Rachael Keller

Rachael keller
Class Year
Indialantic, FL
Areas of Interest
Media and Technology
Previous Education
Bachelor’s in Business Management, University of Florida

What brought you to business school? Why did you choose Columbia Business School?

I chose Columbia Business School because I wanted to earn a world-class education while still advancing in my career.

The decision to get an MBA is a deeply personal and reflective process. It is an enormous commitment and requires an extensive amount of thought, preparation, and planning. I knew that if earning an MBA was something I truly wanted to commit to, it had to be under the right circumstances, at the right time, and in the right program.

When I was considering starting my MBA, I was on a fast trajectory within my organization, and I worried that stepping back to attend full-time business school could potentially slow my progress. The EMBA program at Columbia gives you the ability to earn your degree, without feeling as if you are stepping away from work progression. The faculty, staff, location, and curriculum are renowned for good reason.

What was your first impression as a student?

"Wow, there are a lot of resources here!"

Before you even start at Columbia, you are inundated with resources, guidance, and assistance from faculty and staff. You truly feel as if you have an entire team behind you, dedicated to your success. You immediately feel a strong sense of community.

How do you balance between work, school, and your personal life?

Finding the right balance between work, school, and personal life is a daily journey. There is no perfect formula. Columbia has designed the EMBA program in a way that each student directly benefits from the diverse backgrounds of our peers. We are each assigned to a 5-6 person learning team, and this learning team becomes your lifeline. Earning your MBA while working full-time is not something any one person could accomplish on their own. It truly is a team effort, and you have to create a regime that works for your personal situation and style. At times it can be trial and error, and ultimately your learning team, faculty, and program staff are there to guide you towards success.

What’s your favorite part of the EMBA experience so far?

The people, hands down. Some of the smartest, most accomplished and loveliest people are my classmates, and now, my friends. We started our program in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there was quite a bit of anxiety and unknown around what our journey would look like. It was truly inspiring to see how our class supported one another as we navigated uncharted waters together. We truly are bonded for life.

What was the most challenging part of the program?

The most challenging part for me has been adjusting my student mindset. During your undergraduate career, you are very focused on being involved in as many academic and social engagements as possible. You strive for perfection. During your EMBA career, you strive for progress. It is a uniquely challenging task to balance working full time, taking a full course load, and your personal life. The most important thing to remember is that progress is the goal, not perfection.

How have your professional skills translated into success at business school?

Absolutely. I feel fortunate that my experience at Google gave me a crash course in how to succeed in a competitive, rigorous environment like Columbia. I am also one of the younger members of my class, and one of the few from the technology industry, which has allowed me to bring a unique perspective. The ability to take what I learn in class over the weekend and apply it at work on Monday is an incredibly valuable experience. Two terms in, I can already see my experience at Columbia influencing me and changing me as a leader in the workforce.

Which faculty member(s) and/or courses influenced you the most, and how?

Paul Ingram’s Leadership & Organizational Change course has had a profound impact on not only my professional life, but my personal life as well. It is a deeply thoughtful and academic look at interpersonal leadership. One of the wonderful things about earning your MBA is the ability to select classes that truly speak to you and that you are passionate about.

What are your long-term career goals?

My long-term goal is to lead a retail organization, specifically a direct-to-consumer beauty brand. I am so drawn to the retail industry, and the COVID pandemic highlighted consumers' reliance on the industry as a whole. The industry is changing, pivoting to a more digital, direct-to-consumer model, and retail business leaders are relying on technology more than ever. There is so much opportunity.

What’s your top advice for new students?

Surround yourself with support in every part of your life. Some weeks will be great. Some weeks will be very challenging. Remember that it is all temporary, and you will get through it. Earning your MBA while working full time is truly a badge of honor. And pro tip — use all your free tutoring hours!

What will you take with you from Columbia Business School?

A world-renowned MBA degree, life-long friends, deep business expertise, a robust network, and an unwavering confidence that I can do anything I set my mind to.