Entrepreneurship

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. 

Nana Yaa T. Mensah
EMBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Chicago, IL
Previous Education: 
BA in Biology from Grinnell College
Current Work: 
Pathology Technologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center 
Post-CBS Goals: 
I want to utilize both the hard and soft skills I have learned at the School to create outcomes that provide value in my work decisions and personal life.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Spending time with my husband, playing with my puppies, listening to and performing music.

What is your professional background?

I work at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in clinical pathology performing genetic testing assays. I began my career at MSKCC in the Infectious Disease Service in research. I later transitioned into pathology, because it gives me the opportunity to flow seamlessly between research and clinical workflows. Pathology has grown so quickly since the advent of personalized medicine. We now use genetic-based advanced tools to find out if someone has disease. From there, Pathology passes that information on to the person’s physician, who will prescribe treatments and medications to help them to get through a very difficult time in their life.

Why did you choose the EMBA program?

Whenever something new and important comes out, it’s really important to look at it, turn it upside down and figure out if that thing is going to be beneficial. I wanted to leverage the curriculum of Columbia’s EMBA program to help me move forward research applications that can be transitioned into clinical applications in pathology. I also wanted to continue working full time so I could use knowledge I would gain at the EMBA program on a daily basis, while staying connected to my field.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how has that impacted your decision to go to business school?

The past two years have been challenging for me. Unfortunately my mother passed on while I was in the second semester of the program. I actually applied to Columbia Business School with her knowledge, and she was very, very excited about me going. She graduated from high school, and that was where she stopped. She’d always told me, ‘You have to keep going. And you have to learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power.’ She came to visit me about a year before she passed. She visited the campus and said, ‘This program would be great for you, Nana, and you should do it!’ Then suddenly, a drunk driver struck her. During that time period, I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to continue the program; I was heartbroken.

In order to continue the program, I had to gather my inner resources, and then acknowledge to myself that I’m part of my mom’s legacy. She was a pretty tough woman, but she was gentle and kind, too. I felt that it would do her a great honor to continue the program. With the help of my family, friends, the community here at the School, my learning team, and people in the Black Business Student Association, I’m in my last semester of the program.

Can you talk more about the community that you found here?

It’s interesting because while it’s a diverse community, it’s also a close community. There’s something about the way the School brings students together that is very special. I haven’t actually seen it anywhere else. The program is designed to allow students time to get to know each other outside of class in a meaningful way. School-sponsored events after class, like happy hour, gave me the opportunity to build familiarity and strong ties with my classmates.

What do you hope to do after graduation?

Besides continuing to work in pathology research, I’ve been thinking about entrepreneurship. I’ve been impressed by the new platforms that people have been creating in the healthcare sphere.

I collaborated with an EMBA student who also works at MSKCC in my Marketing Workshop class. We helped a company move forward on the marketing goals for their product. I believe their product will be a very important diagnostic tool in the future, and the experience working with this company made me more interested in entrepreneurship as a career choice.

What advice do you have for an incoming student?

I would love to give two pieces of advice. One is to be well organized and plan your trajectory through the program. In order to get the most out of your class experiences, put your priorities first and remind yourself about these priorities as you go through your day. Understand that your time is valuable.

The second thing is to have fun while you are learning. I have had a wonderful time, attending residence weekends, dinners organized by fellow students, and trips abroad. There’s a little time to stop and smell the roses, and it’s important to do that because you can come away with some beautiful relationships that will last for the rest of your life.

 

Amy Piccinich
EMBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Wyckoff, NJ
Previous Education: 
BS in business and economics from Lehigh University
Current Work: 
Vice President of Global Real Estate at JPMorgan
Post-CBS Goals: 
I want to work in real estate investment or at an entrepreneurial venture.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I love trying the endless number of restaurants the city has to offer and staying fit through a variety of unique workout classes and running through the streets and parks of NYC. I revel in the arts, particularly shows on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera.

