What brought you to CBS? What is your background?
I’ve always had the spark of entrepreneurship within me. After working for a sports medicine company in my late 20s, I realized that I had learned enough of the skills needed to run my own business. So a few months after I turned 30, I started my own company in South Africa, my home country, within the radiology market. I started selling x-ray lightboxes and quickly moved to digital x-ray technology, which at the time was in its infancy. I soon realized that if I could become an expert in the latest medical technology, I would have a great advantage over those with outdated ideals.
In 2007 I moved to Vancouver, Canada, to be closer to my wife’s family, and decided I would try to replicate the business here. Very quickly, I realized that a successful business model cannot always be implemented directly into new markets, and I realized that my connections and local experience was severely lacking. It was then that I started looking into getting into the best MBA program possible; one that would give me the knowledge, credibility and connections to improve my likelihood of success in North America.
What was your favorite part of the program?
The community. My classmates were inspirational and a source of immense knowledge. We had people from all over the world who were able to bring unique perspectives from a wide variety of industries to really complement the courses. The friendships we were able to build are extremely valuable to me, and I stay in close contact with each of them.
How did the diverse CBS community affect your experience in business school?
Being a program largely developed for those living outside of New York, we were fortunate to have people from across the globe in our class. From Peru to Mexico, to Australia, to the Ivory Coast and Uganda, we were able to build a network that spans the globe. We all learned so much from each other, and continue to collaborate and assist one another now that were finished.
The Columbia alumni are also extremely helpful, especially here in Vancouver. We meet every two or three months and discuss our opportunities, our challenges, and how we can assist in being ambassadors for Columbia wherever we go. The mentoring programs that Columbia offers, as well as career guidance and innovation labs, is a fantastic resource for helping you to achieve your long term goals.
Did you have a favorite professor or course?
There were so many great professors. It started with my accounting professor, Amir Ziv, who was excellent. No professor put in as much effort with me as Donna Hitscherich did with her Corporate Finance class, and I probably learned the most there. Corporate Finance was intense, challenging, and fulfilling, and she went above and beyond with late night group conference calls each week to make sure we were keeping up with the bankers in the class. Perhaps my favorite classes though were the Operations classes taught by Nelson Fraiman and Medini Singh. They worked excellently together, organizing class trips and adding the practical knowledge and understanding of what is needed today to be an effective organization and ensure operational procedures are put in place to optimize outcomes.
And it would be amiss to not mention the class on Globalization — listening to Bruce Greenwald and Joseph Stiglitz discuss world economics and trade felt like sitting at the feet of Socrates and Aristotle, and I’ll always treasure that time.
When did you first feel the impact of the program?
Immediately. In one particular class (Business Analytics), I had an ‘Ah-ha’ moment when I realized the impact that statistical analysis could have within the healthcare industry. Statistics was a struggle at first, as it was something I had never done before, but it opened my mind to the opportunities available in my specific industry. As I formalized many of the concepts I already subscribed to, and combined them with new skills, I was able to make myself a better all-round entrepreneur. That put me on the path where I am today, heading up the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning division of one of the biggest radiology software companies in the world.
What are your future career plans? How has CBS influenced them?
There are many exciting opportunities across all industries where artificial intelligence will revolutionize the way we currently do things. Many A.I. aspects sound scary, and receive a fair amount of kickback from people who fear losing jobs and being made redundant. I do believe many jobs will change, but I see this as happening in a positive way, where the job functions will change and improve.
CBS further instilled in me my values and moral obligation to do my best to make a positive impact in the world. We are a very fortunate group of people who have the potential to do much good, and as I look to my future plans, they include building companies that make a positive difference to those around us. My Columbia MBA has opened doors and given me the confidence to stand on level grounds with many of the world’s leaders in business, and provides an opportunity to have my voice heard. Already the level of credibility in dealing with A.I. industry leaders shows when they realize they’re dealing with a fellow top school attendee.
What advice do you have for those considering Columbia Business School?
Strongly consider the EMBA Americas program. It offers a fantastic way to get your Columbia MBA no matter where you are in the world. By slicing out a week per month for course work, you are able to focus fully and build the relationships and knowledge that you need to succeed. The EMBA Americas program is, in my mind, the best value for the money of all the MBAs Columbia offers. Our class of 36 students was able to travel to San Francisco, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Uruguay, and Shanghai, and obtain practical experience to back up the theories learned in class. We would often joke that we were the fighter pilots on the Columbia MBA aircraft carrier, and many in other classes were envious of the close bond we were able to build as a class.