Tag: EMBA 44

Photo, above: Harry Schmidt, Passavant President and CEO. Photo credit: Passavant Area Hospital

We’re always excited to see Olin alumni in the news, and this interview with Harry Schmidt, EMBA 44, caught our attention in particular.

Harry came to Olin’s Executive MBA program with a full military career under his belt, having served as a pilot in the Navy for 20 years. He is currently the President and CEO of Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois, overseeing 960 employees and a $120 million budget.

Harry was recently a guest on Beyond the Uniform, a podcast that showcases veterans and their transitions into new careers. Harry spoke with Beyond the Uniform Founder and Host Justin Nassiri about planning his transition to a new career, the leadership advantages veterans bring to employment, and his choice to pursue an Executive MBA degree at Olin. Check out highlights from the podcast, or listen to the full interview below:

When you were on active duty, how did you start to prepare for your transition?

It’s a great question because there’s a ton of uncertainty and ambiguity regardless if you’re leaving after one tour or after a full career. I started the process late, probably about six months before retiring which is not a lot of time. I was very fortunate that I had a neighbor who was able to help me through the process. This ultimately ended up being the tie that got me into healthcare.

When a service member is transitioning, I think it’s important to set boundaries and parameters for what kind of a job or career you want afterward. Otherwise, you could end up chasing something that’s someone else’s dream. It could be a fit for someone else but not for you. My family and I wanted to come back to the mid-west. That was the fit for us.

What the civilian sector is looking for is leadership skills—the leadership skills we have learned through getting a lot of responsibility early in our careers, dealing with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. People in the civilian sector are looking for people that can handle these situations and make great decisions within volatility and uncertainty. That’s the skillset that’s transferrable regardless of your warfare specialty.

At what point did you decide to pursue an Executive MBA at Washington University?

It’s been one of the pivotal points in my short civilian career, and I don’t think I would have this role as CEO of a hospital without that education. As veterans, we learn a lot just through on-the-job experience. We learn about finance and budgeting through the money our team or department is allocated each year. But in a lot of ways, we miss out on the revenue side of the operating statement. Taxpayers are giving us our revenue when we’re in the military so it’s a little different.

Regardless of your specialty in the military, the MBA can be a good way to round out your skillset and learn about terminology. I initially looked at a school and started a traditional MBA program, taking classes at night. But it was a little bit disjointed. I didn’t feel like I was being challenged in a way that I wanted to be. So I started looking at different opportunities and found the Washington University EMBA program. In the Executive MBA format, we met once a month for 2-3 days and then worked on projects together in between those meetings. The format set me towards what I wanted to do. I moved through the 20-month program with the same group of people in a cohort fashion. We were able to challenge each other because we had similar levels of experience.

I would also add that sometimes people think it’s just about the letters behind your name. But that mentality will only get you so far. More than the degree itself, I want to know where the person got that degree from. I want to know that they had meaningful conversations about business with others in the program, that they had negotiations and debate. Work gets done in business through relationships, so I want to know that a person developed these skills during their degree program.

What advice would you give to a transitioning military member that feels intimidated by the thought of “starting over” in the civilian sector?

Be a life-long learner. Don’t be afraid to learn something new or take advantage of a new opportunity. Most people would be happy to sit down with you if you wanted to learn more about their industry or what they are doing. Use LinkedIn, make a meaningful connection. I would also recommend various veterans networks. I’m working right now with a group called Elite Meet. It’s a group that looks to connect former special forces and fighter pilots with private sector opportunities. There was also a really strong veterans network at Washington University. I’m sure this is the same at many other schools as well. There’s so many people out there that are willing to help and want you to be successful.

We love to share updates on our alumni with the Olin community. If you have news to share, let us know at blog@olin.wustl.edu.

Students in EMBA Class 44 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 in St. Louis. Mary Ann Altergott, Principal, Human Resources Talent Management at Edward Jones; Steve Degnan, Chief HR Officer at Nestle Purina PetCare North America, and Olin MBA’08; and Steve Pelch, Organization Planning and Development and a member of Emerson’s Office of the Chief Executive, participated in the evening dialogue, sharing their extensive knowledge of HR with the EMBA 44 cohort.

A student posed this question, “Should we be taking charge of our own development, or does the company take the lead in development?”

Degnan: Maybe because people are more mobile, people are doing this on their own. That’s a good idea, to take ownership of your development and career. Nestle believes investing in people could help build employee retention and loyalty. But the onus is put on them, not the company.

Altergott: We  are very clear – the associate owns his/her development; the leader’s role is to ensure there’s an environment where development can happen. We try to promote from within and offer compelling development opportunities. Development is an important investment for Edward Jones; one each of us take seriously as it helps us improve our skills and capabilities to better serve our clients.

Pelch: An employee should absolutely take the lead in developing his or her career. They should look for a company that provides the framework and structure for development, but they should not sit back and wait. Through our annual talent review discussions at Emerson, we identify high potential candidates and discuss next roles and experiences that can further develop their leadership skills. We constantly look for leaders to step forward and “raise their hand” indicating a desire and openness to lead in a new or different role.

The panelists also answered questions on mentoring, assessment tools, how they got to their positions, clashes in values between employees and company, downsizing, budget cuts, and what is lacking in the job force.

Executive MBA class 44 came together on Sunday, April 6 to kick off Go! Week and their 20-month Executive MBA journey. And, after a lighthearted reception and dinner, there were no April fools in this bunch as they retreated to their study rooms to tackle the first of the week’s assignments.

Olin’s latest EMBA cohort boasts an average age of 41 years of work experience and that adds up to nearly 800 years collectively! They come from close by (a mile from Washington University) and far away including San Francisco, Denver, Memphis and Springfield, to name a few. Olin’s once-a-month format makes it possible for executives to commute to class from any where.

From former Top Gun pilots to Air Force strategists, 12 members of the cohort are veterans or are currently serving our country in multiple capacities. From physicians to entrepreneurs from bankers to business owners, EMBA 44 represents nearly 20 different industries.

This 44th cohort of Olin’s Executive MBA program will navigate through general business management, the Leadership Residency, experiential learning themes and the International Residency where they will work with cohort Shanghai 13 at our partner school Fudan University, before graduating on December 11, 2015.

Welcome to the Olin family, EMBA 44. It will be a great ride and we’re looking forward to every minute along the way!