Consulting

Gustavo Henrique Martins dos Santos
MBA
Class of 2019
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
São Paulo, Brazil
Current Work: 
Gradus Management Consultants

Prior to starting, what were you expecting the program to be like? How was it different than your expectations?

Before coming to Columbia, I thought the MBA would focus around finance, and in mostly connecting the academic world with business practices. I believed I would learn from my professors and guest speakers, and discuss my learnings with my classmates. This was all true, however, there was much more than I was expecting. Not only did Columbia provide me with academic expertise, it also allowed me to put into practice my learning through clubs and professional events. Moreover, by being co-president of Pangea Advisors and CFO of Microlumbia, I was able to take advantage of faculty support and see the impact of my learnings in real companies. Finally, although finance is extremely strong in Columbia, there are many other interesting subjects. Among the many options, I dedicated my time at Columbia to improving my skills in social entrepreneurship and operations, and to discover more about healthcare and public health.

How did the cluster and team approach effect your experience?

Both the cluster and learning team experience were fantastic and challenging at the same time. There were more than 30 different nationalities, not mentioning the extremely diverse backgrounds of my classmates.

Being in a learning team with 4 different nationalities and people from 5 different career industries was challenging. We didn’t always agreed on the course of action and, sometimes our cultural behaviors were unexpected to other team members. But I believe this really contributed to my growing experience. Working in such a diverse environment improved my teamwork skills.

I made a lifetime of friends from my cluster. Not only from my cluster, but also from the whole class. We worked together, traveled together, and partied together.

When did you first feel the impact of the program?

Right on the first week, during the orientation. We spent one week having activities to prepare us for the MBA and to help us get to know each other. I remember the first day when I was walking to school at 8am. The Peer Advisors greeted us with air balloons, loud music, cheering, and dancing. The temperature was below 0 but they looked very happy in inviting us to this new experience.

How has your MBA experience translated into growth in your career?

I can divide this question in 2 parts; numbers and titles, and learning and experience.

First, my wage is twice as much it was before. My company gave me the opportunity to head one department and to develop and head a new business unit.

Second, I will be able to apply many of the learnings I got from school to my business. At the moment, I don’t know exactly how that is going to roll out, but I developed so much academic and professional knowledge during my MBA that I believe it will successfully drive my career.

What advice would you give to a new student coming into the MBA program at Columbia Business School?

There is no time to dedicate yourself fully to everything that is happening at Columbia. Between classes, clubs, professional events, recruiting, social activities, travels, etc., you will miss a lot of things. Don’t worry! Choose what you want to focus on and take advantage as much as you can from it. In addition, use all the resources Columbia has available for you. Faculty members are willing to guide you and to help you in your growth. Take advantage of that.

Which faculty members(s) influenced you the most, and how?

Columbia has many stars as faculties and I had an extremely positive experience with almost all my classes (there is always one class that is not exactly what we are expecting, but overall, the academic program was better than I was hoping for).

Although I had an impactful experience with most of my professors, three of them were particular helpful. Medini Singh (I took Operations Strategy, Supply Chain Management and Service Operations Management with him) guided his classes with deep discussion of supply chain and operations challenges. His approach required students to deeply understand the cases, work through the financial and operations numbers and think broadly of the impact each decision has on the overall market.

Bruce Usher (I took Finance and Sustainability, Climate Finance and Impact Investing Seminar) opened my eyes to new market opportunities. We discussed how to manage a business focused on both the return to investors and social and environmental issues. During our classes, Professor Usher used real company cases to demonstrate both successful and unsuccessful businesses, and deeply discussed their financials, including capital raising, international expansion, operational challenges, etc.

Finally, Daniel Guetta (I did Business Analytics II) is such a passionate and good professor, that I felt the desire to understand more about business analytics. His teaching encouraged me to pursue knowledge in a subject that I wasn’t really interested in before.

Which corporate visits helped enhance your experience?

