David Jackson, Executive MBA class 43, started working full-time in government affairs at 19, making him the youngest registered lobbyist in Missouri at the time. David is now the managing partner of the Gate Way Group, the lobbying division of national public affairs and media firm Pelopidas, LLC based in St. Louis. He will turn 27 this month. Many EMBA students are mid-career, having been in business for fifteen years or more, which makes David the youngest student in our class. He doesn’t dwell on this fact. “When I asked how I could improve in my first annual review, my boss said, ‘Your age. That’s your weak point. You spend too much time worrying about your age. If you don’t let it be an issue, nobody else will.” Not surprisingly, this approach to his career resulted in The St. Louis Business Journal recognizing him in 2014 as one of St. Louis’s 30 under 30.
Jackson bends over backwards to bring himself up to speed in areas where he believes he needs to focus. Students in the EMBA program can opt to get career advice from Frans VanOudenallen, an executive career consultant who is widely known for his work as a Vice President with General Mills where he was responsible for naming and branding the Chewy Granola Bar. Jackson met Frans at a conference and hired him privately as a career coach. Jackson said, “I was in the process of taking over as the managing partner of a new division, and really wanted to learn how to best brand our advocacy services and compete with other Missouri lobbying firms. Frans’ first words of advice were to look into the Executive MBA at Olin Business School.
The Olin EMBA appealed to Jackson because he wanted to get a broad business perspective from a wide variety of people, including the Olin faculty. “Learning from 50 other executives is invaluable,” he said. “Discussions in class are extremely engaging. The combined experiences of the executives in the classroom adds a powerful layer to the content taught by world class professors.” David said Pfizer District Manager Greg Steinkamp and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital’s Chief of Radiology Vamsi Narra, MD have been two influential classmates over the last 18 months. “Greg has helped me understand how to manage teams, he has a remarkable ability to listen and lead. Vamsi and I are polar opposites, he has taught me how to focus and manage my time.”
Jackson says the most valuable aspect of the program for him has been applying what he learns in class directly to his work in leading public policy campaigns. “The part that is unique about this program is that you can apply what you learn in real time. We’ve won a few big public policy battles and grown our division by 100% in a year; there is no doubt that the advice I received from my team has been a huge part of that success. I have literally given a presentation in class on Saturday, and delivered it again in the board room on the following Monday. It has changed the way I think and exposed my strengths and weaknesses. Before doing the EMBA, I spent a lot of time being busy, but wasn’t sure there was any synergy in what I was busy doing. Now thanks to the EMBA, my tactics match my strategy. “
Jackson also notes how, right from the start, the EMBA program emphasizes the importance of family support for incoming students. “None of this would be possible without the support of my fiancée, Claire Vatterott. As early as the initial welcoming, they made her a part of the EMBA family. She pushes me harder in school than anyone. I couldn’t do it without her…but I think she’s excited for me to graduate so I can help a little more on the wedding planning!”
Regardless of his next move, he will be ready.