2016 MBAs To Watch: Annicka Webster, Washington University (Olin)

Annicka Webster Washington U

Annicka Webster

 
Washington University in St. Louis (Olin Business School and George Warren Brown School of Social Work)

Age: 32

Hometown: Buies Creek, NC

Undergraduate School and Degree: Boston University, BA in Applied Linguistics, minor in International Relations; also Washington University in St. Louis, MSW (I am enrolled in a joint-degree program that started in Fall 2013: MBA/MSW)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area – Employment Advocate (Assisting refugees and asylum seekerss in finding their first job in U.S.)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? MBA internship, summer of 2014: Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies – San Francisco, CA

My summer internships in 2015 were practicum experiences for the social work program and included Evaluation Intern at the Nine Network of Public Media – Spring/Summer and Intern at IFF – Summer/Fall.

Where will you be working after graduation? Accenture – Management Consultant, Health – Los Angeles, CA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School Beta Gamma Sigma inductee; John F. Kennedy Scholarship for Returning Peace Corps Volunteers; Forté Fellow; Graduate Business Student Association VP of Academics 2014/2015; Co-chair of Olin Sustainability Case Competition 2015; Olin Board Fellow (Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois) 2014/2015; Volunteer teacher at Immigrant & Refugee Women’s Program; Coordinator for MSW/MBA student group (unofficial – This is a group of students who do not have an official club, but meet informally to build community among joint-degree candidates and share institutional knowledge and support. The group grew out of a self-identified need for support, so I began to call meetings to get us together and share our experiences with each other. It is now jointly-housed under the Net Impact club at Olin and the Bettie Schroth Johnson Management Scholars at Brown).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My proudest academic achievement was being asked to TA the Critical Thinking Processes and Modeling for Effective Decision Making class. I think this was the hardest class that I took, so the recognition was especially meaningful. It was also important to me that the TA team included a woman since we are underrepresented in business schools, and I value diversity in leadership. It was an honor to be selected and a lot of fun to help the next class work through the material.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest achievement has been my work on the Greater St. Louis CDFI Coalition. This started as a planning project during my internship with IFF (defining project scope, logistics and budget) and grew into leading a student research team to produce an implementation plan for the newly formed coalition.

The Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in the St. Louis metro region wanted to build a more formal coalition to leverage their strengths and improve collective impact and collaboration. CDFIs provide valuable financial services to low-income and underserved communities where the traditional financial sector leaves gaps, but they are often low-profile or misunderstood by traditional investors and therefore limited in their ability to drive community development. By helping them collaborate better, I have helped amplify their impact and promote economic growth and equity in St. Louis.

This was a particularly satisfying project because it drew from both the business and social work disciplines, and will result in tangible impact in the St. Louis community. My role has been part social worker (facilitating exploratory conversations with the group, identifying and prioritizing goals, barriers and needs, interviewing stakeholders and interpreting case study information) and part strategic consultant (SWOT analysis, industry trend research, organizational design, strategic planning). Not only is the work meaningful, but it also proved to me that my career goals are possible and valuable to the community.

Who is your favorite professor? This is a tough question, because I have been really impressed with the faculty at Olin – and each for different reasons. I think my favorite was John Horn because he pushed me to check my logic and look for structure in even the most intuitive responses (and because he appreciates a good pun at all times).

Favorite MBA Courses? I particularly enjoyed Power and Politics, Competitive Industry Analysis, and the Center for Experiential Learning’s Management Practicum. In this last course, I was able to face a real business challenge in the financial industry (where I had no experience) and at the same time dive into community development – this project helped bring into focus my long-term career goal of building bridges and integrating collaboration between the business and social sectors.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Wash U because of the excellence of both the business and social work programs. I knew that my degree would be a little off the typical MBA path, and the flexibility of both programs would allow me to build the exact curriculum that I wanted. It didn’t hurt that Wash U has a beautiful campus or that they included a full-size candy bar in the welcome package. But what really sealed the deal was my visit to campus where I was impressed by the faculty, staff, and most importantly the students that I met.

