Tag: business school

Students in EMBA Class 47 spent their Leadership Residency week in St. Louis meeting with top execs in different fields to discuss current business issues across a wide range of topics.  Human resources was the topic of a panel discussion that included guests from leading companies. Vikki Schiff, Vice President of Human Resources for Ball Aerospace & Technologies, Carra Simmons, Vice President of Learning and Development at State Farm, Ray Kleeman, Vice President of Human Resources at Monsanto, and Wendy Livingston, Vice President of Talent & Leadership at Boeing participated in the evening dialogue, sharing their extensive knowledge of HR with the EMBA 47 cohort.

Wendy Livingston answers a student question as part of the EMBA Leadership Development Panel.

Wendy Livingston answers a student question as part of the EMBA Leadership Development Panel.

The panel was convened to bring real world solutions into the academic setting, and the student questions reflected the students’ immediate learning. One student posed the question based on an earlier classroom discussion, “How do we acquire and keep talent when the talent pool is shrinking?”

Livingston answered, “Be O.K. with people leaving, but on good enough terms that they want to come back later.”

Students also wanted to know to what these executives attribute their personal growth.

Carra Simmons

Carra Simmons

Simmons said, “throw me in a snake pit!” She believes that learning how to problem-solve has made the most impact on her personal growth.

Ray Kleeman

Ray Kleeman

Kleeman replied, “take a risk and bet on yourself, have a good network, and know your worth on the market.”

Livingston’s comments included “never saying no to a job. This makes people you work with very grateful. Know your worth. Know the business.” Then she commented on when mentoring, male mentors will talk about business and female mentors will talk about being aggressive or pursuing dreams. “I can watch TED talks for that!”

Vikki Schiff

Vikki Schiff

Some companies are using data analytics to determine potential leaders internally. Others are utilizing new self and departmental evaluations. Once a potential leader is determined, each company has its own method for developing their leaders, and these methods are continually being updated and challenged as the workforce changes.

Olin is grateful for friends like these who are willing to share their time and expertise to further our mission to create knowledge, inspire individuals, and transform business.


There are millions of students across the country investing in college tuition to better prepare them for the future. I think it is time to dive into the question of what that future is and what students want to do in it.

A lot of people go through college for different reasons. Of all the reasons, perhaps the most common among students across the country is to help find a job. Naturally, the next question is, what type of job?

There are many paths you can take, and of course there is no better or worse, but I’d argue that you want to allocate your time in hopes of learning. As Justin Kan calls it, “optimize for learning.”

And this is the perfect time do to this. To “hustle” and put yourself in an environment where you can accelerate growth super quickly. This time frame (5–8 years) is not about making money ; rather, it is the best opportunity to learn about the world and about yourself. (Gary Vaynerchuk does a great job of demonstrating the urgency in this time period.)

As a recent post-grad, you have a few competitive advantages that may keep you alive in the highly competitive workplace.

1. A network

If you did college right, you likely have a network there to support you. Perhaps the most valuable asset you gain as a student is the resource of alumni connections and classmates. Use those to your advantage.

2. Energy and passion

Another advantage you have is incredible inflow of energy. You can stay up longer hours and sleep less at night. You can survive on your friend’s couch and afford to eat cheap.

3. Intrinsic motivation

Perhaps the biggest advantage, though, is that you are willing to learn. Why? Because you have the least to lose. And that, in itself, is a huge opportunity for you to excel.

Be different and you will find yourself in an opportunity to grow.

Now,  this is not to say you should go out and quit your day job to go “learn.” Money is important and will help you in going far. But  try to put yourself in a situation where you can get the most out of learning. This applies not only to post-grad jobs, but also to internships and random gigs. Optimize for learning.

This post was originally featured on Medium and was republished with permission from the author.

Last week marked exactly two years since I graduated from Olin. Time flies! On my way back home from work today, I reflected back a little — on things I have done in the past couple years, my achievements & failures, but more importantly, on how my perspectives have matured since business school. Two years ago, I was pretty much an anxious business school grad armed with a top MBA, raring to hit the marketplace after a two-year break from full-time work, ready yet again to change the world. And then reality hit.

