2015 Best EMBA: Jolly Mazumdar

Jolly Mazumdar

Jolly Mazumdar


Columbia Business School

How is this for a schedule? You hold down a full-time job as an R&D manager at GlaxoSmithKline. You’re raising a toddler. And you’re earning an Executive MBA at one of the top programs in the world. Oh…and you’re doing all this while your husband is going to school with you (and let’s just say the Mazumdar household is “competitive”). That was the chaotic life of Jolly Mazumdar, a Ph.D. and aspiring bio-entrepreneur. At Columbia, Mazumdar served as an ambassador for the program, talking up the benefits of a CBS degree with potential candidates. Professionally and impressively, she helped bring two skin cancer drugs to market.

Age: 38

Location (City and State): Philadelphia, PA

Family Members: Husband, one toddler son and 2 Maltese

Undergraduate School: Mumbai University, India (I have also obtained a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the University of Georgia)

Undergraduate Degree: Bachelors of Science in Microbiology

Where are you currently working? GlaxoSmithKline, Manager in R&D Oncology leading personalized medicine strategies to tailor or customize the drugs to the patients such that the right patient receives the right drug.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I felt something was lacking at work despite being successful.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…feeling intellectually and professionally incomplete.”

What are your long-term professional goals? To be a bio-entrepreneur. I, along with two of my physician and scientist classmates, am currently working to launch a biotech start-up in the very near future.

Favorite Courses: I can’t think of one class which did not add value to my experience, but some of the remarkable ones were Leadership and Organizational Change by Paul Ingram, Launching New Venture by Jack Kaplan, The South Africa International Seminar on Entrepreneurship by Don Weiss, Managerial Negotiations by Malia Mason, Managerial Decision Making by Joel Brockner and Personal Leadership and Success by Hitendra Wadhwa.

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? I am very proud of my work to bring two skin cancer drugs, Tafinlar and Mekinist, to the market in 2013. As a personalized medicine scientist, I was responsible for developing a molecular test that would correctly identify melanoma patients with certain mutations on whom these drugs would be most effective. The development of the molecular test was a pre-requisite for the market approval of these drugs and thus, also had enormous commercial implications. I am proud of my contribution not only because this was an innovative project – the organization’s first attempt at developing a companion diagnostic test – but also because these drugs are making a huge impact on the lives of thousands of patients and their loved ones, globally. As a pharmaceutical scientist, it is gratifying to know that I had a hand in making this difference.

I also feel excited about a mock venture that I launched as part of the “Launching New Venture” course. It was an original concept on prepared food for suburban families and required my team to come up with an end-to-end plan ending with the development of a “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) and presentation of the business proposal to investors and a review panel comprising my classmates. The experience was formative and a large trigger for my decision to launch a real biotech start-up along with two of my classmates, which is currently under works.

Who would you most want to thank for your success (and why)? My husband. As program mates, we were compassionate about each other’s schedule, could laugh about the tough situations such as tight deadlines, tough exams and not-so-impressive grades, could lift each other’s spirit when one was down, but most importantly our journey together had enormous implications on our family life. While on one hand tackling the differences of opinion as teammates was sometimes quite new and challenging, on the other hand the program presented an unparalleled opportunity for us to better understand each other and work on our style differences. Ultimately, the experience had enormous benefits – the team play made caring for our 6-month old son, who is now a toddler, and our two maltese much more manageable and fun. The shared experience has allowed me to develop a very positive perspective of the bond we share as a family.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I was drawn to this program for several reasons. The world class reputation and academic standing of CBS was a big factor. I was equally excited by the flexibility of the Saturday-only program, which (in my opinion) truly empowers students to obtain an education on their own terms. During my research phase, I was also attracted to the well-rounded curriculum at CBS. Indeed, I am inclined to think that while the core courses built my knowledge, the electives built me – I have learnt to negotiate better, make better decisions; developed a strong understanding of the steps and process needed to launch a new venture; and have given me global exposure, to cite a few attributes. Finally, location was another big decision factor. NYC, being the financial hub and an entrepreneurial hotbed with its diversity, definitely presents the right microenvironment for an MBA.

What did you enjoy most about the executive MBA program? I have enjoyed talking to classmates from diverse fields ranging from financiers to theatre managers, fund raisers and T.V. producers, listening to distinguished professionals on campus and drawing from their experiences, meeting global leaders such as Reverend Desmond Tutu on our trip to South Africa and developing a global and holistic perspective.

What is your most memorable moment from business school? Dean Hubbard’s parting advice from the Commencement ceremony: “A business education is not about the change in your pocket, but the change that you will bring.” It is a sentiment echoed by the professors over the past two years, relentlessly encouraging the students to pursue a career that one truly enjoyed. Personally, I consider an education from CBS a privilege which also brings responsibilities. I have received a world-class education and now it is my turn to give back by translating my education into something fun for me and meaningful for the society.

Fun fact about yourself:

  • My husband and I did the EMBA program together and it got very competitive at home.
  • My mom had to pull me out of kindergarten due to incessant complaints about my lack of academic prowess.
  • I am trained in Indian classical music, but could not complete the degree examination due to being underage.
  • I have visited 7 out of the National Geographic’s Top-10 Museums and Galleries. If I had to pick an alternative career I would become a museum tour guide.
  • I enjoy whitewater rafting.

Favorite book: The Constant Gardener; Da Vinci Code and science fictions

Favorite movie: Love Actually; The Shawshank Redemption

Favorite musical performer: Yanni; Adelle; Lady Gaga; Elton John

Favorite television show: House of Cards; John Adams; The Tudors; The Big Bang Theory; Law & Order

Favorite vacation spot: Rome, Italy. The rich history, architecture, good food and the craziness of a bustling metropolitan; it cannot get any more exciting for me.

What are your hobbies? Traveling, I have travelled to all continents expect Antartica. I like collecting local and original art.

What made Jolly such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015 for your executive MBA program?

“Jolly has been an enthusiastic and active member of the class of 2015, juggling school and motherhood while developing new drugs to combat skin cancer. In addition to successfully completing a challenging program while balancing family and career, Jolly was always eager to volunteer to help the CBS community. She helped us bring in new students, participating in info sessions and panels for prospective applicants. She was also a warm and caring presence on campus, guiding first year students on elective options as part of an electives panel. She has approached everything she did at Columbia with humor and a dedication to the people around her, embodying true Columbia spirit.”

– Emily French Thomas, Director, Academic and Student Affairs, Executive MBA Programs

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