What did you enjoy most about business school? By far, it is the people that I have met through the school. I am continually impressed by my fellow students – they are so driven, kind, and smart. The faculty and staff have been very approachable and supportive, even when I bring loving criticism to program. I have also enjoyed meeting members of the community through their relationships with the school. Olin has given me access and exposure to several people who have challenged how I think about the world and have pushed me to consider possibilities beyond the standard CSR approach to doing good through business.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Really don’t ever judge a book by its cover. You may find that people who seem to come from entirely different experiences or oppositional viewpoints have aligned values and objectives if you are willing to dig. For true collaboration to happen, you must be willing to dig. That – and I have a deep, nerdy love for spreadsheets.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I was really surprised to find so much variety in interest and so much passion for pursuing social good among business students. Olin students really are a creative and curious bunch.

What was the hardest part of business school? Finding time to do all the things I wanted to do and still sleep enough.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Know what you want to get out of business school and be willing for that to change. There are more things available to you than you will be able to take advantage of, so pick the things that are important to you and then pick something that you don’t know anything about. Business school is a great time to stretch yourself and to lean into your strengths in new contexts.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…” I realized that my impact in the social sector could be magnified by a better understanding of how businesses operate and what pursuing excellence in business looks like at an operational level. I had been working in nonprofit work for several years and realized that there was so much more that I had to learn beyond the programming side of things. I really felt like business school could teach me some of that.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…struggling to teach myself financial modeling.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I admire Maxine Clark, the founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop. She started a successful business, creating space for her product and then owning that space. Aside from her international success in business, she is a key leader in the St. Louis community and has made innovative investments in building a stronger community of support programs. She was the driving force behind the creation of a tool that helps families find appropriate services for their children, and continues to promote community dialogue around some the region’s most pressing issues. She has helped connect the business community to the social needs of the region and is spearheading a mixed-use investment in north St. Louis that will build collaboration and integration of nonprofit services while also developing affordable housing and economic opportunity in this underinvested part of the city. She knows no limits and follows her heart to improve the conditions in the world around her, influencing the actions (and investments) of others as she goes.

What are your long-term professional goals? In the long-term, I would like to build stronger collaboration between business and social development – I want to challenge businesses to optimize their social good throughout the entire value chain and to challenge social organizations to seek deeper collaboration with private partners toward mutual benefit. Immediately, I am excited about joining Accenture, where I will be able to hone my business skills and get involved with some of their international development projects.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My family has been the most influential on my success. My mom is incredibly accomplished and driven and has shown me what it looks like to work hard and to set your own expectations. My dad has challenged me to prove myself by taking risks and feeding my curiosity. My brothers have taught me to lighten up and to embrace my inner nerd. I am thankful every day for them and their love and patience.

Fun fact about yourself: My first job out of college was as the mascot at baseball stadium.

Favorite book: Portuguese Irregular Verbs

Favorite movie: Shawshank Redemption (or, alternately, Bride and Prejudice)

Favorite musical performer: Anytime a friend is performing live.

Favorite television show: Master of None and 30 Rock

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere I’ve never been with good food, history, natural beauty, or local craftwork (food, drink, art, or other). Next stop: Highland games in Scotland!

Hobbies? Storytelling, DIY projects, cooking and experimenting with new recipes – and then feeding them to my friends.

What made Annicka such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Annicka has been with us for three years since she is a dual degree student combining the MBA with a Masters in Social Work. We are very fortunate to have her for the extra year since she contributes so much to the academic program, her classmates and the entire Olin community.

Annicka has served in many leadership roles over her years here – but a few highlights include:

  • VP of Student Government for Academics. In this elected capacity she spent a year as a voting member of the MBA Committee overseeing academic and administrative changes and evaluations. In this capacity she was the eyes, ears and voice of the student body while interfacing with faculty and senior staff.
  • Co-chair of the Olin Sustainability Case Competition. This large scale annual event features a university wide case competition focused on real and current WashU issues in the sustainability domain. The winners present their findings to the Chancellor and his senior staff for possible adoption.
  • Served as the primary student liaison and mentor for student considering the MBA/MSW dual degree.
  • TA for several courses MBA courses.
  • Going to Accenture post grad.

Annicka is an exemplary member of the Olin MBA Class of 2017.”

Joe Fox
Associate Dean
Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis

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