Tag: Full-time MBA



Part of a series of Q&As with Olin BSBA alumni. Today we hear from Joe Piganelli, MBA ’18. Joe now serves as a management consultant with Accenture in St. Louis. Prior to Olin, Joe was a nuclear submarine officer with the US Navy.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I am a Management Consultant at Accenture in St. Louis.  My Olin MBA opened the pathway to Accenture.  I knew I wanted a career change from the Operations Management in steel fabrication that I was previously involved in.  I didn’t know when I started at Olin, that I would be so strongly interested in consulting.  But, through the experiences of the Platform Speaker Series, and Professor Elfenbein’s Introduction to Business Strategy – I found a new direction.  I was fortunate along with a few other classmates of mine to have the opportunity of an internship with Accenture the summer between academic years.  That internship confirmed that consulting was the career path I wanted to pursue, and that Accenture would be a perfect place for me to be.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

My entire second year of the MBA was one big influential moment in my life.  So many people gave of their time and efforts to help me develop as a leader and a person.  Whether it was a professor in the classroom, a fellow student in study groups or an extra-curricular organization, or a community leader outside of the Olin School – the year was absolutely full of growth opportunities.  Three experiences make that year especially memorable: 

1) In the classroom:  Kurt Dirks’ classes – “Power & Politics” and “Defining Moments”.  If any prospective student or 1st year student contemplating next year’s courses is reading this: build your schedule around these two.  The new perspective I have from both of those classes is something I value and can continue to refer back to throughout my career as it progresses. 

2) Participating in Student Led Groups: Having the opportunity to be a member of the Olin Veterans Association (OVA) is an experience that I’ll always be thankful for.  It was highly rewarding and beneficial for all of us military veterans to be part of this organization with such strong links to a supportive alumni network and the St. Louis business community.  The OVA helped us hit the ground running in the classroom with a ‘bootcamp’ before coursework began – and helped us get introduced quickly to different career path opportunities through business leaders in the community. 

3) Experiential Learning – Participating in a Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) project was immensely beneficial and I learned a great deal from that.  Working with community leaders, fellow students, and civic leaders to drill into a deeper level of data and root causes surrounding Veterans in Missouri was a powerful experience that I grew from both personally and professionally.  I recommend anyone who has the opportunity to participate in a CEL project.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

We get together for happy hours every so often.  We also have a class Whatsapp chat that’s still alive.  It’s fun to see posts on Facebook or in that chat when classmates happen to find themselves in different cities for a weekend – or for work – and have the chance to meet up with those of us who have spread to different areas of the country.

Why is an MBA important?

An MBA gives you the information, tools, and most importantly the thinking style to be a leader in business.  If I had to say sum it up into one phrase that would be it.  It means utilizing data to make decisions – being data driven.  But also realizing that the quality of your data needs to be a factor as well.  You also need to appreciate that there can be more to critical decisions than data alone.  Compassion for people that will be affected by decisions is also critical.  Olin teaches all of that and more.  I think differently and approach my work differently because of what I learned at Olin.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

Aside from the couple of things I’ve mentioned above – Don’t spread yourself too thin.  Find the things you are passionate about and devote yourself to those.  The more quickly you find the type of career path you want to pursue – the sooner you’ll be able to focus your time and your energy into building your experience and customizing your preparation for that. 




John Weibel, MBA ’19, contributed this post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning.

For the most part, banks look and act alike. However, First Bank is not just any bank among the many in the St. Louis, Los Angeles, and San Francisco regions. As a family-owned business with strong connections in the communities they serve, they know the unique challenges faced by family-owned businesses.

Opportunity for family-owned businesses

As First Bank looks ahead to the next five years, they strive to become the bank of choice for the owners, families, and employees of family-owned businesses. They had the expertise to accomplish this goal but needed to better understand their target customers and the competitive landscape for this customer segment. Thus, the client challenged the CEL team to research the market landscape for family-owned businesses and to conduct analysis on the intense banking competition in the regions they serve.

The CEL team quickly discovered trends about family-owned businesses and identified key metrics for First Bank to evaluate. The team then conducted interviews with First Bank leadership. These interviews offered great opportunities for the team to refine where the project needed to go. Following the interviews, the team expanded on the market research to estimate the target market for First Bank, identified competitive advantages and disadvantages among the competition, and pinpointed opportunities for the client to exploit.

