Next in a series of Olin Blog features on recent alumni.
Alexis Taub, BSBA ’15, worked in finance until the pandemic hit, and she pivoted into entrepreneurship, launching her own jewelry company and marketing her products to retail stores, designers and social influencers. Without that nudge, she might not have ever tested her entrepreneurial spirit.
What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?
Last year, I joined my mom’s jewelry manufacturing business, Madison 501, and started my own jewelry company, Alexis Jae Jewelry. At Madison 501, we manufacture fine jewelry for some of the nation’s largest retail stores, designers and social influencers.
Through Alexis Jae Jewelry, customers can purchase fine jewelry at up to 50% off traditional retail prices. My education at Olin exposed me to all aspects of a business. I learned everything from supply chain to marketing. Having a broad understanding of everything business is valuable every day. Whether speaking to our accountants or marketers, I can understand the concepts they are discussing because of the courses I took at Olin.
What Olin course, “defining moment” or faculty influenced your life most, and why?
The most influential course I took was Business in Israel. Over spring break, we visited many companies in Israel, from small start-ups to large intuitions. After that trip, I knew I would eventually start my own business.
How do you stay engaged with Olin or classmates and friends?
I made some of my closest friends in Olin, whom I speak to almost daily.
Why is business education important?
My favorite classes that I took were all in Olin. My Olin classes gave me the skills I needed for my first and subsequent jobs. I learned practical skills that I apply to everyday life.
What advice would you give current Olin students?
Use your time at Olin to figure out what excites you most. There are so many different types of classes and areas to explore. Go in with an open mind in terms of your career to figure out what you’re most passionate about.
Did the pandemic influence your thinking about global business or your career?
Up until the pandemic, I was working in finance. Since recreational activities were limited during the pandemic, I spent my free time working on Alexis Jae Jewelry. I grew Alexis Jae to the point that it was sustainable to do it full time. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I’m not sure I would have ever taken the time to start a side business while at my job, but I am so happy I did.
In this spotlight about recent alumni, you’ll meet Jordan and Ellen Federbush, who are both involved with their alumni community in Chicago after earning their BSBA degrees in 2016. Ellen works for venture capital firm Cleveland Avenue and serves an associate member of the WashU alumni board of governors. She’s also involved in the Alumni and Parents Admission Program. Jordan is an investment professional for The Pritzker Organization.
Tell us about your job and how Olin affected your career
Jordan Federbush: I am an investment professional for The Pritzker Organization, the family office for Tom Pritzker. I work on middle market private equity and venture capital investments across a variety of industries. My time at Olin taught me how to analyze the key strengths and weaknesses of a company, which is critical to evaluating an investment opportunity. The Olin network was also invaluable in helping me get my internship and first job in investment banking, which is where I learned the foundational skills that allowed me to move into private equity.
Ellen Federbush: I work at Cleveland Avenue, a venture capital firm that invests in food, beverage and technology companies. In my role, I focus on a wide variety of areas including investor relations, the Principal’s family office, and companywide strategic initiatives.
My time at Olin helped prepare me to confidently present and speak in front of a large audience, which has been crucial in all of my jobs since graduation.
Ellen Federbush, BSBA ’16
Additionally, working in teams on various cases throughout my time at Olin prepared me for the teamwork that has been required to complete many of the larger initiatives that I have worked on at Cleveland Avenue.
Did a particular course, “defining moment” or faculty member influence you?
Ellen Federbush: Mark Schlafly, a career coach at the Weston Career Center, was a very influential faculty member during my time at Olin. During my junior year, I was still trying to figure out exactly what type of job I was interested in after college. I studied finance, but knew I didn’t want to go into investment banking, which meant I had no idea what other job opportunities were out there for me.
When I went to speak with Mark, he spent time asking me questions to understand my strengths, weaknesses, the types of work I like to do, and also don’t like to do. Through this conversation, he was able to recommend that I consider a job in wealth management. I ended up recruiting for wealth management and worked at JP Morgan in the private bank as my first job out of college.
I think this was the perfect role for me as I was able to blend my passion for interacting with people along with my enthusiasm for analytics. Ultimately, my role at JPMorgan paved the way for me to find my current job at Cleveland Avenue.
How do you stay engaged with Olin and classmates/friends?
Jordan Federbush: I attend alumni events when they are hosted in Chicago. It also helps that my wife and I went to Olin together so we have a bunch of mutual friends that we see regularly in Chicago.
