2022 MBA To Watch: Mo Kamaly, Columbia Business School

Mo Kamaly

Columbia Business School

“Strategic thinker passionate about elevating underrepresented voices in media and beyond.”

Hometown: Mamaroneck, NY

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve performed in more than 20 productions of Shakespeare plays.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Boston University, BSBA with Concentration in Finance

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Prior to business school, I had my own consulting business, Above All Advisory, where I advised entrepreneurs and small businesses on business strategy, capital raising and M&A.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Strategy and Business Development at NBCUniversal in New York.

Where will you be working after graduation? Not sure quite yet, but I intend to work in entertainment.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Cluster D Chair
  • Co-President of CBS Follies
  • VP of Media Management Association
  • Founding Co-President of Cannabis Business Association
  • Peer Advisor
  • Columbia Fellow
  • Benjamin Michaelson Scholarship Prize
  • Glenn Hubbard Scholarship
  • Dean’s List

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my participation and leadership in Follies. Our 100-member performance group starts each semester with a blank page and ends it with almost 2-hours of original content that we present at our Live Show. Our production includes parody music videos, filmed skits, live comedy sketches and “Follies Update,” along with performances from Follies Dance and our band, Juranimal.

I’m always blown away by the dedication and imagination that my classmates bring to our meetings and the energy and patience they bring to our recording and filming days. I’m lucky that I get to work with my amazing co-President, Madison Kaminski, to help coordinate the group and bring everyone’s shared vision to fruition. It can be a huge logistical and managerial challenge, but it’s rewarding to have a creative outlet of this kind and caliber at business school. Plus, there’s no doubt that Follies has the best people at CBS.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m very proud of having spent last summer at NBCUniversal. I’ve been on a long journey to pivot into a career in entertainment – a journey that started almost ten years ago. Over the years, there have been several jobs at NBCU that I would’ve gladly taken, but due to timing and location, they never worked out.

In 2018, I left my previous firm and started my own business, but I never gave up on my aspiration to work in entertainment or on my interest in NBCU. I came to business school with the express goal of working there, and when I received my internship offer in March of last year, I felt things had really come full circle.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Columbia Business School because I wanted to work in media and entertainment in New York, and the school had the program and the resources to help me accomplish that goal. From speaking with students, I could tell that those who planned to work in the space had cultivated a supportive community at CBS and I wanted to be a part of it.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Daniel Ames was my favorite MBA professor at CBS. His Managerial Negotiations class was full of practical lessons that I intend to apply in my professional life. More importantly, every lesson was underpinned with deeper personal and philosophical questions about the types of negotiators and leaders we want to be. Professor Ames brought a contagious energy to the class and made sure that we walked away with more than just the lessons from our casework.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite CBS tradition has to be ‘CBS Matters.’ Our classmates (and sometimes faculty) take 30 minutes to an hour to give candid presentations about their lives and the experiences that have most shaped them. It’s an incredible way to bring the community together to support one another as some people share the most vulnerable parts of themselves. At business school, it can be easy to get stuck in a loop of conversations about exams and recruitment, and this tradition reflects the importance CBS puts on getting past those surface level discussions and learning about each other on a deeper level. I hope that’s a lesson we all take into our professional lives.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? The only thing I didn’t get to do at business school was to have an in-semester internship. I would have liked to use my experience to work on projects for a smaller entertainment company while I was in school, but it can be difficult to balance with academic and extracurricular responsibilities. Ultimately, I’m glad that I was able to focus my attention on the school-related activities that will only be available in this two-year period. I have a lifetime of work ahead of me.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One myth about Columbia Business School is that it’s mostly focused on finance and investment banking recruiting. While we do have great programs in banking and value investing, and many of my esteemed classmates are choosing to torment themselves with careers in investment banking, I wouldn’t say that industry dominates our curriculum or school culture.

What surprised you the most about business school? One of the biggest surprises for me was the great diversity in personal and professional experiences that my classmates brought to CBS. Of course, we have our fair share of consultants and aspiring investment bankers, but I also have classmates with artistic or scientific backgrounds who are from or have lived in every part of the world.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I spoke to anyone and everyone I could reach from Columbia Business School – professors, admissions team members, students, and alumni. It’s not that Admissions was keeping a tally of all these discussions, but together they helped me get a better understanding of the school and I think that showed in my essays and interviews.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My classmate and friend, Alicia Davis, has been a major inspiration for me during my time at Columbia Business School. She was one of the first classmates I met shortly after my acceptance, and lo and behold we were lucky enough to be on the same Learning Team when we started in August. From day one, Alicia has been a thoughtful teammate and friend. Early on, she shared deadlines and important information to make sure no one was out of the loop when it came to schoolwork. She’s taken on leadership roles across the school – including Community Chair of our Cluster, co-President of Black Business Students Association, and Chair of the Peer Advisor program, just to name three. Amazingly, she’s been able to effortlessly manage all the responsibilities and commitments that come with these roles. Despite having so much on her plate, Alicia always makes time to check in on her friends to make sure they’re taking care of themselves. We could all use a friend like Alicia Davis.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Like many immigrant families, my Iranian family always put a lot of value on education. My sister can attest that over the years, she and I have been encouraged numerous times to pursue graduate degrees in various disciplines – whether we were interested in them or not. Alas, despite years of protest and pushback, those voices started to have an impact. In particular, my father and uncle were hugely supportive of my initial interest in Columbia Business School and helped me think about the value that this degree could bring to my career.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Acquire rights for a film at a movie festival like Cannes or Sundance.
  2. Executive produce an Oscar-winning film
  3. (Stretch goal in the event things really take a different turn) Host Saturday Night Live

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic solidified two views for me. On the one hand, I learned how important it is for me (and my peers) to have a flexible work environment. I definitely miss being in the office, but I (and others) will appreciate the option to work remotely. It’s clear that balance will be an important part of employment decisions going forward.

Relatedly, the pandemic reminded me of the importance of cultivating a strong sense of culture because ultimately, that’s what will encourage people to keep coming to the office in this future world of remote work.

What made Mo such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

Mo is a strong presence and leader in the CBS community. As Co-President of Follies, he has brought humor and levity to a challenging year. With a genuine interest in learning and connecting with others, Mo has built relationships at every level of the school among peers and administrators. Mo maintains integrity and respect while also showing strength in representing his peers. In addition to his tireless work on Follies, Mo was also a Peer Advisor, helping to welcome and acclimate new students in the fall semester. Also, after an unpredictable first year in the program and looking toward an uncertain second year, he launched a new student organization. Mo has been actively engaged in numerous programs that benefit the community that surrounds CBS, including participating in the ReEntry Acceleration Program (REAP) for which he provides business training to incarcerated individuals and works to create solutions-focused dialogue around post-incarceration employment.”

Samantha Shapses, Ed.D.
Associate Dean and Dean of Student Affairs 
Columbia Business School


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