Spotlight: Olin couple stays engaged with alumni community from Chicago

  • August 8, 2022
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 5 minute read

In this spotlight about recent alumni, you’ll meet Jordan and Ellen Federbush, who are both involved with their alumni community in Chicago after earning their BSBA degrees in 2016. Ellen works for venture capital firm Cleveland Avenue and serves an associate member of the WashU alumni board of governors. She’s also involved in the Alumni and Parents Admission Program. Jordan is an investment professional for The Pritzker Organization.

Tell us about your job and how Olin affected your career

Jordan Federbush: I am an investment professional for The Pritzker Organization, the family office for Tom Pritzker. I work on middle market private equity and venture capital investments across a variety of industries. My time at Olin taught me how to analyze the key strengths and weaknesses of a company, which is critical to evaluating an investment opportunity. The Olin network was also invaluable in helping me get my internship and first job in investment banking, which is where I learned the foundational skills that allowed me to move into private equity.

Ellen Federbush: I work at Cleveland Avenue, a venture capital firm that invests in food, beverage and technology companies. In my role, I focus on a wide variety of areas including investor relations, the Principal’s family office, and companywide strategic initiatives.

My time at Olin helped prepare me to confidently present and speak in front of a large audience, which has been crucial in all of my jobs since graduation.

Ellen Federbush, BSBA ’16

Additionally, working in teams on various cases throughout my time at Olin prepared me for the teamwork that has been required to complete many of the larger initiatives that I have worked on at Cleveland Avenue.

Did a particular course, “defining moment” or faculty member influence you?

Ellen Federbush: Mark Schlafly, a career coach at the Weston Career Center, was a very influential faculty member during my time at Olin. During my junior year, I was still trying to figure out exactly what type of job I was interested in after college. I studied finance, but knew I didn’t want to go into investment banking, which meant I had no idea what other job opportunities were out there for me.

When I went to speak with Mark, he spent time asking me questions to understand my strengths, weaknesses, the types of work I like to do, and also don’t like to do. Through this conversation, he was able to recommend that I consider a job in wealth management. I ended up recruiting for wealth management and worked at JP Morgan in the private bank as my first job out of college.

I think this was the perfect role for me as I was able to blend my passion for interacting with people along with my enthusiasm for analytics. Ultimately, my role at JPMorgan paved the way for me to find my current job at Cleveland Avenue.

How do you stay engaged with Olin and classmates/friends?

Jordan Federbush: I attend alumni events when they are hosted in Chicago. It also helps that my wife and I went to Olin together so we have a bunch of mutual friends that we see regularly in Chicago.

Ellen Federbush: I currently serve as an associate member of the Alumni Board of Governors (ABG) for WashU. Through ABG, I am able to visit campus twice a year and stay updated on the various initiatives in Olin and campuswide. Additionally, I make sure to attend all of the alumni events that are hosted in Chicago.

Why is business education important?

Jordan Federbush: I think business education prepares you for the professional world. How to collaborate with team members, frameworks for qualitative and quantitative analysis, problem solving, effective communication and presentation skills, among many others, are all skills that I learned and/or refined through my business education.

Ellen Federbush: In my opinion, studying business teaches you how to use critical thinking to solve problems big and small. Particularly, the various case competitions I participated in while at Olin allowed me to practice thinking about solutions to unstructured problems. This has been crucial for me in both of the jobs I have had after graduation as I often find myself working on tackling initiatives that don’t have a straightforward solution.   

What advice would you give Olin students?

Jordan Federbush: Use your internships to try different things and figure out what you want to do. Not sure if you want to do corporate finance or investment banking? Do an internship in corporate finance sophomore year before trying investment banking in junior year.

People will often tell you there is a pre-defined path you have to follow to break into a particular industry, but if you work hard during your internship to make a good impression and build a network of advocates, you will be able to pivot into whatever you decide is the best next step.

Jordan Federbush, BSBA ’16

Ellen Federbush: I would highly recommend students find a way to study abroad. If you can’t go for a full semester, there are summer programs that can be a great option as well. It only gets more challenging to move to a country on the other side of the world as you get older, so take advantage of the opportunity. My semester abroad in London was my favorite semester of college because I was able to gain exposure to so many other cultures while traveling around Europe on the weekends. Meeting people from all different backgrounds allowed me to gain a more global perspective of the world, and I believe that this has helped me connect with people in the business world.

Has the pandemic influenced your business or career thinking?

Jordan Federbush: First, the pandemic provided increased flexibility and better balance in what is typically demanding industry. Finance is an industry where it’s possible to remain effective at many things while working remotely, and in general it feels as though the pandemic has made everyone a bit more understanding and respectful of commitments outside of work. While the ability to work in a hybrid environment is great, the pandemic has also made me realize the value of in-person interaction for relationship building. I previously did not appreciate the difference between an in-person meeting vs. a phone call or video conference as much, but I now see the importance of face-to-face interaction particularly when it comes to establishing and building relationships with new people.

Ellen Federbush: The pandemic showed me that the majority of my job can be done remotely if needed. This was very eye opening because it allowed my team to have meetings with people all across the country without the time commitment of flying to these various locations. I think that this has greatly improved our company’s efficiency because we can have a virtual first meeting with a potential partner to determine if it is worth the resources to have an in-person follow-up meeting. Sometimes in these initial calls, we are able to quickly learn that our businesses are not a match. This saves our team some unnecessary travel time that can be used to focus on other projects or allows people to spend extra time with their families.

About the Author

Washington University in Saint Louis

WashU Olin Business School

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