Joe Piganelli Q&A: Compassion is critical

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin BSBA alumni. Today we hear from Joe Piganelli, MBA ’18. Joe now serves as a management consultant with Accenture in St. Louis. Prior to Olin, Joe was a nuclear submarine officer with the US Navy.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I am a Management Consultant at Accenture in St. Louis.  My Olin MBA opened the pathway to Accenture.  I knew I wanted a career change from the Operations Management in steel fabrication that I was previously involved in.  I didn’t know when I started at Olin, that I would be so strongly interested in consulting.  But, through the experiences of the Platform Speaker Series, and Professor Elfenbein’s Introduction to Business Strategy – I found a new direction.  I was fortunate along with a few other classmates of mine to have the opportunity of an internship with Accenture the summer between academic years.  That internship confirmed that consulting was the career path I wanted to pursue, and that Accenture would be a perfect place for me to be.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

My entire second year of the MBA was one big influential moment in my life.  So many people gave of their time and efforts to help me develop as a leader and a person.  Whether it was a professor in the classroom, a fellow student in study groups or an extra-curricular organization, or a community leader outside of the Olin School – the year was absolutely full of growth opportunities.  Three experiences make that year especially memorable: 

1) In the classroom:  Kurt Dirks’ classes – “Power & Politics” and “Defining Moments”.  If any prospective student or 1st year student contemplating next year’s courses is reading this: build your schedule around these two.  The new perspective I have from both of those classes is something I value and can continue to refer back to throughout my career as it progresses. 

2) Participating in Student Led Groups: Having the opportunity to be a member of the Olin Veterans Association (OVA) is an experience that I’ll always be thankful for.  It was highly rewarding and beneficial for all of us military veterans to be part of this organization with such strong links to a supportive alumni network and the St. Louis business community.  The OVA helped us hit the ground running in the classroom with a ‘bootcamp’ before coursework began – and helped us get introduced quickly to different career path opportunities through business leaders in the community. 

3) Experiential Learning – Participating in a Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) project was immensely beneficial and I learned a great deal from that.  Working with community leaders, fellow students, and civic leaders to drill into a deeper level of data and root causes surrounding Veterans in Missouri was a powerful experience that I grew from both personally and professionally.  I recommend anyone who has the opportunity to participate in a CEL project.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

We get together for happy hours every so often.  We also have a class Whatsapp chat that’s still alive.  It’s fun to see posts on Facebook or in that chat when classmates happen to find themselves in different cities for a weekend – or for work – and have the chance to meet up with those of us who have spread to different areas of the country.

Why is an MBA important?

An MBA gives you the information, tools, and most importantly the thinking style to be a leader in business.  If I had to say sum it up into one phrase that would be it.  It means utilizing data to make decisions – being data driven.  But also realizing that the quality of your data needs to be a factor as well.  You also need to appreciate that there can be more to critical decisions than data alone.  Compassion for people that will be affected by decisions is also critical.  Olin teaches all of that and more.  I think differently and approach my work differently because of what I learned at Olin.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

Aside from the couple of things I’ve mentioned above – Don’t spread yourself too thin.  Find the things you are passionate about and devote yourself to those.  The more quickly you find the type of career path you want to pursue – the sooner you’ll be able to focus your time and your energy into building your experience and customizing your preparation for that. 

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