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Columbia's Business Certification Program Propels Financial Analyst Jonathan Gray

A history major as an undergraduate, Jonathan Gray was interested in law and business but wasn’t sure what his next step would be. Tempted to get an M.B.A., he wanted to get a taste of Business School while working in the field before investing in an advanced degree. He opted for a non-degree program, the Certification of Professional Achievement in Business at Columbia’s School of Professional Studies. Here, he discusses his peripatetic career path, studying business alongside interning in the field, and the value of the business certification program at Columbia.

You got the Certification of Professional Achievement in Business. What were you doing before you enrolled in that program?

I went to Connecticut College. I thought that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I realized later in my college career that I wanted to work in finance. I took some law classes, I tried to pivot and move toward something finance related, but at that point, it was a little late for me. I had already declared a history major.

After I graduated in 2011, I knew that I needed something to bolster my résumé. I looked at M.B.A. options, but realistically I knew that any M.B.A. program would want someone with leadership experience.

I thought that the certification in business would be a great segue for me to transition into perhaps an M.B.A. or a finance position. After I graduated from undergrad, I took an internship with a small investment bank called Grill & Partners, and I enrolled in classes at the School of Professional Studies. I could see the practical application of what I was doing in the classroom at work every day.

What do you think was most valuable about the program?

It was the combination of two things. One, the ability to take the classes and have time for my internship, where I applied those ideas and skills. And then, two, the ability to take M.B.A. classes and cross-register at Columbia Business School.

Also, there were the people I met. [Associate Dean] Karl Rutter is a great guy, and he put me in contact with Prof. Jay Dahya at the Business School for whom I was a teaching assistant. That was a valuable experience. Prof. Dahya was a VP at Morgan Stanley when he was 25 years old, so being able to work with such a dynamo on a day-to-day basis was a pretty rare opportunity.

What are you doing now?

I work for an investment management firm in San Francisco called Hall Capital Partners. We have $28 billion under management, and we create multi asset class portfolios for high net worth families and foundations. I’m an analyst in the portfolio management group. I think I only would have gotten the job by having the business certification on my résumé.

Any other thoughts about the program?

Well, for someone who enters undergrad at 18 years old, how do you know what you want to do? You need these post bacc programs to get a taste of what a graduate program or the career you want might be like. You need something to propel you forward or set you apart from other candidates.

In my case, I had two internships in the finance industry, but the School of Professional Studies program helped me demonstrate my interest in finance. For me, the program was a catalyst for my career.