Meet Washington Olin’s MBA Class Of 2020

Justin Smith

Washington University’s Olin Business School in St. Louis

Assertive, yet thoughtful and caring person who sees the big picture … and loves golden-doodles.”

Hometown: Military brat, but I call the Saint Louis area home since my parents retired in O’Fallon, IL, and I attended high school in Granite City, Illinois.

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have been in the military for 19 years, and I have a golden-doodle.

Undergraduate School and Major: Speech Communications at Southern Illinois University

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: United States Army Special Forces Officer; Captain in the Green Berets

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My selection to and completion of the United States Army Special Forces Qualification Course.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Diverse, supportive, and confident. My MBA classmates come from around the world, bringing different experiences and expertise – an asset allowing us to look at problem sets through multiple lenses and draw from a vast amount of capabilities.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The location of the school. Olin is located in Saint Louis, where my wife and I call home. Plus, with the deep history as the gateway to the west, current elite businesses, and variety of extracurricular activities, Saint Louis was the top option for me.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am most excited to participate in the Center for Experiential Learning (CEL). Learning through experience has always worked best for me, so having the opportunity to gain real-world experience while learning overseas in a complex environment strongly appeals to me.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? As an Army Officer, I will advance to senior leadership with my promotion to Major. This will require me to think strategically and frame problem sets from many different perspectives. Obtaining my MBA will enable me to think as a strategic leader and leverage new skillsets, such as accounting, to make well-informed decisions.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I weighed the pros and cons of other masters degrees, sought advice from peers who have masters degrees, and reached out to my supervisors for input to make sure I was making the best decision for my family and me.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to multiple MBA programs, including Florida State University, Fuqua School of Business at Duke, and University of Miami (in Coral Gables).

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I assessed location, reputation, and veteran-friendliness of programs. I searched school websites, analyzed historical graduates and job placement through LinkedIn, and contacted other veterans at the schools I was interested in attending. I also attended functions at my top-choice schools to get a better vibe for the culture as compared to what was portrayed online or by the administration. I searched clubs and also searched local news activities to see how active they were on the campus and in the community. I realized Olin fit my career goals after attending the diversity weekend, meeting with veterans and guidance counselors, and talking to current students. The people I spoke with were very hospitable and supportive. The amount of support and comfort I felt when talking with people made it the right choice for me.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Leading my first platoon in the Infantry. After one of my first missions, I knew how important it was to lead by example and always take the time to think through as many contingencies as possible to plan effectively.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I plan to return to 7th SFG (A) in Florida and lead a company. I will continue to grow as a professional as I prepare to enter the civilian job force.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I see myself preparing to enter the civilian workforce as a senior level executive or working at a small startup.