End of Year CWiB Presidents Letter

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Sophia Dadas and Kelly Garnes-Pages

Dear CWiB Members and Recent Alumnae,

Congratulations on finishing the school year and to the second years on their graduation! Thank you for being active members and contributors to CWiB and to CBS. We hope that you had the opportunity to enjoy all of the benefits of being a club member.  2014-2015 was a hallmark year for CWiB, and it would not have been possible without all of you.

Careers and Corporate Relations: The year started long before August with fundraising and the planning for the annual CWiB Conference.  Our Careers & Corporate Relations team worked with corporate partners to secure funding for one of the largest conferences at Columbia. Beyond raising money, the team also hosted events, such as the professional networking event and the app development workshop, in order to help CWiB members expand their horizons.

Meanwhile, the Conference Team hosted the 22nd Annual Columbia Women in Business Conference, “Dare to Disrupt” and provided the tools, inspiration, and encouragement to push for the things that matter to us as CBS women.  The event was attended by over 300 women and featured keynote speeches from Joyce Chang, Editor-in-Chief of SELF Magazine, Michelle Peluso, CEO of Gilt, and panelists from companies including Amazon, Etsy, NBCUniversal, Pepsi, PwC and many more. The smaller panels gave CBS women a more intimate setting in which to network with company representatives and with each other.

To celebrate Women’s History Month, CWiB held our Annual Women’s Week for the third year. The Women’s Week Team hosted an array of events celebrating the female community at CBS and highlighting the accomplishments of women in the business world.  This year’s theme was “In Her Shoes” and showcased our signature hot pink sunglasses and other swag. We were honored to have Tamara Mellon, Former Chief Creative Officer and Founder of Jimmy Choo on campus for an intimate fireside chat. Other events included women in finance and tech industry panels, a school-wide CBS Matters, a voice empowerment workshop, an admissions webinar and a sponsored happy hour.

Our Leadership Development Team has taken the lead in providing solutions for our State of Women report by renewing our mentoring program.  We provided 80 first years with trained, second year mentors who served as an additional CBS resource.  We also launched a partnership with SELF Magazine to provide even more tools to not only our business school students but to our undergraduate students as well. We also launched our Leadership Circles, which allowed members to spend time reflecting on the things that mattered to them with trained professionals.

Our Events Team held a wide range of events, from community service projects to networking events. Earlier this year, we hosted the CWiB retreat, which provided an opportunity for our members to discuss wellness, building personal brand, and community building. We have also launched our CWiB cohorts, which turned our large organization into micro-communities in order to build deeper, more meaningful relationships.  We have also hosted our Pyramid Dinner and our 5K wellness race in partnership with Girls, Inc. Thanks to our Events team, we offered professional headshots to our members, went to a Broadway Show, honed our golf skills, and visited New York Vintners.

Behind the scenes, our Marketing team worked tirelessly on an exciting rebranding, which included a new website and new social media channels.  The team conducted the marketing for all our events, including Conference and Women’s Week, while maintaining comprehensive Weekly Events emails and strengthening our social media presence.

Our Membership & Finance team launched the first ever CWiB’s Manbassador program.  As part of this program, CWiB invited male members of the CBS community to promote CWiB’s mission of advancing women in business.  In partnership with the Office of Admissions, the team hosted two events specifically for prospective female students and lunches at both Connect events.  CWiB also reached out to every woman admitted to CBS to answer questions and share experiences.

Acknowledgements

The CWiB board went far beyond their requisite duties in order to realize our goal of fostering a lifelong community that enables all of us to achieve our personal and professional aspirations. In particular, we would like to thank our Board, as well as our CWiB Committee Members, for their dedication and tireless efforts to make this year a success.  In addition, thank you to the Faculty, the Admissions Office, the CMC, the Dean’s Office, External Relations, Finance & Operations, OSA, CBS alumni, and our corporate sponsors for their continued support of CWiB.

The community at Columbia Business School is comprised of motivated, accomplished, passionate individuals, and it has been a privilege to work closely with so many of you.  Our connection does not end at graduation, and we encourage each of you to stay engaged with CWiB in the future.  We will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve as Presidents of CWiB.  It was the most rewarding aspect of our experience at CBS.

We know CWiB is in great hands with Sreya Bhattacharya and Aparajita Singh as Presidents and the rest of the incoming board.  We look forward to remaining connected as alumni and seeing all that you accomplish in the coming years!

Yours in service,

Sophia Dadas & Kelly Garnes-Pages

Presidents, Columbia Women in Business

About CWIB

Columbia Women in Business exists to support women to Connect, Advance and Influence. With over 400 members and over 30 events each year, the club fosters a lifelong community that enables all Columbia Business School women to achieve their personal and professional aspirations through programming, mentoring, coaching, and advising that provides education, support, and friendship to our members.

