“The next phase of the women’s movement must be a men’s movement,” Anne-Marie Slaughter told a standing room only-audience at Olin’s Emerson Auditorium this morning. “We’re not going to move the needle at the top levels of leadership until we
CATEGORY: Career, News

Katherine Archuleta

On November 19, 2014 Brookings Executive Education (BEE), with support from Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH), hosted a one day seminar on the Future of the Senior Executive Service (SES). The co-chair of the event, Dr. Ron Sanders, chairman of BEE’s Advisory Board, BEE adjunct faculty, and Vice President/Senior Fellow at BAH wrote the following summary of the event (posted on Federal Times, 12/3/14).

Back to the Future: A Brookings Executive Education Summit charts a Course for ‘Modernizing’ the SES

A Quiet Crisis? Established by the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, the Senior Executive Service (SES) is one of our Federal government’s most important and—except for the occasional scandal—least visible institutions. Key to making government work, its over 7,000 members operate at the ‘boundary layer’ between politics and policy on one hand, and effective execution on the other.

And as the SES approaches the half-century mark, it’s no exaggeration to suggest that it is at risk. The well-publicized malfeasance of just a few of its members has put it squarely in the cross-hairs of Congress and the public, but while the headlines will fade, the demographics won’t…by next year, fully 64% of current SES members will be retirement-eligible, and the best and brightest of their replacements—current GS-14s and 15s—no longer automatically aspire to its lofty but increasingly tarnished status.

A Possible Blueprint for SES Reform? With that daunting backdrop, over two dozen current and former senior government executives—senior career and appointed leaders who have served both Republican and Democratic administrations—recently convened at the Brookings Institution for a day-long ‘summit’ on the future of the SES.  Sponsored by Brookings Executive Education and Booz Allen Hamilton, the summit’s proceedings (to be published next spring by Brookings Press as part of its Innovations in Leadership book series) are intended to serve as a blueprint for modernizing the SES…while preserving its original vision and values.

The summit was keynoted by OMB Deputy Director Beth Cobert and OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, and participants included Ambassador Pat Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management; Chris Mihm, GAO Director for Strategic Issues; Prof. Don Kettl, Dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy; Sean O’Keefe, former NASA Administrator; Thad Allen, former Commandant of the Coast Guard; Bob Hale, former DOD Comptroller; Scott Gould, former VA Deputy Secretary; and Christine Fox, former Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Other participants included Tish Long, former Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; Rafael Borras, former DHS Under Secretary for Management; Beth McGrath, former DOD Deputy Chief Management Officer; Danny Werfel, former OMB Comptroller and Acting IRS Commissioner, and Dan Blair, President of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). Hosted by Mary Ellen Joyce, new NAPA Fellow and executive director of Brookings Executive Education and myself, the event was moderated by Tim Clark, NAPA Fellow and Editor at Large for the Government Executive Media Group.

Among other things, summit participants unanimously agreed that the original, founding vision of the SES—a mobile corps of career executives intended to provide non-partisan leadership in service of ‘the government of the day’—was worth preserving and protecting, as critical today as it was at its birth almost fifty years ago. However, we also concluded that the SES needed to be modernized if it is to realize that vision in this, the second decade of the 21st century. For example:

Brookings Executive Education

A Brookings Executive Education Summit charts a Course for ‘Modernizing’ the SES. USOPM Photo By: Tim Grant

Modernize the ECQs? Summit participants all agreed that one area in desperate need of modernization was OPM’s set of Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs). Essentially the ‘admissions test’ for new SES members, the ECQs have been around since its inception, and while some of them may represent timeless leadership qualities, those core competencies need to be refreshed to include emerging, 21st century senior leadership requirements—things like the ability to manage chaos and complexity, connect the dots, ‘see around corners’ to anticipate the next crisis, and lead multiple agencies towards a common goal without benefit of formal authority…in other words, the ability to effectively lead the entire Federal ‘enterprise’ and not just a single agency.

Abandon CDPs and QRBs? Summit participants also questioned the efficacy of Candidate Development Programs (CDPs) and Qualifications Review Boards (QRBs). Both have been around since the inception of the SES, and almost no one at the summit believed they were meeting their intended purpose. Less than a third of new SES members are being selected from CDPs—IRS offers a notable exception in that regard—suggesting that in their present form, they are simply not worth the investment. Participants had a similar view of the QRB process, noting that it was largely a paper exercise that had little chance of screening out unqualified SES selectees.

