Why Columbia Business School?
For me, it was a unique opportunity. I was on active duty in the Army and wanted to look for a position that was in an area where there was a very good business school. My family is from the Tri-State Area, and Columbia was always a dream of mine. I also happen to teach at St. John's University, so it's close enough where I can do both. It was really the best of both worlds for me.
What is it like to go to business school in New York City?
I really think it's like no other city in the world. When you think of the United States and the pinnacle of business and the American way of life, you think of New York City. Being able to go to a top-tier business school in arguably the greatest American city — there's really nothing like it. Obviously there are business implications and ramifications of being located here, but I think there are also lifestyle and personal benefits of being in the Big Apple.
How does being in New York City help you with your career goals?
I've been entrepreneurially driven since I was introduced to business. My father started his own business many years ago, and I started a business while I was on active duty in 2011. The Columbia network, but more importantly the Columbia network within New York City, has allowed me to grow my business in ways that really no other city would permit. That means involving investors and subject matter experts, and there's somebody from every sector, every industry, every field, in New York City — all within the Columbia network. For me, that's been a significant tangible benefit in the short term.
What class are you most excited about, or what class has been most helpful to you in your current role?
I would have to say it's a combination of courses. In the core, the focus on quantitative skills was crucial for me to round out my own skill set, but my favorite classes were the entrepreneurial ones. The entrepreneurship course that I took in South Africa was pretty incredible, but my absolute favorite was Organizational Culture Demystified, which really looked at how culture affects business growth and success. It was something that was immediately applicable. I felt like I could immediately bring what I was learning to my company, which had started as a management and leadership consulting company. It's something that my partners and I were able to apply from day one for a number of our clients.
What's been the most surprising thing about being at CBS?
It should not have been a surprise, but it's the raw talent across the board, from the professors to the staff, my classmates, and all the people we interact with. I really believe that everyone brought their best to the classes and contributed significantly. Having ample opportunity to personally interact with everyone — classmates, professors, staff, industry leaders, etc. — is so rare in an academic forum and has been a real blessing for me. I really think the Columbia network is unmatched, both nationwide and worldwide.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Columbia Business School community?
I come from a background where I was involved with a very small, very elite special operations group within the US military. Columbia is like a larger version of the same: an elite group that is very welcoming and provides many opportunities for outreach within the community, and the growing business network that is New York City and the nation. It really means a lot, and I can't stop talking about it. Friends and family always ask me, "What is it like, and how is your experience?" and I'm always talking about the people. I really feel blessed and humbled, but also really proud of being a part of it.
How does the School’s entrepreneurial approach help you with your career goals?
That was one of the things I was unsure about when I started. One of the reasons I wanted to go to business school was to round out my quantitative capabilities, but more importantly, I wanted to grow my business by opening up doors that I didn't really even see yet. Being able to take a number of classes that were entrepreneurially driven — two of which were with Don Weiss — where I could spend a significant amount of time on my own business and get feedback from classmates, professors, and visiting business professionals, allowed me to see different openings, windows, and doors that I could explore, push, and expand.
My business, which started as a strict leadership consulting firm, has grown into a functioning operations group as well. We also recently launched our own energy services company. That was really an inspiration from Don Weiss, but also from a number of my classmates as well, who have come into these different entrepreneurial classes and assisted me in growing the business in directions I hadn’t seen before.
Once you have your CBS degree, how will you apply it to your current role and beyond?
The Columbia brand speaks for itself, and being able to not only leverage the network but also the tangible lessons that I've already gleaned from the academics, my classmates, and our professors has already had a palpable result within my business.
"Entrepreneurship in South Africa: At the Center of Global Impact"