Katie Cullina

Katie Cullina
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Madison, Connecticut
Previous Education: 
Boston College – BA in Communication, Philosophy
Current Work: 
Director of Strategic Planning (Marketing & Advertising)
Post-CBS Goals: 
I plan to build a career that energizes and challenges me, merges my passions for marketing, strategy and design, and allows me to work alongside people who inspire me.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Meeting up with friends at different bars and restaurants, walking around campus before and after class, and perusing cafes and shops downtown whenever I can.

What brought you to Columbia Business School?

A growth mindset and focus on education is something that has been instilled in me throughout my life. When I found myself working in the marketing industry and increasingly curious about the macroeconomic factors impacting my industry, ways to move through my budgeting spreadsheets more capably/less frantically, and calling my CPA dad about my taxes every year, I decided I needed to double down and get a comprehensive business education to expand my mind and skillsets, for both professional and personal reasons. And here I am.

What was your favorite part of the program?

My international seminar in South Africa was an absolute highlight of the program for me. South Africa is the kind of place that just instantly changes your world view. It’s sad, hopeful, destitute and stunning all at the same time, and to be able to take this in with my classmates was an experience I’ll never forget. It’s easy to start to feel badly for yourself when you’re working full time and completing an MBA in less than two years. That feeling was turned on its head in South Africa. The locals I met and things I saw really reminded me of how lucky I am and how much good I can do with the opportunities.

In addition to how meaningful the trip was, it was also a whole lot of fun because of the people I traveled with, which takes me to my next point: the incredible friends I’ve made in this program. It takes a certain kind of person to willingly sign away their weekends and free time for two years, and I think because of the intensity of the program and associated lifestyle, we all felt an instant camaraderie. The South Africa seminar felt like a big extended family vacation, and I give a lot of credit to Columbia for handpicking people who were not only looking to further their minds, but also gain lifelong friends. 

What was the most challenging part of the program?

The most challenging yet rewarding part of the program for me was being forced to face my weaknesses head-on. I found myself struggling to keep up with my talented classmates cruising through Excel valuations, and that was an incredibly humbling experience. But this is the power of the EMBA: You don’t really know what you don’t know, until you are challenged. My eyes were opened to weaknesses in my knowledge and skillsets, but I’m happy to say I’ve improved myself in these areas.

When did you first feel the impact of the program?

I first felt the impact of the program when I implemented concepts from my Leadership & Organizational Change course at work and saw, in real time, how it changed my team for the better. Professor Paul Ingram explained the concept of psychological safety, and recommended that we make time to regularly meet with our teams in a more unconventional kind of way — celebrating successes, listening to concerns, and looking at our work lives in a bigger picture and more people-focused manner. I set up weekly coffee chats with my team called “Caffeinate & Contemplate” in which we’d take time out of the week to just hit pause for a second and remember the larger context of what we were doing. Here, complex and frustrating projects were reframed as meaningful opportunities to learn how to deal with new sets of challenges. I noticed a shift in my team’s attitude and felt like I was not only connecting with them more deeply, but also inspiring them to think differently in the process. One of my direct reports even went on to pursue a Master’s degree in Business Analytics, an idea that was in part born from these meetings and my mentoring of her, and hearing of her acceptance to the program was one of my proudest moments as a manager. Seeing these kinds of changes in action showed me how truly impactful the EMBA program really is.

Did you have a favorite professor or course?

My favorite course and professor was Personal Leadership & Success with Hitendra Wadhwa. To me, it was genuinely life changing. When you live authentically and communicate authentically, you’re able to tap into your own unique power as a leader and more effectively motivate yourself and others.

What’s your top advice for new students?

The mountain of deadlines and responsibilities ahead may seem insurmountable, but you’re capable of more than you think. My advice to incoming students would be to do just that: stay focused on the assignment at hand, remember how lucky you are to be here, and before you know it, you might even miss those nights and weekends in Warren Hall!


Fall 2015 Cross-Registration Dates

  • A-term, B-term, and Full-term electives: 10:00 am on Thursday August 20th until 4:00 pm Tuesday September 8th.
  • B-Term electives: 10:00 am Wednesday October 21st until 4:00pm Wednesday October 28th.