Tag: Undergraduate

Miranda Lan is in the back row, far left.

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin BSBA alumni. Today we hear from Miranda Lan, BSBA ’17.

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

I work for Capital One as an HR Consultant (HRC) in our Plano, Texas, office. Olin empowered me to drive my own career and explore many different business areas through its many courses, extracurriculars, corporate partnerships/events, case competitions, etc. I had the opportunity to pilot the Small Business Initiative consulting program, run research studies for the consumer behavior lab, write a group thesis for an honors in management distinction, intern for a startup through the Skandalaris Center and so much more!

Ultimately, as a teaching assistant for management communication and a leader in Phi Gamma Nu (professional fraternity), I concluded that I wanted to pursue a career focused on empowering others to reach their full potential.

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

Hands down Staci Thomas and her management communication class influenced my life the most. The course itself taught me innumerable practical skills for the workplace, and I loved it so much that I turned around and became a TA the following semester (and did so for every semester after that until I graduated!).

Stacy encouraged and mentored me, always seeking out feedback on how to improve the course. Just knowing that there are great teachers and advisors at Olin who are willing to go above and beyond to help their students is one of the reasons I try and do the same as a young alumni.

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

The bonds I built with my Olin classmates and friends mean the world to me! My apartment is cluttered with photos of great memories with my PGN buddies, my study abroad cohort, and more. I keep in touch with many through social media, but beyond that, I make it a point to see people face-to-face whenever possible.

Whether I’m visiting San Francisco, Chicago or New York City, or others are coming to the Dallas area, I reach out and let them know I’m around. It’s a warm and gratifying feeling to know that I have friends around the US and world who cheer me on and whom I can cheer on too.

Why is business education important? 

A business education, and especially an Olin education, has immense value in its combination of breadth and depth of topics. “Business” does not happen in a vacuum; the breadth of courses covered in the Olin curriculum equips students with the knowledge to see big-picture concepts and make connections across industries, functions, etc.

Depth is equally important because business advancements cannot be made without subject-matter expertise. The courses I took in consumer behavior, labor economics, and negotiations gave me the skills I need to excel in my role today. And, Olin goes the extra step to provide countless opportunities to apply those skills through hands-on, experiential learning.

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

Explore and experiment. Olin and WashU create the perfect setting to try something outside of your comfort zone—and who knows? You may end up finding a new hobby and making new friends along the way.

I worked with the WashU racing team (yes, they build real, competitive race cars) on marketing and sponsorships and co-owned the SWAP nonprofit free store.

I cherished these experiences and the amazing people I met through them! These types of opportunities, and groups like the CEL and Skandalaris Center provide endless chances to learn something new every day, every semester. No excuses, just go try it.

Pictured above: Miranda Lan is in the back row, far left.

Nick Rizzo, JD ’19, Alistair McKane, JD ‘19, and Whit Urdan, BSBA ‘21.

Whit Urdan, BSBA ‘21, Nick Rizzo, JD ’19, and Alistair McKane, JD ‘19, cowrote this for the Olin Blog.

We are assisting Engagedly, an employee performance management firm, with analyzing their market impact, client acquisition and outreach as they transform from a startup into an industry leader.

Engagedly has told our team we can be most impactful by using their client list to survey customers—and those of their competitors—to perform a win-loss analysis. The results will help us make recommendations surrounding Engagedly’s software in addition to aiding in the development of a marketing and sales strategy.

The goal is to make the firm more efficient in the customer acquisition process so Engagedly can grow in the domestic market.

Thus far, we have met with the Engagedly team to gain an understanding of their current positioning and how we can help them make their long-term goals a reality. Despite not having a dedicated client acquisition strategy, we have learned that the company targets three main industries, knows its comparative advantages and generally knows how the software can be improved.

Starting with the current client list, we were able to get more detailed information on Engagedly’s target industries, clients and customer acquisition process. This data allowed our team to hypothesize potential areas for growth, including ancillary industries that are under-penetrated.

