2024 Best & Brightest Business Major: Jeanette Smith, Washington University (Olin)

Jeanette Smith

Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School

“Perpetual question-asker, music and dance lover, plant enthusiast, and avid Google Calendar user.”

Fun fact about yourself: I grew up doing ballet but learned how to dance salsa at WashU!

Hometown: West Windsor, New Jersey

High School: West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

Major: Finance

Minor: Computer Science and Human-Computer Interaction

Favorite Business Course: Advanced Financial Management

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles

  • WashU Women in Finance, President
  • WUSauce (WashU Performance Salsa Team), Training Chair and Head Choreographer
  • Management 100 Teaching Assistant and Head Case Competition TA
  • Olin Peer Ambassador
  • WashU Dance Theater, Dancer
  • WashU Dance Collective, Dancer
  • MoneyThink, Volunteer

Honors and Awards

  • Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society
  • Dean’s List
  • 1st Place – Management 100 Case Competition
  • 1st Place – National Sports Business Case Competition
  • 3rd Place – Chewy Case Competition
  • Finalist – Accenture Innovation Challenge
  • Finalist – Olin Values and Data Case Competition

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • OMERS Private Equity, New York, NY, Private Equity Intern
  • Browning West, Los Angeles, CA, Summer Analyst
  • KKR, New York, NY, Summer Analyst

Where will you be working after graduation? KKR Infrastructure, Private Equity Analyst

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? Majoring in a business-related field opens so many doors because you develop a skillset that can be applied across a wide variety of industries. Because business is so interdisciplinary, I think it’s crucial to complement your business classes with coursework in diverse fields. While I am starting my career in a finance role, I am confident that I will need the skills I developed in non-finance courses to help me succeed, whether it’s the logic I learned in my computer science classes, design principles I learned in my art classes, or analysis and synthesis strategies I learned in research-based classes. Success in business is dependent on staying intellectually curious and pursuing opportunities to learn something new whenever you can. College is a great place to cultivate that hunger for knowledge.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? One of the most surprising lessons I learned while studying business is that developing an effective and compelling way to present an idea is almost as important as the idea itself. If you are unable to articulate your thoughts and frame them in a way that intrigues your audience, they might not buy in, regardless of the quality of your idea. This lesson is often frustratingly learned through the experience of having a few of your good ideas shot down, but it is a key understanding that helps you develop salesmanship and the ability to negotiate and persuade.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? If I had more time at WashU, I would take more classes related to psychology and people management. Understanding people’s motives, goals, values and decisions will be critical to job success, especially once I get to a managerial level in my career. Strong interpersonal understanding allows you to connect with others and build collaborative and high-performing teams, strong client relationships, and an expansive network.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I am most proud of my work with the WashU Women in Finance Club. I became the president of WIF as a sophomore, which was the first year that COVID restrictions began to subside. Without ever seeing what a “normal” year looked like for the club and facing low member engagement due to months of no in-person events and countless Zoom calls, I was slightly intimidated by the leadership role and the task of building the organization back up. However, I worked hard to grow our membership base, expand our professional network through corporate sponsorships and guest speakers, and cultivate a stronger sense of community through social programming. The friends, mentors and mentees I have met through WashU WIF have been a meaningful part of my time as a college student, and I am excited for the community to continue to thrive on campus.

Which classmate do you most admire? The WashU student body is the smartest and kindest group of people I have ever encountered, but I have to take this opportunity to give a shoutout to one of my first friends at the school, Spencer Min. Spencer and I both arrived at our first college class 20 minutes early to scope out the classroom and anxiously wait on the bench outside. Four years later, I can confidently say I wouldn’t be the student or person I am today if I hadn’t met him that day. It has been so wonderful to watch our friendship grow from group project teammates to study buddies to best friends who can talk about anything and everything. Whether we are recounting funny stories from the weekend, figuring out a finance problem set, or making plans to become Co-CEOs one day, I can always trust that we’ll have a good time. Spencer treats everyone with an admirable amount of selflessness and compassion, and his positivity is contagious. He is the hardest worker I know, and I am so excited to see all the amazing things he accomplishes.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I am so lucky to have grown up alongside the two best role models I could ever ask for—my older sisters, Shannon and Corinne. First and foremost, I have the utmost admiration for their ambition, work ethic, resilience and the things they have accomplished. Being able to look up to them pushes me to be the best version of myself. I’m also very grateful for their unconditional support and amazing advice. I can always count on Shannon and Corinne to cheer me on when I’m proud of something, help me get through a challenge, or laugh at my jokes even when they’re bad. I don’t thank them enough for the part they have played in my success, but I hope they know I wouldn’t have made it this far without them!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

The first item on my professional bucket list is to spend some time working in a different country. I love to travel and have a great appreciation for the growth you experience when you spend time in a new place and put effort into understanding the people and culture there. I also think that in an investing role, it would be very fulfilling to experience a new region while contributing to its economic development.

Another professional box I am excited to check one day is to have my first board seat. This has been a goal of mine since working with The Fourth Effect, an organization dedicated to building out the pipeline for women and diverse candidates to get on boards. Sitting on a board would be a very empowering experience and an opportunity to think about the big picture of a business and make an impact on its performance.

What made Jeanette such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?  

“Jeanette is that rare combination of poise, maturity and intelligence. My colleagues and I were so impressed with her ability to lead her fellow students, manage a hectic academic schedule and lead a successful career search, all while maintaining her composure. She knows how to set priorities and execute!”

Gregory Hutchings
Business Development Manager, Center for Career Engagement


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