Tag: Undergraduate

Written by Ross J. Brown, BSBA 2018, on behalf of Bauer Leadership Center.

Treat others the way you want to be treated. Do right by the organization. Stick to your values. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Last Thursday, Michael Holmes imparted his lessons of leadership during his presentation at Olin’s Defining Moments course.

Holmes is chairman and founder of Rx Outreach. This nonprofit company focuses on providing medicine to individuals who cannot afford it. Since its inception in 2010, after originally being a part of Express Scripts, the company has been able to provide 670 medication strengths, by more than 70 employees, serving more than 210,000 patients. Rx Outreach patients have saved than $320 million.

Throughout his career, Holmes has worked at variety of companies and in executive positions with Edward Jones and Express Scripts.

With his charismatic personality, Holmes’ presentation captivated the audience with his story of success—and mistakes—that allowed students to understand his underlying points of respect, values, and reflection. With consistent excellence in his career path, he was also able to demonstrate consistent and equal respect to all his coworkers—from secretaries to superiors.

This equal respect came from his religious beliefs, which he also proudly speaks about. I find this impressive. Religion can be a controversial topic, but Holmes is confident enough in himself and who he is to share this part of his background with others.

Finally, Holmes mentioned that he believes we should “enjoy every step of the journey”—enjoy every victory, learn from mistakes, and ultimately, have fun. The time spent with Michael Holmes was inspiring and enjoyable as we learned how to become better employees, better leaders, and overall better people in and out of the work place.

Written for the Olin Blog on behalf of Bear Studios by Lexi Jackson, BSBA’20.

Young professionals today are far less likely to be drawn to monetary incentives than past generations. As PwC finds, millennials are driven by feedback, fulfillment, and the potential to create impact. They desire to make a difference in their work and reach high levels of social impact.

As I consider my own career ambitions, I find that they align most closely with this idea. I want to use my career as another platform to affect change and create my livelihood from difference-making.

The hardest question to answer is, where do I begin?

In order to begin a journey toward high impact, an individual has to have a healthy degree of impatience. That is to say, the most impactful individuals do not wait until they are at the most ideal state in their lives to make an impact. They act immediately with the resources they have at the time. Most individuals will never feel fully ready or equipped to believe they have the capacity to make real impact, and, therefore, often do not act.

Don’t Wait to Act

What we forget is that our actions are only as strong as our passions, and our passions cannot be cultivated by resources or opportunity—they exist in us inherently. Those who have the passion to create change are those who know that change can’t wait. And neither can their action.

Perhaps this is why I decided to create Olin Business School’s first Diversity and Inclusion Summit on February 9. I recognized a need within the community for dialogue and action on this topic, and while I didn’t have the personal resources to materialize my passion, I knew that by seeking the proper partners, the event could come to fruition. All it took was my decision to begin action.

Lexi Jackson

My team and I planned the Summit for more than five months. We booked speakers from over seven companies and organizations including Uber, Facebook, US Bank, Build-A-Bear, and more. We sought financial assistance of more than five different student organizations before finding success from our central sponsor, the BSBA office. We overcame challenges, celebrated unexpected opportunities, and crafted an event that attracted more than 80 students, faculty, and community members.

At its inception, the summit appeared to be an impossible undertaking. We did not have the resources, brand, or experience to execute a half-day event. However, if we had waited until we felt completely assured of our ability to succeed, we would likely have never succeeded altogether.

Action Leads to Fulfillment

Young professionals must act with the same diligence if they desire to find fulfillment in every stage of their career. I hear all too often that my peers are accepting jobs that do not fully excite them, simply to serve as an intermediary between now and their dream career. However, that does not have to be the case. High impact jobs can be found at every point on the career track and include jobs that are both meaningful AND lucrative. A high-impact job does not have to mean working at a nonprofit or earning lower wages in the pursuit of a greater good.

This understanding is the exact mission of the organization 80,000 Hours. 80,000 Hours was created by two Oxford researchers and philosophers who found that this generation is driven by high impact through a career, but will too often forfeit these positions of change in fear of financial stability.

