Tag: Alumni

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 Jim Holbrook, EMBA ’96, adviser, Advantage Solutions: Sales Marketing, Technology 

Last spring, when Olin’s Executive MBA candidates traveled to Washington, DC, for a residency at the Brookings Institution, they had a special guest tag along. Jim Holbrook, who got his EMBA 23 years ago, accepted an invitation to participate in the residency —an option that didn’t exist when he graduated.

Olin opened the opportunity to EMBA alums so they could benefit from today’s experience, allowing them to participate for the cost of airfare.

“I got the invitation from Olin saying it was a four-day program focused on healthcare,” Holbrook said. “Literally, I responded in four seconds.”

For Holbrook, the experience was enlightening, to say the least. It’s given him an enriched outlook on how to provide more health benefits to employees, yet control costs—especially rising drug costs. While he calls his participation in the Brookings residency serendipitous, Holbrook is also an advocate of finding a self-curated way to take advantage of Olin’s programs and resources.

“I’ve gone back and done a guest lecture or two. And, along the way, I’ve kept in touch with some of my classmates, from an alumni standpoint, so my relationship with the school has continued. I also recommend joining the Eliot Society, which provides tremendous access.”

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 alumna Ye (Alex) Jin, MACC ’18, placed in the top six proposals from top universities and won the Best Innovations Award in the 2020 UBS China Wealth Management Business Case Challenge.

Jin’s win was announced on July 1 in a virtual awards recognition ceremony. Her proposal was one of more than 200 submissions.

The UBS China Wealth and Asset Management organization housed in China brought together students from top global universities throughout the world and encouraged them to tackle one of two proposed problems. Jin placed in the top three of her chosen problem:

“Suppose you’re a client advisor in the UBS wealth management team. How would you manage your client’s USD 2 million assets based on medium- and long-term investment objectives?”

Throughout the online competition, Jin learned to use UBS’s framework to create a financial profile for her theoretical client, reflecting on the particularities of the wealth management industry in China and experiencing a global perspective for wealth allocation. Jin had two weeks to create and present her solution.

Jin knew competing in this challenge would give her an experience she couldn’t get elsewhere. While she had a strong background in global marketing and accounting, this gave her the opportunity to see the Chinese markets first-hand.

“It was a great learning opportunity,” Jin reflected. “It pushed me to learn more about career options in this field, and it showed me the bright future of the wealth management industry in China.”

Jin credits her focus on visualization, details, innovation and feasibility for her win—from presenting within the brand guidelines UBS would use with a traditional client to fully considering risk levels and objectives.

Olin values this opportunity for our students and young alum to study China’s market from a unique view of UBS, which is a key player in the wealth management industry. WashU and Olin has dedicated resources to bridge students/alumni with global learning and career development opportunities. We welcome and look forward to continuing working with UBS and other top firms in China.

WashU alumni Noah Offenkrantz (LA ’20) and Ben Green (BSBA ’20), pictured above, recently launched Find Your Farmer, an online marketplace allowing consumers to order fresh produce, meats and cheese from local farmers.

While at Wash U, the CEO of our organization, Noah Offenkrantz, took several courses that analyzed the industrial agricultural system. Noah’s experience with the agricultural system transcended the classroom.

During an internship experience at a local STL nonprofit, Noah learned about issues of food access while managing a community garden. During his tenure abroad in India, Noah worked on a farm while studying the impact of the Green Revolution on a small, rural village. These experiences bolstered a notion that was introduced by his teachers and furthered by his observations of the world.

This notion, the one that inspired FYF, goes like this: our agricultural system is broken. Grocery stores are stocked with artificially colored, synthetically ripened vegetables that travel thousands of miles and touch countless hands before ending up on crowded shelves. We have no idea where this food comes from or how it was raised but we add it to our cart because it’s cheaper. Cheaper in nutrients and cheaper in taste. The answer to these problems is simple. Find your farmer. Find out who they are and what they grow. We wanted to give people an easy outlet to do just that.

We plan to start off in St. Louis to understand how the market works and what people want out of a service like ours, and then move into other cities throughout the United States, employing the lessons we learn along the way. 

