Mary Kate Klump, WashU Olin marketing brand manager for in-person graduate programs, wrote this for the Olin Blog.
Of the 36 students graduating this year in the latest cohort of WashU Olin’s Executive MBA class, half of them reported career growth during the course of the program. That includes promotions and new positions while they fulfilled their studies.
The cohort represents 29 companies and includes business leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, scientists, veterans and physicians.
Four of those students participated recently in a panel discussion, sharing success stories about Olin’s EMBA program enhanced their leadership preparation and influenced their career path. The participants—all EMBA ’22—included Saqib Salman, senior vice president, Citibank; Nancy Wild, business strategy manager, Accenture; Lance Knuckles, deputy executive director, St. Louis Development Corporation; and Tom Jenkins, vice president of Department of Defense programs, Express Scripts.
Mary Houlihan, WashU Olin EMBA career coach, moderated the conversation, which focused on four key areas: ROI, work/life balance, leadership and elevated business acumen. Here are some highlights from their remarks.
“You have stories within those that their business actually grew because they applied some of the knowledge learned during the program,” Wild said. “That helped them elevate their business.”
Why did you enroll? What was your career path and how has it changed?
JENKINGS: His boss referred him to the program, and he saw it as a way to rebrand himself while working within a large company. During the program, he was promoted to vice president. A mix-up involving how much of his tuition would be covered turned into a happy accident for Jenkins. “It was the best mistake that happened to me. Had I known it was not fully paid for, I probably would not have joined the program, but after being in it, I recognized the value, recognized the changes making in me within my work and family life. It was such a tremendous journey that made the financial aspect all worth it.”
KNUCKLES: He thought of it as investment in himself. “The experience has brought some things into perspective that allow me to lead a team. I have the privilege of giving them new leadership and focus to do work into the future.”
WILD: She was an engineer by trade, but was looking to learn more about business and leadership. When she started the program, she was working in supply chain for Emerson, then transitioned to an operations and strategy manager before moving on to Accenture as a business strategy manager. “Without the knowledge I gained from the cohort and from the program itself, I don’t think I would have been able or eligible to apply for the roles that I applied for outside of Emerson and even within Emerson.”
What were your biggest concerns about this program? How did that play out?
SALMAN: He was concerned about time management. “It started becoming something that I was enjoying. I wanted to learn more, and I wanted to talk to these guys and see what they had in mind. You really do start immersing yourself in the whole program as soon as you put your foot in.”
KNUCKLES: He worried about being a “late bloomer” after finishing his undergrad in 2017, but realized his professional experience added value to not only him but his classmates. “I had a few challenges coming in, but they really turned into assets the moment I embraced the program. We all have challenges. It was a really exciting moment to take some challenging things and turn them into a positive.”
WILD: In contrast, she was concerned about being the youngest and not as “seasoned” as her classmates. She quickly realized her concern wasn’t an issue. Everyone is treated fairly and classmates are eager to learn from one another, no matter their age.
What are some experiences or learning you gained from the program?
SALMAN: He valued the residency in Washington, DC. “We met with so many people all from the Brookings Institution. It’s a phenomenal experience. You’re getting firsthand answers from somebody who’s actually responsible for policy. I felt like I had gone up a whole level, like a whole notch.”
JENKINS: It was the faculty and the network. “The faculty made themselves available for questions and emails and discussions whenever it was needed. That was tremendous. The visibility into networks that have a vast array of experiences was super enlightening. To hear about how Emerson might think about something. It was really fascinating to have those discussions with colleagues in a risk-free environment.”
WILD: She also valued faculty and admired the staff that made the program run. “We were supposed to start in April. We started in September. But all the decisions they were making with the information they had available to keep us safe, to also keep us learning and able to network, I honestly admire all the effort.”
KNUCKLES: He valued the executive coaching. “My coach challenged me every session. He understood that this program was about me telling my truth and being in places in spaces where African-American men traditionally aren’t able to lead. And so if I’m going to be in that space, I have to be my authentic self.”
What suggestions would you have if you could have a do-over?
WILD: She talked about school and family balance. “I have two young kids. I also have a highly demanding job. So, there is never a right time. If you really want to grow yourself as a leader and as a professional, that time comes when it’s time.”
JENKINS: He wished he would have done it earlier, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong for waiting. He liked that his older children could witness him in school. It set a good example.
KNUCKLES: He said learning goes beyond the classroom. “Knowing you’re willing to learn and that that learning may happen introspectively is the right time—not based on a date, or if you got the money. It’s about your willingness to be vulnerable and challenge yourself—and knowing that you won’t get through this program by yourself.”