Shantanu Pande, MBA ’21, began the program at WashU Olin in June and participated as part of the inaugural class in the MBA global immersion. He wrote this for the Olin Blog.
I am a first-year MBA student at Olin and I just returned from the inaugural global immersion program for MBAs. At the start of our MBA experience, we visited Washington, DC, Barcelona and Shanghai, learning about their cultures and business practices. During our assignments, I noticed how values from different cultures played a role in the business decisions.
Our stay in
Washington, DC, was a huge eye-opener for us. The guest speakers were excellent
about exposing us to their expert views on different economies around the
world. We also had museum visits describing different eras of American history,
with the assignment forcing us to think about values in a very detailed way. I
just wanted to take a moment and reflect on what I saw and learned.
Since our first day
at Olin, we have been exposed to the values of Olin. A presentation was made
and we all listened, absorbed some and let most of it pass. From an
individual’s point of view, the Olin values are all very important and when we look
at them, we would think that these are pretty standard and should be important
for others too.
But then I started
working on different tasks with my classmates and traveling with them. This was
when I realized how difficult it is always to stay true to these values.
In DC, we looked at
different museums and learned how American values have been tested time and
again. The fight for these 250-year-old values is a constant one. The one thing
that struck me the most was the overriding courage of the people who have led
this fight. They believed in these values and they lived with these values.
Listing a few values
on the paper are well and good, but sticking to them when it is easier to just
reach a compromise can be very challenging task. There will be times when your
commitment to including diverse point of views is tested severely. It is easy
to listen to, but not include these diverse views. Real strength is needed to
fight when that point is not to everyone’s liking or is an unpopular choice.
It is easier said
than done to strive for excellence in every task you pursue when the alternate
could be shorter and easier way to get the task done. We must be resilient to stay
true to our values when there is pressure to make the wrong choice.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that values require courage. As business leaders of the future, we need to be mindful of this and remember this relationship when it comes to creating goals around our values.
Pictured above: Shantanu Pande, MBA ’21, in DC during the WashU Olin MBA global immersion, which took nearly 100 students from St. Louis around the globe to DC, Barcelona, Beijing and Shanghai.
In early spring, Betsy Morgan spent five hours on the phone with Bob Harbison as he dictated four years’ worth of preschool enrollment numbers from Oklahoma’s 77 counties. Harbison, a retired early childhood education activist, was the only person on earth with the data Morgan sought—and he wasn’t about to let it out of his sight.
Thus began the extended two-day phone call with Morgan, BSBA ’19, as she gathered data for her project in Management 490. The elite, yearlong honors seminar is offered by invitation only to top undergraduates eager to take a deep plunge into research methods—a capstone course that only seven students took in the 2018-19 academic year.
“I wanted to spend my senior year creating a piece of knowledge, working with someone I could trust,” Morgan said. “It was a lot of work. There were times when I said, ‘Why did I do this?’ But I feel retroactively proud that we did it.”
Morgan partnered with another 2019 graduate, Madison Stoecker, on a project to measure the long-term educational outcomes for students in Oklahoma’s universal preschool program—a program that’s drawn considerable press over the years. But, Morgan and Stoecker said, it hadn’t been analyzed for its effectiveness.
Ironically, the marathon data-dictation session didn’t provide useful data for their project. But the pair’s research unveiled good news for the state’s program: Students’ average ACT scores showed a statistically significant increase for all counties in Oklahoma. For lower-income counties, the effect was 50 percent higher than the average.
Seven students, three major projects
Morgan and Stoecker’s project was one of three that seven BSBA students took on in the course. “These are students who have excelled and demonstrated their ability to do independent work in close consultation with some of our most rigorous researchers,” said Bill Bottom, the Joyce and Howard Wood Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior and one of four professors who tag-team the course.
Marisa Ippolito, Hank Michalski and Aneesha Bandarpalle partnered on a paper examining the way teams are formed—and the dynamics when international students are involved in forming teams. Annelise Morgan and Ryan Farhat-Sabet dug into data from the Chicago Police Department to examine the effects of implicit racial bias in the distribution of parking tickets.
In the team project, the students analyzed data they collected from a survey of 229 students in an on-campus lab. They found that people want to work with people who are similar to themselves—regardless of whether they were American or “international.” But mostly, students wanted to work with teammates who practiced “good behavior” as a teammate in class. They recommended that professors always assign students to groups to avoid built-in bias against international students.
In the Chicago parking ticket project, students found no clear trends beyond the fact that white police officers tended to be biased in how they ticketed in different ZIP codes: white officers were less likely to ticket in white areas than in black or Hispanic areas.
