Author: WashU Olin Business School

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About WashU Olin Business School

Firmly established at the Gateway to the West, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis stands as the gateway to something far grander in scale. The education we deliver prepares our students to thoughtfully make difficult decisions—the kind that can change the world.


Byron Porter was intentional about the name of his young startup. “In an industrial operation, a hum is good,” Porter said. “It means everything is working and there are no surprises.”

With HUM Industrial Technology, Porter is taking that hum to the next level. Using “vibration analysis” and machine learning software, Porter has created a monitoring device about the size of a deck of cards to track railcar movements and anticipate when that rolling stock needs maintenance. In an industry where accidents are rarely small, Porter says ditching 40-year-old technology can solve three problems.

First, by monitoring vibrations—the hum—in railcar wheels, bearings and track, Porter’s sensors and machine-learning technology can gauge in real time potential maintenance issues and even estimate how long before a failure. Porter notes that the industry has experienced 125 incidents related to wheel bearing failures since 2015, resulting in $250 million in related expenses. In contrast to Porter’s real-time, smart technology, railroads today rely on “hot box detectors” spaced 20 miles apart that mea-sure when wheel bearings are overheating. “By the time a bearing is hot, it’s already failed,” Porter said.

Second, HUM could improve the predictability of shipments—a chronic problem. “You’re prepared to unload on a given day, you have a crew scheduled,” he said. “But when the train does arrive four days later, you’ve wasted four days paying a crew for each of those days because you thought the train would arrive.”

Finally, Porter says his innovation could improve safety in the compact, busy and notoriously dangerous railyards where manufacturers receive goods. A more sophisticated, real-time system using machine learning could create a clearer digital map for operators to monitor railcar movement.

“I’m an engineer, and engineers like to solve problems,” he said. “You see people get hurt and operational headaches and you think there has to be a better way. Because I can see a better way, I want to make that happen.”

THE FACTS

Startup Stats

  • Established as an LLC on April 12, 2019, and developing as a bootstrap operation at this point.
  • 4 million railcars are in operation globally.
  • 40-year-old technology tracks railcars and monitors for maintenance issues.
  • HUM applies machine learning and “vibration analysis” to anticipate maintenance issues and track rolling stock.

Team

  • Byron Porter, MBA ’20Founder, CEO and lone employee right now

Competition Participation

  • Third-place, receiving $2,500, in the April 17, 2019, Skandalaris Venture Competition
  • Recipient of a $1,000 grant from the Holekamp Seed Fund

More information: humindustrial.com




WashU Olin alumni have continued to benefit from their membership in the community many years after leaving campus. This is part of an occasional series of vignettes about the alumni experience. Today, we hear from Chris Sanderson, BSBA ’16, investment banking analyst, Metronome

A little more than a year ago, Chris Sanderson was working in valuation services for a large accounting firm. At that point, he wanted a career that aligned better with his finance major. So, he reached out to Olin and its Alumni & Development team.

He leveraged the team’s resources and plugged into the alumni network to make a career switch. “They did two things for me. They introduced me to various WashU alums, and they encouraged me to go to the Chicago alumni dinner in April,” Sanderson said. That’s where he connected with Jeff Rosenkranz, BSBA ’84, who founded Metronome, a Chicago-based investment banking firm, in 2010.

When Sanderson initially reached out to Olin, he was connected with Sean Martin, A&D’s director of development, who started the process. “We had a discussion about what I was looking for, and he explained his role with the alumni network,” Sanderson said. “He agreed to make introductions and was the one who recommended I attend the Chicago alumni dinner.” Sanderson began working at Metronome in June.

Stay in touch.

Center for Experiential Learning

Business Development

  • Dorothy Kittner, MBA ’94, associate dean and director of business development and corporate relations 314-935-6365 | kittner@wustl.edu

Alumni & Development

Weston Career Center

Executive Education

  • Kelly Bean, senior associate dean and professor of practice in leadership 202-797-6000 | beank@wustl.edu

Jennifer Desai, MBA ’21, speaks to the ways WashU Olin’s 38-day global immersion bonded the class of 2021—first-year MBAs who opened their program with a ’round-the-world trip from St. Louis, to the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, to Barcelona and finally, to Beijing and Shanghai, before returning in early August.

Creating a tight bond among members of the nearly 100 students who began the program in late June 2019 was among the goals of the global immersion. “My classmates and I are never in competition with one another, rather we genuinely want the best for each other,” Desai said. See below as she reflects on the experience its affect on her work at WashU Olin.

