Financial Services

Zachary Lopez
MBA
Class of 2020
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Pacoima, California
Previous Education: 
Rochester Institute of Technology
Current Work: 
Associate Global Investment Research, Goldman Sachs
Post-CBS Goals: 
I hope to work at Goldman for some time before working at a hedge fund.
CBS Activities: 
Co-President of the Hispanic Business Association, VP of Alumni for Columbia Student Investment Management Association
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Yankees games, Wall Street, Columbia Alumni Network
Areas of Interest: 

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

Before going to Columbia Business School (CBS), I expected the program to be more cut-throat and competitive. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people wanted to help and get to know one another. CBS is an open and caring community.

Why did you choose Columbia Business School?

I chose to go to CBS because of the Value Investing Program. It is the only school that has a program focused toward value investing in public equities. The courses give students a unique advantage that allows them to see what others commonly miss. Within the Value Investing Program, there are five classes that students are required to take: Special Situations, Value Investing & Value Investing with Legends, Applied Value Investing, Distressed Value Investing, and Economics of Strategic Behavior. These classes are the building blocks for a strong investing framework. The Value Investing program not only has incredible classes but the network and speakers are even better. I have been able to ask questions to investing greats such as Howard Marks, Seth Klarman, and Mario Gabelli.

When did you first feel the impact of the program?

I felt the impact of the CBS program before I even got to campus. Once I was accepted, current students reached out to me to welcome me to the Columbia community. I was able to leverage the Columbia brand immediately to start networking and establish a pre-MBA internship.

What is it like being a student in New York City?

Being a student in NYC is like no other experience. I was able to hear some incredible speakers and attend conferences that I had only seen on TV. Columbia’s unique campus allows us to not only have an incredible student body but also integrate into the city at-large. During my time at CBS, I was able to go to Broadway plays and attend a live filming of Fast Money on CNBC.

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

Jorge Guzman has had a large impact on me. I have been his TA for the last two years. He teaches Entrepreneurial Strategy. He is an incredible professor who not only has a passion for the subject but also excites students each and every class. He brings in amazing speakers who are able to immediately connect with students.

What has been your most memorable experience at Columbia Business School so far?

My most memorable experience at CBS has to be the Pangea trip I took to Chile. I went to Santiago, Chile with my fellow classmates. We helped a non-profit establish a sustainable line of revenue. I not only learned a lot about the Chilean economy, but more important, I made two friends for life.

How have you been involved in the student community?

Being the co-president of the Hispanic Business Association (HBA) has allowed me to interact with the larger CBS community. This past year, HBA was able to bring in Marty Chavez, ex-CFO of Goldman Sachs, along with other speakers.

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

I will say the most challenging part of the MBA program is managing everything from academics to recruiting to networking. There is only 24 hours in a day and more than 24 hours’ worth of things to accomplish. I was able to handle it by coming into business school with a purpose. My goal was to get a job and learn how to invest. The rest was gravy. Having a purpose allowed me to prioritize my schedule and activities to ensure I accomplished my goal.

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

I utilized the Career Management services during my first year in the MBA program, I would attend many workshops and visit multiple advisors. It wasn’t until my second year that I learned the power of the Career Management Center’s Executive’s In Residence Program. Every week, I was meeting with different executives. I met with Pauline Brown, ex-CEO of Louis Vuitton, and Douglas Maine, ex-CFO of IBM. These executives gave me incredible insights and utilized their personal relationships to help me advance my studies. Douglas got me in touch with a board member of a company I was researching on and also connected me with the top management of Goldman Sachs’ San Francisco office. It is a great feeling when you have the ex-CFO of IBM vouch for you.

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

I always tell students to make sure that they have a goal in mind when coming to business school. Having a purpose allows one to filter out the noise and concentrate on what matters. At Columbia, there are many new opportunities and things to explore. Filtering things down makes decision-making much easier.

What will you take with you from Columbia Business School?

After Columbia Business School, I am equipped with an incredible investment framework that can be applied to numerous styles of investing. CBS has given me an amazing network that I can call upon when I need help or act as a sounding board when I need to run ideas across someone. I can’t imagine myself anywhere else for my MBA other than Columbia Business School.