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

Getting an MBA from a top 10 business school program has always been a personal goal of mine. I thoroughly enjoy learning and surrounding myself with people who will challenge me to be better and think differently. Working in real estate at one of the largest financial institutions also inspired me to further develop my analytical and investment skill set, which only Columbia’s MBA, and particularly the School’s real estate program, could refine and perfect. Columbia was the only school I applied to and wanted to attend. Its location at the center of one of the best cities in the world provided me the opportunity to continue working in an industry that I’m extremely passionate about, while also supplementing my practical knowledge with an unparalleled education. 

 

What were your first impressions as a student?

I was fascinated by the diversity of the students and their extremely impressive backgrounds and accomplishments. I anticipated there would be a larger contingency of finance professionals, but it was refreshing to meet people who work in all different industries including technology, entrepreneurship, nonprofit, and healthcare.

 

What has been your favorite part of the EMBA experience so far?

My favorite part of the experience so far has been the access to events and on-hand resources through faculty members, clubs, and career services. There are numerous clubs to join, which cater to a wide range of interests. Given my focus on real estate, I joined the Real Estate Association Club, which introduced me to exclusive Columbia-sponsored real estate events, guest speakers, real estate tours, and further expanded my network.

 

What is it like going to business school in New York City?

Nothing compares! New York City is the business capital of the world, and Columbia provides the opportunity to network with and learn from industry leaders, most of who are located in or have offices in New York. I treasure the feeling of energy and ambition flourishing from those around you — it is absolutely awe inspiring. Not only is New York the place to be for business, but the culture and lifestyle — from the arts, to restaurants, to the endless amount of organized recreation — create an environment where there’s always something new to explore.

 

How have your professional skills translated into being successful at business school?

My diverse background in real estate and on-the-job experience has enabled me to learn with a unique perspective and understand the course content on a deeper level by applying it to my daily job. My professional skill set such as communication, collaboration with coworkers, time management, and organization has also been invaluable when working in teams on class assignments.

 

What do you want to do next?

I plan to continue my career in the real estate industry on the investment side of the business and apply the knowledge, strategic thinking, and entrepreneurial skills that I’ve cultivated at Columbia Business School.

 

What will you take with you?

I will take away the special friendships I have formed, professional network I’ve established, and the privilege to attend such a highly regarded institution that I will have a social connection to for life. The program has certainly bolstered my confidence by providing me with the knowledge and skills to evaluate business decisions at a high level, while considering the impact to all functions of a business. The teachers, my peers, and the material studied have challenged my thought process and enhanced my analytical evaluation of data and situations in a way that will help me make useful, meaningful additions to my career and personal growth.

 

Eileen Ng
MBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Queens, NY
Previous Education: 
BS in hospitality administration from Cornell University, 2010
Previous Work Experience: 
I worked for a luxury boutique hotel firm as director of revenue and for Expedia as a market manager in the Hawaii office.
Post-CBS Goals: 
I would like to work in brand management for a consumer packaged goods (CPG) firm.
CBS Activities: 
AVP of Women's Week for Columbia Women in Business; AVP of membership for Asian Business Association; AVP of events for the Gourmet Club
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Trying the many different coffee shops, visiting museums on a weekday, walking the High Line.

 

What were you doing before business school?

Prior to business school, I was in hospitality. I worked in revenue management for a luxury hotel firm in New York City. I've also traveled the world and worked for Expedia in Hawaii as well as in Japan.

 

What made you decide to come to business school?

I’d spent my career in hospitality, and I wanted to broaden my knowledge of different industries and learn about more businesses. Because of this, I recently accepted a summer internship outside of hospitality, working for a consumer packaged goods company.

 

Can you talk more about your internship?

I will work in brand management. It's really exciting for me because I will work with consumer goods, which I never expected to do. I would not have had this opportunity without Columbia.

 

What else has Columbia Business School offered you?

