Author: Guest Blogger


About Guest Blogger

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.

Shriya Penmetsa, second from right, at the Olin Fleischer Scholars Program.
Shriya Penmetsa

Shriya Penmetsa is a senior at William Mason High School in Mason, Ohio. She was a 2019 participant in the Fleischer Scholars Program and wants to study business or economics after graduating from high school. She wrote this for the Olin Blog.

From the moment I entered high school, I was constantly reminded by my older peers to enjoy my time as an underclassman. I was told that once the wave of junior year and college applications came around, I was bound to drown in my own workload. 

But seemingly before I could even blink, I was a junior trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life while simultaneously navigating the labyrinthine process of applying to college. I felt an overwhelming amount of pressure to make myself stand out as an applicant. 

While I browsed through college websites in the winter of my junior year, I came across numerous enticing summer sessions and or experiences at various university campuses. Despite wanting to jump at every one of those opportunities, none seemed to cost a dime less than $1,000.

My search for impactful and affordable summer experiences came to a disappointing standstill. That was until I came across a page on Olin Business School’s website that offered up a weeklong summer program at no cost at all.

The Olin Fleischer Scholars Program allowed attendees to work with renowned business faculty, to learn about different careers and companies in the world of business as well as experience life on one the most beautiful campuses in the country. I was instantly hooked, so when I saw that I could apply, I quickly worked to complete the different application components. 

At the time, I assumed my chances of getting accepted were little to none, but I figured it was definitely worth a shot. However, I was very pleasantly surprised in early May, when I received an email that I had been accepted into the program. 

Fast-forward to friendships

Fast-forwarding to July, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the program. I was nervous about whether I would connect well with my peers or not or if I would even like the university, but I found myself instantly marveled by the campus and all the friendships I was building. 

Shriya Penmetsa, center, with two fellow participants in the 2019 Olin Fleischer Scholars program.
Shriya Penmetsa, center, with two of her mentors (current WashU students), at the 2019 Olin Fleischer Scholars program.

Throughout the week, I found that I was also able to connect with the student mentors, the WashU faculty, and even the company officials. I found myself fascinated by their life stories, and felt comfortable enough to share my own. 

Beyond the lasting relationships I built, I also had unique opportunities that truly aided me in planning for my future. I was able to work with admissions officers and business professionals to delve deeper into the applications process for college and work beyond it.

The hands-on approach of the program for learning about business also helped me grow even more fond of the field and gain insight into the impact I could make through a career in business.

In all honesty, my week at Washington University in St. Louis was one of the most rewarding experiences in my summer. I definitely don’t feel like the lost and overwhelmed junior, and I’m so grateful for the Olin Fleischers Scholars Program and everyone that I got to meet through it. With everything I’ve learned and all the experience I’ve gained, I can’t wait to take on my senior year!

Ellen Toobin, MBA

Ellen Toobin, MBA ’20, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

I believe in the power of connecting people around the world. This summer, I had the opportunity to work for a company that makes that possible on a massive scale — American Airlines.

As an intern with the small and medium business strategy team, I tackled the question of how to increase customer loyalty in the business-to-business environment.

I worked with American Airlines Business Extra, a points-based loyalty program for small and medium businesses. Today, the program treats all its active customers the same, rewarding earned flight miles with points that can be used by the company’s travel manager for award redemption.

American Airlines has the opportunity to use targeted incentives to motivate the traveler as well as the travel manager to fly more often by differentiating between its customers.

To evaluate tiering the program, I considered three key criteria: the customer’s needs, where American Airlines finds the most value and the revenue opportunity and costs driving stretch behavior could create. I also considered Business Extra’s role in the suite of other small and medium business products American Airlines offers.

Through this analysis, I concluded there could be significant value in tiering the program, however, the additional liability of rewarding customers may not be offset by stretch behavior alone.

This internship afforded me the opportunity to travel extensively both as a “non-rev” or standby passenger and officially with the company.

My project took me to Madrid to meet with American Airlines’ joint business partners, British Airways and Iberia. I presented my analysis about the opportunity to tier Business Extra to the executives at our partner airlines and experienced how business can be conducted on a global scale.

I found that Peter Boumgarden’s class “Power and Politics” came in handy when navigating the delicate waters of international joint business agreements.

The American Airlines internship was rich in exposure and adventure. Biweekly lunches with leadership gave us a full picture of the complexity of the airline business. We toured the international operational control center and the flight academy, where we got to sit in the flight simulator. I’m not ready to fly a plane, but it was an experience I’ll never forget.

I’m grateful to Olin alum Harini Venkitarama, MBA ’18, who helped me prepare for the Forté conference long before school started. I’m also thankful to the WCC, which helped me prepare for my interviews even before I’d ever entered an Olin classroom.

Finally, I’m thankful to American Airlines for helping me transform from a first-year MBA to a more confident business woman ready to take on the world.  

Part of a series about summer internships from Olin MBA ’20 students. Today we hear from Tim Segrist who worked at Spire Energy as a corporate development intern.

I spent the summer as a corporate development intern at Spire Inc.—a natural gas distribution company serving cities throughout the Midwest and Southeast. Entering my MBA at Olin I knew I wanted to get involved in mergers and acquisitions and being able to do that from my hometown in St. Louis was a great opportunity.

