2021 MBAs To Watch: Claire Herting, University of Washington (Foster)

Claire Herting

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

Comic shop manager turned MBA who focuses on empathetic leadership and community-building to drive strategy.”

Hometown: Kirkland, Washington

Fun fact about yourself: I spent some time working in the film industry and worked on large productions like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Transformers V: The Last Knight. My name even made it into the credits of Transformers V!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Washington, BA – Mathematics, Cinema Studies, Comparative Literature, Spanish (minor)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Vault of Midnight – Assistant Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Walmart – Merchandising Operations (Bentonville, Arkansas)

Where will you be working after graduation? Walmart – Senior Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • MBA Association EVP of Communications
  • Fritzky Leadership Fellow
  • Co-President – Diversity in Business
  • VP of Communications – Out in Business
  • VP of Operations – Level Up! Interactive Entertainment Association
  • First Year Representative – Out in Business
  • First Year Representative – Diversity in Business
  • Forté Fellow
  • Walter E. and Agnes M. Griffin Endowed Business Scholar
  • Lee and Darlene Nutter Scholarship Recipient

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During my first quarter in the program, I was asked to participate in the very first Foster Connects event, a Moth Radio Hour-esque storytelling event organized by Foster Creative and Diversity in Business. Even though I had been fighting off imposter syndrome and was nervous about public speaking, I wanted a challenge and felt that there was a need for more vulnerability in my cohort, so I chose to participate and share my coming out journey. The thought of sharing such a personal story with my classmates was intimidating and I had only told my story to one other person in the program. However, I knew I wanted to feel more freedom to be my authentic self at school as well as to set an example for my classmates, showing that there is strength in being vulnerable with each other.

When I shared my story at the event, my classmates responded with open hearts and so many kind words. I felt welcomed and celebrated as a member of the Foster community and I hope I inspired others to bring their authentic selves to class every day. Foster Connects was a hit and we have continued the event on a quarterly basis. I am so proud of the hard work I put into perfecting my storytelling, pushing imposter syndrome out of my mind, and getting on stage for a public speaking event. I even found out that I enjoy public speaking and I hope to do more of it in the future.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the time I saw the potential in a struggling new hire at Vault of Midnight and worked with him to develop and successfully implement an action plan to improve his performance. This was early in my tenure as assistant manager, and ownership wanted to let this employee go during his initial 90-day training period. However, I knew this individual had the perfect attitude and culture fit for our organization, so I pushed back against the owners and asked them to give me the full 90 days before they made a final decision. I put in extra time developing a customized training plan for this employee, working with him to figure out why he was struggling with certain parts of the job and finding new ways to explain those tasks to him. He improved significantly, was kept on as a full staff member at the end of the training period, and ultimately became one of the most valuable staff at the store. In fact, when I left the company, he was on track to becoming the next assistant manager.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Foster because of the collaborative, community focus of the program. I knew I wanted to be at a school where my classmates and I would build each other up and work hard to help one another learn – and I’ve witnessed both of these countless times, whether it was a classmate running accounting review sessions for those of us who needed a little extra help, or peers coming together to help each other find jobs and internships after the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in canceled interviews and rescinded offers.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I have quite a few favorites because there are so many great people at Foster. Since I have to pick just one, I’d say my favorite professor is Crystal Fahr. She teaches Leading Teams and Organizations, one of the core courses in the first year of the program, and the positive energy she brought to class every single day created a wonderful learning environment. Her passion for leadership and team-building inspired me to take on more leadership roles in school and to continue taking on leadership roles in my career.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think the biggest myth about Foster is that it is only for MBAs who are focused on entering the tech industry. I do have many classmates who are going into the tech industry. However, I have many other classmates who will be entering different industries like retail and healthcare. I’ve seen an even greater variety of interests from the Class of 2022. The professors use cases from all industries and there’s a wide swath of electives available to choose from, both tech-related and not tech-related.