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.


 

Landon Johnson ’17 and Brittni Dixon-Smith ’18
EMBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
EMBA Americas
Areas of Interest: 

The two of you are married and moved from Texas to New York together to start the Columbia EMBA program. What was that transition like?

Landon: We were deciding whether one of us would go to school first or would we go at the same time and how we would work that out. We wanted to make sure a steady income would still be coming into our household. Columbia was the only school we considered that provided an option that actually met this need. It’s been fun having my wife by my side. The EMBA program allowed my household to keep making an income while we pursed our MBAs together. It was something unique.

Brittni: Columbia provided us with two opportunities: we could either do the EMBA program and stay in our current jobs, or do the full time program. We originally had planned to enroll in the EMBA-Americas program from Texas, but we were both kind of feeling dissatisfaction with our jobs, so two weeks before the program we literally packed up our apartment and drove from Texas to New York. We had both worked out transferring our jobs, but as it happened, when we got to New York, neither one of those opportunities ended up working out. So we had to start from scratch. Luckily, we both landed jobs and we had amazing opportunities to jump-start our careers post business school. I’m now the head of strategic partnerships at GE Ventures. Landon is working in the financial services industry. We’re both very happy with our new directions.

What was your favorite part of the program?

Brittni: The people. When you first start the EMBA-Americas program, it’s a small group, about 35 people. But I think the structure of the program allows you to have an expansive network, from full-time students to executive students. The way they make that possible is through the elective options and the student clubs. Also, we started in January 2016, and we’re graduating in 2018, so we’re seeing three different classes over the amount of time that we've been here. I just really love the people. It’s like having an extended family here in New York, and it helps us to have that community right away after being here for such a short time.

Landon: My favorite part of the EMBA-Americas program is being able to travel as a group. Brittni and I like to travel, and embarking on this journey together draws you much closer. You get to hear a lot of different perspectives and take away a lot more when you travel with a diverse group. We went to Toronto and South America, visited local businesses in each place, and took our international seminar in Germany. Being able to hear directly from the local business gave a lot of great insights.

What has it been like to go through the program together?

Brittni: We were both student athletes at Stanford. I was a freshman when he was a fifth-year senior, so we didn’t have a lot of overlap. I ran track-and-field, and he played football. But what’s special about us having gone to the same university is that when we have homecoming or any alumni activities, we usually run into the same people, so there’s overlap in those relationships. But Columbia was the first time we really went to school together, to classes, and had to figure out our schedules together.

Are there any lessons you learned as student-athletes that have helped you in the EMBA program or, more generally, in life?

Landon: As student-athletes, you learn to set goals. You learn how to plan and map to reach those goals. The fact that we are similar in that mindset has made the program an easy transition. And now that we’ve accomplished this, it’s time for us to sit down again and start mapping out what our next goals are going to be. Somewhere in my house there are two pieces of paper with, ‘We want to go to business school by’ a certain date on there. That student-athlete mentality of concrete goal-setting was definitely a plus for us.

What’s been the biggest impact you’ve felt from the program so far?

Brittni: I think the biggest benefit has been our ability as a couple to concentrate our careers on the same path. Because when I graduated, I really wanted to go abroad and I had a career that was going to take me here, there, and everywhere. I had been working in the Middle East. Landon had a totally separate career trajectory, and honestly had I not gotten that transfer back to Houston at the time that I did, I don’t know when we would’ve ended up in the same place. Business school was a great opportunity for us to kind of control our destiny when it comes to making sure the careers that we were choosing were going to fit the lifestyle that we wanted.

The other part is personal growth. When I think about us individually and the exposures that we had across the program, I feel like Landon just blossomed into this amazing professional — I don't even know who he is after this program. From public speaking to taking on an entirely new industry, I feel like it allowed us to take risks that maybe we couldn’t see for ourselves before we were here. I never thought in a million years I would be doing corporate VC or Landon designing and scaling global talent development programs for an asset management firm.

What advice do you have for other EMBA students?

