2021 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Tiffany Shen, University of Washington (Foster)

Tiffany Shen

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

Age: 31

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve gone shark cage diving off the coast of Oahu.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Washington; Psychology B.A.

Where are you currently working? Versa Resources, Project Management Consultant

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In a previous role, I managed a team of 10 and was proud to build an enhanced process that ended up being implemented department-wide. Transitioning from an individual contributor to a new leader, it was a daunting task to re-invent how we negotiated vendor contracts. With the successful completion of the project, it reaffirmed I was on the right path in pursuing a management career. I am proud to have been involved in identifying and implementing equitable solutions for my team and the broader department.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? In evaluating MBA programs, I knew community was one of my priorities. The Hybrid program emphasizes the cohort model – every team-based assignment in our core classes is with the same six individuals. I loved that, as a team, we would be working together to achieve the same goals. It has provided an opportunity for me to learn from the formal coursework as well as from my teammates’ experiences.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My most favorite and grounding experience was being the inaugural representative for the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Equity committee. I’m extremely proud that I could advocate for the needs of my classmates while building a legacy that will outlive me. Being able to provide my program administration with qualitative and quantitative feedback allowed us to integrate DEI speakers as part of our professional development series and also gave me the platform to educate my fellow classmates on how to be better leaders in their own communities.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I was surprised at how much community was still a big part of our program, especially once the pandemic hit and we went from being 95% online to 100%. It would seem inherently averse to think you could build relationships with people you barely know and only talk to via Zoom, but I have found lifelong friends and met some of the most wonderful people I’ll ever know.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Having the experience of in-person learning, those studying habits were critical to ensuring success when things are less clear and more based around time management skills (due to the rigor of this being a work-compatible program). Mostly, I was able to be more vulnerable with what my learning opportunities were and ask questions if I didn’t understand something or needed help. This was a quality that I felt was weak or belittled myself for as an undergrad and I’m glad that I’ve grown since then.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Be very clear about what your priorities are and what you want to get out of a program. Do you care about relationship or network building? Is it important to finish your degree quickly? If you are going for a work-compatible program, are you going to have the mental and physical bandwidth to be successful in all your endeavors? Also, make sure to have sounding boards, support systems, and mentors. When things are going well, it’s easy to feel like you can take on the world – your MBA included. When things are rough, it’s so important to have people ground you and put things in perspective.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? It would be the ability to audit other classes from other programs, especially ones with a DEI focus. Being a truly equitable leader is being able to take in experiences from all disciplines and applying it to quantitative and qualitative situations to enrich and create a safe environment for those you work with. Having a more well-rounded perspective is essential to creating a thriving business while also being an anti-racist leader.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? One of the many benefits of a work-compatible program is the ability to apply concepts we learned in class to our everyday work. The most salient example that has helped me was the final assignment in my Negotiations class. Here, we were asked to negotiate a real-life scenario – not with classmates, friends, or family. This was a a situation where the stakes were higher. I negotiated a salary increase to be commensurate with my years of experience and my MBA status. With the skills from this course, I was able to negotiate a raise that exceeded my target by 5% more than anticipated.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: 25 hours

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My goal would be to combine my love of plant-based food and encouraging anti-racism work within our communities with the skills I have been building with my MBA and consulting experience. This takes different forms depending on the day that you ask me about it. At the end of the day, I hope to actively instill and help people change behaviors that are rooted in bias, hate, and oppression.


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