A Day in the Life…of a Career Switcher




By: Caroline Kirwin, ’15

As most people heading to business school, I was looking for a change. Although we all believe we know what the change will be, whether career industry, function, geography, etc., rarely does that initially clear path prove to be easily navigated. As we begin recruiting what seems like a few short days after beginning school, the path not only forks, but rather splits into about 10+ different trails. Should I focus on jobs with a defined hiring cycle along with half of my class? Do I need a higher paying job to cover my student and growing travel loans? Is now the time to launch my tiaras for dogs line? The rapidly growing decision tree is overwhelming. Eventually we blink and find ourselves halfway down one (or somehow straddling two) of the paths without even realizing how we ended up there.

 My story isn’t much different but at least thus far, it has resulted in me returning to that initial path I wrote about in my application essay (and I can’t even cross my fingers when typing this post). I was unsure I would be able to make the leap to the energy industry without having had much prior energy experience, so I also pursued investment banking and finance rotational programs. After some hard work and probably a bit of good luck, I was able to land an internship in GE’s Energy Financial Services group doing exactly what I had hoped – financing energy projects.  Although I tried to prepare as much as is possible prior to starting in early June, the reality set in on the train to Stamford my first day: I really don’t have much of an idea of what I am doing.

After five weeks, I am appreciating the steep yet exciting learning curve and taking it all in.  I spend my days helping those with years x years of experience justify their decisions to buy, sell, recapitalize or lend to energy projects and get those deals across the finish line.  As everyone who wants to make their job sound interesting states: there is no “typical” day. But, my days generally involve some combination of making slides for internal investment committee meetings, calculating returns on everrrrrything, freaking out about my final presentation to senior management and eating Sodexo lunches (for those thinking of working in Stamford – get a car!).

 To where this path continues, only time will tell. It may split 10 more times and then converge at the end of next year or it could stay straight and narrow all the way through.  Either way, I am going to enjoy the journey and keep that travel debt growing.

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Famous Women in Our Nation’s History

4thHappy 4th of July!

In 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, President John Adams, “I desire you would remember the ladies.”  We couldn’t agree more.

While we all inevitably think of George Washington and Paul Revere as we celebrate today, the women who helped fight for our independence are often forgotten. So in honor of women everywhere, we’d like to take a break from our hot dog eating and fireworks watching, to remember the incredible women of the Revolutionary War who helped shape this country into what it is today.


Catherine Moore Barry – Known as the “Heroine of the Battle of Cowpens”, she volunteered as a scout for the American troops.  Familiar with the trails and landscape around her plantation, she was crucial in warning the militia of approaching British forces.

sybilSybil Ludington – Often called the female Paul Revere because of her rides through Putnam and Dutchess Counties to warn citizens that the British were burning down nearby Danbury, CT. Though only 16 at the time, she traveled over 40 miles on horseback to deliver the message.

estherEsther de Berdt Reed – Established the Ladies of Philadelphia, an organization that raised over $300,000 for the troops by going door to door and requesting donations. This money was used to purchase materials for clothing and uniforms for the American soldiers, all sewn by the Ladies of Philadelphia themselves.

betsyrossBetsy Ross – Although there has been much debate over who actually created the first American flag, traditional history tells us that it was Betsy Ross, whose meeting with George Washington, George Ross and Robert Morris, inspired the design.

mary murrayMary Murray – While her husband was loyal to the British, she was a supporter of American independence. One afternoon she invited the British commanders to tea to stall them long enough to allow American troops to pass by to New York safely.

deborahsampsonDeborah Sampson – Robert Shirtliffe enlisted in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment in 1778 – except his name was actually not Robert, but Deborah. Deborah cut her hair, wrapped a cloth around her chest, and used her brother’s name to enlist in the army. She fought for the US for years before being given an honorable discharge at the end of the war.

Whether they were tending their husbands’ farms and businesses while they were away, sewing clothing for the troops, delivering secret messages, or fighting on the front lines themselves, there is no doubt that women played a significant role in helping our country gain its independence… Now, back to the fireworks!

By: Kristen Bierfeldt ’15
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A Day in the Life…of a J-Term Student

CWiB BBQ rooftop photo (1)

By: Kareen Gilmore ’15

A typical day in the life of a Columbia Business School Student is a rare creature I have yet to observe. As a J-termer (i.e. a CBS student that starts to study in January and graduates in May the following year), I get to enjoy in some ways a more relaxed Business School experience. With only 200 students walking the corridors and a full staff it’s quite a different pace from the usual 750 students bustling about the Business School.

Growing up in Australia, I thought I knew what summer meant: beaches, picnics, being out & about in the streets of the city and winding down at work in anticipation of Christmas. This is my first Summer in NYC and it’s more about classes, dinners, daytime drinks, night time drinks, networking events, hiking trips and weekends in the Hamptons. Oh, and sitting on the school lawn and catching up with friends in between classes.

Summer Semester at CBS has been great – it marks the end of the Core (I just finished my last Core exam in Marketing II!), and the beginning of a world of choices and specialization. I’m planning to specialize in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, so this Summer I’m taking Intro to Venturing, Marketing Research, Leader’s Voice, Operations Strategy and Managerial Negotiations. To get a little more hands on experience I’m also working with a couple of CBS students on their cold brew coffee startup, Wandering Bear Coffee Co. It’s really fun trying to think about how to appeal to coffee lovers in NY beyond just having a delicious product!