I always thought things like decision making, writing emails, doing great work, etc., came naturally to me. Well, not really. Fast forward two years, and I have “unlearned” some old stuff and learned some new things. Here are a few:

Everybody wants to be the boss, but nobody wants to make decisions

via Unsplash.com

via Unsplash.com

I once asked my mentor (a C-level exec in a Fortune 500 company ) about decision making.

 “When you approved that multi-million dollar deal, how did you know its the right one? What if we lost money?”

He said :

“I made some assumptions, and analyzed some scenarios, and all looks good. However, if for whatever reason this deal isn’t profitable, I will have to take the blame. There is risk associated with decision-making, and you have to learn to live with it.”

In short, you don’t know what you don’t know and that’s okay. The key is to make reasonable assumptions, decide and move forward. Your colleagues will really appreciate your ability to provide direction during times of uncertainty. It’s crazy just how many people will avoid making decisions when faced with a risky proposition. Decision making is not everybody’s cup of tea.

If you are a new recruit or a fresh business school grad entering the marketplace, the ability to make a decision based on logic can do a world of good to you. Don’t wait for your boss to provide the next steps and decide things for you. Instead, do your thing, make reasonable assumptions, and let him or her know what your next steps would be. Guess what you just did? You made your boss’s work day easier, and he or she has one less decision to make. Trust me on this one: decision-making doesn’t come easy — even to the most seasoned of practitioners.

Instant gratification is the bane of our existence — and of organizations, too

We all know it. Most of us are addicted to instantly gratifying experiences. We upload photos on the internet and desperately wait for people to like, comment, and talk about it. No matter how pressing the matter at hand may be, a chat notification on our iPhones instantly grabs our attention. We binge watch TV shows because we want to know it all right NOW — and frankly, the ecosystem around us is designed such that we crave instant satiety. Same with companies and organizations.

Most companies are focused on the short term. While they might say big things about innovation being their lifeblood, the reality is something else. Employees in such companies are constantly busy creating short-term road maps to address immediate sales challenges and meet Wall Street expectations. They keep the hard work for later or never.

The reason why there are very few companies as successful as Google and Amazon is simple. While most companies work to pull short-term levers to make the quarter, Google and Amazon are working on these big, hard problems that pretty much have no upside in the short term. They manage investor expectations right from the start and hence, encourage long-term shareholding patterns.

Amazon was not profitable per Wall Street metrics for years, but today it’s one of the most profitable companies on the block and continues to grow. What Amazon did really well was it evaded the instant gratification trap and managed investor expectations. They were thinking hard about where the puck is going to be, as Gretzky once famously said

Again, same applies to managers: If faced with a short term assignment/project, always question the long-term strategic importance of the task. Think it through, and have the hard conversations early. Not many people can do it,  but it could really set you apart in an organization.

Business emails are an optimization problem

Wait, is this even a thing? Turns out it is. Over the past two years, this has been one of the biggest takeaways for me personally. If you cannot write a crisp work email, make sure you’ve that figured out ASAP.

For me, I was always pretty verbose with emails. As a grad student in business school, I facepalmremember sending “Thank You” emails to hiring managers that were pretty long form. I look at them today and realize just how much unnecessary stuff I wrote.

While I still take my time and write long emails to my friends and family, I quickly realized that work emails are different. Writing a professional email is an optimization problem. You’ve GOT to convey the key messages, call for action, and then optimize the text for brevity.

People are busy, have shorter attention spans than ever, and are surrounded by too many distractions to read long-form emails. I have tried this out so many times now, and the shorter/optimized emails get way faster responses.

So those are some of the things that I have a really different view on today versus two years ago. Last week, a colleague retired after a career spanning 40 years. The one quote that stayed with me from his retirement speech was:

“It feels as if I blinked, and 40 years passed by.”

Sure enough, my two years after business school passed pretty quick. So starting this year, I have decided I will document and share my experiences, observations  every year, so I can re-read it when I retire. Its a long-term assignment that is well worth my time.