I think there's something for everyone. I've been lucky enough to be able to be part of clubs, like Columbia Women in Business and the Christian Business Fellowship. I've been able to find really strong communities around these interests.

 

You are from New York. What’s it like being a student in your home city?

As a native New Yorker, I thought I knew everything about New York. But I’m learning about so much more through my classmates. Just the other week, I went to an event sponsored by the Gourmet Club at a new restaurant in Morningside Heights. I've discovered so much from my classmates that I never expected to.

 

Have there been other surprises in your experience?

I didn't realize how many resources were at the tips of my fingers. It seems like every week there's a talk from a CEO from a different industry. A few weeks ago I went to a talk from the CEO of MSK. I never expected to be able to meet people of such high caliber so easily, and all of them are in New York.

Danielle Beneduce
EMBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Mendham, NJ
Previous Education: 
BA in Marketing, Lehigh University
Current Work: 
Operations Manager, HBO Home Entertainment
Post-CBS Goals: 
I hope to one day sit in the executive chair at HBO.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I enjoy walking my dog in Central Park, Soul Cycle, football Sundays, trying new restaurants, and summer movie nights in Bryant Park.

Why did you decide to pursue your MBA?

I’ve always wanted to get an MBA, and when I transitioned to my role at HBO I knew it was the ideal time. I love what I do, and I want to see how far I can climb at my company. Being relatively young in this industry, though, I knew I still had a lot to learn to take me to the next level. So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go back to school and apply what I learn on the weekends to my job during the week. Being able to learn from other executives who are also working full time and going to school made the decision to pursue this program even more appealing.

Why did you choose Columbia?

It was a no brainer. Columbia was always my number one choice. Part of it was because I work in New York City. I knew I wanted to keep my job. I wanted to be able to directly apply what I was learning — go back to the office the next day and see how I could work it into my day-to-day tasks. I had to be in New York, and Columbia is the best business school that you could possibly go to in the city. Also, the network of people at the School is so impressive. I know people who have gone to Columbia, and I knew that this was a network I really wanted to join.

When you arrived on campus, what were your first impressions?

Honestly, at first I was a little intimidated. At orientation, they went through the list of all the different industries and accomplishments of my classmates, and it was super impressive. I was very excited and humbled to know I was going to be a part of that. I also noticed right away how interactive the classes were. It’s different from undergrad; you don’t feel as much like you’re just being lectured to. You’re in a room with a huge amount of talent and experience, which turns the classes into conversations more than lessons. You’re very involved, and you feel like you’re getting a wealth of knowledge and experience from your classmates as well as your professors.

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

There are a lot of things I like, but there are probably two that stand out the most. The first is the friendships/network that I’ve built with the other students. Each class is broken up into clusters, and each cluster is a relatively small group, so we’ve all grown close. It’s nice to spend time with people who are like-minded and share the same passion for business and for their work. I wanted to get more involved, so now I’m also one of the student representatives for the EMBA Saturday program. I’ve been able to get to know my classmates on a deeper level by organizing the CBS Matters program. The second, I would say, is the satisfaction of learning things that are useful to everyday life. Being back in the classroom and having conversations about things that really matter has been refreshing. I missed that aspect of the academic environment.

What is it like going to business school in the city?

I don't know what it’s like going to business school anywhere else but I can’t imagine it could compare to New York City. You have everything at your fingertips here. We’ve had great speakers come in from Wall Street, the media, and other exciting industries; just a couple of weeks ago, we got to do a Q&A with both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett ’51 at the same time! Having such a wealth of great people available to us adds so much to the experience. Outside of school, my classmates and I are able to enjoy so many different activities together. We’ll often go out and try new restaurants or bars; classmates who are into dance have brought us to the ballet; we’ve taken day trips to the suburbs for golf and vineyard outings. There’s so much opportunity to do a lot, learn about each other, and try new things together being in New York. It’s made for a dynamic experience so far.

What are your long-term career goals?

