Meet the MBA Class of 2021: The Go-Getters

Anna Tsilidou

Columbia Business School

“25-year-old global citizen, always trying to add value and help others realize their potential.”

Hometown: Alexandroupolis, Greece

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have visited over 35 countries in 5 continents (including a one-month backpacking trip across Cuba just before President Obama’s visit).

Undergraduate School and Major: Finance and Accounting, major in Finance, University of Macedonia, Greece

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

SignedBlock, Strategy & Business Development

McKinsey & Company, Business Analyst

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Together with the right technical partners, I co-founded a company offering blockchain technology solutions and consulting services. Leading the Strategy and Business development area, I negotiated sizeable agreements including a blockchain implementation by the National Bank of Greece, the first in the country.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? A couple of months ago, I organized the class trip to Greece as part of the CBS World Tour. Luckily for me, the trip was very popular with students and I got a chance to spend a week with classmates from all walks of life. I was so relieved to find out that, contrary to the stereotype, they were all humble, down-to-earth people who would go out of their way to help you.

What is the best part of coming to New York City to earn your MBA? I realized that New York is the very center of business when I visited the city for the first time two years ago as part of a business trip. This visit came to my mind when I was discussing business schools with a mentor who is a CBS alumnus; I could clearly understand what he meant when he described the value of studying in a city where people consciously chose to live and build their businesses, instead of a remote, detached campus.

What is more, people seem to agree that New York is not only the very center of business, but also the very center of the world. The unique vibe of the city, with the multicultural experience and the stimulation that it can offer, will inspire me and allow me to grow in ways I cannot foresee.

Aside from your classmates and location, 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 am interested in technology and the tech scene in New York is one of the fastest-growing globally. The upcoming expansion of big tech companies only adds to the steady increase of innovative start-ups in the city. Being so close to those organizations throughout the course of the MBA program (instead of only a couple of summer months) is a huge privilege that will allow me to build long-lasting relationships early on. The Columbia coursework is cleverly designed around this feature to encourage hands-on learning, while discussions with business practitioners are held on a regular basis.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am mostly interested in the clubs around technology (Columbia FinTech, Data Analytics Club, Technology Business Group), and (of course) Columbia Women in Business is a must!

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “Why now?” Since I am on the young side for an MBA (25, with 3 years of full-time work experience), I had to demonstrate that I am mature enough to have a very clear idea of what I want to achieve with this experience.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? As soon as I started working in management consulting, I saw the impact that a top MBA had on my colleagues. Back to the “Why now?” question, I knew the time for an MBA was right when I had decided on the industry where I wanted to focus (technology) and I couldn’t take my career to the next level without the skills, network, and resources that a top MBA can provide. I believe a useful question for anyone thinking about getting an MBA is “Do I want to change industry, function, or geographical location – or a combination of the three?”

What other MBA programs did you apply to? MIT, Stanford, Kellogg

How did you determine your fit at various schools? This is a very good question; I feel that students (including myself when I started the admission process) underestimate the importance of fit.

Personally, I prioritized the following factors and used the following resources for information.

  1. Career goals. I read employment reports for a number of years from each school to understand the employment trends in the various industries. Also, LinkedIn can be very useful in seeing the career progression of recent graduates.
  2. University culture. I read student interviews on various websites and blogs (including Poets & Quants) and talked to students and alumni from all the schools I applied in order to understand the culture.
  3. University network. Especially for international students, it is important to know the footprint of the university in one’s home country. Try to see how active are the alumni clubs and how many people work in organizations you look up to from each university.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? A defining period was the last year of my undergrad program when I interned in P&G in Geneva and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in Athens, leading to a full-time position with McKinsey.

Raised in a small city in northern Greece, I chose to study at the University of Macedonia to be closer to my family. Located 500 kilometers north of Athens, my university was not considered a “target school” and, in fact, I was the first person from the University of Macedonia to work for BCG, McKinsey, and P&G. As a proud ambassador of my university, I’m really happy that since my time in P&G and McKinsey, a significant number of University of Macedonia graduates have been employed by those organizations. What is more, it was the knowledge and skills that I acquired during my time with those organizations that allowed me to build up my own company.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I would like to work in strategy and operations at a large technology company. The past year, I spent some months working in Mozambique, which made me very much interested in projects that increase access to technology in developing countries.

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