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By Carlos Restrepo, originally published in the 2018 edition of Olin Business magazine.

Spencer Burke

Spencer Burke

Before launching Washington University’s first family business course, Olin Business School’s Spencer Burke felt confident in his knowledge of the topic. After all, Burke, principal at the St. Louis Trust Company, had worked as a corporate lawyer for 15 years and an investment banker for 25 years.

“It wasn’t until the course started that I came to understand just how difficult some of the issues are,” said Burke, an adjunct lecturer at Olin. “The challenge arises from the inherent complexity of doing two difficult things—often in conflict—simultaneously: One, having family harmony. And the second is running a successful business. Those are two very challenging tasks, especially when put together.”

In the five years since starting the course, Burke has taught students the complexities of family-owned business, an area of study he believes is necessary for students seeking any business career.

In fact, the need is great enough that Olin is well on the way to establishing a full-fledged research center on the topic. The Koch Center for Family Business is in the planning stages thanks to a donation of more than $9 million from Roger, Fran, Paul, and Elke Koch. Paul, BSBA ’61, JD ’64, MBA ’68, and Roger, BSBA ’64, MBA ’66, are co-chairmen of the board, and the third generation in leadership at Koch Development Co., a St. Louis-based developer and manager of commercial real estate and owner/operator of select entertainment attractions.

The Koch’s donation will also endow an Olin professorship and Dean Mark P. Taylor is seeking a candidate for the position, a faculty director for the new family business center. The center is the next phase of a family business program begun under former Dean Mahendra Gupta in 2016 with an initial $1.09 million gift from the Kochs.

“There are really three heroes in this,” Paul Koch said. “Mahendra, who comes from a family business in India and saw the need; Spencer Burke, who kept the fire burning; and Dean Taylor, who is an internationally experienced business leader and he picked up that this is a huge issue all over the world.”

The Koch Center for Family Business will not be a brick-and-mortar space, but rather a program within Olin aimed at developing research and disseminating knowledge into the dynamics of family businesses.

“This is not about creating some building or monolithic thing,” Burke said. “This is about addressing the unique issues that family businesses have and giving people interested in that an opportunity to learn more.”

Student-Led Initiative

When John Stupp III began his Olin MBA in 2013, the school had no family business program, prompting him and fellow students to inquire with Gupta about developing a curriculum around the topic. He commissioned five students to analyze the feasibility of a formalized family business program.

From both a practical and theoretical standpoint, there are a significant number of differences among business approaches between family and non-family enterprises, Stupp said. They include issues of succession planning and estate taxes, as well as separating personal and business related-matters.

“The team felt the differences between family and non-family enterprises were drastic enough that it demonstrated a need,” Stupp said. He and his colleagues saw their vision grow further when Burke agreed to teach the family business course and begin to launch Family Business Program.

That program includes a half-semester course, a student-run club, and an annual symposium and speaker series. “These different avenues allow students to experience a diversity of theoretical and practice thought and gain insights into family business best practices,” Stupp said.

Stupp said his interest in family enterprises came about in part from his family’s 162-year-old business, Stupp Bros. Inc., which provides infrastructure development and banking services across the United States. While at Olin, Stupp said he wanted to prepare to continue his family’s tradition of success by learning more deeply about succession planning and how to effectively manage a business while separating family and professional matters. He now serves as director of project management for the company.

“Students get totally focused on big, publicly traded companies. They get no exposure to what family businesses are like,” Roger Koch said. “Family businesses by far create more jobs than any other sector of the economy. There are great careers to be had in family businesses. They’re very long-term oriented. They don’t only think about the next quarter.”

Global Impact, Regionally Based

Dean Taylor said expanding the family business initiative into a full-fledged research center supports Olin’s strategic plan by leveraging the school’s world-class research to create and disseminate knowledge in an innovative way and preparing students for careers in enterprises with global reach.

“Family businesses are among the biggest job creators internationally, nationally, and regionally,” Taylor said.  “Therefore, we are thinking about how we can enhance our research and the body of knowledge in the area. We want to support and enhance family-run and closely held businesses.”

