After graduating I continued to work there while at the same time directing some small productions, but eventually I decided to fight mental illness with the government where I thought I could make a true difference. After spending so much time in this field, I’ve come to believe that one of our most important opportunities is to foster a partnership between the government and private sector. I came to business school to better understand how to change the world through that avenue.
I started at New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in ’05. I originally expected to spend only two years. I thought it would be fascinating to get an inside look at how everything worked and how it was funded. I started as the department’s Legislative Liaison, which means that I represented the department in conversations with elected officials like the city council and Congress.
I think New York City government is an amazing organization. I’m still here because I’m lucky enough to be in an amazing department with some of the most dedicated people I’ve ever met, and they’re doing some great work. I got very involved with the department and started to progress by proving myself and so now I find myself in my current position as deputy director for the Bureau of Mental Health. I do everything from budget and finance to contracting to HR. I also oversee a few offices.
One thing we’re learning, particularly in local governments throughout the country, is that government isn’t the most efficient at getting things done, surprise, surprise. So, what local governments are doing is they’re partnering with the private sector. A lot of what I manage is our contracting services out to businesses and community organizations. In today’s economic climate, tax dollars are few and far between, and local governments have had to cut a lot of services. I believe that to avoid cutting services, governments need to learn to work closely with corporations and leverage resources on both sides.
I’ve been thinking for a while about what my next educational step should be. A lot of my peers have degrees in public administration and one of the things I find missing in the world of government and non-profits is the hard skills—the finance, the accounting, the statistics. I feel like those are things I have a great aptitude for but are missing in my line of work. I thought an MBA would give me those hard skills. Obviously, Columbia has an amazing reputation, and I was so excited when its Saturday program came out. I don’t have a job where I can take every other Friday off for the next two years. That’s not an option. My program goes all day on Saturdays, which fits perfectly in my life right now. I can keep my job and still be in a top MBA program.
So I decided to apply and started the whole process in November, then took the GMAT in December, and was accepted in mid-March. The GMAT was tough—I hadn’t been in school in a while and I used some study books to practice. I was actually disappointed in my score, a 720.
I’ve always been good at tests, but that one kicked my ass. I only applied to Columbia, and knew if I didn’t get into this program, I’d regroup and try again next year. For admissions, they want to know everything you’ve ever done. I feel like it was a really competitive process, but also really efficient. I never felt like I didn’t know what was happening next.
There were two main essays. One asked about your goals and vision for your future, and the other was more personal. For the first, I talked about how a big part of my work deals with policy regarding the employment of people with disabilities, which is a big social service issue throughout the country. I’m passionate about aggressively pushing my goal of equal opportunity. I think there’s a lot of opportunity within the corporate sector to engage big companies on this issue. There are some companies that do a great job of it and some that do not such a good job of it. One of my dreams would be to affect policy on corporations to help people with disabilities.