Landon: Keep an open mind. I have many classmates who came in with an agenda and a certain goal and through their time and experience in the program they realized a lot about themselves, and found the true passion that they wanted to follow for the rest of their life. I think that’s something special that happens in business school. So while you may come in with a goal, make sure you listen to your heart and yourself as you go through the program.


 

Tony Shih
EMBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Jericho, New York
Previous Education: 
BSc in civil engineering from Stanford University MD from University at Buffalo, State University of New York
Current Work: 
Cardiologist at ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group
Post-CBS Goals: 
I want to leverage my management, leadership, and financial training with Columbia’s strong network to obtain leadership roles and responsibilities in a major regional health system.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I enjoy spending time trying out new restaurants, lounges, and cafés, and I enjoy the performing arts and theater. I also enjoy Central Park, the waterfront, and biking along the promenade.

What brought you to business school?

I’ve been a practicing cardiologist for the last nine years. I was adept in technology and the sciences and wanted to have a career that made a positive social impact — something that would allow me to directly affect individual lives. That’s what drives people to go into medicine. At first, you go into the field, you’re wide-eyed, bushy-tailed, and it’s exciting. Interventional cardiology is a mix of medicine and surgery. If someone comes in with a heart attack and a clogged vessel, we’re able to open it up and have an immediate impact on their symptoms and health status, and, often, preserve their life. It was great. It was a rush, and I loved it. The problem is, as many healthcare providers will tell you now, the field is excessively burdened by regulation, bureaucracy, and documentation requirements. There are a lot of different players that are inserting themselves into the traditional provider/patient relationship.

Of course, that leads to decreasing career satisfaction for many healthcare providers, myself included. I wanted to branch out. I wanted to see what else in healthcare might interest me. I’ve always also been interested in finance, entrepreneurship, and management. I wanted to go to business school to get a different perspective, to meet people in other industries who were also facing change and disruption and see how they were coping with it. Also, I wanted to speak the same language and be on equal footing with the administrators who were increasingly dictating the course of my career and the way that I treat patients.

Why Columbia?

Obviously, it’s the Columbia brand. It’s unparalleled. The alumni network is second to none for a program in New York, but it also has an incredible international reputation. More specific to my field, there are a lot of alums from Columbia in leadership positions in the health systems of the New York region and quite a few Columbia grads who are executives in pharmaceutical companies in northern New Jersey. Plus, there’s a Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management Program at the School that hopefully will grow, develop, and become an institute. I would like to be more engaged with the program after I finish the core curriculum, which is taking up a lot of my time this first year.

How do you balance everything?

You have to become a very efficient time manager. Even as a busy working professional, there were gaps in my schedule in the past that I did not utilize to the utmost efficiency. Now that I’m going through this program, I’ve become very efficient with the use of my free time, of which now I don’t have much. Any little time off from work, I try to maximize it — get an assignment done or catch up on reading for class. It took some adjustment, but I think that the sacrifice is well worth it thus far.

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

My favorite part has been just meeting and interacting with my classmates. Working with people from different professions and disciplines expands my horizons. Before the EMBA program, most of my network was in healthcare. Meeting my fellow students from other fields helped me realize that their industries have disruptions, too, and they’re adapting in their own ways. It’s interesting to find out how people react to change in other industries. One of the main reasons I chose to get an MBA and not a master’s degree in public health is because I wanted to branch out and meet people from other industries. I wanted that broader, wider industry perspective beyond healthcare.

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

In order to be a good physician, it takes years upon years of training. You discipline yourself, hit the books, and dedicate yourself to a regimented schedule and to constant self-improvement. You’re always in the mindset of continuing education. Education for a healthcare professional doesn’t end when they finish their formal training; it’s a lifelong process. I’m always in the mindset of learning. So I came into the program with that focus and discipline. Being back in school wasn’t that big of a transition for me.

Also, with my background being different than the majority of my classmates, we have many discussions about the current healthcare issues that people hear about on the news. The healthcare field represents almost a quarter of the domestic economy, so it should be front and center. It’s hard to avoid discussions or not participate in the system. It’s great to lend that perspective to classroom discussions, and in return the wisdom of my classmates will help me broaden my horizon and make me a more effective leader. 

