Entrepreneurship

Margaret Knowles
EMBA
Class of 2021
Program Details: 
EMBA Americas
Hometown or Country: 
Hudson, NY
Previous Education: 
B.A. Art History, NYU
Current Work: 
Head of Operations, MINNA
Post-CBS Goals: 
Use what I’ve learned at CBS to drive social change
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Visiting museums (I used to work at MoMA PS1 and MoMA) and taking a great dance class

What brought you to business school? Why did you choose Columbia Business School?

I had been at my current company, MINNA, for a few years; we are a social enterprise start-up that creates ethically made home textiles. As the company grew, and I grew in my role, I wanted to really get a handle on the more advanced concepts of assessing and running a business. Columbia’s Executive MBA program was the only program I applied to! I knew it was for me the moment I heard about it. I was so excited to be learning about business from amazing professors, right at the heart of the business world.

What was your first impression as a student?

The first thing I noticed was how friendly everyone was — from my fellow classmates to the administrators to the professors, CBS has been an incredibly supportive environment for me. Everyone is there to help you succeed. I think this program attracts a specific type of person who gets joy from connecting others, sharing resources, and seeing their friends and classmates thrive.

How do you balance between work, school, and your personal life?

Well, the pandemic has helped, I’ll say that…. But it hasn’t been easy, though I do have a few little rituals that help keep me balanced. For example, I use working out as a break between my day job and my evening homework. This creates a nice moment of pause that’s just for me. I am also thankful to have a very supportive partner who is an extraordinary chef, and she’s worked extremely hard to keep me fed (critical) during this program.

What’s your favorite part of the EMBA experience so far?

It's the people. I don’t know how Columbia does it, but each of my classmates is truly an amazing person. The openness, kindness, and generosity of spirit I’ve witnessed in this program has been unparalleled. It also helps that we’re all here to learn, both the material and from each other. We all truly value one another’s opinions, even if they differ from our own. Since we’re in such an open and honest environment, we have a safe space where we’re able to debate, bounce ideas off of one another, and talk through important concepts.

What was the most challenging part of the program?

Not feeling like there’s enough time to take advantage of all the amazing resources CBS has to offer. When you’re working full time, going to school, trying to chart your career path, and trying to bond with all your friends, it’s hard to fit extra-curriculars in. However, in my third semester, I was able to join the Student Leadership Board of the Stanford C. Bernstein Center for Leadership + Ethics. Getting to meet and work closely with students outside of my cluster has been amazing, and I only wish I had more time to do more of it!

How have your professional skills translated into success at business school?

I really value having some career experience behind me before I joined CBS. When I’m in almost any class, it really allows me a frame of reference to relate the material back to, which I think helps immensely in learning and absorbing.

Which faculty member(s) and/or courses influenced you the most, and how?

Georgia Levenson-Keohane, Social Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century — This course was a broad overview of the ways that business and the social sector can overlap, and it really opened my eyes to all the possibilities there are out there for someone whose aim is to use business to foster social change. I’ve always known I have a particular skillset and that my ultimate aim was to create impact, but this course gave me some tangible ways to bridge the two.

Honorable mentions go to Amir Ziv, Accounting; Kairong Xiao, Corporate Finance; and David Guetta, Business Analytics for making ostensibly dry subjects come alive.

What are your long-term career goals?

Thanks to CBS, I now know that I can use the skills that I have to make an impact in the world. My aim is to use my organizational, logistical, and quantitative skills to aid organizations that are trying to create social change — particularly in the realms of income inequality and gender and race disparity.

What’s your top advice for new students?

Though it’s an overwhelming two years, really try to take time to explore all the resources that Columbia and this program have to offer. Although you’ll never explore it all, there’s something — a club, a program, a board, a TA position — for everyone. Building a community with people who have overlapping interests with mine has been a really rewarding part of my experience.

What will you take with you from Columbia Business School?

