From their MBA days to the current hustle-and-bustle of working at Amazon, Seattle Chapter Leaders Beth Hood and Eric Strow share what they value most from their time at McCombs and how they’ve used those experiences to leverage success in their post-MBA grad careers. As chapter leaders, Beth and Eric have built up the Seattle chapter through an increase in networking opportunities, volunteer leaders, and hosted social gatherings—one recent event they hosted, the Seattle Summer Celebration, was a huge hit with Seattle alumni and current McCombs students interning in the city. Thanks for all your great work as chapter leaders, Beth and Eric!
Please talk about your experience as a student here at McCombs. Why you came here, groups you were involved with, favorite class/teacher, etc.
Beth: I choose McCombs because I was a previous graduate student at the University of Texas (in the Mathematics program from 2011-2013) and knew the rigor and high standards across all UT graduate programs. We are also a collaborative program with many opportunities and programs to help shape whatever kind of career you’re looking for.
I want to give back to my community when I can, and was involved in a lot… I was the Alumni Affairs Chair for the Graduate Business Council, co-founder of the MBA Wellness Collective, Member of Graduate Women in Business and the McCombs Ambassador Committee, mentored BBAs in the Women’s Case Competition and mentored for the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Pre-Graduate Internship program, participated in the Texas Venture Labs class and Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition, and two MBA+ projects.
I concentrated in business analytics and really enjoyed Maytal Saar-Tsechansky’s Business Analytics and Data Mining course, but thought all of our core curriculum professors were outstanding and benefited from them all.
Eric: It sounds cheesy, but I came to McCombs because of the unique culture of our MBA program. Students here have a genuine interest in helping one another achieve their goals, and in building a strong community during our two years in Austin as well as a network to stay connected with after we leave. I was also drawn in by the entrepreneurial aspects of our program, and the ability to join groups like Venture Fellows and interact with the vibrant Austin startup scene (which is extremely welcoming toward McCombs students.) To top it off, it helped to know I’d have Austin’s warm weather, live music, tacos, barbecue, and craft beers to enjoy outside the classroom.
As a student, I was able to learn first-hand from entrepreneurs and investors as part of Venture Fellows, combining the classroom experience with an internship at Dreamit. I also built a network of like-minded students through the Graduate Business Technology Group and Entrepreneur Society while pursuing some personal interests as Co-President of the Sports, Entertainment and Marketing Association (SEMA) and the MBA Brew Club, hosting forums with professionals across industries (and a homebrew competition). This goes to show you, there’s no limit to what you can get involved in while at McCombs.
Some of my favorite classes were those that helped me develop a more global mindset. I took full advantage of McCombs’ opening doors to learn while traveling the world, taking the Global Connections class Social Entrepreneurship in South Africa that involved a trip from Austin to Durban and Cape Town to meet with incredible people building unique companies with a mission to give back. I also did a study abroad semester at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, meeting MBA students from all over the world (full time and other exchange students).
How did your educational experience change you?
Beth: Before the MBA program, I had the technical skills, but not the business acumen or leadership experience to take on new roles or career paths. My MBA opened up a lot of doors and gave me the credibility and experience I was lacking.
Eric: In addition to fine tuning the hard skills that are important to any career in business, my MBA education was full of lessons on empathy and compassion, as well as prioritization and making difficult decisions. It was a well-rounded experience that in my opinion leaves alumni better prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead, regardless of industry or function.
Please provide a brief summary of your career path since graduating.
Beth: I interned with Amazon as a Sr. Product Manager while enrolled in the MBA program, and joined full-time in 2018 after graduation.
Eric: I came to McCombs after a career in financial services consulting with EY based in New York. Since graduating in 2016, I’ve been in product management with Amazon in Seattle, launching products such as Prime Book Box (subscription service for children’s books) and Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe (fashion styling service as a Try Before You Buy program). Amazon is a place where you can move around the company every few years, and I’ve grown in my career here by taking on more scope and developing more technical skills with each new role at the company.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
Beth: I was promoted to a Sr. Product Manager- Technical within 6 months of joining Amazon full-time, as a result of leveraging my background in mathematics and my MBA.
Eric: It’s been extremely rewarding to see the impact of the programs I’ve helped launch at Amazon, and knowing that these products are making customers’ lives easier is something I’m definitely proud of.
Has your career played out the way you expected?
Beth: The quick promotion exceeded my expectations and has encouraged me to push boundaries.
Eric: It certainly isn’t what I expected when I first came to McCombs. I was pretty certain there was no way I would join a company even larger than the Big Four firm I left, and yet I landed at Amazon. But, I didn’t have too fixed a plan outside of using the MBA to transition into the tech sector, and I don’t think I’d have moved to Seattle and joined Amazon if it wasn’t for my decision to go to McCombs and leverage our campus recruiting opportunities. Each step of my career has built on the one before it, and in that way, you could say it’s going to plan.
How have you stayed involved with the school as an alumnus?
Beth: Eric and I help coordinate alumni events in the Seattle area, as well as host our McCombs Seattle Tech Trek.
Eric: I’m involved in Amazon’s efforts recruiting McCombs MBA students, and I also stay engaged with other alums at the company through organizing events for McCombs interns and new hires, and hosting students who come as part of McCombs’ career treks. Outside building the McCombs-Amazon connection, as one of the leaders of the McCombs Alumni Seattle Chapter, I help plan events for the local alumni base, and engage with the school’s MBA Advisory Board to bring news and information from McCombs up here to share with alums. We’re trying to build up the Seattle Chapter to have more volunteer leaders, create more networking opportunities, and host faculty for speaking events while continuing to have social gatherings to welcome new alumni that move to the city each year.
How have you personally benefited from being a part of the network?
Beth: I benefited a lot as a student with the great alumni network that Texas McCombs has created, especially seeing the empowered women that we produce; I view my current role as an alumna as giving back and helping to grow and strengthen the program.
Eric: For me, the decision to move to Seattle after grad school was made much easier knowing there was such a strong McCombs network here. Having a built-in social circle of classmates from my time in Austin who moved here, as well as alumni from previous classes who’ve helped me navigate my career, has been an incredible benefit from my MBA that keeps paying dividends years after graduation.
What are your goals for the future, career wise and in relation to McCombs?
Beth: I hope to be an ambassador to the benefits of the business analytics concentration program, and push McCombs to continue to build out the program.
Eric: I am passionate about building products and experiences that make life easier and more fun, and so far this career routing through product management allows me to achieve that goal. Right now my plan is to continue growing and advancing in product management, which is a field that many McCombs students are interested in, so I’d like to help the school ensure we are a top destination for product-minded students and recruiters/hiring managers.
Any other community involvement, hobbies or tidbits you’d like to share?
Beth: I stay involved in mentorship opportunities for women and young girls, and recently got involved with “Built By Girls” in the Seattle area. I’m new to the organization but excited to see where it leads!
Eric: Last year I finished my quest to go to all 30 active Major League Baseball stadiums, so I’m starting to work through some new travel lists, like visiting all 50 states and all 7 continents. We’ll see about actually getting to Antarctica, though.