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.

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.

Spencer Burke

Emma Vogel, a video intern in Olin marketing and communications, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Spencer Burke, adjunct lecturer in family business for WashU Olin, will assume the role as Eugene F. Williams Jr. Executive in Residence for the Koch Center for Family Business, Dean Mark Taylor and Professor Bart Hamilton announced in May.

The appointment is the latest development following the spring 2018 announcement of the Koch Center for Family Business, launched with the support of the St. Louis Koch family’s gift $9 million. That center is the outgrowth of the Olin family business program, funded with a $1.09 million donation from the Kochs in 2016.

The Olin family business initiative began to “educate future business leaders on unique family business issues while providing resources for family enterprise as they grapple with these challenges.”

Prior to accepting this position, Burke served as the leader of the family business initiative and has been the organizer and moderator of Olin’s highly successful annual family business symposium. He is a principal at the St. Louis Trust Company, where he leads the firm’s family business advisory practice.

Additionally, Burke currently serves as chairman of the board of the Mallinckrodt Foundation, which seeks to fund biomedical research in St. Louis and throughout the United States.

“I have taught at Olin for eight or nine years and I am excited to no longer be the lone ranger in family business,” Burke said. He will now join a team at the Koch center—led by Hamilton, the center’s inaugural director, Olin’s Robert Brookings Smith Distinguished Professor of Economics, Management & Entrepreneurship—that will help to tackle family business education.

Burke also feels that that through the establishment of the Koch center and the family business initiative, the subject matter is being recognized as an important part of Olin Business School. While in the position, he wants to be a part of the team that animates the important role of family business in the U.S. economy.

Much like the mission of the Olin family business initiative, Burke places importance on business sustainability. Along with the other key players in the family business center, Burke will be the resident practitioner of family business issues.

As the executive in residence, he will be available for consultation at the request of students and will also be establishing office hours for the upcoming semester. He is excited for the opportunity to have more interaction with students in the family business program. This will allow for valuable, real-time analysis and problem solving in relation to real-life family business issues that students encounter. Burke feels that through more interaction, the program will achieve even greater success.

Matthew Savage, BSBA ’19, was the student speaker at the undergraduate programs graduation recognition ceremony on May 17, 2019, selected by his peers. Here is what he had to say to his fellow graduates.

Students, faculty, friends, and family, it is an honor to stand here before you as the class speaker for the Olin Class of 2019. Little do you know that you’ve select a commencement speaker who not only failed an intro class, but was rejected from countless student groups, and even considered transferring at one point. Quite the turnaround, if I do say so myself!

Maybe you were unaware of that when you selected me, but thank you for not letting these define who I am. I’m excited to share my story with you today. Two hundred thousand dollars in an off-shore bank account and some Photoshopped track photos later, I was finally admitted into my dream school. Oh, wait sorry, this is WashU, not USC. Let’s try that again!

Upon our honest admission to WashU, we had something in store for each of our different but intertwined identities. Matt the student hoped he would find academic success here. Matt the young professional would learn what that even means. And Matt the friend would find a close-knit community of people to share the impending four years with.

Quickly, however, each of these identities would disintegrate. It began with Matt the business professional who, after rushing a business fraternity, was cut before the final round. Ouch! Come spring, Matt the “social and fun-loving guy” was put to the test in fraternity rush. Evidently, I was not that social or fun-loving since I didn’t receive a bid from any fraternities. Ouch! Fear not, however, Matt the student still stood strong. So, as I had done before, I ignored these rejections and pivoted towards the last identity of mine that had some residual value.

Matt the student, meet the QBA 120 final. When I received my exam I completely blanked, and I mean blanked. My brain was emptier than my Calc II lectures. The final dropped my grade to a D-plus—meaning I had failed the course. Ouch!

Left without any identities to pivot towards, I was defeated. My mind was whirring and extrapolating these failures to the nth degree. If I couldn’t get into a business fraternity, would I ever get a job? If I didn’t get into a social fraternity, would I ever make friends? Would I be haunted by my failure in QBA?

The answer was no, no and definitely no. Surely, failure is hard. Failure doesn’t feel good. But, failure is not permanent. How many of you actively think about the colleges that you got rejected from? Probably not many of you because, hot take, it doesn’t matter.

That being said, it’s important to have safe spaces to fail. The first time you shaved, you probably didn’t have a big interview in the morning. So, who cares if you cut yourself a little? Olin similarly provided a safe place to fail on a bigger stage. If you failed a test or slept through your Thursday morning class after a night at T’s, chances are that your life was pretty undisturbed.

However, Olin can only prepare us for so much. As we move into this next stage of our lives, we will most certainly continue to fail and fail often. Maybe you’ll get rejected from graduate school. Maybe you won’t get that promotion. Maybe you won’t have the weekly Facetimes with friends that you’ve been promising. But that doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a student, an employee, or a friend.

We will never be defined by our GPA, job titles, singular events and momentary failures. The most important thing is to not run away from these failures or turn a blind eye to our identities that are under duress.

I certainly fell into that trap, and it wasn’t until all of my identities came crashing down at once that I faced the failure head on. I retook QBA and passed. And re-rushed the business and social fraternities again and got in. And, the people I met there are now some of my closest friends. It was only after I faced my failures that I realized that you don’t actually learn anything from failing, but rather from picking yourself up and putting yourself back out there.

The moral of this story is simply that if you can muster up the courage to try again, then “it works out.” Steve Jobs was once fired by Apple. I’d say that worked out. Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba, was once denied employment at a KFC. I’d say that worked out. And J.K Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before someone would take a chance on Harry Potter. I’d say that worked out.

Most importantly, when we think of these people, we never think of them as failures. And that’s because they never saw themselves as such. Only you can define your identity.

So, as Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Thank you, Olin Class of 2019, and may success, not failure, follow you wherever you go!