Author: Guest Blogger


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From time to time we have professors, students, staff, alumni, or friends who are not regular contributors, but want to share something with the community. Be sure to look at the bottom of the post to see the author.

CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace, is bringing its “Check Your Blind Spots” tour to Washington University on Wednesday, March 21, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The “Check Your Blind Spots” Tour Bus will be outside the Mallinckrodt Center on Forsyth Boulevard. Students and other attendees who participate in the experience or take the quiz will receive a CEO Action T-shirt.

WashU Becomes Signatory to the CEO Action Pledge

Washington University is proud to be a signatory among those leading the way toward true inclusion. By signing on to the commitment, 350-plus CEOs and presidents have pledged to rally the business community to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace by working collectively across organizations and sectors.

The tour is visiting college campuses and corporate offices across the country to help students and employees learn how to address and manage their unconscious biases and empower them to take part in diversity and inclusion conversations both in their communities and with their future employers.

Unconscious bias–triggered by our subconscious mind’s cognitive shortcuts–happens without us even knowing it. And it exists in all of us. The way we manage that subconscious impulse is what makes us inclusive and accepting people.

At each tour stop, staff, students, or faculty will be taken through a video experience, overhearing unexpected conversations that happen in the real world and reveal society’s biases – and ultimately, their own. This experience will equip members of the WashU community with the knowledge and resources needed to help address preexisting biases and better understand their role in advancing diversity and inclusion.

Check out a video recap of the first leg of this tour here and visit to assess your own blind spots!

Jamie Swimmer, MBA '18

Jamie Swimmer, MBA ’18

Jamie Swimmer, MBA ’18, provided these reflections on his residency last week in Washington, DC, with the Brookings Institution. The capstone trip is a new feature of Olin’s full-time MBA program launched this year with two waves of MBA students who traveled separately to the capital for a whirlwind tour and conversations with DC policymakers.

This past week, our entire MBA class here at Olin had the privilege of traveling to Washington, DC, for a three-day residency at the Brookings Institution.

The trip to DC was part of our new capstone course, The Global Business Environment in the 21st Century, which was focused primarily on the intersection of business and politics in today’s global business climate.

The trip was highlighted by two days of incredible guest speakers, with the first day’s speakers focused on how politics and business work together and the second day’s being more topic-specific and specialized.

My biggest takeaway from Day 1 was that business cannot and should not be isolated from politics. Business executives and managers have a responsibility to keep eyes and ears on Washington, DC, at all times, for the policies and reforms that come out of the capital have a direct impact on business all around the country.

Companies all have their own regulatory officials that work directly in DC to lobby and advocate for certain agendas, with many very successful public-sector officials ultimately moving into private-sector regulatory roles following careers on The Hill.

Hearing from a former National Economic Council member about his role in shaping the economic policy during the financial crisis under the Bush Administration was just one of the many moments that resonated with me that first day.

The second day of speakers was personally my favorite. We had the choice of picking which speakers we could attend, though we were presented with only great options on a diverse set of topics. I was able to hear from lecturers on the current state of North Korea relations, the complex and ever-changing dynamics of the Middle East, current trends in Africa and immigration reform in today’s political climate.

All speakers were experts in their respective fields and displayed such an impressive depth and knowledge and passion for their respective topics that it inspired me to dig deeper into the material I am study at Olin.

Overall, it was a fantastic experience and one that I was honored to take part of as the first MBA class to attend Brookings for this new capstone course.

Max Liu, BSBA

Max Liu, BSBA ’95, wants to make financial services more accessible, while accelerating financial inclusion for the unbanked population in Asia. Toward that end, the Hong Kong-based entrepreneur cofounded and runs EMQ, a financial technology innovator that is building a financial network across Asia with a focus on remittance.

The company just closed a $6.5 million round of funding last month. Liu founded EMQ in 2014 to offer cross-border remittance services between two countries at a fraction of the price of conventional banks, providing secure and affordable money transfer options for businesses and individuals.

Olin’s Nancy Barter, senior director of development, caught up with Liu a few months after he met Dean Mark Taylor during a visit to Hong Kong.

Tell us more about the work you’ve done at EMQ.

We developed our entire business from a compliance and regulatory perspective by partnering with banks and established payment partners. We also spent years to make sure our networks are fully compliant end to end, and that we abide by all rules and regulations in every country we operate in.

Today, we have established a resilient and regulatory-approved remittance network with an extensive last-mile distribution footprint across North and Southeast Asia‎.

We also have built a strong partner ecosystem of financial institutions, digital wallets, telecom companies, and traditional money transfer providers (cash pick-up), amassing thousands of distribution points across North and Southeast Asia.

How did your Olin education affect your career?

Olin is a welcoming community. Relationships between the student body and faculty are very unique.

