Frans VanOudenallen, Olin’s director of executive career development, is retiring to spend more time with his 15 grandchildren and to travel. His last day is January 22.
VanOudenallen, 74, has worked for Olin for more than 12 years, sharing his wisdom, time and passion with Executive MBA students and alumni. He built Olin’s first career development program for EMBA students and managed a successful TEAM EMBA community, which now has 1,149 members who are at the ready to assist other EMBAs in their careers.
In all, VanOudenallen has coached more than 1,000 executives, including in Mumbai and Shanghai.
“The effective career coach cares,” he said in a recent interview on Zoom. “I would rather have as a coach someone who has average skills and cares about the person than someone who has terrific skills but doesn’t really care and blows you off, changes appointments, etc. And that’s what really is the essence of coaching. We should have that feeling of doing whatever we can to assist them in their career.”
VanOudenallen’s own coaching skills are top-notch, according to pages upon pages of letters from numerous EMBAs.
“Frans has impacted so many people’s lives, and many are grateful for his advice and unwavering commitment to their career success,” said Jen Whitten, associate dean and director of Olin’s Weston Career Center.
‘Able to draw out the best in us’
Take Don Halpin, EMBA 46, a retired US Air Force colonel and pilot. “You know how you meet people in your life who are remarkably humble but have incredible impact?” he asked. “Frans is one of those.”
Halpin met VanOudenallen in 2014 when Halpin enrolled at Olin. In 2018, Halpin was transitioning from healthcare systems engineering and product innovation in Peoria, Illinois, to the unknown in St. Louis. “Frans was there, ready to help.”
VanOudenallen “was always able to draw out the best in us and help us see things that we didn’t see naturally,” Halpin said. Essentially, VanOudenallen helped Halpin translate his military background into the language of other industries.
“He helped us draw out the gold that we didn’t know was there,” Halpin said. “He could take people like me, with a military background. He took doctors. He took people from the corporate world. It didn’t matter the background. He was able to draw out the essence of that person’s personal brand, their passion, what they’re really good at, and help them craft their message as these people are going into a new environment.”
Halpin himself became the chief operations officer of Catholic Charities of St. Louis, with 1,400 employees, a $100 million budget and 100,000 people served annually in the St. Louis region. “It was the perfect fit of my skills and passion,” he said. “It wouldn’t have happened without Frans.”
He ‘truly cared about their success’
VanOudenallen, who founded the St. Louis-based nonprofit executive career coaching service Executive Connections, was hired in 2009 to work full time on helping Olin EMBA students find jobs.
Every day, VanOudenallen brought his personal, custom approach to supporting EMBAs in the program and as alumni in enhancing their careers, said Mary Houlihan, Olin executive career coach. “He got to know literally hundreds, if not thousands, of EMBAs both personally and professionally and truly cared about their success.”
Through one-on-one meetings and support groups for students and alumni, VanOudenallen honed in on some of the challenges particular to EMBA job-seekers.
“Executive MBAs have significant experience to draw on,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2010. “Most of the time it’s an asset. But at other times, it can be a perceived drawback because their experience often comes from one silo, industry or discipline.”
They may feel that their experience in one area is not transferable to other companies or industries, he said. “But that is absolutely not true. … These experienced folks have to learn that what they know is transferable to many companies and experiences. That’s where I focus and get them to talk about how they can be successful.”
In addition to his role at Olin, VanOudenallen donated his time as a mentor with Olin’s Hatchery, which is for entrepreneurship students. On top of that, he has a private practice in which he coaches executives to optimize their performance within their organization or to transition to a new opportunity.
Advice: Be ‘a positive giver’
Those who turned to VanOudenallen for career coaching will remember him as a giver. It’s a philosophy he embraces while encouraging others to do the same.
“I talk a lot about collaboration, about being a positive giver and giving as opposed to being a taker ,” he says. In fact, the first book he recommends to EMBAs is “The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea.” In it, a go-getter named Joe discovers that changing his focus from getting to giving leads to unexpected returns.
Oh, one more piece of advice before VanOudenallen packs his bags. It’s advice he offers to EMBAS —and to his grandchildren: “Find what you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Pictured at top: Frans VanOudenallen and his wife, Jean, with six of their 15 grandchildren.