Therefore, 80,000 Hours serves as a job search platform where users can find positions that produce high levels of social impact without breaking the bank. The jobs are sorted into a plethora of categories and are designed to teach users about the breadth of social impact. For example, with artificial intelligence positioned at the threshold to the future, there is perhaps no higher impact job that one can hold than to research and understand both its dangers and benefits. In this way, users are able to find surprisingly impactful positions that fulfill their interests and leverage their expertise.

As a member of Bear Studios, a student-run strategy firm and LLC, I actively use the resources and knowledge that I can contribute at the time to add value to our clients’ projects. I may not have all the answers, but that does not mean I should not leverage what I do know to make the biggest impact that I can.

When we begin to measure social impact in a different way, we find ourselves more equipped to act. We find ourselves more fulfilled, more involved, more empowered. We find ourselves making a difference. Most importantly, we find ourselves refusing to wait. And that, is where the change happens.

Pictured above: Charlyn Moss (BSBA’20), Lexi Jackson (BSBA’20), Sema Dibooglu (BSBA’20), Claudia Rivera (BSBA’20)

Guest Blogger: Lexi Jackson, BSBA’20, is majoring in leadership and strategic management, political science; she is a strategy fellow at Bear Studios LLC.

Chad Ham and his paper on narcissism in CFOs.

Does a CFO with an outsized signature make more questionable choices while keeping the company books? According to Olin professor Chad Ham, the answer is yes.

Researchers connected the dots between the size of a CFO’s signature, the CFO’s level of narcissism, and the quality of their firm’s financial reporting in a recently published paper in the Journal of Accounting Research.

The authors’ research showed a link between large signatures and higher levels of narcissism. From there, they showed that “narcissistic CFOs are less likely to recognize losses in a timely manner…consistent with a willingness to cover up past mistakes.”

That paper, published in December, was part of a one-two punch Ham and his collaborators delivered linking management results from both CFOs and CEOs with their level of narcissism. A second paper focused on CEOs has been accepted for publication in the Review of Accounting Studies.

Unique approach to measuring personality

“Part of what’s unique about our research is how we’re capturing narcissism,” said Ham, an assistant professor of accounting at Olin. Because, of course, they couldn’t ask top corporate executives to submit to a personality test, signature size became a proxy for their level of self-love.

Ham, along with researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Maryland, College Park, staged a laboratory experiment to confirm previous research linking signature size and narcissism.

The researchers paired student volunteers and asked them to allocate $5 between themselves and their anonymous partners. Each was given a default allocation of $2.50. The students could stay with the default amount or decide to keep a larger or smaller amount for themselves—knowing that their anonymous partner was given the same task. After that assignment, the students had to fill out a personality test and sign their names.

The results confirmed that the students with larger signatures tended to be more narcissistic and, Ham said, “the more narcissistic participants were more likely to keep a larger share of that $5 endowment for themselves—to misreport their default allocation.”

The researchers then expanded their view with a field experiment reviewing data from more than 500 companies whose CFOs’ notarized signatures could be found on public SEC documents.

“We were able to show a relationship between CFO narcissism and aggressive financial reporting choices,” Ham said. The errors or misreporting took the form of overly aggressive accrual choices; a higher-than-expected level of restatements; and real activities (such as slashing advertising expenses near the end of a year to depress expenses and increase earnings).

Confirming results

Ham and the research team also compared the performance of the companies before and after the CFO was appointed. In the case of the narcissistic CFOs, Ham said, “the firms became more aggressive when these CFOs were appointed.”

The researchers found much the same pattern in the CEO study due for publication in the Review of Accounting Studies. Though not directly responsible for the financial reporting in the company, the paper shows that narcissistic CEOs—those with larger signatures—tended to over-invest in riskier projects and received higher compensation in spite of poorer financial performance.

So, should corporate boards just steer clear of CEOs and CFOs who sign their John Hancock like…well, John Hancock?

Ham says no. It’s not that simple.