First and foremost, the friendships. The relationships you make at CBS are forged in the fire of late nights doing group projects and a night out when you’ve finally made it through that block week.

Second, the confidence. I feel like I truly have the best education on so many facets of business. I can enter any room and know that I’m meant to be there.


 

Mary Myles
EMBA
Class of 2022
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
New York, NY
Previous Education: 
Masters in Education, Johns Hopkins University; Bachelors in Business Marketing, Management and Entrepreneurship, University of Arizona
Current Work: 
Vice President, Digital Marketing, BlackRock
Post-CBS Goals: 
Continue managing at BlackRock and expanding my scope into a more strategy-focused marketing role. Start a business for mental health and wellness for kids.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Going to Central Park and appreciating its beauty during each season, and taking in the view of the city from the New York floating yacht club!
Areas of Interest: 

What brought you to business school? Why did you choose Columbia Business School?

I always knew I wanted to continue my education and get my MBA but I didn’t want to step away from my role at BlackRock. That’s when I found the EMBA program at Columbia Business School and realized this program would enable me to advance my career and still have the full MBA experience. When I attended an Admissions information session, I realized the strength of the community at Columbia Business School and I was excited to be learning among the top professionals across several industries.

What was your first impression as a student?

The incredible amount of resources! From career services, to clubs and organizations, to mentors and meetings with former CEO’s — Columbia has it all! As soon as you become a lion, you have a built-in support system and a community that is rooting for you to succeed.

How do you balance between work, school, and your personal life?

Prior to attending CBS, I obtained my Masters in Education while I was a full-time teacher through the Teach For America program. While I had some practice in managing a full calendar and course-load, I would say it’s definitely important to plan out your weeks and use every pocket of time to your advantage. I have also been fortunate to have an incredible CBS learning team that has helped me navigate the workload and studying — it’s a team effort!

What’s your favorite part of the EMBA experience so far?

My favorite part of the EMBA experience thus far has been our residence week because I was able to spend a lot of time getting to know my classmates and learning team on a more personal level. Getting this in-person time has been such a blessing considering we started our program during the fall of COVID. Everyone I have met in the program is incredibly talented and has an amazing story to tell. I am grateful to be surrounded by such wonderful people!

What was the most challenging part of the program?

I have always been a perfectionist, so learning that I can’t dedicate 100 percent to everything 100 percent of the time has been the biggest lesson for me. As I have advanced in my career, I have realized that deciding what to say no to can be as important as deciding on where you want to focus. With several resources at CBS, it takes discipline to stay focused on the goal and being strategic in where you want to spend your time.

How have your professional skills translated into success at business school?

I have been fortunate to lead a team in my role at BlackRock and was able to bring my experiences as a manager to our Leadership & Organizational Change course with Professor Paul Ingram. In the course, we discussed how to motivate others based on promotion and prevention factors and this has also been something I have been able to take back and try out with my team when steering us toward a goal.

Which faculty member(s) and/or courses influenced you the most, and how?

As a former teacher myself, one of my favorite courses was Business Strategy with Professor Stephan Meier. Professor Meier brought so much energy to our discussions that you could feel the desire from everyone in the class to participate when unpacking the cases. Even though we were taking this course in a HyFlex format, I would forget that we were on Zoom because we were all so engaged in the discussion. The course has inspired me to look into other strategy-based classes at CBS!

What are your long-term career goals?

I have always been passionate about mental health and hope to one day start a business to stop the stigma and educate children and families of the benefits to mental well-being. Combining my Masters in Education, Teach for America experience, and the CBS MBA, I am hopeful I will have the tools to make this dream a reality.

What’s your top advice for new students?

Do not put too much pressure on yourself to be great at everything. It’s a balancing act! Some weeks you will feel you have everything in control and other weeks you will feel overwhelmed. In these moments, remember to lean on your learning team for support and reassurance. We are all in this together!

