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.

Abhinav Gabbeta, MBA ’21, writes today about his summer consulting with CognizantHe was invited to return to Cognizant full-time after graduation. His contribution is part of a series by students sharing their summer internship experiences with the Olin blog.

My summer internship was one of the most pivotal parts of my MBA education. It not only gave me the chance to apply specific skills I’d learned in the classroom, but also helped me to prepare for the next chapter in my career. After going through the nerve-wracking interview circuit, I was blessed with the great opportunity to intern with Cognizant as a senior consultant in their healthcare business unit, and have recently been granted an offer to return full-time.

As with much of our class, the sudden onslaught of COVID-19 meant that my internship experience was not business as usual. Every aspect of my internship was run virtually, including onboarding, day-to-day work, and networking. Quite frankly, I was initially nervous about this shift. However, I soon realized that in the ever-changing business world, this moment represents an important inflection point. I had a first-hand look at how leading firms address global adversity and I am now in a unique position to help create the “new normal.” I found this to be especially interesting and relevant to the field of consulting.

Consultants are known for heavy travel, immersive client interaction, and close team collaboration. The entirety of this business model was threatened by the pandemic, but fortunately, consultants are also known for solving complex problems.

During my internship, I saw how the industry adapted by embracing virtual meetings, while still maintaining close relationships with clients and delivering the same high-quality results. This new model has the potential to provide significant cost savings, wider capabilities, and a more appealing work-life balance for consultants.

However, this transition was not without its challenges; I had to manage learning curves for new technology, blurred lines between work/off-work hours, limited employee motivation, and difficulty with networking. I worked through these issues by being vocal and proactive, being intentional with my outreach, volunteering for more work, forming feedback loops with mentors, building real relationships with team members, and staying flexible in the face of unexpected change.

My Olin training prepared me to take on these challenges by giving a me a strong foundation in strategy and management, communication skills, and workplace dynamics. My internship also proved to me how important Olin’s pillars for success are (values-based and data-driven, globally oriented,   experiential, entrepreneurial).

When I worked on my main project regarding Cognizant’s 2021-2023 healthcare business unit strategy, I helped make decisions and set goals that were informed by industry data and founded on company values. I worked directly with off-shore colleagues and realized how to work effectively in teams around the globe and around the clock.

I jumped right into projects with all the responsibilities and expectations of a full-fledged senior consultant and learned through practice. Perhaps most importantly, I embraced Olin’s entrepreneurial spirit by taking ownership of my internship experience and building a well-rounded experience. I was able to create an internal strategy, solve external health payer and provider segment client engagements and develop new thought leadership.

As I go further in my consulting and healthcare career, I will take all these lessons with me and look back fondly at Olin and Cognizant for helping me to develop the skills and mindset I need to succeed.

Leigh Sensi, the content marketing manager at Stoneside, wrote this blog post. She is the daughter of Glenn MacDonald, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and Strategy at Olin. MacDonald teaches Research and Industry Analysis, a course for economics and strategy majors.

Stoneside, a custom window treatment company based in Denver, has benefitted greatly from its partnership with Olin. Since 2018, students have helped Stoneside enhance and expand its business.

In 2018, Stoneside had its first case competition with students in the Research in Industry Analysis class. The students made valuable suggestions about the look, feel and functionality of Stoneside’s website. They also provided insights about community partnerships and demographics targeting.

Leigh Sensi
Leigh Sensi

The next year, Stoneside launched its new marketing website, which significantly outperformed its previous site. The company also adjusted its demographic targeting to fit each group more individually.

That year, 2019, was also the first year of Stoneside’s internship program. An Olin student was selected to spend the summer in Denver, working at Stoneside’s headquarters with the marketing group. Over the summer, the student’s work with Stoneside helped to launch a social media referral program for customers and to improve tracking business leads.

Stoneside plans to resume and expand its internship program as soon as conditions are conducive to student travel.

Stoneside has also participated in several years of the Olin course Empirical Techniques in Industry Analysis to assist students in learning various data analysis methods. Through those projects, Olin helped Stoneside select potential geographic areas for expansion and to determine the optimal capacity for resources in each area.

The year 2020 was shaping up to be Stoneside’s best year ever, with a record-breaking January and February in the books. When March hit, and the spread of COVID-19 rendered in-person business unsafe, Stoneside had to pivot its business model quickly.

Going virtual

Stoneside shifted from going to people’s homes and businesses to a virtual experience. What resulted was a new method where Stoneside’s designers walk through the home over a video call, show the customer products and materials via a digital asset management system, and deliver fabric swatches to help clients visualize the end result. Now Stoneside has combined its virtual and in-home experience into a hybrid model that utilizes in-person business when possible, as well as virtual tools to create a cohesive, immersive experience for clients.

