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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.


Olin students at the Net Impact conference in Phoenix in 2018.
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.




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!




Dirk Elsperman, EMBA

Dirk Elsperman, EMBA ’04, executive vice president and COO of St. Louis’ Tarlton Corp., will head a national contractors’ trade association, according to the company’s news release, excerpted below. The appointment is effective April 2019.

As Tarlton Corp. celebrates its Founders Day, the company looks forward to another year of industry service and leadership: Dirk Elsperman, Tarlton executive vice president and chief operating officer, will be sworn in as president of Associated General Contractors of America in April 2019. When he takes office, Elsperman will become one of only four AGC principals from the bi-state area to lead the national organization.

The announcement coincides with an important milestone in Tarlton’s history – Founders Day, a day of companywide celebration each fall that marks the Oct. 2 birthday of Arthur Elsperman, one of the firm’s founders and first generation of leaders. Arthur Elsperman served as the first president of the AGC of St. Louis (now the AGC of Missouri) in 1950.

Locally, five others from Tarlton have served as president or chairman of the state association: J. Al Riley in 1967, Robert Elsperman in 1981, Bob Siess in 1995, Tracy Hart in 2008 and Dirk Elsperman in 2013. Hart, Tarlton president, began her service to the St. Louis chapter in 1996 and also has been active with the national AGC.

Three AGC of Missouri members have served as treasurer of the AGC of America, including Robert Elsperman in 1999. In addition, over the last 20 years Tarlton employees collectively have held more than 100 committee positions with the national association and more than 520 committee positions with the St. Louis/Missouri chapter. In those 20 years, 26 Tarlton employees have chaired or served on AGC of St. Louis/Missouri committees.

As president of AGC of America, which is celebrating its centennial this year, Dirk Elsperman will have the unique opportunity to speak with AGC chapter leaders and members across the United States to glean important industry insights on issues and concerns facing general contractors today.

A leader in the construction industry, Elsperman has 30 years of experience and a history of service in local and national capacities for AGC. In addition to serving as chairman of the board for AGC of Missouri, he has been a contributing member on 10 committees for AGC of America that focus on construction education and training; project management and delivery; Lean construction; government affairs; and labor policy, negotiations and agreements. He also is certified in the AGC of America Advanced Management Program.

The AGC of America is the leading association for the construction industry, representing more than 26,000 firms, including more than 6,500 of America’s leading general contractors and more than 9,000 specialty contracting firms. More than 10,500 providers and suppliers are associated with the AGC through a nationwide network of chapters.

St. Louis-based Tarlton Corp. is a leader in general contracting and construction management throughout the Midwest. The firm has completed many landmark projects in and around St. Louis and holds steadfast to its goal to improve the lives of St. Louisans through construction, civic involvement and philanthropy.




Written for the Olin Blog by Caroline Suppiger, BSBA ’20, with contributions from Daun Lee, LA ’20, and a video by Lucie Kirk,  LA ’20. All are participants in the Madagascar Sustainability Initiative, an Olin class that is a joint educational project between Olin Business School and the Missouri Botanical Garden. One of the initiative’s programs, Project Period, creates panties and a sustainable source of menstrual supplies for women and girls entering puberty.

The women involved in Project Period recently participated in a regional “Art Fair” (see below) to sell panties and baskets. In addition, they gave a pair of the panties to Madagascar’s minister of arts (female) as a promotional gift. They are making the period panties and are thinking ahead about International Women’s Day festivities held every year in March. The panties should help to reduce infections and the need for a charcoal crop to pay for medicines.

My project was the third iteration of Project Period, a program first developed by students a few years ago. In the past, groups combatted the lack of feminine hygiene products available to women by creating underwear using local material, including a cloth pad filled with local moss and bark. Expanding on this prior project, our group focused on female empowerment as a whole, contributing in three distinct ways: economic support, education, and self-empowerment.

Economic support

Once we arrived in Mahabo, Madagascar, our group discovered that the previously made underwear was too large for young girls going through puberty. We developed an additional smaller size of underwear to support adolescent girls as they experience and learn about their changing bodies.

We applied for a grant to bring two hand-powered sewing machines to Mahabo. These machines help women make underwear more quickly, thus providing increased economic support and allowing more women to experience the benefits of this local product.

As part of our economic aim, we wanted to help women create a self-sustaining business resulting in a source of revenue. To do this, we priced the underwear, designed a sign, and taught the women how and where to sell the underwear. In just one week, we sold five pairs of underwear.

Project Period Team showing the girls club their video for the first time.
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Education

While in Mahabo, we provided a series of classes for women, young girls, and young boys in the community. We taught basic sexual education including: proper hygiene, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, puberty, and basic anatomy.

“In addition, we created a song, which outlined the purpose of our project and the importance of period panties, that the same middle school female students performed at big events, like the big presentation we gave to Mahabo and other involved parties,” Lee said.