What will you take with you from Columbia Business School?

Priceless memories, unbreakable bonds and relationships, my official degree, and the confidence to fulfill my dreams beyond the EMBA program.


 

Josh Tenenbaum
EMBA
Class of 2019
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Brooklyn, NY
Previous Education: 
Bentley University (BS)
Current Work: 
Director at Fulcrum Hospitality
Post-CBS Goals: 
Transition into hotel asset management (completed with recent job change)
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Exploring the endless restaurant and bar scene
Areas of Interest: 

What brought you to business school? Why did you choose Columbia Business School?

I was at an inflection point in my career where I needed to make a bold change in order to transition into a very competitive segment of my industry. I had a friend in the program who felt that my unique work experience would be a good fit with the EMBA program.

What was your first impression as a student?

All of the other students and faculty were very impressive. I quickly realized that being back in a classroom environment with significant work experience made the experience so much more engaging for me.

How do you balance between work, school, and your personal life?

I moved near campus to Morningside Heights, which made for an easier transition. I also ensured that I was in a job that was comfortable for me so the challenges of school would not be exasperated by issues at work.

What’s your favorite part of the EMBA experience so far?

My favorite part of the EMBA program was making friends for life who will also be leaders in their respective industries.

How have your professional skills translated into success at business school?

I was one of the only individuals that came from the hotel industry, so it was nice to have a unique perspective that others in the class seemed to appreciate.

Which faculty member(s) and/or courses influenced you the most, and how?

Jay Dahya’s corporate finance class was most impactful for me. Revisiting the fundamentals of corporate finance was so crucial for me in laying the foundation for all other financial related courses in the program. Jay’s passion and simplistic approach to the topics made it very easy to follow for people of all levels of experience.

What are your long-term career goals?

I would like to run my own company and have the flexibility to spend lots of time with my family while still achieving all of my financial goals.

What’s your top advice for new students?

Participate in as many extra activities and trips as possible associated with CBS. The relationships formed with other students are as important as what goes on in classroom.


 

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.

Roger Jared Milford
EMBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
EMBA Americas
Previous Education: 
Bachelor of Commerce - UNISA
Current Work: 
Clinical Innovations Product Manager – Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence
Post-CBS Goals: 
Run my own company in the IT / A.I. / Healthcare sector
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Walking through New York while talking to my classmates – We would often walk from campus back to the hotel at Times Square, giving us time to discuss class, theoretical business ideas, or total nonsense.
Areas of Interest: 

What brought you to CBS? What is your background?

I’ve always had the spark of entrepreneurship within me. After working for a sports medicine company in my late 20s, I realized that I had learned enough of the skills needed to run my own business. So a few months after I turned 30, I started my own company in South Africa, my home country, within the radiology market. I started selling x-ray lightboxes and quickly moved to digital x-ray technology, which at the time was in its infancy. I soon realized that if I could become an expert in the latest medical technology, I would have a great advantage over those with outdated ideals.

In 2007 I moved to Vancouver, Canada, to be closer to my wife’s family, and decided I would try to replicate the business here. Very quickly, I realized that a successful business model cannot always be implemented directly into new markets, and I realized that my connections and local experience was severely lacking. It was then that I started looking into getting into the best MBA program possible; one that would give me the knowledge, credibility and connections to improve my likelihood of success in North America.

What was your favorite part of the program?

The community. My classmates were inspirational and a source of immense knowledge. We had people from all over the world who were able to bring unique perspectives from a wide variety of industries to really complement the courses. The friendships we were able to build are extremely valuable to me, and I stay in close contact with each of them.

How did the diverse CBS community affect your experience in business school?

Being a program largely developed for those living outside of New York, we were fortunate to have people from across the globe in our class. From Peru to Mexico, to Australia, to the Ivory Coast and Uganda, we were able to build a network that spans the globe. We all learned so much from each other, and continue to collaborate and assist one another now that were finished.