As the leadership at First Bank develops their next strategic plan, they have invited the team to present our recommendations at their leadership summit. The client has also asked the team to lead a session on how to replicate and scale our solutions as they measure their success.

Creating a real business solution

This CEL practicum has been an excellent opportunity to apply the critical thinking, analytical, and communication skills that Olin emphasizes in the classroom to a real business situation.




Part of a series of Q&As with Olin alumni. Today we hear from Ellen He. Ellen completed her master of science in supply chain management in 2014 before earning her MBA in 2016.  She now lives in New York where she works at Deloitte & Touche LLP.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I’m currently working at Deloitte & Touche LLP New York City Office serving financial services industry. I’m a Financial and Risk Advisory Consultant under the regulatory and operations umbrella serving client needs in Finance, Operations, and Compliance area.

Olin education impacted me in numerous ways. I actually learned of the Deloitte opportunity via a 2008 Olin MBA Graduate. Academically, the organizational change and communication lessons were used in day to day work.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

Professor Sergio Chayet has always been my mentor since I joined Olin as an MS supply chain management student. His advice regarding choices with my Practicum Consulting projects at that time, and later advised me to take the opportunity and join Olin MBA Class of 2016, no single word can express how I appreciate Sergio’s class style and his mentorship to me.

Additionally, Dean Kurt Dirks’s Corporate Strategy class also left deep impression on me. Via different angels from peers and also from movies such as “Twelve Angry Men” I started to look into the huge impact corporate strategy has towards firm growth for different industries. Corporate strategy has been an area I really want to invest more time in and hope to continuously pursue at my career.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

I have attended Olin MBA Admission activity with Associate Director in the Graduate Admission office Ashley Lautzenheiser in New York City 2016. I have also met with Molly Mulligan from Wash U Alumni and Development a couple times when she travelled to New York City. The most recent face to face lunch meeting with Molly I also got to meet the Associate Dean and Director for Western Career Center Jen Whitten and was glad to learn of some changes that Western Career Center is embracing now.

Why is an MBA important?

To me it is not so much about different Business areas that I got to know via the MBA program, because I triple majored in Accounting, Finance and Supply Chain when I attended Kelley School of Business, Indiana University Bloomington for undergrad. However, the most important value the Olin MBA program brought to me was via different practicum projects, CEL projects, the amazing professors, and all the wonderful classmates that you can form a relationship. I got to touch real life consulting projects for both Fortune 500 companies and local non profit organizations; I got to be impacted by rich experienced professors’ thinking process; I formed relationships that can last lifelong.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

I would say definitely try new things, including new areas that you were not familiar with prior to MBA, new friends with diverse backgrounds and/or ethnicity, and organize new events. Besides the academics, I personally involved in many things that Olin had to offer: President of Olin Women in Business, 2015-2016; Co-president of Supply Chain and Operations Association, term 2015-2016; MC for Chinese New Year Gala; XMBA Case Competition 2015 (Olin Team got 2nd Place). I was also Chair for the Olin Follies in April 2014 which demonstrated a fun and conclusive event for the year to Olin faculty and students with 300 attendees. Those events and roles completed me more as a person and set me ready for professional growth in the future.




Lungile Tshuma, MBA

Now a few days from completing the ‘round-the-world global immersion our first-year MBA students began in late June, I’ve made a few observations, picked up a few impressions and heard from a few students. They’re the basis for this month’s column.

I’ll start with a particularly poignant moment I was fortunate to witness at the students’ closing dinner in Barcelona on July 23. As they prepared to decamp for China, Lungile Tshuma rose to offer a toast.

His toast both celebrated the diversity of our latest class of first-year MBA students and affirmed an important goal of the programme: fostering strong bonds among them.

With this new format, we also hoped to distinguish our programme — and, by extension, our students — with a unique focus. Launching the students on a 38-day study of international business from day one carried some risk, but we’ve seen the payoff.

Our faculty, for example, have already spoken about the deep bench this opportunity has attracted. We knew this challenge would attract a certain category and quality of student and on that score, we believe it has already succeeded.

As Senior Associate Dean Patrick Moreton, a chief organizer of the programme, recently told the students, “You’re absorbing and engaging with the environment in a way we’ve never seen before. You’re doing a great job and while you might not be seeing it, we’re feeling good about the learning outcomes we’re getting.”

