Tag: Alumni

On any given day, Matthew Nyman and his team at Mastercard’s multidisciplinary anti-fraud hub—its “fusion center”—receive intelligence about potential attacks on the financial ecosystem.

Imagine learning about a software attack that could allow criminals to rob banks. In a coordinated fashion, potentially hundreds of individuals would simultaneously withdraw money from numerous bank ATMs. The combination of attacks could result in damages in the millions to the bank. Nyman’s fusion center team is able to identify, mobilize and thwart attacks such as this to protect Mastercard customers and partners.

Nyman is an Army veteran, wounded warrior, government innovator and 2017 EMBA alum from WashU Olin Business School.

Protecting Mastercard and their customers from the “bad guys” is nothing new to Nyman. As a member of the military, he had built similar nerve centers to coordinate US intelligence efforts and target narco-terrorists. From 2011 to 2014, he led a group of US government contractors working with the Mexican government to create a fusion center so authorities south of the border could target and defuse the work of drug cartels.

“A threat network is a threat network,” Nyman said. “They all operate the same.”

Nyman had considered business school for years. An accident while serving as an Army Ranger in 2005 helped accelerate his thinking. During a combat operation, he was a passenger in a helicopter landing atop a building in Iraq. The aircraft crashed, leaving him with multiple severe injuries to his head, back, lungs, femur and a below-the-knee amputation of his right leg.

After fighting his way back to health and building a stellar career developing and launching threat-assessment centers in the military and public sector, he was ready to pivot to the private sector.

WashU Olin’s EMBA stood out among the three top programs that accepted him. “My whole career has been globally dispersed. I wanted a university that could help add to my résumé and reinforce that international experience,” he said. “That was very important to me.”

Another deciding factor? Olin’s strong commitment to supporting military veterans and the networking opportunities the school offered. “That, combined with learning the language of business and then having the opportunity to marry up my (military) experience with a business degree,” he said. “So many people struggle to communicate what’s relevant about their experience in the language of business.”

While he came into Mastercard with the experience to set up the “fusion center”—where analysts and experts from across multiple company disciplines come together to identify and anticipate threats and vulnerabilities—Nyman said the WashU Olin experience gave him the skills to grow beyond that.

Nyman said, “WashU Olin taught me to step back and troubleshoot to find the solution which gave the best possible outcome.”

By some estimates, the fusion center—profiled in May 2018 in The New York Times—prevented millions in fraudulent transactions last year.

“Mastercard’s technology allows the fusion center team to make swift, but factual based decisions,” said Nyman. “If we have the means to stop fraud, we are going to. We want to do well while doing good.”

Richa Gangopadhyay and Joe Langella (both MBA ’17) came to Olin by way of unique and non-traditional back-stories—and both hoped to get a business degree that would guide their career transitions. Along the way, they found each other.

Joe made his way to Olin in 2015 after five years serving in the US Army in Afghanistan, the US and Korea. Richa brought with her five years of experience as an Indian film actress, model and motivational speaker. During that time, she was a lead actress in nine films and won six best actress awards in India—but her favorite part was traveling the world for shoots.

This January, the pair—who met during their second year as MBA students and have been dating ever since—announced their engagement. Their time at Olin was the beginning of that love story, according to Richa: “Although we had been classmates for an entire year before we uttered our first “hello” to each other, second year, second semester, we had so many wonderful memories and meaningful experiences at Olin together.” Richa told us all about their relationship—and where it all began, in the halls of Knight and Bauer.

On how they met—and started dating

Our very first hang-out session was with our mutual Olin friends, Jessica Hunt and Tyler Sellers, at ITAP! We clicked instantly and experienced the “magic” of the much-hyped Talayna’s together for the first time with a few more of our buddies. I think I want to say that was our first date, whether he agrees or not ;).

We soon discovered we lived down the street from each other, which obviously meant many more reasons to see each other! There were MANY brunches involved over the time we spent together, some of our favorites included Colleen’s, Half & Half, Rooster and Winslow’s Home. I think it was then that I realized he was just as big of a foodie as me and I secretly knew it was meant to be. Among other favorites were Taste, Gramophone and of course…Mission Taco!

I think our very unique backgrounds were one of the things that drew us to each other. While he was at the United States Military Academy at West Point, I was in India establishing my career as a film actress. He was an avid debater through high school and college, and that certainly showed during his participation in class, especially during Competitive Industry Analysis (CIA) with Professor John Horn.

I was initially more introverted when it came to class discussions, but always loved hearing what Joe had to contribute—he always managed to offer his inputs in a way that would make you think, and make you laugh. Needless to say, he has the gift of gab (which he will argue I have).

