Tag: Undergraduate

Ranjeet Ahluwalia

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.

The silence on the conference call was deafening. Seven years ago, when Ranjeet Ahluwalia, MBA ’05, was a healthcare advertising agency strategist, the team dialed in with notable physician thought leaders seeking to sell an Alzheimer’s treatment. Ahluwalia’s agency hoped to score a contract worth as much as $20 million.

Before the call, the agency pored through data about the drug, seeking information they could use to make a compelling case for the new medication. Somehow, for Ahluwalia, now founder and lead sparker at Silbospark, the clinical data just wasn’t adding up.

On the conference call, he asked a physician expert to help him “find the story” in the data that would help sell the drug. That prompted an independent pharmaceutical expert on the call to ask, “Based on what you see here, would you give this drug to your mother?”


Ahluwalia’s firm didn’t get the contract. In fact, the drug never went to market.

“Ultimately, we had to decide whether to tell them what they wanted to hear or what they needed to hear,” Ahluwalia said. “We told them what they needed to hear—and we didn’t win the business.”

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin BSBA alumni. Today we hear from Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17. Andrew founded GiftAMeal, a company that developed a mobile app that helps restaurants reach new audiences while empowering users to feed someone in need.

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

I am working on growing a startup I founded while I was a student at WashU called GiftAMeal. GiftAMeal is a mobile app that helps provide a meal to someone in need each time a user takes a photo at a partner restaurant.

Restaurants pay a monthly subscription to be on the app for marketing, and then we cover all the costs of donations to local food banks to feed the hungry. My Olin education has massively assisted GiftAMeal’s growth. From entrepreneurship courses like The Hatchery to marketing to negotiations to organizational behavior, I constantly pull from knowledge learned in Olin.

Additionally, the professors have been amazing advisors of mine, and we have actually been able to run some marketing experiments on GiftAMeal led by WashU professors to get their expert analysis!

In addition to the valuable course content and professors, my fellow classmates were majorly impactful. Olin has so many smart, driven students that are also incredibly unique. From conversations in the dorms, over lunch, or in the BSBA lounge, I was constantly learning from my peers and seeking their feedback.

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

The course that influenced me the most was organizational behavior. I bounced around from finance to economics and strategy. After taking OB 360, I realized my passion laid at the intersection of business and psychology.

Learning how people and organizations operate fascinated me and directed how I formed my team, negotiated contracts, built sales pitches, secured investment and built sustainable practices for my business.

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

I stay engaged with Olin in a variety of ways. I serve as an associate member of the Alumni Board of Governors, a member of the Olin LEAD Committee, and as a member of the Skandalaris Center Eliot Society Committee.

I also occasionally guest lecture at WashU, hire WashU interns, conduct research with WashU professors, work with students who do class projects on GiftAMeal and mentor WashU student entrepreneurs. I stay in touch with my friends who graduated alongside me through Facebook, LinkedIn, phone calls, texts and occasional visits to one another.

Why is business education important?

Business education is crucial to build a solid foundation for how to think through problem solving and the fundamental components of what is needed for an organization to succeed.

Regardless of the organization, knowledge of finance, accounting, marketing, organizational behavior and strategy is just so necessary in order to make yourself a value add and to be able to see the bigger picture.

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

Looking back, I would advise Olin students to write down a few key takeaways at the end of each semester that they had about each of their courses. Then, when you have graduated, you can occasionally look back to remind yourself of those learnings and have them act as sparks to help you remember important things you learned in your courses.

I would also say to enjoy college, balance having fun and academics and get involved doing something you are passionate about. Olin presents so many opportunities for students, and this is the time to experiment and learn what you like and don’t like and find out who you want to be as a person in your future career.

Max Klapow, LA ’21, is a psychology-neuroscience-philosophy and cognitive neuroscience double major from Birmingham, Alabama. Max joined the Bear Studios team as a strategy fellow in December 2018. He wrote this for the Olin Blog.

When we think about innovation, a lot of business-school buzzwords come to mind. “Tech,” “corporate shake-up,” “industry disruption”—the list goes on and on. Rarely, however, do we include words like “human,” “heart,”  “connection,” or “understanding” among that list.

By failing to link innovation to its human-centric conception, we further the idea that business is logic and nothing more. Business is spreadsheets, go-to-market plans, careful research, and analytic approaches to engagement.

“It’s nothing personal,” we even say, “It’s just business.”

We’re quick to draw a dichotomy between logic and emotion. It makes sense; emotions seldom line up with the objective reality, so we’re hesitant to trust them.