While some argued that the way to ensure the viability of CDPs would be to make them the mandatory source for SES selections (like the military’s Officer Candidate Schools), there was a general consensus that both CDPs and the QRB process needed substantial re-engineering. Many argued that the QRB function should be delegated to agencies, with some sort of OPM post-audit. Others suggested that agencies (or OPM) employ rigorous, simulation-based assessment centers to more effectively evaluate CDP applicants and/or even those proposed for promotion to the SES. Interestingly, IRS employs a similar approach, one that is arduously front-end loaded to maximize post-program success…and they enjoy a 98% CDP-to-SES selection rate.

Make Mobility Mandatory? According to the summit’s participants, executive mobility remains one of the most important elements of the SES’s original vision, and one of its biggest disappointments. With only a few exceptions—the US Intelligence Community’s civilian ‘joint duty’ requirement for one—the SES corps remains organizationally and functionally stove-piped. That said, summit participants (most of whom had held multiple leadership positions in and out of government) all argued that mobility added immeasurably to an executive’s development, and many advocated making it mandatory, like the military, the Senior Foreign Service, and the IC.

Short of that, many noted that mobility could be significantly improved if OPM and/or OMB were to proactively facilitate voluntary individual reassignments. For example, participants suggested things like a ‘super Executive Resources Board’ to guide interagency executive placements, perhaps assisted by an internal, OPM or OMB-based executive search operation. Even something as seemingly-simple as a searchable database of executive dossiers would help, so that cabinet officers in search of career executive talent could look beyond their internal candidate pool. In that regard, everyone agreed that posting SES vacancies on USA Jobs was largely an exercise in square-filling, with little hope of actually producing viable candidates.

Carrot-and-Stick Accountability? Finally (and inevitably), summit participants also discussed the issue of SES accountability, termination, and expedited appeal rights, all stemming from recent VA legislation. While those with private sector experience noted that ‘at will’ employment is the standard there, everyone agreed on the need for some due process protections for career senior executives, at the very least to guard against politicization, and many were reserving judgment regarding the new VA process. As always, the proof will be in its implementation, but many suggested that it may have a ‘chilling effect’ on VA’s SES corps, as well as on its succession pool. That development notwithstanding, most argued that greater SES accountability (not to mention greater more mobility and responsibility) is a good thing, but it should be offset by increased salary potential—in other words, greater risk should entail greater reward. However, that would require legislation, and in the face of congressional and public antipathy, summit participants were pessimistic in that regard.

Bottom Line: Just Do It. That’s a quick-and-dirty summary of the SES Summit (we plan to provide more details in advance of the Brookings book), but if there’s some good news in all of this, it’s that aside from compensation reforms, almost all of the suggestions considered by the Summit—modernized ECQs, simulation-based assessments, delegated QRBs, facilitated mobility—can be implemented without legislation…and could even mitigate against some of the more extreme proposals currently being considered on the Hill.

In that regard, we all applauded recent SES improvements undertaken by the Administration…as well as the leadership and commitment to this worthy cause demonstrated by OMB Deputy Director Beth Cobert, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, and their political and career staffs. Those initiatives, which include a new on-boarding program, a series of agency-based SES pilots, and the President’s planned meeting with SES members, left summit participants with some cause for optimism, and we all pledged to continue our individual and collective efforts to support them.

Photo credit: USOPM Photo By: Tim Grant

When Johnna Beckham, EMBA 39, had the idea to create a business selling custom suits to women online, she approached Ron King, Myron Northrup Professor of Accounting at Olin, for advice and support.  King said, “In general, with any new idea, one reacts to it based on the quality of the person and their capabilities and passion—people, project, and passion. In addition to seeing all of that in Johnna, I also saw that the market need for custom-made suits for women was an underserved market.” King ended up investing in and co-founding Johnna Marie with Beckham.