That dovetails with reports I’ve heard from diversity organizations we support such as Forté and The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, where prospective employers were pulling aside our students to ask what drew them to the programme and how it had fared for them so far.

It also dovetails with a personal desire I have harboured for this experience: watching leaders emerge. By definition, this experience was built to “disorient” students and create a global foundation for their future core classes. In each locale, our class includes at least one person who can call that country home and I was eager to hear how they’d respond.

Thus, classmates like Aurora Chen, Frank Chen, Flora Feng, Zach Frantz and others could help organize social events, dinners and provide medical experts while in China.

Beyond these isolated leadership moments, however, I’ve also been gratified to hear from partners we’ve worked with — including the Gramona and Pere Ventura wineries in Barcelona — who have appreciated and valued the business insights shared by our students, even at this early stage in their business school education.

Many of our students have also been forthcoming with feedback throughout their journey, which has led to adjustments in schedules, workloads and assignments Throughout. One such example is that the faculty was making adjustments to accommodate more field experiences in the Shanghai community.

As the first students to embark on this experience at Olin, I’m grateful they’re actively participating as we iterate on the go. I’m truly looking forward to greeting our newly “disoriented” and “globalized” first-year students — whom Lungile has described as “diversely one” — when they return stateside next week.

Pictured above: Lungile Tshuma, MBA ’21, toasting the diversity of the current class of first-year students during the final day celebration of their time in Barcelona.




Krutika Sood, MBA ’20, a member of the Missouri Botanical Garden team traveling to Madagascar wrote this for the Olin Blog. Krutika worked with fellow MBA students Lael Bialek and Coilean Malone as well as faculty advisor Karen Bedell and CEL Fellow Megan Cowett to complete the project.

On March 8, 2019, three MBA candidates and one CEL Faculty Advisor set out on a 31-hour plane journey from St. Louis to Madagascar. After an eventful week learning about the distinctive flora and fauna found in the forests of Madagascar, only two of those MBA candidates made it back to St. Louis on the March 16, 2019 (Don’t worry, the other two members of the team made it back after a 42-hour journey on March 17, despite a missed flight).

The reason our team set off on this journey was to visit the Madagascar Program team of St. Louis’s own Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG).

The MBG was founded in 1859 by Henry Shaw. Today, the MBG is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display, and is considered one of the top three botanical gardens in the world. The Madagascar Program, started in 1987, is MBG’s largest and most successful international program.

Biodiversity hotspot

Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot and global conservation priority as it is home to about 14,000 species of flora (95% of the species are endemic) and only 7% of its forest cover still remains. This, coupled with the fact that Madagascar is one of the ten poorest countries in the world, has defined the two core goals for MBG’s Madagascar Program:

  1. To conduct botanical research and exploration on one of the world’s most distinctive and threatened floras.
  2. To conserve biodiversity through local engagement to improve natural resource management and the quality of life improvement in local communities.

The Madagascar Program consists of two major components – the Research Unit and the Conservation Unit. Our team was tasked with understanding the functioning of the Research Unit in order to recommend an optimal operational and financial strategy geared towards sustainable program growth. As a consulting team, our main goal was to provide recommendations that are realistic, actionable, and in alignment with the mission and goals of the Madagascar Program and the MBG.

Value of overseas site visit

This experiential learning opportunity has been valuable and enriching for us because it gave us a chance to utilize our collective professional and academic experiences to tackle a complex problem for a real client. We were able to gain valuable work experience during our MBA program that challenged us to think creatively and acquire knowledge about the symbiotic relationship between firms, local communities and the environment – a very crucial relationship in today’s business world.

Furthermore, collaborating with various stakeholders across three continents (USA, Europe & Africa) has been both a highlight and a challenge with this project. It taught us how to adapt and be effective in a dynamic and ambiguous environment, a.k.a, any real job. This project also allowed us to experience a new country and immerse ourselves in a different culture.

We didn’t get much sleep, but we did get to eat delicious food, see exotic forests, dip our toes into the blindingly blue Indian Ocean, and meet some adorable lemurs. Overall, it was a rewarding experience and we would surely choose to do it again. Working on a CEL Practicum has definitely been the highlight of our year.