Empowerment

The last part of our project focused on the Girls’ Club, an established group within the community made up of girls ranging from 12 to 16 years old. In order to encourage empowerment and self-confidence, we gave each girl a flip camera for approximately an hour a day to document parts of their lives.

We asked questions like, “Who is your mentor?” and “What is your favorite subject in school?” Because this village was such a male dominated community, we wanted to give the girls something of their own that they are proud of. At the end of our time, a team member compiled the videos and we showed the girls their video. There were laughs and tears because this was the first time any of them had even seen a photo of themselves.

We also taught the young girls a song and dance to help market the underwear at local events like soccer games and markets.

In what ways did it go as you expected—and in what ways didn’t it?

A few days in to our trip, after working with the women and girls of the village, we found out that the underwear made in the past was way too big for the younger girls who were one of our main focuses of the trip. Because of this discovery, we had to completely change our plans and redesignate our funds, designing two pairs of underwear instead of one.

“It was a success for the most part, because we were able to produce quite a few new sizes and we were even able to sell them at the Saturday market,” Lee said. “We found out that the mothers rarely buy the panties because they would rather spend the money on their daughters, so we were selling the smaller panties in hopes that the mothers would buy them for their daughters and then buy some for themselves.”

Going into the trip, I thought that our plans were a bit ambitious because we had so much to do, but fortunately, with the help of the Mahabo community, we were able to complete everything we had planned and more.

What were your biggest takeaways?

My biggest takeaway from the project itself is how amazing the women in the Mahabo community are. They were more than willing to answer our questions and come to meet with us day in and day out. There was a woman in the community, Madam Julienne, who volunteered to teach 40 women how to use the sewing machines for several hours a day throughout our time in the village. I was inspired by the women’s deep affection and care for both their own families and the well-being of the community as a whole.

After almost a month in Madagascar, it was evident how resilient the Malagasy people are. They are extremely big-hearted and work incredibly hard to support their families and greater community.

“While we thoroughly planned out our projects at school, actually going to the site and speaking to the Malagasy people and the women of Project Period made me realize that their inputs are a lot more important and useful than sticking to our timeline,” Lee said.

How has this class/project/experience contributed to your long-term goals—career or otherwise?

I think this class has contributed to my long-term goals by showing me the importance of an impact-driven job. As cliché as it sounds, this trip further demonstrated to me that I value impacting lives in a positive way through my personal and professional endeavors.

The Madagascar Sustainability Initiative is a class available to both undergraduates (UB B53 MGT 401M) and graduate students (B63 MGT 501 03). Pictured above: Xavier Bravo, LA ’19; Nick Murira, BSBA ’19; Caroline Suppiger, BSBA ’20; Lucie Kirk, LA ’20; Daun Lee, LA ’20; and Jonno Schneider, BSBA ’20.




With the approach of the Scholars in Business dinner on November 8, Isaiah Straub, BSBA

In the wake of Olin’s Scholars in Business dinner on Thursday, we thought it would be appropriate the share a particularly touching thank-you note from an Olin freshman, sent to the sponsors of the Hochberg Scholarship. Named after, Gary Hochberg, longtime associate dean of Olin’s BSBA program, a group of Olin alumni established the Hochberg Tribute Scholarship Fund through a challenge that initially raised $325,000. They include Lee Fixel, BSBA ‘02; Michael Kaplan, BSBA ‘88; and Neil Yaris, BSBA ‘86.

The Hochberg Scholarship has provided funding to three students since it was established in nine years ago. Isaiah Straub, BSBA ’22, sent this letter to the scholarship sponsors on October 16.

Dear Hochberg scholarship sponsors,

I am a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis and a recipient of the scholarship that you sponsor. I wanted to write and let you know how thankful I am for your gift to me, and what a difference your gift has already made in my life.

Gary Hochberg

Gary Hochberg

I grew up in Vancouver, Washington, where my family struggled with poverty. Money was almost a foreign concept, my school lunches were free, and the food at home was obtained through stamps. Looking at colleges my junior year, I recognized that at the vast majority of colleges, attendance was simply financially unfeasible. Military service, partly as a means of affording higher education, caught my eye. However the education at Washington University seemed unmatched and the financial aid I received, now through your sponsorship, allowed me to shed the burden of a service commitment.

Working with the excellent faculty and my exceptional peers has instilled in me a sense of extreme fortune. Attending Olin Business School is such a wonderful opportunity and I am grateful to be here. Washington University has surpassed my expectations. This education will prepare me for the future and provide me the tools needed to carve my own path through life. Your contribution has already irreversibly altered the course of my life, and it has allowed me access to an invaluable education.

Thank you again for being my sponsor. I hope to put your generous gift to good use.

Sincerely,
Isaiah Straub