The Columbia alumni are also extremely helpful, especially here in Vancouver. We meet every two or three months and discuss our opportunities, our challenges, and how we can assist in being ambassadors for Columbia wherever we go. The mentoring programs that Columbia offers, as well as career guidance and innovation labs, is a fantastic resource for helping you to achieve your long term goals.

Did you have a favorite professor or course?

There were so many great professors. It started with my accounting professor, Amir Ziv, who was excellent. No professor put in as much effort with me as Donna Hitscherich did with her Corporate Finance class, and I probably learned the most there. Corporate Finance was intense, challenging, and fulfilling, and she went above and beyond with late night group conference calls each week to make sure we were keeping up with the bankers in the class. Perhaps my favorite classes though were the Operations classes taught by Nelson Fraiman and Medini Singh. They worked excellently together, organizing class trips and adding the practical knowledge and understanding of what is needed today to be an effective organization and ensure operational procedures are put in place to optimize outcomes.

And it would be amiss to not mention the class on Globalization — listening to Bruce Greenwald and Joseph Stiglitz discuss world economics and trade felt like sitting at the feet of Socrates and Aristotle, and I’ll always treasure that time.

When did you first feel the impact of the program?

Immediately. In one particular class (Business Analytics), I had an ‘Ah-ha’ moment when I realized the impact that statistical analysis could have within the healthcare industry. Statistics was a struggle at first, as it was something I had never done before, but it opened my mind to the opportunities available in my specific industry. As I formalized many of the concepts I already subscribed to, and combined them with new skills, I was able to make myself a better all-round entrepreneur. That put me on the path where I am today, heading up the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning division of one of the biggest radiology software companies in the world.

What are your future career plans? How has CBS influenced them?

There are many exciting opportunities across all industries where artificial intelligence will revolutionize the way we currently do things. Many A.I. aspects sound scary, and receive a fair amount of kickback from people who fear losing jobs and being made redundant. I do believe many jobs will change, but I see this as happening in a positive way, where the job functions will change and improve.

CBS further instilled in me my values and moral obligation to do my best to make a positive impact in the world. We are a very fortunate group of people who have the potential to do much good, and as I look to my future plans, they include building companies that make a positive difference to those around us. My Columbia MBA has opened doors and given me the confidence to stand on level grounds with many of the world’s leaders in business, and provides an opportunity to have my voice heard. Already the level of credibility in dealing with A.I. industry leaders shows when they realize they’re dealing with a fellow top school attendee.

What advice do you have for those considering Columbia Business School?

Strongly consider the EMBA Americas program. It offers a fantastic way to get your Columbia MBA no matter where you are in the world. By slicing out a week per month for course work, you are able to focus fully and build the relationships and knowledge that you need to succeed. The EMBA Americas program is, in my mind, the best value for the money of all the MBAs Columbia offers. Our class of 36 students was able to travel to San Francisco, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Uruguay, and Shanghai, and obtain practical experience to back up the theories learned in class. We would often joke that we were the fighter pilots on the Columbia MBA aircraft carrier, and many in other classes were envious of the close bond we were able to build as a class.


 

John MacDonald
EMBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
EMBA Americas
Previous Education: 
MA, Management & Art History, University of St. Andrews
Current Work: 
Co-founder, MusicianU
Post-CBS Goals: 
Strategy Consulting & Angel Investing
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Jogging in Central Park, squash, theater, architecture tours of Manhattan
Areas of Interest: 

Your professional background is somewhat unconventional for an MBA.

I was an actor for a couple of years after college while simultaneously working in finance to support myself. Fortunately, in NYC you can do both. It’s one reason why this city is second-to-none. You can work until five or six then run over a couple blocks to act in a play, changing out of your suit and tie ‘Clark Kent/Superman’ style! I was able to effectively manage with two resumes: finance and acting.

How did this experience affect your professional development as an entrepreneur?

