Tag: Executive MBA



On November 30, four Executive MBA alumni and students—all leading Chief Financial Officers representing a variety of industries—gathered to discuss the challenges and ever-changing roles of CFOs.

Rebecca Boyer, of KellyMitchell Group, Charles Kim, of Commerce BancShares Inc., and Jim McCool, of Bunzl Distribution Co., discussed the influence, evolution, and expansion of the CFO role in a roundtable moderated by EMBA student Laura Carel, Manager of Complience at Emerson Automation Solutions.

Over the past decade, the role of CFO has extended well beyond the key functions of financial reporting, forecasting, auditing, and structure. CFOs are often the voice of the company within investor relations and communications to the board, as well as leaders of key strategic and operations initiatives. Despite the rapid rise of the CFO, studies show that less than 15% of CEOs moved into their role from CFO.

Jim, Rebecca, and Chuck each shared how their respective companies are shaping the role of CFO to meet today’s demands. They discussed ways they continue to evolve as professionals, including the development of soft skills, to prepare themselves for the next step. All three agreed that having a strong operations background (rather than purely financial) was a huge asset, providing a deep understanding of the business. Rebecca also emphasized the importance of strong communication skills in the role of CFO.

The next Olin roundtable event, a discussion on the role of operations executives, will take place on January 17, 2018. Check out Olin’s upcoming events for more.




This article was originally published in the 2017  Olin Business Magazine.

On a very early spring morning last March, before the tourists could swarm or the business of government could lurch into gear for the day, three dozen Executive MBA students from Olin Business School strolled the quiet hallways of the US Capitol.

The morning Q&A session on the floor of the US House of Representatives—led by a former congressman—marked one of the many stops in an immersive, four-day Washington, DC residency exploring the intersection of business and public policy.

All Olin Executive MBA students (including EMBA Shanghai) are the latest beneficiaries of the unique partnership between Washington University and the Brookings Institution, the highly regarded DC think tank that university benefactor and former board president Robert S. Brookings founded a century ago.

The collaborative relationship is exemplified by Brookings Executive Education (BEE), the “host” of the residencies. Thanks to this insider’s view, students enhance leadership skills by gaining a deeper understanding of how business and public policy mesh—and how they can participate in shaping it.

This behind-the-scenes experience is one Dean Mark Taylor aims to share with every Olin student, capitalizing on the university’s unique relationship with the nation’s premier public policy research institution.

“Our link to Brookings is an incredible differentiator for Olin, with striking opportunities to prepare our students to be well-rounded business leaders,” he said. “We are duty bound to leverage this relationship to its fullest.”

Lessons from the trenches

While in the nation’s capital, students meet congressional leaders, visit foreign embassies, and discuss policy with senior government officials, regulators, and journalists. Overall, BEE’s roster of experts and speakers reads like a who’s who list of Washington movers and shakers, with names such as Marvin Kalb, former Meet the Press host; Carol Browner, former EPA administrator; Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan’s White House chief of staff; and former Senate majority leaders Trent Lott and Tom Daschle.

“This is something that is truly quite extraordinary,” said Mary Ellen Joyce, executive director for Brookings Executive Education program. “Other business schools don’t capture this dimension of business operations.”

As Brookings and Olin consider how to expose more students to the partnership, the EMBA residency is seen as something of a model. Bringing large groups of students to Washington requires careful choreography in order to turn Brookings’ deep DC connections into a productive experience.

“The Executive MBA residency has been just a roaring success, partly because we’ve been very, very careful about getting everything just right,” said Lamar Pierce, Olin professor of organization and strategy and director of the school’s Executive Master of Science in Leadership degree program, offered exclusively at Brookings.

Expanding to the Full-Time MBA Program

The expansion of the Brookings-Olin relationship will kick into gear in February 2018, when full-time MBA students from St. Louis will make the DC residency the capstone of their experience.

“This is an order of magnitude more complicated than the EMBA residency,” said Pierce, who will be on hand as two groups of second-year MBA students—70 in each wave—roll into the nation’s capital for a compressed schedule of receptions, roundtables, and Q&A conversations with DC policy makers.

In addition to an appreciation for the policy-making process, students are expected to leave with strategies for how to influence policy through changes in legislation, changes in regulation—even changes in presidential administrations.

“What we hope to do for the MBA students is give them a deeper dive into an area that connects more with their specific area of interest,” Joyce said. “They’ll be long days.”

Creating strong leaders in government

With its founding in the late 1950s, the BEE program was intended to “teach the art of handling problems” to business and government leaders alike. Olin’s Executive Master of Science in Leadership (EMSL) degree meshes well with that mission.

Although the program caters to government employees seeking career advancement, many EMSL students are typically already on top of their game. Pierce said they include high-level administrators in agencies such as the IRS, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security—“the people who make sure things get done.”

At any one time, as many as 70 EMSL students are enrolled, dipping into BEE’s flexible schedule of courses as their work schedules permit. BEE faculty tailor case studies to students’ government experience, with students writing papers outlining how they apply classroom concepts to their professional duties. Since launching in 2011, the program has about a dozen EMSL graduates, Joyce said.

“The impact Olin content is having on federal government is incredible,” Joyce said. “We are transforming the federal government one leader at a time.”




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.




The Executive MBA International Residency is often the student favorite of the program’s four required residencies. In between once-in-a-lifetime visits to historic sites in Shanghai and Beijing, EMBA students meet with program alumni and business leaders, exploring China’s unique economy, markets, and global leadership.

EMBA 49 recently returned from the International Management Residency—and if these photos from EMBA Student Services Manager Cory Barron is any indication, it was an exciting experience.

