Real Humans: Columbia Business School’s Executive MBA

Maria Villaquiran, Columbia Business School, Executive MBA

School and Program: 

Columbia Business School Executive MBA Program


New York, NY

Maria Villaquiran, Columbia Business School, Executive MBA

Undergraduate Institution & Major: 

The George Washington University – Bachelor in Business Administration

Pre-MBA Work Experience:

Prior to joining Columbia Business School, I had over 7 years of experience in the financial services industry, serving global banking and capital markets in the areas of risk, regulatory compliance, and anti-money laundering. In EY’s Technology Consulting practice, I am specialized in helping financial institutions improve their KYC processes utilizing emerging technologies. I had significant experience with international regulatory law regarding CIP, CDD/EDD, beneficial ownership, and ongoing customer monitoring. I have assisted multiple global financial institutions in the implementation of KYC policy for 50+ jurisdictions and workflow configuration into EY’s Platform with automation capabilities to assist analysts in performing due diligence reviews. I have worked with EY clients in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States.

Why Business School?  Why Now?

Today is all about managing speed and risk. I’m at the forefront by helping clients keep pace with today’s digital world, evolving regulatory environment, and ongoing operational cost pressures. As a transformational leader, I’m leveraging emerging technologies and my regulatory compliance expertise to create winning teams that drive value for EY, my clients, and the financial services industry. Over the next 3-5 years, I want to advance to the next phase of my consulting career. To accelerate my career goals, I believe earning an Executive MBA degree from Columbia Business School will allow me to foster innovative thinking, break boundaries in the technology space across several markets, and establish business value for myself and EY. Through a rigorous academic experience, I will be able to develop my core business skills to anticipate change and recognize opportunities with speed and accuracy. The academic exposure and accomplished network will also deepen my existing knowledge allowing me to apply creative solutions in real-time that will position my clients in the future of work, through product development, innovation in technology, and business strategy. CBS will contribute to the advancement of my career as a leader at EY in financial services as I will learn unique perspectives, approaches, and solutions to drive business growth and run a business successfully with the highest performing teams.

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

I mainly selected Columbia Business School for two main reasons: 1) Dynamic academic experience and 2) Entrepreneurial mindset. I wanted to develop strategic business management and growth skills that can anticipate change and opportunities in the market, deepen leadership and business skills through program curriculum and experiences and cultivate relationships that can expose new ideas, challenge thinking, and increase network footprint. Moreover, as a consultant, I knew I had to figure out a way to develop an entrepreneurial mindset to create and capture market opportunities with speed and accuracy, learn about disruptive perspectives, approaches, and solutions to face this competitive environment, and acquire skills to create new business models that leverage business strategy and economic aspects to ensure our existing success continues into the future. CBS offered everything I was looking for when compared to the other executive MBAs in the northeastern US.

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

I have a huge passion for diversity and inclusion, leading me to promote cultural initiatives inside and outside the classroom. I truly believe there is power in diversity, but more importantly, in making sure everyone feels heard, appreciated, and part of a community. As such, I believe this is my most valuable contribution to our graduating class – an inclusive community of diverse people looking to make an impact in this world.

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

I have traveled to over 40 countries and lived in 6!

Post-MBA Career Interest:

As I continue my growth at EY, my long-term dream job is to become a transformational change agent for top companies in the world. I have managed change across my industry and I recognize that there are huge shifting forces in the regulatory compliance space, forcing organizations to quickly adapt and manage cutting-edge technology. I want to be a leader that can quickly draw from academic and professional experiences to come up with new solutions and look at changes in the market as an opportunity for growth. More importantly, I want to make companies challenge their operating models and see how they can leverage technology to become proactive, versus reactive, to today’s complex business environment. To do this, I will be leveraging my MBA degree to clearly understand how companies operate and leverage my peers’ expertise and their experiences to enhance my design thinking skills.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

Make sure to visit/engage with current students and try to audit a class. I remember I was trying to choose between different MBA options and what ultimately made me select Columbia Business School was that I was able to audit a class and engage with students. I felt like the individuals taking the class could all be my best friends and the professor was very engaging making the class discussion very impressive and interactive.

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

Our class started the program in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and I could not be more proud of Columbia Business School for taking the strong stance to make our program Hybrid/flex where other MBA programs simply decided to move everything remotely. It truly showed me that no matter how tough everything was around us, CBS was willing to take a risk and try to provide us the ability to learn in person for those who were willing to be in person. The students are simply the best people I have ever met – strong, independent business leaders who are constantly thinking of how to better themselves and engage in the business world to create impact. I’m so proud of the diverse class CBS put together because a huge aspect of the MBA experience is connecting with your classmates to build a network. Overall, my CBS experience has allowed me to appreciate the time we have together in and out of the classroom. I look forward to continuing to engage with the CBS community during the last year of my EMBA and beyond.

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