Our team consists of five Washington University students and one Washington University professor (our mentor). At WashU, Noah was in the College of Arts & Sciences and studied Global Health and Environment, while Ben was in the Olin Business School and studied Finance and Accounting. The rest of our team members are Anish Naik, who studied Computer Science; Spencer Stewart, who studied Political Science; Francis Serrano, who studied biology and Peter Boumgarden, who has experience in strategic management and serves as the director of the Center for Experiential Learning. 

Our company has taken Olin’s pillars of excellence into great consideration. We are a values-based company that strives to foster community, protect the planet and promote the health and wellbeing of our clients. Our pro-social mission—to create a world where every person knows their farmer by name and story—is an extension of the Olin philosophy. As we learned at Wash U, every company has an ethical obligation to the planet and society. FYF intends to consider this obligation at every stop along our journey. And this isn’t the only Olin teaching that we apply in our business philosophy.

FYF is a data-driven company.

We use data to show people how their purchases can impact themselves and the world around them. In addition, we leverage experimental testing to develop and adapt an ideal user experience. 

FYF is globally oriented.

We analyze best practices from many different services and offer a variety of features to ensure that our service meets the demands of our target population. 

FYF is experiential.

We strive to offer people a better idea of our farmers’ practices and motivations by providing videos and interviews that provoke customer engagement. In addition, we are committed to developing strong, personal relationships with our partnering farms. 

FYF is entrepreneurial.

We studied trends and took advantage of a perceived opportunity. For example, we noticed that COVID has pushed more and more people to shop online. The disease also demonstrated to farmers the vulnerability of wholesale revenue streams.

Our goal is to leverage the lessons that we learned through our academic studies to create a service that supports local farmers, builds farmer-consumer relationships, provides individuals with healthier, tastier food products and cuts down on carbon emissions. Every order made through our platform serves to further these goals.

Check us out at www.find-your-farmer.com.

Lauren Herring

People who lost their jobs during the pandemic and are looking for work might find this new book helpful: “Take Control of Your Job Search! 10 Emotions You Must Master to Land the Job” (Simply Good Press, July 2020).

A successful job search is about much more than a resume, says author Lauren Herring, MBA ’07. It’s an emotional process, and how you manage your feelings will influence your search, she says.

Herring is the CEO of IMPACT Group, a global career development company. In her book, she examines 10 emotions that affect job seekers and provides guidance on how to master them for clarity and control.

“The emotional toll of joblessness has probably never been higher as our career and financial concerns are now combined with life-and-death health concerns,” said Herring, who lives in St. Louis. With increased unemployment, competition for jobs “creates tremendous fear for people.”

“Since so many people don’t have the luxury of working one-on-one with a career coach, I decided to write this book,” she said.

The book is in three parts: Emotions of loss, which are grief/sadness, anger and fear; emotions that paralyze, which are denial, frustration, anxiety and loneliness; and emotions that move you forward, which are self-compassion, confidence and excitement.

Network, network, network

The best way to land a job is through networking, Herring pointed out. Leveraging your network will also help minimize one of the primary sources of frustration in a job search, which is applying online and not hearing anything back.

“Spending 40 hours a week searching the job boards is counter-productive in a job search. It’s not particularly effective, and it can lead to loneliness and increase anxiety.”

Herring says that to reduce anxiety about networking, think of it as “reconnecting” with old friends or colleagues. Because of social distancing, some people may feel limited in their ability to network.

“But it’s really nothing more than reaching out in an authentic manner to let people know your job search goals and also to offer help with anything they might need as well.”

Create a ‘Super Team’

Herring says it’s critical to have a network of support while searching for a job. She suggests creating a “Super Team” much like a personal board of advisers.

“You’ll want professional contacts who know your industry or field, as well as leaders you respect who can share their perspective on your approach to the market, give feedback on your resume and even help you with mock interviews,” she said.

You’ll also want friends or family or possibly a faith leader who can help lift your spirits when you’re down and remind you of all your great qualities, she says.

“Now more than ever, having the confidence to stand out, be proactive in your search and connect with your network through nontraditional means, such as Zoom, will deliver results.”

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 Onyi Oradiegwu, BSBME ’15/MBA ’15, consultant, Boston Consulting Group

While working as an internal auditor and process consultant at Owens Corning’s fiberglass plant in Tennessee, Onyi Oradiegwu decided she wanted to make the jump to management consulting. She connected with Olin for help during her case interview preparation process. The coaching and advice she received through Olin were integral to her interview preparation—and to receiving an offer from Boston Consulting Group.

