching the idea of returning to school to obtain my MBA. The excitement that accompanied this process continued to reassure me that this was the change that I needed to make.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Getting my MBA has been a thought in my mind ever since finishing graduate school in Civil Engineering. As my professional career continued to progress in engineering, I realized to be happy in my career I needed to expand my business knowledge and work towards transitioning into a management role. I knew it was worth investing in myself and taking the next steps towards getting my MBA.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to The University of Washington in the first round and was accepted before second round applications were due at other universities. Once I was accepted, I immediately made the decision to attend based on how well the Foster program fit with what I was looking for in a school.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I considered several factors to determine my fit at various schools. These factors included: class size, variety of other clubs and organizations, class structure, job opportunities after graduation, school location, and class diversity. A big factor for me was class size, learning style and overall feeling of fit. After attending “Welcome Weekend” at Foster, I knew it was the right fit for me. My prospective classmates in attendance were all so open and accepting of everyone. In addition, the current students made us feel welcomed in both class lectures and evening social events. I could tell it was a place I was going to build life-long friendships and memories, and have a feeling of unity and family.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? In the winter of 2016, I stood motionless in my parent’s kitchen as my father shared with me one simple word that shattered my world — “cancer.” A simple word that can turn your entire world on its head. My mind raced to the absolute worst outcome and the tears rolled down my face. In an instant, the value of each moment, each day, and each year became that much more precious to me. My father has and will always be one of my biggest supporters. He has constantly pushed me to be the best that I can be. He has encouraged me to live each day loving what you do, loving who you are surrounded by and ultimately loving the life you have created. Receiving the news that his life had been changed forever made me realize the value of a moment. That in every moment we should be loving what we do and that every day we should be excited for what the next 24 hours holds.

Standing in my parent’s kitchen surrounded by those I love made me realize that I needed to start making changes for myself today, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? After graduation, I plan to take a 2-year delayed honeymoon with my husband traveling through Thailand. Our careers and school aspirations along with the relocation from Wisconsin to Washington put that on hold after our wedding. We are looking forward to being fully immersed in another culture and adventuring through Thailand together. After returning I am looking forward to starting a full-time job and building a lifelong career that allows me to continue to explore the math and science technical background that I bring from undergraduate schooling, combined with the new-found business knowledge gained through the Foster’s program.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I see myself striving to find balance between working full time, beginning a family, and maintaining moments in the day for my own well-being. I believe very strongly in finding a career that allows me to have work-life balance.  Personal and mental health have long been passionate topics and factors in my life. Finding a career that encourages individuals to spend time with family, while maintaining a flourishing business, is important in my career and five-year outlook.

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