Real Estate

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. 

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.

 

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

What brought you to business school?

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

So why did you choose Columbia?

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

How exactly did football prepare you for the EMBA program?

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

What is the community like at the School?

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica Hollins
MBA
Class of 2016
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Previous Education: 
BSc in civil engineering from Queens University, 2010
Previous Work Experience: 
Project engineer for Kiewit Construction
Post-CBS Goals: 
I'm hoping to get back in the construction industry, involved in either energy or infrastructure, with more business experience and greater ability to drive some change and innovation
CBS Activities: 
Cluster Chair, Black Business Students Association, Columbia Women in Business, dance classes
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Lots of shows, lots of eating. There's a really good ramen place on 125th and Broadway: Jin Ramen. That has quickly become my favorite restaurant — I'm there almost once a week.

What is it like to go to business school in New York City?
It's been all the positive things that everyone said it would be, and more. Your access to everything is above and beyond what you'll get anywhere else, at any other school. It's so easy to set up meetings with important people in management — they're just here. It's something we don't even have to think about. That has been a huge, huge benefit.

What class are you most excited about, or what class has been your favorite?
I am really enjoying Capital Markets & Investments with Professor Mark Zurack right now. My entire life I've shied away from the stock market because it's something I didn't know anything about. It feels like the veil is finally being lifted and I actually have an understanding of it now — maybe even enough to go put some money in the stock market, which I wouldn't have done before. I feel like understanding how markets work is an important life skill for anybody.

What's been the most surprising thing about being at CBS?
How supportive everyone is. Coming from an engineering background, having zero business experience, I thought I would have to try harder to be taken seriously — or, like the last one picked for dodge ball, no one would want me on their team. I was a little unsure about what I had to offer in this setting, but that feeling quickly disappeared. Everyone is so helpful and eager to learn from each others’ experiences. I feel that people value what I have to say and that I have alternative work experience that wasn't for a financial institution or consulting. Everybody's experience is valued here, even more than I would have expected.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Columbia Business School community?
I already feel like I've learned so much from my classmates. It's a cool feeling to sit in class talking about Argentina’s economy and have three students be able to comment firsthand on what hyperinflation was like 10 years ago. To be able to hear their experiences firsthand makes me feel very, very lucky that I'm here. I really feel a sense of pride being associated with Columbia Business School. Part of the reason I wanted to be Cluster Chair and want to stay involved in leadership next year is because it means a lot to me to be part of this community, and to help shape my classmates’ experiences here, as well. We all play such a big part.

Once you have your CBS degree, how will you conquer the world?
Construction is not a particularly innovative industry, because you are successful by doing what you've done before more efficiently and being able to bank on that. I'd love to be able to walk away from my career and see that I had a really big impact on driving that industry towards sustainability. How do you incentivize companies to act more environmentally responsible when the technology is not financially feasible? I think success for me is finding the answer to that question.

Dennis Giuliano
MBA
Class of 2015
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Toms River, New Jersey
Previous Education: 
BE in civil engineering from the University of Delaware, 2008
Previous Work Experience: 
Project engineer for Birdsall Services Group and Parsons Brinckerhoff
Post-CBS Goals: 
Development Manager at Ironstate Development
CBS Activities: 
VP of education for the Real Estate Association, Co-president (along with my wife) of the Columbia Better Halves Club
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I love Central Park. We have a black lab, and before 9 a.m. dogs can be off leash in the park, so I take her every morning to run around for an hour or so. My favorite spots are the Great Lawn and Turtle Pond, where Belvedere Castle is.

Why Columbia Business School?
I picked Columbia because it has arguably the best real estate MBA program in the world, and I knew with certainty that I wanted to get into real estate development. Being in New York and having exposure to that real estate realm, and also having access to the program that the School offers, seemed to be the perfect coalescence of factors. It was without a doubt the place for me.

What is it like to go to business school in New York City?
Real estate is a networking-driven career path, and having some of the most iconic real estate firms and assets within a few minutes' train ride is a valuable opportunity to make connections and learn very quickly. It allows you to put your boots to the ground right away. There is nothing like meeting face to face with someone. I think that's a tremendous asset for the School in general. Another plus, of course, is the limitless array of activities in the city. My wife and I have had a great time availing ourselves of the park, the museums, restaurants, and bars.

What class are you most excited about, or what class has been your favorite?
The Real Estate Project class was my favorite. It was essentially a semester-long competition where students selected our own teams, and each team was paired with a company, whether a private equity fund, a developer or another firm, to look at actual potential real estate deals. Our team was partnered with a Florida-based private equity fund, and we looked at a big suburban mall outside of Chicago and helped develop the plan for purchasing it, repositioning it, upgrading it, and financing it, and profitably managing the asset. My team ended up winning the competition and learning a ton in the process.

What has been your favorite experience at CBS?
My favorite experience, if I had to pick one, was the real estate Chazen trek to Bogota, Colombia and Mexico City this year. Beforehand, a group of us went for a week to Colombia with a native guide who's in our cluster. He led the charge in showing us around his hometown of Medellin, and then we spent five days in Cartagena. We ultimately met up with the rest of our group for the official Chazen part of the trip in Bogota.

What's been the most surprising thing about being at CBS?
The inclusiveness of the culture and the community. I had never been exposed to an Ivy League education, so I didn't really know what to expect—especially at a business school, which has the stigma of being an aggressive, type-A environment. It was surprisingly welcoming here. Everyone is very down to earth—people you can learn a lot from, who are happy to help each other, and who are genuinely happy for the opportunity to be at Columbia Business School.

How does being in New York City help you with your career goals?
New York is one of the most emblematic real estate cities in the world—and certainly in the US—in terms of the buildings, the family dynasties that were built here, and generally in terms of the modern-day skyscraper era, which all started in New York. To be here studying real estate, with access to the companies and leaders in the Real Estate Association, is just amazing. Especially for somebody like me, who is a career switcher, it's been tremendously helpful to be able to take a train downtown to meet with alumni and pick their brains about career strategies. I have the ability to do all that without having to travel outside the city I live in.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Columbia Business School community?
My wife, Karin, and I are co-presidents of the Better Halves Club and we've had a great time getting to know other couples from all over the country and the world. We've had an amazing time building the club and making it an inclusive, very socially active organization that’s a fantastic resource for people relocating here. The “better halves” are as much a part of the community as the students, and are welcome to participate in school events, with some exceptions for recruiting and professional clubs. They go on the trips with us, come to our formal events, and come to our happy hours and CBS Matters. Probably all of my best friends from Columbia are people I met through the Better Halves Club.

Once you have your CBS degree, how will you conquer the world?
I want to choose a career path that's ultimately doing something of value for society, beyond just something that's financially valuable. I think my Columbia Business School degree has allowed me the opportunity to achieve those goals while also providing for my family and letting me challenge myself.

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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.