Monday: Facing strategic challenges

After a day of sightseeing at The Great Wall and Forbidden City, students buckled down for business on Monday. They kicked off the residency with site visits to Nestlé’s R&D Center and Xiaozhu.com, the Chinese Airbnb.

After a tour of Nestlé’s R&D Center, Stanford Lin, Vice President & Head of Strategy and Business Development for Nestlé-China, presented EMBA 49 with a strategy challenge. Teams were asked to develop a product to address complex strategic challenges while navigating global, regional, and industry considerations—within a 30-minute time frame.

Terrell Jones presents his thoughts on the team’s marketing strategy, while team members Mehul Gandhi and Matt Reasor listen. 

Melinda Chu explains her team’s product concept under the scrutiny of Nestlé’s Stanford Lin, VP & Head of Strategy & Business Development, and Roberto Reniero, Head of R&D, Nestlé China.

 

Next on the agenda was Xiaozhu.com. Founded in 2012, the Chinese version of Airbnb has expanded to branches in 13 cities all over the country, with house sources covering more than 130 domestic cities.

Students learned about the difficulties Xiaozhu initially faced in establishing a sharing culture in China. However, Xiaozhu.com CEO Kelvin Chen says the company is now adding 1,500 new listings per day.

Xiaozhu translates to Piglet. Piglet is a sign of a happy home.

Panlan Shi shows EMBA 49 the floor of coders building Xiaozhu. 

 

Tuesday: Taking in Shanghai

EMBA 49 took Tuesday to travel (via high-speed train) from Beijing to Shanghai for the rest of the week’s activities. After arriving in Shanghai, the group took in Shanghai’s skyline on a dinner cruise of the Huangpu River.

Jared Ogden passes the time crocheting while speeding south on the train. He says he learned the skill while trapped by a storm in Alaska, where he had plenty of time to learn a new skill. 

A closer look at Jared’s quality craftsmanship.

 

EMBA 49 cruising on the Huangpu River, which separates the new, glitzy Shanghai Financial District from the older, European architecture of the Bund area.

 

Wednesday: Exploring consumer preferences & entrepreneurship

With a few site visits under their belt, EMBA 49 was ready to delve deeper into China’s economy. Speakers from Weber Shandwick, McKinsey & Co., Sigmatex, and AmCham covered a myriad of topics, from China’s entrepreneurial digital revolution to Chinese consumers and the regional economy.

Later, students put their negotiations skills to the test with a visit to the Shanghai Fabric Market.

Darren Burns, President of Weber Shandwick–China, describes how his company’s PR and advertising campaigns are reaching the middle-class Chinese consumer online. Using live streaming is a critical part of their strategy for their Western clients trying to join the conversation in China.

Mehul Gandhi looks pleased when his negotiations calculate to an agreeable price at the Shanghai Fabric Market.

John Ortegon negotiates a better price on a new scarf while at the fabric market.

 

Thursday: Site visit to ZTE Corp. & business panel

EMBA 49 kicked off Thursday with a site visit to ZTE Corp.’s R&D Center. ZTE is the global leader in telecommunications and information technology, achieving an annual revenue of more than $15.3 billion in 2016.

Since 2010, ZTE has been ranked among the world’s Top 3 for patent applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, so it seemed a natural starting point for Executive MBAs to learn more about corporate innovation.

EMBA received a warm welcome from the staff at the ZTE R&D Center.

EMBA 49 looking sharp in their ZTE lab coats.

The cohort was then treated to a panel discussion featuring leaders from Novus Intl., Dun and Bradstreet, and Qingdao ADR Axles China Manufacturing Co.—two of whom are alumni (Chiara Radrizzani and Jesse Huang, both EMBA Shanghai Class 14 graduates).

At Thursday afternoon’s executive round table, Flemming Mahs, Managing Director of Asia Pacific, Novus Intl.; Huang Jiexi, Privacy and Compliance Director for Asia, Dun and Bradstreet; and Chiara Radrizzani, Asia Pacific CEO, ADR Group, share with EMBA 49 the cultural intricacies of doing business in China. 

 

Friday and Saturday: Field Studies & Fudan University

EMBA teams spent Friday working on their marketing research projects, breaking out into groups for health care and consumer field study.

The students also got a taste of life as an Executive MBA-Shanghai student, sitting in on a class with Finance Prof. Todd Milbourn and exploring the campus at Fudan University, Olin’s global partner in the Executive MBA-Shanghai degree program.

Friday’s sunrise in Shanghai.


Learn more about the curriculum and residency opportunities in Olin’s Executive MBA program.

Guest blogger: Cory Barron, Student Services Manager, EMBA team




This Veteran’s Day, Olin reflects with gratitude on the service and leadership offered by its vibrant military veteran community. One needs to look no further than alumna and former U.S. Army Blackhawk pilot Katie Buehner as an example of the impact our student veterans have on the world.

Previously named one of Poets & Quants’ “Best and Brightest” and profiled by both The Denver Business Journal and The National Business Journal for her entrepreneurial pursuits, Katie is once again making headlines and continuing to make her alma mater proud.

Business Because recently profiled Katie for her work helping veterans launch new careers in business by offering training for careers in high-tech sales. Katie’s employer, Tech Qualled, aims to “change the way high-tech executives perceive the skill sets of military service members.” Katie says high-tech sales companies are particularly reluctant to hire employees without experience handling accounts.

“Even though veterans might not have the direct experience, they are driven, results-oriented and resilient—they have the potential to outlearn and outpace everyone else on their staff,” Katie told Business Because.

Tech Qualled has so far placed over 100 candidates, and now has 75 partners. Learn more about the Launchpad Academy for Veterans here.

Olin Kudos, Katie, and all of our Olin Veterans–you inspire and lead our community to achieve more.

Check out Katie’s full profile on Business Because.


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