Faculty members are committed to our education and future. They always encourage us to think hard, ask the big questions, find inspiration—and our passion.

We can actively engage with professors, dig deep into specialty areas, customize coursework with electives, immerse ourselves in global programs, and collaborate with organizations of all types and sizes. It creates a great platform for our future career.

What course or faculty member influenced you most?

Every single person I have met at Olin has influenced my education in some way or another, but the diverse and supportive community—a unique blend of cultures and beliefs—had a profound impact on me.

I found thought leaders, world-class faculty, and global alumni passionately sharing their advantages with me. I learned a lot of business knowledge and gained valuable hands-on experience through my engagements.

Was there a “defining moment” in your WashU experience?

I was a part of Olin’s Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs, which provided me with the resources and networking opportunities necessary to foster entrepreneurship. I learned from aspiring entrepreneurs at Olin and attended conferences across the United States and Asia.

My trip to Beijing in 1992 to meet entrepreneurs and businessmen across different industries taught me to creatively solve problems—and adapt to change and people from all different backgrounds and perspectives—to reach my goal.

How would you counsel today’s Olin students to focus their education and career-building efforts?

As an entrepreneur running EMQ, passion is very important to me. The things I was most passionate about were being able to see a problem and figuring out a way to solve it by making financial services more accessible to businesses and individuals.

When times get tough—which they always do in the startup environment—it was my passion that drove me and helped me persist. 

When we are passionate about something, we work harder, we get more creative, we search more diligently for solutions. When difficult problems arise, we inspire others who work alongside us.

How do you stay engaged with Olin and Washington University?

Olin and Washington University maintain an exceptionally close bond with the university and the alumni. Whenever people from Olin and Washington University take a trip through the Asia Pacific region, I always get an email inviting me to attend an event—or, sometimes, have a deep-dive conversation with a faculty member, as I did with Dean Mark Taylor’s recent visit to Hong Kong.

During my recent breakfast meeting with Dean Taylor, we spoke about the fintech ecosystem in Asia and ways we can provide more opportunities for the students at Olin and Washington University.

Following this breakfast, I was connected to Cliff Holenkamp, who runs Olin’s entrepreneurship program and has a passion for building businesses and laying the proper foundation to groom future entrepreneurs. I was also connected to Greg Hutchings of Olin’s Weston Career Center to connect the companies in Asia to the talent pool at Olin.

As an entrepreneur myself, I believe in the power of entrepreneurship; it’s great to share my stories of triumphs and challenges to give insightful vision to the next generation of students and entrepreneurs and continue to inspire and motivate them to reach their goals.

Guest post by Steve Friedman, chief strategist and principal at CPG Agency, and Fred Bendaña, vice president of sales at Express Scripts.

“The employer generally gets the employee he deserves.”

–J. Paul Getty

Getty’s quote cuts right to the heart of why employee engagement is so important. Unless you purposely align your internal and external brand strategies with and through your people, you cannot expect to generate the success that other well-respected, people-centered brands are experiencing.

We view engagement as the critical intersection where passion meets action and where the “employee first” values, beliefs, and attitudes a company intentionally focuses on drives the day-to-day practices of their organization. Engagement occurs when you establish a lasting emotional connection with employees. You accomplish that when employees feel these five basic needs are being met:

  • You genuinely care about me.
  • You appreciate me (and tell me so).
  • You listen to me.
  • We have open communication and mutual trust.
  • We share a meaningful purpose.

Brands that lean into their culture, such as Southwest Airlines, Panera Bread, Ulta Beauty, and Express Scripts, are leveraging creative, experiential strategies to engage their people. This critical step is what transforms employees into brand ambassadors. And that’s how you sustainably grow business.

We understand how impactful “belief through experience” can be. We’ve worked together with each of these aforementioned brands to drive success through live events and internal communications.

On February 9, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., we will join Olin Business School for an all-day seminar to share how to integrate engagement, collaboration, and formal recognition within an organization.

During this interactive workshop, we’ll share how brands such as Southwest Airlines activate high-performing teams and bring their own mission and values to life. When it comes to driving stakeholder engagement, we’ll help identify the different tools and innovative methods that connect a workforce and builds powerful brands.

Limited seats remain, so register for Building a Brand Through Workforce Engagement and discover how to engage and retain the employees your brand deserves.

PLEASE NOTE: This seminar qualifies for one day out of four in the Talent Management & Organizational Development Concentration. Earn a concentration by taking four seminar days in this area within two years, or complete 16 seminar days across four defined concentration areas to earn your Advanced Management Certificate.

Led by the Olin Technology Club, 21 Olin MBA students traveled to Silicon Valley to visit technology companies and engage with alumni and executives. Megen Cowett and Maitrayee Goswami, both MBA ’19, wrote this post.