We both appreciated the small size of the MBA program, that really allowed us to get to know our faculty on a deeper level. I can speak for both of us when I say that we formed bonds we will never forget, and appreciated everything our student body and faculty did for our personal and professional growth over those two years. We are ever grateful for former Dean Gupta, Associate Dean Joe Fox, Sarah Miller, Laura Fogarty, and every single
professor and administrative staff that mentored and molded us into the business professionals that we are today and left a lasting impression in our hearts.

He is a natural born leader, which is evident by the roles he has had in the US Army. I had the honor of being Joe’s date for the 2017 Olin’s Veteran’s Association Military Dining Out, which he emceed. Joe spent much of 2014 and 2015 as a Liaison Officer for the Republic of Korea army. Something he became skilled at during his time there was a talent not many know about, and he is VERY humble about…DJing! Joe introduced me to a whole new world when it came to music, and I quickly became a fan of EDM and ’60s music because of him.”

On making it work after graduation

We started officially dating mid-second semester of our second year of the Olin MBA program. We weren’t entirely sure at the time whether we were going to invest in a long-distance relationship, but here we are, engaged two years later!

We graduated in May 2017 and parted ways. Joe left for Portland for his new role as a strategic finance analyst for business client platforms and commercial virtual reality group at Intel Corporation, and I spent my job-hunting transition period back home in Michigan. I accepted an offer with HM Health solutions after interviewing with Olin alumnus and current VP of Provider Practice Nikhil Mendhi in Pittsburgh that December, which was an amazing Christmas gift!

Little did I know that shortly after I signed a lease for a beautiful apartment downtown Pittsburgh, across the street from the Highmark HQ, I would be placed on a client project in Wyoming every week this past year! So I spent half of my weekends going back to my Pittsburgh home, and the other half in Portland with Joe, spending my weeks in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in between.

After crossing three time zones every week with 50-pound suitcases, I finally made the decision to relocate to Portland. So after two years of long-distance dating, we are finally in the same city and we couldn’t be more thrilled about it. Now we can plan for our cross-cultural, fusion Indo-American wedding in September this year, together!

On their engagement

Our engagement was very “us.” A few weekends ago, I was in Portland and Joe and I were
scouting out our next place to live, once his lease ends. I found this really adorable house I
wanted us to go check out, in one of our favorite neighborhoods on a hilltop, overlooking the entire city with views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens.

He agreed to take me to check out the house, and suggested stopping by at the Japanese Gardens on the way. I was in sweats and he told me to change into something “better.” I figured, since we were going to make a pit stop at the Japanese Gardens, I could wear this red geisha looking dress I had been wanting to wear forever. He gave me a weird expression once I changed and told me to change…AGAIN! SO I ended up wearing my usual go-to dress that I’m always comfortable in.

I was excited about seeing this house, and were almost there when Joe drove right past it and continued going to the top of the hill, at Council Crest Park. It was an incredibly clear, sunny day, and we could get a perfect view of the mountains, so he told me we would quickly go up to the courtyard and take a selfie. When we got up there, it was super windy so he gave me a big bear hug, and then dropped to one knee!

He asked me if I would marry him, and all I could do was tear up and giggle and shiver (because of the cold wind and nerves)! I, of course, said yes, and then he pointed to our friend, Kim, who he had coordinated with earlier, to take photos of the whole thing with her camera.

She was disguised in an oversized scarf and sunglasses so I couldn’t recognize her, but she did such an amazing job of capturing the moment—beginning to end—perfectly!

After that, it was group hugs, and balloons and happy tears. Thinking back on it, I don’t know why I didn’t figure out why he was making me change! We came back home to a beautiful flower arrangement that my parents had delivered to us- they had known the whole time and kept it as a secret from me! We celebrated that evening with our friends in Portland, including two that also got recently engaged, and it was wonderful.

On planning the wedding

Joe and I are going to be having a half-western-style, half-Hindu-Bengali wedding this
September in Michigan. It will consist of a total of five events, so a lot to coordinate! We are still in the preliminary phase of planning, but my mom, who lives in Michigan (but works in DC during the week), is helping me immensely by scouting out venues and planning every detail.

We are so excited to have our families—his from Nebraska, and mine from India—and friends celebrate with us during the beautiful end-of-summer/early fall season in Michigan. It is the most beautiful time of year there.

The most exciting part for us is the opportunity to combine two cultural traditions and get the best of both worlds that we grew up with, independently. I have always dreamed of a classic white-gown ceremony, and Joe is very excited about being part of all the Indian customs. Apart from that, I am also really excited about all the choreographed dancing that will be involved as part of the wedding events as I’ve been an avid dancer from a young age. And…excited that we have agreed on a location for our honeymoon!

We’re so thankful to Joe and Richa for sharing their story with us—and can’t wait to hear all about their upcoming wedding. Congratulations from all of us at WashU Olin and Happy Valentine’s Day!



