Tag: Weston Career Center



Frans VanOudenallen, Olin’s director of executive career development, is retiring to spend more time with his 15 grandchildren and to travel. His last day is January 22.

VanOudenallen, 74, has worked for Olin for more than 12 years, sharing his wisdom, time and passion with Executive MBA students and alumni. He built Olin’s first career development program for EMBA students and managed a successful TEAM EMBA community, which now has 1,149 members who are at the ready to assist other EMBAs in their careers.

In all, VanOudenallen has coached more than 1,000 executives, including in Mumbai and Shanghai.

Frans VanOudenallen

“The effective career coach cares,” he said in a recent interview on Zoom. “I would rather have as a coach someone who has average skills and cares about the person than someone who has terrific skills but doesn’t really care and blows you off, changes appointments, etc. And that’s what really is the essence of coaching. We should have that feeling of doing whatever we can to assist them in their career.”

VanOudenallen’s own coaching skills are top-notch, according to pages upon pages of letters from numerous EMBAs.

“Frans has impacted so many people’s lives, and many are grateful for his advice and unwavering commitment to their career success,” said Jen Whitten, associate dean and director of Olin’s Weston Career Center.

‘Able to draw out the best in us’

Take Don Halpin, EMBA 46, a retired US Air Force colonel and pilot. “You know how you meet people in your life who are remarkably humble but have incredible impact?” he asked. “Frans is one of those.”

Halpin met VanOudenallen in 2014 when Halpin enrolled at Olin. In 2018, Halpin was transitioning from healthcare systems engineering and product innovation in Peoria, Illinois, to the unknown in St. Louis. “Frans was there, ready to help.”

VanOudenallen “was always able to draw out the best in us and help us see things that we didn’t see naturally,”  Halpin said. Essentially, VanOudenallen helped Halpin translate his military background into the language of other industries.

“He helped us draw out the gold that we didn’t know was there,” Halpin said. “He could take people like me, with a military background. He took doctors. He took people from the corporate world. It didn’t matter the background. He was able to draw out the essence of that person’s personal brand, their passion, what they’re really good at, and help them craft their message as these people are going into a new environment.”

Halpin himself became the chief operations officer of Catholic Charities of St. Louis, with 1,400 employees, a $100 million budget and 100,000 people served annually in the St. Louis region. “It was the perfect fit of my skills and passion,” he said. “It wouldn’t have happened without Frans.”

He ‘truly cared about their success’

VanOudenallen, who founded the St. Louis-based nonprofit executive career coaching service Executive Connections, was hired in 2009 to work full time on helping Olin EMBA students find jobs.

Every day, VanOudenallen brought his personal, custom approach to supporting EMBAs in the program and as alumni in enhancing their careers, said Mary Houlihan, Olin executive career coach. “He got to know literally hundreds, if not thousands, of EMBAs both personally and professionally and truly cared about their success.”

Through one-on-one meetings and support groups for students and alumni, VanOudenallen honed in on some of the challenges particular to EMBA job-seekers.

“Executive MBAs have significant experience to draw on,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2010. “Most of the time it’s an asset. But at other times, it can be a perceived drawback because their experience often comes from one silo, industry or discipline.”

They may feel that their experience in one area is not transferable to other companies or industries, he said. “But that is absolutely not true. … These experienced folks have to learn that what they know is transferable to many companies and experiences. That’s where I focus and get them to talk about how they can be successful.”

In addition to his role at Olin, VanOudenallen donated his time as a mentor with Olin’s Hatchery, which is for entrepreneurship students. On top of that, he has a private practice in which he coaches executives to optimize their performance within their organization or to transition to a new opportunity.

Advice: Be ‘a positive giver’

Those who turned to VanOudenallen for career coaching will remember him as a giver. It’s a philosophy he embraces while encouraging others to do the same.

“I talk a lot about collaboration, about being a positive giver and giving as opposed to being a taker ,” he says. In fact, the first book he recommends to EMBAs is “The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea.” In it, a go-getter named Joe discovers that changing his focus from getting to giving leads to unexpected returns.

Oh, one more piece of advice before VanOudenallen packs his bags. It’s advice he offers to EMBAS —and to his grandchildren: “Find what you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Pictured at top: Frans VanOudenallen and his wife, Jean, with six of their 15 grandchildren.




Dolapu Ojutiku, MBA ’21, writes today about his summer consulting experience at Liberty Mutual. He was invited to return to Liberty Mutual full-time after graduation. His contribution is part of a series by students sharing their summer internship experiences with the Olin blog.

