Tag: business school guidance

Almost every role in a team setting can be enriched by the kinds of learning gained from an MBA degree. Leadership positions and MBA training go hand in hand. In fact, 84% of MBA degree holders report that their MBA leadership skills have helped them achieve their professional goals.

Do your homework, and you’ll find that major firms and hiring companies adore identifying candidates with MBAs. Consulting firms like McKinsey and Bain are some of the biggest MBA employers because they know how the benefits of an MBA degree show up in their workplace.

Which leadership roles can MBA skills prepare you for?

The benefits of an MBA degree are wide-ranging and far-reaching enough that almost any leadership role will be improved by a degree holder’s knowledge. But there are some specific roles that are especially enhanced by MBA leadership skills.

The first to note is right at the top of the ladder. C-suite members—from CEOs to CMOs and CIOs—are the ones making final decisions and leading the team from the top. They’re the people who must see the forest from the trees, and many companies actually insist on an MBA degree when they vet potential C-suite candidates.

Other leadership positions that an MBA degree can open up include those in human resources. An MBA helps you to develop the skills for people-based strategy and communication, a perfect cocktail for an HR role. A great additional route for MBA holders is financial analysis. The foundational and context-driven financial skills that come with an MBA provide a great grounding for a financial career, and many companies seek MBA graduates to become their decision-makers.

The roles in which MBA graduates soar are roles of leadership—whether that’s brand leadership, data analytics, financial analysis, or chief of staff.

How does MBA skills development lend itself to leadership?

The skill sets and experiences gained during MBA coursework prepare leaders for the responsibilities inherent in today’s leadership roles. Some of the features of an MBA program that allow future leaders to tap into its benefits are:

A team setting

In MBA learning, degree candidates work within a team. This team-based setting uniquely prepares them to enter corporate life, where responsibility and collaboration are the bread and butter of daily success.

Olin’s program is intimate and global in scope. Students get to know their cohorts and professors, much like members of a corporate team. They help one another after they leave Olin’s walls. The team environment is a precursor to a business setting and helps students learn how to apply their expertise in real situations.

Global immersion

The international focus on an MBA empowers individuals to witness and understand global leadership trends in business and to collect a diverse set of experiences on the ground of business environments. This understanding gives people the ability to face business challenges.

Olin’s global immersion program provides globally focused courses and chances to work with international companies. From here, students come to understand how culture impacts success. They learn how to work within a team of people from different backgrounds and connect deeply with a cohort of like-minded but vastly different candidates who can enrich their professional careers.

A mind for evolution

The challenges of today’s business world cannot be kept at bay, even in an MBA program. Students must learn how to combat challenges and how to pivot and adapt to opportunities as they arise. The adaptability learned in an MBA program can prepare an individual to meet the future of business leadership.

The MBA is not a set of lectures delivered in a vacuum; students are connected to real-world problems and trends so that they can learn how to overcome them. This is also why so many students come to an MBA from other careers, to make a change in their lives and refocus on their development.

When exploring the different types of MBA specialization, you may be asking, “What type of MBA is right for me?” Well, knowing how MBA program features line up with future employment opportunities can help. How will the MBA help you in developing your skills? Which future leadership positions could it unlock for you?

Reach out to Olin’s admissions team by emailing OlinGradAdmissions@wustl.edu or calling 314-935-7301 to find the answers to your questions.

Society informs us that we should be able to become a business owner by ourselves, by studying YouTube videos and learning from the “school of life.” But while there are more learning resources available to us than ever before thanks to digital media, a program of study can still provide an exceptional launchpad for pursuing business and career goals.

So what can entrepreneurs actually gain from earning an MBA degree? How can an MBA help an entrepreneur build the best business they can?

How MBA programs aid aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs

Is an MBA worth it for entrepreneurs? This is a question we often face at Olin Business School. People who are creating businesses from scratch will wonder if they’re better off learning on the job or whether an MBA could offer their business a kick start.

First of all, an MBA degree can give aspiring leaders a mindset for business. Growing a company is more than an occupation, and Olin lives and breathes entrepreneurial spirit. The MBA isn’t just about learning how to solve a problem; it’s about examining the problem inside out, learning to love it and finding fulfillment in the solving of it.

Working on a startup idea while earning an MBA is an amazing combination. It gives you access to a willing alumni network to help, troubleshoot and crowdsource. It takes a village to raise a business, and you have a much better chance of finding a cofounder when you are surrounded by others with similar interests and who are in the same stage of their careers.

Does an MBA help you start a business? Absolutely. It all starts with developing a mindset. After that, the resources and tools we can give you as you build your entrepreneurial life are second to none.

