Meet Columbia Business School’s MBA Class Of 2019

Sam Lamson

Columbia Business School

Describe yourself in 15 words or less:  Ally’s husband, Harriet’s dad, “real straight shooter with upper level management written all over him.”

Hometown:  Mukilteo, Washington (Although I have called seven cities “home” since 2010)

Fun Fact About Yourself:  A lot of people say they are “politics junkies.” I have the evidence to support my claim. I had the honor to serve as a US Senate Page when I was a junior in high school. When the Senate was out of session for an extended recess, our 30-person page class set up, unbeknownst to our teachers, an entire moot senate session. We drafted fake bills, delivered pretend floor speeches, and cast mock votes from the Senate floor. Oddly, as an adult, I have had difficulty recruiting my friends to have another mock Senate session on a Saturday night.

Undergraduate School and Major: Duke University, Bachelors in Political Science (International Relations), Minor in Economics

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

Pre-MBA Intern, Admiral Capital Group

Surface Warfare Officer, US Navy

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: While being a part of high-impact team is part and parcel of serving in the Navy, as a Junior Officer the most rewarding part of my job was the ability to have a positive impact on the lives of individual Sailors. The two-years I spent on USS COLE culminating with a seven month deployment to the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea was, on paper, my biggest professional accomplishment. I reported to the ship as we were starting the training and certification phase to deploy. During my last week on the ship, we pulled into the shipyard for post-deployment maintenance. I felt proud to successfully manage the air defense system through the life cycle of a deployment and see a long-term project through from start-to-finish. As the officer for the division responsible for maintaining the ship’s radar, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out our unbroken streak of being on the Navy-wide Honor Roll for radar performance as a significant accomplishment. Our Captain often reminded us, COLE was the “BEST SHIP IN THE NAVY!!!!”

I am proud of our ship’s operational accomplishments, but when I reflect on my time in the Navy, there were several seemingly small “victories” which cumulatively, make me feel most accomplished. Given my role as a division officer, I was frequently placed in situations where my involvement had a direct impact on a sailor’s life. Advocating for a Sailor’s leave request so they could be in a friend’s wedding, working to get a school request approved that would enhance a sailor’s career, or helping a sailor enroll in distance learning courses, were all relatively simple administrative tasks at the time.  However, these administrative victories all stick out to me as my significant accomplishments because I could see the real impact that they had on my Sailors.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? I began the application process thinking that an MBA was a fixed commodity and that the goal was to simply get into a top program. It was not until I started visiting campuses and listened to actual students share their experience that I realized the real goal was to find the program that fit my personality and aspirations. I was amazed at just how unique each school that I visited was from a campus culture point of view. It is very hard, if not, impossible to learn about the culture of a school from its website or from other outside sources. For me seeing different schools up close let me focus on what was important to me in a business school.

A secondary benefit of visiting campuses is that you make authentic connections with current students who in my experience are very eager to share their point of view with you and are also very generous in helping you throughout the application process. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the numerous people that took time out of their schedule in order to assist me throughout my application process. I think that it is well worth the cost of a vacation day and an airline/train/bus ticket to get to campus before you submit applications.

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? I went to an event at Columbia called “Diversity Matters” and I knew immediately that Columbia was the program for me. Not only was the event held on a Saturday (a college football Saturday nonetheless) and was still very well attended, but it also was entirely student-led. It was apparent to me that Columbia Business School students have a genuine connection to both their institution and their classmates. This genuine connection was apparent to me even as an applicant. For instance, while nearly every peer school has an interview component to the application at Columbia the admissions interviews are conducted exclusively by alumni. To me, that sent a clear message that alumni, many of whom are recent grads, remain committed to their school and its future by taking an active and official role in the admissions process.

Another way this genuine connection manifested itself during the application process was during my discussions with current students. Nearly everyone spoke about an ongoing program at Columbia called “CBS Matters.” During a CBS Matters session, students are invited to share an idea or life story that defines who they are with their clustermates.  It was clear to me that CBS Matters was an important aspect of the program for current students because they felt that it helped them to get to know and understand their classmates and form meaningful connections. Everyone hears that one of the most valuable aspects of an MBA program is the network you build; it makes sense to me that the stronger the individual connections you make, the stronger your network will ultimately be.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? Well, aside from finding a professionally enriching internship that might lead to a fulfilling full-time career, I want to take advantage of everything the CBS community has to offer. One thing that struck me during my visits to all the business schools to which I applied was the sheer number of opportunities available to students. There is an affinity club or professional organization for nearly anything you might be able to think of (except fantasy sports, maybe I’ll start a Sports Analytics Club to fill that need).    It seems like you could fill your entire day with club activities. Add in extra-curricular classes, homework, and recruiting, the time management challenge of business school can be a bit overwhelming. Mot to mention, some of us have significant responsibilities at home (I haven’t checked with my 14 month-old daughter yet, but I don’t think she plans to change her bedtime routine to accommodate midterms or interview prep).

My point is that I realize there will be significant demands on my time during my first year of business school and my goal is to not just manage my time, but to be present in and focused on whatever I am doing at the time I am doing it.  I want my groupmates, professors, recruiters, friends, and family to know that I focus on whatever it is I am doing at that moment. I believe that to “multi-task” is to really just do multiple things poorly at the same time. To get the most out of a relatively short time in business school, I cannot afford to do anything poorly. Developing a sharp focus will not only help me get the most of my business school experience, but also will help me to be a better professional.  MBAs are hired to help solve some of the most complex challenges in the world. I have to imagine that post-MBA supervisors, colleagues, and clients will demand a level of focus and attention that is commiserate with those challenges.

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