But this separation has become extreme. Think how we assess skills in the workplace. There are the “hard skills”: spreadsheets, word processing, research abilities, and meeting quotas. Then, we have the “soft skills”: communication, teamwork, problem-solving and understanding the big picture. These so-called “soft” skills are, in fact, essential to making change to both the business world at large and the collaboration and innovation within in.

Emphasizing the human connection

First, however, we must recognize that innovation requires empathy.

In a world where technology is ubiquitous, solutions that offer humans more benefit are the key to engagement. It’s a wickedly simple concept. People want to like what they use. The hang-up, however, tends to lie in the approach.

This where human-centered organizations like Bear Studios, Two Ravens (where I interned last summer as an analyst), and the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship make an impact. Whether it’s regular team brainstorming at Bear Studios, design thinking seminars at Two Ravens, or venture opportunities and networks at Skandalaris, it’s nearly impossible to miss the emphasis on human connection in business.

It is not just small startups or student-run organizations that are capable of human-centric innovation. Large companies are comforted with this opportunities as well. Size may be a factor for the magnitude and ease by which companies innovate, but the capacity exists.

Where companies often misstep is in the front-loading and data collection processes. These two concepts have roots in both the philosophy of science and the scientific method itself. Getting in the habit of expending resources on the initial stages of problem-solving can do wonders for designing an effective and efficient solution.

That’s not to advocate that all problem solving should use the scientific method, but rather draw lessons from the approach. If we can start by defining a problem that needs to be solved and identify the assumptions required for the problem to exist, it might go a long way in developing a solution.

This is because we frequently jump in to innovation and problem solving by spitballing—throwing ideas against the wall and prototyping the ones that stick. It’s expensive, time consuming and often fruitless.

Why? Because it lacks empathy.

Empathy drives innovation

To be clear, empathy is not a complicated procedure that requires company-wide buy-in to be effective. It does not necessarily require extensive training or an immediate overhaul of processes. At its core, empathy asks us to acknowledge each other’s humanity.

In a corporate setting, this can be as easy as beta testing product based on its minimum viable experience, interviewing prospective buyers to understand their pain-points in engaging with your company or product, or grounding a solution in principles of human behavior.

It’s a wickedly simple concept that often eludes even the savviest businesses. Innovation requires empathy because empathy drives innovation.

Olin Business School shares this mindset. Olin’s values-based, data-driven branding promise encompasses both the numerical and relational aspects of business. Olin prepares students to arrive at innovative solutions to the most challenging business issues in a way that leverages both research and relationships.

Whether it’s collaborative case competitions within the classroom or student-run startups outside of the classroom, Olin’s students understand that innovation is more than just a numbers game.

For other companies and institutions, arriving at a point of human-centric innovation takes time and may seem unnatural. Companies exist to make a profit. This premise is simple, but its implications for vulnerability are incredible. Vulnerability means uncertainty.

For investors, for executives and particularly for the students planning to work in industry, we have to start becoming OK with not having all of the answers in order to be able to find them. That means education and organizations that emphasize connection.

If humans can innovate, companies can, too. We just have to be willing to see the bigger picture.

“It’s nothing personal, it’s just business,” creates a transactional view of business. Yet, business has always been personal. It has to be. We are and always will be inextricably tied with the numbers. Whether we can use them to innovate—along with our own humanity—is simply up to us.

Commencement season is upon us, and we couldn’t be more proud of the class of 2019. Whether you’re finishing your BSBA, your master’s or your doctorate, we have plenty of reasons – and opportunities – to celebrate you. Here’s the rundown on your Olin graduation ceremonies.


The 158th annual WashU May Commencement Ceremony takes place Friday, May 17 at 8:30 a.m. in Brookings Quadrangle. Learn more.

BSBA Recognition Ceremony: Friday, May 17, 11:30 a.m. at the Field House, Athletic Complex. If you’re attending, get the details on arrival, seating, the ceremony and more.

Can’t make it? Watch via livestream on the Olin graduation website or our Facebook page.


The 158th annual WashU May Commencement Ceremony takes place Friday, May 17 at 8:30 a.m. in Brookings Quadrangle. Learn more.

Graduate Programs Recognition Ceremony: Friday, May 17, 3:00 p.m. at the Field House, Athletic Complex. If you’re attending, get the details on arrival, seating, the ceremony and more.

Can’t make it? Watch via livestream on the Olin graduation website or our Facebook page.

Other recognition ceremonies

All week, WashU will hold ceremonies to recognize and honor various populations – from members of our military to cultural recognition to students with children and families. See the full list.

For faculty

Graduation isn’t just for the students – it’s a celebration and an honor for our faculty members, too. Faculty information can be found on our graduation website (password protected).

Did we answer your question?

If not – check out our graduation website for more information, or for WashU questions, contact commencement@wustl.edu.

