Meet Columbia Business School’s MBA Class Of 2020

Rona Matthew

Columbia Business School

I’m a brand consultant, artist whisper and global citizen.”

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Fun Fact About Yourself:When I was 13 I broke into a toy store to meet Michael Jackson. Well, technically I didn’t break in, but snuck through back doors, stairwells etc.

Undergraduate School and Major: Howard University, B.B.A. Marketing

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

Brandpulse, Owner and Brand Consultant

Bamboo Network, Head of Business Development

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Building with Bamboo Network, the fastest growing brand-innovation agency in Africa.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? My CBS classmates are very complex. They are superstar over-achievers, from all of the world, ready to tackle a demanding curriculum in a hyper active city, while somehow maintaining a warmth that makes anything possible.

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 was everything. Due to my commitment to music marketing and artist enterprise, I knew I had to participate in the action by being near NYC or LA.  As I visited schools and investigated various programs, I recognized that CBS had a material emphasis on global citizenship, which deeply resonated with me. Further, my experience with the CBS faculty and larger community of alum created safe spaces that were both encouraging and warm. That balance of maintaining humanity within a highly competitive environment was exactly what I was looking for.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school?I am eager to get involved in the Black Business Student Association. While visiting CBS, I had a number of interactions with BBSA members and even attended an event. The BBSA is much more than a club, it is a support system that invests in creating a culture of inclusion and showcases a diverse and refreshing display of Columbia’s excellence.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After spending eight years in Marketing within Africa’s economic hub, Johannesburg, I felt that it was time to fully immerse myself into broader business concepts, primarily: advanced analytics, product management and corporate finance.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? After doing a brief cost benefit analysis, all roads lead me to business school. Coming from the world of entrepreneurship and start-ups, the semi-organized nature of business school was key for me to refine and stretch my skills.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? USC and George Washington

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Location. Location. Location. It was critical to place myself at the center of not only business, but also entertainment, music and tech – which is why I was drawn to NYC or LA. Regarding everything else, CBS stood out to me at every interaction, be it with faculty at recruitment events in South Africa, to my campus visit, and numerous conversations with alumni.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? After five years of working in South Africa, primarily as brand consultant, a new client contracted me with an unusual brief, to “create the iTunes (Apple Music) of Africa.” That moment changed my life forever.  Prior to that point, I found myself in an industry that was not directly feeding into my ultimate goal of being a leading woman in music and entertainment. Two years later, after researching in London, pulling all-nighters in Johannesburg, and pitching in New York City, the investor tensions became bigger than the project. Although I walked away devastated that people never experienced the music app we prototyped, I was grateful to have reaffirmed my passion and desire to pursue a career in music tech and artist enterprise.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? Help musicians define, design and sustain their careers using technology. I plan to join a music streaming company within a role that allows me to truly support artists. Streaming platforms harness rich data analytics that provide insight into touring, marketing and general growth opportunities that can dramatically increase an artist’s revenues. I believe artists need more advocates that have the business savvy and genuine desire to enhance their talent, but most importantly, their bottom-line.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Continuing my mission to design an artist-forward music business. I believe, when artists are more empowered, it results in better content, greater demand, increased incentives and a reduced risk of malpractice. Once the music industry moves beyond the fan-first, algorithm-obsessed mindset, we will realize the full potentials of its profits while also protecting its most valuable asset.

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