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What brought you to Columbia Business School?
I wanted to get my MBA, and I wanted to get it from a top school. Columbia interested me over other top business schools because I saw the value of the Columbia network, especially in New York. I was also aware of the overwhelming list of successful business people who have come out of the school, and I wanted to be a part of that institution.
Also, New York City is the greatest city in the United States, and it's the business capital of the world. Columbia has unmatched access to world-class leaders, elite businesses, and accomplished professors. Why would I choose to go anywhere else?
What was your favorite part of the program?
Traveling with my classmates. EMBA-Americas has three weeks where we study in other cities, and we really got to know one another during those trips. Separately, my international seminar in Myanmar was also an incredible experience. I was the only student from my cohort to choose Myanmar as my seminar location, but I got to know some incredible people from other CBS cohorts. Myanmar was fun because it ripped us out of our comfort zones. We had a great time immersing ourselves into the culture, learning about local businesses, and spending time with the locals.
What was the most challenging part of the program?
The core (first eight months) was the toughest for me. I was running a startup and juggling coursework at the same time. My life was all work and school, but I still managed to have some fun here and there.
When did you first feel the impact of the program?
You feel the impact from day one. It's a boost in confidence. But I'd say I started using the things I learned through coursework in practice after two months.
What was your favorite course/professor/event?
Donna Hitscherich was my favorite professor, even though she gave me an average grade and loved to cold call on me. She inspired me to learn her material (Corporate Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions); she's also entertaining and very sharp. I also really enjoyed Fundamental Analysis with Professor Shiv Rajgopal. There were only four or five students in that class, so we got a great opportunity to interact with the professor during class. Favorite speakers: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Favorite event: the annual gala.
What are your future career plans? How has CBS influenced them?
My career plans changed while I was in grad school. I started off on the entrepreneurship path, running my own company. I like the idea of being an entrepreneur but I also like the structure of a big corporation. We had so many Walmart cases throughout our coursework, I thought, ‘why don't I just go work for Walmart,’ so I did. In all seriousness though, CBS helped prepare me for my next step. My current role is a good mix of being an entrepreneur within one of the world's largest companies. CBS has sharpened my skills in finance, negotiations, and management, among other areas, so I feel confident and prepared in my day-to-day business.
Any advice for new students?
Don't be a recluse. Part of the program is getting to know your colleagues so you can learn from their experiences as well as develop lifelong friendships. You get what you put into it, and that goes for building a network, if that's important to you, and spending time honing your specialty/interests through your studies. Get to know people. Learn what you want.
How did the CBS community — especially through its diversity and support — affect your experience in business school?
I met with my career adviser Dai Nguyen on a monthly basis. He was incredibly helpful as I was interviewing for new roles. He helped me figure out what I wanted out of my next career move. I also met with countless advisers and professors to get their thoughts on certain subjects. The staff was always welcoming, helpful, and knowledgeable.