The path for anyone pursuing a creative field is never simple, and it was through this struggle that I came up with the app MusicianU. I was cast in a play where I needed to play a Beethoven piece on the piano. I had one week to rehearse, and I hadn’t touched a piano in 10 years. I needed to find someone to literally teach me how to play that piece that day. I was at a loss as to what to do, so out of desperation I went on Craigslist, but quickly realized there must be a better way.

There are musicians everywhere, but there wasn’t any simple way to find a musician on short notice; no one was connecting the supply with the demand. I was living downtown and I was sitting on my stoop watching people walk by with guitar backpacks and I realized that these musicians could be my next door neighbors and I would never know it. One of my friends is a music producer and we realized that there was a need for a decentralized forum where musicians can connect with each other. We researched the market and we didn’t find a satisfactory solution. So we said, ‘Let’s just build it ourselves and see where it goes.’ What we created was one of the first social networks for musicians.

How did that lead you to Columbia?

After MusicianU launched, I helped start a real estate insurance company — a guarantor service for renters — and I realized that when you are starting something, it’s so tempting to approach business establishment with scattered objectives, and it can result in a cluttered mind. That’s when I thought that a program like Columbia Business School could really help me refine and create a framework to help me distinguish between the signal and the noise.

What were your first impressions when you started the program?

I was humbled by the accomplishments of all of my classmates. They were so impressive on paper, as soon as you meet them, you realize that they are genuinely good people. That’s a testament to the admissions process. Columbia does a tremendous job of accepting diverse and exceptionally talented people who are ethical and supportive; they are there to help and learn, and there is a lot of altruism. It’s about the entire community that was incredibly encouraging each and every day. You become excited to be a part of it.

There were 36 students in my Americas program, and I now have made 35 life-long friends who live all over the world. Our class became extremely close very early in the program, and it continues today. Our professors were a big part of this for me as well — they were genuinely interested in what I was doing and wanted to get to know me. I know that my fellow classmates felt the same way and we all enjoyed bonding with professors during our classes. To have the opportunity to spend time with and learn from these incredibly accomplished people was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I can't even measure how much that means to an entrepreneur looking for answers and having such a supportive and nurturing community of classmates and professors.

Are there any particular professors or courses that stand out in your mind?

The Lean Launchpad course taught by Steve Blank was very helpful, especially his approach to validating a business model through customer discovery. You essentially conduct a lot of interviews and can validate or disprove certain assumptions that surround your business model. This was valuable because it’s a quick, effective — and free — method to figure out whether or not you are on the right track. It is essentially applying a scientific methodology to entrepreneurship. The process of customer discovery provided a structured framework, and that structure is crucial when you’re starting a business.

Was there any part of the program that you found particularly challenging?

Accounting has always been challenging for me, and I had the accounting exam circled on my calendar months in advance. I was incredibly fortunate for Professor Amir Ziv who told us to forget everything we thought we knew about accounting. This was difficult to imagine at first, but it worked and it opened my eyes to approaching a tough subject in a completely unexpected way. He encouraged us to approach financial statements as informational documents rather than just a bunch of numbers. The moment I put on those glasses I suddenly had a new perspective where I had the confidence and ability to look at balance sheets and income statements and see them telling a story. It clicked, and I was able to get through the exam.

How has the program influenced your future career plans?

Columbia helped me further delve into MusicianU and how it can become a practical application for what musicians need to pursue their passion and find success and sustainability. We have now made a pivot toward the payment platform space, and we are trying to help musicians make money rather than just connecting them with each another. That’s an insight that Columbia helped me realize. It may seem obvious, but through technology we can help them make money. MusicianU is the platform to help bring fans closer to musicians.

Columbia was also ‘in your blood’ already. What was your family connection to the school?