Guest blogger: Tanya Yatzeck, EMBA 43

Even with this support, Beckham found herself looking for additional help. Like most EMBA students and graduates, Beckham had a full-time job to do in addition to developing her entrepreneurial idea into a business and needed help organizing her effort.  She found Prosper Women Entrepreneurs, which she says has been critical in her ability to develop the business:


Johnna Beckham

“As a woman entrepreneur, you need like-minded women to gauge where you are. If your execution doesn’t work, you will fail, and it’s helpful to be with other people that have been through it. I did a ton of research through career networks, and then I found the Prosper Mastermind Program. It was the first program I found that had a solid format. It is very structured, which I like.”

Prosper Women Entrepreneurs was created by women business leaders in 2014 to address the entrepreneur gender gap revealed by a Kauffman Foundation report on the state of entrepreneurship. Prosper has numerous initiatives to expand women entrepreneurs’ access to growth capital, educational resources, and networking opportunities.

Beckham is currently participating in one of Prosper’s Mastermind Groups. The two-year training programs involves women entrepreneurs working together to move their businesses forward. The Prosper Startup Accelerator (managed by Olin alumna, Kasey Joyce Grelle, MBA’14), announced in July 2014 is a program that speeds up the growth of a business through access to equity investments among other resources and provides a more intensive three to four month training program offering $50,000 in equity funding.  The St. Louis Business Journal recently reported that applications for this program were double what was expected.


Maxine Clark

Maxine Clark, Founder and former Chief Executive Bear at Build-a-Bear was part of the group that founded Prosper Women Entrepreneurs earlier this year.  Clark, currently co-teaching the course “Women in Leadership” at Olin, says, “Most of the ideas funded in St. Louis are around technology and agribusiness. Women don’t always come up with those ideas. They want to do products and services. Prosper is a member of the entrepreneurship ecosystem—as is Olin—that provides women with the tools they need to be successful, whether the business is in science, technology or the consumer sector.”

Dr. Mary Jo Gorman.

Dr. Mary Jo Gorman.

Dr. Mary Jo Gorman, Founder and CEO of Advanced ICU Care and now Managing Director of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs earned her MBA in 1996 in Olin’s Executive MBA program.  She says, “The statistics around women-led companies show that they are not accessing capital. At Prosper Women Entrepreneurs we are trying to create a pipeline of companies that will be terrific candidates for venture capital and at the same time involve women who perhaps haven’t invested before and to get them to start investing at a level that makes them comfortable.”

Gorman also believes that gender-specific resources like Prosper won’t always be necessary. “Our sense of it is at this point in business growth, there still needs to be focused attention to underrepresented groups. In the future, this won’t be necessary. Now, focused attention will help people enter this space, who may not have thought about doing it before if it were in a more gender mixed setting.  Women often feel like they have to have everything perfectly, which sometimes appears as lack of confidence. We are trying to make the space feel like more of a safe place that results in a positive experience. “

Since completing her MBA, Gorman has started multiple companies and is a well-established business strategist with particular expertise in the medical field. Of the EMBA experience she says, “When I started my EMBA, I was a doctor with one small company. Without it there is no chance I would be where I am.  I learned that I have a strong interest in entrepreneurship, and I wrote a business plan and started a second company while I was in the program. It definitely set me on a path to learn what I needed to learn.  I expected it to lead me to healthcare administration, and I ended up in a very different place. “

Prof. Ron King, Director of the Center for Experiential Learning and Myron Northrop Professor of Accounting

Prof. Ron King, Director of the Center for Experiential Learning and Myron Northrop Professor of Accounting

When asked about the future of Johnna Marie, Ron King says, “I think the path looks very bright and I think the business model is likely to accomplish its objectives. But businesses are inherently risky. Even if the financial aspirations do not develop as quickly as planned, the process of building a business plan and putting a team together will add to her substantial resume. I’m hoping for the upside, not only for a return on investments –but for her growth and advancement. For the benefit of the St. Louis community and Washington University, there are so many reasons to support and champion efforts like hers. “

Johnna Marie launches in January 2015, and will participate in Olin’s booth at the 10th Annual Business Journal Women’s Conference in downtown St. Louis on January 30.

CATEGORY: Career, News

Members of the Olin Sports Management Association (OSMA) meet with St. Louis Rams’ front office staff prior to the Rams vs. Broncos game at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday, November 16, 2014.

The group was introduced to internship and other opportunities in sports from marketing to management roles.  At the conclusion of the presentation, the group experienced the Media Podium where pre- and post-game interviews are conducted.

