2016 Best EMBAs: Shannon Talbert, Columbia Business School

Shannon Talbert Columbia

Shannon Talbert

Columbia Business School           

“Within her cluster, she has been described as the ‘heart and soul’ of the class, a unifier whose warmth and encouragement continuously brought the group together.”

Age: 34

Location: Newport, RI

Undergraduate School and Degree: BS in business management, Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)

Where are you currently working? Director of enablement, Schneider Electric

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Columbia Business School EMBA 2015, academic representative

Active in community through various not-for-profit boards and volunteerism

Previous executive director of a nonprofit for young professionals to drive awareness and raise funds for childhood diseases including cancer

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am extremely proud of representing my cohort as our academic representative, and being chosen as our commencement speaker. To perform such a role among a group of people that I respect and admire so greatly is a true honor.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was pretty unique in that I actually changed roles at my current company about midway through my MBA program. I really feel like I — maybe more so than a lot of people who were in the trenches of the program — was able to reap the benefits of Columbia and of my MBA immediately. I feel like I came in with doors open, and the MBA program opened doors that I didn’t even know existed previously. The experience has had a really great impact on me.

I pride myself on always striving for the best for those who work for me, and around me, while keeping our overall business at the forefront. My experience in the MBA program has expanded my leadership ability, and enabled more creative approaches to every-day challenges. Not a day goes by that I don’t consciously pull from my MBA experience.

Favorite MBA Courses? I had fantastic courses at Columbia Business School and a very positive, intellectually stimulating experience, so it is difficult to choose just one or two. There have been two courses that I think have been the most helpful. One was Nelson Fraiman’s Operations and Technology course. It provided such unique insight on the importance and depth of operations in every facet of business, from the smallest project to even the highest macro level. I also loved Hitendra Wadhwa’s Personal Leadership course. I consider the course a “must take” for any business leader. It was life changing in the way altered our perspectives, and strove to get students to approach our lives and leadership very personally.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose Columbia Business School to continue my growth as a professional, expand my network, and gain new experience. I chose Columbia because it really does put you at the center of business. It is a premier business school, offering an incredible opportunity and experience for students. The Columbia Business School network is world class and the caliber of education is completely unmatched anywhere else. The format of the EMBA Americas program enabled me to maintain the pace of my professional career, while attending courses on-campus, in a face-to-face and peer-to-peer learning environment. This was of great importance to me in selecting an executive MBA program.

What did you enjoy most about business school? The community. Being a part of the CBS community means so much to me — it really puts you at the center of an amazing convergence. There’s so much to it. There’s connection, opportunity, access, and an open exchange of ideas and practice. As part of the community I really feel like the walls are torn down and I can engage with titans of industry and incredible faculty and staff, and also emerging entrepreneurs and upcoming leaders among fellow classmates and colleagues. The great part is it’s a convergence, so it’s more of a mutual exchange. I feel that I’m giving back to this incredible network and community, as well, and really bringing a lot to them — as much as I’m receiving from them.

What was the hardest part of business school? Business school was easily one of the most hectic and challenging times of my life. Normal life does not slow down while you take on the new challenges of business school! I do feel that is actually a less obvious benefit of executive MBA programs; you master a level of time management and experience in prioritization that prepares you for any future endeavors!

What is your best advice for juggling work, family and education? Prioritize, collaborate, and make time for “down time,” fun, and family/friends! Juggling so many important elements makes you appreciate the value of your support network, friends, and family. Even if you have to formally schedule those types of activities (which I did) in your calendar, make sure you do. The benefits are invaluable.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? Find the right program for you. Know the structure that will enable your learning and growth. Reach out to your network, and communicate. Get ready for the hardest, but most rewarding, years of your life thus far!

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I started to feel an insatiable hunger to know more, and grow beyond my current role and network. I knew I could manage my career, and that the benefits and insight of working so hard in an MBA program would be worth it.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Potentially in a similar role professionally but lacking my expanded perspective and comprehensive understanding. I see things in a new way, and have a vast network of experts to engage with, and be challenged by!

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? My father is an entrepreneur (though he has retired from our family business; you never stop being an entrepreneur!), and I admire him more than any famous executive or entrepreneur. He is the picture of perseverance and leadership, and was the insertion for so much of my growth and confidence as a business leader.

What are your long-term professional goals? Surprisingly, coming from a small-business background, I’ve grown to love working for a multinational, large company. I find the dynamic environment and diversity of culture and expertise so inspiring and invigorating. In the long term, I’d like to expand my experience in enablement and development, and help other companies grow in these areas. Eventually I would like to apply these skills to the not-for-profit and social enterprise fields, where I can focus on education for children and those challenged by socio-economic conditions.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My family is the core of who I am today, and I am most grateful for their guidance and support. They built the foundation that has enabled me to grow and explore, and gave me the confidence to take risks and learn. Having three brothers also taught me a thing or two about being tough and persevering.

Favorite book: I’m a bookworm, so this list could go on for pages.

Bull! by Maggie Mahar, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer, Life by Keith Richards … to name a few. A book by one of my EMBA professors also currently tops my list: Strategic Intuition by William Duggan

Favorite movie: Life is Beautiful

Favorite musical performer: Fleetwood Mac

Favorite television show: “Pardon the Interruption” or “Arrested Development”

Favorite vacation spot: Santorini, Greece or Harbour Island, Bahamas

Hobbies? Anything outdoors or on the water: hiking, skiing, sailing … also love reading

What made Shannon such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Shannon has been an exceptional member of the EMBA community, particularly within her EMBA-Americas cohort. She has been selected by her classmates not only to be the EMBA-Americas student speaker at the EMBA recognition ceremony this May, but also to receive the distinguished service award, recognizing her contributions to the community. Shannon also served as the Academic Representative for her cluster throughout the program, guiding her cluster thoughtfully through their program of study, particularly during their CORE courses.

“Within her cluster, she has been described as the “heart and soul” of the class, a unifier whose warmth and encouragement continuously brought the group together. Her tremendous leadership in EMBA came while she was transitioning to a new role within Schneider Electric during the program, now serving as the director of enablement.”

Felicia Goodman

Senior Associate Director, Academic and Student Affairs on behalf of the EMBA Programs Team

Columbia Business School


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