Tag: Full-time MBA



Dolapu Ojutiku, MBA ’21, writes today about his summer consulting experience at Liberty Mutual. He was invited to return to Liberty Mutual full-time after graduation. His contribution is part of a series by students sharing their summer internship experiences with the Olin blog.

My internship has been one of the highlights of my MBA experience so far. I spent my summer working at Liberty Mutual as a consultant in the corporate development program. I worked on a project that had real impact on the company. I did an assessment of one of our largest vendors to streamline processes and evaluate opportunities for improvements. One of my contributions that is being implemented is a scorecard that provides better insights into the performance of our vendors. It was an eventful summer and I’m pleased to be joining the company full time after graduation. 

My internship was originally intended to be in person but ended up being virtual due to work-from-home policies as a result of the coronavirus. I initially wasn’t sure what to expect, but the company did a great job of creating ways to engage with us and build community virtually. Some examples of this include a virtual town hall with the CEO to address racial injustice in the US, an executive speaker lunch series for the interns, and a virtual baking event with Joanne Chang (Boston’s Flour Bakery), a former management consultant turned chef.

Olin did a great job preparing me. I started working with my career coach at the time, Jeff Stockton, before I had even arrived on campus to start my program. I was able to participate in the Consortium Orientation Program in Houston last summer and had to get ready for recruiting much earlier than usual. The WCC team—as well as my academic advisor, Ashley Macrander—were also a good support system throughout my first year.

I found that a lot of the frameworks we learned during Seth Carnahan’s strategy class turned out to be valuable for my internship. Two other classes that really helped me succeed were “Negotiation,” by Hillary Anger Elfenbein, and “Power & Politics” by Peter Boumgarden. Lessons from those classes came in handy when negotiating with cross-functional teams and influencing people to buy-in to my project.

My advice for students about the interview process is to try to network as much as possible, since you never know who might end up being your advocate in discussions that you’re not part of. I also found value in starting case prep very early on; I attended the Management Consulted workshop as well as some of the OSCA case sessions and found them to be very helpful in supplementing my case prep. In my personal experience, preparing well for the consulting case interview made other interviews easier.

In hindsight, I realize that a lot of the pillars we value at Olin helped prepare me for my internship. I had to be entrepreneurial and take ownership for the direction and outcome of my project. I also needed to make sure that decisions I made were supported by data, but not without considering the effect it had on our customers and the values they’ve come to expect from the company.




Mell Ellen

Ellen Mell, MBA ’12, is featured in this month’s Authority Magazine in a series on Inspirational Women Leaders of Tech. Mell discusses her career path, five things to know to build a successful company, and a movement she would like to inspire.

Mell is CEO of Custom Technologies,  an engineering and manufacturing business in Brentwood, Missouri, that provides product development, manufacturing and business services for clients. She is also a registered US patent attorney and an adjunct professor in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

Here are her five tips, abbreviated for the Olin Blog:

  • Recognize that the lines between your professional and personal lives are going to be very blurry. Be ready and willing to live and breathe the business for a long time. That’s why it is crucial to surround yourself with people who support the effort of growing your business.
  • Expect to be a jack-of-all-trades in the early stages of your company and be ready to constantly shift gears. If you are the type who is best at focusing on one large and in-depth task, then you need to surround yourself with other team members who can each do a whole lot of diverse things.
  • Build your core team with equally motivated, self-starting individuals. Make sure the motivations and goals of your core team are properly aligned with your own.
  • Focus on launching a minimum viable product. Don’t be seduced into thinking that every bit of feedback from every potential customer should go immediately into your first product launch. Get your product to market in its simplest form that solves a novel pain point.
  • Be agile and ready to pivot. Don’t become so in love with your tech creation that you cannot recognize when something needs to change. It has been said many times that the true key to success of a startup is its ability to change plans along the way.

Environmentalists and business owners

The magazine also asked Mell, “If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?”

Mell replied: “What if we could find a way for environmentalists and business owners to be on the same side for once? Wouldn’t that be powerful? In today’s hyper-polarized political climate, it seems that nobody wants to find middle ground anymore, yet I believe it is there. There are people on one hand (including me!) who are very worried about the environment. …

“My inspired movement is simple: Encourage laws that help the environment and our US-based businesses at the same time. Do this by requiring imported goods to be produced under proper environmentally friendly conditions that are on par with what we require of our companies here at home. Specifically, I propose to initiate an import tax that is based directly on each country’s environmental-friendliness score. It would be good for our local businesses, and it would be good for Mother Earth. I think that is something both sides can agree on.”




Ryan Richt and Byron Porter

Two alums of WashU Olin’s MBA program nabbed $50,000 awards from Arch Grants, which provides non-equity funding to early stage companies committed to moving to or growing within the St. Louis area.