Can you describe how the global immersion influenced your approach to class?

One of the most impactful takeaways from the global immersion program for me was that it expanded my capabilities in thinking of business in a global context versus only here in the United States. During the core classes (especially economics, strategy and marketing) this fall, I often thought about the differences in values, culture and governments in the world when discussing a case study or when thinking of a solution to a problem.

How did the opportunity to bond with your classmates affect your experience in class and moving forward in the program?

From study groups to interview preparation to discussing career goals, I have found support from virtually everyone in my cohort from the beginning. I never imagined traveling the world with these wonderful people for five weeks would have created a bond and support system that I will have throughout my life.

The thing that has surprised me the most is that my classmates and I are never in competition with one another, rather we genuinely want the best for each other. My classmates truly do feel more like my family rather than just my peers. 

Also, I guess I should say, we are almost never in competition with one another. Every now and then, we may secretly hope that someone’s fingers can’t move fast enough, or they lose their Wi-Fi connection during class registration time. This was especially true when the opportunity to travel to Israel, for a Venture Advising class that was sponsored and paid for by the school, arose.

Most of us wanted one of those coveted 43 spots to serve as a consultant for a startup! I initially did not, but the classmates I talked to encouraged me to seek one because of my career interests and the opportunity in general. Having secured one of those spots and just completed travel, I am beyond grateful for their encouragement to pursue such opportunities. 

Have you been able to use the global immersion yet in any preparation for your career next step? If not, do you envision ways in which you might?

As a first-year MBA student, balancing core classes with finding a summer internship is kind of the way of life. The WCC traveled with us during the global immersion and we had a variety of sessions on resume building, interview prep and networking. They also provided us with ideas on how to incorporate the global immersion experience into our conversations or interviews. 

Returning to the states, during interviews, I was able to use the global immersion experiences to discuss projects that I have completed and are vastly different from anything I have ever worked on before. This has led to a variety of conversations with interviewers, as it sparked interest from them. Additionally, the global immersion program has helped solidify my desire to work with a global company.

See a playlist of other short videos capturing the experience and outcomes for students on the 2019 full-time MBA global immersion.


WashU Olin alumni have continued to benefit from their membership in the community many years after leaving campus. This is part of an occasional series of vignettes about the alumni experience. Today, we hear from Michael Tessier, MBA ’16, director of finance, Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.

Following a stint in the oil and gas business in Texas, Michael Tessier returned to St. Louis. Connections he forged while he was an MBA student with Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. cofounders David Wolfe and Florian Kuplent led to a job with the brewer.

Last year, Tessier returned to Olin, signing on Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. as a client for a project with the Center for Experiential Learning.

While earning his MBA in finance and strategy, Tessier had worked on a practicum project for Urban Chestnut focused on the brewer’s domestic production and marketing. Now, as the company’s finance director, he had the chance to leverage Olin students for a project that looked at financing options, production modeling and marketing for an autonomous German-based subsidiary of the brewer.

“The group helped formulate tools we still use today to evaluate the business,” Tessier said. “The university does a really nice job helping clients set up for success.”e, Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.

Stay in touch.

Center for Experiential Learning

Business Development

  • Dorothy Kittner, MBA ’94, associate dean and director of business development and corporate relations 314-935-6365 | kittner@wustl.edu

Alumni & Development

Weston Career Center

Executive Education

  • Kelly Bean, senior associate dean and professor of practice in leadership 202-797-6000 | beank@wustl.edu



Olin

Olin Professor Phil Dybvig joined a select group of foreign experts last week in a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The annual event has very high visibility in China, part of a series of events wrapped into Chinese media coverage of the lead-up to the Spring Festival Celebration—the lunar New Year.

Dybvig is WashU Olin’s Boatmen’s Bancshares Professor of Banking and Finance and Director of the Institute of Financial Studies at the Southwest University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. He was invited to the event, offering insights and ideas to the Chinese premier, by a member of China’s State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs. That body certifies foreign experts who provide expertise on the Chinese mainland.

Olin’s Phil Dybvig (blue patterned jacket) among a group of academics and experts invited to share insights at a symposium in January 2020 with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (image captured from Chinese state video).

Dybvig was flanked at the event by Peter D. Lund from the department of applied physics, New Energy Technologies Group at Aalto University in Finland (on his left) and Jean-Mark Bovet, executive senior vice president, Cirrus Pharmaceuticals Inc., who has a PhD in chemistry from the University of Michigan.