What specific features of the Olin MBA can help entrepreneurs?

Olin’s MBA program is tuned into entrepreneurship and many of our features are purpose-built to help students form startups, not just learn about them. Here are a few noteworthy characteristics:

Famous for Hatchery

Olin has an entrepreneurship platform built purposefully to give students experiences of pitching venture capital, founding a company and getting ideas out onto the international stage. Students in Hatchery can work with experienced entrepreneurs to evolve a business plan, form a startup, and present their ventures to investors and venture capital experts. Since the Hatchery course was founded, the companies launched inside its incubator walls have raised a combined $87 million.

An eye for innovation

Olin itself is an environment that rewards and seeks innovation. Entrepreneurs will find that there are multiple courses in which you can workshop your own ideas. Take ideas further and you can enter pre-seed venture capital funds and competitions focused on student ideas. Olin’s BIG IdeaBounce® is one such opportunity—an elevator-pitch contest open to all WashU students. The Arch Grants is another competition that students regularly participate in, this time for a business plan. The winners receive $75,000 in startup grants to get their ideas off the ground.

A global edge

While the regional environment gives students plenty to get involved in, other opportunities draw them further afield to gain international business experience. Olin’s Venture Consulting in Israel and Berlin elective, for example, brings students the experience of startup consulting through a global lens. Through the CEL Entrepreneurial Consulting Team course, students can spend a semester working with early-stage startups in St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, and various international locations.

Local power

The entrepreneurial spirit of Olin is immersive. St. Louis is a highly entrepreneurial environment, and students of the MBA program can benefit from Olin’s connections beyond the classroom. Local entrepreneurs and executives are involved in many of our courses. Our Center for Experiential Learning is designed with this kind of on-the-ground mentorship in mind. Students can study consulting courses that take you inside an entrepreneurial venture and connect to innovation communities such as Cortex and T-REX, which are dedicated to powering local startups.

Our courses at Olin—from Venture Capital Methods to Acquisition Entrepreneurship to Managing the Innovation Process—show how invested and excited we are by the entrepreneurial world. You may think that as an entrepreneur, you need to “go it alone.” You do not. In a supported program full of opportunities to gain real-world experience, you could find a solid foothold for the next step of your career.

Generic representation of data usage displaying on a laptop computer with a hand manipulating it.

As a society driven by information, the data available for us to collect has amassed at breakneck speeds. More data is within our reach to analyze than ever before, and organizations have to learn to collect and analyze much more data than they have previously. Informed leaders of organizations are learning to value data to make data-driven decisions for their customers, clients or students.

In previous generations, managers led employees by gut instinct and industry wisdom. A lot can be said for the value of this approach, but with the analysis of data, industry leaders are realizing the benefits of data-driven decision-making instead of ruling by gut and wisdom alone.

Becoming data-driven as an organization takes a bit of elbow grease. While you can start by running a few reports and using those to educate your decisions, you’ll need to fold the idea of data-driven decision-making into your business to receive the full benefits. As the strategic IT advisor for InterVision Jeffrey Ton put it, “Strong data governance, data literacy throughout the entire organization, an understanding of your biases and your willingness to shift your culture create the pillars of a data-driven organization.”

Industry exemplars leading by example

Leading your business through any transformation can come with growing pains. The shift in culture doesn’t always come easily, and, with so much information, you can be overwhelmed just wondering where to begin. The first bump in the road often comes from getting leadership on board, as any decision can lead to a large financial endeavor to purchase equipment, train employees, etc. Once leaders get on board, they must recruit their employees to understand data-driven decision-making and begin speaking its common language.

United Parcel Service stands out as a prime example of a company that relies heavily on data-driven decisions. On a typical day, UPS handles 25.2 million packages. Their interactive bot can answer customer requests and take steps to respond to them, and their ORION system creates optimal routes for deliveries. If weather, accidents or other factors alter the best route, ORION alerts everyone involved, from air traffic controllers to drivers. 

An example more local to Olin’s community is Schnucks, the St. Louis grocery chain where 1.4 million shoppers have a loyalty ID. That allows Schnucks to analyze customer shopping habits. This data then governs what kind of customized promotions they send customers.

Olin’s data-driven decision-making is a central focus for students

Since its introduction, Olin’s Values-Based, Data-Driven Decision-Making course has become one of our most successful. The core idea is that future leaders will always need to consider the values of their company, what’s best for their employees and what the data indicates is best to find their answers.