I was born and raised in Manhattan and I am a third generation Columbia graduate. My grandmother graduated from Barnard and my mother graduated from Columbia Business School in 1978. Columbia has always had a role in my family as long as I can remember and I was able to observe how much the network and friendships benefitted my family over the years. My mother pursued a career in finance and became a managing director at a time when women were underrepresented at senior management levels in the big investment banks. I am certain that Columbia prepared her for many of the challenges she faced in her career. I wanted to continue to build MusicianU and stay in New York, so I brought my music app to Columbia. There are a handful of electives where you can test your ideas or (in our case) an app that’s already up and running, against some of the most brilliant minds in the world: Columbia Business School professors and fellow classmates.

What advice would you give new students in the program?

The best advice I have would be to keep a journal from day one outlining what you learned and what surprised you. Maybe it’s just a bullet point or two every day, but it is important because, for me at least, a major part of the CBS experience is to know yourself better by zooming in on your strengths and weaknesses. I think that this internal compass is crucial and a journal helps you track your progress. You will be surprised what you have learned when you look back at your journal.


 

Joe Schwartz
EMBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
EMBA Americas
Previous Education: 
Brooklyn College CUNY, Bachelor of Science in Business, Management and Finance; Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid — undergraduate (“first”) and graduate (“second”) level talmudic degrees
Current Work: 
President and CEO of Acro Capital Partners
Post-CBS Goals: 
Continue to help older business owners retire by structuring the acquisition of their companies. I would like to build Acro Capital Partners into a world-class private equity firm, specializing in the sub-sector of acquiring lower middle market businesses.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I love the NYC museum culture as there are endless museums, with each visit bringing a new perspective. On a monthly basis I like to go with my wife and three kids to the Museum of Natural History. I also just enjoy the hustle and bustle of NYC, something you can never experience anywhere else in the world. There is nothing like leaving work late at night and walking into a street full of people and still being able to have a late dinner meeting.

Why did you choose Columbia?

When I started the program I was 31 years old and married with three children. I owned a house in Long Island and various businesses in New York, so picking a school anywhere in the world wasn’t an option for me. It was New York or somewhere close by as I was unable to uproot myself completely.

After conducting a lot of research as to which school and program would be ideal for me, the part-time MBA option through EMBA Americas at Columbia really seemed to fit all my criteria. I would still be able to continue with my career and not take off two years like I would have to in a traditional MBA program. Getting the opportunity to be a part of a collegial atmosphere at Columbia and being part of a cluster seemed to be atypical of other program options at comparable schools. At Columbia, we had a close-knit learning team, and I eventually even brought one of the members from my learning team into my fund as a partner.

What was your favorite part of the program?

My favorite parts of the program were the small class sizes and being able to have a tight-knit group of 38 students that are with you throughout the first few semesters. Staying in the same hotel as all the people in my program for a week out of the month also gives you an opportunity to get to know each other well. Walking into the program, I knew no one in the room, yet today we all call each other friends.

My other favorite experience was the weeklong international seminar in China. It was the highlight of my time at Columbia. Getting the opportunity to have my wife join and a chance to spend some time in a relaxed setting with my classmates and their spouses was a real treat. The week course allowed us to learn both educationally and culturally. We would have a morning class each day taught by a Columbia professor, then visit local businesses each afternoon. I also extended my trip a few days to do some more sightseeing in other cities.

And the value investing program, which is unique to Columbia, was a program I surprisingly enjoyed. I began with signing up for one class and ended up taking about five. The framework that is provided is good for almost any type of job. Every professor has their own tweak on value investing.

What did you find most challenging about the program?

The most challenging aspect of the program was the out-of-class work load. Nobody can prepare you for the amount of work that’s involved, especially while attempting to balance a full-time job and family. I could not have done this program without my wife, who took care of my three young children herself while maintaining her full-time job as a director of marketing for an insurance company.

