Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Danielle Pyrak, University of Washington (Foster)

Danielle Pyrak

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

“Rule of thirds: sometimes amazing, sometimes awkward and sometimes always hungry.”

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love alpine ice skating. I spent over a decade in the ice rink growing up as a competitive figure skater and found a way to combine with one of my new passions, mountaineering.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Washington – Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Lockheed Martin, Senior Aeronautical Engineer

What makes Seattle such a great place to earn an MBA? Foster’s Seattle location provides several significant benefits to MBA candidates. Not only is it nestled pleasantly in the Pacific Northwest, but it also has command over that area. There are no other top ranked business schools to compete with during recruiting while it is also the center of a lot of prominent tech, retail and CPG companies. Many successful brands and businesses have originated in Washington so there must be something in the water (or rain).

And to pin on location again, no other program is as close to such prominent mountain peaks as Mount Tahoma/Rainier, the most prominent peak in the lower 48. Washington is anyone’s playground and offers no shortage of topography for every experience level and interest. But if the outdoors is not your thing, Seattle also boasts great dining options (several James Beard Award Winners) and art and sporting events.

Aside from your location and classmates, what was the key part of Washington Foster’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? As a career pivot-er, I have varied interests and goals for what I want to learn and accomplish while in school. The customizable approach at Foster and the ability to take electives with other great programs like The Evans School for Public Policy and Governance, was especially appealing to me as I navigate where I want to take my career after graduation.

I also need to emphasize community. Seattle is known for the “Seattle Freeze”, but that will not be anyone’s experience in this program as alumni and current students are eager to make lasting connections.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Washington Foster? The Outdoor Sport and Industry Club (OSIC). This club leverages the unique resources of the area. OSIC provides the unique opportunity to explore the intersection of my outdoor hobbies and the industries that support them.

Washington Foster operates off a philosophy of We>Me. Give us an example of how you’ve incorporated that approach in your career? In my professional life, I make it a point to practice humility and use my position to help others. Working in a predominantly male field, I have experienced countless examples of leaders and colleagues resorting to blatant misogyny. It was not unusual for me to be the only woman in a room of 30 men. This made strong female mentors especially vital in my career growth, and I have in turn striven to provide mentorship to others, helping them navigate this unwelcoming environment.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I drove a design closure for a critical subcontract for aircraft component procurement. This enabled the selection of an off-the-shelf hardware component rather than a new design, saving an estimated $10M and two years of development time.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? Like many other people, I lost someone very close to me during the pandemic and it forced me to put my motivations into perspective. I live every day with intention while also cherishing the little moments I hope to one day reflect on fondly.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I was pursuing a technical field in a singular industry and wanted a new challenge. I had always been interested in consulting, as it allows me to leverage my analytical problem solving from my engineering experience. but apply it to a broader array of industries. In order to effectively transition and enter at my desired level, I knew I wanted to pursue an MBA.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Foster was always my number one choice.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Washington Foster’s MBA program? When I was initially exploring schools, I had two criteria: location and fit. Would I (and my family) be successful in this city? Is it the right location for my family? What do I bring to the community? What can I offer the community? Would I thrive? And because we are talking about Seattle, do I love those seasons? Yes, very much. Talk to current and alumni to understand their Foster experience. Otherwise, I will give the same advice, be authentic to yourself in these questions and questions asked.


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