The existing course is not only popular with students who are planning to join or start their own family business, but it’s equally important to students planning to go into fields that work with family-owned businesses.

Such is the case of Jeff Wertenberger, MBA ‘18, an investment banking associate for financial services firm Robert W. Baird & Co. In his role, Wertenberger is occasionally confronted with situations that are specific to family-owned businesses. Taking the family business course and attending the symposiums helped him understand those situations more deeply.

Stupp and Wertenberger said all Olin students should be exposed to the dynamics of family businesses—even if they’re not family business practitioners. Even leaders who don’t work for family owned businesses are likely to work with them at some point in their career.

“It’s important to be knowledgeable of these unique dynamics, what motivates them and what’s important to them,” Wertenberger said. “That’s how important it is.”

Creating First-Hand Connections

In his curriculum, Burke brings real-life cases from around the world to illustrate the importance of understanding the nuances of family-owned businesses.

There are approximately 5.5 million family-owned businesses in the country, which Forbes magazine says contribute to more than 50 percent of gross domestic product and employ more than half of the nation’s workforce. As vital as they are to the nation’s economy, fewer than a third of all US family-owned businesses survive the transition from the first to the second generation of ownership. Another 50 percent don’t make it to a third generation.

“How can we—as students, as faculty, as a school—help the people in these businesses do a better job and how can we help the people who aren’t in the family businesses do a better job helping family businesses?” Burke said.

One component of the existing Family Business Program that will expand with the research center is the ability to study real cases and hear speakers from dozens of companies—including Todd Schnuck of Schnuck Markets, Sue McCollum of Major Brands, and Kyle Chapman of Barry-Wehmiller—at different generational stages and with a unique perspective to the craft.

The program also collaborates with the Olin Center for Experiential Learning, pairing students with family businesses on consulting projects to tackle different challenges unique to those firms, applying principles from the classroom to real-world problems.

Fran and Elke Koch, first row. Paul Koch, Dean Mark Taylor, Roger Koch, and Chancellor Mark Wrighton on February 20, 2018, when the Kochs' gift was announced.

Fran and Elke Koch, first row. Paul Koch,
Dean Mark Taylor, Roger Koch, and Chancellor Mark Wrighton
on February 20, 2018, when the Kochs’ gift was announced.

“A course on family business taught with a case book would not be great,” Burke said. “What’s fun about this is the real-life examples that illustrates the conflicts and how challenging the resolution is.”

Taylor said he anticipates the Koch Center for Family Business will contribute to bettering local and global economies by preparing students to assist these unique, yet essential enterprises.

“It is part of our duty as an institution,” Taylor said. “We seek to have high impact internationally, nationally and regional—and this is an opportune area.”

For the Kochs, they envision a thriving Family Business Center as a world-class resource supporting academic research, preparing students to confront these unique issues, and driving long-term success for family business owners.

“We have friends who spend tens of thousands going to Stanford or Harvard to learn about these burning issues—and we think St. Louis could be one of those centers,” Paul Koch said. “We can make a mark in this area that would make us unique.”


The dynamics of family-owned businesses pose unique challenges for business leaders. The challenges are substantial in a segment responsible for 80 percent of global job creation and 64 percent of the US economy.

  • Succession planning and growth. Distribution of assets can become an issue as the business spans generations.
  • Lack of transparency. Closely held firms hold information close to the vest, which constituents may view as being secretive.
  • Competing motives. Profit may not be the singular success driver for leaders in family-owned businesses. They can be more purposeful, but their purposes may vary.
  • Lines of authority. The person truly calling the shots may not have the title or the corner office, affecting how others effectively engage with a family business.


Some key metrics about family-owned businesses.

  • 82 percent of US survey respondents said they trusted family businesses versus 58 percent who trusted “businesses in general.” Globally, the numbers were 75 and 59 percent, respectively.
  • Half of respondents know which companies they buy from are family owned.
  • 81 percent of the world’s largest family businesses practice philanthropy.
  • 25 percent describe family businesses as “transparent” in their business operations.
  • 52 percent say they are “well-prepared” for a sudden succession.
  • Of the world’s 500 largest family businesses, nearly 28 percent are in North America.
  • One in five firms are family owned.