I did many corporate visits during the MBA. Mostly on big companies such as Amazon and Itaú (one of the largest banks in South America). However, the most impactful visit was to Baan Dek Foundation, an NGO in northern Thailand that helps low income families to achieve a better life. I spent one week working onsite with this NGO and it improved myself in so many ways. First of all, I helped the organization develop a financial model and several social impact measurements as a guide for growth and expansion. Second, working with such a small company helped me understand challenges faced by business owners. Finally, I had first hand experience in understanding the needs of low income communities and how to work with them to improve their lives.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Managing professional clubs. As co-president of Pangea (pro-bono consulting club focused on social enterprises in developing economies), I experienced the challenges of running a company. I was involved with strategic decisions and operational activities, such as sourcing clients (about 40 different companies per year), educating students about the projects, sourcing students (about 150 students per year), overviewing the projects and managing the team who worked with me. As CFO of Microlumbia (Impact Investing Fund), I had the opportunity to manage the daily finances, make investing decisions, recruit new members, and perform financial analyses and due diligences.

Running clubs are the same as running companies, but with less risk and more support from Columbia staff and faculty. Definitely the best learning experience.

What was the most challenging part of the program, and how did you handle it?

FOMO (Fear of missing out). There is so much going on at Columbia that we cannot participate at every single activity even if we want to. There were so many classes, guest lectures, travels, and social events that I wanted to attend but I missed. In my opinion, what was most helpful to deal with “overscheduling” is to talk to people and gauge other students’ views and experiences. Many students have taken the same classes or engage in the same activities I wanted to do, and they were very helpful in the process of prioritizing my experience at Columbia.

Did you take advantage of the Career Management services offered to all students? If so, how did the office help you?

I was sponsored by my company and I did not recruit while at Columbia. However, I did take advantage of CMC. I discussed with them long term career plans and how to build my network to achieve my long term plans.

Are there any other experiences you would like to share?

In addition to clubs, classes, and being a TA, I also helped Professor Carri Chan in writing a case. I worked with Professor Chan and Caseworks to write a case about a real business to be used in the Operations Management core class.

Kathryn Brown
MBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
New Kent County, VA
Previous Education: 
BA in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis 
Post-CBS Goals: 
I want to excel in a career where I can help other people achieve their dreams and create something of worth and value in the world. 
Favorite NYC Activities: 
One of my favorite activities is to ride the train to a stop I’ve never been to and just take in the sights and sounds of the city. I also enjoy rollerblading in Central Park and attending live music events.

What has the business school experience been like so far?

It’s been intense and a lot of fun. I’ve been pushed in a lot of ways both expected and unexpected. When I came to Columbia, I thought I knew whom I was going to click with and become friends with, given that I’ve tended to gravitate toward people of similar interests or backgrounds in my undergraduate and professional lives. But at Columbia, I’ve been pushed to form relationships with people who are very different from myself and to not make snap judgments. During class discussions, sometimes I’m surprised in a good way by what I hear people say. I come from a teaching background, and I wouldn't necessarily think that a banker on my learning team would have similar morals or perspectives, but this experience has taught me not to judge any book by its cover.

How did your professional background affect your decision to pursue an MBA?

I did Teach for America in Washington, DC, and I had a really good experience. But I realized that what I loved about it the most was the data analysis and thinking through operations of the school with my principal. So from there, I worked in an operations management role in a warehouse. Most recently, I returned to education as a data analyst, and I was working for the superintendent in DC, where I was able to merge my passion with the skills and things that I wanted to develop.

I wanted to earn my MBA so that I could have the biggest impact possible on the things that I care about. I felt like the people whom I’ve seen having the most impact, even in education, are individuals with MBAs. So it just seemed like a natural next step for me.

Why Columbia?

I come from an education background, but I am also interested in beauty and retail, and the Retail and Luxury Goods Club at Columbia is phenomenal. The number and caliber of speakers, as well as the alumni network, are unmatched. And, of course, being in New York, you have access to alumni from the first day of the first semester. I’ve met with alumni several times in person, and I think being able to make those in-person connections is something that you can only do if you’re in the same city.

There’s just something about the energy of this city and the energy of the School specifically. Whenever I thought about the hustle of New York City, grinding and trying to make it, I always thought of it as a very individualistic thing. I didn’t realize how much support there is if you want it.

How have you been involved with the Black Business Student Association?

I’ve been involved in a few ways. At first, it was just socially. It’s a good home base, like a family type of feel. But then I discovered that BBSA provides in-depth professional support as well. We have career-specific groups if you’re recruiting or interested in a specific industry. You’re matched with a second-year student who has already pursued the path you’re interested in. We have alumni events, and we’ve had alumni come in and do interview prep. We’ve had several career meet-up group events.

