Wired for Success, Technology Management Alumnus Goes From VP to CTO

“Here’s the thing: If you value your career, then work experience is one thing, a computer science degree is another thing, and then a program that really helps you to be an executive is a whole nother thing,” says Hal Danziger, alumnus of Columbia University’s Executive Master of Science Program in Technology Management and new Chief Technology Officer of the news source DNAinfo. “If you really do want to move up, a program like this is the way to go.”

Previously the VP of Digital Products and Platforms at Condé Nast, Danziger wanted to find a new role, one that combined his knowledge of technology and his experience as a manager but would bring him to the C-suite. He knew that Columbia offered a graduate program in Technology Management and that he would benefit from the prestige of a Columbia degree.

His only conflict, then, was the time commitment.

“I was taking two or three courses a semester. I have a long commute and two kids at home,” he says. However, his classes took place at a convenient time — during the evening — and didn’t interfere with his work schedule. However, he says, “It was a lot.”

What made the Technology Management Program especially worthwhile to Danziger was the guidance he received. Danziger says, “My mentor was the CIO of Sony Music. We met on a regular basis, and he helped with our Capstone project as well.” Guest lecturers, too, provided new perspectives on everything from mergers and acquisitions to entrepreneurship to navigating corporate culture. He says, “You’re getting the experience from those folks who really do it — and have been doing this for twenty years or more.” Moreover, he says, “These folks are happy to engage with you beyond the lecture. And I still meet with my mentor from time to time.”

The veteran executives weren’t the only ones who provided much-needed advice. His peers played a significant role, too. “You’re working with people day in and day out who do what you do. You can bounce ideas off of them.”

Despite the time commitment, Danziger says that the program was essential in helping him land his new job as CTO at DNAinfo. “I put together a plan to get this role, and the experience of putting together a plan when you’re in a technology job is one thing, but putting together a real business plan is another. So the program totally prepared me.”

He added, “I feel like you’re almost getting an M.B.A. education without having to pay M.B.A. dollars. And it’s tailored more towards what you do as a technologist.”

With the invaluable education he received in the Technology Management Program, does Danziger have any plans to give back and become a mentor, too? “Funny you should mention. I just dropped a note to Dr. Langer, so yes, I do.”