Meet Columbia Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Malida Tadesse

Columbia Business School

“Ethiopian-American who’s lived in NYC, Seattle, Maryland and, most recently, Nairobi.”

Hometown: North Potomac, Maryland

Fun Fact About Yourself: Left-handed.

Undergraduate School and Major: Columbia University, Economics-Mathematics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Bandwidth and Cloud Services Group (BCS), Strategic Projects Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I successfully grew a business in East Africa, having not worked previously outside of the US. I’m proud that I was able to manage teams to enter new markets and develop new internal processes, learn on the job, and develop extreme cultural competency­—quickly!

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Diverse – my cluster includes students from Japan, China, Lebanon, USA, Russia, Brazil, and Spain. The group has worked across nearly every industry you can imagine, from financial services to journalism to retail and telecommunications (me!). Diversity has been touted to the point of becoming cliché, but I’m amazed by how true it is at CBS.

What is the best part of coming to New York City to earn your MBA? NYC attracts high-achieving, diverse set of people who are seeking to expand their horizons by coming to a city like New York. This robustness extends to the faculty; we are exposed to adjunct professors who are established in their own industries thanks to this location.

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? Columbia is more global than any other institution. I wanted to join a business school that would expand my knowledge of the world’s businesses and leaders. I am most interested in having impact in Africa and learning from other students who have worked outside of the US as well as from faculty who have experience both within and outside of the US.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? FinTech and Private Equity – these are industries that interest me but that I have only limited understanding.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? A question from Columbia’s application: “What is your dream job?” I think we stop dreaming in exchange for plans, outlines, etc. This question made me go back to child-like state and declare what I hoped for myself. Putting that dream to paper was so significant to me.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I wanted to gain exposure to different industries beyond my own. Prior to CBS, I worked in Retail at Amazon.com and then in strategy and growth for a telecommunications firm in Nairobi, Kenya. I have come to understand my leadership style better through classroom learning and activities and clubs offered only through the school context.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Wharton, Harvard, Berkeley Haas, Northwestern Kellogg, and MIT Sloan

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Visiting schools in person and meeting with alumni in my network were the two most helpful ways to gather data on schools. I cared most about attending a school that emphasized preparing its students for global business and that attracted talent from around the world. In visiting campus, it becomes quite clear which schools are highly US-centric. It was important to me to join a school that would open doors wherever my dreams may take me.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? It was when I decided to leave my first job (mind you, a very promising trajectory at a large tech company!) to take a few months off, move to my parent’s house, and then embark on a new career in Nairobi. I learned to take a leap of faith, listen to my own inner voice, and create a path where it did not exist. The experience taught me the power of following our intuition and living life on our own terms.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Running a medium-sized business whose purpose is to enable economic empowerment across the African continent. I also want to serve as an example to other women of color; to serve as living proof that girls can run the world!

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