I’ve also been involved in the Spotlight On: Diversity events and talking to prospective students, helping to mentor them throughout the process, which was my first touchpoint with BBSA when I was applying to Columbia. I’ve definitely tried to pay it forward. I always try to make myself available after professional events to talk informally with new students, too.

Any other community events you’ve had a chance to attend while at the School?

I love CBS Matters. I’m actually hoping to present myself this spring. I always try to arrange my schedule so that I make the presentations. There are two things you get out of it. The most obvious is that you learn a lot more about someone in your cluster, maybe someone you don’t know very well. Again, this has helped me to not make judgments about people and to be open. But the other thing that I really like about CBS Matters is the community-building aspect of it. When someone shares such a personal story, everyone in the room is bonded in that experience. It pushes our cluster, even in our more informal one-on-one conversations, to be more open with each other because someone has just poured their soul out in front of 50 people. 

Nathalie Tadena
MBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Ossining, NY
Previous Education: 
BA in journalism and political science from Northwestern University, 2011
Previous Work Experience: 
I was a business reporter for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones & Company.
Post-CBS Goals: 
I plan to work in technology or media.
CBS Activities: 
Board member, Columbia Women in Business (CWIB); board member, Media Management Association (MMA); Asian Business Association; Technology Business Group; Hermes Society
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Weekend brunch dates, New York City Ballet performances, picnics in Central Park, and getting lost in art museums.

 

Why did you decide to attend business school?
Before business school, I was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. As a reporter, I saw first-hand how technology was changing the media industry. I knew I wanted to come to business school to better understand technology and also gain a skill set for how to lead an organization as the marketplace changes.

 

Why did you choose Columbia Business School?

Columbia is in the media capital of the world. As someone who’s passionate about media, I wanted to be at a school with a good network of alumni in the media industry as well as great classes on the industry. I also wanted to work with students who share my interest.

 

What was it like to transition from being a reporter to being a student?

It was definitely challenging. I knew coming in that many of my classmates came from finance and consulting. It’s been an incredible experience to learn from these classmates who have had such different experiences than my own. I’ve been able to share with them the writing and communications skills that I’ve honed.

 

Can you talk more about how you’ve brought your professional experience as a reporter to the business school experience?

When I was a reporter, I was always asking questions to executives: How do you stay competitive? What’s the future of this industry? These are questions I ask in class, too, about cases we are studying or new topics we’re approaching. I try to bring a journalist’s mindset to exploring business topics.

 

What has surprised you at Columbia Business School?

I’ve been really surprised at how collaborative the community is. I thought that students would want to study on their own, but I’ve always been able to find classmates who want to work together — from doing homework, to studying, to reviewing answers. Everyone is very supportive.

 

How have you engaged with the community at the School?

I’m an associate vice president of Women’s Week, which is a part of Columbia Women in Business. Together we plan a week-long program around women’s issues. We aim to provide a well-rounded suite of events and speakers, including women from various industries, entrepreneurs, and investors.

 

You’re a first-year student. What are your summer plans?

I plan to intern at IBM. I am excited about it because I have always been interested in technology. I want to learn about how technology can impact different industries, especially the media industry.

 

 

Annie Messmer-Kurdziel
MBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Born in Shaker Heights, OH; lived in Boston for 10 years before business school
Previous Education: 
BA in philosophy from Boston College, 2008
Previous Work Experience: 
I worked for Building Excellent Schools, supporting urban school leadership in more than 125 schools across the country; I also worked in human capital for Fidelity Investments, as an executive search consultant
Post-CBS Goals: 
Working in consulting in Chicago
CBS Activities: 
Co-president, Cluster Q; board and cast member, CBS Follies; board member, Peer Advisors
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Running in Central Park, attending comedy shows, and finding new restaurants 

 

What were you looking for in a business school?
I was looking for a place where I would be really challenged. Prior to business school, I worked in human capital, and I viewed business through that lens. But I didn’t have a vocabulary or skillset beyond that. I came to Columbia Business School because I wanted to be exposed to things I hadn’t done yet in my career. My goal is to leave with a very strong understanding of the fundamentals of business.

What has surprised you?
I expected that I would learn a lot and be very busy. But I didn’t expect that I’d make really good friends. I’m 30 years old, and I have a wife and family. To my surprise, I found people here who are unlike any people I’ve met before. They are intelligent, yet also incredibly relatable and also very diverse. I’ve made close friends from Guatemala, China, India, and more. I’d never had this type of exposure before, and it surprised me a lot.