What surprised you the most about business school? Entering business school, I was pretty nervous about how, or even if, my previous work experience would be valued by my classmates and professors. My previous experience was about as far from “traditional” as one could get; I worked in the film industry and managed a comic book store. I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that my unique background was frequently applicable to our learning and that many of my classmates appreciated the perspective I brought to our discussions.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I was authentic. I didn’t try to present myself as the person I thought the admissions team might want me to be. I shared my goals and how I felt my work experiences informed and supported my goals for the future. Then, I tied that to how attending Foster could help me build that bridge from my work experience to my aspirations for my career. When my interviewer had questions about how ready I would be for some of the academics, I was ready with a detailed answer of my plans for how I would handle it.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is a difficult question because my classmates are amazing individuals and I admire so many of them. I most admire Kelly Yu. She serves as our MBA Association VP of Diversity and has truly made the most out of the position. She has organized multiple program-wide town halls to give our classmates of color a platform to share their experiences, creating greater awareness and understanding of the injustices people of color face. She worked with a team of students, faculty, and staff to develop resources for our minority students as well as resources for allies to better understand how to practice effective allyship. She consistently pushes those in her community to keep diversity, equity, and inclusion top of mind and has this wonderful ability to inspire and support others in making the world a better place.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? I think that everyone at Foster did the best job they possibly could in shifting to an online learning environment, especially given the situation at the time. Luckily, the shift to online learning coincided with our spring break, so professors and students had some time to adjust before being thrown into Zoom University. It was certainly challenging at first figuring out exactly how to run team meetings via Zoom. We quickly realized that Zoom Fatigue is very real, but we persevered and adapted to our new reality very quickly and relatively smoothly.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mom most influenced my decision to pursue business. My mom has been a major influence throughout my life, pushing me to always do my best and to grow from every hardship. Like me, she was also a career-switcher when she decided to enter the MBA program and she even went to Foster to earn her MBA. When I told her that I loved my work managing Vault of Midnight, but that I felt a need to do more, she suggested I consider business school. I was skeptical at first, but she explained why she thought I would love it, and she was 100% right (as usual).

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I would love to be a keynote speaker at an industry or leadership event someday. I would also love to be on the board of a non-profit focused on helping LGBTQ+ youth.

What made Claire such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Claire is passionate about using data, analysis, and insight to make the world a better place. That may seem like a ‘typical top 20 MBA program student profile,’ but Claire is anything but. Rather, she is that but also so much more. Did I mention that she brings to the world a ‘triple BA’ undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in Cinema Studies, Literature, and Mathematics?… with a Minor in Spanish to boot? Or that she left a career in digital marketing to manage a large comics & game store in Ann Arbor, MI, all before joining the UW-Foster MBA community? Or that she enjoys community building… and playing board and video games… and championing diversity… and watching horror films…? That is a lot of unique perspective to bring to the world, and she pours every ounce of her authentic self into making the world a more verdant, more just, and more equitable place for all.

There are a million great things that I can say about her as a leader, but what truly sets Claire apart is her unique combination of MBA skill and earnest commitment to living her values of inclusivity, empowerment, and authenticity. At Foster she made time to improve our community by serving as a member of the MBA Association’s Executive Committee while also investing her time and talent as Co-President of Diversity in Business, VP of Operations for Level Up! Interactive Entertainment Association (focused on the vibrant gaming industry), and VP of Communications for Out in Business (a student organization for LGBT and Ally students). More important than the roles, though, is the contribution and style. Claire is authentically herself, and she has 31 days’ worth of October 2020 Zoom backgrounds, each based upon a different 1980s horror film, to prove it. Importantly, she creates space for others to be their authentic selves as well, all while applying her analytical skills to data in order to address organizational challenges & opportunities and her leadership acumen to empower others to maximize the contribution of the team. Claire is a ‘force multiplier’ for learning, growth, and team performance. She helps others elevate the impact of their ideas on the world, and I’m thrilled that she is a member of the Foster community.”

Dan Turner
Associate Dean, Masters Programs