With all of this going on, Stoneside recognized its need to keep thinking about the long term. In April 2020, Olin’s Research in Industry Analysis students helped Stoneside think beyond COVID-19 with suggestions for industry partners, innovative media tactics, and strategies to expand its commercial offerings. In turn, Stoneside was able to continue to support Olin students during a difficult period of transition.

Stoneside will be participating in this spring’s Research in Industry Analysis case competition and plans to ask the students to think of ways Stoneside can reach more potential customers through direct mail, email and any other creative tactics the students can dream up.

Stoneside looks forward to hearing what Olin’s inventive minds come up with this year and to continuing its partnership with Olin in the years to come.

Bryanna Brown

Bryanna Brown, MBA ’22, wrote this blog post. At Olin’s Diversity and Women’s Weekend, she spoke as a fellow with the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management during the session “Infusing Your Story into the Application Process.”

For a prospective MBA candidate, interacting with the faculty, staff and students can be a pivotal opportunity when deciding if an MBA program is the right fit. In November 2019, I was a prospective student at Olin’s Diversity and Women’s Weekend, seeing the culture of Olin up close and personal. This experience truly gave me a window into what life at Olin would be like as an MBA candidate. 

In 2020, Olin was tasked with producing the same window for prospective students through a virtual experience. Where missteps could have been made, the Olin admissions staff went above and beyond to ensure each interaction, session and detail was rooted in excellence.

From sending personalized boxes to participants, to choosing a virtual conference platform that allowed for unique tags, to even starting the day with yoga, the Diversity and Women’s Weekend committee prioritized details that were specific to the tailored experience a prospective student would receive at Olin. 

As I reflect back on how it felt to be a part of Olin’s first virtual Diversity and Women’s Weekend in December, I recognized four key takeaways. It was apparent throughout the weekend that Olin does the following: 

Prepares MBAs for a truly global career.

The weekend started with second-year MBAs students Tyler Edwards, Kendra Kelly and Ellen Kenzora speaking to being a part of the first entire cohort to experience the Global Immersion in the “Globally Minded and Culturally Fluent in 39 Days” session. The session reiterated Olin’s commitment to global education. 

Champions intentional identity work.

The “Understanding Bias + How It Can Influence Your Perspective” session led by Tabari Coleman, director of professional development at the Anti-Defamation League, highlighted the nature of inherent bias and how to continuously use self-reflection as a point of growth professionally and personally.   

Supports prospective students holistically.

The “Infusing Your Story into the Application Process” session provided insight into how admission and membership decisions are made. Prospective students heard from a wide range of student representatives from Olin’s partnership organizations, like the Consortium at Olin and Olin Reaching Out MBA, who described first-hand experiences and gave helpful hints to craft the strongest story in an application.

Centers community at every stage of your MBA journey.

The strong Olin alumni voice from Brenna Humphries, Molly Goldstein, Cambrie Nelson, Gheremey Edwards and Oscar Vasco in “Stories from the Past that Inform Our Future” solidified that students at Olin are proud, active participants during and after their two years in the MBA program. 

David Jackson, EMBA

David Jackson, EMBA ’15, who began his career in government relations as Missouri’s youngest registered lobbyist at age 19 and has negotiated more than 150 public policy changes over the last decade, will become a principal at Missouri’s largest governmental affairs consulting firm.

Gamble & Schlemeier announced Jackson will join Bill Gamble, Jorgen Schlemeier and Sarah Topp as principals in the firm, which was formed in 1996.

Jackson joined Gamble & Schlemeier in 2016 as an experienced lobbyist and policy advisor with an extensive background advancing client interests and shaping policy positions while developing relationships with Missouri’s legislative and executive branches of government.

In his new role, Jackson will support existing clients and develop new relationships to extend Gamble & Schlemeier’s commitment to providing the highest level of service that allows clients to win on tough issues.

“David’s numerous accomplishments before the General Assembly since joining the firm has gained him the confidence of our clients and respect of his peers at the state capital,” said Jorgen Schlemeier of Gamble & Schlemeier.

“Promoting David to principal strengthens the firm’s capacity and positions us to broaden our footprint, while further enhancing our ability to deliver the one-on-one counsel and client service that is the hallmark of Gamble & Schlemeier,” said Bill Gamble, founder of the firm.

Gamble & Schlemeier is a preeminent, full-service governmental affairs consulting firm with lobbyists located in Jefferson City, St. Louis and Kansas City. It takes great pride in having a diverse staff that is uniquely capable of delivering an innovative approach to the General Assembly that solves clients problems and helps them win on the issues they care about.

Jackson began his career in government relations as Missouri’s youngest registered lobbyist at age 19 and has negotiated more than 150 public policy changes over the last decade. Prior to joining Gamble & Schlemeier, Jackson served as the managing partner of Gate Way Group, the lobbying division of a media and public relations firm in St. Louis. In 2014, the St. Louis Business Journal named Jackson to its list of top 30 Under 30 business leaders in the region.

