Tag: Center for Experiential Learning

This post was written by Dana Ward, Yijia (Alice) Xu, Danial Kang and Christopher Daniel, pictured above.

This semester, we participated in the CEL Entrepreneurial Consulting Team course. This unique course provides students an opportunity to work with a startup company and help it solve various issues. We would like to share our experience with you.

Our client

Zoog is an asynchronous communication smartphone app that allows consumers to bring books to life using built-in augmented reality face masks, filters, sound effects and animations. It provides an interactive platform to connect people, especially during the pandemic.

This is particularly attractive to grandparents, who may not have seen their grandchildren for a long time but can still read and record stories for them via Zoog. We were deeply intrigued by this creative product and interested in contributing to the app, which can foster connection during this difficult time. You can learn more about our client on their website or download the app. Use the access code ILOVEZOOG

Zoog is in its early phase. It recently introduced its product to schools in Atlanta, and it is expected to grow its library of content for users.

Zoog’s primary concerns are in two areas: business and legal. Accordingly, we divided our team into two corresponding groups and compiled our findings. The business team researched and recommended the most suitable subscription model for Zoog, and it proposed a model for Zoog to cooperate with book publishers.

The legal team analyzed copyright license agreements and the various related legal issues, including the derivative use, the doctrine of fair use, and vicarious and contributory liability. The legal team related the issues to Zoog so that it will be more informed about how to proceed in legal negotiations and in what ways the use of copyrighted materials might be allowed.

Our experience

During this course, our team members applied our classroom knowledge to the project. For instance, we applied knowledge from the pricing strategies course and entrepreneurship class to help our client solve business problems, and we also used different legal resources and issue-spotting skills we learned in law classes.

This course has also helped us prepare for our future aspirations and for becoming better leaders. For instance, one of our team members is interested in working in consulting full time. This class provided her a unique experience to understand what that could really look like.

She has also gained lots of project management and client communication skills that will be essential in her career moving forward. This course has also taught us how to solve complex problems, how to communicate with teammates and clients, and how to work with others.

The CELect experience is different from other classes because it provides us an opportunity to work with a real startup company. Instead of a detached reading of a case about other companies’ issues, we actively participated in solving various problems for our client, sharing their concerns and brainstorming ideas that may affect the future of their product.

Advice for CELect participants

It offered us a vivid experience of the satisfaction and bewilderment harbored by entrepreneurs, encouraging us to proactively search for information and make decisions, instead of following others’ direction.

For those who are interested in CELect, our team has some advice for you! First, we think it is very important to listen to the client’s preferences and concerns while conducting research and making recommendations.

You should also read deeper into what the client wants. They may say they need one thing, but don’t stop there. Let them know what they are missing so they can make a complete and informed decision.

You should also be very organized about your tasks and actively cooperate with teammates, and be ready to help each other when needed. We are sure that you will learn a lot from this fulfilling and enjoyable experience.

When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. We’ll be sharing their stories on the Olin Blog. Today, we’ll hear from Joshua Rahn, BSBA ’94, co-founder & general partner at Oceans Ventures.

Given the pandemic, what compelled your company to get involved with this program?

I am an alumnus from 1994 who got my entrepreneurial career kickstarted at Wash U, as I was an owner of one of the University trucking companies.  That experience set the groundwork for my 25-year career in tech and start-ups.

I am also a believer that karma works, and I wanted to pay it forward to the next generation of graduates. Couple that with my recent dialogues with Doug Villard and Ted Manion, and I was excited to engage with Wash U’s student body as soon as I could.

What is your project about? 

We are building a social network/sharing operating system for early stage investors. In essence, we are building a platform to reduce friction in a very old system.

How have you found working with Olin’s students?

Working with these students is awesome. They are itching to be exposed and engage with tech forward companies and we are loving working with them.

What advice would you give students on the cusp of graduating at this time in history?

Take internships. Take all opportunities presented to you. Learn. Ask questions: lots of them. Add value. Get experience. Become irreplaceable.

Frankie Hong, MSFQ ’20, is a Center for Experiential Learning practicum fellow—and the first from Olin’s Specialized Masters Program.

I was placed on the team for the practicum project of Midwest BankCentre in the spring 2020 semester, and this project is still one of my highlights at Olin. It was the first time that I interacted with a real-life client to such an extent.

I still remember being nervous and anxious, trying to play it cool. But I could not keep my legs from shaking at the first in-person client meeting in January 2020 in the Pagedale community. 

