Tag: Weston Career Center

Olin MBA students visit Cisco in Silicon Valley in October 2019, thanks to the help of alumni in the company and relationships forged through the Weston Career Center.

Good business is all about good relationships.

As a business school, building strong relationships means 14 companies will hire more of your graduates than they did the year before. A commitment to creating new relationships means another 15 companies will hire your graduates for the first time.

Jennifer Whitten
Jennifer Whitten

Both happened this year. And thanks to the efforts of our Weston Career Center, we saw even more positive results for our students and recent graduates. Internship recruiting is up. New firms are coming to campus to recruit our students. Alumni are engaging with our students in greater numbers than ever.

Nearly two years ago, WashU Olin began a massive overhaul of the WCC and our corporate relations efforts. Now, that work is yielding the results we anticipated when we began.

Dorothy Kittner at the Olin cookout in 2017.
Dorothy Kittner at the Olin cookout in 2017.

“We’ve been much more focused and targeted,” said Jen Whitten, associate dean and director of the WCC. “Everything has moved from a transactional to a relationship model.”

In the past 18 months, Jen and her team have consolidated the career center and our corporate relations operation so they work hand-in-glove. Jen, along with Dorothy Kittner, associate dean and director of corporate relations, have deployed Olin team members to the east and west coasts of the United States, into Europe, the Middle East and Shanghai.

Those moves acknowledge the common interests we share with corporate partners. Building those relationships means we gain insight into career trends and specific job opportunities for our students and alumni.

“Having the ability to collaborate in real time with the WCC really helps to connect the dots,” Dorothy said. At the same time, these moves create new opportunities for recruiters to gain exposure to our talented students.

“We are really running on all four cylinders—and then some,” Dorothy said. “We’re helping employers rethink their strategies, creatively adapting to new ways of meeting students—bringing students to them, for example, or connecting them through live-streamed interviews.”

Indeed, our students regularly take career treks focused on technology, finance, accounting, wealth management and consulting—with access to big-name players in every industry.

Meanwhile, Jen and her team are empowered to “break down barriers,” persuading recruiters who have never visited to make a trip to Olin. “What’s the best way to plug you into Olin?” she asks. “We’ll figure it out.”

As any sound business would do, we leveraged external experts two years ago for insight into the next steps for our career center. Boston Consulting Group conceived many of the strategies we’ve implemented in corporate relations and career services. An interesting byproduct: BCG is now active on campus, working hard to further engage.

Placing corporate relations professionals in the field establishes that WashU Olin is serious about creating relationships. Empowering those professionals to proactively break down recruiting barriers builds those relationships. Encouraging those professionals to leverage our strong alumni network within those companies further cements those relationships.

Conventional wisdom has always been that without at least 200 MBA students, a business school cannot attract recruiters to campus. Jen has shown that conventional wisdom is wrong. We’ve had more employers engaging in a broader range of recruiting events than ever before. And we only see growth in the future.

Pictured above: Olin MBA students visit Cisco in Silicon Valley in October 2019, thanks to the help of alumni in the company and relationships forged through the Weston Career Center.

Olin alums Bethany Curd, Michael Nordlund, Rick Butler, Gregory "Max" McDaniel and Arjun Sharma, who participated in the 2019 career tech trek to Silicon Valley for current students.

A recent career trek to the west coast was a smash hit for first- and second-year MBA students—but it couldn’t happen without engagement from Olin alumni and their link to key companies.

Greg Hutchings

That’s the most important message from Greg Hutchings, west coast business development manager for Olin’s Weston Career Center. That critical alumni link opens doors in key companies, offers opportunities for current students and creates ambassadors for the school across the country and around the world.

“The alumni are key,” Hutchings said. “Alumni advocates are crucial to developing successful recruiting relationships with many companies.”

In that spirit, Hutchings applauded seven Olin alums for their work toward making the west coast “tech trek” a success October 17–18, 2019:

  • Bethany Curd, Adobe, AB ’08/BSBA ’08
  • Michael Nordlund, Google, MSF ’10
  • Flora (Fei) Wang, Google, MACC ’12
  • Don Yakulis, Visa, MSPT ’91
  • Rick Butler, Cisco, BSEE ’80/PMBA ’86
  • Gregory “Max” McDaniel, Applied Materials, MBA ’02
  • Arjun Sharma, Apple, MBA ’17

With their collaboration, Hutchings and the Olin Technology Club was able to put together an aggressive schedule of company visits in Silicon Valley for 12 first- and two second-year MBA students. In addition to the companies those alumni represent, students also visited Uber, Visa, Square, Amazon AWS and The Gap.

Students recounted their experience in this blog post—experiences that included direction on what roles MBAs fill in their companies, strategies for how to interview and advice on preparing for interviews.

Kasey Lucas, associate director of development for Olin alumni and development, along with the alumni also arranged for a round-table reception with the students, something of a “speed-dating” opportunity in which every student spent time with every alumnus to pick their brains and gain career perspective.

The WCC’s partnership with Olin A&D—particularly with Lucas, Jamie Hansen and Kate Lyford—has been critical to establishing these alumni relationships for the sake of our students.

“These companies will not just come to you, so you have to have that alumnus who is willing to raise the WashU flag and lead the charge,” Hutchings said. “They’re absolutely the vital link for our way into those companies.”

Pictured above: Bethany Curd, Michael Nordlund, Rick Butler, Gregory “Max” McDaniel and Arjun Sharma.

In the first week of October, Anne Petersen was in the passenger seat driving through upstate New York when she noticed her email was starting to blow up.