“With each practice session, I grew more comfortable with my behavioral and case interview skills and more sure of my genuine interest in working as a management consultant,” she said. “Practice matters.”

Oradiegwu especially enjoyed being able to schedule time online with career advisers, the use of resume tools and access to a bank of prep materials. “I feel like I can rely on WashU and Olin for the rest of my life for support if I ever do look for another job,” she said. “I’m glad I was able to tap into those resources because it really did make a difference in my job interview.”

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

Jeff Gibson, MBA

Jeff Gibson saw 200,000 service members transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce each year—and he saw an opportunity. Leveraging his own 10 years as a Navy SEAL, 15 years as a government recruiting contractor—and a hefty dose of artificial intelligence technology—the WashU Olin alumnus is streamlining the way veterans match their skills with employers.

Gibson—who received his WashU MBA in 2002 and cofounded the Olin Veterans Association—is one of the entrepreneurs behind Oplign, an online recruiting site that helps vets find prospective opportunities with a few mouse clicks based on regimented data associated with their military training and work assignments.

The company also helps clients such as Verizon—which Gibson says gets 500 applications each day from veterans—sift through the prospects to find candidates who truly match the qualifications for their various openings.

“They have no way of sorting through those in a reasonable manner,” Gibson said. He said their director of military hiring works with 20 recruiters, but they can’t see everybody. “It’s a way for them to improve their applicant experience. They can say why candidates are not qualified— or what they are qualified for.”

Gibson credits his time at Olin for opening the path for where he is today. “Olin led me to one step, which led me to another, which led me to another,
charting his path from the military to a Fortune 500 employer and then back to applying his skills as an entrepreneur focused on hiring vets.

Supply and demand for hiring

On the applicant side, Oplign (“opportunities align”) simplifies the process by inviting job seekers to walk through a few simple screens to enter their service information. For example, with a handful of clicks, a vet can indicate they served eight years in the Marines, achieving the rank of E5, with a “military occupation code” indicating logistics experience.

A few more clicks can highlight a service member’s security clearance, special training opportunities and other pertinent experience. Behind the scenes, Oplign uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to translate that vet’s military experience into the language of civilian employers—highlighting the skills and experience relevant to recruiters. In 60 seconds, the applicant is done. Job openings matching the vet’s skills appear on the screen.

“There are really only about 30 things the labor market thinks are important for accounting,” Gibson said. Meanwhile, Oplign’s algorithm identifies about 15 skills and experiences employers value when looking at HVAC technicians.

On the recruiting side, Oplign scrapes websites for job opportunities—and directly links to client sites such as Verizon, American Electric Power in the Ohio River Basin, Pike Electric, aviation companies such as MAG Aerospace and a small number of government contractors. That’s where Oplign generates its revenue.

“Companies can see instantly whether candidates are qualified,” he said.

Ready to break out in the industry?

Gibson said military hiring represents a $1 billion market—one Oplign is only beginning to tap. In its third year of operation, Gibson and his cofounders have bootstrapped the company, which has $1 million in annual revenue. “The first year, we were proving the tech. The second year, we started getting customers. The third year, we feel we’re about ready to break out,” Gibson said. “We just picked up some pretty big customers who like what we’re doing.”

The focus on military hiring derives from the experience of Gibson and his cofounders, all veterans. After serving as in Navy, he worked three years at 3M and felt the call to return to more direct work with the military after 9/11. He worked for a recruiting firm, fulfilling federal government hiring contracts by filling roles for agencies such as the Department of Defense, State Department, Drug Enforcement Agency and the CIA.

“The military hiring market is a good place for us to prove our system,” he said. “A military resume is even more confusing than a regular resume with all the acronyms.”

And while the resume is the currency job seekers barter for opportunities, Gibson sees it as a barrier his firm’s technology can sweep away.

“We’re trying to get rid of the resume. You spend so much time trying to put the right information there, tailoring it to each job—and leaving out so many other skills,” he said. “We pull information from the individual. We help them build their own online resume—one that’s important to the labor market, not one that they think is important.”

Pictured above: Jeff Gibson, MBA ’02, with his wife, Karen.