How are you involved in the Columbia Business School community?
I’m serving this year as a peer advisor and as co-president of Cluster Q, Columbia Business School’s LGBTQ professional and social association. Cluster Q is a community I really care about. It plays two roles, focusing on the experience of anyone identifying as LGBTQ within CBS, as well as looking externally at how we influence and create a better business world for the LGBTQ community outside the walls of Columbia Business School.

Can you talk more about the role of peer advisors?
Peer advisors are second-year students who get paired with incoming first-years, and through this relationship they become ambassadors of the culture. They play an incredibly important role, and the ongoing support they offer shouldn’t be underestimated. During times of transition, we all need support and a little guidance. I think every first-year looks for that along the way, whether it’s in the first week or six months down the road.

How has your education extended beyond the walls of Columbia Business School?
Columbia University is an amazing institution. I spent my second semester taking an intensive course at Columbia Law School, through its Center for Public Research and Leadership. I’m interested in education reform, and the course allowed me to consult with a team for an educational organization. I didn’t know about this program when I applied to Columbia, but my future in education has been shaped more by this experience than anything else I’ve done.

As a busy student, how do you find balance?
I take stock every day of what I need to get out of my day. That's no different than finding balance in a job. You look at the day and week ahead and ask, “What are my goals?” When I came to Columbia Business School, I wrote a mission statement for myself. Every once in a while, I'll go back to that and reflect on what matters to me and why I am here. It is very easy to get sucked into a day where you are running around — from a meeting, to class, to an extra-curricular, to a coffee chat with a future employer. When it becomes too much, you have to be able to step back. Saying “no” is one of the best skills I’ve learned in business school, as well as saying “yes” to the things that really matter.

Jane Sun
EMBA
Class of 2016
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Shandong Province, China
Previous Education: 
Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Ecole Centrale de Lyon
Current Work: 
Manager in Financial Service Risk Management Practice at EY (Ernst & Young)
Post-CBS Goals: 
My immediate goal is to climb the corporate ladder at my current organization.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I like Central Park and the New York Botanical Gardens. I sometimes take my son there.
Areas of Interest: 

Why Columbia Business School? 
I have accumulated a lot of quantitative knowledge through my previous education and while working as a consultant at Ernst & Young, but I quickly realized that I need to have strong business acumen in order to be a true leader in the consulting business. I wanted to have the business knowledge that would help me understand broader issues facing my clients and to develop soft skills that would help me lead large-scale engagements for clients. I came to business school to close these gaps and accelerate my career progression. 

I also have several friends who graduated from the EMBA program at Columbia. I have seen the transformational experience they had through the program, both personally and professionally, and knew I wanted to have a similar experience at Columbia. I believe this will have a lasting impact on me. 

What is it like to go to business school in New York City? 
The best parts are the resources and access we have at Columbia Business School — guest speakers and adjunct professors who come to school to teach during breaks from their work. They are all industry thought leaders and accomplished practitioners who bring an insider's view into different industries to help students understand the ever-changing business landscape.

Also, being close to the business center is a great advantage for me, professionally. As most of my clients are in the finance and banking industries, staying in New York City and being close to my clients is very important to me. By going to business school in New York City, I can attend client meetings during class breaks or attend evening classes after work. Columbia’s location definitely helps me to manage both school and career.

How do you handle working full-time, going to school, and being a mother? 
It's definitely not easy working full-time at Ernst & Young, going to business school, and being a mother of a two year old, but it is not as hard as it seems. Like everyone else, I only have 24 hours in a day, so I need to make sure these three things fit in my life. I don’t want to use the word “balance” as that suggests I have to lose one thing in order to gain another. Instead, I consider work, school, and life as three projects that I have to constantly re-prioritize based on each situation. I have to be disciplined but at the same time very flexible to change plans all the time. This approaches works well for me. I am on the Dean’s honor list for academic excellence and being viewed as one of best managers in the advisory practice at Ernst & Young.

I have met other moms in the EMBA program who also have young kids. Being able to talk to those who are going through the same challenges and share my concerns is big relief to me. The moral support I get from the community is very important to help me go through this period of my life.