2014-2015 CWiB Board

Kareen Gilmore, VP Careers & Corporate Relations

Feryal Hirji, VP Careers & Corporate Relations

Caroline Kirwin, VP Careers & Corporate Relations

Björg Áskelsdóttir, AVP Careers & Corporate Relations

Divya Goenka, AVP Careers & Corporate Relations

Laura Pouderoyen, AVP Careers & Corporate Relations

Nadia Iqbal, VP Conference

Christiana Kwon, VP Conference

Ruchi Bhambhani, AVP Conference

Jaime Lewis, AVP Conference

Jane Hendrick, VP Events

Marisa Reisman, VP Events

Angela Ma, AVP Events

Temitope Fawibe, AVP Events

Charlotte de Vaal, VP Finance & Membership

Eugenia Gandoy, AVP Finance & Membership

Ashley Hines, VP Leadership Development

Kanyisa Ncemane, VP Leadership Development

Lily Aidem, AVP Leadership Development

Jessica Rogers, AVP Leadership Development

Aparajita Singh, AVP Leadership Development

Kristen Bierfeldt, VP Marketing

Victoria Bresnahan, AVP Marketing

Johanna Singer, VP Women’s Week

Clare Premo, AVP Women’s Week

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CWiB Manbassador Spotlight Edition: Rob Buesing ’16

One of CWiB’s initiatives going forward is to expand and formalize CWiB’s Manbassador program.  As part of this program, CWiB invites male members of the CBS community to promote CWiB’s mission of fostering the advancement of women in business.  Rob Buesing ’16 is one of the CWiB ambassadors.  Below he shares his CBS experience thus far, as well as his reasons for becoming involved with CWiB.

 

Why did you choose to come to CBS?

rob spotlightI decided to go to CBS for both a professional reason and a personal reason. On the professional side, I had worked in investment banking for five years before coming to CBS. While I really loved the people I worked with, at some point I realized I wasn’t as passionate about the work and the career path going forward, so I decided that I wanted to finally make the jump into investment management (which I had been considering for a while). After speaking with some peers and mentors in the industry, I concluded that business school would be a great opportunity to make the transition, and I had heard that CBS has an excellent investment management program. My personal factor that pushed me towards CBS is that my wife attends Columbia’s medical school, so we were pretty clearly tied to the NY area—you can bet I mentioned that in my application essays!

What has been your favorite moment at CBS so far?

The spring break trip I took to Nicaragua with a group of ~40 CBS students was an awesome experience for me—it was the first time in a while that I actually let myself fully relax and live in the moment. I learned how to surf, caught some sunshine, met a bunch of cool new people (and become better friends with many others that I’d already met), and added a couple of new countries to the passport due to a surprise overnight detour in San Salvador!

What has been your favorite class or professor at CBS thus far and why?

I’m just so thrilled to be a student again that it’s hard to pick just one! One class that I’ve really enjoyed is Advanced investment research, taught by Kian Ghazi. It’s a tiny class (7 people) and an absolute ton of work (20-25 hours per week on average), but it’s taught by a practitioner with extensive industry experience and it has been unbelievably helpful in terms of preparing me for a career in investing. Our class last week was held at Sotheby’s HQ, where we had a chance for just our class to meet with the CEO and ask him questions for an hour, which was excellent practice for interacting with management and learning how to ask better questions. Honorable mentions are Greenwald’s Economics of Strategic Behavior, Jick’s Org Change and Duggan’s Napoleon’s Glance– All three of them are extremely compelling lecturers.

Why did you decide to become involved with CWiB?

Believe it or not, I get this question a lot! There are a couple reasons why I decided to join CWIB. First, I think it’s really important for men to be a part of the conversation and be visible advocates for women in the workplace. I truly believe that a lot of the issues around gender inequality in the workplace are due to a carelessness / lack of thought rather than outright malice. Getting men to take that extra step to seek out the opinion of women or seek out qualified female candidates rather than just take the easy way out and hire people exactly like them will benefit all of us, and it’s absolutely crucial for businesses to have a diversity of thought and experience. Another reason I wanted to join is that my mother-in-law, who is a very senior person in the investment management industry, is a huge mentor to me– in fact, a big reason why I’m at CBS in the first place is because of her guidance, so I wanted to honor that in some small way.

What does being an ambassador mean to you?

It means that I’m taking a visible, active stand to make it clear that I want women to feel comfortable taking risks and being leaders. I don’t think it should be a controversial opinion to want women to feel comfortable stepping up and to have all the same opportunities that men do, so I’m glad I can take one tiny step to help progress along!

What woman (CBS or not) inspires you?

