Vikas Pathak has worked in Financial Services Technology in Real Time Payments Market Infrastructure in his career at Bank of New York Mellon, Citi, and Oracle. His management degree from Columbia University catapulted him into his recent promotion as Head of Payment Service Management in Investment Technology Division at BNY Mellon. He discusses his Ivy League experience earning his Executive M.S. in Technology Management, and why the flexibility of the program was the catalyst in helping him excel in his executive role.
What led you to pursue the executive master’s degree? Why did you choose Columbia?
I received my computer science engineering degree from one of the premier engineering institutes, and progressed my career from there. I didn’t have the time to pursue an advanced degree--life happens. But a few years ago I began to explore programs for career advancement. I was looking for the right fit out of the Ivy League universities in the vicinity of New York Metro area, namely Columbia, Harvard, and Wharton.
I have been working in technology management in financial services and love my work. I didn’t want to change tracks, to supply chain management, or anything different. I wanted an academic program that would give me tools and help me sharpen my skills so that I could advance my career. Columbia's Executive Technology Management program was the best fit. I already had the hard skills (though don’t get me wrong--we are always learning). This program allowed me to learn new soft skills, connect the dots between different strategic goals, avoid some of the fluff you might find in other leadership programs. There is no magic bullet to succeed, but the education from Columbia did give me plenty of arrows in my quiver to succeed.
I did not want to barter my career for two years to join a full-time academic offering. I needed to find courses that I could either take over an extended period, or speed up as fit my schedule. Dr. Art Langer told me that we could adapt to whatever I needed and offered me a great deal of flexibility.
Since I joined the program, I have been promoted and am now head of the Payments Service Management team at my workplace. The right training met the right opportunity--I had been working towards this next step, but I knew the degree would make a difference. If you tell someone you’re a Columbia University graduate, you’ll raise some eyebrows, and it fills my heart with a sense of pride, making it one of the best decisions of my life.
What skills or strategies did you learn from the program that helped you differentiate yourself?
The executive presentation and related seminars, as part of our final project, stood out to me as the most valuable aspect of the program. Through the project, we moved from approaching a problem that was very ambiguous to advocating for the idea and creating a business plan, to creating something that will make a difference in the world, with the potential to go to market and make money. The feedback that I received from my executive presentation was priceless. The whole project gave me a sense of conviction and assurance to take my project from ideation to reality. I took in mentors’ opinions, benefited from the teamwork aspects, and went forward from there. I loved moving through the executive seminars, and I loved presenting it to the panel of senior C-level executives and Investors. The red ink at school is very precious.
My project theme was based on a very integral part of Payments Market Infrastructure a.k.a SWIFT. I presented what it means for an organization to adopt and implement it, and communicated its eventual translation into business value. I outlined the steps to introduce it practically in an organization, how to onboard the relevant stakeholders. The project had me put this whole package together, then pitch it. I had to field difficult questions about its business value, the particulars of the finances, how an organization can maintain it. This had me applying all I had learned throughout the program, all the theory and strategy, to the final project.
I had the privilege of working with mentor Mark La Penta, former CIO of Bank Leumi USA, as well as former CIO, CTO, and Chief Operations Office at MetLife Bank. I have great respect for him. He reviewed my presentation and gave valuable feedback.
What did you think of the residency? How did you enjoy your cohort, and what did you learn from them?
The residency was impressive--I wish we had more. It helped our cohort gel, and allowed us to be in an engaging environment that allowed us to think freely. I’ve stayed in touch with them, a very global group, all very knowledgeable. People came from North America, Europe, Asia to educate and connect with the brightest in the industry. They were working in diverse industries but all had a keen focus on technology management. I would love to see the program expand its global footprint even farther, to take advantage of this international network that we have among the students and alumni.
What advice do you have for future students who want to succeed in leadership roles in the tech industry?
Take full advantage of Dr. Langer’s residency and the seminars. Connect with everyone during the residencies. Electives were very important for me, think them through. I took an economics course, and it was one of the best classes I took. There are two courses that really helped me navigate my career on a whole new level. Strategic Advocacy and Enterprise Behavioral Challenges gave me practical tools to deal with any problems that come up at work.
I feel very proud that I am a graduate of Columbia University. Am I well equipped to take on the challenges ahead? Absolutely. Do I know the people I need to know? I have a great pool. I look forward to further leveraging the School as an alumni, to meet and connect with people. Graduating from the program renewed my confidence, and I know the future luck and opportunity now lies with me.
Most importantly, I want to express a tremendous amount of gratitude and respect to my wife, my kids, and my parents for encouraging and supporting me throughout my journey at Columbia University.
Learn more about the Executive M.S. in Technology Management program.