The Weston Career Center coach was on vacation with her husband when inquiries started to roll in from an email the career center had just sent to thousands of WashU Olin alumni. “You’ll always be able to partner with the Weston Career Center for lifetime career support,” the email said, inviting alumni to seek support whenever they needed it.

Seek they did. More than 50 Olin alumni reached out within the week that the email blast and video went out. Some were recent alumni, out only a year or two. Some had left as long ago as the 1960s.

“The emails started coming and the phone started ringing immediately. It was more than we anticipated,” Petersen said. “I don’t think alums were aware of our coaching services and the breadth of resources available. They also didn’t realize that we work with alums across the country via phone or Skype, as well as in person in St. Louis.”

Existing services—and new ones

The email campaign and related video were designed to remind Olin alumni of the career coaching resources available to them long after they walked away with their diploma. Coaching, career assessment, personal branding, resume and LinkedIn profile building, interview preparation, networking and negotiation—all services alumni can continue to get from the Weston Career Center.

That day in October, Petersen started responding to alumni seeking ideas about making a career pivot or changing geographies. She set up later appointments with some and worked with Jen Whitten, associate dean and director of the Weston Career Center, who fielded inquiries and connected alums with experienced coaches on the WCC team—including Frans Van Oudenallen, Mary Houlihan and Kathie McCloskey.

“They’ve run the gamut from young alums, undergrads, MBAs, specialized masters, senior citizens, mothers that were out of the workforce,” Petersen said. “It’s been a great process. We have had the opportunity to work with a lot of fascinating alums.”

Once Olin, Always Olin

A number of them have started by taking advantage of the WCC’s career leader assessment, a survey instrument that normally costs $75—but is available to alumni free of charge.

“It gives alums insight regarding their interests, motivations, skills, potential career directions and company culture matches,” Petersen said.Petersen said. The response to the email has been gratifying for the WCC team, who had sensed the services were not well-known enough or that alumni from outside St. Louis might be reticent to take advantage of them.

“They very much are commenting about the idea of ‘Once Olin, Always Olin’— the idea that it’s for me at any stage of your career,” Petersen said. “They felt like, ‘This does pertain to me—no matter where I am.'”

Looking for career help as an Olin alum? Contact Anne Petersen for career coaching resources (annepetersen@wustl.edu or 314-935-8951), or Jen Whitten (jwhitten@wustl.edu or 314-935-8970) to discuss WCC’s resources or any questions you might have. For remote coaching, the WCC is prepared to connect via Skype, phone or in person.

Students listen as WCC Director Jen Whitten discusses the importance of competitive advantage in all stages of your career during the students’ immersion in Barcelona in July 2019.

In the midst of spreadsheets and cases and site visits and speakers, full-time MBA students are also spending time thinking about themselves and their career journey.

On Day 4 of the Barcelona leg of the MBA global immersion experience, MBA students attended a Weston Career Center-led session “Defining Your Competitive Advantage.” The students were divided into four groups for the session, which relied on a mix of presentation and small group exercises.

Jen Whitten, associate dean and director of the career center, began the session by discussing the importance of knowing who you are, what’s important to you and where you want to go. She stressed that you must be clear on these things to be able to effectively present yourself and your story.

When an opportunity arises—and that could be any time—you need to be ready to convey your best self, whether it’s while you’re networking or interviewing.

A team of MBA students get to know each other—and themselves—as part of a small group interview exercise in Barcelona in July 2019.
A team of MBA students get to know each other—and themselves—as part of a small group interview exercise in Barcelona in July 2019.

Students paired up for personal interviews, each spending five minutes talking about himself or herself. When the class came back together, they shared their thoughts on what they heard from their partners. That was followed up with the pairs conducting second-round interviews with thought-provoking questions as prompts, including:

  • What’s the one activity you most love? How have you made it part of your career?
  • What do you do better than anyone else?
  • Tell me about an experience you’ve had that most others don’t.
  • What do others tell you is your greatest strength? What do people come to you for?

While in Barcelona, Whitten will conduct another session with students to discuss ways to leverage LinkedIn and how to enhance their social media presence. In Shanghai, the career coaching continues on two fronts, starting with developing career search strategies and effectively targeting organizations.

The second area of focus is preparing for case-based interviews by integrating classroom learnings and strategic insights into your personal narrative.

Pictured at top: Students listen as WCC Director Jen Whitten discusses the importance of competitive advantage in all stages of your career during the students’ immersion in Barcelona in July 2019.

Jennifer Whitten

Jennifer Whitten will join Olin as associate dean and director of the Weston Career Center on July 9. Jennifer comes to Olin from Arizona State University, where she is the director of career services and  instructor in the MBA program at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

At ASU, Jennifer managed career support for a portfolio of four MBA platforms, 10 masters’ platforms and alumni career services. Under her leadership, the W. P. Carey Career Center has seen significant increases in student engagement and employment percentages as well as growth and expansion of employer relationships and activities.

Aside from a stint in Arizona state government focused on creating a career management program for over 35,000 state employees, Jennifer has spent nearly two decades in higher education, serving undergraduate and graduate students in both academic advising and career development and placement roles.

By coming to Washington University, Jennifer is returning to her Midwestern roots and she will bring with her the experience and drive to lead a nimble Weston Career Center team that is focused on preparing our students not only for their first job but for their careers well into the future, connecting with our strong alumni network, and expanding the opportunities available to our students through proactive business development.

I am grateful for the efforts of the Weston Career Center Director search committee chaired by Senior Associate Deans Steve Malter and Patrick Moreton as well as the valuable feedback from many members of the Olin community throughout this search process. I also want to say a special thank you to Karen Heise for her excellent work serving as the interim director of the Weston Career Center.