Panelists at the 6.60.60 Leadership Perspectives event on January 31, 2019.

Six top leaders spanning industries including finance, pharmaceuticals, pet care, education and technology shared a lightning-round of leadership tips—60 tips in 60 minutes. The ideas ranged from knowing your strengths (and your weaknesses!) to daring to be “fierce” to remembering to be the leader you needed when you were younger.

The panelists drew their tips from experts they’d interviewed, books they’d read, mentors they had worked with and their own experiences. They were:

  • Adrian E. Bracy, CEO of YWCA Metro St. Louis
  • Steve Degnan, chief HR officer at Nestlé Purina
  • Dana Lorberg, executive vice president at Mastercard
  • Lisa Nichols, CEO of Technology Partners
  • Carla D. Bailey, senior manager, learning and organizational development at WashU
  • Rebecca L. Saunders, founder and chief marketing officer at Amplifey

Adrian E. Bracy


  • Adrian E. Bracy, CEO of YWCA Metro St. Louis

    Adrian E. Bracy, CEO of YWCA Metro St. Louis

    “Just think about going to Disneyland without a plan. You’ll be in long lines, it’ll be awful.”

  • “I like to multitask, but what happens is I get unfocused. If you’re not disciplined, you’ll lose focus. And focus is key to growth.”
  • “Give back because that’s how the world grows – and it comes back to you.”


1. The Law of intentionality: Growth doesn’t just happen.

2. The law of awareness: You must know yourself to grow.

3. The law of consistency: Motivation gets you going; discipline keeps you growing.

4. The law of design: To maximize growth, develop strategies.

5. The law of pain: Good management of bad experiences leads to great growth.

6. The law of curiosity: Growth is stimulated by asking “why?”

7. The law of modeling: It’s hard to improve when you have no one else to follow but yourself.

8. The law of contribution: Growing yourself enables you to grow others.

9. The law of confidence: Confidence comes not from always being right, but from not fearing to be wrong (a quote from Peter T. McIntyre).

10. The law of brevity: Don’t build the clock; just give me the time.

Steve Degnan


Steve Degnan, Dana Lorberg and Lisa Nichols

Steve Degnan, Dana Lorberg and Lisa Nichols

  • “If you’re on your way up, take that uncomfortable adjacent move if you’re up for it. You only get wisdom from making mistakes.”
  • “You make incremental gains and incremental positive change, but you’ll never get away from dynamics that are coming from every side.”
  • “You can be the biggest bonehead and never know it. It’s actually a gift to know that everyone else thinks you’re kind of a jerk. Spend some time asking people how you’re doing.”


11. What got you here won’t get you there.

12. Results, relationships, reputation.

13. Get cuts and scars early.

14. Learn to embrace and manage paradox.

15. Practice essentialism.

16. Let others be heard.

17. Seek meaning and purpose in your life and work.

18. Practice generosity and gratitude together.

19. Read, listen and learn: most important future skill.

20. Be one of the few that is truly self aware.

Dana Lorberg


  • “If you ask these (why) questions, you will be better at your craft. I was a better programmer because I knew what we intended to do.”
  • “You have to be fierce in whatever you’re doing. Not in a bad way. Be tough. Man up, as I tell the girls.”
  • “You don’t have to say brilliant things, but contribute. Put ideas on the table. Don’t be concerned that you might say something stupid. Believe me, stupid is all around. You’ll be in good company.”


21. Stay curious.

22. Embrace the unknown.

23. Find your fire.

24. Be fierce.

25. Dig in.

26. Be heard.

27. Servant leadership.

28. Be authentic.

29. Keep your power.

30. #STEM.

Lisa Nichols


  • “You don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. Lean in to other experts and what you need help knowing.”
  • “You need to be able to talk about your strengths, but also talk about your weaknesses. You are never going to connect with your team if you’re not vulnerable and authentic.”
  • “A leader needs to be able to inspire hope in others. You need to be that person that your team can look to and say to them, ‘We’ve been through this before and we’ll get through it again.'”


31. Humility: Genuine willingness to engage the knowledge and experience of others.

32. Vulnerability: Live an authentic life, revealing strengths and weaknesses.

33. Relationship-building skills: Foster relationships at all levels and in all settings.

34. Top priorities: Truly value people and exude a positive influence.

35. 20/20 vision: Great leaders should look at life through a lens of gratitude and hope.

36. Be courageous: Have the courage to say “no” and take the ethical high road.

37. Endurance: Leadership means being able to go the distance.

38. Focus: Keep your eye on the goal, not your limitations.

39. Trustworthiness: Live it out personally and make it the standard for your organization.

40. Foster your GQ: Own your growth quotient by learning your deficits and passionately pursuing personal growth for the sake of yourself and everyone around you.

