The Pioneering MBAs In The Class Of 2019

Celine Tarrant  

Columbia Business School 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Lover of all things retail. Passionate about health, wellness and advancing women in the workplace.

Hometown: Toronto, Canada

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once went volcano boarding in Nicaragua. It involved hiking up a live volcano and then throwing myself down the other side on a wooden sled at 30 mph!

Undergraduate School and Major: Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada), Bachelor of Commerce

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

Walmart Canada – D.A.R.E. Associate (Rotational Leadership Program) (2014-2015)

Walmart Canada – Associate Category Manager, Ladies Athleisure Apparel (2015 – 2016)

Walmart Canada – Manager, Pricing Decision Support (2016 – 2017)

BRIKA (VC-backed retail startup) – Merchandising & Operations (Pre-MBA Internship) (2017)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In my most recent role at Walmart Canada, I joined a new team working on a strategic project to enable our merchants to use data to make strategic and informed pricing decisions for the first time. This was a fundamental change to the way our buying organization operated. I had to wear many different hats, doing everything from training to change management to getting my hands dirty in the data. At just 23, I was also one of the youngest managers in the company at the time.

I led the roll-out of our suite of proprietary pricing analytics tools, processes and metrics to over 100 associates, including developing and delivering over 25 hours of classroom training, achieving a 95% approval rating. I acted in an advisory role to our merchant team (a portfolio worth $13B in annual revenue) by providing analytics and recommendations to execute price strategies.

While it was not nearly as much fun as being a ladies fashion buyer, it was amazing to learn how a huge company can turn on a dime when it needs to, how to be an effective driver of change, and how to influence people at all levels of an organization.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants?  A little self-awareness goes a long way! Go through the entire application and be brutally honest with yourself about what your strengths and weaknesses are – then spend your time accordingly. For example, I knew I had a weak quant profile since my undergrad GPA (especially quant classes) were a weak point for me. I overinvested time in boosting my GMAT quant score which definitely paid off. Additionally, I took on lots of quantitative challenges at work and this came through in my recommendation from my boss. I knew my work experience and leadership profile were solid and I had a few very meaningful extracurriculars. I didn’t waste any time trying to do random volunteer work or accrue last-minute accolades.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Retail is my passion and I plan to stay in the industry long-term. What made Columbia so attractive was access to the best of retail across many different segments (mass, luxury, online) and many of the hottest retail startups. I love that I can do school-year internships at some of the companies I admire so much! At the same time, as a younger candidate, I am interested in consulting as a way to get exposure to more types of business problems and different geographies. This would also allow me to make a functional move within the retail industry in the future (into corporate strategy) if I want to. Columbia was the only school where I felt I could pursue both paths to the fullest extent without stretching myself too thin. Receiving a significant merit award definitely didn’t hurt either!

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school?  I would consider my first year to be a success if I have done everything possible to spend time with and learn from my classmates. I still can’t believe how accomplished some of my peers are and I can’t wait to be able to tap into their experiences. On a personal note, I hope to share my passion for health and fitness as a way to empower yourself, manage stress and bond with like-minded people. I started a pretty successful “sweatworking” (networking + working out) event series in Toronto and I would love to get something similar going at CBS!