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Olin hosts ‘6 executives. 60 ideas. 60 minutes.’ and announces new Flex MBA

| Staff Writer

Six business executives speak at Washington University to a crowd of MBA students and other attendees (Lauren Smith | Student Life).

Washington University’s Olin School of Business hosted its annual “6 executives. 60 ideas. 60 minutes” panel and announced a new Part-Time MBA Program (Flex MBA), Jan. 25.

The event gave six business leaders 10 minutes each to present their philosophies on achieving success in business and share advice with MBA students and University visitors who filled the 300-seat Emerson Auditorium. The panel featured a line-up of local executives, including several Olin faculty and alumni. 

MBA candidate Allison Gildehaus was featured on the panel, and serves as the Trauma Medical Director and general surgeon for Mercy St. Louis Hospital aside from completing her studies.

Gildehaus spoke about how as she moved upward in administration from being a surgeon, she became motivated to seek a perspective beyond her experience as a doctor in order to lead her team at Mercy St. Louis more effectively. 

“In [medical] administration, merging a clinical and nonclinical brain is one of the biggest challenges in healthcare today,” she said.

Designed for working professionals like Gildehaus, the Flex MBA allows Olin students to match their MBA experience to the needs of their lifestyle through a mix of online, in-person, and hybrid learning options. 

The program replaces the Professional MBA and the more recently developed Online MBA by combining the two programs into one, adapting to a post-pandemic world where remote work has become more popular.

Evan Waldman, CEO of the aerospace and defense supplier, Essex Industries, discussed how flexibility and planning are not mutually exclusive after receiving an audience question about approaching scheduling.

“You have to embrace both simultaneously; the more planning you do, the more prepared you are,” Waldman said, adding a Dwight D. Eisenhower quote. “The plan is nothing; planning is everything.”

Gildehaus echoed Waldman, saying how she goes into her job with a daily plan, but the reality of her job means her day often does not go according to her expectations.

“Creating a plan A, plan B, plan C, etc is what gets you prepared,” Gildehaus said. “But you have to have grace with yourself and know that it’s okay if it doesn’t work out like that.” 

Vivian Boyd, an executive at Mayo Clinic, advised young business leaders to focus on what differentiates them and what their unique perspective can bring to a company. She attributed her success to her curiosity and progress-oriented mindset.

“What has given me that little bit of an edge has been always questioning the status quo,” Boyd said. “Even today at Mayo, when we’re number one in the country, I still find myself saying, ‘But why are we doing it this way?’”

Julian Nicks, CEO of Launch Code, a non-profit tech education company, talked about the value of risk-taking to stay true to your aspirations. 

He told the story of the initial fear he experienced when leaving his consulting job at Bain & Company to move to Launch Code, and how the mission of Launch Code aligned with his early dream of wanting to be a math teacher to affect real change through education.

“I wrote down the worst case scenario: that I quit Bain and then I utterly failed [as CEO],” Nicks said. “Then I asked whether Bain would hire me back, and they said yes, and I realized there was not really a downside [to going to Launch Code].”

Gisele Marcus, an Olin Professor of Practice focusing on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and former executive at several Fortune 250 companies, spoke about the importance of knowing yourself and being consistent in how you present yourself, regardless of your audience.

“People want to know what to expect from you, and when you’re consistent, they’ll know,” she said. 

Marcus also spoke about how part of this consistency is creating and protecting a respectful and inclusive environment, especially for those who have been historically excluded from corporate spaces.

“Regardless of the fact that people want to kill DEI, they want to take history out of the books, the truth of the matter is that by 2050, the United States is going to look very different,” she said.

She told a story about how fellow executives once proposed a golf retreat as a company trip, and how she thought it could create a negative environment for the people in the organization who hadn’t grown up golfing. She advocated for the company to provide golf and tennis lessons for those who were unfamiliar with the sports and talked about the necessity for inclusive thinking in workspaces.

“It’s all about thinking about people beyond yourself in the workplace,” she said.

Chris Turn, an executive at Vetta Sports, a company providing recreation opportunities to children and adults in the St. Louis area, said he believes no job is beneath him. He mentioned the first thing he does when he enters the building is pick up trash because it helps develop a sense of respect for all employees.

“Every single person in your company has an important role,” he said. “The people that prepare the building and have it ready to go for tomorrow are every bit as important as the group that puts the events in place.”

The event lasted about an hour and 20 minutes. Sophomore Jeremy Slaten, one of few undergraduates in the audience, said he had attended the event the year prior. Slaten said he found the topics discussed to apply to both business and everyday life.

“Some of the things I want to take into this year are [to] focus on creating skills to make you thrive, [to] learn from others, and to keep it simple,” he said. “I felt like [the panel] reinforced ideas I had heard previously, but pushed them forward and is pushing me to become a better leader.”


*Jeremy Slaten is a member of the multimedia team for Student Life and had no input in the writing of this article.

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