Sources: Edelman; EY Global Family Business Center of Excellence; Forbes.

By Jean Dubail, originally published in the 2018 edition of Olin Business magazine.

David Karandish

David Karandish

When David Karandish was a WashU engineering undergraduate, he didn’t think his computer science major would give him everything he needed for the career he planned. He also wanted to learn something about business—especially entrepreneurship.

As a double major in two different colleges, Karandish’s academic choices presented a challenge, even for someone of his considerable determination.

“There wasn’t a lot of overlap,” said Karandish, BSCS ’05, who added a second major in entrepreneurship at Olin. “You had to really carve out your schedule to make that work.”

After graduation, he founded or ran a string of tech-oriented startups, including He recently founded, an artificial intelligence application he likens to Siri or Alexa for the workplace.

Having run several of his own businesses, Karandish is more convinced than ever of the value of melding computer skills with business acumen. Software engineers can benefit, for example, by knowing something about how the product will be marketed.

“I think it would be awesome if engineers came out of school somewhat more business-minded,” he said. There is, he added, “a big opportunity to break down between silos.”

Meeting a need in the marketplace

That’s exactly the purpose of a new initiative from Olin Business School and the School of Engineering & Applied Science: a joint degree program, the first such degree Washington University will offer.

The new bachelor of science in business and computer science will allow Olin students to hone their tech skills through the engineering school while encouraging computer science students to improve their business chops through Olin.

“We’ve worked for a year to put this together, and we’ve validated our thinking off of other alumni and corporate partners,” said Steve Malter, Olin’s senior associate dean of undergraduate programs. “This is what the workforce is looking for. This is the future.”

The program’s architects are confident demand for its future graduates will be strong.

“We know there is a lot of need for these types of positions—someone who can use both disciplines, the engineers as well as the analytics and strategy,” Malter said.

What WashU educators have done, however, is not merely add the core requirements from one school to those of the other. Instead, faculty and administrators from both schools selected certain courses from each discipline to tailor a unique mix for the new degree.

Chris Kroeger, associate dean of the engineering school, gave a tongue-in-cheek description of the process of drafting the joint curriculum. “We totally threw all the requirements up in the air,” he said. “With the faculty from both schools, and insightful feedback from alums, we picked up the ones that made the most sense for the objectives of this program.”

Kroeger described the resulting core curriculum as a “hybrid” of the separate business and computing programs. Malter agreed. “It’s not two programs shoved together. The two faculties will be working together to deliver the material.”

Officials in the provost’s office, whose blessing was needed to advance the program, were impressed by the way faculty and administrators from the two schools collaborated to create something unique.

“It was very thoughtfully and intentionally put together,” said Associate Provost Erin Culbreth, adding that the combination of business and computer skills is “kind of a great match. Anything in the tech industry is super-hot.”

Some program details are still in development, but the new joint program will be first offered in fall 2019 and will, include extracurricular work such as a capstone program, a visit to Silicon Valley, and an internship in the startup technology space.

“This is definitely a real differentiator,” Malter said. “There will be experiences that are unique to this new degree.”

Building interdisciplinary expertise

The new joint degree won’t be the first interdisciplinary program at Olin, where Dean Mark Taylor has encouraged approaching business education from different perspectives—aligning with several pillars of the school’s strategic plan, including innovation and a global focus.

For example, in 2017-18, Olin began offering a minor in the business of social impact.

The new program was the brainchild of a group of students who pitched it to Olin faculty and administrators after conducting a survey of their peers and reviewing similar programs at other institutions. They aimed to bring an ethical dimension into business decision-making and to foster the use of market-based techniques to address social problems, particularly in the nonprofit sector.