Throughout the summer, I was able get involved in many of the different steps in the deal process (sourcing, modeling, due diligence, etc.). Ultimately, I was fascinated at how many inputs go into the buying decision as a strategic buyer and how different it is than a strictly financial process.

Day-to-day, my tasks were never the same (no two deals are truly alike, after all). I spent the first few weeks doing a deep-dive into the natural gas industry. It is difficult to be impactful in corporate development without fully understanding what the drivers of the business are.

I enjoyed this process as I was able to connect with different leaders throughout the company and hear about their experiences. My first real project involved doing analysis around the weighted average cost of capital we use for our models and helping build a precedent transactions model for buying local distribution companies (utilities). After that, I did work sourcing potential deals by researching financials, operations, and strategic fit.

Finally, I led the modeling on a deal which gave me practical experience on how to build a model that is scalable, flexible, and accurate. I really appreciated the variety of the role, as it gave me significant opportunity to learn as much as possible.

The internship was valuable for a plethora of reasons—notably, being able to apply classroom learning and work closely with impressive people (the corporate development team consistently presents to the C-suite). If I were to pass along any advice to others looking for/starting an internship:

1. Find a role where you can constantly learn. This summer has given me a lot of clarity on the type of industry, role, and career path I am going to pursue going forward.

2. Talk to as many people as you can throughout the internship—it has given me a great network of people I can keep up with going forward and allowed my projects to be more impactful.

Irfaun Karim, center, a student from St. Louis University High who participated in the 2019 Fleischer Scholars program.

Irfaun Karim is a St. Louis native and rising senior from St. Louis University High School who recently attended the Olin Fleischer Scholars Program. He wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Before entering this program, I really had no clue what I was planning on doing in the future, but thankfully, I have it semi-figured out and plan on studying international business.

When one of my close teachers emailed me about the Olin Fleischer Scholars Program, I really didn’t think much about it. I let the email lose itself within the hundreds of other emails that I had stockpiled in my account while I went on with my hectic high school life.

Students in the Fleischer Scholars program in 2019, including Irfaun Karim, in yellow.
Students in the Fleischer Scholars program in 2019, including Irfaun Karim, in yellow.

A few days later, my brother sent me a video about the program, and it was at that moment when I first became somewhat interested.

Having grown up in the LOU, I know particularly well how prestigious Washington University is, so when I applied to the OFSP, I believed I had no chance of getting accepted. But to my surprise, in late June, both my brother and I received an email saying we had gotten in.

Even with all this being said, we both thought of this program as more of a burden that would ruin a precious week of our summer break instead of the actual beneficial experience that it truly is.

Now that I’ve had more than a week to reflect on all that has happened, I really am grateful for everything this program did for me. Before attending, I had had a total of zero experience being at a college campus, and also had zero experience doing anything business related.

Building lasting relationships

This program allowed me to experience true college life for the first time while also introducing me to the business world through both simple and interesting lectures done by Washington University staff, and also through open panels with alumni working at various St. Louis-based companies. Seeing how a degree in business can directly lead to a stable and successful career was one of the most impactful parts of this whole week.

This being said, while the campus and all the business related activities were both great, without a doubt the greatest thing to come out of this experience would have to be all the meaningful relationships that I built in such a short span of time.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that in this one week long program would I create some of the most significant friendships I had ever had. Through the joy, excitement, sleepiness, fun and laughter that comes with attending the Olin Fleischer Scholars Program, you really do build special bonds with people.

Now future scholars, if there’s one piece of advice I would give you, it would be to go into this program without being afraid of reaching out to people. This program is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to speak to and learn from world-class professors, so make sure you make the most of it.

Also, as I stated before, the people you will meet are one of a kind, so be sure to appreciate them from day one. Well that’s about it from me. Make sure to enjoy all that the 314 has to offer and go Bears!

A news release from MERS/Goodwill, republished here.

Julie Zuick, St. Louis, MBA ’09, is following in her grandfather’s footsteps in serving the MERS/Goodwill board of directors.

Zuick, who was elected to serve on the 2019 board of directors, recently learned that her grandfather, Philip Isserman, acted as MERS chairman of the board of directors from the late 1960s to the early 1970s.

“As a longtime supporter of Goodwill, I’m proud to serve alongside a phenomenal group of people as we help the organization continue to grow and serve the community,” Zuick said.

MERS Goodwill changes lives through the power of work. Its vision is a community where each individual has the opportunity to learn, work, and achieve their greatest potential. Annually serving more than 40,000 individuals, the non-profit agency operates in 75 locations serving 89 counties in the bi-state area. Revenues from 42 Goodwill stores assist with funding MERS Goodwill job training and employment services.

“I’m glad Julie has joined our board,” said David Kutchback, president and CEO of MERS Goodwill. “Her high energy and strong experience will be an asset to the organization.”

As a board member, Zuick plans to use her background in marketing, strategic planning and retail to help fulfill the mission of MERS Missouri Goodwill, “Changing lives through the power of work.” MERS Missouri Goodwill provides a variety of programs and services to help support this mission.

“In both my personal and professional life, I am passionate about employing people to the top of their ability,” Zuick said. “As an executive recruiter, I help people reach their potential daily and our clients recruit the best talent.”

Zuick is a senior consultant for the Clayton-based executive search firm Grant Cooper. She joined the organization following a successful career in brand and general management for Fortune 500 companies. Zuick earned her MBA from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis and a BS in advertising from the University of Texas at Austin.