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin alumni. Today we hear from Brooke Hofer, BSBA ’16.

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

I started my career in the campus sales program on the beverage side of PepsiCo after doing a summer internship with them, but around a year ago, I left to work for Waste Management. My current role is as pricing analyst for the Illinois Missouri Valley Market Area.

I am the disposal pricing lead, so the vast majority of my time is spent analyzing the current state of our pricing strategies for third-party customers who use our Waste Management-owned landfills and working with the industrial account managers to make sure new business is being sold at a profitable rate.

It is crucial for me to understand the market rates and the competitive environment so that not only do we remain profitable, but also competitive. Although the waste industry may not be the most glamorous (especially coming from somewhere like Pepsi), it has proven to be multi-faceted, ever-evolving and extremely competitive.

I graduated from Olin with degrees in Finance and Marketing, with the sole intention of going down a Sales or Marketing career path. When I was ready to make a career change, the finance courses that I took at Olin allowed me to have the confidence to step out of my comfort zone and take on a new role that was much more financial and analytically focused.

I have seen many courses that I took at Olin come to life at both Pepsi and Waste Management and that can be attributed to Olin’s emphasis on real-life examples and case studies that not only allowed us to better learn and understand the material, but also implement it in our work post-graduation.

After graduating from Olin, I felt that the classes I took, the projects I worked on and the interactions that I had with peers and professors had fully prepared me for a career in the business world, whether it was on the sales/marketing trajectory or something entirely different.

What Olin course, “defining moment” or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

Hunter Wasser (’17 Olin Grad), Kenzie James (teammate on WashU softball), myself and Mitch McMahon

Without the Woods Scholars program, I would not have been able to attend WashU or Olin and for that I am forever grateful for the Woods family for making that possible.

From the moment I stepped on campus for scholarship weekend my senior year of high school and was greeted by Paige LaRose and Dean (Steve) Malter, I knew Olin would be the best place to prepare me for a career in the business world and life post-college.

Paige ended up becoming an incredible mentor for me, guiding me through my four years on campus and even beyond when I needed help with a job search, and the Woods Scholar Program connected me to students, faculty and others I would not have otherwise had the pleasure of knowing.

Being a part of this program enhanced my time at Olin greatly and the education that it provided me continues to be a constant influence in my career and life.

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

My 4 roommates from WashU – Emily Erani (Olin 16′), Claire Garpestad, Breanna Valcarel, myself and Hannah Towle (Olin ’16)

A lot of my friends, and even softball teammates, were Olin graduates as well and the best part of WashU is that it brings people together from all walks of life, so now I have friends to visit all over the country! Whether it’s just a weekend trip or a wedding with a lot of us in attendance, it’s great to stay in touch with everyone that played such a big role in my life for my four years on campus.

Throughout the job search about a year ago, I realized how beneficial it was to know someone that worked for the companies that I was looking at or even in the same industry, so I definitely plan on making sure to continue utilizing all of the connections that I made at Olin and WashU in general.

Why is business education important?

Amanda Kalupa (Olin ’16), myself and Annie Pitkin | 2016 WashU softball graduating class

In my opinion, the most beneficial part of the business education, specifically one from Olin, is that I graduated feeling like I had a well-rounded understanding of the business world and its various functions. Although I focused on Marketing and Finance, I still was able to understand the basics behind Accounting, Operations, etc. because of the courses that a business education allowed me to take.

With this basic understanding of all different facets of a business, I feel comfortable taking on new roles or new industries throughout my career. In addition to the courses that we took, the group projects and presentations absolutely prepare you for projects, meetings and presentations that will happen often, if not weekly, throughout your career.

Olin group projects put us in great positions to learn how to work with others that may think differently than you and that’s exactly what happens in the office every single day.

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

My parents, siblings and I in Sedona, AZ | January 2019

Although Olin does require that certain beginner courses be taken in various fields of business, I would definitely recommend branching out and taking other courses at Olin that may not fall directly in line with what your career path will be or may not be required; these could end up supplementing your career very well.

When I was at Olin, I had only envisioned myself in a sales or marketing role, so I focused heavily on those types of courses, but now that my career path has taken a turn, I am glad that I took other courses in accounting, organizational behavior, etc.

Use the career center, job fairs and Meet the Firms! Now having been a part of the other side of recruiting, I have come to understand the importance of meeting applicants face to face before the interview process and the power of first impressions.

Often times we (as recruiters) made up our minds about candidates on the spot at the job fairs, so make sure to use the opportunities that Olin affords you (even though they can sometimes be nerve-racking) as a way to make a great first impression to potential employers.

Pictured above: Brooke Hofer with Mitch McMahon. A 2016 Olin Grad and fellow Woods Scholar.