For the weeks I was not in class I would come home from work and end up working on my assignments well past 2 a.m. I would then wake up for work early the next morning, get home at 8 or 9 p.m., and do it all over again. That was the way it was continuously for two years straight. I would say time management was a very important skill to have.

How has the program impacted you the most?

There were a certain set of experiences that I had going into business school. I owned company A, B and C all in different industries. I always took my common experiences from one and applied it to the other, not realizing that there is a common theory for many of the things that I experienced. So, if I was to apply an experience from company A, to B, to C, it was just an experience, there was no theory behind it. There was no deep understanding behind that experience.

Business school provided the theory that explained the experience. I can now apply those experiences, backed by the theory, to any business, regardless of industry. I think this idea is best said by the quote from W. Edwards Deming, a quote that is on the homepage of Columbia’s Deming center website: ‘Experience by itself teaches nothing; it must be coupled with theory, with profound knowledge.’

What advice would you give to new students in the program?

Take advantage of everything that Columbia has to offer; the opportunities are endless. The student body is diverse in many ways. Many professors at Columbia are currently working in industry. Throughout the program, I had professors who were held in high esteem in the industries they were lecturing about. It was an amazing opportunity to be able to consult with a professor regarding career or just asking business advice. I found the professors interested, approachable and responsive — and there are many that I continue to have relationships with today.


 

Alicia Samaniego
EMBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
EMBA Americas
Previous Education: 
Bachelor degree in Economics
Current Work: 
Executive Director at REIMPEX Group
Post-CBS Goals: 
Transform the Family Business into an International Corporation
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Enjoy the city with friends
Areas of Interest: 

What brought you to Columbia Business School?

My dream has always been to study in a top-tier school. But because I was already working at our family business, where many people depended on me (so I couldn’t just leave my job to live abroad for a few years) and because I was already married, I never thought I would fulfill my dream.

Nevertheless, I kept reading news about the different programs, business schools, students, professors, etc. One day I came across an article that described the EMBA Americas program at CBS, I thought it was made just for me: a program in one of the best business schools in the world, in one of the most dynamic cities of the world, that fit my schedule.

I learned everything I could about CBS and realized that they understood people like me; it was a perfect fit!

What was your favorite part of the program?

Everything! Being part of a community that challenges you, that wants you to be your best self, learning new things every day, being in NYC, meet new friends. Being at CBS was one of the best experiences of my life.

When did you first feel the impact of the program?

During the program, I was amazed by the school, the professors and my classmates, and so I didn’t pay much attention to how the program was changing me. But by the end of the last term, I realized how far I had come from that first day of class. When the program was about to start, I thought of how much I would learn in the next 20 months, but I could have never imagined ALL the things I now know.

Did you have a favorite professor?

My favorite professor is Medini Singh, from the Operations department. There are very few people in this world who are born to teach. He is definitely one of them. It was a privilege to be in his class.

What are your future career plans? How has CBS influenced them?

I’m taking over the family business. CBS taught me how far I can push myself and others, CBS trained me to be a leader, to be competitive and to always expect more.

How did the CBS community — especially through its diversity and support — affect your experience in business school?

Going into the program, my goal was to be more confident and to learn as much as I could to become my best self. Throughout the program, I learned from my classmates and from my professors. Everyone was supportive and wanted the best for me.


 

David Alexander Buckley
EMBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
EMBA Americas
Previous Education: 
Bachelor's Degree in Finance from Walton College of Business at University of Arkansas
Current Work: 
Senior Manager II, Business Development - Food & Personal Care Services, Walmart Inc.
Post-CBS Goals: 
I will be at Walmart for the foreseeable future, but within Walmart my goal is to work my way to senior leadership within Walmart Services as well as in the broader organization. I also plan on developing some serious side hustles.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Playing league squash, going to the Rockaways beaches, going to comedy shows and concerts with friends, eating dank ramen, exploring the city
Areas of Interest: 

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.


 

Katie Cullina
EMBA
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!

Pages

apply

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.