I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my life to be surrounded by an amazing group of strong women, so there’s no way I can choose just one. My mother worked her way up from being a court reporter into being one of the top employment lawyers in Florida, and has made it her second mission (along with my dad) to be an advocate for homeless and at-risk youth by opening up their home to teenagers who need a safe place to live in order to graduate high school. My sister went to Yale and is now an extremely well-regarded teacher in an urban school in Jamaica Plain outside of Boston, and on the side she is about to publish a YA novel dealing with themes of social/racial injustice. My mother-in-law worked her way up to being one of the most senior people at her firm (and the only woman on the management team). Finally, my wife has been huge inspiration– she studied music and psychology in college and then, after spending a year teaching music in Italy, she came to the realization that she wanted to be a doctor, so she worked extremely hard for the next few years with a single-minded focus and successfully gained admission to Columbia, one of the top med schools in the country. I am inspired by her passion and ambition every day, and seeing her work so hard every day prevents me from slacking off too much!

What has been most surprising or unexpected about your CBS experience?

Everyone always said business school would be busy, but I definitely underestimated exactly how busy it would be. I think I’ve joined about five clubs for which I’ve yet to attend a single activity. But on the flipside, I am also continually shocked by how many doors are opened by simply saying “I’m a Columbia Business School student, could I ask you a few questions?”

What’s something most of your CBS classmates would be surprised to know about you?

I can sing both Aladdin’s part and Jasmine’s part of “A Whole New World.” (Okay, those of you that know me well might not actually be surprised at this!)

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Announcing the 2015-2016 CWiB Board!

We are pleased to announce the members of the 2015-2016 CWiB Board!

Co-Presidents: Sreya Bhattacharya and Aparajita Singh

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VP of Finance and Membership:  Eugenia Gandoy

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VP of Women’s Week: Natalie Seungyon Han

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VPs of Careers and Corporate Relations:  Divya Goenka; Laura Pouderoyen; Björg Áskelsdóttir

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VPs  of Events:  Christa Williams-Collett and Luiza Cerri

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VPs of Conference:  Jaime Lewis and Ruchi Bhambhani

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VP of Marketing:  Victoria Bresnahan

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VPs of Leadership Development:  Jessica Rogers and Julia Rosenblum

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Spotlight on…Aparajita Singh ’16

photoAparajita Singh is currently one of the AVPs of Leadership Development and Mentoring for CWiB, and she will be one of the 2015-2016 CWiB Co-Presidents.  Below she discusses her CBS experience and what motivated her to become involved with CWiB.

Why did you choose to come to CBS?

I was impressed by the great alumni connection and sense of community within the school. Furthermore, the location was a great draw – the opportunity to stay in New York and continue building on my existing knowledge base and network was unpassable.

What has been your favorite moment at CBS so far?

Orientation week was truly memorable. Everyone from PAs to new students showed great enthusiasm to be part of the Columbia Community.

What has been your favorite class or professor at CBS thus far and why?

I have really enjoyed the Operations and Business Analytics classes. It’s a field I had never formally studied and it’s been great to get an understanding of the topic.

Why did you decide to become involved with CWiB?

I am passionate about the topics related to women in the workplace and hence being involved in CWiB was on top of my agenda from the beginning

What does being a CBS Woman mean to you?

Creating and supporting an environment of equal opportunity and constant learning and improvement

What woman (CBS or not) inspires you?

A former client of mine who is currently, a Senior Director at ADP (and also a CBS alumna) was someone I learnt a lot from. In process of working with her I learnt a great deal about managing yourself as a woman in the workplace as well as best practices of working in time sensitive and high pressure environments.

What has been most surprising or unexpected about your CBS experience?

I have been amazed by the breadth of knowledge all around us – in terms of speakers, club events, office visits etc.

What’s something most of your CBS classmates would be surprised to know about you?

I love cross-country skiing!

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CWiB Around the World: Chazen Indonesia

IMG_20150316_102148For Spring Break I was lucky enough to travel to Indonesia with Chazen. It was an incredible adventure and one of the highlights of my time at CBS so far. I learned far more on the company visits than I anticipated, discovered a whole new culture and made close friends in only a week.  Our trip was uniquely structured in that we started out with the first of three days of company and government visits in Jakarta prior to cultural immersion in Bali. Bali was awesome—Hindu temples, pork feasts, Monkey forests, massages, demon parades, a jungle lodge and the Balinese New Year!—but I’ll focus primarily on our time in Jakarta to give you a taste of the Chazen experience.

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On Sunday, I arrived at the Jakarta airport, and transferred to meet the group. We are staying at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is so amazing and luxurious. I was excited to meet all the people—we were 21 people in total: about an equal split of 1st years and 2nd years. We met up at the mall briefly to get some “formal” batik wear since you can wear them to meetings in lieu of a suit. After that we headed out to dinner at an old mansion; we had a private room and an amazing dinner with a ton of little tastes of lots of Indonesian traditional dishes.

