BHP Teams Take Home Top Honors at Case Competitions

Phoebe Lin, Ananya Rajesh, Catherine Cheng, and Megan Tran-Olmsted

A team of four BHP students took second place at the William & Mary National Stock Pitch and Leadership Summit this past weekend. Phoebe Lin (junior), Megan Tran-Olmsted (junior), Ananya Rajesh (sophomore), and Catherine Cheng (sophomore) competed against 16 teams from across the world. All teams were required to pitch a long thesis on a publicly traded stock. The McCombs team pitched on EnPro Industries (NYSE: NPO), and took second place, behind the University of Sydney.

This was UT Austin’s first time attending the competition, which is one of the only competitions of its kind. The team was thrilled to win second place. “The most rewarding part of attending national stock competitions is having the chance to interact with students interested in investing across the nation. This time around, we had the opportunity to speak to teams from across the globe – that aspect was really cool,” said Tran-Olmsted.

Another team comprised of four BHP juniors participated in the Berkeley Investment Conference this month, a stock pitch competition. The team took first place, competing against 10 other teams, from schools such as Harvard, Stanford, Washington University in St. Louis, Virginia and Cal-Berkeley. Reese Davis, Michael Everett, Karna Venkatraj, and Jackie Ye learned a great deal from the experience. “It was really exciting to network with students from around the country, as well as getting to pitch to notable industry professionals and esteemed academics who offered insightful feedback on our investment idea,” said Venkatraj.

Congratulations to both teams, and thank you to BHP alumni who help support student travel to case competitions such as these by giving to the BHP Excellence Fund.

Karna Venkatraj, Jackie Ye, Michael Everett, and Reese Davis

Meet the Board – Part 3: Rachel Silverstein, Chris Crump, Joe Shields

This is the third of a series of posts we will be doing dedicated to introducing you to our BHP Advisory Board. The BHP Advisory Board is comprised of around 20 alumni representing a mix of class years, occupations and locations. The mission of the board is to drive continued excellence of the BHP and development of leaders through advocacy, connection, and engagement. The board will be ambassadors for the program in their communities, support fundraising objectives, and assist with recruiting the top students in the nation to the program. Board terms are two years. We greatly appreciate the service of these alumni to BHP!

Rachel (Robinson) Silverstein, BHP 2010, started her career in corporate finance at large public companies such as Dell and American Express. The large company experience gave her a great foundation and the opportunity to live in new places like New York City and Singapore. Luckily, she found her way back to Austin a few years ago where she has been leading financial planning at Snap Kitchen, a healthy food start-up. At Snap Kitchen, she has learned that she thrives in a high-growth environment where she can have a direct impact on the company’s future success. She also enjoys being back in Austin as it has allowed her to get more involved with the university and with BHP.

Chris Crump spent 22 years at Accenture, 12 of those as a partner in their Strategy practice. After preaching change management to clients, he decided it was time for a change himself, so he took a sabbatical with no plan. This time away has given Chris the opportunity to experience opportunities that might not have happened without pushing back from the corporate world.  For example, Chris’ current adventure is a one year program at Harvard University called “The Advanced Leadership Initiative.”  This program is designed to prepare experienced leaders to take on new challenges in the social sector with the goal of making a greater societal impact than they perhaps did in their working careers.  With greater appreciation for pressing topics such as climate change, health care, inequality, and education, Chris will leave the program ready to apply his learnings for positive change starting in 2019.

Joe Shields works for McCombs Enterprises in San Antonio, where he’s primarily involved in the operations of Red McCombs Automotive, comprised of six car dealerships and ancillary businesses.  Joe focuses on the group’s marketing efforts and business strategy.  In addition, he helps in the management of oil and gas operations through McCombs Energy, real estate development through McCombs Properties, and private equity investments through McCombs Partners.  Between graduating from UT and moving back to San Antonio, Joe worked in Austin for the Circuit of The Americas, a McCombs Partners investment, as the Track Rental Coordinator.

Applications for the BHP Advisory Board are accepted once a year in the Spring. If you have feedback for our current board, please reach out to our board chair, Michael Daehne.

Alumni Spotlight: Michelle Lin – Vice President of eCommerce and Marketing, Bastide

Michelle Lin

Featured: Beauty/Fashion, Marketing, Entrepreneurship

Michelle Lin is the Vice President of eCommerce and Marketing for Bastide, a French beauty start-up. Previous to starting Bastide, Michelle built her marketing expertise at Procter & Gamble. She graduated from BHP in 2009 with degrees in Finance and English, and went on to earn her M.B.A at the Duke Fuqua School of Business, with a focus in strategy and entrepreneurship. We recently caught up with Michelle to learn about Bastide and the beauty industry.

