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Alumni Panel

This week’s ABSA event was our annual Alumni Panel! Foster Alumni, who came from the various Foster concentrations, shared their undergraduate experiences and career exploration journey.

Meet the panelists! EJ Velasco

  • Tax Senior at Moss Adams

  • He graduated from Foster in 2020 with an Accounting & Operations Management degree.

  • Earned a Master of Science in Taxation from Foster in 2021.

  • He is from Federal, Washington and enjoys cooking and going to UW football games.

Patricia Li

  • Business Consultant at EY

  • She graduated from Foster in 2022 with a major in Accounting & Finance.

  • She was a former president of ABSA.

Macy Desmarais

  • Financial Rotational Partner at Starbucks (US Operation Finance Team)

  • Graduated Foster in 2023 with a degree in Finance & Marketing.

  • She is currently on the Alumni Council for Girls Who Invest

  • During her undergrad, she was a part of RSOs such as UW Finance Association and investment group.

  • She’s from Colorado, and some hobbies she has are skiing, trying various workout classes, and going to UW football games.

Vishaal Sharma

  • Associate Account Manager at AWS (focus on Start-Ups)

  • He graduated from Foster in 2022 with a marketing degree.

  • His hobbies include playing pickleball, hike, and watch NCAAF.

Jane Kim

  • IT Compliance at Moss Adams (focus on IT General controls for SOX compliant companies)

  • Class of 2022 Foster alumna who graduated with Accounting & Information Systems concentrations

  • Former Marketing Director of ABSA.

Mealyn Ngu

  • HR Business Partner at Boeing

  • Graduated Foster with a degree in Human Resources and Marketing, minor in Diversity.

  • She earned a Masters in Human Resources & Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

  • She is involved in the HR UW Campus recruitment team and volunteering at UW Alpha Kappa Psi events.

  • She is from Kent, Washington, and some hobbies she has are sightseeing, paddleboarding, and enjoying time with family and friends.

Emma Xia

  • Product Manager at Expedia Group

  • She graduated in 2020 with a degree in Computer Science and Entrepreneurship.

  • She was a former Vice President of ABSA.

Declen Oberst

  • ISC Materials Management Analyst at Honeywell Redmond

  • He graduated from Foster in 2019 with a degree in Operations and Supply Chain Management.

  • Earned MS Supply Chain Management in 2022 from Arizona State University.

  • Some of his hobbies include football, food, traveling, and gaming.


Q&A

What is one thing you miss most about your undergraduate years?

Mealyn: Being around people that are in similar stages in life. It’s more rare to see that community of individuals at work.

Vishaal: He doesn’t miss school and taking classes, but misses relaxing and chilling with people.

Macy: She misses having autonomy over her own schedule. Less control of when you want to do work after graduation.

Patricia: She misses the amount of support you get during college such as through the career center, RSO guest speaker events, career fairs, etc.

EJ: He misses Foster Fridays!

Why did you choose your specific major/focus? What made you want to get into your current field?

EJ: He chose tax because he always loved math when he was young, and was also interested in law. The tax career is a combination of both accounting and law, which is why he chose this career path.

Patricia: She did lots of case competitions and wanted to go into consulting. The combination of studying accounting as well as consulting experiences worked out.

Vishaal: He likes working with young individuals. His favorite part of his job is working with people similar to his age and supporting their business to become the next big thing.

Jane: She originally studied Marketing and Information Systems but switched to Accounting and Information Systems. She wanted to do a creative job within marketing, but marketing curriculum at Foster was more data analytic focused. She also switched to Accounting because a lot of her friends did it, so she decided to give it a try.

Mealyn: She was a part of student council, ASB, and other leadership roles during undergrad. As a HR partner, you are the right hand man/woman in a business, and she enjoyed being able to make impactful decisions that influences how a business operates from a leadership perspective.

Emma: Originally, she was a double degree in computer science and entrepeneurship but changed her mind numerous times. She loved entrepenurship because she was interested in creating a start-up.

Declen: Originally was an accounting major but realized it wasn’t his cup of tea. He took OPMGT 301 class which he really enjoyed, and stuck with it after taking the class.

What advice do you have for freshman who are trying to prepare for future employment/internships?

Declen: Go to as many events as possible. Even if you don’t think you are interested in a specific industry or position, just try it out and you never know what will happen.

Emma: Talk with your professors and be friends with them. She made a start-up with her friend and had a great network of connections because she had a close relationship with a professeor who knew a lot of start up and venture capital individuals.

