2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Catherine Sandstrom, University of Washington (Foster)

Catherine Sandstrom

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

“An endlessly curious, pragmatically optimistic fashion-lover, who will always roll up her shirtsleeves and jump in.”

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve collected every Vogue magazine since 2008.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Georgetown University, Bachelor of Arts (Double majors in Government and German, with honors thesis in German)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Frank & Eileen, Head of E-Commerce, Los Angeles, CA

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Goldman Sachs, Seattle

Where will you be working after graduation? Goldman Sachs, Private Wealth Management

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Forte Fellow
  • President, Venture Fellows (a competitive, student-run Fellowship program that places 8 MBA students at local VC firms for their Winter and Spring quarters of their first year of business school)
  • Co-President, Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club (EVCC)
  • Director of Alumni Affairs, The Finance Society

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? After having been a Venture Fellow and worked at a local VC in my first year, I am most proud of my work as President of Venture Fellows throughout my second year. Venture Fellows is an ongoing program, founded by MBA students in 2015. Since then, the program has grown to include seven firms with a competitive application process amongst first years to become a Fellow. Starting at the end of my first year of the MBA, I’ve led Venture Fellows, strengthening the program by creating clear, consistent communication with our partner firms and refining the application process for incoming students. It has been so rewarding to give back to the school by building a strong community amongst my classmates and a welcoming environment for incoming students. Entrepreneurship and venture capital is a much-hyped topic in the popular news. While UW has numerous wonderful courses on the subject, it is so meaningful to get to create hands on experiences for students, grounding what we learn in our courses in a practical reality.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of getting to work at, and growth with, a very early-stage start-up. I was the 4th employee at Frank & Eileen and I cannot imagine a better place to have started my career. Over the six years I was there, I was exposed to every aspect of an early-stage, high-growth business, from operations to marketing to finance – and I loved learning from a powerhouse of a CEO and founder, Audrey McLoghlin. I was hired on to see where my skillset met the company’s needs, and ended up growing into the Head of E-Commerce, successfully leading that side of the business through several website re-designs, re-platforming, and the sky-is-falling-sensation of early COVID-19. While it’s not one singular moment, I am so proud to have worked alongside and learned from the team at Frank & Eileen.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose to come to the UW Foster School of Business because of its incredible sense of community. Being a smaller cohort, you get to know your classmates on a much deeper level. I could immediately sense this sense of cohesion and shared purpose from talking to students and alumni when originally researching business schools.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course was Angel Investing, taught by Minda Brusse, co-founder of a local VC, First Row Partners. This is a year-long, application-only course in which you not only learn about Angel Investing as a financial asset class, but as a class, you get to complete the due diligence process and ultimately invest $50k in up to 2 companies. I was part of a team that successfully navigated the process and secured a $25k investment for a cancer vaccine startup. The course was an amazing opportunity to dive deep into a new topic and learn from local experts, all in preparation for pitching to the University’s Investment Committee to approve the investment.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I don’t think I would change a thing. I have had an incredibly rewarding MBA experience and am so grateful for all that has happened. I look forward to building upon relationships and connections I’ve made in the years to come.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I’m not sure I’m aware of any specific myths about UW Foster School of Business. I will say it’s worth remembering that business school is certainly a lot of work but it’s also such a luxury to be able to go back to school after working for several years. To be able to ask questions of countless experts and learn amongst peers is such a privilege and I would encourage anyone considering it, to pursue it.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? I left Seattle for my undergrad. Having spent the last 10 years away, I was so excited to be able to come back. Foster is so deeply connected with the Seattle business community and I love how new mentors, industry experts and countless fascinating individuals are just a connection away through the UW Foster network. Seattle has so many different industries within a physically stunning location, from technology to retail to transportation and more, and Foster truly leverages its proximity to the absolute benefit of its students.

What surprised you the most about business school? Just how willing professionals are to speak to students! I sent countless cold emails to local community members asking to chat and was always surprised by the eager yeses. Whether agreeing to speak on a panel or just have a 1:1 coffee chat, I am so grateful for the power of a .edu email address.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I’m not sure if this gave me an edge or not, but I remember very intentionally thinking of the interview as a conversation. It was just as much about them getting to know me, as me getting to know them. Because of this, I was relaxed and able to be the best version of myself on the call; I still remember just how friendly and engaging my interviewer was. We had a great conversation that made me even more excited about a potential acceptance.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Sam Plotkin. We were on the same first quarter team and immediately clicked. From thoughtful study sessions to hilarious happy hours, I am so grateful for a new lifelong friend. Sam approaches everything with a thoughtful earnestness, breaking down new concepts into approachable ideas and asking phenomenal questions that cut to the heart of the matter. Beyond just coursework, Sam is organizing IdeaLab, a 170+ person conference focusing on the intersection of business and sustainability while highlighting the near-term work being done to mitigate climate change. Foster has an incredible cohort of students, all working at different intersections of business and wherever their interests take them. Sam exemplifies this diligent effort to foster a better tomorrow.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Having watched my former boss and CEO. Audrey McLoghlin, grow her own business, my primary goal is to build a successful, durable business. I love building connections and being a bridge between subject matter experts and clients. Meaningful relationships are what fuel me and I look forward to a career built upon strong relationships. On a related note, some of the best advice I ever received is to stay somewhere as long as you are still learning. This feeds into my second goal; as I grow into my career, I hope to give back by improving accessibility to financial education, eventually volunteering to improve financial literacy within local public schools.

What made Catherine such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“As President of the Foster Venture Fellows (VF) group and Co-President of the Foster Entrepreneur & Venture Capital Club (EVCC), Catherine Sandstrom has taken both groups from randomly-managed student groups to well-organized entities. She reached out to our Center (staff advisers for both groups) as soon as she was appointed President/Co-President of both organizations. Because she had heard there had been procedural and fiduciary issues in prior years, Catherine was eager to learn the past problems and determine the best path to moving forward that would benefit the student groups, while making our Center oversight easier. Catherine is smart, savvy, insightful, motivated, and a genuinely lovely person. She listened, asked excellent questions, analyzed the situation and worked with us to create beneficial solutions. I’ve found from many years of working with student groups that interest and engagement waxes and wanes depending on the students in any given year. The “playbook” Catherine developed will be passed to each successive leadership team, providing the framework for successful management.

In both of her leadership roles, she creates and maintains relationships with the local venture firms and startups in the Seattle entrepreneurial ecosystem, creates and hosts events for MBA students, maintains a strong network with all the Foster MBAs, and actively promotes Buerk Center-related activities and events to encourage growth opportunities for her fellow students.

In addition, Catherine is a motivated student, taking advantage of every opportunity for growth and leadership. She took the Venture Investing Practicum class and competed in the Venture Capital Investment Competition. She’s currently in the intensive, three-quarter Angel Investing class, where students are imbedded in angel firms, sit in on investor pitches, perform due diligence, and pitch an investment opportunity to the class, then to the investment committee for potential investment. And yes, the investment pitched by her class team was accepted!

In general, Foster MBA students are excellent students and we expect great things from each class. But perhaps there’s one person in each class who truly is exceptional in every way—someone who goes above and beyond in all they do, particularly to benefit classmates; someone with that all-too-rare combination of grit, compassion, talent, insight, initiative, and passion that inspires us all. Catherine is that person in the 2023 MBA class.”

Amy Sallin
Director, Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship
Foster School of Business, University of Washington


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