The group watched a charged-up Rams team play excellent defense to hold Broncos to only 7 points, as St. Louis won the game 22-7.


Landing a job on Wall Street is the dream of all finance students. Actually walking down Wall Street and visiting firms is certainly the first step to doing it. The Master of Finance (MSF) Boston-New York Roadshow, Oct 30 – 31, served as an eye opener to financial careers in some top financial institutions in various domains like asset management, investment banking, financial software development and trading. Learning about the roles and responsibilities of different positions directly from industry specialists brought our perspectives about careers in finance into focus. And what’s more, going around Boston and New York with a group of like-minded finance enthusiasts and Greg Hutchings (Assistant Dean and Director of Specialized Masters Programs), was never short on fun nor memorable moments!

Guest blogger: Sneha Murali, MSF Quant 2015

Our roadshow started off with a visit to Fidelity Investments in Boston. We had an elaborate schedule at Fidelity comprised of talks by four speakers from the departments of financial solutions, macroeconomic research, portfolio management and quantitative analysis. What enthralled us most about Fidelity was the friendly and outgoing nature of all the speakers. One of the speakers even mentioned that friendliness is a characteristic that they look for in prospective employees!

The highlight of our visit to Fidelity, however, was definitely the tour of their Chart Room. The Chart Room is basically a room filled with price/volume charts stuck on walls all around. Isn’t a sight like that enough to get the adrenaline rushing for a finance aspirant?! All of us were mind-blown when we stepped into the room. A technical analyst from the company walked us through several important charts and explained to us their significance and relevance in today’s economy. On the whole, the four-hour visit to Fidelity reaffirmed our passion for finance and got us all impatient to experience the industry soon.

We traveled to New York by Amtrak the same night. After a long and tiring day, we got back to our rooms only to doze off like a log. A good sleep got us pumped up the next morning to visit some big names in finance in New York.

Our day started off with a visit to Goldman Sachs! We had senior executives from the Goldman Sachs Asset Management division addressed us. The professionalism and organized nature of the whole presentation spoke tons about the maturity of the company. We got detailed insight into financial careers such as strats, asset management, and high frequency trading in Goldman Sachs.

An interesting observation we made was the growing presence of professionals from the field of physics and mathematics in finance. The demand for quantitative skills in the financial industry is growing and this is opening up greater opportunities for students with strong quantitative backgrounds. We also noticed that the element that made them all successful was their passion for finance and continued interest in everyday market events. In fact, several of the speakers emphasized how important it is for us to stay up to date with the trends and happenings in the market.

We next moved on to Sagent Advisors, an investment banking firm where we met up with an alumni panel of masters in finance students over lunch. The alumni were gracious to take time off work to visit us and answer our queries about job search and financial careers. Our MSF alums hold positions with prestigious firms like Credit Suisse, Keefe Bruyette & Woods; Sentinel Capital Partners, and Andersen Tax, LLC.  It was great to hear how the Olin MSF helped them get to their current positions.

Next, we moved to Numerix, a financial software firm. During the one hour presentation, we learned about the Numerix platform, its applications and its use in academia and industry. We were also introduced to the role of a quantitative analyst at Numerix that requires an interesting mix of finance and programming knowledge.

Our last firm for the day was Citigroup. We were taken to the 30th floor where we had a stunning view of the New York skyline. We were welcomed by a senior HR executive and were introduced to a group of analysts who had recently begun their careers in Citigroup. We had an open networking session with all of them whereby we got an opportunity to clarify our individual questions about life in investment banking, life at Citigroup, transition from school to workplace etc.

At around 5pm, our roadshow came to an end. The experience was that of having been in a totally different world for two days. It was insightful, educational and motivational. We got a sense of our fit in the industry and realized how much more there is to learn in the vast world of finance. By connecting with industry professionals and networking with them, we also secured some valuable contacts that will be helpful as we learn more about companies later.

With mixed emotions, we parted from the venue only to enjoy New York in a different light for the rest of the evening. A very special thank you to Greg Hutchings, the Assistant Dean & Director of Graduate Programs in the Olin Business School, the Specialized Masters Programs office, Annetta Culver in the Weston Career Center and  Michelle Hoerber-MSF Quant student for making it an easy step for us.