The Art Of Networking: A Columbia MBA On How 500+ Chats Redefined Her Life & Career

Networking: A Columbia MBA On How 500+ Chats Redefined Her Life & Career

I love learning from people who have different life experiences than me. I had more than 500 life-changing coffee chats between 2020 and 2023. I work hard to pay this forward and back — something I believe is profoundly important. While the quantity of these chats is substantial, I place paramount importance on authenticity and depth. Connecting with others is a cornerstone of my life, which explains my level of investment.

I believe that everyone’s experience is valuable — and that magic happens when people share their stories. In the last few years, in order to learn about different industries and paths, I have had conversations with Fortune 500 CEOs, hundreds of executives at top technology and media companies, Tony- and Emmy-winning producers and writers, professors, non-profit leaders, and hundreds of MBAs.

These conversations led to lightbulb moments that paved my future.


Networking: A Columbia MBA On How 500+ Chats Redefined Her Life & CareerIf you read my recent article in Poets&Quants you know I used to be an actor on television and in theater. I pivoted to get my MBA from Columbia Business School and I now work in emerging technology research and strategy.

My view of the significance of mentors began early. When I was a 14-year-old aspiring actor, I watched Laurence O’Keefe, Broadway and film/TV composer and lyricist (Legally Blonde: The Musical, Bat Boy: The Musical, Heathers: The Musical) perform an early edition of a song from Heathers. I felt connected to the music and immediately wanted to be in his show — but even more I wanted to learn from him. I went up to him and asked if I could have his email and told him I wanted to work with him. You may be surprised to know he said yes and met me at a music studio the next day to sing through his songs. You can imagine how excited I was to work with someone of his caliber. His generosity still inspires me.

He became a generous mentor and a friend. His belief in me propelled a stronger belief in myself. We worked on multiple projects together and he gave me advice whenever I needed it. That kind of guidance is not something you can predict or manufacture, but it is people like him who make daring pursuits worth it. He also wrote my MBA admissions recommendation — so it goes without saying I would not be where I am without his help. That one bold moment 15 years ago helped me get into business school a decade and a half later. Who would have thought?

As I moved into my professional acting career, I focused more on building relationships than attending auditions. Eventually these relationships turned into acting opportunities on HBO, Amazon, Discovery, and Oxygen. In pivoting from acting to business and having zero business or MBA connections, I knew I needed to talk to MBAs to understand what this path would entail — so I spoke with countless MBAs at several different programs.

And when I was looking for summer internships, I made a list of companies I was interested in — and spoke with hundreds of people at those companies to see what intrigued me. Those conversations are what led me to tech.


After my summer internship with the strategy team at PlayStation, I wanted to learn more about emerging tech, so I did an interview-driven thesis where I interviewed executives and CEOs to learn the industry landscape. I spoke to the CEO of PlayStation, CTO of Animoca Brands, SVP at Unity, VP of NVIDIA, and 60 other leaders at every top tech/media company — all from cold reach-outs.

Here are some of my takeaways from these conversations:

  • Being a student is the best time to reach out because you are not a threat. Use this time strategically.
  • No one has it figured out. The process of discovery is the most interesting part of a career.
  • Society trains us to be polite and cautious. Be kind, but direct. Ask questions you want answers to.
  • Shy, introverted people have a quiet power (I am both). If you’re like me, harness your strength and conquer your shyness.
  • Most women I spoke to (and also many men) mentioned a duty to help other young women with the goal of increasing representation. This was appreciated.
  • Multiple men made me uncomfortable by commenting on the fact that I look too young to be an MBA. One even suggested I go camera off because if “someone saw you they wouldn’t take you seriously in a meeting because you look like a teenager.”
  • CEOs might be paid more and face bigger problems but they suffer the same insecurities as everyone else.
  • Senior executives typically spoke more highly of their organizations than lower tier employees. Many of those people have since been laid off.
  • I am more cynical about the ethics of organizations and more hopeful about the generosity of the human spirit.


Given what I have learned, here is my advice to you:

  • Choose mentors wisely. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, you should end the conversation.
  • There is a benefit to a breadth of conversations, but also depth — follow your gut when you feel like you click with someone and ask for a follow-up.
  • If you have thoughts like “This person would never answer me,” send the message anyway.
  • Keep a log of the conversations and what resonates so that you can look through all of your notes and map out a path that inspires you.
  • Do not network when you want a referral. Build relationships over time.
  • No matter your industry, there is a benefit to talking to for-profit companies, non-profits, and governments — all have different perspectives that will allow you to piece together a larger puzzle.

If you want to connect, here is my Linkedin. I welcome outreach. My only ask is that you pay it forward some day.

My bio is something I hope changes often. I am a 2023 graduate of Columbia Business School (MBA). Someone told me recently that I took the scenic route in my career, which resonated with me. After graduating from Boston Conservatory, I spent 7 years as an actor on television and in theater. I pivoted during the pandemic to get my MBA after far too many internships to prove I could do other things (6 to be exact). I was an MBA intern on the Strategy and Portfolio Team at PlayStation Studios last summer. I now do emerging technology strategy and research at an Innovation Studio within WPP called Subvrsive. The most important thing to me is people, diverse perspectives, curiosity, and an open mind. And coffee, lots of coffee. If you need help, just ask for it. 


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