Tag: Veterans



Jeff Gibson, MBA

Jeff Gibson saw 200,000 service members transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce each year—and he saw an opportunity. Leveraging his own 10 years as a Navy SEAL, 15 years as a government recruiting contractor—and a hefty dose of artificial intelligence technology—the WashU Olin alumnus is streamlining the way veterans match their skills with employers.

Gibson—who received his WashU MBA in 2002 and cofounded the Olin Veterans Association—is one of the entrepreneurs behind Oplign, an online recruiting site that helps vets find prospective opportunities with a few mouse clicks based on regimented data associated with their military training and work assignments.

The company also helps clients such as Verizon—which Gibson says gets 500 applications each day from veterans—sift through the prospects to find candidates who truly match the qualifications for their various openings.

“They have no way of sorting through those in a reasonable manner,” Gibson said. He said their director of military hiring works with 20 recruiters, but they can’t see everybody. “It’s a way for them to improve their applicant experience. They can say why candidates are not qualified— or what they are qualified for.”

Gibson credits his time at Olin for opening the path for where he is today. “Olin led me to one step, which led me to another, which led me to another,
charting his path from the military to a Fortune 500 employer and then back to applying his skills as an entrepreneur focused on hiring vets.

Supply and demand for hiring

On the applicant side, Oplign (“opportunities align”) simplifies the process by inviting job seekers to walk through a few simple screens to enter their service information. For example, with a handful of clicks, a vet can indicate they served eight years in the Marines, achieving the rank of E5, with a “military occupation code” indicating logistics experience.

A few more clicks can highlight a service member’s security clearance, special training opportunities and other pertinent experience. Behind the scenes, Oplign uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to translate that vet’s military experience into the language of civilian employers—highlighting the skills and experience relevant to recruiters. In 60 seconds, the applicant is done. Job openings matching the vet’s skills appear on the screen.

“There are really only about 30 things the labor market thinks are important for accounting,” Gibson said. Meanwhile, Oplign’s algorithm identifies about 15 skills and experiences employers value when looking at HVAC technicians.

On the recruiting side, Oplign scrapes websites for job opportunities—and directly links to client sites such as Verizon, American Electric Power in the Ohio River Basin, Pike Electric, aviation companies such as MAG Aerospace and a small number of government contractors. That’s where Oplign generates its revenue.

“Companies can see instantly whether candidates are qualified,” he said.

Ready to break out in the industry?

Gibson said military hiring represents a $1 billion market—one Oplign is only beginning to tap. In its third year of operation, Gibson and his cofounders have bootstrapped the company, which has $1 million in annual revenue. “The first year, we were proving the tech. The second year, we started getting customers. The third year, we feel we’re about ready to break out,” Gibson said. “We just picked up some pretty big customers who like what we’re doing.”

The focus on military hiring derives from the experience of Gibson and his cofounders, all veterans. After serving as in Navy, he worked three years at 3M and felt the call to return to more direct work with the military after 9/11. He worked for a recruiting firm, fulfilling federal government hiring contracts by filling roles for agencies such as the Department of Defense, State Department, Drug Enforcement Agency and the CIA.

“The military hiring market is a good place for us to prove our system,” he said. “A military resume is even more confusing than a regular resume with all the acronyms.”

And while the resume is the currency job seekers barter for opportunities, Gibson sees it as a barrier his firm’s technology can sweep away.

“We’re trying to get rid of the resume. You spend so much time trying to put the right information there, tailoring it to each job—and leaving out so many other skills,” he said. “We pull information from the individual. We help them build their own online resume—one that’s important to the labor market, not one that they think is important.”

Pictured above: Jeff Gibson, MBA ’02, with his wife, Karen.




Tom and his wife, Erin, at an Olin event. They have two boys: Benjamin, 3, and Gabriel, 18 months.