“The purpose of our work isn’t to advocate for signature size as a measure of narcissism. It’s to study how executive narcissism affects firm behavior.”

A narcissistic CFO might benefit the company in other ways—ways that aren’t measured in this study.

At most, he said, corporate leaders should be aware of their C-suite occupants’ narcissistic tendencies and “you might want to make sure you have appropriate checks and balances in place.”

“If you want to glean anything from signature size,” Ham said, “you need to have a large sample. It’s an ‘on-average’ effect.”

Pictured above: Chad Ham with two sample signatures his research paper referenced from SEC documents, showing the relative different sizes in the signatures.

aggressions in the workplace during a student-led diversity and inclusion summit.
Students brainstorming in the D&I Summit's micro aggression session.

Students brainstorming in the D&I Summit’s micro aggression session.

“Do you need sponsorship to work here?”

“Why don’t you use your ‘black voice’ when you speak?”

“We needed to hire some women.”

These were just a few of the dozen off-putting statements—microaggressions—Olin students recalled hearing in their lifetimes. The litany of indignities launched a session on coping with microaggressions, one component in Friday’s Diversity and Inclusion Summit, organized by students from Phi Gamma Nu, Delta Sigma Pi, and Alpha Kappa Psi.

“Inclusion is a duty to act in order to celebrate diversity,” said Lexi Jackson, an Olin sophomore and codirector of the summit.

The afternoon event began with a panel discussion featuring D&I leaders at several top St. Louis-area companies, including Edward Jones, Pfizer, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Express Scripts, and US Bank.

Charlyn Moss, an Olin sophomore and codirector of the event, moderated the panel discussion. She asked panelists about their biggest personal challenge while engaging in diversity and inclusion work.

“I thought some of the battles I fought in college my kids wouldn’t have to be fighting,” said Susan Stith, vice president, diversity, inclusion and corporate giving for Express Scripts. “And now my kids say, ‘What did you do? Why are we still fighting these same battles 30 and 40 years later?’ That’s a hard place to be in.”

Each panelist expressed gratitude for working in a corporate environment that valued and nurtured its commitment to an inclusive workforce. Arvetta Powell, director of diversity and associate experience at Build-A-Bear, spoke of being recruited from Walmart to create a D&I infrastructure at her company.

“To come and be given a blank canvas was a great opportunity. To create the diversity platform from the ground up has been wonderful,” Powell said.

From left: Adita Akbani (Pfizer); Kim Hawkins (US Bank); Susan Stith (Express Scripts); Emily Pitts (Edward Jones); Arvetta Powell (Build-A-Bear); Charlyn Moss (Olin).

Panelists Adita Akbani, Kim Hawkins, Susan Stith, Emily Pitts, Arvetta Powell, and moderator Charlyn Moss.

The summit included a session on women in technology as well as the interactive program devoted to coping with microaggressions, where session leader Keisha Mabry, an adjunct lecturer at WashU, introduced the “SPEAK” technique:

Seek to Understand

“You have to get your mindset in that place. They’re saying this because it’s some truth of theirs. When we change our mindset, it allows information to be processed differently. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be angry. I’m saying you have to be in a mindset to seek to understand. When you’re not, you’ll have an impulse response.”

Process and Practice

“Everyone should have someone they can turn to as a sounding board to help you think strategically and logically.” Figure out a scenario when you can talk to the person and tell them what you heard.

Expose and Educate

“It can be so hard. This is when you actually speak. Oftentimes we feel like it’s not our responsibility to educate.” If you don’t want to educate, you can work with someone who can play that role for you. “If you state a problem, you better be ready to state a solution and figure out the resources you need to implement the solution.”

Ask Questions

“The asking of questions does not come until there is trust and rapport. Once that foundation is built, that’s when the trust is built.”

Keep at It

Create opportunities. The goal is to change the system, not the person. “This is exhausting.”

Don’t forget to register for Washington University’s Day of Discovery & Dialogue 2018 — Staying Resilient in Challenging Times, running Tuesday evening on the Medical Campus and Wednesday on the Danforth Campus.

