Alumni Stories: My Time at Columbia Business School |

Alumni Stories: My Time at Columbia Business School

By Niamh O

Updated February 2, 2021 Updated February 2, 2021

Earning an MBA provides you with vital business acumen, perspective-widening experiences and unparalleled networking opportunities with your cohort and school’s alumni.

Many MBA students cite their business school experience as transformational, not just on a professional level, but on a personal level too.

With that in mind, TopMBA caught up with Devrim Dirik, an alumnus of Columbia Business School, to learn a little more about his MBA experience, and his career post-MBA.

At present, Devrim is working as a marketing director of Eli Lilly in Saudi Arabia. Eli Lilly is a global healthcare leader headquartered in Indianapolis, USA with 39,000 employees around the world.

Devrim leads the marketing team for the therapeutic products Lilly offers to combat a number of ailments including diabetes, oncology, pain and immunology. He is responsible for the overall affiliate marketing strategy and the execution of key customer programs.

His time at Columbia

Devrim joined the accelerated CBS MBA program, known as the “J-term program”. This program starts in January, and during the summer months when regular, MBA students undertake their internship, students on the J-term program have their second term and join the other MBAs in the second year.

Devrim told us CBS’s MBA program was great for him for a number of reasons. He said: “The program helped my career transition from consulting to the pharma industry right after graduating from CBS.

“The program gave me a great opportunity to build a strong international network consisting of classmates and alumni. I have leveraged this network multiple times for my career or personal life.

“And finally, I had a lot of fun. I lived in Manhattan with my family for a year and a half. It’s one of the best places you can spend your university years.”

Utilizing b-school networks

Devrim has been able to leverage CBS’s alumni network multiple times since graduating – in both his professional and personal life.

You never know when the connections you make within your alumni network will come in handy, and Devrim has one such anecdote to prove it.

He said: “In one of the projects I was leading, the attorney of a landlord was giving me hard time. I was not able to connect with the landlord and the attorney was acting as showstopper.

“When I checked the board of the parent company of the landlord, I realized there was an alumnus from CBS on the board and so I dropped him an email.

“He was in Far East Asia but responded to me in a few hours, and within 24 hours the issue was solved, and I was able to get things done for my employer.”

What you learn on your MBA

Devrim told us it’s more than just business knowledge that you acquire on an MBA – it also shows you how to work in a diverse, international group, how to communicate with them, and how to get things done.

He said: “During my time at CBS, I never worked in a project where I had to deliver solely by myself. All the projects and assignments were delivered as a group.

“From day one, CBS assigns you to learning teams which consist of six students with a diverse background. I think this helped me a lot!”

Advice for future MBA students

When it comes to choosing the right business school for you, Devrim advised thinking about the next 10 to 20 years before making your final decision.

He said: “Making an investment in business school is like buying land. You do not realize return on investment in the next 2-3 years, it is a long-term investment.

“Choose the best school, and ideally have options, do not rely on a single school (I got accepted by three other schools while I was looking for an MBA).”

Looking ahead to the future, Devrim said he would like to continue his career in the pharmaceutical industry: “There is a strong unmet need for pharmaceuticals in the world today. Personally, I believe that we need more MBAs in the pharma industry, and we can make life better for people around the world.”

This article was originally published in October 2020 . It was last updated in February 2021

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (;, creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  


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