WashU Olin students should know: Tom Russell, MBA ’15, is a recruiting rock star for those who follow him into the full-time MBA program. In his roles at Anheuser-Busch, he’s hired numerous Olin students for internships and full-time positions. In fact, he just recently sent a request to have Olin students check out six new positions at the beermaker.

Meanwhile, he’s been promoted four times since starting four years ago, serving now as a senior director “reporting directly to our North America CFO, responsible for managing all of our technology operational expenditures and capital expenditures, as well as our technology excellence program.”

That follows nearly four years of service in the US Army in a variety of leadership positions—including combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

We caught up with Tom to ask a few questions about how his Olin experience has translated to a career at Anheuser-Busch and how it helped him transition from military to civilian leadership.

In what ways are you using data to make business decisions?

Every decision I make at Anheuser Busch involves data; however, data alone does not always tell the complete story—I layer in qualitative analysis to round out the story in an effort to make the most optimal decision. Specifically, in my current role, I am responsible for managing all of our technology OPEX and CAPEX spending in North America so the majority of my data is financial data.

How did your experience at Olin prepare you for that?

My experience at Olin definitely prepared me well for my career at Anheuser Busch—the core curriculum provided me with a strong foundation in areas such as finance, accounting, critical thinking, statistics and corporate strategy—I have deployed the skills and knowledge I learned in each of these courses throughout my four years at ABI. In addition, in my second year, I focused heavily on finance and analytics—it was great to be able to have the flexibility in the curriculum to concentrate in this way.

How do you leverage your principles, or those of your organization, in weighing the data?

One of our principles at A-B is that we manage costs tightly—this means that we put an immense amount of effort into our budgeting and financial reporting processes. Robust financial management, accounting and reporting are crucial to our cost-connect-win strategy. This cost-conscious, ownership mindset provides the foundation for how I think about our financials and all of the decisions I make.

As a military veteran, did you have experience around the world? Do you view yourself as a global business leader? In what ways?

I did have experience around the world—I served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and also spent a summer in Germany as part of our training curriculum when I was a cadet at West Point. I do view myself as a global business leader—we are a global company, and I routinely interact with my colleagues in South America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, to include routine trips to those parts of the world.

Pictured above: Tom and his wife, Erin, at an Olin event. They have two boys: Benjamin, 3, and Gabriel, 18 months.


Relive some of the sights and sounds from the Olin Veterans Association Dining Out event on March 29, 2018, with this quick video summary. Here are a few details about the event from our earlier blog post about it, written by Sontaya Sherrell, MBA ’18, and an Olin veteran herself.

Among the traditional rituals at the Dining Out, guests were invited to answer for violations of the written rules of the evening by paying a fine—all of which supports the Olin Veterans Scholarship Fund—or having a drink from the dreaded “grog bowl,” which features a hodgepodge of questionable ingredients mixed into one punch.

A few of the lighthearted rules guests could potentially be punished for include wearing a clip-on bow tie at an obvious angle, using excessive military slang or jargon, or wearing clip-on suspenders.

Guests were expected to adhere to an honor system in recognizing their own infractions or could be reported for an infraction by another attendee. Balancing out these more amusing aspects of the event were more solemn traditions, one of which included the recognition of those who could not be with us that evening.




Leonard Adreon, BSBA ’50, is a Korean War veteran, a corpsman who chronicled his experiences in a recently released memoir, Hilltop Doc: A Marine Corpsman Fighting Through the Mud and Blood of the Korean War. The memoir marked the first time in 60 years he had confronted and told the stories of the gruesome experiences he faced in war.

He recently returned to campus for a public conversation about his book, moderated by Olin Dean Mark Taylor.

“I didn’t say a word to anybody,” Adreon told the St. Louis Jewish Light. “A lot of us decided that the smartest thing to do was to go on with our lives and put it behind us. What we experienced and endured was horrendous. It was better forgotten.”

