Meet Columbia Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Joy Payton-Stevens

Columbia Business School

“Life-long learner, dog lover, accidental coffee snob, podcast obsessed.”

Hometown:  Cleveland, OH

Fun Fact About Yourself:  I rode a camel named Big John. We were friends.

Undergrad School and Major:  University of Southern California, Music Performance (Cello)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:  Seattle Symphony, Section Cellist

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Winning a few Grammys with the Seattle Symphony.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Genuinely helpful. Every fellow MBA candidate I have met so far has gone out of his or her way to offer advice and take the time to chat with me about their experiences and ambitions.

What is the best part of coming to New York City to earn your MBA? The culture. This city never sleeps, and it has a bit of everything you could want. I am surrounded by all different types of people, many different activities, lots of great food, and access to varied businesses and industry leaders.

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 chose Columbia because of the character of the candidates.  I visited the campus and attended an info session. I spoke with some alum and current students and the vibe I got consistently was friendly, while still being competitive. It was the energy I was looking for.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m most looking forward to joining the Social Enterprise Club. it will be great to connect with like-minded students and discover the best path forward for a career with impact.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I honestly can’t remember, sorry!  There were several schools applied to and lots of different questions!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I realized I wanted more direct control over my career and the work I do to have more of a tangible positive impact on the world.  Pursuing an MBA seemed like the best way to immerse myself in the knowledge I needed to move in this new direction.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Columbia and USC, but I also applied to a few different types of programs at other schools.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I knew I wanted to go to school only in either Los Angeles or New York. I then got as much info about the student body as possible by visiting the campus and speaking with students and alums. Really, it came down to things that were intangible, just the energy and the vibe that felt right. Also, I had never lived in New York so just being here in the city adds to the experience I can draw from later.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? One of my defining moments was when I won my first orchestral job with the Charlotte Symphony. I had prepared for the audition in a very methodical manner, planning out each day of practice for a 6-week period of time and having to be patient with incremental progress when things weren’t ‘perfect’ along the way. I had to keep a level head through the nerves on the day of the audition. I had no idea how I compared to the other candidates, so I just had to be satisfied competing against myself and doing my own personal best. Regardless of the result of the audition, I would have been proud of myself, as it was the first time I committed to a methodical approach and I could feel the effectiveness of it.  It was the first time I really understood how my brain works, and how I can perform best. The process provided skills and insights that are transferrable to many different areas of life.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years I would like to be running a company that tackles seemingly intractable problems. Every problem has a solution.

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