Which school did you attend at Columbia? Why Columbia?
I attended Columbia Business School and did the Executive Program in Management there in 2018. Why Columbia? Because of its influential name, relevant curriculum, and of course its impressive list of alumni. The program I followed was extremely well suited to my needs and wants at the current stage in my life and career.
Could you describe what you do today and is this what you thought you'd be doing while a student at Columbia?
I'm a Vice President of Brand Performance and Sales at a hotel chain in the Middle East. I was working at the same company whilst studying and am still there, though with a larger role.
Has the experience/degree from Columbia enabled you to do what you are doing currently?
The experience at CBS certainly gave me more insight into how to come up with and implement sound strategies. It has also given me a lot of insight into myself - what I'm good at, what I like to do, and how I might use this to transition going forward.
Did you ever envision yourself doing this while pursuing your degree at Columbia?
Well, my job and scope of work have morphed into quite a different position since I finalized my program. I thought that I would've moved to a different company already but for now, I'm still excited about the challenges I'm presented with.
What did you enjoy the most at Columbia?
So many things - the talented professors, the amazing students in my cohort, the feeling that you're part of a world-renowned institution...
Do you have a favorite place on campus?
I must say that I loved sitting on the main steps overlooking the whole campus - always gave a feeling of being part of something larger.
Are there any values that you have gained directly from your time at Columbia University?
Maybe not values that I gained directly - but rather the fact that I need to start living by my values instead of the values imposed by others. That was a valuable lesson that I remind myself of daily.
What else would you like everyone who reads this to know about what you're doing?
I'm currently responsible for the commercial success of a large hospitality corporation - and although numbers matter, the people in the team matter most. It's imperative you treat them the way you want to be treated (using your values) - this ensures long-term success. Get to know the person behind the colleague.
What advice would you give recent alumni who are looking to grow their professional careers? What about current students?
Keep exploring different angles and embrace the fact that becoming a "generalist" is a good thing. You can do this by meeting and hanging out with people that are different from you (nationality or profession etc.) and by reading a variety of stuff. Don't limit yourself to your own beliefs as there's always a grey area of overlap. The more you're exposed to different opinions and different stories, the more you can create amazing individual ways of doing great work. Also - always stay humble!
If you could back into time, is there anything you would do differently as a student at Columbia?
If I would have had the chance to study at Columbia earlier in life - I totally would've! For the short time I did study there I'm quite sure I got the most out of it.
What is your favorite memory of your time at Columbia?
Losing the sense of time due to great professors, my cohort which became friends for life, and the "Jazz Management" class at graduation.
What was your most significant accomplishment during your time at Columbia?
It was tough to navigate a demanding full-time job that required lots of travel whilst studying for my program. But in the end, I succeeded, enjoyed the whole process and I'm proud of that.
How have Columbia alumni played a role in where you are today?
I'm in touch with my cohort on a daily basis and we help each other out with a variety of challenges - both professional as personal. They're truly a great source of inspiration, motivation, and knowledge.
LinkedIn page - https://www.linkedin.com/in/vndevries