Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Derek W. Hawkes, Washington University (Olin)

Derek W. Hawkes

Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School

“Former orchestral trombonist passionate about facilitating institutional progress via collaborative negotiations with community in mind.”

Hometown: Plano, Texas

Fun Fact About Yourself: I enjoy playing hockey, and have done play-by-play commentary for the sport as well!

Undergraduate School and Major: Southern Methodist University. I was a double major: I received a Bachelor of Music in Trombone Performance and Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Arts (focus in Orchestral Management).

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Nashville Symphony – Assistant Principal/Second Trombone

What has been your favorite part of St. Louis so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA? The culinary scene in St. Louis is incredible. I feel it’s monstrously underrated. Not only is this one of the top three cities in the country for craft beer, but the availability of global cuisine is also really impressive. It’s very manageable to live here, particularly on the financial and commuting fronts. It never takes me more than 20 minutes to get anywhere, give or take. St. Louis also has incredible parks and other outdoor attractions. The zoo is free and the botanical garden is stunning year-round!

You’ll be completing your global immersion next spring (Update: the class of ’23 is scheduled now to travel in fall ’22). What excites you most about this excursion overseas? I think there’s something special about a boots-on-ground approach to learning about international business considerations. There’s something obviously irreplicable about learning about other-than-domestic business issues away from home. I’m most looking forward to working with wineries in Spain, because of the nature of that onsite work: being able to taste the product, witness their processes, meet stakeholders, and everything else that comes with the territory of being there in person will yield an incomparably more holistic and fruitful experience than if we were to do that work from Missouri.

Aside from your classmates, global immersion and location, what was the key part of the Olin MBA programming that led you to choose this business school, and why was it so important to you? The existence of the consulting platform really stood out to me. My primary career interest coming out of school lies in consulting, and I knew that coming into Olin. It was rare to see any schools that had concentrations or majors in consulting. I really like the balance that has been struck in the curriculum of requiring courses across different skill set areas. Consulting is a multifaceted occupation on that front, and I feel Olin has commensurately reflected that range in the curriculum.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at Olin? I have just started the Olin Beer & Mead Society, so I am very excited to get that up-and-running. I’m eagerly looking forward to creating opportunities for my colleagues to experience tastings and learn about different nationalities, ingredients, processes and styles of beer and mead. Additionally, I plan on partnering with other Olin clubs as well as firms throughout St. Louis related to the industry to collaborate on events that bring new people into the fold and leverage mutual interests. It’s of primary importance to me that this club provides tangible professional and intellectual value to my colleagues.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was on the negotiating committee during my time with the Jacksonville Symphony, which facilitated 35% raises and a lengthier contract for my fellow musicians across a five-year successor collective bargaining agreement. That really changed the perception of the organization at the time, both in the musician community and the North Florida region; it is rather difficult to negotiate such a progressive, landmark agreement in an industry like the performing arts.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far: I’m proud of the way that I have risen up to challenges of courses that I thought would be particularly difficult coming in. Most of that is related to the unique professional background that I came into Olin with, and simply not having previous opportunities to develop my skill sets and knowledge in areas like finance and economics. Those have actually been some of my favorite courses thus far.

What has been your best memory as an MBA student so far: More than any single occurrence, I’ve loved having the opportunity to put together teams for group projects and case competitions. It’s immensely satisfying and a true growth experience to have so many chances to work with people for the first time that you’ve been excited about the idea of working with. Being able to learn from colleagues’ unique backgrounds and insights is highly enlightening and helpful.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the Olin MBA program? Diversity of thought and background will not be a detriment to your admissions case here. Just find what makes you unique and understand how to leverage that both verbally and in writing. Think hard about how your unique experiences can be presented in ways that form a compelling business case.



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