Byron Porter, MBA ’20, won a grant for his startup, Hum Industrial Technology, featured in the 2019 edition of Olin Business magazine. Porter’s company is described in Arch Grants’ news release for having “developed a wireless sensor system for freight railcars. Hum’s technology combines low power, wireless communications, geospatial tracking, and predictive analytics to make rail shipping transparent and reliable.” (Related story on the Olin Blog here.)

Ryan Richt, MBA ’08/BA ’08, also received a grant for his company, Well Principled, described as “an A.I. management consultant that optimizes marketing and supply chain strategy for major CPG brands and retailers. (Related story on the Olin Blog here.)

Of the 173 companies Arch Grants has funded, about 25% have had founding team members affiliated with Washington University.

The two entrepreneurs were among 19 Arch Grants recipients announced at a virtual gala on October 28—the eighth year the grants have been awarded. Arch Grants’ 2020 cohort includes companies moving to St. Louis from cities around the country, including San Francisco, Minneapolis, Charlotte, and several others.

In addition to the funding, each winner receives pro-bono and heavily discounted professional services from respected local firms. In turn, the startups commit to operating their business from St. Louis for a period of at least one year.

Arch Grants receives hundreds of applicants annually and involves members of the St. Louis community with expertise in industries, business, entrepreneurship and academia judge two rounds of presentations toward the results.

With the expansion of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Arch Grants committed to award at least five grants over the next several years to startups engaged in using geospatial or related technologies.

HUM was one among seven in this year’s Arch Grants cohort that will contribute to the growing Geospatial Sector in St. Louis. See the complete list of Arch Grants recipients here (filter the list by cohort).


When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. We’ll be sharing their stories on the Olin Blog. Today, we’ll hear from Phyllis Ellison, executive director of InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum and  vice president of partnerships and program development, CORTEX Innovation Community

Given the pandemic, what compelled your company to get involved with this program?

 The CEL summer project program was offered at the perfect time. A practicum student that was scheduled to work in Fall 2020 with InvestMidwest cancelled. We had no idea if we were going to be able to find a student for summer, and how we would manage an internship. Cortex submitted two project ideas to the CEL, and one was selected. I’ve worked with three CEL teams in the past, and knew that having a team of WashU Olin Business School students working on our project would help us get the information and results we need to move any of our projects forward.

What is your project about?

InvestMidwest is an annual investor forum that connects venture capital investors to Midwest startups in the life science, tech, ag/food and energy sectors. The 20-year-old event recently transitioned to Cortex’s management. This project was to research the outcomes of the 700+ companies that have participated in InvestMidwest. That data will support marketing efforts and guide selection criteria in the future. 

What was it like working with WashU Olin students?

Olin students are great workers. Some are working on their organization and leadership skills; others are gaining an understanding of project management and the progression of a research project. They are all fine tuning their professional skills, and it was great to support that process.

What advice would you give students on the cusp of graduating at this time in history?

I really feel for students graduating during an economic downturn. I experienced it myself, as well as watching students go through the 2008-2010 recession. I would encourage them to be diligent in trying to find a job in their field. Don’t give up! Volunteer at a not-for-profit to gain experience and meet people. Attend events, when we’re able to do that again. Talk to people you know, asking about opportunities. Even if it’s below your preferred salary level, you’ll have the opportunity to grow your field. It will be difficult to return to your field of interest a couple years down the road if you don’t have any experience when a fresh class of graduates is entering the work force too. 

What are you going to take with you from this experience?

This experience has been such a great reminder. I’ve worked with CEL teams in the past, and this reminded me how valuable these teams are. The research and analysis the students did was incredible—and it’s a good reminder to remember WashU Olin as a resource we can tap into.




Pictured above: Students and workshop panelists Amber Grace, Kesha Kent, LaShana Lewis and Crystal Ross-Smith participate in the November 20, 2020, workshop, "Incorporating DEI Practices into your Organization."

Engage white managers from the outset. Separate the human resources function from corporate diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Build relationships. These key takeaways and more headlined “Incorporating DEI Practices into your Organization,” a recent workshop for WashU Olin MBA students featuring four DEI professionals who have been engaged in the work for years.

The workshop, organized by Olin’s Weston Career Center and moderated by Lori Whitherspoon, MBA ’21, provided insights from Amber Grace, advisor for diversity and recruiting partnerships for Raymond James; Kesha Kent, CEO and founder of MrsKeshSpeaks and national diversity and inclusion, community engagement talent specialist for Ascension; LaShana Lewis, of the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective; and Crystal Ross-Smith, MHRM ’17, director for diversity, equity and inclusion at Ameren (see their full bios here).

Here are a selection of the takeways from their session on November 20.