The cadence of the course
Students in the course spend their first semester rotating among the four professors: Bottom; Tat Chan, professor of marketing; Bernardo Silveira, assistant professor of economics; and Ohad Kadan, H. Frederick Hagemann, Jr. Professor of Finance and Vice Dean for Education and Globalization.
Each introduces students to a different aspect of the strategy and techniques for academic research. Throughout the semester, the students look for research topics that pique their interest and consult with the instructors to hone their topics.
“These are rigorous, empirical projects,” Chan said, “Science in general is sort of a team sport. They each do one proposal for each faculty member and as a group, we discuss the merits of each of these proposals for projects.”
“It’s very entrepreneurial,” Silveira said. “I don’t suggest topics. They come up with their projects. It’s hard to find that at the undergraduate level, with this level of maturity and sophistication.”
Why would senior BSBA students spend their final year in such a grueling course when they could be coasting toward graduation?
“Challenging yourself and being intellectually curious just for the sake of being curious is very underrated,” Farhat-Sabet said. “We’re still focusing on ourselves through this project, but it’s a different side of ourselves. It’s a challenge for sure, but I can say I’ve had this experience.”
And while their projects might not appear on the surface to have any direct bearing on their business school education, the students all appreciated the applicability of their work to the careers they were about to begin.
With graduation behind them, the seven students are all dispersing to new jobs in the next few weeks. Ippolito will be a consultant with Deloitte starting September 30 in Cleveland; Michalski starts August 19 as a category specialist for Jet.com in Hoboken, New Jersey; Bandarpalle will be a consultant with McKinsey & Company in Chicago starting August 9.
Morgan will be a
consultant with Deloitte in New York; Farhat-Sabet is moving to Washington, DC,
to work for boutique tech consulting firm CapTech.
Stoecker starts September 27 with McKinsey in Chicago; Morgan starts today at Boston Consulting Group.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” Ippolito said. “It was experiential learning and to have help from our advisers—you don’t always have that perspective.”
Pictured at top: Annelise Morgan and Ryan Farhat-Sabet, BSBA ’19, present their work on bias in Chicago parking tickets from their honors thesis course.
Arnold W. Donald is the CEO of Carnival Corporation and had previously worked his way up within Monsanto to president of nutrition and consumer sector. Donald spoke for our Olin Business School’s Defining Moments series in which CEOs share the moments that shaped their career.
However Donald wasn’t always a powerful force in the corporate world. He started in New Orleans, where he attended an all-black high school. It was not easy growing up in segregated New Orleans.
“I was told and told again to prepare myself, that I could do anything—all at a time when I couldn’t drink from this water fountain or eat at that lunch counter,” Donald said. He put all of his belief and energy into the value of education: “Education is a portal to prosperity.”
Even as a teen, Donald was career-focused: by high school he had decided he was going to be a general manager at a Fortune 50 science-based global company. With a very narrow vision, he set out to achieve that goal. He worked hard to get into Carleton College, but didn’t stop there. Donald plowed his way through a Washington University bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering and later received his MBA from the University of Chicago.
His goal began to materialize as he scored a position at Monsanto right after graduating from Washington University. This position led to his Defining Moment. Donald, then just a rookie, was assigned an account no one wanted.
Arnold Donald, Carnival Corporation
When his boss offered him the losing account, he referred to him as “Nick,” using the name of the only other African American employee. Donald reiterates, “Marketing didn’t want the account because they were judged on sales. Logistics didn’t want it because they were judged on efficiency. My boss didn’t want it because it was an embarrassment.”
Donald, as a rookie and as one of two black employees, was driven to make a profit from this account.
Donald ended up sharing a presentation with his client that saved them a significant amount of money. The client then turned to Donald’s boss and explained how he had just completely saved the account. The boss replied, “I know that’s why we put Arnold on it.” This was the first time the boss had called him by the correct name.
This instance of hard work on Donald’s part—countered by his boss’s ignorance—had defined the start of his career. There will be bumps in the road, but he knew he could count on himself.
From this defining moment, Donald outlined his key takeaways: “Know your heart, find your passion; chart your course, develop a plan; prepare yourself.” These takeaways led him to his current position as CEO of Carnival Corp., a nearly $50 billion corporation.
Jennifer Labit had many forces working against her—an unfinished high school diploma, the tech crash of 2000 and a new baby on the way—but she had a vision and was determined to see it through.
For this week’s Defining Moments series, an MBA and undergraduate class taught by Stuart Bunderson, Jennifer Labit shared how her company, Cotton Babies, was born.
As she explained, “I started a company by accident.” Labit’s company, Cotton Babies, grew out of all of the things working against her. A self-taught coder found herself as one of the only women in a company full of men. This job didn’t last long, as it was washed away with the 2000 tech crash.
Around the same time, she moved back to St. Louis. As she was just figuring out how to make ends meet with her husband working at minimum wage, Labit got pregnant with her first child.