I would like to see how far I can push myself up the executive ladder at HBO. I really enjoy working for this company. Right now, my focus is in the manufacturing and distribution side of operations, but home entertainment is a quickly evolving industry — going from DVDs and Blu-rays to digital streaming. I’d like to get a more holistic knowledge of operations in the media and entertainment industries, specifically in technology and information systems, and then see how I can use those competencies in what I’m doing at HBO. I want to be a leader in helping our department evolve as the industry continues to change. In the long term, hopefully that turns into having a really successful career here.

What will you take with you from your time at Columbia?

The number one thing I’ll take with me is the valuable friendships and relationships I’ve created. Even being here for less than a year, I've already met so many amazing people. Also, having a better, wider knowledge of all of the different aspects of business has already proven valuable in my job. I think it’s helped me to think more strategically — not only about what I do specifically, but how the entire business operates and how my decisions affect the whole company. I think after this program I’m going to be much more valuable as a professional. 

Geoffrey Pope
EMBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Detroit, Michigan
Previous Education: 
BBA in marketing from Eastern Michigan University, 2011
Previous Work Experience: 
Former NFL player, New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals, and Philadelphia Eagles; vice president at USI Insurance Services
Current Work: 
Vice president at Aon Risk Solutions, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions
Post-CBS Goals: 
Continue working in risk solutions and entrepreneurship 
CBS Activities: 
Officer of Our Community Matters Program; member of the Reentry Acceleration Program Curriculum Team, Black Business Students Association, Real Estate Club, Private Equity/Venture Capital Club, and Retail & Luxury Goods Club. 
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I enjoy taking in sporting events and sampling the diverse restaurants the city has to offer.

What brought you to business school?

My path to business school was untraditional. I started my professional career in the NFL, but after sustaining a career-ending injury in my fourth season, I knew it was time for me to transition. Like most NFL players, I left my undergraduate school early to train so I wanted to finish my last semester and graduate. Immediately following my injury, I went back to Eastern Michigan University and completed my last semester to graduate that summer. I then followed the advice of my mentor, and pursued a career in risk management and insurance. Education has always been important to me. Also, I knew that having an MBA from a top business school would give me an edge in my industry.

So why did you choose Columbia?

I live in Philadelphia so it would have been easy to consider a local MBA program. I did a lot of research on schools and knew I was looking for an academically rigorous program with a strong network and reputation. After visiting Columbia, I knew I would get all three of those things here. I couldn’t be happier with my choice. My professors are industry leaders, and my classmates are great. My journey and time in the NFL was unique preparation for Columbia and the work ethic it takes to succeed here.

How exactly did football prepare you for the EMBA program?

Football is the ultimate team sport. You can perform at your best but the rest of the team has to do the same in order for you to succeed. The same principle applies to the program. The learning team model is very similar to a locker room: people from different backgrounds coming together to accomplish a goal. Also, football requires perseverance and a strong work ethic. There is a lot of work that goes into game day preparation: studying plays, watching film, and consistently practicing at a high level. Similarly, that same perseverance and work ethic is required to succeed in this EMBA program as well as most of the career paths my classmates and I work in.

What is the community like at the School?

People come from a variety of professional backgrounds, which makes for interesting discussions and debates regarding our approach to solving complex problems. For instance, everyone in my learning group represents a different industry — from a leadership or organizational management standpoint, differing viewpoints and experiences are invaluable. The varied perspectives in the school community enrich the learning experience as well as demonstrate that diverse perspectives are key to finding the best solutions. My classmates and I have also developed strong relationships throughout the course of the program, which will surely continue after graduation.

What’s the advantage of going to business school in New York City?

New York City is really the business capital of the world. With Columbia being located here, we have access to industry leaders who are often featured as guest speakers and adjunct professors. The opportunity to network with the New York City business community is a huge draw. Specifically, I focus on real estate and private equity so building a strong network in New York is key to my success.

What pieces of your EMBA experience will you take with you?