What class are you most excited about, or what class has been most helpful to you in your current work role? 
When I came to CBS, I wanted to take a lot of soft-skill courses, so after the core curriculum ended, I took non-technical electives, like Napoleon's Glance with Bill Duggan and Personal Leadership and Success with Hitendra Wadhwa. These courses have given me a new perspective on leadership and success. A true leader has the ability to attract talented people and is able to leverage the team to achieve great things. These new perspectives have greatly helped me with how to lead a team at work and how to become an effective manager.

What's been the most surprising thing about being at CBS?
I have always been amazed by the collective wealth of knowledge and experience we have in the classroom. No matter what topic we are discussing in class, there will always be at least one student in the room who is an expert on the topic. My classmates’ participation in class has greatly contributed to my learning experience at CBS; I am learning not only from the professors but also from my classmates. Also, the commitment from the EMBA students is very impressive. We all have full-time jobs while doing the EMBA program, and yet students always do their readings and are ready to discuss cases in class. Many students have already had great achievements in their professional lives, but they still have the drive to learn more.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Columbia Business School community?
I'm very proud to be part of the CBS community. When I go out, I’m proud to wear my CBS shirt. In New York City, CBS has a very big community and it is easy to connect with others in this community. It has already helped me with building relationships with prospective clients. When people know that I am pursuing my MBA at Columbia, they connect me with alumni they know. The community has opened doors for me both professionally and personally. 

Once you have your CBS degree, how will you apply it to your current role and beyond? 
I want to apply what I have learned at CBS to become a true leader in the consulting business. Before I came to business school, I thought that leadership meant a leader needs to give instructions for the team to follow. Now I realize being a leader means attracting talented people. Some of those people may be smarter than me, which is actually a good thing. It's more about the ability to attract people who are smart and believe in your vision. A great leader is able to use the knowledge and intelligence of the whole team, instead of just the knowledge of the leader, which is very limited. You want people who are smarter than you in the room.

Gairy Hall
MBA
Class of 2016
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Fayetteville, Georgia
Previous Education: 
BA in economics from Columbia University, 2011
Previous Work Experience: 
Assistant Vice President at Citi Private Bank
Post-CBS Goals: 
Management Consulting
CBS Activities: 
University Senate, Student Government, Hermes Society, Black Business Student Association, Management Consulting Association, and Wine Society
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Trying new restaurants (I love Indian, steakhouses, and anywhere with good cheesecake), learning about the city’s architecture, and visiting the smaller parks (Madison Square Park and Bryant Park are my favorites)

Sections, cohorts, teams — each school has a different name for it, and at CBS we have “clusters." However, my cluster might as well be called "Family E'16" as I have had the privilege of meeting 68 amazing individuals through both the ups and downs of our time at CBS.

Taking our core curriculum classes together meant that we could carry conversations and ideas from one course to another, tied together even further by professors who coordinated cases and topics from their side of the lectern. Recruiting is a notoriously rigorous commitment, but each company event became much more manageable and enjoyable when we spotted fellow Es and could take a breather from asking about firm culture and career development.

I could not talk about cluster bonding and not mention our Fall Break trip. Each cluster takes a few days of rest and relaxation in the fall, and while we love bonding in Uris, the sand and sun of Cancun helped develop even stronger friendships. I am already excited for next year’s trip!

My cluster has a reputation for giving CBS our all, from academics to recruiting to socializing, and we absolutely do! What might not be visible at first is how this extends to our personal relationships. The support we show one another after our CBS Matters sessions is powerful. We are always looking out for each other, from Watson Library to the many social events held around the city, and have collectively built an intense, inclusive bond.

It is exciting to know we have more semesters together. Clusters are representations of the student body as a whole. I am looking forward to branching out even more and getting to know many people across classes and programs. CBS is full of the most amazing people, with the most interesting backgrounds and achievements, I have ever met.

JD Dolan
EMBA
Class of 2015
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Silver Spring, Maryland
Previous Education: 
BA from Dickinson College
Current Work: 
Active duty army officer, former special operations strike force commander; cofounder and partner, LDR Investments LLP
Post-CBS Goals: 
To grow LDR Investments across two sectors: 1) the mid-stream energy services sector, and 2) the law enforcement and emergency management sector
CBS Activities: 
CBS Entrepreneurship Network and Columbia University Military Veterans Group
Favorite NYC Activities: 
My favorite restaurants are Wolfgang's Steakhouse, Tres Carnes, and Meat Hook. My favorite gyms are Crossfit Gantry and Velocity Sports. I also like Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, Bear Mountain in upstate New York, and the Intrepid Museum.