Create relationships

“We want to know what we can do to make everyone at Ameren be successful and bring their authentic selves to work,” Smith said. Kent added: “It was always my goal to make sure that individuals who had amazing experience could get in front of those hiring managers. It was about creating relationships with those hiring managers.”

Focus on entry-level positions

“Cultivate that talent,” said Grace. “We work on making sure our internship and entry level programs are highly, highly diverse. Then, making sure we have mentorship opportunities, exposure to executive-level leadership.”

Make sure the interview panel is diverse, while at the same time making sure the group of prospective hires is representative as well. “Allyship and ambassadors are very very important,” Lewis said. “Seeing that the interviewees were looking through my shoes made me feel like I would be welcome.”

Separate DEI from HR

Said Smith: “We are separate from HR. Our VP for diversity reports directly to our CEO and she is a peer of the VP of HR. That really works. It creates checks and balances. When we sat down to create the diversity of the hiring pipeline, HR showed us what we were doing. We were able to independently challenge what they were doing.”

Involve and engage white men

“Be intentional. Be honest and say that white males are the ones who feel most attacked, but you need white males to be involved in this,” Grace said. “Be intentional about constructing the conversations. You’re bringing the decision-makers into the space of allyship. Explain that this is the problem and make them feel part of the solution. That is a skill I had to learn. If I’m trying to make change, I want it to be solution-oriented. It’s not about me. I want this to be a safe space for everyone. Understand what your resources are, who your allies are, so you’re not internalizing these issues.”

Be creative about problem-solving

Lewis knows some organizations aren’t large enough to provide a full-time person dedicated to initiatives around diversity, equity and inclusion. “A lot of us consultants have come together and came up with the idea of a ‘fractional’ chief diversity officer,” she said. That’s a professional who provides a share of her time to a variety of organizations each month. “Employees are supposed to be doing their jobs, not doing the volunteer service of being a DEI officer.”

See video of the workshop

Pictured at top: Students and workshop panelists Amber Grace, Kesha Kent, LaShana Lewis and Crystal Ross-Smith participate in the November 20, 2020, workshop “Incorporating DEI Practices into your Organization.”




Michelle Tucker is president and CEO of United Way of Greater St. Louis. She spoke to Olin students in January in Defining Moments: Lessons in Leadership and Character from the Top, a class the Bauer Leadership Center offers.

Here, Lael Bialek, MBA ’20, shares her thoughts on Tucker’s talk:

Philosophy on leadership

Lael Bialek

Michelle Tucker attributed her professional achievement to her choice to follow her passion and be her authentic self. The president  and CEO role at the United Way of St. Louis was not a position Tucker pursued. Rather, her reputation as a leader who genuinely cared about the community and had followed her passion out of the corporate world made her the standout choice for the job.

Tucker acknowledged that following your passion often requires you to step outside of your comfort zone. In an effort to contribute to her community in more impactful ways, Tucker left behind the comforts and luxuries she had enjoyed at Bank of America for almost 20 years.

She described how she stepped out of her comfort zone to step forward and lead an organization with a mission she was passionate about. Taking that step required Tucker to be brave and become comfortable in being uncomfortable.

Trajectory of career

Tucker’s commitment to the St. Louis community has been the driving force in her career. During her time at Bank of America, Tucker worked to expand and define her roles such that she was in a position to develop and implement strategies that enabled Bank of America to support the St. Louis community.

Although Tucker had the opportunity to engage with the community through her work at Bank of America, she knew her passion, experience and skills could make a huge difference in a mission-driven nonprofit organization. Tucker followed her heart to Epworth Children & Family Services. Likewise, her decision to leave Epworth after two years to lead the United Way of St. Louis stemmed from her passion for contributing to the community.

Lessons learned

Having spent seven years working with nonprofits before pursuing my MBA, it was incredibly exciting and powerful for me to have the opportunity to learn from a successful and respected nonprofit leader in the St. Louis community. Tucker’s story and poise radiated curiosity, tenacity and courage—characteristics I will strive to emulate as I continue work to develop and refine my leadership style.

Courage

Tucker has only been able to live out her passions through tremendous bravery. She has continually pushed the boundaries of her comfort and put herself in the best possible position to affect positive change. Her courageousness had taken many forms—from working at Bank of American at a time when African-American females in the banking industry were few and far between to stepping away from the luxuries of the corporate world to lead a nonprofit organization.

Tucker understands the value of her intellectual capital and has never let fear keep her from utilizing it in meaningful and impactful ways. Her career is inspirational. I had never considered that acting on your passion could be an act of bravery. Tucker has inspired me not to let my fears and insecurities hold me back. I hope to someday give as much of myself as I can to my community and model courageousness as Tucker does.