Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Irfan Vengasseri, University of Washington (Foster)

Irfan Vengasseri

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

“An enthusiastic connector who loves to bond with people and exchange stories.”

Hometown: Malappuram, Kerala, India

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have a blackbelt in karate, but I cannot fight even if my life depended on it.

Undergraduate School and Major: National Institute of Technology Calicut, India

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Software Engineer, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

What makes Seattle such a great place to earn an MBA? Seattle is a mecca for tech and business with big names like Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and T-Mobile. The city is also a startup hub that attracts a lot of global talent and attention. From a career perspective, Seattle give you access to a multitude of industries and opportunities. As an MBA student, you gain exposure to market leaders that are at the forefront of innovation and sustainability.

Seattle is a beautiful city. From an extracurricular perspective, Seattle offers an array of outdoor activities with hiking trails, and ski resorts that are less than an hour away. As someone who is new to both of these activities, being able to explore these activities is very exciting for me. This city is also a foodie’s heaven with lots of highly-rated restaurants and farmers markets, which keeps me very occupied.

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 someone who thrives in a team environment, the Foster MBA’s emphasis on nurturing a culture of collaboration was key for me. There is a huge focus on We>Me, and this is embedded in the program structure, the course activities, and the extracurriculars. I draw strength from engaging with those around me, and therefore, it was important for me to pick a program that focused on a collaborative culture as opposed to a competitive one.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at Washington Foster?
If I had to pick one club, it would be the Foster Consulting Society (FCS). Foster Consulting Society has been extremely active, with myriad of social and educational events for first years. Prior to business school, I had little exposure to consulting cases. Through a series of group and individual sessions, my skill level in casing has improved significantly. The Consulting Society also hosted a fall formal where students had the opportunity to network with alumni and industry experts. Overall, FCS has significantly enhanced my Foster MBA experience.

Washington Foster operates off a philosophy of We>Me. Give us an example of how you’ve seen that among your classmates so far. Coming to the program as an international student was a particularly challenging experience. There is a huge cultural shock, along with the workload of the program. At Foster we have a small cohort which is very tight-knit and has formed a support network. One area where this really stands out is internship recruitment. Managing recruitment, along with academics, is quite challenging. However, everyone makes it a point to be present for their classmates, offering support in the face of rejections, helping prepare for interviews, and celebrating success! This support network really speaks of the We>Me philosophy and collaborative culture at Foster.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As a software engineer for JPMorgan Chase, I had the opportunity to work as a Site Reliability Engineer. I was essentially part of a crisis management team who responded to the problems and failures in one of the firms’ key applications. I worked with multiple stakeholders to resolve users’ issues meeting tight deadlines (less than a week). My time in the Site Reliability Engineering team coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was followed by a period of market volatility, which meant a series of critical issues came up during this period. In a span of five months, I resolved over 50+ issues, and received praise from users, and senior management for my efforts.

Describe your biggest achievement in the MBA program so far: I was voted as the “Leader of the Quarter”. Leader of the Quarter is a recognition given to someone who the class believes displayed significant leadership qualities. There were so many wonderful people in my cohort who had a strong impact on me, and I certainly did not expect to be voted for this honor. It was a pleasant surprise to have won.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? “Start With Why- How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is a Ted Talk (available on YouTube) and a book by Simon Sinek. Through his content, Sinek makes a compelling argument that great leaders and top companies inspire action and success by focusing on the “why” first before looking at the “how” or the “what”. Coming into an MBA program, I found this mantra to be very helpful when prioritizing my goals and planning how I will meet them.

The Foster MBA program places a lot of importance on nurturing our growth as leaders. Throughout this journey, I found the focus on “why” to be crucial, and Sinek’s point of view certainly helped me drive it home.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Washington Foster’s MBA program? Take time to sit down with yourself and go over your story. Make sure you know why you want to do an MBA, and what you expect from your MBA journey. Be open minded. Also take time to analyze what strengths and capabilities you will bring to the program. Once you are aware of your story, your goals, and your strengths, research the program thoroughly. Look at the course offerings, learning and teaching methods, and the career opportunities presented at the school. I also found it helpful to talk to current students. Foster has student admission ambassadors who would be happy to talk to anyone about their experience in the program. Remember, it is more important for the program to be a right fit for you than for you to be the right fit for the program.


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