Heather Cameron, hired in 2016 by the Brown School of Social Work and installed as the Michael B. Kaufman Professor of Practice for Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation, was asked to take the lead in creating the new program.  Cameron, who also holds a courtesy appointment at Olin, designed several new courses, several of which she herself taught during the program’s first year.

“There is an increasing focus on using market-based tools to address social problems,” Cameron said. “Students want to use their business training to work with government and civil society actors to address social and environmental challenges.”

Offerings for the social impact minor include Olin School classes in “Not-for-Profit Accounting” and “Ethical Issues in Decision-Making,” along with classes from other schools in architecture, urban studies, political science, and environmental studies.

Among the classes Cameron has taught as part of the new minor was “Social Entrepreneurship,” where Shivakshi Rana, MBA ‘18, served as a teaching assistant. For many of the students, Rana said, the class marked a departure from their usual studies in one discipline.

“This was the first time in school they were able to branch out from the regular business or arts and sciences curriculum,” Rana said. “There was a definite sense of enthusiasm and excitement.”

New perspectives on business

Among the students was bioengineering major Grace Tedder, BSBME ’20. She said she took Social Entrepreneurship partly to escape the isolation she sometimes feels in the engineering school, but mostly because she had become interested in the subject after reading a book on it in high school.

‘The class broadened my ideas about methods we can use to create social change, and allowed me to explore different challenges and approaches in social enterprises, nonprofits, and other forms of social entrepreneurship,” Tedder said.

Tedder got first-hand experience with that type of work while participating in the Madagascar Sustainability Initiative through Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. She was part of a team that worked with a local carpenter to build a solar dehydrator to preserve produce—and also taught local women how to pickle.

Drawing from those experiences, she is considering working in the medical devices field after graduation. “Having that kind of crossover could really help,” she said.

Business major Michael Kramer, BSBA ’18, MSCA ‘19, took the Social Impact class partly to learn how business principles could be brought to bear on nonprofit social enterprises like the Special Olympics, where he had long been active.

Cameron’s class “provided the perspective to stop evaluating social enterprises as donation-seekers and (instead) as potentially scalable businesses,” Kramer said.

Olin also offers several other minors, which, while not strictly speaking “interdisciplinary,” provide new perspectives on business for somewhat “nontraditional” business students.

They include a minor in the business of entertainment, led by Glenn MacDonald, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and Strategy. The minor is designed to appeal to two groups of students—Olin students thinking about working in the entertainment field, and students from the creative disciplines who want to make their artistic pursuits economically sustainable.

“The courses are full of actors and singers and artists,” MacDonald said. “We’re going to teach you how to run a little business, how to eat, how to protect your intellectual property, how to do things like licensing, how to deal with galleries and managers.”

All these efforts, and particularly the new joint degree, have the same general aim: to make Olin students as well-rounded—and employable—as possible in an age of increasing specialization.

“It will be very obvious, the value it’s going to have,” Kroeger said. “We believe there will be strong interest.”


Several Olin programs meld different disciplines with business principles for a nontraditional b-school education.

  • Bachelor of science in business and computer science. Coming fall 2019. WashU’s first true joint degree program, through both Olin and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
  • Minor in the business of sports. Begun fall 2014. Launched with a $1 million gift from Joseph S. Lacob, co-executive chairman and CEO of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
  • Minor in the business of entertainment. Begun March 2016. Students are required to take three of their 15 units outside of Olin.
  • Minor in the business of social impact. Begun fall 2017. Offered jointly through Olin and the Brown School of Social Work.
  • Minor in the business of the arts. Tentatively coming spring 2019. Made possible with a $1 million gift by Richard Ritholz, BSBA ’84, an equity partner at New York City-based hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation, and his wife Linda.

The CNN op-ed by Gopalan, Horn, Milbourne.

The CNN op-ed by Gopalan, Horn, Milbourne.

This is an excerpt from a CNN Business commentary written by Olin’s Radhakrishnan Gopalan, John Horn, and Todd Milbourn, applying their research and conclusions from a Harvard Business Review article to a current news story.

