Cultivating New Leaders and Opportunities in Local Business

How Beth Lambert pivoted to a career focused on social innovation and entrepreneurship with Portland State’s MBA program.

Sponsored Content presented by The Portland MBA

Beth Lambert spent the better part of her working life in HR and operations for a variety of companies in Seattle, but in 2017, she felt a growing itch for a change.

“I started to think about what I wanted to do for my next chapter,” said Lambert, “and a big part of that was getting my MBA.”

Living in Seattle at the time, Lambert began to research nearby schools that could help her reach that goal. It didn’t take her long to choose Portland State University and their innovative and unique graduate program, The Portland MBA.

The program ticked all the boxes for Lambert as she looked to connect with fellow students, interface with the Portland business community, and focus her graduate studies on social innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Portland MBA has, for over 50 years, become woven into the fabric of the Portland business community. Many of the instructors are small business owners, and the program offers community-based networking and individualized career coaching to support students along the way.

For Lambert, that included participating in the Professional Mentor Program, which matches students with local business owners, entrepreneurs, or MBA alum, and quarterly networking events. As she learned firsthand, these events weren’t just about adding contacts to her LinkedIn profile—they were about joining the more than 4,000 Portland MBA alumni solving tomorrow’s business challenges to make an impact today.

“Some of the students in the program are brand new to business and either don’t know what to do yet or have a very specific path that they’re pursuing,” said Lambert. “PSU really accommodates both paths.”

To that end, The Portland MBA program offers two flexible options that align with students’ career goals.

The Portland MBA for Career Accelerators allows working professionals with at least four years of work experience to accelerate their career trajectories and develop executive presence. The Portland MBA for Career Explorers is designed for early-career professionals exploring career paths or considering a pivot into a new industry.

“I had a pretty close cohort of fellow students,” said Lambert. “Many of us are still in touch on a regular basis. I also have a connection with someone that graduated a couple of years before I did, and that connection resulted in an opportunity to co-teach a class at Portland State. I’m really excited about supporting and contributing to the success of other PSU students.”

The Portland MBA students are also given unmatched opportunities to work alongside prominent Portland businesses on the cutting edge of sustainability, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship. Nowhere is that more visible than during the six-month capstone consulting project, where students work collaboratively to solve problems for leading organizations in the city.

For Lambert, that meant preparing a case study on whether a food truck pod would make financial sense for a property owned by Prosper Portland and whether it aligned with the organization’s mission. She and her team hit the streets of Portland to interview all the stakeholders involved in such ventures: food truck owners, food truck pod managers, property owners, and even customers. Even more impressive, Lambert’s group was able to gather the data and do the work even as the coronavirus pandemic started impacting Portland businesses.

“That was a really key experience for me,” Lambert said. “Students get the opportunity to work directly with business and solve real world problems, and really apply the information and knowledge learned.”

Lambert is applying the skills and real world tools she acquired through The Portland MBAto her current position at Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO), a nonprofit that provides access to capital, business services, and mentoring for small businesses owned by members of historically excluded communities in Portland and Vancouver, Washington.

Through MESO’s partnership with The Portland MBA program, Lambert started as an intern and was eventually hired to work in their lending department where she helps the owners of new and existing small businesses realize their dreams in spite of obstacles that may keep them from receiving traditional financing.

It’s crucial work that Lambert feels is directly connected to her time at PSU.

“One of the things that Tichelle Sorenson, the academic director of The Portland MBA program, said at the very beginning was that this MBA is rigorous and transformative,” said Lambert. “If you let it, this is going to really change your life and make an impact.”

Learn more about The Portland MBA at Portland State University.