Columbia Business Magazine
The unique program provides students with the critical skill set needed to meet evolving business demands.
Babies grow up fast, and as each milestone passes, parents often amass baby clothes, toys, gear, and all types of infant and toddler products that quickly lose their utility.
Columbia Business School alumna Carolyn Butler ’18 hit that point after the birth of her daughter, when she also discovered that options to recycle children’s products were nonexistent. That’s when she merged a 15-year engineering career with her MBA skills to launch America’s first circular retailer, Borobabi (now Manymoons), a public-benefit, venture-backed company rooted in the concept of borrowing instead of owning.
“Coming from chemical engineering, where almost everything is recycled, I knew that I could take those principles of circularity and recycling and apply them to an industry that was so alarmingly linear and wasteful, like fashion,” says Butler.
Butler’s venture is a prime example of the type of outcomes that Columbia Business School and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science aim to see with the new Dual MBA/Executive MS in Engineering and Applied Science program, which launched last summer.
Faculty will welcome the first class in fall 2023, teaching both business skills and cutting-edge science to those who want to launch new companies or lead an established technological enterprise as a vice president of engineering, COO, CTO, CIO, or senior product manager. The aim is to address the high demand for leaders with broad management skills and technical expertise across industries.
Dean of Columbia Engineering Shih-Fu Chang says the new 20-month degree program will emphasize four key elements: societal challenges, breakthrough technologies, leadership, and a humancentric design approach. “We think of this program as something that is targeted toward solutions that people will adopt and use, so design is an important component,” says Chang.
The program will offer a broad overview of engineering rather than focus on specific specializations. Students will learn about the engineering design process, understanding and identifying how to solve an engineering problem.
This training will be matched with business education and skill development in leadership, strategy, marketing, and management, says Costis Maglaras, dean of Columbia Business School. He adds that students also will receive unparalleled access to business leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors, uniquely preparing them for their future roles.
“Our dual MBA/MS degree provides strong simultaneous expertise in engineering and business, offering the ideal background for a career of impact,” Maglaras adds.
Bob Bakish ’89 is president and CEO of Paramount Global, one of the world’s largest media companies. A graduate of both Columbia Business School and Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Bakish emphasizes how his combined skills in business and engineering have served him well in his career.
His operations research engineering degree, earned in 1985, taught Bakish the analytical skills to problem solve, while his MBA provided essential skills in finance, accounting, marketing, and general strategy, he says.
“Over the past 25 years, it’s about looking at situations and solving problems. It might be revenue related, cost related, about margins, or about growth, but having that combined toolkit has been tremendously important,” says Bakish.
Bakish says the combination of engineering and business skills intersect with what people need to focus on when they say they want to grow in their careers.
“What I always say is, ‘You need to focus on building your brand. Be the person people depend on, put in the extra hours, be flexible, such that when they have a hard problem or incremental work, they turn to you. With a broader toolkit, you can solve more problems, you can add more value, you can be the person they depend on.’”
Columbia Business School alum John Chrin ’88, who studied engineering at Lehigh University, has developed his own professional perspective on the needs of modern-day employers, having worked at high-level positions in the financial services industry for many years. He knows that smart, talented business leaders who can work alongside technical experts and make decisions about when to invest time, money, and other resources into a particular project have an advantage in today’s business environment.
A partner at Circle Wealth Management, Chrin says that the financial services industry has led in the recruitment of people with technical expertise, adding that demand for people with both business and tech acumen continues to rise. Individuals who, in their work, apply the two critical skills of analytical rigor and attention to detail, he says, “are in extraordinary demand across the spectrum of all industries.”
Chrin envisions benefits for society when dualdegreed professionals branch out to work in industries beyond finance. “I believe that over the next 10, 20, and 30 years, there’s going to be a redirection of that talent back to more traditional product and services companies, so the United States can ensure its competitiveness within the global economy,” Chrin says.
Innovations That Impact Humanity
With technology-forward organizations often composed of cross-functional teams, the business leaders of tomorrow will need to engage and collaborate with engineers and data scientists to produce collaborative, innovative work, says Dean Maglaras.
“Engineering innovations are driving change and disruption across industries and functional roles,” he says, noting that many of those innovations address challenging problems and provide solutions that improve on past business processes.
Teaching students how to explore and develop emerging technologies that could be used to solve real business problems is a core tenet of the new dual degree program, and it lives up to Columbia Engineering’s mission to develop innovations that impact humanity.
The Dual MBA/Executive MS in Engineering and Applied Science degree program is focused on producing professionals such as Manymoons founder Butler, an engineer with experience and training who launched a company with societal and environmental impact by obtaining critical business skills.
Deans Maglaras and Chang look toward the future with the hope of educating and inspiring more leaders like Butler, who can help change the world.
Watch Professor Ciamac Moallemi, co-director of the Dual MBA/Executive MS in Engineering and Applied Science, share why he believes the new program is ideal for students looking to learn both the management skills and the science and technology core to help them thrive in the modern business world: