Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Kate Leuba, University of Washington (Foster)

Kate Leuba

University of Washington, Michael G. Foster School of Business

Eternal optimist in constant search of new adventure and challenge.”

Hometown: Washington, DC

Fun Fact About Yourself: I played for the Egyptian women’s rugby team in the Dubai 7s Rugby Tournament while on study abroad in Cairo. We didn’t score a try, but it was an incredible experience. UAE and Egypt are 2 of the 32 countries that I’ve traveled to so far!

Undergraduate School and Major: Boston College, BA – Islamic Civilization & Societies

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: DAI Global LLC, Project Manager

What makes Seattle such a great place to earn an MBA? Seattle’s entrepreneurial spirit, social impact core, promotion of work-life balance, and incredible outdoor terrain make it the ideal place to earn an MBA. This city is teeming with bright, curious, down-to-earth people who share a passion for paying it forward and exploring nature’s splendor. Seattle and its surroundings are breathtaking, which I think strongly contributes to the city’s innovative spirit and energy. Plus, interview practice with classmates will be a thousand times more enjoyable while on a hike gazing at Mount Rainier or floating in a kayak on Green Lake!

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 blew me away with its tight knit culture that comes with a class size of ~120, emphasis on learning by doing, and global outlook. Throughout the summer, my class has already been exchanging notes, advice, and resources to make sure that we’re all setup heading into the school year. The strong sense of community is almost immediate given that everyone wants to lend a helping hand. As someone who thrives off collaborative energy, a supportive network was extremely important to me.

In terms of learning by doing, Foster builds this into the curriculum at every turn. From case studies in classes to the applied strategy project, Foster will provide several hands-on opportunities that will allow me to gain experience in areas I haven’t worked in before. Also, with Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Starbucks, and other top global companies just ten minutes down the road, we have incredible access to networking opportunities.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? There are too many to list! If I had to pick one though, I would put Women in Business at the top. As a 2019 Forté Foundation Launcher, I witnessed how just a little empowerment can go a long way in unlocking someone’s potential. The energy of an empowered group of women is infectious and unbeatable.  As the business world wades through the uncharted territory of COVID-19, I’m eager to discuss the impact on women leaders and keep the inspiration of growing leaders strong.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment so far has been becoming my former company’s youngest Project Manager and being asked to take on the company’s largest project after it experienced a very rocky start, both financially and client relationship-wise. After 18 months of long hours reviewing project processes and reorganizing team workflows and scopes of work, the project became the company’s top financial performer, and the client awarded us a $12 million year-long addition to the contract.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After a few years of project management in the international development industry, I felt like I hit a learning plateau and needed an MBA to take my leadership abilities to the next level. To me, exposure and diversification of thought are critical to good leadership, and I knew the MBA would be the most comprehensive and accelerated way to achieve both. I also thought an MBA would be the most effective way to pivot my career into the private sector.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question that pops into mind was “What does business integrity mean to you?” The question format was more intimidating than the question itself; it was a 2-minute timed video response while staring at myself on screen. Not having anyone to interact with threw me off a bit and the 2-minute timer counting down added pressure. It was a great crash course for our current remote world though!

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The application journey is full of self-reflection and introspection that are critical to bringing clarity to the question of “why business school.” Initially when thinking about school fit, I considered what I liked and didn’t like about my undergraduate setting. I also made a short-list of factors personally important to me, such as location, proximity to dream companies, and a humble, mission-driven class culture.

In terms of culture research, there are tons of resources out there and I tried to use as many as I could (crash course one in learning how to manage and optimize your resources!). With each MBA forum, in-person class visit, admissions webinar, and coffee/phone chat, my picture of the school became more vivid and I could better envision myself in the setting. School websites will give you initial hints, but it’s the personalized interactions that will allow you to get to know the school on the level needed to make such a big decision. The student ambassadors listed on schools’ websites are truly approachable and there to help give you a flavor of the culture.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? A couple years ago, I was in Islamabad for work, recently assigned to a project with rampant compliance, personnel, client relationship, deliverable submission, and team morale issues. I held a strategy meeting with the new country team lead and felt completely overwhelmed, having no idea where to even begin. I was a new Project Manager and had a great deal of decision-making power. This experience prepared me for business school by highlighting my blind spots and reinforcing that successful leadership requires cross-functional tools and skills rooted in an understanding of other teammates’ job functions.

What special ingredient do you see yourself bringing to the Class of 2022? How will that enrich the MBA experience? Running with the food analogy here, I envision myself being the salt because of its versatility and ability to connect and complement unique ingredients. My brilliant classmates all come with different experiences and approaches to problems, and I’ll play the role of drawing out commonalities and keeping momentum going by getting a team on the same page in a way that makes everyone feel included.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Ben & Jerry’s (Unilever). Stellar ice-cream aside, I admire Ben & Jerry’s deeply rooted devotion to sustainable and fair supply chains, social justice, and community impact. If you’re ever in Burlington, definitely visit their headquarters. Their feature on the ‘How I Built This’ podcast by Guy Raz was also a good listen!