As a modern leader, you’ll have to find the balance between making decisions that best support stakeholders, society, the community your business operates in, your employees and more. This course assists students in learning how to evaluate values and data so they can become successful leaders who make decisions that address everyone depending on them.

The faculty at Olin Business School demonstrated the principles of data-driven decision-making at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, on April 27, 2022. Six faculty members created a predictive system that uses machine learning to advise pharmaceutical distributors about potentially misdirected opioid orders using data provided and maintained by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

With the data from this highly-accurate prediction tool, the Olin Brookings Commission designed 14 policy recommendations that would allow near-real-time detection of opioid shipments being diverted through supply-chain blind spots. The faculty, who demonstrated leadership in a global environment, hope to continue to improve the AI-powered detection system to even flag nonprescription opioid shipments and save even more lives from overdose with the help of the DEA.

The techniques of leaders have largely remained the same in recent decades. But with the advent of technology capable of processing data that can deliver in-depth insights about customers, employees and company partners, new studies show the majority of leadership and employee interactions are projected to be powered by data by 2025. If you’re ready to be a leader who can embrace the new changes in technology and leverage them to the benefit of your employees, then an MBA might be the perfect stepping stone for you.

Anjan Thakor uses a lightboard to reinforce his lecture points as he conducts an online course.

What makes a great MBA program? Famous faculty? Dynamic students? A state-of-the-art library of learning resources? When students are figuring out what to look for in an MBA program, they need a mixture of qualities and features that will signal that they’ve uncovered a great, high-quality online experience.

At Olin Business School, we’ve discovered a lot about what makes a successful program. It boils down to a handful of key elements. These elements encompass great faculty, great students, great support and great technology. Each of these elements feeds back to the others. A diverse group of students enriches the faculty’s teaching and draws world-class educators to the campus. A great support team aids the digital surface of an online program. And so on.


Are you wondering how to choose an online MBA program? When sifting through online MBA program requirements, there are a few key elements to look out for. These elements contribute to a student’s experience of an MBA and combine to boost the overall value of this kind of learning.

P is for Personal

A great online program connects a student to the faculty. Faculty members are so present and involved in the student’s ideas that they feel like friends by the end of the program. An MBA that uses video regularly to film faculty and connect cohorts together will succeed in making their program more immersive and social.

R is for Rich

In a dynamic program, students aren’t sitting in front of their screens hour after hour, watching PowerPoint presentations and screencasts. The ideal program will give you a variety of media and interactions to experience. You will meet a variety of faculty members and practitioners, and you will complete a variety of challenging tasks. This is the foundation of a rich experience.

I is for Interactive

Learning business is not a spectator sport. You may be sitting in your bedroom or your study, but you will actively be engaging with course materials and interacting with fellow students, faculty, quizzes and discussions. A complete range of interactive learning methods and modules helps students engage thoughtfully with their own ideas.

N is for Networking

A great program helps a student build a working network of friends, mentors and collaborators—people who will support and join that student’s business ventures into the future. In an online MBA, students work in groups with people who come from a very broad geographical and cultural reach, establishing this diverse mix of friends and helpers.

C is for Communication

Communication is a vital element of any program but especially an online one. From live Zoom sessions to lectures to time for questions, an online MBA needs to carefully bring together spontaneous, “in the room” discussions and give students an opportunity to think and respond with their best ideas.

E is for Engagement

Engagement is what should naturally follow from all of the above elements. Get communication, networking, interactivity, rich variety and personalization in place, and the MBA program can’t help but entice and engage its students.

Two more points to add

There are two further points we can add to really drive home our MBA’s effectiveness and turn this PRINCE into a PRINCESS:

S is for Smart

In today’s world, “smart” no longer refers to aptness; to succeed in the world of business requires an education in data and digital technology. A smart MBA uses the power of data and digital tools to make the program more intuitive and engaging. Technology allows faculty to check in on students who haven’t used the platform or haven’t been engaged, and it allows them to ask how they can help in a personalized and direct way.

S is for Simple

The final letter of our model refers to the simplicity it takes to make a learning program clear and easy to use, while still challenging students academically and professionally. We aim for our technology and materials to provide clear water through which our students can learn to swim.

Are online MBA programs credible? Absolutely. An online MBA is a different animal from an in-person, on-campus program, even though it will be based on the same foundational courses and components. A great online program needs to be dedicated to making a continued, significant investment in a center of digital education. Done correctly, online learning provides an engaging, supportive education while breaking down the traditional barriers that have held back our education system for so long. And that’s where Olin shines.


