2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Philip Zhou, Columbia Business School

Philip Zhou

Columbia Business School

Age: 30

“A highly energetic and passionate community builder who enjoys seizing the day and sharing successes.”

Hometown: Xiamen, China and Los Angeles, California

Family Members: Parents, younger sister, and Mochi (Akita dog)

Fun fact about yourself: I once lived on a ship for 4 months and traveled to Europe, Africa, and South America with 500 other college students through Semester at Sea

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of California, Berkeley – Bachelor of Arts in Political Economics with a concentration in International Business

Where are you currently working? Capital Group, Vice President – Sales Enablement

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Distinguished Service Award, Leadership Lab Fellow, EMBA Advisory Board Member for the Student Government Executive Board, Advisor to First Generation Investors 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and Vice President of 8 student groups (Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization, Columbia Student Investment Management Association, Family Business Club, Hospitality and Travel Association, Private Equity Club, Real Estate Association, Venture Capital Club, and West Coast Society).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of bringing EMBA representation to the broader CBS community. Since EMBAs work full time and have other significant life commitments, bringing our voice to student organizations may sometimes be difficult. Full-time students also appreciate meeting executive MBA students as there can often be a lot of synergies. I feel proud leaving school knowing that many of these groups now have EMBA liaisons to cater programming towards our community, and it is my hope the tradition carries on!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At AllianceBernstein, where I spent the first four years of my career, I was most proud of being on the first US-based team focused on non-US clientele (specifically greater China). I also represented my whole department on the Associate Leadership Council where we managed a budget of $60,000 solely dedicated towards professional development and networking opportunities for junior associates across the firm. At Capital Group, where I spent my last four years (as of 2021), I am most proud of being the only ‘plug and play’ team member in the northeast region, having partnered with almost all of the front office teams who collectively manage $8 billion in client assets. I am also most proud of having planned our summer boat cruises and winter socials as well as spearheading our participation in the annual JPMorgan Corporate Challenge. Lastly, I was promoted three times in the past two years.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My most memorable classes were through the Global Family Enterprise Program (formerly Family Business Program). Professors Patricia Angus and Josh Baron are extremely genuine professors who implement a Chatham House Rule, which allows students to really open up and have candid and constructive discussions. They bring in highly-coveted speakers very few professors in the world would have relationships with. They are my favorite professors because of the long-lasting relationships they are able to foster in a classroom setting by going over cases and concepts in a very practical manner.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I chose Columbia Business School because it would allow me the opportunity to grow at work in New York City while also granting me all the resources a full-time student has. I was able to pick my own adventure given the flexible nature of the program in terms of academic and leadership opportunities within CBS. I also appreciated that I started and ended the program with the same clusters of classmates – all within 2 years (with the option of stretching).

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? It may sound simple, but I learned that I only have 24 hours in a day, which means I cannot do it all. Business school opened up a world of opportunities, where I was able to learn more about different professional career paths and take classes in areas where I otherwise would not have had exposure. There are also countless opportunities to network and build community. There are always several events going on at once and it is just not feasible to be everywhere, so I learned to prioritize and use up a very finite resource which we call time.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I remember transitioning to a work from home environment, and my family was shocked at how many calls I had to be on – sometimes at the same time. However, there is something about working full time and getting an MBA at the same time all within two years. As a result, I was determined to not waste a moment whether it came to empowering my team members at work, driving group projects in school, setting up events for my classmates, or co-founding Columbia’s chapter of First Generation Investors, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that teaches financial literacy to underserved students. At the end of the day, spending family time and walking our dog (Mochi) was very important.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? There are certain myths about the business school student, but what I did not come to realize until I stepped foot on campus was the diversity of thought. Classmates and professors are from all over world with all walks of life. Through CBS Matters, we are able to share life stories and be vulnerable with each other. And somehow, we are miraculously in the same room taking classes debating about ESG integration in businesses. I am excited to visit the home cities and countries of my classmates in the years to come.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret in business school was not being able to get to know every classmate that my school worked so hard to curate for us. We always have post-graduation to do it!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire my classmate Om Kasi because he was the glue for several of my classmates especially during core classes. When the pandemic hit, he personally made calls to check in on how we were doing since many had left the city. He also had some unfortunate family circumstances, so it was very inspiring the see his perseverance. With hard work and the help of our Career Management Center, Om was also able to transition to McKinsey through enterprise recruiting.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I felt like I already had a post-MBA role, but many said I was an “MBA type”. Columbia Business School does a fantastic job at integrating the different programs offered in the school (EMBA, Fall Term, J-Term, MS, etc.). I reaped the benefits of starting my core classes in a Saturday-only format alongside over 130 students in May 2019. It was exciting to have other cohorts join us in August and January, and while I felt like I had a close-knit community, there was always someone new to meet from the other clusters and programs and enough overlap to do so.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to have a positive, meaningful impact in the communities I am involved in and the affiliations I am associated with. I hope to inspire others to step up and provide opportunities for generations to come. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” (Winston Churchill)

What made Philip such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“Philip’s enthusiasm and commitment to his fellow classmates set him apart as a leader at Columbia Business School and has made him an invaluable part of our community. He has served as vice president of countless student clubs on campus, encouraging participation and inclusion for all students and bridging the gap between the full-time MBA and EMBA programs. His upbeat personality has been a positive force in a time of uncertainty and his ability to connect students from a wide range of backgrounds and interests is a much needed asset given our new virtual world.

Philip, alongside a group of undergraduate students, co-founded Columbia University’s chapter of First Generation Investors (FGI), which is a non-profit organization that teaches the power of investing to underserved high school students. He is the graduate school liaison to Gita Johar, Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at CBS and also works alongside the founding team of FGI.

Philip’s classmates describe him as eager to offer support, a trusted advisor, and the spirit of their class. His contributions to our community have been tremendous and for this reason he has also been selected to receive the Distinguished Service Award for the EMBA-NY Saturday Class of 2021.”

Susan West
Associate Director, Student Affairs
Executive MBA Programs



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