Bastide is a very unique brand. Can you tell me more about it, and how you became involved?

Bastide is a beauty startup from the South of France – we have a collection of natural beauty products all made by different artisans in Provence. I’m actually the only non-French employee. We have been building the company for more than two years and launched into the US and France a year ago. The company is owned by Frédéric Fekkai, who made his fame from Fekkai haircare, which was later sold to P&G, where Frédéric and I met. It was a great learning experience at P&G to learn the fundamentals of brand building, but I wanted to work on building smaller brands and touch more parts of the business. After Fekkai,  Frédéric came to me with the idea of starting a new company – Bastide. Even though my title is Vice President of eCommerce, we are a true scrappy start-up team, so we all wear multiple hats.  I cover everything from product development, to branding, to setting up our pop-up shop. It’s very all-hands-on-deck and exactly what I wanted.

Now that our team’s a little bigger, what I focus on is how to become a great direct-to-consumer brand. Because we are a French brand, it’s very different trying to navigate our way in the e-commerce space. There’s a lot of very cool, trendy e-commerce brands from the U.S. and they have very American practices. We are learning to merge our French style with American best practices. I am spending a lot more of my time on how we articulate our brand positioning in both markets, especially as it relates to social media.

What is it like to work in marketing in the beauty and luxury beauty industry?

Marketing in the beauty industry is often quite unique because in many of the big companies, like L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Coty, and P&G, the marketing function is the lead function, not a support function. Marketers are responsible for leading the team, delivering the product, and delivering business results.

The way I would describe the job is in thirds. One-third of it is really sexy stuff that people associate with marketing  – dealing with ad agencies, influencers, editors, photoshoots, and events. Another third of it is project management, which is almost like the complete opposite. It’s defining the product, negotiating with multifunctional partners, getting research and development to work faster, and making the supply chain better. The last third of the job is P&L management like knowing your sales, your margins, and your cost structure. Overall, a third of it is the really creative side of it and two-thirds of it is business management.  

Was it always your goal to work in the beauty industry?

At McCombs, I actually studied BHP, Finance, and English. I took marketing courses but I wasn’t a marketing major. I always say that what I’m doing now is a marriage of what I studied. One of the things I appreciate about BHP was that they pushed us to intern early and get as much work experience as possible. I had done a finance internship in energy and oil after my sophomore year, and I realized I absolutely hated finance. The people are great, but I was doing stuff like tracking the foreign exchange on chemical symbols I didn’t even understand. I was so appreciative of that experience sophomore year, because when I recruited junior year I knew what I wanted. I wanted to deal with more creative elements, and to work with something that was more tangible.  The consumer goods industry was then an obvious choice.

I had recruited for P&G in a finance role originally. I called them desperately and asked them to put me in something else after realizing I wanted to pivot. They thought I would be a good fit in their consumer insights division, where I interned and then returned full-time for the first two years out of college. Qualitative and quantitative research has really changed since then because of technology. After two or three years in consumer insights, I realized I wanted to control more of the business and have more ownership. I switched over to brand management, where you own not only the creative and the brand, but also the bottom line.

The beauty industry is great as a marketer because it is an emotional industry. People have a lot of passion, or at least a lot of opinions, on their beauty products – whether it’s a razor, a face cream, or a fragrance.  To be able to build brands that hold such an emotional spot for people is really special.

What advice would you give current students?

Get work experience as quickly as possible. I wish I did this more. I now live in New York, and I see interns who are willing to work for school credit, who are much more willing to put themselves out there earlier. The work experience and the work itself is very different from what you’re studying. The earlier you can get yourself out there, the earlier you can figure out what you like or don’t like.  Especially at the pace of today’s technology, youth can be an advantage in many industries, so use it to your advantage and get out there.  

I also wish I had asked for help more as a student. There’s so much leeway to ask for help from peers and alumni as a student. These are things I do naturally now, but didn’t do as a student. There’s a big BHP presence in New York and we’re always asking each other for help professionally or personally.

I think the best piece of advice I tell myself, even now, is to imagine what you want your life to look like on a Thursday afternoon and Tuesday morning. Sometimes we only imagine the highlight reel or the low points of a job, but those moments are fleeting and not very representative of how we spend most of our time. Think about those Thursday afternoons – what you want your work to be like, who would you want to be working with, what do you want to be learning, how do you want to spend your time. Those little subtle moments should really guide your bigger decisions rather than thinking about the highlight reel of what you do.

Student Spotlight: Omar Olivarez

Omar OlivarezWhen Omar Olivarez talks about Project RISE, he can’t help but smile. “Project RISE is a non-profit founded by Ashley Chen, a BHP graduate. It’s all about promoting entrepreneurship to underserved youth in the Austin community and teaching them skills like leadership, teamwork, and good communication.”

