Management

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.

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

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

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

What was your first impression as a student?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your long-term career goals?

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

What’s your top advice for new students?

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


 

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.


 

Courtney Denise Dornell
EMBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
EMBA Americas
Previous Education: 
B.S. Civil Engineering & Physics
Current Work: 
Sales, Marketing & Communications Director, Otis Latin America
Post-CBS Goals: 
Chief Operating Officer
Favorite NYC Activities: 
NYC Architecture, Visiting Museums, Cooking Classes, Eating, Shopping
Areas of Interest: 

How did Columbia get on your radar?

I was the regional sales manager for Otis elevators, and Columbia is one of our biggest customers. There was a code change in New York, so I had to spend two months going to Columbia’s campus regularly to get that sorted out with facilities. So I started walking around and seeing the campus and thought, ‘This is beautiful.’ I ran into Warren Hall one day and bumped into someone in the EMBA-Americas program. It sounded pretty cool. I started looking at the different offerings for business school, then I went to an information session and I was convinced. The EMBA-Americas program just really stood out to me because one of my goals professionally was to work in Latin America, specifically Brazil. So this program seemed like it would be perfect to help prepare me to do that because of the demographic of the students; it's very diverse.

But then I got a promotion to manage the Northeast in sales, and I decided to focus on that. And I did for two years, but I wasn't being challenged. I needed to do something different, and I thought getting my MBA would help me figure out what I needed. Because my background is in science, I wasn’t aware of all the options available in business. I knew I didn't want to leave UPC, so I talked to my mentors, my boss, and HR. They said they would fully support me, and I had to get special permission because of the type of program that it is. It's the only program I looked at. I didn't consider any other school.

What is your professional background?

I am an engineer. I majored in physics and civil engineering. I was recruited straight out of undergrad by Pratt & Whitney, which is part of United Technologies Corporation. I was actually supposed to go to start my master’s degree in civil engineering at the University of Texas, but the company gave me an offer I couldn't refuse. One of the things I was attracted to was their amazing employee scholar program. They pay for you to go to school, so that was attractive because I knew that I was going to continue my education in some capacity.

They’re also a global company, and I knew that I wanted to have international experience. But after three years, I realized that I wasn't being fulfilled in the engineering world that I was in. I moved into sales for Otis elevators, another part of the company. I’ve now been with the corporation for 16 years, and I’ve worked down in Texas, Louisiana, Manhattan, and now I’m in Latin America.

So when did you actually start the program?

I found out I was admitted to the program just before Thanksgiving. And two weeks after that, I got a call from the head of HR for my company, and they said, ‘We want you to go work in Latin America as the director of sales and marketing.’ On of my goals for the program was to be the director of sales and marketing for Latin America, and I thought going through the program would prepare me to take that position. I didn't know that I would get that position before I started the program. So that was all happening all at the same time. That was in early 2016. I graduated in late 2017.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

For me overall, it's been the people. My classmates are my family. I went to a wedding in Chile three weeks ago for one of my classmates. We’re part of each other’s lives forever now. There are 36 of us, and all 35 of my classmates are my family. We had love, loss, trials, tribulations and all sorts of celebrations with one another, and that is something that you really can’t put into words. It’s just absolutely beautiful.

But I’ve made friendships with some of my professors. I’ve learned a lot. It was not easy. Moving to South America, straight into a new role. And beginning an MBA, taking accounting and corporate finance, that was be a challenge. But my professors were very helpful. I struggled with corporate finance, and Professor Donna Hitscherish would call me at night to make sure I got it. I ended up doing well in her class, and it’s because she pushed me. I remember she always said she never left a student behind. And that’s true. A lot of the professors, they’re just great people. I am so glad that I officially graduated because I’m going to hire several of them as consultants.

Did you feel any immediate impact from the program?

I think part of the reason I was able to adapt so quickly to moving and working in Latin America is that I had classmates from Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, and other parts of the world, and they took me in. My classmates from Latin America explained to me, ‘Okay, doing business in Mexico is like this, doing business in Brazil is like this. These are the things you need to know, these are some people you should talk to.’ I wouldn’t have gotten that if I didn’t have the network and the experience that I had. Even some of my professors who had done business in Latin America were very helpful. That was invaluable.

Then in some of the classes, we would get to go meet other companies and business leaders in various industries that are global. Having that interaction and access — I did not take it for granted. I was asking questions, and I would set up future meetings with some of these people to help me figure out how to navigate in the new world that I was in.

How did the program affect your long-term career plans?

Well it completely changed because I’m in the job that I thought doing the program would help prepare me for. I was able to implement things as soon as I would finish up a block week, I would immediately go and implement what I learned.

But what’s more, I was thinking too small. Going into the program I thought, ‘This is all I want.’ And after talking to my other classmates, meeting the professors, and meeting the business people we interacted with, I realized, ‘You’re thinking way too small. You should be thinking about being the CEO.’ To be honest, up until a year ago I wasn’t even thinking that. It wasn’t on my radar, but now it’s like, ‘why not?’

What advice do you have for new students in the program?