When you’re leading a modern organization, you’re not just expected to focus on profits. More and more, purpose is playing a huge role in corporate navigation. This is why investing in leadership development that’s built on future-forward principles—including values-based, data-driven decision-making—has become a critical must-have for anyone seeking an MBA.

The benefits of creating a purpose-driven organization are becoming clearer by the day. Leaders who fold a sense of value into everything they do can enhance employee engagement, increase innovation and drive revenue. It’s a matter of being able to combine System 1 and System 2 thinking, something that takes practice and attention but can achieve huge successes.

If you’re unfamiliar with System 1 and System 2 thinking, they represent each side of the values-based, data-driven decision-making concept. System 1 thinking is gut-driven, whereas System 2 thinking is evidence-based and analytic. Many leaders end up leaning toward System 1 thinking, and that’s not a bad thing. Someone who’s been in the trenches for 30 years should have a good nose for the right solutions. However, new and seasoned leaders can both benefit from using System 2 thinking to back up their knee-jerk System 1 instincts.

When you’ve been trained in values-based, data-driven decision-making, you learn how to effectively merge the best-of-best properties of System 1 and System 2 thinking styles. For instance, a values-based, data-driven leader knows that leadership isn’t about mindlessly going with the algorithms, although those algorithms are critical, and that going with what they think is right might not turn out to be right for everyone.

The leader understands how to couple objective information with the values of the organization and its people—as well as the community and the customers it serves. This means that the data might support the decision you want to make and just reaffirms your gut instinct or the data might contradict the decision you think is best—leading you to do some more digging for a better solution.

Leaders who exemplify the future of leadership development

There are a few notable leaders around who are able to see the big picture through a values-based, data-driven leadership view. Marc Benioff at Salesforce leverages his Silicon Valley roots in that he’s tech-savvy and attentive to evidence. He’s outspoken about social issues, community causes and more. So he exhibits a holistic understanding of how to lead with thoughtfulness and integrity.

Another leader who has combined values and data for decades is Warren Buffet. Though his charitable side may seem to sit separately from his business side, they combine well to give him a high degree of authority, trust and respect.

Traditional MBA programs didn’t put a high degree of emphasis on delivering values-based, data-driven leadership classes in the past. Now, an MBA program must focus on cultivating this type of leadership in order to best prepare students to be successful leaders. At WashU Olin Business School, students can expect that we will focus on guiding students in the interplay and integration of combining values and evidence through their MBA courses to prepare them to be leaders ready for the future of business management.

What a values-based, data-driven MBA looks like

What does all this mean in concrete terms? At the Center for Analytics and Business Insights, we work with about five companies that come to us with problems containing strong data components they’re trying to solve, like pricing product lines or managing supply chains. Our student teams head up these projects and analyze the data to find solutions. Historically, this has resulted in ecstatic companies and students walking away with real experience solving problems that they might face as leaders of their own organizations.

Sometimes a problem will need a more values-based solution backed by data. For example, we ask students if the solution could somehow be guided by a bigger purpose, such as making the company a better corporate citizen. This makes sure our MBA cohort can experiment with solving leadership issues using ethics or values as well as data.

Last year, Olin’s MBA students worked with Schnucks, a local grocery chain. Schnucks wanted to better serve its customers who shopped at stores that were economically disadvantaged. Students kept this corporate citizenship angle in mind as they poured over data related to food stamps versus other payment options.

This year, our students will work with Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated. RGA is working on the Longevity Research Program with Olin that has the potential to be able to predict COVID deaths or deaths related to other illnesses. This program focuses on research that can help predict the morbidity of patients with life-shortening diseases. Their goal is to help improve disease prognosis and prevent the disease entirely.

While projects that students can participate in may look at different companies’ efforts, each provides a unique take on values-based, data-driven decision-making. Our hope is to expand the horizons of our students so that they can see there isn’t just one way to look at values and data.

Future-forward leaders: Doing what’s right and responsible

Leaders today and tomorrow are going to be expected to wear a “values hat.” They’ll need to have a keen understanding of the relationship between data and values, and they’ll be expected to make important decisions with confidence. That’s not a small feat but it’s a doable one for MBA program graduates who’ve been trained on techniques like System 1 and System 2 thinking.

So why invest in leadership development at Olin? Values and data are part of our school’s nerve center. It gives our students the chance to dive into exciting research that may have far-reaching consequences. If you’d like to be a future leader and you’re ready to learn from dedicated faculty, you’re in the right place.

Pictured above: Olin’s Seethu Seetharaman leads the first morning in a two-day workshop focused on “values-based, data-driven decision-making” for board members of the Center for Analytics and Business Insights.