Meet Columbia Business School’s MBA Class Of 2020

Carlos Zarazua

Columbia Business School

Goal-oriented Panamanian Texan who is interested in healthcare and enjoys painting, travelling, and eating.”

Hometown: Panama City, Panama / San Antonio, Texas

Fun Fact About Yourself: I grew up working in my family’s restaurant.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Notre Dame (Finance and Economics)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Manager – Business Valuation at VMG Health in Dallas, Texas

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I believe my biggest accomplishment in my career was being a successful mentor to the analysts I trained when they would join my previous company. Being able to connect with them and answer any questions they had while watching them grow through the company and become strong performers always gave me a great feeling. I feel that the opportunity to train those who started after me really helped me become a stronger performer as well, and I learned a lot about my management style during my time at VMG.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I feel like everyone I have met at CBS so far is very goal-oriented and driven, but also down-to-earth and humble. Most people seem to get along, and it has been very easy to connect with my other classmates and learn from them through the few classes we have taken so far. My cluster (Cluster A!) is very active in class discussion, but we are also very respectful of each other’s opinions, creating an amazing culture within our cluster that enables others to participate as well.

Aside from your classmates, 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? The one biggest factor that led me to choose this program over some other programs I was looking at was the ability to explore many different career options in the city of New York. This city has every industry you could possibly think of. With the way our classes and schedules are set (no Friday classes, availability of block week classes every semester), it is easy to take a lighter load certain semesters and have an in-semester internship in the city. The school provides amazing resources to help find internships as well, so it was a no-brainer when I really thought about my desire to explore different career options.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am really looking forward to joining the Latin American Business Association (LABA). I hear they have the best parties, and I am really excited to connect to my Latin heritage while being able to share it with my classmates from other parts of the world.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I always knew I wanted to pursue an MBA at some point. I had a successful run at my previous company and just felt like it was time to make a change before I ran out of time. I had a really close relationship with my director and managing director, so it was hard to tell them I was looking to leave the company, but they were very supportive of my decision and agreed to write my recommendation letters as well.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Honestly, it was a harder decision than I thought it would be because I had a pretty great life in Dallas and worked with some amazing people at VMG. However, pursuing an MBA was something I had always wanted to do, so I really had to step back and look at what was best for me. I spoke with a lot of people who were getting or had already gotten their MBA to get their advice, and all of them agreed that it was one of the best investments they had ever made. When I began to receive some scholarship offers, that helped solidify my decision as well.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Yale School of Management

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Going to the admit weekends was what solidified my decision for me. I had a preconceived idea of what certain schools were like based on stereotypes and what was available online, but actually being there and meeting your future classmates is the most helpful thing you can do when trying to decide between schools. I was between three schools in the end. While they all have great career centers and would’ve all been great for my career goals, their cultures were vastly different. After visiting all of the schools for their admit weekends, CBS is where I really felt like I connected with my classmates. After my visits, I realized that a lot of the people I had connected with at some of the other schools actually ended up picking different schools, whereas everyone I met at Columbia ended up committing to Columbia, so that really helped me feel like I made the right choice.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I had more of a defining few years. I would say growing up in a low-income household and working with the rest of my siblings in my family’s restaurant really shaped who I am today. It taught all of us the importance of having a strong work ethic and showed us how much our parents worked to give us as much as they possibly could. My mom is from Panama, so moving to the U.S. was a struggle for her originally, but seeing how she had overcome so many obstacles to give her family the best life possible really encouraged the rest of us to strive to be the best versions of ourselves.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I am currently taking the first few weeks to really explore different career options because you rarely get a chance like this to take a step back and explore what is important to you. Coming from the health care industry, I am interested in looking at some health care options as well as consulting options.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I see myself successfully moving up in the company I am working for, continuing to mentor and motivate those who come after me to make a great impact on not just the company but those individuals as well.

Meet the Class of 2020 Series

London Business School

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School

University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business

MIT Sloan School of Management

Columbia Business School

Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business

Yale School of Mnnagement

University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

New York University’s Stern School of Business

Emory’s Goizueta School of Business

Washington University’s Olin Business School



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