Meet Columbia’s MBA Class of 2018


Michelle Repak


Columbia Business School

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: NYC resident for the past five years. Lover of fine liquor, dogs, and shopping.

Hometown: Churchville, PA

Fun Fact About Yourself: To help support our brands and accounts, my job gave me an allowance to buy alcohol.

Undergraduate School and Major: Muhlenberg College, Allentown PA.  Major in Mathematics, Minor in Accounting

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Edrington Americas, luxury spirits company (owner of Macallan Single Malt Scotch) – various positions on corporate & commercial finance teams

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I joined my company relatively soon after college, when we had a very small presence in the US. I was employee #26 at Edrington Americas, which after four years now has more than 140 employees.  Within my second year, we tripled in size from 40 to 120!  Being one of the few people in the corporate office during a time of rapid growth, I had my hands in a lot of projects and was exposed to a startup environment with substantial funding from our Scottish parent.  At 23, I set up an expense reporting system and onboarded the entire company, which was a big accomplishment of mine relatively early in my career.

Years later, shortly after switching from corporate finance to commercial finance, I implemented a pricing system and traveled across the US to train our sales team how to use it.  Given that I was relatively new to brands finance and pricing strategies, I was proud of myself for being able to quickly pick up not only a side of finance that is quite complex in the liquor world, but the pricing system’s IT side as well.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants?

  • When looking for b-schools, be yourself and find a place where you think you truly fit. If your interview is with an alumnus, interview them as well.  You want to get a good feel for the actual school experience before committing to two years.
  • Go with your gut.
  • Talk to admissions. Get a feel for what they are looking for and ask yourself – is this me?
  • Study for the GMAT and take it seriously the first time. You can always retake it, but it is an amazing feeling getting it right the first time! My advice is to know your study patterns and set the date of the exam first. With a set date in mind, I found it easier to get myself to study and prepare following the timeline I initially set.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? I wasn’t completely set on going back to school full-time until after I took the GMAT, as I wasn’t positive what I wanted my career path to be. After the exam, I realized full-time could be a worthwhile investment for me and I began to research various b-school criteria. I prioritized student community and location: I really wanted to learn and grow alongside classmates who could become my lifelong friends, and I fantasized about living in Cali for 2 years. However, NYC is my home and I knew post-MBA I would want to return.

What initially attracted me to Columbia’s program was the networking opportunities available during school by staying in NYC, and their Retail/Luxury Goods program (an area I am highly interested in). I went to a few info sessions on campus to learn more – one on both the full-time and EMBA programs. Between talking to students and admissions staff, I really felt like I fit in with the full-time program. Doing CBS full-time gives me the ability to immerse myself in Retail/Luxury Goods classes in the fashion capital of the world, while still keeping my options option to explore other fields.  Since I’m not 100% committed to one particular career path, I like that NYC gives me access not just to the cream of the crop in luxury retail, but almost every other industry as well.

I was nervous to apply to CBS at first since it was so late in the Class of 2018 admit process (applications are due by mid-April and I submitted mine the last day of February), but I explained my particular situation in my application, and it worked out perfectly!  I made it clear that CBS was my top (only, for that matter) choice for Fall 2016 start date.  If I didn’t get in this time, I planned to try again as early decision for Fall 2017.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? Short term, I would like to go into general management consulting with a focus on large retail/CPG companies. CBS has a great reputation among large consulting firms, and McKinsey, BCG, and Bain are some of their top employers of MBA grads. Getting my feet wet as a consultant would expose me to a variety of companies and give me invaluable experience I can use for my entire career.

Long term, I would love to move into luxury retail, perhaps in the beauty industry. I’m not sure which function I’d enjoy most, but I have an interest in supply chain as well as brand management.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? I’d like to be fondly remembered as a positive presence, both in and out of the classroom.  I hope my legacy is that of an outgoing, valuable team member who took advantage of her time at CBS and made lasting friendships within my cluster and beyond. I’m also hoping to start a whisky club!