Ellen Federbush: I currently serve as an associate member of the Alumni Board of Governors (ABG) for WashU. Through ABG, I am able to visit campus twice a year and stay updated on the various initiatives in Olin and campuswide. Additionally, I make sure to attend all of the alumni events that are hosted in Chicago.
Why is business education important?
Jordan Federbush: I think business education prepares you for the professional world. How to collaborate with team members, frameworks for qualitative and quantitative analysis, problem solving, effective communication and presentation skills, among many others, are all skills that I learned and/or refined through my business education.
Ellen Federbush: In my opinion, studying business teaches you how to use critical thinking to solve problems big and small. Particularly, the various case competitions I participated in while at Olin allowed me to practice thinking about solutions to unstructured problems. This has been crucial for me in both of the jobs I have had after graduation as I often find myself working on tackling initiatives that don’t have a straightforward solution.
What advice would you give Olin students?
Jordan Federbush: Use your internships to try different things and figure out what you want to do. Not sure if you want to do corporate finance or investment banking? Do an internship in corporate finance sophomore year before trying investment banking in junior year.
People will often tell you there is a pre-defined path you have to follow to break into a particular industry, but if you work hard during your internship to make a good impression and build a network of advocates, you will be able to pivot into whatever you decide is the best next step.
Jordan Federbush, BSBA ’16
Ellen Federbush: I would highly recommend students find a way to study abroad. If you can’t go for a full semester, there are summer programs that can be a great option as well. It only gets more challenging to move to a country on the other side of the world as you get older, so take advantage of the opportunity. My semester abroad in London was my favorite semester of college because I was able to gain exposure to so many other cultures while traveling around Europe on the weekends. Meeting people from all different backgrounds allowed me to gain a more global perspective of the world, and I believe that this has helped me connect with people in the business world.
Has the pandemic influenced your business or career thinking?
Jordan Federbush: First, the pandemic provided increased flexibility and better balance in what is typically demanding industry. Finance is an industry where it’s possible to remain effective at many things while working remotely, and in general it feels as though the pandemic has made everyone a bit more understanding and respectful of commitments outside of work. While the ability to work in a hybrid environment is great, the pandemic has also made me realize the value of in-person interaction for relationship building. I previously did not appreciate the difference between an in-person meeting vs. a phone call or video conference as much, but I now see the importance of face-to-face interaction particularly when it comes to establishing and building relationships with new people.
Ellen Federbush: The pandemic showed me that the majority of my job can be done remotely if needed. This was very eye opening because it allowed my team to have meetings with people all across the country without the time commitment of flying to these various locations. I think that this has greatly improved our company’s efficiency because we can have a virtual first meeting with a potential partner to determine if it is worth the resources to have an in-person follow-up meeting. Sometimes in these initial calls, we are able to quickly learn that our businesses are not a match. This saves our team some unnecessary travel time that can be used to focus on other projects or allows people to spend extra time with their families.
A startup firm promoting clean bodily hydration, launched on campus by Daniel Schindler, has thrown its support and resources behind those with chronic illnesses with discounts and a new short video on the topic that premiered recently in Los Angeles.
“After talking to so many people living with chronic illnesses, we realized a huge problem: They feel invisible,” said Schindler, MBA ’19, CEO/co-founder of Buoy. “We wanted to do our part to support this community by making this video to spread awareness and show others what it’s truly like to live with a chronic illness.”
Schindler said the Buoy founding team was inspired to take on the project by customers who reached out with stories about their chronic illnesses—and how much Buoy had helped them.
“Because they make up such a big part of our customer base, we decided to devote all of our philanthropy and our first marketing campaign to these groups of people,” he said.
The company premiered the video on July 30, 2022, with a party at the Melrose Rooftop Theatre in Los Angeles. Producers filmed the nearly seven-minute film on 16 mm motion picture stock while highlighting the four TikTok creators spotlighting what it’s like to navigate life and high school with a chronic illness.
Buoy spotlights the issue on its website and offers those dealing with chronic illnesses a 35% lifetime discount on its products. For every bottle of Buoy’s products sold on its website, the company gives one back to someone who is living with a chronic illness.
“We’ve received an incredible response from everyone in the chronic illness community,” Schindler said.
Mary Kate Klump, WashU Olin marketing brand manager for in-person graduate programs, wrote this for the Olin Blog.
