Meet Columbia Business School’s MBA Class Of 2019

Simone Hill 

Columbia Business School 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Software engineer, writer and wannabe food critic. Doing my own thing on my own terms.

Hometown: Atlanta, GA (depends on your definition of home, I moved around a lot as a kid and went to boarding school so I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world…or at the very least the east coast).

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve made a small appearance in a music video.

Undergraduate School and Major: Princeton University, Anthropology

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: 

Conde Nast (Vogue) — Junior Engineer, Front End Engineer

The Flatiron School — Pre-College Instructor

XOGroup (The Knot) — Editorial Assistant, Assistant Editor

Story to College (now Story2) — Community Coordinator and Instructor

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Making the transition from being a writer to being a software engineer. This transition didn’t happen overnight. Depending on your perspective, you could say it happened when I wrote my first line of code, graduated from my coding boot camp, got my first job offer, or when I completed my first solo project. The defining moment when I internally acknowledged what I’d achieved came after just six months of working at Vogue when my manager started discussing my promotion to front-end engineer. This was almost exactly a year after I’d left a completely different career writing about weddings as an Assistant Editor for and enrolled into a twelve-week coding boot camp at the Flatiron School. At the time, I was struggling with a serious case of imposter syndrome. It seemed like the more I learned, the more aware I became of how much more there was to learn and how little I knew. Getting that promotion was the first moment when I really felt that I wasn’t just barely staying afloat, but that I was actually a capable engineer.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? In your essays, tell your story. Trust me, I struggled with how to do this and I used to work with high school students to help them pull personal stories from their lives to write their college application essays. It was so tempting to rattle off my career goals and accomplishments in my essays. I had drafts where I did just that. Upon re-reading those drafts, I wasn’t inspired or excited to submit them and I knew anyone who read them would feel the same. While those initial drafts were factual, they weren’t an accurate portrayal or representation of who I was and all of the things I bring to the table that aren’t as easily articulated. I ended up writing about my dad, my grandfather, and a childhood memory that just kept coming to mind and wouldn’t go away. I also found it challenging to think of anecdotes that encapsulated all the qualities I wanted to convey to admissions. Instead, I thought strategically about what I wanted to highlight that may not come through in other aspects of my application.

I don’t know if it’s what I wrote in my essays that lead to my acceptance. What I can say is that weaving in personal moments and stories made writing my essays easier. It felt more natural and fluid to write about what I’d experienced and reflect on those moments that were so formative and how they lead me to apply to business school.

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? My interests and background lay at the intersection of fashion, tech and digital media. Columbia Business School is well-positioned geographically for my specific interests and offers unparalleled access to the companies and people at the forefront of innovation. The tech industry is very social and open to the sharing of ideas and expertise. My goal is to find a way to bring my business school and tech communities together through both extracurricular organizations and by continuing to attend the multitude of conferences and meet-ups to stay engaged with the New York City tech scene.

In my search for the MBA program that would suit my career aspirations, I looked for a business education that melds more traditional learning styles with an interactive experience that will prepare me for the real world challenges of running a product team or business. Access to courses and resources like Lean Launchpad and the start-up lab have heavily influenced my interest in pursuing my MBA at CBS. Entrepreneurial-focused offerings, like the two noted above, offer the opportunity to gain crucial hands-on experience and put myself in the mindset of a business founder.

In addition, initiatives like CBS Matters, where students present about their lives and passions to peers, also made me feel CBS embraced the variety and diversity that students brought to the table beyond their professional persona.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school?  Success for me would be finding fulfillment and happiness in a career where I’m able to work creatively and think strategically on a daily basis and leverage my skills as a communicator and problem solver. I’m most engaged when I’m helping build or fix an application, feature or tool that inspires, delights, and empowers its user. At the moment, the career path that most speaks to my interests and passions is product management. A product management facing role would allow me to tap into the unique and diverse set of skills I’ve carefully cultivated throughout my career.

The ultimate measure of success for me is not just what I can achieve as an individual, but whether I’ve enabled others to achieve their own success as well. That means being a leader in challenging the status quo in the tech industry to support and empower other women and people of color. My goal throughout my careers is to more deeply understand the social and structural dynamics hindering equity and justice in the workplace so that I may work towards identifying and dismantling those barriers.