I have already applied so many of the lessons from the program. What I’ve learned from the professors — whether it’s a leadership course with Paul Ingram or Paul Johnson’s Value Investing — can be applied to many different situations both in my personal life and in my career. I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of issues, from a white paper on changes in the real estate industry to an independent study that focuses on reducing the recidivism rate through educational programs. I know that my EMBA network and relationships with professors and classmates will continue post graduation. 

Augustus Haney
MBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Born in MD; grew up in Washington, DC
Previous Education: 
BS in economics from NYU, 2009
Previous Work Experience: 
I worked as a sponsor's agent and project manager in New York's residential development sector
Post-CBS Goals: 
Working in real estate private equity investing and development
CBS Activities: 
Chair of Cluster Z'17; member of the Real Estate Association, Private Equity Club, Sailing Club, and Ski Club
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Met Opera, the Cloisters, MoMA, biking in Central Park, film festivals, theatre at BAM, and new restaurants

 

Why did you apply to business school?

I previously worked in real estate, on the development side. As I progressed, I became interested in working in real estate finance. I knew I needed to enhance certain skill sets and qualifications in order to do that. I also wanted to build my network, both within real estate and outside of it. The MBA was the best route to accomplish this.

 

What specifically attracted you to Columbia Business School?

I was attracted first and foremost by the location. Wanting to work in real estate, I knew I wanted to be in a major real estate market. I also thought about the network I would like to have, and New York is where the business leaders are. It’s the center of the universe in terms of the real estate business. You can easily take the subway to meet for coffee with the principal of a major real estate fund or developer, which is something you can’t do on an isolated campus. That’s why Columbia was my top choice.

 

What were your first impressions as a student?

I think there is a misconception that MBA students are cookie-cutter — that they look the same, dress the same, and that they are all going into finance. I was amazed by the incredible diversity I found here. People come from nonprofits, government, and military. There’s also tremendous ethnic and geographic diversity. Everyone has their own story, and it’s been a surprising gift to have access to this.

 

What have you enjoyed the most about the academic experience?

The best part of the academic experience has been the guest speakers. These people are the top players in their particular industries — just listening to them, you know that they know what they’re talking about. You get to hear about their deals and areas of interest, and knowing what they are doing right now makes you feel very connected to the business community. I don’t think this access would be possible anywhere else.

 

How did you become involved in the community?

I entered in the January term and became tightly knit with my cluster. As the year progressed, and people started taking electives, I became more involved with clubs, including the Real Estate Association and the Private Equity Club. Clubs allow you to seek out people with common interests as well as expand your circle. I went on a trip with the Real Estate Association, and now I consider it to be almost like a second cluster to me, and have formed some of my closest connections there.

Saskia Chanoine
MBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Born in Washington, DC; Haitian roots
Previous Education: 
BA in international relations and community health from Tufts University, 2009
Previous Work Experience: 
I worked for PBS/WNET in New York as a producer for the national show SciTech Now, and as an associate producer for the docu-series Treasures of New York
Post-CBS Goals: 
Working in media in New York or launching a venture in the media space
CBS Activities: 
VP of speakers, Media Management Association; VP of Women’s Week, Columbia Women in Business Club; alumni chair, cluster H’17; member of the Technology Business Group, Wine Society, Marketing Association of Columbia, Black Business Association, and Hermes Society
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Walking, which is how I discover new places, find new stores, and take in the architecture of the city; trying new restaurants; seeing shows, from free jazz nights at Lincoln Center to Broadway

Why did you choose Columbia Business School?

When I visited Columbia, it just felt like home. The School has a very strong media program. I dove right into it, taking a position in the media management association. It provided an avenue to work closely with the department and to learn from the people in it. There are so many opportunities.

 

What’s it like being a student in New York City?