Max Liu, BSBA

Max Liu, BSBA ’95, wants to make financial services more accessible, while accelerating financial inclusion for the unbanked population in Asia. Toward that end, the Hong Kong-based entrepreneur cofounded and runs EMQ, a financial technology innovator that is building a financial network across Asia with a focus on remittance.

The company just closed a $6.5 million round of funding last month. Liu founded EMQ in 2014 to offer cross-border remittance services between two countries at a fraction of the price of conventional banks, providing secure and affordable money transfer options for businesses and individuals.

Olin’s Nancy Barter, senior director of development, caught up with Liu a few months after he met Dean Mark Taylor during a visit to Hong Kong.

Tell us more about the work you’ve done at EMQ.

We developed our entire business from a compliance and regulatory perspective by partnering with banks and established payment partners. We also spent years to make sure our networks are fully compliant end to end, and that we abide by all rules and regulations in every country we operate in.

Today, we have established a resilient and regulatory-approved remittance network with an extensive last-mile distribution footprint across North and Southeast Asia‎.

We also have built a strong partner ecosystem of financial institutions, digital wallets, telecom companies, and traditional money transfer providers (cash pick-up), amassing thousands of distribution points across North and Southeast Asia.

How did your Olin education affect your career?

Olin is a welcoming community. Relationships between the student body and faculty are very unique.

Faculty members are committed to our education and future. They always encourage us to think hard, ask the big questions, find inspiration—and our passion.

We can actively engage with professors, dig deep into specialty areas, customize coursework with electives, immerse ourselves in global programs, and collaborate with organizations of all types and sizes. It creates a great platform for our future career.

What course or faculty member influenced you most?

Every single person I have met at Olin has influenced my education in some way or another, but the diverse and supportive community—a unique blend of cultures and beliefs—had a profound impact on me.

I found thought leaders, world-class faculty, and global alumni passionately sharing their advantages with me. I learned a lot of business knowledge and gained valuable hands-on experience through my engagements.

Was there a “defining moment” in your WashU experience?

I was a part of Olin’s Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs, which provided me with the resources and networking opportunities necessary to foster entrepreneurship. I learned from aspiring entrepreneurs at Olin and attended conferences across the United States and Asia.

My trip to Beijing in 1992 to meet entrepreneurs and businessmen across different industries taught me to creatively solve problems—and adapt to change and people from all different backgrounds and perspectives—to reach my goal.

How would you counsel today’s Olin students to focus their education and career-building efforts?

As an entrepreneur running EMQ, passion is very important to me. The things I was most passionate about were being able to see a problem and figuring out a way to solve it by making financial services more accessible to businesses and individuals.

When times get tough—which they always do in the startup environment—it was my passion that drove me and helped me persist. 

When we are passionate about something, we work harder, we get more creative, we search more diligently for solutions. When difficult problems arise, we inspire others who work alongside us.

How do you stay engaged with Olin and Washington University?

Olin and Washington University maintain an exceptionally close bond with the university and the alumni. Whenever people from Olin and Washington University take a trip through the Asia Pacific region, I always get an email inviting me to attend an event—or, sometimes, have a deep-dive conversation with a faculty member, as I did with Dean Mark Taylor’s recent visit to Hong Kong.

During my recent breakfast meeting with Dean Taylor, we spoke about the fintech ecosystem in Asia and ways we can provide more opportunities for the students at Olin and Washington University.

Following this breakfast, I was connected to Cliff Holenkamp, who runs Olin’s entrepreneurship program and has a passion for building businesses and laying the proper foundation to groom future entrepreneurs. I was also connected to Greg Hutchings of Olin’s Weston Career Center to connect the companies in Asia to the talent pool at Olin.

As an entrepreneur myself, I believe in the power of entrepreneurship; it’s great to share my stories of triumphs and challenges to give insightful vision to the next generation of students and entrepreneurs and continue to inspire and motivate them to reach their goals.

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