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.

 

Coree Mahoney
MBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Scottsdale, AZ
Previous Education: 
BS in criminal justice from California State University Sacramento, 2010
Previous Work Experience: 
I was an active duty intelligence officer in the United States Navy.
Post-CBS Goals: 
I would like to begin a career that involves management, financial services, or aerospace and defense. I want to join an organization with a positive culture and motivating mission.
CBS Activities: 
Member of the Forte Foundation; Military in Business Association; Columbia Women in Business; Investment Banking Club; Wine Society; and the Retail and Luxury Goods Club; Chair of Sponsorship: Brand and Apparel for the CBS Fashion Show
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I enjoy running in Central Park, trying new restaurants, shopping, and sightseeing.

You were in the Navy before business school. What was that experience like?

I loved my time in the Navy. For my first tour, I was with an F/A-18 squadron. These jets can take off and land on aircraft carriers. I did one deployment with them to the Arabian Gulf for eight months. The pilots would fly into Afghanistan every morning to support the ground operations, and I briefed the pilots before and after missions. If they dropped any bombs, I reported it. Overall, it was amazing to experience the dedication to mission accomplishment within the US military.

Life on the carrier — which was huge, there were about 5,000 people onboard — was not as bad as it sounds. We had a Starbucks, multiple gyms and stores, a post office, and concerts and BBQs on holidays. I never had to cook, and I only had a five-minute walk to work each morning. I would get off the night shift and exercise on the rowing machine in the morning while watching dolphins play in the water.

For my second tour, I did a non-operational intelligence tour, in Washington, DC, where I worked at the Office of Naval Intelligence. I analyzed foreign naval operations in Europe, Russia, Syria, and parts of Africa. I absolutely loved that, too.

What was behind your decision to end your Navy career and go back to school?

I was attracted to Columbia Business School because there were so many international students whom I knew I could learn a lot from. I did not want to be at a school full of people just like me. I also met with alumni, who were so supportive — that’s when I knew Columbia was a community that I wanted to be a part of. Additionally, I wanted to be in New York to begin my new career, and the School offered so much access to the top businesses in the world. You can’t beat being in the heart of New York while being a student in business school.

What did you learn about leadership and organizations in the Navy that you brought with you to business school?

The US Navy is a massive organization, and inevitably there are both good and bad examples of leadership. I always looked at both as great situations from which to learn something. During my first tour in the aviation community, we had a really cohesive group. Our squadron was about 220 people, and the most senior person would meet with all of us in the hanger about once every two weeks. I saw how he set an example to take care of the sailors in the squadron and their families. I started to emulate that example.

From then on, I focused on the people who worked for me. I realized that being able to pull people in and bring everybody together, while recognizing that the method for doing so is different for everyone, is a part of leadership that is rarely emphasized. You need to adapt your strategy for motivating each person and build your team that way. And when you build a great team, they will move mountains to complete the mission.

What’s your impression of the community at Columbia Business School so far?

The military community here is awesome; it’s comforting to hear the banter back and forth between the different branches in our group chat. The Columbia community as a whole is so diverse, and I’m learning a ton, about both business and different cultures. I thought I learned a lot when I went to other countries with the Navy, but here I’m learning even more from everyone’s personal stories. I don’t think it would be such an amazing experience if it weren’t that way.

What are your plans for the future?

I am interested in the banking industry, maybe a corporate strategy type of role. Before coming to business school, if I saw a Wells Fargo on the corner, it was just a bank to me, and I didn’t think much about it. Here, I started to learn that there’s a lot behind that, so I may go that route. But I’m here to explore. I want to find something that I enjoy doing and that may be something else that I haven’t even heard of yet.

What advice would you give other military veterans who are interested in attending business school?

The most surprising thing for me was that recruiting kicks off right away in the fall. I thought I would come to business school to figure out what I wanted to do, but there isn’t much time for that. My advice for other veterans is to think about what they want to do the summer before school starts, and come prepared to start recruiting for that career path.

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.

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

 

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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.