My internship has been one of the highlights of my MBA experience so far. I spent my summer working at Liberty Mutual as a consultant in the corporate development program. I worked on a project that had real impact on the company. I did an assessment of one of our largest vendors to streamline processes and evaluate opportunities for improvements. One of my contributions that is being implemented is a scorecard that provides better insights into the performance of our vendors. It was an eventful summer and I’m pleased to be joining the company full time after graduation. 

My internship was originally intended to be in person but ended up being virtual due to work-from-home policies as a result of the coronavirus. I initially wasn’t sure what to expect, but the company did a great job of creating ways to engage with us and build community virtually. Some examples of this include a virtual town hall with the CEO to address racial injustice in the US, an executive speaker lunch series for the interns, and a virtual baking event with Joanne Chang (Boston’s Flour Bakery), a former management consultant turned chef.

Olin did a great job preparing me. I started working with my career coach at the time, Jeff Stockton, before I had even arrived on campus to start my program. I was able to participate in the Consortium Orientation Program in Houston last summer and had to get ready for recruiting much earlier than usual. The WCC team—as well as my academic advisor, Ashley Macrander—were also a good support system throughout my first year.

I found that a lot of the frameworks we learned during Seth Carnahan’s strategy class turned out to be valuable for my internship. Two other classes that really helped me succeed were “Negotiation,” by Hillary Anger Elfenbein, and “Power & Politics” by Peter Boumgarden. Lessons from those classes came in handy when negotiating with cross-functional teams and influencing people to buy-in to my project.

My advice for students about the interview process is to try to network as much as possible, since you never know who might end up being your advocate in discussions that you’re not part of. I also found value in starting case prep very early on; I attended the Management Consulted workshop as well as some of the OSCA case sessions and found them to be very helpful in supplementing my case prep. In my personal experience, preparing well for the consulting case interview made other interviews easier.

In hindsight, I realize that a lot of the pillars we value at Olin helped prepare me for my internship. I had to be entrepreneurial and take ownership for the direction and outcome of my project. I also needed to make sure that decisions I made were supported by data, but not without considering the effect it had on our customers and the values they’ve come to expect from the company.




This post was written by Jill Jarret, an event and program coordinator for the Weston Career Center

Embracing the virtual event space

This fall, the Weston Career Center did something we’ve never done before: We delivered multiple signature networking events, virtually. Back in March, when our team realized we would be working in a virtual environment for the foreseeable future, we quickly started researching ways to provide students with safe opportunities to connect with employers and alums in a worthwhile way.

“We wanted to create events where students could have meaningful conversations that would create valuable connections both now and in the future,” said Jen Whitten stated, associate dean and director of the WCC. 

Hidden benefits

One of the benefits of moving to a virtual event environment was being able to invite employers who wouldn’t normally attend an in-person event. This meant having companies like Microsoft and Google attend our MBA Summit event, in addition to more alumni participants from across the globe for all events. We know our alumni want to give back, but they are often unable to spend the time or money to physically come to campus. Hosting virtual events provided a great opportunity for alums to connect with students from the comfort of their own homes or offices.

“[We were] impressed by Olin’s organization and ability to turn a tough recruiting challenge into what seemed like a great touchpoint! Especially for firms that don’t make the trip to campus, I think this setup could be a really helpful ongoing event,” said Carly Anderson from General Mills, LA ’09, MBA ’13.

Supporting international students

While transiting to a virtual environment presented a new challenge, so did having a large number of students physically based in Asia. We wanted to create events that would be accessible and valuable for all our specialized masters’ students, regardless of where in the world they live. To meet this challenge, we created two Specialized Masters Summit events—one focused on students interested in working in Asia, which was held in Mandarin Chinese, and the other for students interested in working in the United States.

Di Lu, our Shanghai-based business development lead, was instrumental in our Asia-focused event, ensuring the event took place at a time that would work well for all students, and securing alumni from 18 companies to participate.

Springing ahead

Although we were unsure how students would respond to this “new normal,” we were pleasantly surprised by their positivity and embrace of virtual networking. Many students, when faced with video issues in the event platform, quickly provided employers with Zoom links to ensure quality conversations.

For our internal event planning team, we used Microsoft Teams to stay connected in real time during the event, and for our Specialized Masters Summit US event, also had a staff member monitoring a WeChat group for the event to ensure we could address student questions as quickly as possible.