At a time when governments are struggling to find broad and economically workable responses to climate change, Royal Dutch Shell announced in early December that it would tie executive compensation to short-term carbon emissions targets in 2020. Whether this was a purely altruistic move aimed at corporate social responsibility or a response to investor pressure, it’s more likely to affect Shell’s greenhouse gas emissions than any press release or quarterly earnings statement.

As we explained in a Harvard Business Review article, data from almost 1,000 firms strongly indicate that, on average, CEOs and other senior executives manage to the targets set in their compensation packages.

The upside: Compensation incentives work. The downside: If designed incorrectly, these pay-for-performance contracts can incentivize perverse behavior. The research shows that, more often than not, executives manage up to the target and stop, and some purposefully adjust costs in order to meet the performance goal.

However, companies can take steps to minimize the downside risk. They can use multiple metrics; increase payouts at a constant rate and adjust for risk; reward performance relative to competitors; and include nonfinancial targets.

Shell is implementing two of these four with its new pay-for-performance scheme: multiple metrics and nonfinancial targets.

Read the full op-ed from the Olin professors on CNN Business’s website.

Gopalan is professor of finance at the Olin Business School and academic director of the IIT-Bombay-Washington University Executive MBA program. Horn is a professor of practice in economics. Milbourn is vice dean and Hubert C. & Dorothy R. Moog Professor of Finance.

Olin students at the Net Impact conference in Phoenix in 2018.
Mariah Byrne, MSW/MBA '20

Mariah Byrne,

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.

Leslie Ramey, MBA ’20, and Braden Zoet, MBA ’20, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Curious minds and incredible opportunities: These were the two ingredients that made the Silicon Valley Tech Trek an exciting learning experience for 17 MBA students from Washington University’s Olin Business School in early November.

Through the planning of Olin Technology Club President Maitrayee Goswami and the Weston Career Center’s Allison Dietz and Gregory Hutchings, the group was able to visit seven companies over two days and have meaningful engagement with WashU alumni in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Day 1

We began our first day of the trek with a visit to Cisco’s impressive headquarters in San Jose, where we were hosted by Olin alumnus Rick Butler, who is the senior director of sales compensation COE. Cisco, one of the original Silicon Valley companies, was founded in 1984 by two Stanford students. The company’s vision to help “change the way the world works, lives, plays, and learns” undoubtedly remains the guiding force behind its continued innovation.

While Cisco has historically been known for its hardware products, the company is increasingly moving toward software solutions. We had the privilege of walking through some fascinating real-world applications of Cisco solutions, like smart cities that use “internet of things” technology to monitor and manage common community issues like parking, law enforcement, and school safety.

Learning about the innovative ways that Cisco is using technology to connect and change the world was both instructive and inspiring.

Our next destination that morning was PayPal headquarters, where we spent time at PayPal’s Innovation Showcase center, an interactive way to experience its online payment solutions and learn about their business model. As a platform that facilitates transactions between merchants and consumers, PayPal focuses on acting as a security specialist for transactions.

Jim Van Over (marketing specialist) and Michael Champlin (manager innovation showcase) provided fascinating insights into the important value PayPal provides merchants and consumers through its risk, fraud, and security systems.

We also enjoyed an engaging session with a panel of PayPal employees—including Megan Harvey (university programs, program manager), Ben Cork (software engineer), Mike Todasco (director of innovation), and Tomer Schwartz (product manager)—discussing topics like the PayPal Innovation Lab, the role of product managers at the company, and employee development opportunities.

At Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, we were hosted by recent WashU grad Omar Abdelaziz, an associate product manager in the Google Maps team. After being treated to an inviting group lunch on-site, the group participated in a Q&A session with Abdelaziz and colleagues Claudia Freeman (associate account analyst), Lola Idowu (program manager, Google Cloud), and Shane Carr (software engineer).

The conversation revealed Google’s culture of “defaulting to open” that promotes transparency and information sharing and also allows “Googlers” to bring their whole selves to work. It was fascinating to learn that while 80 percent of an employee’s time is spent on his or her job responsibilities, employees are encouraged to spend the remaining 20 percent on passion projects.