If you have insights or comments that you’d like to share please leave a comment! You can reach out to me directly on twitter.

This post originally appeared on the BSchool Talkies blog, run by MBA ’14 alum Abhishek Chakravarty. 

Photo credit: Unsplash.com

Hello from the other side of freshman year! I’ve made it a full year and have learned so much. Olin’s core values—excellence, leadership, integrity, collaboration, and diversity—are a lot to strive for. I started off freshman year far from reaching these values, but knew I wanted to reach the level of professionalism that was expected of me. I had to make huge lifestyle changes if I wanted to achieve this. I was procrastinating my work, staying up until 4 a.m., sleeping past my alarms, and having trouble focusing in class.

The author, Sarah Podolsky, poses in front of WashU's iconic Brookings Hall.

The author, Sarah Podolsky, poses in front of WashU’s iconic Brookings Hall.

The first value I strived to fully achieve was collaboration. In my first semester classes, Management 100 and Management 150, I was assigned to a business team. I was so lucky to have such an inspirational team. We were all from different states, had very different skills and personalities, but we worked together so well. For them, I decided I had to get my act together. So two full months into freshman year I began to make some serious changes and began to focus on fixing my lifestyle. I started going to sleep before midnight, doing work as quickly as it was assigned, and waking up early to do extra work before class started.

The level of professionalism that was expected of me is not something that came to me naturally, but was something I learned by observing the incredible students and faculty around me. The drive of the community at Olin is truly inspirational and forced me to make these changes. It has given me the opportunity to be a productive and contributing member of this driven community. I am looking forward to starting my sophomore year with these lessons I’ve gained.

Weekend Bender [wiːkˈɛnd /ˈbɛndə/] noun: A three day, 1.5 credit hour class that takes place from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and noon – 3 p.m. on Sunday. Also known as the weekend from h***.

Alright, I’m being dramatic. Not only was my first (what I’m calling) “weekend bender” not bad, it was incredibly interesting and the sense of accomplishment when you walk out of class on Sunday is unparalleled in business school to date. Except maybe completing the Managerial Statistics final …

Even before you start business school, you’ll hear about “accelerating” in the info sessions, which means that you take more classes per semester than what’s required of you to complete the program in the allotted three years. Essentially, you set yourself up to finish sooner than anticipated.

There are many ways There is one way to do that and it’s by taking more classes. Your options are an increase in evening classes during the week (no, thank you – two evenings a week is enough), a week-long class (do they think I’m made out of PTO days?) or a “weekend bender.” These are the most popular because, as mentioned two paragraphs above, you can knock out 1.5 credits in three days (three days!!!!). As you might expect, these classes fill up quickly, so if you don’t register for them within a couple of hours (and I’m being generous) from when registration opens, then the odds of you getting in are slim.

Are they worth it? Absolutely! Let me repeat: 1.5 credits in three days. However, they don’t come without their caveats:

  • You have to prepare: For the particular class that I participated in this past weekend, we had close to 200 pages of case/article reading to do before the first day, followed by more reading between days. That’s a lot to juggle with work and your regular class load, so the week leading up to the class isn’t without its sacrifices.
  • The days can get long: Luckily for me, the class was not only interesting, it relied heavily on class participation, which means you stay engaged. Just remember to grab a coffee on your way back to class from lunch so that you don’t succumb to that early afternoon drowsiness. By day three, it’s more powerful than you think …
  • You have no weekend to recuperate: You know that weekend where you need an additional weekend to make up for it? Well, this is that type of weekend, except that instead of cursing your Mardi Gras decisions, you’re in a daze from 21 hours of class. But, you know what? It’s OK (1.5 credits in three days!!!).

As you can tell by now, I’m all for this type of format. I’m signed up for another “weekend bender” in April and I can’t wait to continue this pattern every semester moving forward. Seriously, the feeling that you’re that much closer to graduating is a high that will keep you soaring until you walk into Managerial Economics on Tuesday.

To my fellow PMBAs out there, any advice for how to survive this type of weekend? How would you approach the workload?

Image: Starbucks Addict, Spry, Flickr Creative Commons