I’m taking a master class this semester. These are often taught by New Yorkers who are at the top of their field. You get real, practical knowledge from them – what’s happening in the field and what you should be concentrating on. We have access to so many interesting people. And there’s also the cultural aspect of being in New York. I love the theater, I love the arts, and I love music. You also learn from that.

 

What has been your favorite thing at Columbia Business School so far?

My favorite thing is called CBS Matters. Every Thursday, one or two people present about their life, on any aspect they choose. Some people have focused on the country that they come from. Others dive into the details, like, "My ancestors came on the Mayflower." These are the most precious moments, because it's really when people open up.

 

What has surprised you?

The people surprised me the most. I came from a non-traditional background, in nonprofit, and didn’t necessarily have the quantitative experience that a lot of my peers have. But people are so open to helping you. They’ll take their time -- 30 minutes, an hour, three hours – to break down a problem and help you walk through it. In school, time is your most valued asset, but everyone makes the effort to help each other as much as they can.

 

What advice would you give to others?

It's really important to take the time to reflect, and to have new experiences. Some people come to business school with one specific goal in mind. For example, I came for media, and I was looking to get back into media. But an internship opportunity in finance came up. I never saw myself as a finance person, but the School opened the doors for me, and I got to peek behind the curtains to see how the industry works. I’d have lightbulb moments like, "Oh that's what that meant in the class," or, "Oh, that's what the professor was trying to drive at." It’s so important to be open to new opportunities, to try different things. This is the time that you can do it.

 

What will you take with you from Columbia Business School?

I didn’t expect business school to be emotional, but a self-reflective journey is part of the experience. I had confidence coming in, but I realized when I arrived that everyone here is a superstar. It made me question my fit and skills. But I discovered this is part of the process, and you emerge from this process with a different confidence than you had coming in. I'm going to leave more confident than before, knowing that I can attack problems and challenges that I didn't foresee, or that I had never expected to come face to face with.

 

Yuta Yamada
MBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Born and raised in Tokyo; lived in New York City from ages seven to 12
Previous Work Experience: 
I worked for Goldman Sachs in Tokyo in the investment banking division
Post-CBS Goals: 
Working in a finance role for a consumer-retail company in New York
CBS Activities: 
VP of international, Student Government Executive Board; member of Peer Advisors, General Management Association, Private Equity Club, and Basketball Club    
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Attending professional sports games, jogging in Central Park, trying new bars and cafes  

 

What have you enjoyed the most at Columbia Business School?

Columbia does a great job integrating academics and the real world of business. Being in New York, you can step out to see what’s really happening — how the theory you’re studying is applied. It also works the other way around, where you can take what you’re learning and apply it through internships. That’s been the greatest thing about Columbia so far.

 

What’s it like to be a student in New York City?

I come from Tokyo, but I lived in New York from age seven to 12. I’ve always had a strong connection to New York. There are so many opportunities to pursue. Outside of school, there are Yankees games, musicals, museums — all sorts of non-academic activities. There are a lot of opportunities around campus to enjoy, too, and lots of classmates live nearby. It’s been a great experience.

 

Why did you choose to begin the program in January, as a J-term student?

I originally applied for the fall term. But through talking to the admissions office, I learned about the January-term option, and it seemed like a fit for me. We began in January and took classes together through the summer, instead of taking the summer off for full-time internships. I come from banking and knew I was interested in finance, so the accelerated program made sense to me. It’s shorter, but it has the same curriculum as the two-year program, and you really bond with your classmates. There’s also flexibility, which allowed me to intern outside of class. It was a good balance.

 

What are your thoughts on the curriculum?

The core curriculum was really good for me. I came from finance, and I didn’t know much about areas like marketing and operations. I did some of this as an undergrad, but it was really good to brush up on it, especially now that I’ve had work experience. The electives are good, too, and they provide a lot of variety.

 

How have you been involved in the student community?