Why Columbia Business School? 
For me, it was a unique opportunity. I was on active duty in the Army and wanted to look for a position that was in an area where there was a very good business school. My family is from the Tri-State Area, and Columbia was always a dream of mine. I also happen to teach at St. John's University, so it's close enough where I can do both. It was really the best of both worlds for me.

What is it like to go to business school in New York City?
I really think it's like no other city in the world. When you think of the United States and the pinnacle of business and the American way of life, you think of New York City. Being able to go to a top-tier business school in arguably the greatest American city — there's really nothing like it. Obviously there are business implications and ramifications of being located here, but I think there are also lifestyle and personal benefits of being in the Big Apple.

How does being in New York City help you with your career goals?
I've been entrepreneurially driven since I was introduced to business. My father started his own business many years ago, and I started a business while I was on active duty in 2011. The Columbia network, but more importantly the Columbia network within New York City, has allowed me to grow my business in ways that really no other city would permit. That means involving investors and subject matter experts, and there's somebody from every sector, every industry, every field, in New York City — all within the Columbia network. For me, that's been a significant tangible benefit in the short term.

What class are you most excited about, or what class has been most helpful to you in your current role? 
I would have to say it's a combination of courses. In the core, the focus on quantitative skills was crucial for me to round out my own skill set, but my favorite classes were the entrepreneurial ones. The entrepreneurship course that I took in South Africa was pretty incredible, but my absolute favorite was Organizational Culture Demystified, which really looked at how culture affects business growth and success. It was something that was immediately applicable. I felt like I could immediately bring what I was learning to my company, which had started as a management and leadership consulting company. It's something that my partners and I were able to apply from day one for a number of our clients.

What's been the most surprising thing about being at CBS? 
It should not have been a surprise, but it's the raw talent across the board, from the professors to the staff, my classmates, and all the people we interact with. I really believe that everyone brought their best to the classes and contributed significantly. Having ample opportunity to personally interact with everyone — classmates, professors, staff, industry leaders, etc. — is so rare in an academic forum and has been a real blessing for me. I really think the Columbia network is unmatched, both nationwide and worldwide.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Columbia Business School community? 
I come from a background where I was involved with a very small, very elite special operations group within the US military. Columbia is like a larger version of the same: an elite group that is very welcoming and provides many opportunities for outreach within the community, and the growing business network that is New York City and the nation. It really means a lot, and I can't stop talking about it. Friends and family always ask me, "What is it like, and how is your experience?" and I'm always talking about the people. I really feel blessed and humbled, but also really proud of being a part of it.

How does the School’s entrepreneurial approach help you with your career goals? 
That was one of the things I was unsure about when I started. One of the reasons I wanted to go to business school was to round out my quantitative capabilities, but more importantly, I wanted to grow my business by opening up doors that I didn't really even see yet. Being able to take a number of classes that were entrepreneurially driven — two of which were with Don Weiss — where I could spend a significant amount of time on my own business and get feedback from classmates, professors, and visiting business professionals, allowed me to see different openings, windows, and doors that I could explore, push, and expand.

My business, which started as a strict leadership consulting firm, has grown into a functioning operations group as well. We also recently launched our own energy services company. That was really an inspiration from Don Weiss, but also from a number of my classmates as well, who have come into these different entrepreneurial classes and assisted me in growing the business in directions I hadn’t seen before.

Once you have your CBS degree, how will you apply it to your current role and beyond?
The Columbia brand speaks for itself, and being able to not only leverage the network but also the tangible lessons that I've already gleaned from the academics, my classmates, and our professors has already had a palpable result within my business. 

Related:
"Entrepreneurship in South Africa: At the Center of Global Impact"

 

Chris Riha
MBA
Class of 2016
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
West Des Moines, Iowa
Previous Education: 
BA in mathematics and spanish from Washington University in St. Louis, 2008
Previous Work Experience: 
Administrative staff member at Washington University in St. Louis; Recruiter at Teach For America; IT Analyst at Teach For America
Post-CBS Goals: 
Management consulting, with the aim of eventually specializing in functional IT work
CBS Activities: 
Chair of Cluster E'16, Co-president of Cluster Q, Peer Advisor, CMC Career Fellow, Small Business Consulting Program, Technology Business Group, Gourmet Club
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I'm huge into the food scene in NYC and am always scoping out new restaurants. I organized a mini ‘pizza trek’ before CBS so I could take friends to a few of my favorite spots. Roberta's in Brooklyn is a must!

