Katie Waterson, co-founder of insight and innovation consultancy WatersonGarner, completed her MBA at the George Washington University School of Business (GWSB) in 2009.
Katie initially wanted a better understanding of the finances behind business, but left the school with new found knowledge and the courage to follow her entrepreneurial instincts.
Prior to co-founding WatersonGarner, she was director of strategy and innovation at Capital Impact Partners, a social enterprise that channels public and private funding into low-income community projects all over America.
Now, her new startup focuses on the personal stories behind big data and the insights they can bring to companies. With an undergraduate degree in journalism and history, Katie sees humanizing business as a method of growth.
What is the goal of WatersonGarner?
My business partners and I are strategists in relentless pursuit of insights with soul to craft ideas that help grow companies and brands. We put the human experience at the center of everything we do, because it's only through a deep understanding of people that breakthrough ideas can truly be found.
We are experts in the integration and layering of data from all relevant sources that forms a holistic story and point of view on a business challenge, need or opportunity. We love all kinds of data, and find that our clients lean heavily on us to do the hard work of synthesizing across data forms to find the true insights at the heart of it all.
How has your MBA helped you achieve your entrepreneurial goals?
I've always had entrepreneurial DNA, but my MBA gave me examples and case studies of people like me who were taking big risks for something they were passionate about. That really stuck with me.
When the opportunity to go out on my own was right in front of me, I reflected on all the people I know from business school who ‘went for it’ and put everything on the line for an idea, and I find that to be incredibly inspiring.
It was the up close and personal examples of these successful entrepreneurs that we were exposed to at GWSB that showed me what it really looked like to start your own company. Without that, being an entrepreneur would have looked more mysterious and hard than it really is.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at GWSB?
I wanted an MBA to round out my business-oriented skill set. After my undergraduate degree, I found that I had lots of the right skills to be successful in business strategy consulting, but not all of them. I wanted to have better confidence speaking on financial topics and matters like accounting, finance, future cash flows, and business models, and hold my own with business leaders.
The GWSB MBA fit what I was looking for and has helped tremendously with that. When it comes to having a finance-oriented conversation in my work, I now feel like I've got all the skills I need.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business?
My biggest advice would be what I learned from a life coach as I was making the jump to an entrepreneurial life. He said: ‘pay attention to what feeds your energy, and what depletes it. And then find a way to do more of what feeds you. It's as simple as that.’
By focusing on what brings you energy, those things you just can't wait to do and get you energized, that's where your passions and talents lie. If you can find a way to do more of those things, you'll be successful in whatever ways success looks for you, which is a very individual thing.
I'm always so happy when I meet someone who says ‘I was born to do this.’ That's exactly how I feel each and every day in my work and it's an incredible feeling. I want every MBA to feel this way, and not just ‘take a job’ that doesn't align with his or her talents.