Olivarez is currently a senior in the Business Honors Program and an MIS major. He came to UT from La Blanca, a small town just east of Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley. Through Project RISE, he has been able to use his own experiences and knowledge to give back to the community. “We’re teaching high-school students concepts we’re learning in our classroom, and it’s really exciting to see them get into college and graduate from high-school,” he says. “One of our students comes from a single parent household with many siblings. She was absent sometimes because of her family situation, but in the end, she pitched her final business plan to the community and had the idea to develop a LinkedIn for teachers to help connect teachers to schools with needs. It’s really rewarding to see students’ plans come to fruition at the end of the program.”

Olivarez also encourages all students to pursue and build their ideas. “I’d like to give a shout-out to all students who have started something of their own, whether it’s a nonprofit, an organization, or a business. Perhaps it won’t last in the long-term, but I think that having that initiative is awesome.” He says what he’s learned from Project RISE is that people need to keep creating and innovating. “It’s what drives our market. I would applaud anyone who has ever made something in college and I think people should keep making stuff.”

In addition to working with Project RISE, Olivarez has also served as a Peer Mentor to the BHP class of 2021. His peers are his favorite part of BHP and have made his college experience unforgettable. “The students I’ve met through being a Peer Mentor are a wholesome, quirky group. They face a lot of hardships and competition, but they have a lot of resources on campus to help them. I am proud that they’re able to handle everything without feeling overwhelmed.”

After graduation, Olivarez will be working for Southwest Airlines in software engineering. He says his career path was slightly unexpected, but ultimately the perfect fit for him. “Keep your options open,” Olivarez says. “It’s more than okay if you have an idea of what you want to do, but flexibility helps. I was very into consulting a year ago and now, after competing in hackathons and building cool stuff, I’m really into software engineering.”

Olivarez has a working theory that happiness is infectious. “I think when you’re helping the community and bringing happiness to other people, all the energy you’re using to make that happen is rebounded and compounded,” he says. “For example, I volunteer with Capital Community where I work with older parents who might not speak English or know how college applications work. I work with them to understand how FAFSA and taxes work. Seeing their faces as they realize that they can make an impact on their own children’s lives is very gratifying. All the energy I spend doing that comes back to me and makes me want to do more.”

Meet the BHP Board – Part 2: Craig Bondy, Edith Li, Narayan Bhargava

This is the second of a series of posts we will be doing dedicated to introducing you to our BHP Advisory Board. The BHP Advisory Board is comprised of around 20 alumni representing a mix of class years, occupations and locations. The mission of the board is to drive continued excellence of the BHP and development of leaders through advocacy, connection, and engagement. The board will be ambassadors for the program in their communities, support fundraising objectives, and assist with recruiting the top students in the nation to the program. Board terms are two years. We greatly appreciate the service of these alumni to BHP!

Craig Bondy is a managing director for GTCR in Chicago. He has been with the company since 2000. Previously, Craig worked in the investment banking department at Credit Suisse First Boston in both Chicago and London. Craig is co-head of the Technology, Media & Telecommunications group at GTCR and is currently a Director of Fairway Outdoor and In addition, Craig was previously a Director of GTCR’s past investments including Avention, CAMP Systems, CellNet, DigitalNet, Landmark Aviation, Six3 Systems, Solera, TransFirst and VeriFone. Outside of GTCR, Craig spends significant time as a board member working with Communities In Schools of Chicago, a non-profit organization that connects public school children with free social, emotional, health and enrichment programs

Edith Li graduated from BHP in 2004. She is currently a manager at Par Pacific, Inc., an energy and infrastructure business, where she oversees the internal and external financial reporting for the company.  Previously, Edith was a financial reporting supervisor at HighMount Exploration & Production, LLC, an oil and gas exploration and production company, and a senior financial reporting analyst at The Brock Group, an industrial specialty service provider. Prior to her industry experience, Edith spent nearly four years at Deloitte & Touche LLP, where she was led audit teams working with companies in various industries, including oil and gas, manufacturing, and hospitality.

Narayan Bhargava currently serves as Business Development Officer at The SDB Group. He graduated from BHP in 2010. SDB is involved in several different facets of the oil and gas industry from manufacturing to distribution to exploration. He also acts as president of two SDB subsidiaries and co-director of another. Further, Narayan is principal at Venture Fuel Partners, a VC firm focused on early stage investing. He is serving as treasurer and youngest director for the National Association of Steel Pipe Distributors (NASPD), is a board member for the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH), and for the Houston chapter of Magic Bus, an NGO that raises social awareness among children in poverty-stricken communities.

Applications for the BHP Advisory Board are accepted once a year in the Spring. If you have feedback for our current board, please reach out to the BHP office.