Why Columbia Business School?
First and foremost, I felt like the emphasis on creating a strong community came through even from the very first info session I attended. When visiting and meeting other students, I just felt a much warmer reception than at other places. Academics and career opportunities — a lot of top business schools boast those. But I think community was something that really stood out at Columbia.

Another thing I would highlight is: I don’t have a business background, and so for me, it was important to feel like I was getting a more rigorous introduction to business principles. The way that Columbia sets up its core — it’s one of the more rigorous of the top programs.

What is it like to go to business school in New York City?
There are a lot of opportunities. In particular, for people who want to change careers, it is so easy for them to find an externship, part-time work, or an internship with a huge company. For instance, I have a friend who wants to get into media who is interning at ABC; I have a friend who's working at Burberry and wants to go into luxury retail. This semester I’m taking an immersion seminar, which means that for six Fridays we go to different companies and have executives talk to us. I can't imagine many other programs being able to have a class like that, with as many well-known people and organizations.

What's been the most surprising thing about being at CBS?
I think I came here with this goofy preconception that Columbia Business School would be particularly finance-y, and people were really into banking and were coming from that background, and so that was going to be the culture. I’d think, ‘I don't know if I’ll fit in.’ I was pleasantly surprised. My background and the experiences I had to offer were seen as just as valuable to people in the community. The stereotype I had of the typical business school student wasn't really on point — in a good way.

How does the School’s entrepreneurial approach help you with your career goals?
The School presents a lot of resources for job seekers — there are helpful second-years, there’s the Career Fellows Program, there’s the database of alums — but it's on you to choose a path and make the most of it. Being at Columbia has gotten me to really think not only about how you get the job, but once you’re there, how you can shape it and turn it into something that will benefit you down the road.

Once you have your CBS degree, how will you conquer the world?
I'm open to my long-term career going a lot of different directions. The beauty of coming from Columbia Business School, having such a strong network, and being in a place like New York City that has so many opportunities, is I'm confident that no matter how my interests change I will be supported. I’ll be able to follow any path, and I think that's sort of like conquering the world. I feel pretty good that, no matter where I end up, I have the network, the resources, and the education to do so.

Stephanie Sherline
MBA
Class of 2015
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
West Bloomfield, Michigan
Previous Education: 
B.A. in Theater from Northwestern, 2007
Previous Work Experience: 
Production management for Broadway and touring shows in Chicago and NYC
Post-CBS Goals: 
Short term: management consulting at McKinsey; long term: to have an impact in the performing arts industry, in a management or board position
CBS Activities: 
Co-president of the Social Enterprise Club; cluster alumni representative; peer advisor; chair of CBS Reflects; bass player for Juranimal; participant in international consulting projects through Pangea Advisors
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Going to see live theater and live music, having a picnic in Central Park with my cluster, seeing a live taping of David Letterman as a cluster, or generally taking advantage of being in the city and having hundreds of other students to explore it with me!

Why Columbia Business School?
It is the trifecta of getting a great education at a really well-respected academic institution; the fact that it's in New York, which was important to me because I was already living here and I was interested in gaining exposure and experience in the arts industry; and, most importantly, the community at CBS. When I saw the kind of community created by students who helped run CBS Connect [a fair for admitted students], and saw that same sense of community among my fellow prospective students, I thought, “This is my place. This is where I'll fit in.” Being here, I have realized that the CBS community is even more inclusive and dynamic than I imagined it would be.

What class are you most excited about, or what class has been your favorite thus far?
I'm in a class called Supply Chain Management right now. I had no idea going into the class that I would like it so much. It's a really exciting topic and Professor Medini Singh keeps things very interesting, to the point where now I'm starting to think about how to bring this type of work into my consulting career. Also, the core, in aggregate, was really helpful to me coming from the nontraditional background of being a theater major.

What's been your favorite experience at CBS?
My first year, I did a Pangaea project with two other CBS students for a nonprofit in Oaxaca, Mexico. We worked with the client remotely for a semester, and then traveled to Oaxaca in January for 10 days. That was the first time that I really used my business skill set in the real world, saw the impact of it, and felt the sense of collaboration among the team. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, that CBS helped facilitate.