She asked the class, “How much do you think a box of diapers costs?” The class filled with undergraduate and MBA students, many of whom didn’t have children, guessed around $10. When Labit responded that a box of diapers cost $25, the class immediately got behind her vision of reusable diapers.
The idea was born through struggle: Labit and her husband only had $30 after paying the bills for both groceries and diapers. They had to start using cloth diapers because they had to eat. Even still, Labit found a solution to her problem at home, but didn’t see a possibility for a business.
It wasn’t until she’d walk down the street carrying her baby in a homemade sling, having mothers stop her constantly asking where they could buy it, that she knew she had something.
Labit had $100 in her bank account and sold the sling to friends for just $5 above wholesale. She would strategically put a business card in each sling and tell her friends that if people asked about the sling to have them call her. Her phone began ringing off the hook. Every dollar of earnings she put back into her bank account.
Cotton Babies grew so quickly that Labit was forced to move into a retail space for insurance purposes and before she knew it, the company had 600 individual retail accounts.
“I’m an inventor; that’s what I’m good at,” Labit explained. “I’m an idea person.” Labit’s creativity and passion for her company truly radiated through the room as she lectured.
Labit explained that offering a diaper solution to parents struggling economically has a much broader impact than you’d imagine: “I equate a diaper solution to adding a well to a village doesn’t have clean water. It’s just as important but we never talk about it.”
Having too few diapers leads parents down a slippery slope. It leads to using a diaper for too long, which can lead to diaper rash, which then causes increased stress in the home because the baby cries often. Labit shared that not having enough money for diapers creates this cycle of embarrassment and guilt for the parents. Even more extreme: it’s linked to an increased likelihood of childhood abuse.
It’s not only Labit’s passion that landed her a successful business, but also her grit. Labit got emotional as she shared that a Chinese manufacturer knocked off her diapers and sold them on Amazon. The counterfeit product remained on Amazon as Labit begged them continuously to take it down.
She realized direct communication wasn’t going to work while Amazon turned the other way. She needed their attention, so she turned to the power of the Internet. Labit wrote a powerful blog pouring her emotions into words. Amazon responded immediately. The support she received only confirmed the power of having an incredible reputation with high quality products.
Feeling strength within herself, Labit turned the tables to take on China. She recognized their main advantage was their reasonable prices so she went to the drawing board to create high quality products at a competitively low price. Her line Elemental Joy was born, which will be sold at Walmart in just a few weeks. “And that’s how you disrupt China,” Labit triumphantly concludes.
John Mozeliak, CEO and president of the St. Louis Cardinals, starts his Defining Moments talk by reflecting on the baseball industry’s incredible growth: “When I began in baseball, it was less than a $1 billion industry. Today it is $10 billion.”
Mozeliak had to find ways to keep up with this 10x growth. Through advocating for change, keeping to his business philosophy, and redefining the team’s competitive advantages, Mozeliak kept the Cardinals winning.
If you’re in the baseball industry, you know it’s often resistant to change. Mozeliak explained many small changes that he’s pushing for that could increase the baseball market as a whole and bring in more revenue.
For example, he revealed a current debate within the industry over increasing the size of each base by 1 or 2 inches. This small change would allow for more steals, translating to a more interesting game for viewers. However, something that sounds so simple is met with a lot of opposition.
Baseball is a game of tradition and the bases have never been changed. With Mozeliak’s supervision, the Cardinals will have a day this year to test out the larger bases. Mozeliak attributes small changes such as these to remaining competitive.
Mozeliak sticks to two main philosophies to keep business in line. The first is a metaphor: “Baseball is like a table, if any of the legs is un-sturdy, the table is un-sturdy.” Mozeliak focuses on four “legs:” international scouting, amateur scouting, player development and the analytical department. This table model allows Mozeliak to keep a holistic view of the business, making sure each department remains in check.
The second philosophy is Mozeliak’s management philosophy focusing on teamwork. The management philosophy works to break down silos, and above all else emphasizes the process. Mozeliak stresses that once you find a process that works, you have to stick to it: “If you remain disciplined and true to your process, you tend to make fewer mistakes.”
Lastly, Mozeliak focuses on the team’s competitive advantage. Mozeliak explains, “It’s easy to be short-sighted, focusing on your day-to-day job, but you have to think about the competitive environment that you’re in.” For the Cardinals, data is a huge part of their competitive edge. The team used data to scout players before others were in amateur scouting. This advantage led them to Matt Adams, an incredible player who was scouted with relatively low cost.
In short, with his emphasis on change, his business philosophies and maintaining a competitive advantage, Mozeliak strictly follows the Cardinal Way. The Cardinal Way is having an appreciation for your past, understanding where you are today and having an eye on tomorrow.