Meet Columbia Business School’s MBA Class Of 2020

Michelle Forman

Columbia Business School

Mom to Emily and Jonah. Lover of media and finance. Passionate about balancing career with motherhood.”

Hometown: Bronx, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: My son will be three weeks old when I start CBS.

Undergraduate School and Major:  Columbia College (Columbia University); Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Houlihan Lokey; Vice President TMT Investment Banking

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I worked on the sale of Gawker Media Group, the famous online media company, to Univision for the $135 million purchase price. I managed interactions between Univision and Gawker during the court-approved marketing process and led a team of analysts and associates to manage extensive due diligence from potential buyers.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Passion. The common trait amongst all CBS students that I have met is a passion for driving change in each of their respective fields. Everyone has a specific goal and is dedicated to using all their energy to make sure that goal is achieved.

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? Location. As the media and technology capital of the world, New York is the ideal location for me to pursue my MBA given my deep interest in those sectors. CBS’ NYC location offers endless opportunities to meet industry leaders at top media and technology companies. Through mentoring breakfasts, speaker events, and office visits CBS allows students to build relationships at top tier firms and gain a firsthand experience of how these firms operate. The combination of academic and experiential opportunities in New York that CBS offers fits exactly with what I am looking for in my MBA program. My passion for learning will be served by programs such as CBS’ NYC Media Seminar Series, which will allow me to join in discussions with some of the leading economists working on media topics in the New York area. In addition, applying class-based learning to practical real-life business problems through CBS’ Independent Study Program will prepare me to handle the complex business problems I will certainly face in my post-MBA role at a media or technology company.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Columbia Women in Business (CWIB). Discussing the balance between career and family with CBS’s extensive network of female leaders will be invaluable. As someone who has worked in a male-dominated field for over eight years, I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with other women in finance as well as learning from others about what challenges they have encountered in the workplace.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? An MBA has always been a goal of mine. As I reached Vice President in Investment Banking, I realized I was at a point in my career where leadership and management training were critical components to help me advance and transition to my next career move.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I ultimately decided that the unparalleled access that an MBA provides, both to top tier firms in the finance and media worlds as well as to a network of peer leaders was worth the investment. The unique ability to leverage this network will provide me with a significant competitive advantage as I progress in my career.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? None, I applied early decision to CBS as I knew it was the right program for me.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? While determining fit at various schools, I focused on access to companies and leaders in the media space as well as academics. As someone who is passionate about media and technology, CBS’ location in the heart of NYC was the perfect fit for me. The ability to integrate academics with real life experiences in NYC solidified my decision to apply early decision to CBS. In addition, CBS’ core curriculum and focus on the cluster system was another key aspect that drew me to the program. The connections formed among students through these core classes is unique to CBS and I am sure will be an asset in the future.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? The defining moment in my career happened early on when I was an analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. An associate asked me to build a detailed financial model with various cases for an upcoming pitch. I spent the entire weekend working on it as I was relatively new to excel and financial modeling. By the end of the weekend, I presented my work to the associate, only to be told the pitch had been cancelled. What I learned in that moment in my career was that results come in various forms. While it may have seemed like my work was wasted, in reality this was one of the best learning experiences I had over the course of my career. I had taught myself more about excel, accounting and finance during that weekend than I had learned in all my investment banking training courses.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I plan to seek an operations position at a leading media and technology company.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I want to become the COO of a media or technology business to steer the operational and strategic path of the company. While several sub-sectors within media and technology intrigue me, I am most inclined to eventually land at a children’s-focused digital business.

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