Stepping into the unknown can be intimidating, but this experience excited me even more as we started to see the bigger picture. We held multiple stakeholder meetings with the clients and the faculty advisors to tell the story using the best models we could find. The clients were supportive and able to provide resources and feedback. They became my mentors when I landed in this part of the finance world.

It was a fortunate coincidence that my summer internship was at a St. Louis FinTech company, where our clients were community banks across the US. The knowledge I gained from the spring practicum was valuable throughout my summer internship. Working alongside several Olin students, we managed to create a valuation tool for community banks in only eight weeks. This experience reinforced the importance of experiential learning and implementing the values-based and data-driven approaches I learned at Olin.

Continuing his CEL journey

These experiences helped me make up my mind to apply for a practicum fellow role to continue my CEL journey. It did not occur to me then that I would become the first fellow for practicum from the SMP population.

As a practicum fellow, I had the honor of working with the Purina team for the fall 2020 semester. Each team member brought passion and expertise to the work and strived to deliver a successful final product to the client. The team also gave me full support on my fellowship project, which is to look at how to improve the SMP students’ recruitment process and facilitate collaboration among different communities.

Ability and diversity

Through interviews and surveys, I learned more about this cohort’s ability and diversity and was amazed by the talents people can bring to the table. The awareness of CEL experiential programs is relatively high among the SMPs. Some even indicated that these programs are one of the biggest reasons they chose to attend Olin, since successfully managing the programs reflects the business school’s power to offer quality service and professional guidance to students. For students coming straight to Olin after finishing their undergraduate study, the variety of experiential programs provide a valuable way to gain their first consulting experience working with real clients and apply skills learned in the classroom to practice.

When asked about their experience, many SMPs participants in the fall semester told me they were surprised at how the team collaborated efficiently in the virtual setup. Some of them took up the role of “technical team lead” when the project required unique skills such as website design and data analytics.

Even when entering an industry that they were not familiar with, students believe a fantastic team lead, an engaged faculty advisor and a responsive client will all contribute to achieving a satisfying result.

I encourage all SMP students to participate in experiential learnings programs where theory meets practice. Do not hesitate to offer your fresh perspectives and even plan on showing your leadership skills in a team. 

We have come a long way and will continue navigating through the uncertainties ahead of us. As I continue to work as a CEL practicum fellow in the spring semester, I look forward to the journey ahead and am more than happy to connect with Olin’s talents.

When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. We’ll be sharing their stories on the Olin Blog. Today, we’ll hear from Akio Yahiro Korte, MBA ’21, who worked on competitive landscape analysis for Capacity.

Over the 2020 summer, I worked on the CEL summer project, a seven-week consulting opportunity to help a client with their business needs. In my case, the client was a privately held startup company that wanted help with its competitive landscape analysis. Capacity, our client, was really excited and passionate about sharing information with us, so we could give them the best recommendations possible.

This project sharpened my project management, planning and coordination toolkit. From a technical perspective, this project has refined my competitor analysis and marketing skills. I also helped the team using my finance background when appropriate. 

Our team lived on a weekly cycle. Weeks started with a one hour class on Monday. Client meetings occurred every Wednesday afternoon. Client meetings were earmarked for one hour, but we always went over due to great client engagement.

Since team members were working virtually across three different time zones, we sporadically set up team huddles to address timely needs. Typically, a team member would spend several hours a week working on a specific function (think deep diving a competitor’s entire marketing strategy). 

From a team leader perspective, it’s always great to work with new and diverse teams. I worked with a healthy blend of graduates and undergraduates sprinkled with different business disciplines (finance, entrepreneurship, consulting, marketing). I worked with five other students—and I was thoroughly impressed with each of them.

Particularly thinking about the undergraduate students on my team, there were people who hadn’t had previous work experience. So for the first time, they were talking directly with business owners and leaders—and they really stepped up to the plate, asked detailed questions and shared their expertise. It was a huge win for those students—it wasn’t an experience you could get anywhere else.

Client interactions were a big win. Capacity went above and beyond by letting us talk with different business leaders. Even though this was a marketing project, we talked with leaders in finance, sales, and execution. We even got the opportunity to talk directly with the CEO, David Karandish, BSCS ’05.

Not only is David a WashU alum, he also sold the parent company to Answers.com before starting Capacity. David had some very cool stories to tell, everything from writing a text-to-speech app around his high school years to being on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.”