In our Intro to Venturing class each week we get to hear from incredibly accomplished entrepreneurs about what works and what doesn’t when you’re trying to build your dream. We heard from Mark Peter Davis, author of “The Fundraising Rules” on how to raise capital, David Olk, co-founder of ShopKeep about how he grew his start-up and raised $37.5M, as well as many others. In Marketing Research, we get to choose a project and research it through focus groups, surveys and secondary research. My team is working on our own start-up idea in the shoe space and we are planning to run a focus group next week with our target customers to understand whether other people share our passion! In Managerial Negotiations, we are learning to become master negotiators. Each week we run mock negotiations and learn new ways of turning a negotiation into a win-win scenario, remembering that you shouldn’t accept “No” as an answer unless you’ve made your appeal several times and received three separate “No’s”.

All in all, school and NY keep me pretty busy, and every day is a new adventure with opportunities to learn new things, meet new people and discover insights that I will carry forward into the next phases of my life. I have to run to an end of exams celebration at the Pier – bye for today!


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Inspired by…My Mother

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By Kelly Garnes-Pages

The person who serves as constant source of inspiration is my mother.  While she has showered me with love and support over the years, she also inspires me because she relentlessly pursues her personal and professional goals.

When I was in the 6th grade, my mother graduated from college. While I knew at the time that it was an achievement hard earned, I did not realize the depth of her victory. Thirty-two years before that graduation, my mother made it clear to her family that college was her next step. Unfortunately, being one of ten children in Panama, resources were limited.  My mother’s father gave her two options: she could either continue to live in Colon and find a job or move to America. Two months after their conversation, my mother was on a ship to New York City.

She found a job at New York Hospital as an assistant. While working and raising my sisters and me, she took courses that would allow her to enroll full-time in the nursing program at Hunter College. She had to juggle a family, a full-time job, and a full course load. I distinctly remember my mother listening to course lectures on her Walkman while cooking for our family. She was determined to succeed. Her graduation represents true progress to me. When I think of this shining moment for my mother, I am also pushed to think about the changing role of women in society.

As a mother, I constantly reflect on my place in my family and in my community. I want to have a fulfilling career in which I am propelled to produce my best work. I also want to be the best mother I can be and provide my daughter with as many opportunities for her to achieve her dreams. My mother gave me the gift of knowing that, with careful planning, I can have a fulfilling and challenging career, while being a loving, engaged mother. She also imparted in me that in order to achieve a goal, one must be determined and relentless.

Beyond achieving her dreams and inspiring her three daughters, what was profound about my mother’s victory was that with her degree, she was now equipped to serve others in a more significant way. Through her career choices, my mother instilled in me the desire to make the world better.  I want to leave a similar legacy behind for my daughter. I want her to be empowered by my fearlessness, willingness to push myself further, and commitment to improving the world in which we live.

Becoming a great role model to my little girl fuels my desire to become better every single day of my life. My mother’s choices fuel my desire to continue her legacy.

 Tell us about who inspires you!

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A Day in the Life…of a Brand Management Intern


I consider myself incredibly lucky to have landed my dream internship. Having spent the last five years in the luxury retail space, I found myself looking for a change, and came back to CBS to make the transition to Brand Management at a CPG. Sure, it was great to sell designer dresses and handbags, but at the end of the day I actually find it to be an exciting challenge to market less luxurious products, such as toothpaste, or crackers. For this reason, I left an amazing job (and an incredible employee discount…my friends and family are still not happy with me) at Gilt and returned to school to immerse myself in the CPG world. It’s hard to believe my first year has gone by so quickly, but here I am, just a little under a year since starting at Columbia, sitting at my desk surrounded by boxes of Newton’s, Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Sour Patch Kids, Wheat Thins and Trident. Having to fit into a wedding dress in two months is the only thing stopping me from devouring most of what is in front of me. And as if having all these snacks around me all the time wasn’t torture enough, the company recently combined two of the most delicious snacks in the world and launched Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Oreos…it has really been a test of my willpower.

No, I don’t have some weird snack obsession…I just happen to work for a company that does. A week ago, I started my internship at Mondelez, one of the leading global snacking companies. With brands such as Oreo, Belvita, Triscuit, and Ritz, Mondelez has an incredible portfolio of brands that are part of nearly everyone’s daily lives.

During my first week the phrase I heard more than any other was “this is not a typical week.” Perhaps that’s because on Days 3 and 4 we joined the rest of the Marketing team for a Marketing Offsite at Mohonk Mountain House. The days were spent doing ice breakers, listening to incredible speakers (like Pencils of Promise founder, Adam Braun), having the senior marketing leaders candidly answer employees’ questions, putting a lot of names to faces, creating a 100+ person conga line…and oh yeah, dancing to a 90’s cover band. As interns, we all greatly appreciated the opportunity to be a part of this retreat and to be welcomed into the marketing team in such a way. The success of the offsite, I believe, was a testament to how strong the marketing team is and the passion and respect everyone has for the company and one another.

This week, with my calendar filled with meet & greets, I’m ready to meet as many people as possible, learn as much as I can about the world of snack foods at Wholesale Clubs (I’m diving into the purchase behavior of multi-pack products at stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club), and start to develop some ideas for my projects that will hopefully help me to make an impact at the company.

I’m fortunate to work for an incredible company with tremendous brand power, with some amazing individuals, and to be getting the opportunity to learn about an industry I came back to school to delve into, and I cannot wait to see how the summer continues to unfold. Hopefully it won’t involve eating too many Reese’s Oreos…

By Kristen Bierfeldt, VP Marketing

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