2020 Best & Brightest: Zachary Lopez, Columbia Business School

Zachary Lopez

Columbia Business School

“Hardworking, honest, and intellectually curious- Determined to positively contribute to society.”

Hometown: Pacoima, California

Fun fact about yourself: I have driven cross country 4 times. The fastest I ever did it was 2.5 days.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Microelectronic Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? General Atomics and Affiliated Companies, Senior Engineering Cost Account Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? JP Morgan Private Bank, Beverly Hills, CA

Where will you be working after graduation? Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, San Francisco, CA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President of Hispanic Business Association
  • VP of Alumni for the Columbia Student Investment Management Association

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of creating the Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration program. This was the first time we have ever created programming for Hispanic Heritage Month. We were able to have Marty Chavez, Ex-CFO of Goldman Sachs, be out keynote speaker for the event. This event was the first time that CBS has engaged in Hispanic Heritage Month Programming.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While I was an engineer, I am most proud of being able to help design the advanced cockpit for the Predator Drone. I was able to help design the newest product to help keep our troops safe.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Adam Birnbaum. Professor Birnbaum teaches Advanced Investment Research. This was one of the hardest classes I took at Columbia, but the most rewarding too. The class focuses on deep fundamental research to gain a competitive insight into a company. He was able to take a complex mental framework and convey it with ease. His class made me a better investor.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Columbia Business School because of the Value Investing Program. This program is a unique opportunity for students with a passion for investing. The Value Investing Program allows students to build an incredible framework to identify strong business with defendable competitive advantages. I also chose Columbia because of the incredible student community and amazing faculty.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My best advice to students is to apply early and make sure to attend a class before applying. Attending a CBS class will show how incredible the faculty are and illustrate the natural curiosity and collaboration of the CBS community. 

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think many applicants hear that Columbia Business School does not have a school community. This is not true. Being located in NYC allows CBS students to expand their community from the classroom to the board room and beyond.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have volunteered more. I would have loved to have been more active in Harlem Tutors Club. The Harlem Tutors Club at CBS goes weekly to a local middle school in Harlem to tutor disadvantaged students in mathematics. Giving back to the local community is something I pride myself on. I wish I would have tutored more students.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Patricia Penuela. She is a dynamic young woman who has overcome many struggles in her life to pursue her dreams. She has this natural curiosity and determination about herself that is invigorating. Being a career switcher, I needed as much support in the fundamental accounting classes. Patricia, who is a CPA, spent countless hours tutoring me and constantly encouraging me. Sometimes in life, you find that one friend that you know will be with you until the end, For me, that is Patricia.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My godfather, Dan Hassey, was a driving force for me to get my MBA. He constantly encouraged me and picked me up when I got down on myself. Dan was there to hear me complain about the GMAT. Coming from a single-parent household, Dan acted like my dad to constantly be there for me.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I want to open my own fund focused toward middle to low-income individuals to allow them to become financially literate and financially independent. The second professional bucket list item for me is to consistently beat the market.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my classmates to remember me as someone who constantly encouraged them to go beyond their wildest dreams and not to let barriers hold them back.

Hobbies? Cooking, volunteering, and LA Sports. Go Lakers!

What made Zachary such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Zach is truly someone who cares about the community both in and out of CBS. His hustle and persistence are unmatched in his desire to succeed and help others do the same. Zach made a big transition from his prior career and will be joining Goldman Sachs after business school. He is the Co-President of HBA, active in Hermes, and works very closely with the Value Investment program. His passion for CBS is shown through his various volunteer opportunities and often talks about giving back and supporting those who come from a similar background.”

Scott Siegel Ortiz
Senior Associate Director – Student Life and Engagement
Office of Student Affairs


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