Olin students at the Net Impact conference in Phoenix in 2018.
Guest post: The Net Impact conference experience
Mariah Byrne, MSW/MBA '20

Mariah Byrne,
MSW/MBA ’20

Mariah Byrne, MSW/MBA ’20, wrote this on behalf of Olin’s chapter of Net Impact. It is republished with permission from the chapter’s own blog.

In the middle of a semester dedicated to finding my footing among a sea of new topics—ranging from Porter’s Five Forces and economies of scale to throughput and Net Present Value—attending Net Impact was a refreshing reminder of why I chose to pursue my MBA. I wanted to use the power and resources of business to address today’s largest social problems.

Coming from three years of experience in nonprofits, I felt like I was back in my element for the three days I spent at the conference in Phoenix. However, the workshops, panels, and keynotes transcended any one career path or industry.

Conference themes

Throughout the weekend, I was reinvigorated hearing how racial equity and inclusion work is being undertaken in industries ranging from food services and entertainment to consulting and investment banking. I also loved learning about how supply chain management at companies like 3M and Pearson Education is being leveraged to pursue the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and how popular brands like Lush and Ben & Jerry’s are harnessing their brand equity to make impactful social change.

(On a side note, the highlight of the weekend was scooping ice cream with Jeff Furman, one of the original members of the Ben & Jerry’s leadership team and the former chair of the Board of Directors.)

Interactive workshops

I also greatly appreciated the opportunity to put all this new knowledge directly into practice through the conference’s interactive workshops. In these sessions, I teamed up with graduate students and young professionals from across the globe to experiment with potential ideas for sustainable community development near Microsoft’s data centers. This challenged me to think about what kinds of social and environmental issues could be solved with a one-time $10 million investment.

Perspective on impact

While I used the conference to dive deeper into my personal passion for creating inclusive workplaces and promoting progressive, ethical business practices, I was additionally inspired to broaden my understanding of the impact I have, often regardless of my intentions.

Keynotes from Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund, Steven Ritz, chief eternal optimist of Bronx Green Machine, and Paul Dillinger, VP of global innovation at Levi Strauss & Company (BFA ’94) challenged me to consider my role as a consumer in food systems and fast fashion as well as the impact I can have when investing my personal funds.

Connecting with Olin classmates

Equally as valuable as the knowledge I’m bringing back, however, are the deep connections I made with both my classmates who were also in attendance and other conference participants. As I move through the rest of my MBA, I am encouraged knowing that I am part of a global community of change-makers and having learned more about the potential career opportunities available in leveraging the invaluable skills Olin provides to work toward solving society’s toughest issues.

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