I serve on student government as VP of international. About 40 percent of MBA students are international, and for the January term, more than 60 percent are international. One of my missions is to smooth the transition for international students into and out of Columbia Business School. I have worked with the offices of student affairs and admissions to create arrival packages containing practical information on opening bank accounts, finding housing, and using public transportation. I also seek out ways to support international students’ job searches in the U.S.  Many of us will work in a globally-integrated environment after graduation, and I believe planning international cultural events and using case studies on non-U.S. companies in classes can help all Columbia Business School students to think more globally .

 

What will you take with you?

I have gained confidence. I will return to the working environment better able to influence change by supporting my thoughts with logic, especially when challenged about my views. I’d like to look back and say, “Hey, I went to Columbia Business School, and I learned that every view counts.” 

 

Related:
The Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business

 

Clifton Smith
MBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA
Previous Education: 
BS in accounting from the University of Southern California, 2010
Previous Work Experience: 
I earned my CPA working for Deloitte; created my own startup consulting firm; ran the operations of and built the digital side of my family’s community newspapers business; and built an international mixed media publication focused on fostering collaborations between politicians, philanthropists and entrepreneurs in emerging markets
Post-CBS Goals: 
Working in venture capital; founding another startup
CBS Activities: 
Founding co-president, Venture Capital Club; founding organizer, Columbia Impact Hackathon; co-president, Healthy Living Club; advisory board member, Lang Center for Entrepreneurship; cluster cup chair, Cluster A ‘17
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Running along the Hudson River, doing hot yoga and Krav Maga on the Upper West Side, and experiencing real seasons for the first time

 

What attracted you to Columbia Business School?

I’m passionate about venture capital as well as entrepreneurship, and I was drawn to Columbia Business School’s entrepreneurial endeavors. A few of my mentors are alums, so the network really stood out. Also, I come from a media background, so I was attracted by the opportunity to take classes that combine finance and media. This, plus the school’s location in New York, created the perfect mix.

 

What were your impressions when you got here?

The admissions team does a great job finding not only very skilled people, but also people who are interested in collaborating and exploring new ideas. As an entrepreneur, it’s great because there’s a lot of deep industry experience in the School, and classmates are always willing to talk over coffee or lunch. It’s a welcoming and warm environment.

 

How did you get to know your classmates?

Before starting the MBA program, I participated in the CBS World Tour, which is a student-organized selection of trips around the world. You can sign up for as much or as little as you want. I went to Croatia, and it was a great opportunity to build and solidify relationships with people prior to starting school. The MBA orientation was very helpful, too. All students are part of clusters, and the clusters give you the opportunity to get to know a small number of people really well. Orientation is supplemented by a class called Lead, which shines a light on the culture-building practices that are applied during orientation. That was very helpful.

 

What has surprised you?

I didn’t come in with set expectations — not because I wasn’t expecting a lot, but because I had faith in the program. The biggest surprise has been how friendly and flexible the administration is. They strive for continuous improvement and are very open to feedback. For example, I’m co-president of the Venture Capital Club. It had previously been part of the private equity group, but last year, several of us expressed interest in separating, so that we could focus on venture capital. The administration was very supportive. Our aim is to establish the School as a thought leader in venture capital and to connect Columbia more strongly with entrepreneurship in New York City.

 

What is one of your most memorable experiences?

I created a company with two classmates. We participated in a Shark Tank–style challenge, which included presenting to a panel. Our idea was in the FinTech space, and our panel had several high-caliber Columbia Business School alums. It was phenomenal meeting them, and it was particularly eye-opening to me because it showed how strong our network is. We advanced in the competition and got to compete at another school, where we won for best crowd-pleasing presentation.

 

What is it like to be part of Columbia University?

In terms of entrepreneurship, one very interesting experience has been working with an undergrad student who found me online, on a platform I participate in. This has led to my mentoring him. We’ve talked a lot about how to navigate the entrepreneurial landscape and the things I’ve gone through — especially what’s made me bang my head against a wall. Across Columbia, there are many students and individuals who are eager to work together to solve challenges.

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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.