How does being in New York City help you with your career goals?
You think you know what you want to do coming to business school, but chances are, you'll change your mind. If you do change your mind, being in New York City, you have access to people, resources, conferences, coffee chats, and internships that will really help you solidify what you do want to do after school.  For example, I had no idea coming in that I would be coming out as a management consultant, and I am very excited about this career switch!

What does it mean to you to be part of the Columbia Business School community?
It's really incredible how student-driven the community is, which I didn't fully appreciate until I got here. Everything from on-campus events to the resources passed on from second-years to first-years during recruiting and the peers who really rally around you, to help with academics, and adjusting to life at CBS. There is also a very palpable feeling that this is a safe space to take risks, have difficult conversations, and push yourself beyond your perceived limits. You see that in the emphasis that the school places on diversity and inclusion — it creates a cohesive community of people who are really pushing themselves to take advantage of these two years to become the best new version of themselves that they can be.

 

Sagar Shah
MBA
Class of 2015
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Mumbai, India
Previous Education: 
BS in electrical engineering and finance/management (dual degree) from the University of Pennsylvania Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology
Previous Work Experience: 
Consultant at Cornerstone Research
Post-CBS Goals: 
Management consulting in the short term; getting involved in technology firms in the long term
CBS Activities: 
InSITE Fellow, Career Fellow, Peer Advisor, Co-President of the L.E.A.D. Club, VP of Events for the South Asia Business Association
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Theater dates, specifically Shakespeare, with my wife, Gunjan Shesh ’15; exploring restaurants, playing poker and Settlers of Catan with CBS friends; rock climbing in Brooklyn, and playing cricket in Central Park

Why Columbia Business School?
New York was an important part of it. We wanted to be in a city, as opposed to a smaller town. In addition, when we visited Columbia, we met a former colleague from Cornerstone who was a second-year student. She sat down with us for 45 minutes and talked about Columbia in an open, candid, not-pulling-any-punches kind of way. We got a sense for how down to earth the community is. Also, my wife is interested in healthcare, and the healthcare program here is very good. I am interested in focusing on tech/entrepreneurship in the future, so for me, New York has a great startup culture.

What is it like to go to business school in New York City?
Because it is New York, anytime a world leader or someone else influential comes to the U.S., they always end up stopping in New York. Columbia is well connected, internationally speaking, so these leaders will often end up coming to speak at Columbia. We also get to take advantage of some great adjunct professors from the city.

What class are you most excited about, or what class has been your favorite?
I think it is the professor, more than the topic, that makes a class a favorite. Professor Angela Lee, who taught me leadership communication, is one of my favorite people at CBS in terms of being a great mentor and being somebody who cares about her students. There is also Professor Medini Singh; he teaches all of the operations classes. I have taken all three of his classes — he is very knowledgeable, and he tells it like it is. Adjunct Professor Michael Mauboussin, who teaches security and analysis, is absolutely excellent. I come out of that class every Wednesday feeling like my mind has expanded.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Columbia Business School community?
I think there is a focus at Columbia on contributing to the community. As a first-year, I had a ton of support from my peers and a couple of career fellows that I worked with, as I prepared for recruiting and business school life in general. Now, as a second year, I get a lot of joy from mentoring first-years as a Peer Advisor and Career Fellow. At CBS, I have also made some really close friends along the way. Having interesting conversations with them and going deep on issues and arguing back and forth about stuff. It’s a great learning environment.

How does the School’s entrepreneurial approach help you with your career goals?
There is a general scrappiness at Columbia. There's a sense that if you want to go and do something, you can. You just have to try to get the resources together to convince people — and you'll often be able to go and do it. For example, the L.E.A.D Club recently planned an inaugural trip to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and we received a lot of support from the School administration and faculty in making it happen.

Once you have your CBS degree, how will you conquer the world?
The truth is, I don't want to conquer the world. It’s more important for me to focus on my own character development and on growing as a person. I would also like to have a meaningful impact on the lives of others/society, along the way. I recently heard a talk by Warren Buffet where he discussed the importance of integrity. For example, when you are hiring people, the last thing you want is to hire somebody who is very smart, has a lot of energy, but doesn't have a lot of integrity. That person will do really well at all the wrong things. I want to spend time building my capabilities and defining my values, which I think will ultimately lead me to success in whatever I end up doing.

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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.