Owing in no small part to Anshul Singhal, president of the Olin Technology Club—along with Weston Career Center’s Karen Heise, acting director, and Melissa Warner, assistant director for employer relations—MBA students at Washington University’s Olin Business School had the opportunity to venture west approximately 2,000 miles to the US of A’s Bay Area.

Between San Jose and San Francisco, we visited six companies in two days, met handfuls of executives and WashU alumni, and experienced firsthand the impact of Silicon Valley’s latest trends.

Innovation and Business Transformation for Relevance

At HP Inc., we found that the company is not the same as it was 20, 10, or even a few years ago. HP COO Jon Flaxman, MBA ‘81, demonstrated how the company has recommitted itself to innovation in stunning ways.

The Olin Technology Trek members learned the ways HP has adapted over the years to overcome the daunting challenge of being relevant in an ecosystem which gives consumers a plethora of choices.

Lying on our backs in the HP Dome was an unforgettable experience. Created in collaboration with NASA, this bubble-shaped tent immersed us in a 360-degree digital movie experience while we laid on bean bags, wondering how technology strategy has transformed every industry. We observed that HP was well on its way to successfully revamping its “broken printer” image, with innovation and business transformation.

Internet of Everything

The Cisco experience with Rick Butler, MBA ’86, senior director of strategy and planning group, offered us detailed insight into their transformation from a customer-centric company to a relationship-centric company. We were intrigued by their socially relevant “Internet of everything” concept and how it brings together people, processes, data, and things.

While the world now connects through devices and is constantly dependent on wearables for daily activities, delivering the right data to the right person at the right time has become the need of the moment.

Cisco envisions that technology such as city-wide communications and network response systems, open parking space alerts, and integrated HVAC systems for low-energy consumption in buildings will benefit residents and help the public sector gain revenue. At Cisco’s headquarters, we were fascinated by an industrial robot that can detect errors and mend inefficiencies in work processes. We were impressed by Cisco’s vision of rendering smart cities with the Internet of things and its focus on improving lives of millions of people across the world.

Transparency to Consumers

Being transparent to consumers has been the primary focus of today’s technology companies and their services. Zillow empowers consumers by being transparent and sharing otherwise inaccessible real estate data to help consumers make informed and smart decisions.

The company focuses on innovations at the intersection of product, analytics, and design and helps connect real estate, mortgage, and rental professionals to consumers looking for properties best suited to their needs. At the Zillow office in San Francisco, Cynthia Taylor, director of product at dotloop, a transaction management platform, owned by Zillow, described to us the company’s efforts to bolster “power to people.”

Workplace 2.0

Whether to get the best out of their employees or, from a more cynical angle, to keep their employees at work for as long as possible, several of the companies we visited presented themselves as adult playgrounds, replete with skateboards, snacks, and sun loungers.

Our Olin alumnus greeted us at Facebook’s new facility in Menlo Park, designed by world-famous architect Frank Gehry. This building—with the “largest floor plan in the world” and numerous pieces of artwork—reflects the creative energy, culture, and collaborative environment of the young company.

Similarly, Google very much reflected for us what the future of the workplace looks like. Every amenity a millennial might desire avails itself from the moment you step onto the Googleplex. Our alumni brought us to Charlie’s Café, where we could choose from a dozen different cuisines—on the house.

Next, we looked on as a few Googlers unabashedly played beach volleyball in the middle of campus, in the middle of the day. After free raw juices and a photo op with the Android Oreo, we took a walk down the road to one of Google’s classrooms. WashU alumni spoke to us about the projects they are working on, but the prevailing theme was that Google is a risk-encouraging place of open inquiry. Those googley enough to work there ought to count themselves lucky.

To say that “technology has never been more relevant or ubiquitous than it is today” is a statement, I foresee, that will hold true not just today, but everyday hereafter. While MBA students of the past have opted for traditional roles in industries like finance and consulting, an increasing number of candidates are positioning themselves to transition to the technology industry as a sustainable career path.

In an article published by The Wall Street Journal in October, Amazon was touted as “upend[ing] recruiting at the nation’s elite business schools.” One Amazon intern, Abe Levy, “found his Amazon co-workers were friendly and observed that many seemed to have a better work-life balance than consultants do.”

We highly commend and owe great thanks to the Olin Technology Club for having the foresight to bring our students one step closer to the work, and workplaces, of the future.

Megen Cowett is a first-year MBA student from all over the United States. She is a news junkie and a crossword puzzle enthusiast, and loves perusing the App Store’s latest offerings.

Maitrayee Goswami is a first-year MBA student at Olin from the beautiful state of Assam in India. She is a designer and an entrepreneur. She loves road trips; her latest trip spanned 10 states and six national parks in the United States.

Reference: Gee, Kelsey. (2017, October). Another Thing Amazon Is Disrupting: Business-School Recruiting. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from here.

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