Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Drew Blundell, University of Washington (Foster)

Drew Blundell

University of Washington, Michael G. Foster School of Business

“An energetic collaborator and community-builder passionate about forming relationships with peers, companies, and consumers.”

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Fun Fact About Yourself: As a child, my musically-inclined parents (a quality I did not inherit) forced our whole family to sing and record Christmas carols every year. They subsequently burned these songs to CDs, designed an album cover, and distributed to everyone we knew in our neighborhood as a holiday card. Needless to say, I now have built up a strong tolerance to embarrassment.

Undergraduate School and Major: Davidson College, Political Science

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: IBM, Senior Strategy Consultant, Digital Business Strategy

What makes Seattle such a great place to earn an MBA? Seattle is so much more than a major hub for the tech industry, the quality for which it is often heralded as an attractive destination for professionals. Seattle is also home to Fortune 500 companies that specialize in everything from retail to logistics to aerospace, as well as thousands of smaller firms that lay the foundation for one of the most innovative and productive business environments in the country.

Though so much of the focus in an MBA program focuses on eventual employment at one of these destinations, the real added benefit of pursuing an MBA in Seattle is found outside the classroom. Seattle boasts incredible access to diverse, driven, and influential networks of professionals who are motivated to collaborate and build together. This community spirit thrives in both the vibrant city and outdoor playground just minutes from downtown. There are not many places in the world where you can kayak with harbor seals in the morning, have an afternoon coffee chat on the campus of a major global corporation, and head up to the mountains for night skiing all in the same day.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Foster, more so than any other program I was considering, places an extraordinary emphasis on active citizenship in many ways. The dynamics of an intentionally small class size necessitate heavy student leadership and participation to enrich the experience of all Foster MBAs. This citizenship mentality is not limited to the cohort, but rather extends to the region (through encouraging service to the local community) and the globe (Foster requires multiple international experiences to graduate). The imperative that Foster students are not only expected to engage in different communities around them, but to lead them, was the most significant indicator that Foster was the right fit for me.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? The Foster activity that excites me the most is the Fritzky Leadership Fellows program, run by the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking. The program is designed for second-year MBA students to serve as ambassadors to incoming MBA students through mentorship and coaching and is an opportunity for Fellows to hone their leadership acumen. I believe that service to others is what strengthens any successful organization, and the mutual benefit of providing critical insight and guidance to peers while improving your skills is an opportunity I hope to take part in during my time at Foster.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far? The biggest accomplishment in my career so far is trusting my gut instincts and making a significant change in career path. My first job out of college was working for a law firm as a paralegal. Studying politics and moving to Washington, DC to work in law seemed like an easy, linear path for a career. However, I began to feel that my professional passions and interests would be more wholly satisfied in a different industry. With a move that felt a bit like jumping out of a plane without a parachute, I left my job and started pursuing positions in strategic consulting. This move not only exposed me to the possibilities of a career in a more traditional business discipline, but also gave me the confidence to trust my own judgement for major career decisions.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? At this point in my career, the pursuit of an MBA represents a bridge between the experience I currently possess and the tools I need to be successful in my dream post-MBA job. In my previous role, I was often tasked with consumer-focused marketing work, which aligned perfectly with my skills and interests, but only represented a small part of my work as a strategic consultant. Now that I know what I want to pursue long term, a Foster MBA gives me the perfect opportunity to fill in any gaps in my knowledge base and build myself into a savvier marketing professional.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question I was asked during the admissions process was the dreaded “Can you tell me a bit about yourself?” I had of course drilled myself on my two-minute, canned MBA interview answer, but distilling years of growth and experience into a short elevator pitch seemed to remove some of the authenticity that paints a picture of who I really am. Though with practice I was able to perfect my “pitch,” I especially enjoyed the interviews that were more conversational and allowed me to weave longer narratives about what makes me tick and why I believe that an MBA is the right step at the right time for me.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? For me, fit was the main differentiator between many similarly ranked schools. I believe that if you pay close enough attention to a combination of a school’s emphasis on academic strengths, student and alumni interactions, and metrics (like employer satisfaction with graduates, placement, etc.) it makes it easy to discern how these MBA programs almost intentionally differentiate themselves. I had the good fortune of being able to synthesize all these factors and make my own judgments during in-person campus visits, but COVID-19 has likely changed the availability of such an experience. However, I would encourage any prospective MBA applicant to try to distinguish what fit is best through extensive research and outreach. The prospective student has a marked advantage with sending out “cold” emails to students at MBA programs; current students very often jump at the chance to provide information about their program to a potential future classmate. Don’t hesitate to reach out early and often to current students and alumni!

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? My defining moment was pushing myself past what I thought was my breaking point during my first summit of Mt. Rainier. In the midst of high winds, driving snow, and low visibility my spirits were low and fatigue was high. When our party went to sleep at 11,000 feet to summit the next day, we had a very low chance of being able to continue to climb. The next morning brought clear skies, but also another exhausting day of climbing. En route to the peak, I gritted past what I thought was my limit and discovered previously untapped energy reserves and optimism. This determination in the face of adversity has served me well in many different aspects of life, and I look forward to continuing to apply what I learned about myself during my MBA to drive toward my goals.

What special ingredient do you see yourself bringing to the Class of 2022? How will that enrich the MBA experience? I bring a contagious brand of optimism to any group I am a part of, and hope that it benefits my classmates in the Foster Class of 2022. I believe that there is always a solution (though not always perfect) to any problem, and a positive attitude brings out the most creative, ingenious, and harmonious collaboration in a group.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Oculus, the virtual reality peripheral pioneer which is now a subsidiary of Facebook, is a company that I admire greatly not just for the products they create, but for their vision to strategically reinvigorate a technology sector that was previously floundering. My first time using an Oculus VR headset, I noticed every single person in the room was absolutely mesmerized and did not want to stop using the device. As a marketer, witnessing transformative experiences like this first-hand provides endless storytelling opportunities to put life-changing products in the hands of consumers. I believe in the power of technology to drastically change the way we live, and Oculus stands out as an example of a firm that pursued a technology not based on its history, but its potential.