Of the 36 students graduating this year in the latest cohort of WashU Olin’s Executive MBA class, half of them reported career growth during the course of the program. That includes promotions and new positions while they fulfilled their studies.
The cohort represents 29 companies and includes business leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, scientists, veterans and physicians.
Four of those students participated recently in a panel discussion, sharing success stories about Olin’s EMBA program enhanced their leadership preparation and influenced their career path. The participants—all EMBA ’22—included Saqib Salman, senior vice president, Citibank; Nancy Wild, business strategy manager, Accenture; Lance Knuckles, deputy executive director, St. Louis Development Corporation; and Tom Jenkins, vice president of Department of Defense programs, Express Scripts.
Mary Houlihan, WashU Olin EMBA career coach, moderated the conversation, which focused on four key areas: ROI, work/life balance, leadership and elevated business acumen. Here are some highlights from their remarks.
“You have stories within those that their business actually grew because they applied some of the knowledge learned during the program,” Wild said. “That helped them elevate their business.”
Why did you enroll? What was your career path and how has it changed?
JENKINGS: His boss referred him to the program, and he saw it as a way to rebrand himself while working within a large company. During the program, he was promoted to vice president. A mix-up involving how much of his tuition would be covered turned into a happy accident for Jenkins. “It was the best mistake that happened to me. Had I known it was not fully paid for, I probably would not have joined the program, but after being in it, I recognized the value, recognized the changes making in me within my work and family life. It was such a tremendous journey that made the financial aspect all worth it.”
KNUCKLES: He thought of it as investment in himself. “The experience has brought some things into perspective that allow me to lead a team. I have the privilege of giving them new leadership and focus to do work into the future.”
WILD: She was an engineer by trade, but was looking to learn more about business and leadership. When she started the program, she was working in supply chain for Emerson, then transitioned to an operations and strategy manager before moving on to Accenture as a business strategy manager. “Without the knowledge I gained from the cohort and from the program itself, I don’t think I would have been able or eligible to apply for the roles that I applied for outside of Emerson and even within Emerson.”
What were your biggest concerns about this program? How did that play out?
SALMAN: He was concerned about time management. “It started becoming something that I was enjoying. I wanted to learn more, and I wanted to talk to these guys and see what they had in mind. You really do start immersing yourself in the whole program as soon as you put your foot in.”
KNUCKLES: He worried about being a “late bloomer” after finishing his undergrad in 2017, but realized his professional experience added value to not only him but his classmates. “I had a few challenges coming in, but they really turned into assets the moment I embraced the program. We all have challenges. It was a really exciting moment to take some challenging things and turn them into a positive.”
WILD: In contrast, she was concerned about being the youngest and not as “seasoned” as her classmates. She quickly realized her concern wasn’t an issue. Everyone is treated fairly and classmates are eager to learn from one another, no matter their age.
What are some experiences or learning you gained from the program?
SALMAN: He valued the residency in Washington, DC. “We met with so many people all from the Brookings Institution. It’s a phenomenal experience. You’re getting firsthand answers from somebody who’s actually responsible for policy. I felt like I had gone up a whole level, like a whole notch.”
JENKINS: It was the faculty and the network. “The faculty made themselves available for questions and emails and discussions whenever it was needed. That was tremendous. The visibility into networks that have a vast array of experiences was super enlightening. To hear about how Emerson might think about something. It was really fascinating to have those discussions with colleagues in a risk-free environment.”
WILD: She also valued faculty and admired the staff that made the program run. “We were supposed to start in April. We started in September. But all the decisions they were making with the information they had available to keep us safe, to also keep us learning and able to network, I honestly admire all the effort.”
KNUCKLES: He valued the executive coaching. “My coach challenged me every session. He understood that this program was about me telling my truth and being in places in spaces where African-American men traditionally aren’t able to lead. And so if I’m going to be in that space, I have to be my authentic self.”
What suggestions would you have if you could have a do-over?
WILD: She talked about school and family balance. “I have two young kids. I also have a highly demanding job. So, there is never a right time. If you really want to grow yourself as a leader and as a professional, that time comes when it’s time.”
JENKINS: He wished he would have done it earlier, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong for waiting. He liked that his older children could witness him in school. It set a good example.
KNUCKLES: He said learning goes beyond the classroom. “Knowing you’re willing to learn and that that learning may happen introspectively is the right time—not based on a date, or if you got the money. It’s about your willingness to be vulnerable and challenge yourself—and knowing that you won’t get through this program by yourself.”