Carla D. Bailey


Carla D. Bailey and Rebecca L. Saunders

Carla D. Bailey and Rebecca L. Saunders

  • “Trust that you are enough. Be comfortable in your own skin and how your strengths impact those around you. Being someone else is to sell yourself short.”
  • “If you wait till you’re not going to be scared, you’ll be waiting forever.”
  • “You have to love people more than you love processes and more than you love procedures. Sit where people are. Be a listening ear.”


41. Lead with your authentic self.

42. Commit to remaining curious.

43. Dare to live outside your comfort zone.

44. Develop and follow a lifelong growth plan.

45. Make people feel like they always matter.

46. Cultivate strong connections.

47. Help others win and be successful.

48. Value vulnerability in yourself and others.

49. Make mistakes powerful learning opportunities.

50. Purposefully leave a powerful leadership legacy.

Rebecca L. Saunders


  • “When you stack slices of Swiss cheese on top of each other, what happens to the holes? Have you thought you’re not supposed to do it all? That would be terrible for the rest of us if someone could just do it all.”
  • “Stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves and you’ll really enhance the culture around you.”
  • “Understand when you’re working with your team members and colleagues that they’re probably new in a role. Remember what that felt like. Stop the train and take time to coach.”


51. Establish your personal board of directors.

52. Lead with your strengths; allow your team to do the same.

53. Be present with (and embrace) discomfort.

54. Say only good things behind people’s backs.

55. Foster environments where diversity excels.

56. Block time to “just think” (no…the shower doesn’t count).

57. Do not allow an emergency response culture.

58. Be the leader you needed when you were younger.

59. Honor your future self now.

60. Never underestimate the impact one person can have on your life (or the impact you have on theirs).

Emily Pitts

“Stop tip-toeing around these difficult topics,” said Emily Pitts, principal of diversity and inclusion at Edward Jones, as she began her Women and Leadership talk.

Pitts has been in the financial industry for 33 years and as an African American woman, it wasn’t difficult for her to recognize that the industry isn’t historically diverse. Pitts’s drive and ability to overcome adversity was striking and admirable. Her passion for the finance space was tangible as she reflected on her time at Edward Jones.

Even still, she sees room for change.

In order to raise the company’s awareness on issues of diversity and inclusion, Pitts first had to open up about her past struggles within the workplace. Pitts shared with her boss the brutal incidents of racism that had affected her at work. Her unbelievable honesty and vulnerability created a launching pad into her diversity role.

Pitts wasn’t satisfied with just sharing her own experience. She wanted to change the face of the company.

She urged the company to discuss difficult topics that people are often “tip-toeing around,” such as how men and women interact in the workplace, how employees can be their authentic self, and the reality of visible and invisible barriers at work. Pitts believes that breaking into these difficult topics is the first step toward change.

However the conversation doesn’t stop there.

Pitts managed to create a cross-cultural development program. Edward Jones noticed that it was attracting diverse talent, but having trouble retaining employees. Pitts had the answer: With this new development program, Pitts gave anyone who may feel out of place a community.

This space created a system of mentoring and support that allows Edward Jones employees to face challenges together and work to improve the company from within. Pitts reminds us that “diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is being able to pick the music.”

Pitts wants to transform Edward Jones into a place of belonging. Emily Pitts displays incredible strength and resilience in her ability to take her personal struggles and translate them into change in workplace diversity and inclusion.

Jerry Steiner, EMBA

A St. Louis-based ag tech startup led by a WashU Olin alum has closed another round of financing as it moves toward the commercial launch of a new cash crop in 2021.

Jerry Steiner, EMBA ’92, is CEO of CoverCress, a post he’s held since January 2015, two years after the company was founded as Arvegenix. Steiner has 15 years’ experience previously with Monsanto.

CoverCress closed its latest $2 million round of funding November 14. Two prominent organizations co-led the funding round, Bayer Growth Ventures, the venture capital arm of Bayer and formerly Monsanto Growth Ventures; and BioGenerator, the investment arm of local nonprofit BioSTL. The round brings the company’s total funding to nearly $8 million, according to the St. Louis Business Journal (subscription required).

The company at the same time rebranded to CoverCress, reflecting its focus on developing a cash crop based on the native plant pennycress. According to the firm’s news release, “CoverCress is a new winter oilseed cash crop designed to provide winter and early spring soil cover between corn harvest and soybean planting, while producing an oilseed crop. CoverCress oil and protein meal are similar to that of canola.”

“Many farmers have told us that they want to do more to protect soil and water as well as find new sources of income from their land,” Steiner said in the release. “We are responding with CoverCress, a unique product to deliver both benefits to farmers.”