2019 Best EMBAs: T. Robert Zochowski, Columbia Business School

T. Robert Zochowski

Columbia Business School

Age: 29

“Acting with motivation, honesty, kindness, and integrity to make a positive difference in the world.”

Hometown: New York, NY

Family Members: Partner of 9 years-Scott, cat-Sophie, one of three siblings

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve run two half marathons and I just got accepted into the New York City Marathon this November, which is a huge goal for me.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Georgetown University, AB Economics

Where are you currently working? Harvard Business School, Project Director of the Impact Weighted Accounts Initiative and the Impact Co-Lab

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Honors: Carson Family Changemaker Award – Awarded to students for their dedication to the field of social enterprise; Three Cairns Climate Fellow; Dean’s List all semesters eligible.

Business School Clubs: Nonprofit Board Leadership Program VP, Social Enterprise Club, Green Business Club, Cluster Q.

Mission/Impact Consulting                                                                                     

  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society, New York, NY
    • Conducted in-depth analysis of organization-wide process to align the organizational structure with strategy and goals in conjunction with the Executive Leadership Team; documented successes and identified persistent performance shortfalls, and proposed ongoing management improvements; presented findings to the National Board of Directors
    • Developing case study for submission to Stanford Social Innovation Review
  • World Wildlife Fund, Maputo, Mozambique
    • Moderated workshop with private, NGO, public sector, and environmental stakeholders on planning, resilience, and sustainability considerations around Rovuma Basin hydrocarbon extraction and population engagement.
    • Produced a pilot program proposal focused on protecting watershed forests by transitioning households from charcoal to natural gas as cooking fuel; included key policy changes, supply chain analysis, technology needs, and cost estimates.

Stonewall Quarter Share: 2018 Grants Committee Member for not-for-profit group that promotes philanthropic giving among young leaders; funds raised support grants to organizations seeking to affect lasting change in New York City’s LGBTQ community.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am really of proud of the depth of my involvement with the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise and the two in-depth mission driven consulting projects that I did through it. When I entered business school, I set a goal of being as involved as possible with the Center. Through busy work schedules, academic requirements, personal obligations, and some health issues, I have remained committed to that goal, becoming a Nonprofit Board Leadership Program VP and Three Cairns Climate Fellow, participating in numerous social enterprise focused clubs, attending most workshops and panels, joining an economic development trek to DC, and preparing to publish a journal article later this year.

I know that the work that I did for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the World Wildlife Fund is extremely important to both of their missions and it makes me very proud to contribute to both organizations. This year, I was honored by the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise with the Carson Family Changemaker Award in recognition of my commitment to the field of social enterprise. I consider receiving this recognition a great honor given the amazing socially focused work being done by my colleagues at Columbia.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The COO of a team that I was a part of departed very suddenly. This team member had been involved in everything from developing thought leadership pieces to team management, conference planning, RFPs, and more. We had very ambitious goals for the year and most of the team was deployed across the country working to fulfill those goals. I immediately raised my hand to take over coverage of this team member’s work and acted as the de-facto COO of the business for close to a year. This represented a significant increase in range, responsibility, workload, and time for me. However, my efforts allowed the team to remain focused on and to achieve the goals for the year. Under my leadership, we were even able to pursue several new initiatives.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Climate Finance with Professor Bruce Usher. This intensive half-block week class focuses on climate challenges and the various financial and policy tools which can be used to solve these. Professor Usher is so energetic and well-versed in the topic and his passion is infectious. My biggest takeaway from the class is that we have the technology and know-how to solve the majority of the climate challenges; the biggest challenge is in unifying policy support and whether these solutions will be implemented fast enough.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I wanted to make sure that I was not getting a ‘water-ed down’ MBA experience. Columbia thinks about the Executive MBA Program as equally important as the full-time program with fully resourced career management, academic advising, technology, operations teams, and the best class offerings and professors in the school. Further, Columbia Business School’s Tamer Center is one of the largest social enterprise centers in the US. Its classes and program offerings were extremely compelling as I was looking to use my MBA to explore what I wanted in a mission driven career. The combination of this top-notch program with the ability to continue progressing in my career, living in New York City, and exploring my passion for mission driven work made Columbia the clear choice.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I loved being a part of a vibrant learning community among such great classmates. Columbia Business School has so many learning centers and I have loved attending lectures, panels, and discussions by renowned speakers, professors, and students. Every lunch period on class weekends, I invariably find myself choosing between great programming options often organized and driven by my fellow MBA colleagues. For example, I just attended a small working lunch hosted by the Bernstein Center Leadership and Ethics Board on pay equality and the challenges faced by diverse groups in the workplace.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Last summer, I was facing three challenges. I needed to maintain my presence and commitment to work amid time out of the office for class, selection for an inter-scholastic week-long trip to Mozambique (right in the middle of summer-term finals), and commitment to a family cruise in Europe between two class weekends. I looked at the itinerary and planned the days that I was with my family during which I was not logged on with my boss. During the sea-days between ports, I used the ship’s internet connection to log into work remotely to reply to emails and complete project deliverables. I also researched and wrote my Finance and Public Policy final paper on ETF regulation on my flights to and from Europe. Though I needed to leave the cruise a few days early to get back for class, careful planning and clear communication with my job, business school colleagues, and family helped to make everyone feel their needs were met.