We seek to confirm these assumptions through our client survey and win-loss analysis. Additionally, the survey results may lead us to other performance management tools that aren’t on Engagedly’s radar.

Our survey will focus on why prospective clients choose to employ Engagedly’s product or to go in another direction. We want to know what potential customers appreciated—or did not like—about the product and sales team. We will ask about their previous method of employee management and what problems they want to solve with such a product. Furthermore, we will inquire how they learned about Engagedly in the first place.

Engagedly does not send out such questionnaires, and because we are not employed by Engagedly, we predict current and lost clients will be more likely to give us information than the Engagedly team itself.

As our deliverable, we will recommend ways for Engagedly to grow its customer base, whether through improving its product or altering its marketing strategy. It is also our hope that our survey can serve as a template so Engagedly can continue to perform win-loss analyses on its own down the road.

Throughout the entire process, though, we have kept in mind Engagedly’s overarching goal of growing in the United States market rather than an international market. Therefore, while we will still survey their clients abroad, our focus will stay with making its product the most marketable to firms in the United States.

Cash Nickerson

The 2018 Olin Business magazine shared a series of vignettes featuring alumni faced with a business decision requiring them to weigh data with their values. We featured these stories to support Olin’s strategic pillar focused on equipping leaders to confront challenge and create change, for good. This is one of those vignettes.

Data and values are important in making big decisions, but as Cash Nickerson, JD ’85, MBA ’93, points out, “there are really very few momentous decisions.

“We make hundreds of decisions in a day,” said Nickerson, an author and president/principal at PDS Tech Inc., one of the largest engineering and IT staffing firms in the United States. “Many are trivial. But many of the trivial decisions come back to you in one form or another.”

Nickerson thinks in terms of a “structure of thought,” a muscle he’s developed so those everyday decisions are still based on data and values. “What fascinates me more than how someone makes the big decisions is the algorithm an executive uses for making the everyday decisions,” he said.

For him, that algorithm focuses on people.

“I like to think of myself as very numbers driven as well as values driven,” Nickerson said.

“My philosophy is that I wake up every morning and remind myself of the uniqueness of humans. To me, it’s a value to treat each person as an individual.”

This story includes material contained in a news release issued by the American Accounting Association. Researcher Philip Berger received financial support for this research from Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

A common assumption is that stock analysts gather earnings and other pertinent information to communicate to current and potential stockholders, and then incorporate that information by revising their current-quarter earnings forecasts.

So much for that perception. A new study involving two WashU Olin faculty members finds that analysts disseminate earnings news by revising share-price targets or stating they expect firms to beat earnings estimates, often tempering such information—even suppressing positive news—to facilitate beatable projections.

The study discovered that, when it comes to the current-quarter earnings reports that are analysts’ most closely followed work product, analysts become selective about which forecasts they update and what information they convey. The researchers found that later forecasts issued by the same analyst—such as share-price target revisions, forecast revisions to the other quarters’ forecasts or textual statements about earnings after the last quarterly forecast—surprisingly predict errors in the analyst’s own current-quarter forecast. These associations are much stronger for good news, consistent with analysts catering to managers’ desires to meet or beat earnings forecasts.


Their paper—coauthored by Zachary Kaplan and Chad Ham, both assistant professors of accounting at Olin, along with Philip Berger of the University of Chicago—is scheduled for the March issue of The Accounting Review.

Using data from 8,860 analysts covering 7,933 unique companies over 71 quarters, the researchers reported the likelihood of a downward revision of current earnings estimates came at a 50-percent greater possibility than an upward revision: 19.5 percent downward vs.13 percent upward. When it came to revising stock-price targets and future-earnings estimates, however, the reverse was true to a 20-percent greater possibility: 11.2 percent upward vs. 9.3 percent downward. The firms most likely to meet or beat earnings were those with positive price-target revisions, suggesting those revisions were at least partially motivated by prior omitted earnings information.


There are two important takeaways from these findings, Kaplan and Ham said.

First, one of the reasons managers are so successful in meeting or beating earnings forecasts is that they persuade analysts to omit positive news from forecasts.

