Here’s a talk with Cassandra Pittman, a former admissions committee member at INSEAD and recent graduate of Columbia Business School. Thank you Cassandra for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us!
This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? What and where did you study as an undergraduate and when did you graduate?
Cassandra: I grew up mostly in California, but moved to London when I was 18 to attend Richmond: The American University in London. I graduated in 2002 with a degree in International Relations and then moved to Brussels to pursue my MA in European Integration and Development at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. I completed that program in 2003 and moved back to London.
Accepted: I see from your LI profile that you’ve worked at INSEAD and London Business School (and studied at INSEAD). Can you talk about your experience with these European business schools?
Cassandra: My experience with both schools was absolutely fantastic. Both have great programs and communities, and a true commitment to developing truly global business leaders.
I had the special opportunity to attend one of INSEAD’s Management Acceleration Program while I was working there. It was this program that first got me seriously thinking about pursuing an MBA. I already knew the INSEAD community was fantastic, and with the opportunity to experience it first hand, I was also overwhelmingly impressed with the quality of the teaching and thought leadership. It is also one of the few executive education programs in which graduates are granted alumni status.
I owe so much of where I am now to my experience at both schools. Not only did I learn and grow professionally, I also met and worked with amazing people from all over the world. I met many of my best friends through work I did at LBS and INSEAD – friendships which now span literally every corner of the globe.
Accepted: Why did you decide to attend Columbia Business School?
Cassandra: I felt I had reached a crossroads in my career; I had learned enough about my role that I didn’t feel challenged on a daily basis and I knew that if I took one more step up in the education industry, it would be difficult to ever try anything else. I also knew that if I was going to go to business school in the US, Columbia was the only school I’d want to attend. Quality – in teaching, in rankings, etc. – was obviously a top priority, but equally important to me was the diversity in the class. I joined Columbia’s January term, which is about 50% international.
Accepted: What were some of your favorite things about Columbia? Are there any things you wish would have been different about the program?
Top three best things about Columbia:
1) The people, especially my fellow classmates.
2) The location. For professional, personal, and social reasons New York City simply can’t be beat.
3) The University. The CBS experience extends beyond CBS to the knowledge, resources and network of one of the best university’s in the world.
I started the program in January 2011. At the time, CBS did not have grade non-disclosure. I believe strongly that GND helps to foster a strong, more collaborative community and allows students to stretch themselves in challenging electives that cover unfamiliar subject matter. While I was a student, we voted to adopt GND, which was a welcome change. In my perfect world, we would have had it from our first semester (in time for Corporate Finance!), but, thankfully, future classes won’t have the same problem.
Accepted: I see you are now working at Capgemini Consulting. Can you tell us about the role Columbia played in securing that position?
Cassandra: There is no way I’d be at Capgemini now if it weren’t for having gone to CBS. Career Services provided the gateway and structure for the career search, but at least as important were my classmates. I can’t tell you how many hours we spent giving each other mock cases, and the student run clubs also provided invaluable information for interview preparation.
Accepted: Do you have any advice for some of our applicants who will be applying to Columbia?
Cassandra: Do well on your tests, of course, but know that that is not going to make you stand out. Identify what your story is and tell it in a compelling way. Oh, and don’t freak out in week two of Corporate Finance. Although it won’t seem this way at the time, I promise you will know your stuff by the time final exams roll around.
For one-on-one guidance on the Columbia application, please see our Columbia Business School packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for CBS see Linda’s Columbia 2013 Essay Questions, Deadlines, and Tips.