“The premier thanked the foreign experts for their service and solicited their advice on subjects such as improving research in China, speeding technological development and improving education,” Dybvig wrote to the Olin Blog after the series of meetings ending on Friday, January 17, 2020.

See a video from Chinese state media giving an overview of the symposium.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (public domain image from Wikipedia)

Dybvig said the Chinese premier—the top administrator of the government’s massive civil service bureaucracy—hosted about 60 foreign experts for the meeting. “There were a lot of smart people there, including some Nobel laureates,” he said. Some were business people, some school administrators, but most seemed to be scholars.

“The premier gave a warm welcome to the foreign experts and thanks for our contributions to China,” he said. “He also talked about Chinese plans, including a commitment to spend 4% of GDP on education even though that implies cutting spending on other things.”

“It was also fun chatting with all the other smart people in attendance,” Dybvig said. “I enjoyed learning from Gérard Mourou about the work on high-intensity short-duration lasers that lead to his Nobel Prize in physics.”

Pictured above: Olin’s Phil Dybvig (blue patterned jacket) in a screen grab from Chinese state television covering a January 2020 symposium with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang with academics working in the country.


Andrea Adams, MBA '21, doing a presentation for class while in Barcelona for the global immersion.
Andrea Adams, MBA ’21, doing a presentation for class while in Barcelona for the global immersion.

Andrea Adams, MBA ’21, participated in the inaugural class of WashU Olin’s rebooted full-time MBA program, which began in late June with a nearly six-week ’round-the-world trip to immerse students in global business.

Students in the attached video recount the ways the experience exposed them to different world perspectives on three continents and across the experiences of their classmates.

Adams shares three ways the experience positioned her for later career preparation—including the comfort with uncertainty.

In retrospect, now several weeks past your return from China, can you describe how the global immersion has influenced your approach to class?

The global immersion was not only international in nature, it gave us insight on business practices from a global level. I mean this insofar as it allowed me to see the interlocking pieces of, for example, how strategy and managerial economics are relevant to accounting—and vice versa.

Hopefully each MBA program ultimately allows students to connect the dots on why one sector of business relates to another, but the global immersion gave us experiential insight to see the interplay between functions—in the real world.

So, when a new concept comes up in our core coursework, I already have an example from our experiential learning to reflect. The true benefit of experience is having a pre-existing framework to fill in the gaps with the lessons from our core classes to understand a concept’s relevance.

What did you gain from the experience that you’ve been able to apply already?

I’m a strong believer that not every experience or encounter needs to have direct utility. However, the global immersion fostered development of a sense of global awareness to encourage students to think about issues at a high level.

So the summer coursework pushed us not just to evaluate business decisions based on limited qualitative and quantitative information, but take it a step further: Why is this information important and relevant to the problem as a whole?

Have you been able to use this experience yet in any preparation for your career next step?

As a first semester MBA student, the focus quickly shifts from acclimating to coursework to finding a summer opportunity that is a good fit for both you and your future employer. This can be a daunting task.

Having an intense immersive experience so early in the MBA trajectory, I feel as though I’ve deeply benefitted in the career search and recruitment process in three ways.

The first: You start thinking about business concepts earlier. Because the summer semester gave me a global overview of sectors within business, I feel as though I am more able to understand the incentives of the companies in which I have interest.

The experience also gave me a framework for thinking about the problems the firm might face within their industry and having a working knowledge of the environment with which a firm operates can lead to beyond surface level interview conversations.

The second: I know my “value add,” but have already identified areas for improvement. To balance the working environment of the global immersion summer session while traveling away from home for a six-week duration is, aforementioned, surprisingly intense.

Throughout the experience, you are in constant communication with professors, communication advisers and peers, who are providing formal qualitative and quantitative feedback for your performance. Though your weaknesses are amplified, the experience highlights areas to improve upon in preparation for recruitment throughout the fall.

The third: You learn how to deal with ambiguity. Because of the traveling nature of the immersion, and the shift in coursework throughout the semester, there is no unchanging variable. You have to be OK with uncertainty—whether it be in not feeling familiar with a city, assignment, or class content.

I think the valuable skill here that is transferrable to any job search is learning to adapt in different contexts and rise to the challenges that are outside of your comfort zone—most of which you can’t anticipate.

See a playlist of other short videos capturing the experience and outcomes for students on the 2019 full-time MBA global immersion.