Jane: Attend guest speaker events and career fairs. Talk to as many people as you can. She switched to accounting major late in her junior year, and it wasn’t that much of a struggle because she already had connections with people within the field.

Vishaal: Meet people and build a cadence with them. Make sure to follow up with the individual, get a referral, and get to know them better. Get mentors out of more mentors.

Macy: Utilize the RSOs and leadership positions you can gain. Also networking is like building muscle: you got to keep practicing and once you get more comfortable, it will become memorable. It’s a very valuable skill to have that helps you stand out.

If you could redo your undergrad career, what is one thing that you would do differently?

Macy: She would’ve gotten involved earlier, especially now that recruiting timelines for internships are becoming earlier and earlier. She was originally a standard admit to Foster, so she advises not needing to wait till you are in Foster or your major to start getting involved, you can start anytime.

Emma: One thing she would do differently is attend community college to save money. Another aspect is being open to new experiences. The earlier you change, the less you lose in the end.

Declen: Take keen interest in double majoring. Especially if you are studying Operations Management or Information Systems, it would be valuable to pair it with another concertation.

FOR ABSA ALUM: How did ABSA further your success in your career?

Emma: It was a really fun experience! It was great working with a small team and building connections with members and business professionals. There were lots of learning opportunities too like event planning, fundraising, and communication skills.

Jane: Getting involved in RSO leadership was a valuable experience. There are versatile skills you gain that are applicable to any field or situation such as networking with professionals and event preparation. Open yourself up to more opportunities after getting foot in the door.

Patricia: Being on the ABSA executive team was her first leadership position (She was Public Relations Director and then became President). ABSA allowed her to understand more about Foster as a school and the resources it has. Overall, it was really fun.

What was your experience like interning at Moss Adams? What was your least and most favorite things about it?

EJ: He had a 2-week-long virtual internship in 2020 during the covid pandemic. It was challenging to maintain connections virtually but still was able to. Meeting new people was one of his favorite parts. He suggests seeing if you can find anyone that you can work with for a long time.

In what ways has your internship at EY helped you get to where you are today?

Patricia: She interned at EY in 2021 during the COVID pandemic, but still was able to go in person to the office a few times. She received a returned offer after her internship, which got her to the job she is in. During her internship she gained knowledge on how most things are project based and learned how a company operates.

What do you do at your current position at Starbucks? Day in a life in your position?

Macy: She is a part of a 2 year finance rotational program. It is a small cohort of individuals, each rotation being 5-7 months long, and is focused in Accounting and Fiannce. After completing the 2 year program, there is an opportunity to become a Senior Financial Analyst, which usually takes 6 years to obtain. She loves the large community of young people that have gone through similar experiences and see how their career progressed. It is a great program that offers lots of support if you are still navigating what specific finance career you want to pursue in the future.

What got you interested in the world of Sales?

Vishaal: His dad was a business owner, and grew up around the world of sales. His first experience was working as a sales associate at Nordstrom in High School. During his Foster undergrad years, he was invovled in Husky Sales Club and particpiated in sales practicium.

Any technical or general information system-related skills that everyone should know?

Jane: Foster prepped her pretty well for basic Information System skills. She wish she could’ve learned more about the infrastructure of how systems work. IS concentration is only good as what you can make out of, and thus most people pair it with another consideration. There may be a need to do outside research than just studying the UW courses.

What does your role as a HR busineess partner entail and how does it contribute to creating a postive working environment and the better health of the business?

Mealyn: Human Resources used to be known for people firing other people, but now it’s known for being strategic and influential from a people perspective which is not often thought of. On a day-to-day basis, she works on cases of performance, and one aspect of those cases are PIPs (performance improvement plan). Those are for when employees aren’t demostrating performance in the workplace and need an alternative plan. Her role also consists of understanding and mitigating risks, problem-solving, and knowning how to deliever messages effectively.

What was your experience like as a cofounder of your startup? Advice for people?

Emma: Just do it. You can run into a million problems like creating an excel sheet to track finances or how to make viral tiktok video. If you have an idea, go for it. You have lots of free time right now to figrue things out and explore.

How important is operations management in the real world? What is your experience like in this industry?

Declen: He believes that supply chain is important, and became super relevant post-COVID pandemic. Supply chain is the hero of what we do every day, and it is nice to see the effects it has on various parts of a business. Declen is also a part of a rotational program, where he is currently in a supervisor operations rotation and has completed other programs like materials and logistics.


We hope you enjoyed reading about the various Foster concentrations and personal career exploration journeys from the wonderful Foster Alumni. See you all next week for our Positive Paints: Tote-ally Mindful event!

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