If natural beauty, access to the outdoors, and a near flawless summer climate were all that mattered, Seattle would probably rank as the most popular city in America. Not that sun and scenery are Seattle’s only draws. All the alumni interviewed below praised the area’s robust economy, anchored by Boeing and Microsoft and fueled by an increasing number of start-ups, spin-offs and most recently, venture capitalists. Seattle – with a population of about 475,000, including approximately 200 alumni – is on a caffeine high, and it’s not just because of Starbucks.

JOB TITLE: Sales director, commercial airplane group, The Boeing Company
JOB DESCRIPTION: Markets all of Boeing’s commercial products – ranging from the smallest airplane (the 737) to the largest (the 747) – to five customers around the world. Three biggest customers are International Lease Finance Corp. in Los Angeles, GATX Capital in San Francisco and Mitsubishi Corp. in Tokyo
PREVIOUS JOB: Senior manager of sales operations, Boeing
MOST NOTABLE REGIONAL BUSINESS TREND: Seattle’s efforts to foster an extremely healthy venture capital environment and be sensitive to the needs of an increasing number of startups. Also, the city’s attempts to ensure that the transportation systems can support the economic and population growth that is expected over the next 10 years
LIKES BEST ABOUT THE CITY: Its natural beauty and access to the outdoors. Also, the whole Puget Sound area is very committed to community works. It’s still small enough and accepting enough of new ideas and visions that you can become politically and civicly involved and make a difference
LIKES LEAST ABOUT THE CITY: People in Seattle are, in my experience, more subtle about their opinions and less willing to engage in a disagreement or a different point of view
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Matt’s in the Market

JOB TITLE: President and CEO of Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Co.
JOB DESCRIPTION: Manages a group of homebuilding and land development companies
PREVIOUS JOB: Senior vice president of the above organization
MOST NOTABLE REGIONAL BUSINESS TREND: The strong economy, due to Microsoft and its spin-offs, Boeing and the Pacific Rim trade
LIKES BEST ABOUT THE CITY: It’s very livable. Seattle doesn’t close up at night like some other cities. Good restaurants, good entertainment, very strong arts community and very culturally diverse
LIKES LEAST ABOUT THE CITY: Its unwillingness to recognize the need for affordable housing in the greater Seattle area. A large portion of the Seattle community has decided that it is not important for their children — or for people moving here to take on new jobs — to be able to afford housing. The city has put in a series of new laws and regulations that has dramatically increased the price of land
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: El Terrazo Carmine (very Italian)
FAVORITE HOTEL: The Inn at the Market

JOB TITLE: Senior program manager at Amazon.com
JOB DESCRIPTION: Responsible for working with software and editorial departments to produce new features for web site
PREVIOUS JOB: Senior product manager at Edmark
MOST NOTABLE REGIONAL BUSINESS TREND: Explosion of on-line start-up companies across the board
LIKES BEST ABOUT SEATTLE: Easy access to incredible outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, kayacking and golf
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: The Palace Kitchen (northwest with a Mediterranean flavor)

JOB TITLE: Publisher of Slate magazine at Microsoft Corp.
JOB DESCRIPTION: General management responsibility for on-line magazine of news, politics and culture. In charge of all hiring, marketing, budgeting and business planning

PREVIOUS JOB: Group product manager for Windows 95
MOST NOTABLE REGIONAL BUSINESS TREND: At one end of the spectrum, Boeing’s business is booming. At the other end of the spectrum has been the development of a strong technology community, especially in health-related areas. The result is a lot of start-ups and the arrival of venture capital firms drawn by an increasing number of investment opportunities
LIKES BEST ABOUT THE CITY: The climate and lifestyle. The fact that it is a large city but it is still livable and relatively safe. Lots of great city neighborhoods
LIKES LEAST ABOUT THE CITY: Being three time zones away from most of my family
FAVORITE CULTURAL EVENT/INSTITUTION: Starbucks, which I consider all one big cultural institution

JOB TITLE: President and founder of Thomas & Associates, a private equity investment company
JOB DESCRIPTION: Focusing on creating and marketing private equity investment vehicles
PREVIOUS JOB: Managing director, Frank Russell Capital
MOST NOTABLE REGIONAL BUSINESS TREND: Tremendous high-tech development, very strong entrepreneurial flavor, increased trade with Asia and a growing Asian population. Our governor is Chinese-American, with very strong ties to China and Asia. In addition, there are world-class companies here that people don’t know much about. That means a lot of wealth and a lot of ideas
LIKES BEST ABOUT SEATTLE/TACOMA: From July to September, the weather is perfect. And the people here are very, very friendly
LIKES LEAST ABOUT SEATTLE/TACOMA: The weather from October to April. Wet, dark and gray
FAVORITE CULTURAL EVENT/INSTITUTION: The Tacoma Philharmonic; also an international modern glass museum that is currently being built. The world’s foremost modern glass artist is from this area
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Stanley & Seafort’s (steak house and seafood in Tacoma)
FAVORITE HOTEL: Four Seasons (in Seattle); also, the Salish Lodge, a resort east of Seattle

