Real Humans: Columbia Business School’s Executive MBA

Alex Zhang, Columbia Business School, Executive MBA

School and Program: 

Columbia Business School Executive MBA Program


Xi’an, China

Alex Zhang, Columbia Business School, Executive MBA

Undergraduate Institution & Major: 

Northern Arizona University, Finance

Pre-MBA Work Experience:

7.5 years in finance. (Banking, Credit Ratings, Private Credit Investing)

Why Business School?  Why Now?

In the beginning, attending business school was my ‘next big goal’ after I completed my CFA journey. Then I realized I needed to expand my network beyond other finance professionals. Business school is a perfect way to open up my horizon. I wanted to meet other people from different professional backgrounds. That’s why I decided to apply to business school.

Why did you pick your school/program? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?

When Columbia Business School says ‘at the very center of business’, they really mean it. The fact that CBS is located in NYC is an important factor. Especially for an EMBA program, CBS enables me to keep working in the city while attending school. It’s a clear winner.
Having friends who went to the school also helped. Several former colleagues and close friends attended Columbia. When I spoke to them, all of them spoke highly of the school. The outstanding professors, the impressive career management center. I knew CBS was the right choice.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to your graduating class?

Probably the fact I am planning a career change through attending Columbia Business School. Some students switch jobs during the program, while few decide to change careers. I started a sustainable consumer products company while in school. Transitioning from wall street to being an entrepreneur is a very big and interesting change. My most valuable contribution to my class would be showing fellow classmates that this is a possibility, too.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?

Starting my own company as a result of the MBA.  When I applied, I was considering staying in Finance or switching to IT, not becoming an entrepreneur!

Post-MBA Career Interest:

Continuing to manage a successful startup!

Advice to current prospective applicants:

Join Columbia Business School! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Be confident because you bring something interesting to the table. The community will become better because of you.

What is your initial impression of the school’s students/culture/community?

It’s very diverse. If you are interested in hedge funds, you will find people who can’t stop talking about long-short strategies; If you are interested in entrepreneurship, you will find successful founders in the alumni list; Whatever your heart desires, you will find like-minded people and a GREAT community here.


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