2023 Best & Brightest MBA: GT Svanikier, Columbia Business School

GT Svanikier

Columbia Business School

“Passionate technology enthusiast, podcast host, collaborative problem solver, cultural bridge-builder, and ever-smiling optimist.”

Hometown: Accra, Ghana

Fun fact about yourself: I have lived on three continents.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Washington College – BA, Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Goldman Sachs – Associate, Engineering Management & Strategy

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Google, NYC

Where will you be working after graduation? Currently interviewing. TBD!

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

* Co-President – Africa Business Club

* Co-Chair – Columbia Africa Conference

* Creator and host of “Before the Come Up” Podcast

* Chazen Leadership Fellow – “Highly selective program in which current MBA students distinguish themselves by serving as global ambassadors for their peers. Fellows lead Global Study Tours to countries outside the United States on Global Immersion Programs as a TA.”

* Columbia Fellow – “The recipients of this fellowship will have proven themselves to be innovators, leaders, and creative thinkers in their professional, academic, and extracurricular activities.”

* Glenn Hubbard Scholarship – “Awarded to an outstanding student with extraordinary leadership potential as well as academic excellence.”

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Leading two memorable trips to my homeland of Ghana as a Chazen Leadership Fellow was a remarkable experience. Being the TA for the course enabled me to work closely with the fantastic Professor Stephan Meier.

It was a great honor to introduce 65 of my classmates to Ghana, exploring its business opportunities, and delving into its rich cultural and historical significance. I wrote about doing this in my CBS application essay, so seeing it come to fruition was incredibly gratifying.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest professional achievement was leading a complex, multi-regional internal mobility platform project to foster company loyalty and reduce attrition. Working with eight teams across six regions, I played a key role in unifying our efforts to create a seamless platform that empowered employees to explore new opportunities globally within the firm. This project required the effective management of diverse teams and the technical skills to develop the site using proprietary firm software and HTML. To make the platform even more valuable, I integrated statistical analysis and open role matching capabilities using Qualtrics, enabling employees to find positions best suited to their skills and interests.

The experience taught me the importance of cross-cultural collaboration, clear communication, and technical expertise in driving successful projects. Moreover, it highlighted the value of investing in employee growth and satisfaction, leading to a more engaged and committed workforce. This lesson has resonated with me throughout my MBA journey and will continue to shape my approach to leadership and management in the future.

Why did you choose this business school? One of the main reasons I chose Columbia Business School was its strong focus on technology, fintech, and entrepreneurship, which perfectly aligned with my passion for solving complex problems in these sectors. The school’s prime location in New York City, a global hub for fintech innovation and home to numerous industry-leading firms, provided unparalleled access to a thriving ecosystem of expertise, resources, and networking opportunities.

Furthermore, Columbia Business School’s growing emphasis on tech in its curriculum allowed me to take a wide range of product management and tech-focused classes with industry experts. The chance to learn from professors such as Paul Canetti, Jared Grusd, Sharad Devarajan, Eric Hellweg, and Chris LaSala was invaluable to my MBA experience. These exceptional educators brought real-world insights, experiences, and best practices to the classroom, which enriched my learning and equipped me with the skills and knowledge to excel in the ever-evolving world of technology.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? That’s a difficult question because there are too many to choose from. However, the professor who impacted my Columbia Business School experience the most has to be Professor Stephan Meier. As the professor who taught the Ghana global emersion course, we had the chance to work closely in NYC and travel to Ghana together twice.

During these trips to Ghana, Professor Meier didn’t just impart knowledge; he encouraged students to immerse themselves in the learning experience, fostering a dynamic and engaging atmosphere. His approachable demeanor and genuine interest in the country made traveling with him a pleasure and allowed all the students to create memorable experiences. His support and guidance throughout our partnership made him the best professor a TA could have, and I will always cherish the lessons and memories I gained while working alongside him.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back over my MBA experience, the one thing I would do differently is investing more time in developing relationships with professors and industry professionals. While I learned a lot from my coursework and interactions with my classmates, I now realize that I could have further enriched my experience by actively seeking guidance and insights from those who have established successful careers in my areas of interest.

Columbia Business School has an incredible wealth of faculty members and guest speakers who bring vast expertise and real-world experience into the classroom. I could have been more proactive in attending office hours, participating in workshops, and engaging in conversations with these experts to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in technology, fintech, and entrepreneurship.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Columbia Business School is that it solely focuses on finance due to its proximity to Wall Street. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, the curriculum and resources at Columbia are incredibly diverse and cater to a wide range of industries.

What surprised you the most about business school? The most surprising aspect of my business school experience was the incredible diversity and depth of the relationships I built with my classmates. Coming into the MBA program, I knew I would have the opportunity to network with talented individuals from various backgrounds. However, I did not anticipate just how profoundly these connections would enrich my learning experience and expand my perspectives.

Columbia Business School attracts students from all corners of the world with a wide variety of personal and professional backgrounds. This eclectic mix of people brought many unique insights, experiences, and viewpoints to the classroom, fostering a dynamic and collaborative learning environment. Through group projects, class discussions, and social events, I had the chance to engage with my peers on a deeper level, discovering common ground and learning from our differences.

To learn more about the inspiring people in my class, I decided to start “Before the Come Up,” a podcast that brings my classmates’ remarkable stories and life experiences to light. Each week the podcast features a different member of the Columbia Business School class of 2023. The podcast’s goal is to foster community, empathy, and understanding as we learn about each guest’s unique background and explore their passions and motivations.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? One key thing I did during the application process that gave me an edge at CBS was proactively attending events and engaging with current students. This not only provided me with valuable insights into the school’s culture and academic offerings, but also demonstrated my genuine interest and commitment to joining the CBS community. By attending information sessions, webinars, and networking events, I got a more comprehensive understanding of the school’s resources, initiatives, and focus areas. This deeper knowledge allowed me to tailor my application and essays, highlighting how my personal and professional goals aligned with the unique opportunities at CBS.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Everyone who came on the podcast!

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

Launch a startup focused on financial empowerment in Ghana: The mission will be to address the financial needs of people, particularly those in underbanked and underserved communities. By leveraging technology and innovative solutions, I aim to improve access to essential financial services, promote financial literacy, and ultimately contribute to the country’s economic growth and poverty reduction.

Become a mentor and advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry. As my career progresses, I am committed to using my experience and influence to promote diversity and inclusion within the technology sector. I aim to become a mentor for underrepresented individuals, offering guidance, support, and opportunities to help them succeed in their professional pursuits. Furthermore, I hope to partner with organizations and initiatives that work towards bridging the gap and fostering a more inclusive and equitable tech landscape.

What made GT such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“GT Svanikier recognized a need to create community and connection among a class still recovering from the pandemic and took action to build a bridge among his classmates. Before the Come Up is a podcast created by GT in which he interviews CBS MBA students providing a deeper sense of the individuals making up the larger community. GT also served as Co-President of the Africa Business Club, launching their largest conference to date collaborating with multiple different Columbia schools. The conference highlighted the burgeoning industries that exist throughout the continent by bringing together major industry leaders and senior policy makers.”

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

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