JOB TITLE: COO and part-owner, Envision Telephony
JOB DESCRIPTION: Founded the company with three partners (one active and two silent) in 1994. Job involves everything from installing software to raising money from venture firms. Company makes software for recording telephone conversations in call centers. Customers include Nordstrom’s (a retailer that uses the system in its catalogue sales business), Provident (an insurance company that uses it for quality management) and Utilicorp (an electricity broker that uses it to confirm verbal contracts)
PREVIOUS JOB: Director of operations for Adobe Systems until January 1997, when he left to work full-time in new company
MOST NOTABLE REGIONAL BUSINESS TREND: The growth of small ventures that are in the incubation stage
LIKES BEST ABOUT THE CITY: It takes me five to ten minutes to get to my office, five minutes to walk down the hill to my sailboat and 20 to 30 minutes to hike up to 9,000 feet in the mountains
LIKES LEAST ABOUT THE CITY: Microsoft. It sucks up all the available talent and is impossible to compete against. Makes it hard for the rest of us to be successful
FAVORITE CULTURAL EVENT/INSTITUTION: Don’t have one. Lots of diversity. Five new theaters opened this year alone
FAVORITE HOTEL: The Vintage Park

JOB TITLE: Director of marketing for Microsoft’s interactive media division
JOB DESCRIPTION: Responsible for brand management and marketing functions for a class of consumer products, including children’s reference and geography products, and games
PREVIOUS JOB: Group product manager for the Microsoft project product line. Moved to current job in 1995
MOST NOTABLE REGIONAL BUSINESS TREND: Software, particularly Internet software, start-ups
LIKES BEST ABOUT THE CITY: Working for Microsoft and being in a region that is absolutely fantastic for outdoor adventures
LIKES LEAST ABOUT THE CITY: That it’s gray six months out of the year
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Lampreia (nouvelle cuisine with a French twist)
FAVORITE HOTEL: The Inn at the Market

JOB TITLE: President, Martin Selig Real Estate
JOB DESCRIPTION: Owns approximately 2.5 million square feet of office buildings in Seattle, making him the city’s largest office landlord. Manages staff of 60.
PREVIOUS JOB: Started company while a student at Wharton.
MOST NOTABLE REGIONAL BUSINESS TREND: An exceptionally tight office market helped along by a strong local economy
LIKES LEAST ABOUT SEATTLE: Its losing football team
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Carmine’s (Italian) or Canlis (American)

JOB TITLES: Both recently left Microsoft to pursue projects and spend more time with their young son. Eileen was a product manager from 1994 to April 1997; Jim was a group program manager from 1992 to April 1997
PREVIOUS JOBS: Eileen: Associate product manager, Colgate Palmolive
Jim: developer, Fox software in Toledo, Ohio, from 1991 to 1992 when the company was acquired by Microsoft
MOST NOTABLE REGIONAL BUSINESS TREND: Eileen: Tremendous high tech growth. Not only is Microsoft growing but there are many spin-off companies as well. Also, the resurgence of Boeing
Jim: The multiplier effect of all the new wealth generated by Microsoft, which shows up in housing, construction, the arts, entrepreneurial ventures and charitable giving
LIKES BEST ABOUT THE CITY: Eileen: Mix of outdoors and indoors – beautiful mountains but also great cafes and good theater scene
Jim: Its jet age feel, mainly because of Boeing
LIKES LEAST ABOUT THE CITY: Eileen: So far from East Coast. Feels like you are three hours behind the real world
Jim: It’s crowded and getting more so
FAVORITE CULTURAL EVENT/INSTITUTION: Eileen: Seattle Repertory and other wonderful professional theaters
Jim: Theater scene
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Eileen: Adriatica (informal Mediterranean)
Jim: Café Lago (neighborhood Italian)
FAVORITE HOTEL: Eileen: The Inn at the Market
Jim: The Woodmark

JOB TITLE: Regional industry leader for the West coast for Deloitte & Touche’s health care management consulting practice
JOB DESCRIPTION: Strategy, operations, information systems and reengineering engagements for large payors, insurers, integrated health systems and providers
PREVIOUS JOB: Director of policy and evaluation for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. Came to Deloitte & Touche in 1985
MOST NOTABLE REGIONAL BUSINESS TREND: The spawning of new high tech and venture capital firms surrounding Microsoft’s leading edge in the technology world. Puget Sound is becoming competitive with Silicon Valley in attracting talented visionaries and entrepreneurs
LIKES BEST ABOUT THE CITY: It’s the greatest place in North America to live. I like everything about it, including the rain
LIKES LEAST ABOUT THE CITY: It’s becoming too crowded. Other people have discovered it
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: His own home, with some fine wines from the cellar
FAVORITE HOTEL: Olympic Four Seasons