Many Google products have come from the “20 percent” initiatives. These projects are also fostered through Area 120, Google’s incubator, which provides resources and investment for employee startup ideas. Our engagement with Google highlighted the company’s continued commitment toward growth and development of talent internally, while always focusing on innovating for the future.

Our final company visit of the day was at HP headquarters in Palo Alto. Olin MBA alum MaryKate Mahoney, VR program lead in healthcare products, greeted our group and joined us as received a guided tour of the HP Customer Welcome Center and interacted with several HP employees.

The center provides an immersive way to experience HP’s latest technology, from modern office and home products to production-grade 3D printers. We also enjoyed a step back in time as MaryKate showed us the offices of founders Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett, completely preserved in their original decor.

After our tour, we were joined by other HP employees including alumna Lucy Yeung (senior manager) for a Q&A session to hear more about the culture, leadership and life at HP. We learned how HP’s vision to create technology that makes life better for everyone, everywhere, for every person, every organization, and every community worldwide, has shaped the company’s focus on its own reinvention.

We ended the day in great company with a WashU networking happy hour, held at The Patio in Palo Alto. Over the course of the evening, students and alumni shared food, drinks, and fun conversations that helped form new connections.

Day 2

We began our second day in downtown San Francisco, where we had the distinct pleasure of waking up to beautiful weather that made our time spent downtown even more enjoyable.

Our first stop was Uber Technologies, where we were welcomed by WashU alumna Kirsten Miller, senior operations manager, compliance. This was a unique visit because Uber will soon be focusing on MBA-specific internships. We had the opportunity to engage with University Recruiter Matt Garcia, who asked our group about the factors that drive us as MBAs, and qualities we look for in our internship programs.

We found it exciting to share our personal insights and inspirations in an effort to help Uber establish a comprehensive and competitive MBA internship program.

Following that conversation, we were joined by WashU alumni Courtney Windler, head of US and Canada eater operations and David Dreyfus, strategy and planning at Uber Freight. Our group discussed Uber’s latest initiatives, its culture, and how success is measured on a regular basis.

The conversation reiterated a common theme across many firms we visited, i.e. the importance of learning how to thrive in ambiguity. Our discussion continued over a delicious lunch at Uber’s headquarters, which provides employees with a variety of freshly cooked meals and drinks.

After wrapping up our meal at Uber, we moved just a few floors up to Square’s headquarters. We began with a tour of Square’s expansive, minimal and aesthetically appealing offices, which included a discussion on Square’s early history. Did you know that it began as a startup in St. Louis?

At Square, we met with WashU alumna Sami Rosenthal, program manager, who spoke with us about the importance of “customer success” and shared how the company’s vision of economic empowerment constantly remains top-of-mind for all Square employees.  Two university recruiters also discussed opportunities and challenges of working in fintech.

Our last visit was to Salesforce, where we had the opportunity to visit the Ohana Floor at the top of the city’s tallest tower. At an impressive 1,070 feet high, we enjoyed 360-degree panoramic views of the city and bay. To add even more excitement to the occasion, Marc Benioff, founder, chairman, and co-CEO of Salesforce visited the floor during our time there. While we didn’t quite have the opportunity to network with him, it was still fun to get a passing glimpse of one of the world’s most successful tech entrepreneurs.

After descending 61 stories to reach the ground floor, we had the chance to go out and explore San Francisco. Because many of us had never been to the city before, it was our opportunity to visit a few of the city’s highlights before returning home to St. Louis, including Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Lombard Street, and Pier 39.

Our trip served as a stimulating opportunity for us to experience first-hand, the distinctive culture and penchant for disruption found at many tech firms and startups in the Bay Area and their influence around the globe. The trek ignited our collective excitement as many of us look to transition into or stay within high tech, following the completion of our MBAs at Olin.

It also proved to be a friendly reminder of the innovation driven by these companies and the Olin graduates who work there, who make these innovations possible. As we boarded the plane to return home to St. Louis, many of us were already enthusiastically discussing next year’s Tech Trek. We hope you’ll join!