What was your biggest regret in business school? While I did two international trips to Africa in South Africa and Mozambique, my biggest regret is that I could not do an additional international seminar with my classmates in India. The opportunity to experience this cultural immersion alongside your classmates is really unparalleled. They broadened my cross-cultural understanding tremendously, brought me so much closer to my classmates, and I am proud of the consulting project work which brought our business skills to practical use.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I want to nominate a group of three who are working on a project together to bring dialogue to polarizing issues. My colleagues Brianna O’Brien Lowndes, Emmett Lamb, and Charlie Kreitler each have very different backgrounds and political views. Instead of allowing those differences to divide them, as commonly happens, they came together to create a space for dialogue. Each month, they organize The Polarization Project, a dinner around polarizing topics in our national political discourse, including climate change, income inequality, and gun control. They curate pre-readings and then moderate an incredibly engaged discussion and sharing at the table. This has led to some amazing conversations which likely would not have happened given the strong feelings around these topics and built a tremendous level of understanding among my classmates. This type of dialogue is so critical to achieving compromise and progress in our political discourse, and the work that this group has done has made such an impact on our class.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I read about the incredible social enterprise work being done by the Tamer Center at Columbia Business School.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I aspire to be a part of a global dialogue and change around key issues facing our world such as sustainability, income inequality, economic development, and diversity & inclusion. I am deeply passionate about issues facing real people and I want to humbly contribute my energy, education and career experiences to working on issues to create a better world for everyone.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Rob is both extremely driven and motivated as well as honest and authentic. 

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Fatherhood

What made Robert such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“As a student, Rob has held leadership positions with the Nonprofit Board Leadership Program and participated as a member of Cluster Q, Social Enterprise Club, Green Business Club, and CBS Hermes. He won the Carson Family Changemaker Award, which recognizes current students who have demonstrated leadership in and commitment to the field of social enterprise at Columbia Business School and beyond. Additionally, he is the recipient of the Three Cairns Climate Fellowship which is an application-based program that allows selected students to work with Columbia research faculty or any type of organization or business in the U.S. or abroad that is addressing sustainability and climate change issues. Rob led a team of four EMBA students to submit an application for the 2018 Haas Tech Challenge Case Competition, served as a panelist on EMBA Alumni & Current Student Panel for 100+ prospective students, and was a Social Enterprise International Development Trek Participant. Rob has been deeply involved in the larger Columbia Business School community, serving as a wonderful ambassador for EMBA, and has been a committed leader within our EMBA community as well.”

Kelley Martin Blanco ‘02
Associate Dean and Dean of Students
Executive MBA Programs

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAs OF 2019 or RANKING THE BEST EMBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.