Our first day was incredibly varied: we visited an elementary school, then made the shift to the largest private equity firm, Saratoga Capital. At Saratoga, we spoke with the CEO and founder, who was extremely open and very responsive to all our questions. He and his team talked about investing in Indonesia and then walked through their portfolio companies, and we could jump in with questions whenever we wanted. He was optimistic while still being realistic, and I really enjoyed the mix of investment-specific commentary while still tying in the macro factors that affect investing in Indonesian companies in general. The final meeting of the day was actually in a batik store in an upscale mall with another private equity firm owner. This store is like the Dior of batik, and he invested in it when it was facing bankruptcy, so we were having this discussion in the atelier—some rich women even came in during the presentation to look around with a personal shopper! Their investment thesis is finding mid-tier consumer businesses, banking on a rising consumer class.

On day two, we met with the Governor of Jakarta (more on that later). Next we met a man who works at the Lippo Group, a major conglomerate in Indonesia. Although they impact quite a few verticals, this guy was the grandson of the founder and was working on establishing an e-commerce company to complement the Group’s retail presence. We finished the day speaking with Investor Relations at Mandiri, the country’s largest bank.

Wednesday was the final day of company visits. We started at Astra International, Indonesia’s largest public company by market cap. They primarily specialize in auto, and have exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute several Japanese brands, most notably Toyota. Given the big role of cars and motorcycles (700k additional cars come into Jakarta daily!) this is obviously a crucial sector. From there we drove to meet the Minister of Finance, which if you think about the American equivalent of getting 1.5 hours with the Treasury Secretary, is pretty amazing. We sat around a long table (and I took a pic in his seat before the meeting started!) and he gave us an overview of his thoughts on the macro economy, and then we asked questions. He had a couple of primary concerns: First, the sorry state of entrepreneurship. He wants more Indonesians to start their own companies and isn’t pleased with how few do. The minister also talked a lot about increasing tax compliance: out of 250M people, only about 25M actually pay taxes, and he estimates that only 10M of those are truly compliant. There’s a goal to increase tax revenues by 30%, not by increasing rates but simply by bringing in what’s “technically” due.  It’s an ambitious goal, but entirely necessary if the government wants to carry out the much-needed public works. The final visit of the day was to Kaskus, Indonesia’s largest website. It’s a bit like Reddit, MeetUp and Craig’s List combined.

My favorite meetings were with Saratoga and the Governor. The Governor was extremely candid and open about everything (we walked through his bedroom!), and what he does has a lot of influence over the country’s development since he controls the population center and business center of Indonesia. In this discussion and in all meetings overall, there are a few issues that come up over and over again and are all interconnected in a very complicated way:

  • Infrastructure: this to me feels like the biggest impediment to getting business done. Most evidently, the traffic in Jakarta is crazy. The streets don’t make sense—you have to travel quite a bit in one direction to turn around to get to the other side of the street. We wanted to go to dinner across the street from the hotel and had to take a 25 minute taxi to get there—you can’t walk and we had to drive down a main street in bumper to bumper traffic just to turn around. There are buses, but they aren’t very good and in any case, they are slow. There’s interest in mass transit, but that will take time and major investment. And this is just in the main city. Apparently it takes less time to ship things from Jakarta to Singapore or HK than to another neighboring island because ports, etc. are underdeveloped. In talks with e-commerce players, for example, I don’t know how you develop a business when you can’t ship things to customers.
  • But to pay for this, you need government revenue, and there’s not enough taxes coming in. So you need up enforcement, but that also requires a strong tax base. But…
  • Healthcare and education are also quite poor, and if you are uneducated or sick, you can’t really work and earn money to pay
  • And on top of all this, business and government are notoriously corrupt, so maybe you do all this work to get more money into state coffers but then it’s misused or you try to educate your workforce and they can’t get jobs because they go to the most connected people

Although we only had our visits over three days (usually there are fewer per day but they are spread out over the week, whereas ours were concentrated and front loaded), I feel like we met such a diverse group of people and I learned a TON. I am really impressed with the experience and the business aspect really surpassed my expectations. I’m also impressed with my peers on this trip and how professional and engaged everyone has been. During the meetings people asked really penetrating questions and then once we went on the bus again a lot of those conversations and debates continued. It’s not at all a group that is just here to use the visits as an excuse to travel but rather real intellectual curiosity. That’s not to say that people aren’t funny and out to have a good time, because that’s true too, but it’s just been more rewarding than I thought, and a special CBS experience that feels like something you could only do in business school.

By Clare Premo ’16

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