2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Janell Cleare, Washington University (Olin)

Janell Cleare

Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis

“A leader with a bold yet modest presence, breaking barriers with straightforward execution.”

Hometown: West Palm Beach, Florida

Fun fact about yourself: As a member of Troupe 88441 of the Jr. International Thespian Society, I won 2nd place for my monologue from Fences, which sparked my passion for public speaking. I competed and won 1st place in several oratorical contests in the Southeast region of the United States.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Florida State University, Bachelor of Science in Business Management

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Amazon, Area Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Provider Strategy & Consultation Intern at Express Scripts in St. Louis, MO

Where will you be working after graduation? Supply Chain Analyst at Intel in Folsom, CA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President of Olin Black MBA Association
  • Co-Chair for the 2019 MBA Class Campaign
  • Co-President of the Consortium at Olin Club
  • Fellow of the Forté Foundation
  • Fellow of the Consortium for Graduate Study Management
  • Communication and Marketing Ambassador for the Global Immersion Program
  • Ambassador for the Communication@Olin Program

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As part of the executive team of the Olin Black MBA Association (Olin Black), it was our mission to redefine how business graduate students of color interact with the campus and the St. Louis community. Within less than a year, we were able to establish a scholarship fund to assist incoming students who have demonstrated academic excellence and committed to challenging the status quo. I am proud to have been part of an organization that facilitates difficult but relevant conversations about the unique ecosystem of St. Louis and the role Olin plays in shaping it. As president, I was able to empower Olin Black members by planting the seed of possibility for new campus and community initiatives that will have a significant impact for years to come.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of my time as an area manager at Amazon because it served as a catalyst for my development as a leader. Right after my undergraduate experience, I was in a middle management position that allowed me to empower and develop my employees as well as make decisions that affected the company’s bottom line. Not to mention, I survived Peak Season and Prime Day. This role helped shape my leadership style and ignited my passion for operations.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Project Management taught by Professor Sergio Chayet is by far my favorite course. I learned that project management is a necessary component to fuel continuous improvement and to manage change within an organization. I enjoyed this class because it allowed me to use simulations to understand how to navigate task uncertainties, manage risk, and satisfy multiple stakeholders. One of our first assignments involved planning a wedding, so if anything, I am now equipped with the skills to become a Wedding Planner to earn extra revenue.

Why did you choose this business school? I pursued business school because I wanted to refine the technical and analytical skills needed to be successful in supply chain and operations. I was initially attracted to WashU Olin because of the Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation and the opportunity to work as a student consultant. Receiving an MBA would open doors to top companies around the world, but I knew Olin Business School would help me become an innovative leader within those companies. Since I was very early in my professional career, I wanted a business school with a close-knit community and an environment that would challenge me academically.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Most business school applications consist of your GRE scores and GPA, but WashU Olin is unique because they are also interested in your experiences and how that adds value. Olin prides itself on admitting thought-provoking leaders who will adopt a global mindset. You must do your research on Olin’s curriculum that includes global immersion and experimental learning. Most importantly, make sure you get your passport ready.

What is the biggest myth about your school? At Olin, you can be a “big fish in a small pond.” It is true that Washington University has created a unique ecosystem that allows students to have limitless options to be involved in on and off campus. However, this does not mean that your good fortune is guaranteed to happen. You will have to put in the time and effort to determine what you want your MBA journey to look like.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? One thing I wish I would’ve known before starting my MBA program is how much networking would suddenly become my new favorite hobby outside of class.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? I started WashU Olin Business School not knowing exactly how I could merge my passion for community development with a full-time job. Now, I will graduate knowing I don’t have to separate the two. Olin has taught me how to define organizational fit and how to use it to determine if a company’s culture aligns to my personal and professional values. As I reflect over the past two years, I know that I have become more confident in my capabilities and have expanded my network.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my MBA classmate and friend, Gheremey Edwards. Having a background in educational nonprofits and Teach For America, he’s helped my peers and I understand the economic value to social impact. He exemplifies what our future business leaders need in an advocate.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mom. After my time at Amazon, I was undecided on what the next step in my career would be. Although my mom never pursued a graduate degree, she knew it would open doors my current network couldn’t. She knew I aspired to be in the C-suite, and in order to get there, I would have to move out of Palm Beach County and get out of my comfort zone.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? “DAM”—This ironic acronym is not a feeling of anger or frustration but actually a class about Modeling for Decision Making.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…if I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be an operations manager in manufacturing.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I knew business school would be an investment, but I did not realize that it would create generational wealth for my community. The knowledge and skills I have gained over two years will propel not only my personal career, it will also empower others who I interact with. My time at Olin is priceless, but if I had to quantify it with a dollar value it would be googol, a large number equaling.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Establish a scholarship fund in memory of my late grandmother, Mary Thompson Cleare. It would serve to reduce the financial burden for Title I students in Palm Beach County so that they can continue their education at the country’s top institutions.
  • To finish a Karaoke song from start to finish.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Janell is quick to listen and slow to speak, but when she does, every word matters.

Hobbies? Thrifting (verb): The art of finding second-hand goods and transforming them into masterpieces.

What made Janell such an invaluable member of the Class of 2019?

“Janell Cleare has made an immediate and profound impact on the class of 2019, both in her campus engagement and professional endeavors outside the school. In the classroom, Janell’s presence could be seen in the care and insight she brought to complicated ethical discussions—something I saw directly in our “Power and Politics” course in the fall of 2018. But beyond the classroom, Janell’s impact on the business school can be seen in her commitment to being a full member of the Olin community. One of the more impactful roles Janell played was in her work as President of “Olin Black.” Over the past year, Janell’s team made terrific strides in expanding the strategic focus of this group. This included extending the scope and scale of the diversity weekend for new full-time MBA admits, laying the groundwork for a new K–12 initiative around college readiness and developing scholarship funds for a future student of color who expresses a commitment to creative impact in the broader city of St. Louis. This scholarship will be awarded for the first time in the coming school year, a sign of her continued imprint on this community well beyond her 2019 graduation.

Janell’s impact can be seen as well in her professional endeavors and drive. Over the past summer, Janell worked in the provider network group at Express Scripts. Janell’s work included developing a pharmacy pilot to increase quality ratings for the provider, and collaborating with the network implementation team to ensure 650 cancer patients received compounded oncology drugs needed for treatment during contract negotiations with a specialty pharmacy. In a practicum project through Olin’s Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation, Janell’s team worked alongside Edward Jones to recommend staffing changes based on an in-depth analysis of 70,000 calls during the past two years. From these two engagements alone, it is clear that Intel is lucky to be adding Janell’s many skills when she arrives this summer as a new supply chain analyst for the firm: from her engagement as a campus citizen to work in a variety of professional settings.”

Peter Boumgarden, PhD

Professor of Practice, Strategy & Organizations

Olin Business School




Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.