I just spent the weekend with the EMBA-Americas class of ’18 at Machu Picchu. I sent them a note when I left them, and I told them that they need to take advantage and don't take for granted this opportunity that they have. The program is 18 to 24 months. It will go by so fast. If there's a person in your class who you haven’t had the chance to sit down and have a coffee with, make a point to talk to them. Get to know who all your classmates are and what their hopes and dreams are. I know it’s hard sometimes to get up and go to that event in the morning or on the weekend, but do it. Because this is the only time where you have carved out this section of your life for school. And as soon as it’s over, you’re going to go back to your full-time work and family, so really just make sure that you don’t take for granted the opportunities that you have while you’re in the program.


 

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.


 

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

What brought you to Columbia Business School?

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

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

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

What was your favorite part of the program?

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

When did you first feel the impact of the program?

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

Did you have a favorite professor?

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

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

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

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

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


 

Katie Cullina
EMBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Madison, Connecticut
Previous Education: 
Boston College – BA in Communication, Philosophy
Current Work: 
Director of Strategic Planning (Marketing & Advertising)
Post-CBS Goals: 
I plan to build a career that energizes and challenges me, merges my passions for marketing, strategy and design, and allows me to work alongside people who inspire me.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Meeting up with friends at different bars and restaurants, walking around campus before and after class, and perusing cafes and shops downtown whenever I can.

What brought you to Columbia Business School?

A growth mindset and focus on education is something that has been instilled in me throughout my life. When I found myself working in the marketing industry and increasingly curious about the macroeconomic factors impacting my industry, ways to move through my budgeting spreadsheets more capably/less frantically, and calling my CPA dad about my taxes every year, I decided I needed to double down and get a comprehensive business education to expand my mind and skillsets, for both professional and personal reasons. And here I am.

What was your favorite part of the program?

My international seminar in South Africa was an absolute highlight of the program for me. South Africa is the kind of place that just instantly changes your world view. It’s sad, hopeful, destitute and stunning all at the same time, and to be able to take this in with my classmates was an experience I’ll never forget. It’s easy to start to feel badly for yourself when you’re working full time and completing an MBA in less than two years. That feeling was turned on its head in South Africa. The locals I met and things I saw really reminded me of how lucky I am and how much good I can do with the opportunities.

In addition to how meaningful the trip was, it was also a whole lot of fun because of the people I traveled with, which takes me to my next point: the incredible friends I’ve made in this program. It takes a certain kind of person to willingly sign away their weekends and free time for two years, and I think because of the intensity of the program and associated lifestyle, we all felt an instant camaraderie. The South Africa seminar felt like a big extended family vacation, and I give a lot of credit to Columbia for handpicking people who were not only looking to further their minds, but also gain lifelong friends. 

What was the most challenging part of the program?

The most challenging yet rewarding part of the program for me was being forced to face my weaknesses head-on. I found myself struggling to keep up with my talented classmates cruising through Excel valuations, and that was an incredibly humbling experience. But this is the power of the EMBA: You don’t really know what you don’t know, until you are challenged. My eyes were opened to weaknesses in my knowledge and skillsets, but I’m happy to say I’ve improved myself in these areas.

When did you first feel the impact of the program?

I first felt the impact of the program when I implemented concepts from my Leadership & Organizational Change course at work and saw, in real time, how it changed my team for the better. Professor Paul Ingram explained the concept of psychological safety, and recommended that we make time to regularly meet with our teams in a more unconventional kind of way — celebrating successes, listening to concerns, and looking at our work lives in a bigger picture and more people-focused manner. I set up weekly coffee chats with my team called “Caffeinate & Contemplate” in which we’d take time out of the week to just hit pause for a second and remember the larger context of what we were doing. Here, complex and frustrating projects were reframed as meaningful opportunities to learn how to deal with new sets of challenges. I noticed a shift in my team’s attitude and felt like I was not only connecting with them more deeply, but also inspiring them to think differently in the process. One of my direct reports even went on to pursue a Master’s degree in Business Analytics, an idea that was in part born from these meetings and my mentoring of her, and hearing of her acceptance to the program was one of my proudest moments as a manager. Seeing these kinds of changes in action showed me how truly impactful the EMBA program really is.

Did you have a favorite professor or course?

My favorite course and professor was Personal Leadership & Success with Hitendra Wadhwa. To me, it was genuinely life changing. When you live authentically and communicate authentically, you’re able to tap into your own unique power as a leader and more effectively motivate yourself and others.

What’s your top advice for new students?

The mountain of deadlines and responsibilities ahead may seem insurmountable, but you’re capable of more than you think. My advice to incoming students would be to do just that: stay focused on the assignment at hand, remember how lucky you are to be here, and before you know it, you might even miss those nights and weekends in Warren Hall!

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. 

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.

 

Pages

apply

Fall 2015 Cross-Registration Dates

  • A-term, B-term, and Full-term electives: 10:00 am on Thursday August 20th until 4:00 pm Tuesday September 8th.
     
  • B-Term electives: 10:00 am Wednesday October 21st until 4:00pm Wednesday October 28th.