While the majority of feedback from students, company representatives and alumni was positive, we are actively working through the pain points (e.g., video connectivity issues, student-to-company representative ratio) to ensure our spring events are set up to leverage the technology in a way that will ensure an even better experience for all involved, no matter where in the world they are.




Pictured above: Students and workshop panelists Amber Grace, Kesha Kent, LaShana Lewis and Crystal Ross-Smith participate in the November 20, 2020, workshop, "Incorporating DEI Practices into your Organization."

Engage white managers from the outset. Separate the human resources function from corporate diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Build relationships. These key takeaways and more headlined “Incorporating DEI Practices into your Organization,” a recent workshop for WashU Olin MBA students featuring four DEI professionals who have been engaged in the work for years.

The workshop, organized by Olin’s Weston Career Center and moderated by Lori Whitherspoon, MBA ’21, provided insights from Amber Grace, advisor for diversity and recruiting partnerships for Raymond James; Kesha Kent, CEO and founder of MrsKeshSpeaks and national diversity and inclusion, community engagement talent specialist for Ascension; LaShana Lewis, of the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective; and Crystal Ross-Smith, MHRM ’17, director for diversity, equity and inclusion at Ameren (see their full bios here).

Here are a selection of the takeways from their session on November 20.

Create relationships

“We want to know what we can do to make everyone at Ameren be successful and bring their authentic selves to work,” Smith said. Kent added: “It was always my goal to make sure that individuals who had amazing experience could get in front of those hiring managers. It was about creating relationships with those hiring managers.”

Focus on entry-level positions

“Cultivate that talent,” said Grace. “We work on making sure our internship and entry level programs are highly, highly diverse. Then, making sure we have mentorship opportunities, exposure to executive-level leadership.”

Make sure the interview panel is diverse, while at the same time making sure the group of prospective hires is representative as well. “Allyship and ambassadors are very very important,” Lewis said. “Seeing that the interviewees were looking through my shoes made me feel like I would be welcome.”

Separate DEI from HR

Said Smith: “We are separate from HR. Our VP for diversity reports directly to our CEO and she is a peer of the VP of HR. That really works. It creates checks and balances. When we sat down to create the diversity of the hiring pipeline, HR showed us what we were doing. We were able to independently challenge what they were doing.”

Involve and engage white men

“Be intentional. Be honest and say that white males are the ones who feel most attacked, but you need white males to be involved in this,” Grace said. “Be intentional about constructing the conversations. You’re bringing the decision-makers into the space of allyship. Explain that this is the problem and make them feel part of the solution. That is a skill I had to learn. If I’m trying to make change, I want it to be solution-oriented. It’s not about me. I want this to be a safe space for everyone. Understand what your resources are, who your allies are, so you’re not internalizing these issues.”

Be creative about problem-solving

Lewis knows some organizations aren’t large enough to provide a full-time person dedicated to initiatives around diversity, equity and inclusion. “A lot of us consultants have come together and came up with the idea of a ‘fractional’ chief diversity officer,” she said. That’s a professional who provides a share of her time to a variety of organizations each month. “Employees are supposed to be doing their jobs, not doing the volunteer service of being a DEI officer.”

See video of the workshop

Pictured at top: Students and workshop panelists Amber Grace, Kesha Kent, LaShana Lewis and Crystal Ross-Smith participate in the November 20, 2020, workshop “Incorporating DEI Practices into your Organization.”




Allison Dietz

Don’t hold yourself back. Challenge the status quo—including your own. Take a risk. Those are the key messages Allison Dietz shares in a recent blog post about her. She’s the Weston Career Center’s associate director of employer relations for healthcare, technology and entrepreneurship, and she was recently featured on the blog “Free Coffee with Alex.”

The blog is written by Alex Burkart, a strategic intelligence analyst and director of marketing for America’s Central Port in Granite City, Illinois, one of the Midwest’s largest freight hubs and economic development engines. He also manages his own consultancy, Never Industries, Inc.

Visit Burkart’s blog post here, but a few of the highlights include:

  • Stumbling into a class in organizational psychology opened a new world for Dietz, allowing her to explore a personal curiosity about how the human resources side of organizations.
  • “Recruiting is the fun part of HR, the people side,” she says. “I’m most proud of the … times I get the opportunity to help expand their skills and make them realize they are capable of more than just the cookie cutter version of what their degree may be pointing them towards.”
  • “There’s so much pressure for status. Take a step back and remember to focus on the aspects that really matter in your life, like your time,” she says. “Focus on what matters most, and don’t be so easy to sacrifice it early in your career.”

Read the full piece about Dietz here.