In addition to answering questions to help the team with the CEL project, he had some parting words of wisdom for future leaders: keep morale up by being transparent, keep one foot in present reality while keeping another in future potential (be the bridge between the two realities). We were honored to spend this time working closely with the client, learning from their perspective and providing recommendations.

This has been a very interesting experience from a project management perspective. The project’s scope shifted several times, another team merged into mine, not to mention working virtually across different time zones always poses unique limitations. But the team successfully adapted to meet these challenges head-on. This resilience is a hallmark of the quintessential Olin business student. 

This is the second successful team project that I have led while at WashU. Given the great experiences both projects and teams have been, I am contemplating doing at least one more this coming academic year. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. We’ll be sharing their stories on the Olin Blog. Today, we’ll hear from Lawrence Watson, vice president of sales at Hunter Engineering.

Given the pandemic, what compelled your company to get involved with this program?

Hunter Engineering has had a long term relationship with WashU Olin, and we’ve always had positive experiences with the students we have worked with over the years. When the pandemic changed our plans for more conventional summer internships, we jumped at the chance to apply for the CEL project. This format allowed us to continue moving forward some important initiatives while at the same time offering some compelling subject matter that the students can really dive into.

What was your project about?

Our project was focused on how changing consumer habits and expectations impact our specific industry. We are always looking for ways to improve our customer’s experience with Hunter and wanted to ensure we are able to apply lessons from other industries that might be best-in-class.

What was it like working with Olin students?

Working with the Olin students has been a very positive experience for our entire team. It is nice to hear new perspectives and share ideas with such an eager group.

What advice would you give students on the cusp of graduating at this time in history?

Be bold and go after what you desire. There are always companies out there looking for great people.  

Abhinav Gabbeta, MBA ’21, writes today about his summer consulting with CognizantHe was invited to return to Cognizant full-time after graduation. His contribution is part of a series by students sharing their summer internship experiences with the Olin blog.

My summer internship was one of the most pivotal parts of my MBA education. It not only gave me the chance to apply specific skills I’d learned in the classroom, but also helped me to prepare for the next chapter in my career. After going through the nerve-wracking interview circuit, I was blessed with the great opportunity to intern with Cognizant as a senior consultant in their healthcare business unit, and have recently been granted an offer to return full-time.

As with much of our class, the sudden onslaught of COVID-19 meant that my internship experience was not business as usual. Every aspect of my internship was run virtually, including onboarding, day-to-day work, and networking. Quite frankly, I was initially nervous about this shift. However, I soon realized that in the ever-changing business world, this moment represents an important inflection point. I had a first-hand look at how leading firms address global adversity and I am now in a unique position to help create the “new normal.” I found this to be especially interesting and relevant to the field of consulting.

Consultants are known for heavy travel, immersive client interaction, and close team collaboration. The entirety of this business model was threatened by the pandemic, but fortunately, consultants are also known for solving complex problems.

During my internship, I saw how the industry adapted by embracing virtual meetings, while still maintaining close relationships with clients and delivering the same high-quality results. This new model has the potential to provide significant cost savings, wider capabilities, and a more appealing work-life balance for consultants.

However, this transition was not without its challenges; I had to manage learning curves for new technology, blurred lines between work/off-work hours, limited employee motivation, and difficulty with networking. I worked through these issues by being vocal and proactive, being intentional with my outreach, volunteering for more work, forming feedback loops with mentors, building real relationships with team members, and staying flexible in the face of unexpected change.

My Olin training prepared me to take on these challenges by giving a me a strong foundation in strategy and management, communication skills, and workplace dynamics. My internship also proved to me how important Olin’s pillars for success are (values-based and data-driven, globally oriented,   experiential, entrepreneurial).

When I worked on my main project regarding Cognizant’s 2021-2023 healthcare business unit strategy, I helped make decisions and set goals that were informed by industry data and founded on company values. I worked directly with off-shore colleagues and realized how to work effectively in teams around the globe and around the clock.

I jumped right into projects with all the responsibilities and expectations of a full-fledged senior consultant and learned through practice. Perhaps most importantly, I embraced Olin’s entrepreneurial spirit by taking ownership of my internship experience and building a well-rounded experience. I was able to create an internal strategy, solve external health payer and provider segment client engagements and develop new thought leadership.

As I go further in my consulting and healthcare career, I will take all these lessons with me and look back fondly at Olin and Cognizant for helping me to develop the skills and mindset I need to succeed.