Olin alum practices being ‘values-based, data-driven’ daily in his career

  • September 7, 2022
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 4 minute read

Olin alum practices being ‘values-based, data-driven’ daily in his career

Next in a series of Olin Blog features on recent alumni.

Ray Wagner, MBA ’21, was among the first Olin MBA students to participate in the then-new global immersion, a three-continent excursion into global business at the top of the program. Today, he’s a senior consultant with World Wide Technology.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I work at World Wide Technology as a senior consultant in our business and analytics advisors practice. The BAA practice is World Wide Technology’s management consulting division. We partner with clients, as a value-added resource, around the world and across all industries. We think of ourselves as trusted advisers, that advise businesses on how to leverage technology and data in a way that meets the client’s business needs and objectives.

My Olin education played a big role in my career choice and subsequent career. From the beginning of my time at Olin, we were taught to be “values-based, data-driven” business leaders. As a senior consultant at World Wide Technology, I practice being a “values-based, data-driven” leader everyday. The curriculum at Olin—taught by a world-class faculty—groomed me to identify, structure and navigate the continual onslaught of competing business priorities in a clear, objective and impactful manner.

What Olin course, “defining moment” or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

I think life is comprised of numerous defining moments—and that was certainly the case during my time at Olin. I had numerous positive experiences, from the inaugural global immersion to the revamped curriculum in the classroom ( … and even beating Andrew Knight in the 2019 Olin Chili cook-off).

However, my most defining moment at Olin was when the world went on COVID lockdown following spring break of my first year. At the time, Olin already felt like a “family” to me, but when the classes moved to a virtual platform, the “family” feel was magnified tenfold.

The adaptability, professionalism and genuine care for one another that classmates, faculty and staff displayed—in the face of such uncertainty—was second to none. I remember joining the Zoom call for my first remote class and thinking, “How am I going to do this with my 2-year-old daughter while my pregnant wife worked on the frontlines as a nurse practitioner in a local hospital?”

The answer presented itself very quickly. I did it through the love, grace and understanding of the Olin family. Peers, faculty and staff understood that my daughter was going to make a regular cameo on camera in class. They understood my attention and priorities were going to be sidetracked every so often.

However, they still invested in me and helped me succeed. This defining moment helped me realize the power of empathy—which, I believe, is one of the key traits an effective values-based business leader must display.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your classmates and friends?

As mentioned, I consider the Olin community to be family. This makes staying connected through numerous ways not only easy, but enjoyable. The most effective way for me to stay connected is checking in through a text or phone call. I enjoy scrolling through LinkedIn and seeing all the impressive successes of my classmates and fellow Olin graduates.

I also try to help out in any capacity, whether it be by attending Admit Weekend as an alumni representative, speaking on panels, staying plugged into the Olin Veteran Association, or recruiting Olin MBAs for consulting services at World Wide Technology.

Why is business education important?

For me, a business education allowed me to build a better business understanding and acumen that I didn’t gain through my post-undergrad experience. Following my graduation from the US Military Academy, I served over eight years as an active duty infantry officer in the US Army. It was a natural transition to leave the Army and attend business school before entering the private sector.

That being said, after my Olin experience, I realized it was more than just learning the basic business language. Business education is more important than ever in today’s world. It affords students the opportunity to critically think about complicated issues that span across all businesses and all industries. Moreover, it allows students to learn from the success or failures of businesses highlighted in the numerous case studies.

Lastly, a business education helps students develop the critical decision-making skills and values-based/data-driven logic needed to make meaningful choices in their follow-on business careers.

What advice would you give current Olin students?

I think the best advice I can give is listen to and learn from your classmates. I believe you learn just as much, if not more, from your classmates, as you do from the faculty or a case study. The diversity of the Olin cohort provides some of the most unique perspectives and peer learning opportunities in the classroom. If you listen to understand, you will grow tremendously—not only as a business leader, but as a person.

Did the pandemic influence your thinking about global business or your career?

In my view, the pandemic upended a lot in our world and to sum it up, there is no such thing as “normal” anymore. I think in terms of doing business (locally or globally), it accentuated the importance of being dynamic, adaptable and empathetic.

For instance, different geographic areas may or may not have different business practices based on regulations or attitudes toward the pandemic that must be considered.

Furthermore, the workforce has changed significantly. There are more remote and hybrid working models in the business world that have significantly changed how business is conducted, and that is something that has to be accounted for on a daily basis.

As far as my career, I don’t think much has changed. I still have the same goals and ambitions I had pre-pandemic. How I achieve those may be a little different, but at the foundation—strong values, unrelenting work ethic, grit and determination—nothing has changed.

About the Author

Washington University in Saint Louis

WashU Olin Business School

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