“Managers care a lot about beating earnings forecasts, and analysts rely a lot on managers, so upsetting them is not really an option,” Kaplan said. “Additionally, analysts care deeply about conveying information to their clients, so they cannot merely issue beatable forecasts. The way we find analysts deal with this dilemma is by conveying positive news through the text of their reports and share-price target revisions—this allows managers to meet or beat estimates while also allowing the analyst to update clients about positive news.

“Non-clients, who rely on earnings forecasts because they do not have access to the whole of an analysts’ work product, end up with skewed information, but this is not an issue for the analysts’ business,” Kaplan said.

The researchers said that analysts purposefully lower, or “walk down,” projections. By keeping earnings forecasts low and neglecting some positive developments, the researchers wrote, analysts “cater to managers’ preferences for a walked-down (earnings) forecast pattern. The pattern we document, however, includes avoidance of walking up rather than only a walk-down. … Non-earnings forecast signals are more prevalent for positive news than negative news, consistent with analysts responding to incentives to issue [earnings] forecasts managers will meet or beat.”

Second, by not disseminating all information through current quarter’s earnings forecasts, which are widely available through commercial databases, analysts provide an advantage to clients who have paid for access to the full breadth of their research product.

“Analysts convey information in ways that enable them to be of service to clients, who they care about, and, at the same time, to avoid displeasing corporate managers, who they also care about,” Ham said.

The study may offer a lesson to the broader public: Perhaps widely circulated earnings forecasts aren’t as informative as people think.  If you want the best information an analyst has to offer, you have to pay for it.

In a separate survey of brokerages’ reports to clients, the researchers learned that — without changing forecasts — analysts didn’t refrain from explicitly predicting firms would beat or miss their targets … and the “beat” or positive predictions outnumbered the “miss” or negative predictions by roughly 30 percent.

Image above courtesy of Shutterstock.

The Arch Consulting team at the USC Marshall case competition. From left, Kevin Zhang, BSBA ’22, Madison Stoecker, BSBA ’19, Lauren Dumas, BSBA ’19, and Andrew Montgomery, BSBA ’20.

Lauren Dumas, BSBA ’19, was part of the Arch Consulting team that competed at USC Marshall. She wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Arch Consulting, a traveling case competition organization on WashU’s campus, participated in the Marshall International Case Competition at the University of Southern California from February 19-23.

After competing in a pool of 20 total teams represented by schools across the globe, Arch secured second place in the final round and was voted to win “people’s choice” by the advisers and fellow participants.  The team was comprised of Lauren Dumas, BSBA ’19, Madison Stoecker, BSBA ’19, Andrew Montgomery, BSBA ’20, and Kevin Zhang, BSBA ’22.

The case was based on Zuru, “a disruptive and award-winning company that designs, manufactures and markets innovative toys and consumer products.”

The private company is globally recognized for its dynamic and agile manufacturing capabilities, with popular brands including Fidget Cube and Bunch O Balloons within its product portfolio. 

The WashU team was challenged with answering several key questions Zuru faces in light of a volatile macroeconomic environment and changing consumer trends and preferences, particularly as they endeavor to expand manufacturing outside of the toy industry and enter as a competitor in the consumer packaged goods space.

Over the course of 24 hours, the WashU team developed a two-pronged strategy that focused first on addressing Zuru’s current challenges in establishing strong positioning within the Chinese market, while also creating a replicable infrastructure to ensure Zuru’s sustainable growth and competitive advantage as it expands across geographies and new industries.

The team had an incredible experience at the competition, enjoying the case analysis as well as the opportunity to build life-long friendships among teammates and across representatives from various universities in attendance.

We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent WashU at Marshall, and look forward to future teams enjoying the experience.

Watch Arch Consulting’s final presentation.

Pictured above: The Arch Consulting team at the USC Marshall case competition. From left, Kevin Zhang, BSBA ’22, Madison Stoecker, BSBA ’19, Lauren Dumas, BSBA ’19, and Andrew Montgomery, BSBA ’20.