Jackson received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Westminster College and an Executive MBA from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Jackson serves on Westminster College Board of Trustees and volunteers on the Board of Directors for Criminal Justice Ministry, a criminal justice reentry nonprofit in St. Louis. He lives in Lake St. Louis with wife, Claire Vatterott Jackson, son, John, and daughter, Lucy.

For more information about Gamble & Schlemeier, visit the firm’s website.

Michael Femi Vianana, MBA ’21

Femi Vianana, MBA ’21, writes today about his internship—and four projects—at his “virtual” Microsoft internship. He was invited to return after graduation as a business program manager. His contribution is part of a series by students sharing their summer internship experiences on the Olin Blog.

My internship journey began a few weeks before the internship itself, amidst immense pressure and uncertainty. In the early days of the pandemic that rocked the world, there was speculation about the US government suspending all work authorization for non-citizens in a bid to protect jobs amid massive unemployment.

As an international student, that meant my entire internship with Microsoft could be cancelled as a result of such policy. Luckily for me, that never happened, and I had the full support of Olin through that tough phase.

I had always planned to brush up on some of my technical skills months before the internship to hit the ground running, but I never got around to doing that. Instead, I started my internship much earlier than most of my classmates, still feeling stressed out from a very challenging semester.

A slight bump in the road

Nonetheless, I was energized to hit the ground running once I started working. But as with many things in life, reality does not often match expectation, especially with COVID-19 ensuring a virtual experience.

Out of the gate, my work laptop shipment was delayed, finally arriving in the third week. My password didn’t work for the first three days, meaning I had no access to my emails and couldn’t really get any work done. After the hiccups of the first week, I was able to get my feet wet.

What turned out to be most surprising was the level of importance attached to the projects I was assigned. For a second, I felt I was way out of my league, but thanks to the guidance of my superb manager, I gradually embraced my role and how much value I could potentially add to the organization.

Interestingly, I was assigned to work on four projects in the 12 weeks of the internship, twice the number of projects assigned to most of the MBA interns I had the opportunity to interact with. That meant putting in a lot of hours, especially in the early stages when I was desperate to gain context.

Broad exposure to the organization

On the flip side, it also gave me exposure to a lot of teams and people across the organization, which in turn gave me the opportunity to establish connections that lasted beyond the completion of my internship.

Furthermore, the breadth of tasks involved in executing my projects—from contract reviews to financial due diligence to project management—ensured that I leaned heavily on the values-based and data-driven approach taught by Olin.

This was pivotal to my success. Every strategy employed by Microsoft was greatly rooted on their foundational values, while their approach for problem solving used data to proffer lasting solutions.

In conclusion, I had a very pleasant internship experience, not only because I got a return offer, but because my long-term career goals of building human capacity aligned with my role within Microsoft’s Worldwide Learning Org—and I’m glad that Olin had a great role to play in my story.

During his time at WashU, Rick Liu has become fascinated by the process of building a successful business. Rick, who is pursuing a joint degree in business and computer science, has spent the last six months growing this longtime interest into a successful podcast called The Seed—The Startup Journey.

As Rick, BS ’22, explains in the introductory video on his YouTube channel, he realized the best way to learn entrepreneurship—short of actually starting a business—is to hear other people talk about their startups. This curiosity prompted him to find a way to bring the stories of successful entrepreneurs into the life of everyday people interested in exploring the process of starting and running a business.

So far, Rick has interviewed 21 entrepreneurs who have shared the tale of how they got where they are now. He has interviewed businesspeople from all over the world—from here in St. Louis, to Canada, to Taiwan—on his podcast.

I asked Rick about his top three takeaways since starting The Seed, and he told me that, while he’s learned a lot more than just three things, the most important lessons he’s learned revolve around three key ideas: passion, connections and persistence.

Rick told me that most entrepreneurs he’s spoken to have told him that passion is essential. As an entrepreneur, “if the problem is personal to you, you’ll be motivated to wake up even when you don’t feel like it,” Rick says.

Many founders have also told The Seed about the importance of making friends in the business world. Rick cites the particular example of Kaldi’s Coffee co-founder Suzanne Langlois, who told him that it was a connection with someone who’d been hired to bulldoze a building full of furniture who got her first Kaldi’s location its set of tables and chairs.

Finally, Rick has learned that starting small and sticking by your ideas is crucial for success in entrepreneurship and, coincidentally, the podcasting world as well.

Rick’s podcast encourages his listeners to learn with him from those who are successful in the industry, and makes the intricacies of building a business digestible and fun to learn. Anyone interested in startups and entrepreneurship can check out Liu’s podcast, The Seed—The Startup Journey, on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, YouTube, or Spotify. The Seed is also present on Instagram and has an independent website.