After the war, Adreon returned to St. Louis and spent 36 years as the executive vice president of The Siteman Organization. a real estate management and development company. He was an active advocate for the building and real estate industry throughout his career, serving in advocacy roles around the world and in Washington, DC.

Adreon has also been a leader at a variety of charities focused on child welfare and volunteers as a facilitator for writing classes in Washington University’s Lifelong Learning Institute.

He offered this poem to Dean Taylor in late April as a tribute to fallen US soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines.

Remember Forever

I am alone
among the silent stones
It’s early morning
The sun creeps through
sparsely scattered clouds
chases the night away
A cool gentle breeze
tingles my skin

Row after row
marble stones
on a carpet of green
Each curved at the top
standing proud over the grave
a small religious symbol
above the etched name of one who served
and the dates of a shortened shattered life

I’m here to visit my son
resting quietly with other soldiers
Today is his 40th birthday
If he could talk to me
what would he say
What is the message I should carry home

I sit on the small bench
close my eyes and listen

Dad, you’re here, that’s what counts
When I went away I knew the score
Danger lurked with every step
Most guys made it and came home
Some of us ran out of luck

I tried to do my best
for you and Mom
for Jamie and Helen
I longed to hear your voice
Feel the warm hug of your love

try to remember me Dad
and all who lie beside me
Remember me forever
Remember them forever




OVA

Sontaya Sherrell, MBA ’18 and vice president for communications for the Olin Veterans Association, provided this blog post on behalf of the organization.

The Olin Veterans Association had the great pleasure of hosting its Fifth Annual Dining Out ceremony at the Bellerive Country Club. This traditional black-tie event on March 29 consisted of military rituals, lighthearted banter, and words of wisdom imparted from our admirable guest of honor, Maj. Gen. David Bellon, commander, US Marine Corps Forces, South.

How does the OVA improve student veterans’ experience at Olin?

Maj. Gen. David G. Bellon, US Marine Corps

Maj. Gen. David G. Bellon, US Marine Corps

The OVA is an invaluable element of the veteran student experience at Olin Business School. The ability to offer and receive support and advice from those who share unique, yet similar experiences with you—from military service, to the transition from service member to student, to navigating the rigors of a challenging MBA program—is greatly appreciated and valued by OVA’s members.

The OVA provides a fellowship of individuals with shared perspective and the ability to understand the unique challenges encountered during and after this transition. In addition to this support that is so valued, OVA members benefit from the excellent array of resources and financial support available to veteran students.

Access to key business leaders offering mentorship, advice, and professional development opportunities provides an unmatched experience for OVA members.

What are some of the traditions of OVA Dining Out, for those less familiar with military rituals?

Among the traditional rituals at the Dining Out, guests were invited to answer for violations of the written rules of the evening by paying a fine—all of which supports the Olin Veterans Scholarship Fund—or having a drink from the dreaded “grog bowl,” which features a hodgepodge of questionable ingredients mixed into one punch.

A few of the lighthearted rules guests could potentially be punished for include wearing a clip-on bow tie at an obvious angle, using excessive military slang or jargon, or wearing clip-on suspenders.

Guests were expected to adhere to an honor system in recognizing their own infractions or could be reported for an infraction by another attendee. Balancing out these more amusing aspects of the event were more solemn traditions, one of which included the recognition of those who could not be with us that evening.

OVA members and guests honored our nation’s prisoners of war and missing in action (POW/MIA) service members with a moment of silence, a toast, and a speech honoring their contributions and sacrifice.

What was your favorite part of this year’s event?

My favorite part of the evening was listening to Maj. Gen. Bellon recount elements of his experience during his 28-year career in the US Marine Corps.

With all the dignity and poise of an esteemed military leader, Bellon recounted lessons on the intersection and divergence of the concepts of leadership and management that he’s accumulated over his years of service, effortlessly commanding the attention of everyone in the room with his powerful and heartfelt remarks. It was a true honor to host him at this year’s event as our guest of honor.