Columbia Business School MBAs Glean Career Advice From Gates and Buffett

Last Updated Nov 24, 2009 1:49 PM EST

Over the weekend, I had a chance to check out the recent CNBC program Warren Buffett and Bill Gates: Keeping America Great, which documented the pair's recent appearance at Columbia Business School.

In a town-hall style meeting, Gates and Buffett fielded questions from Columbia MBA students. Not surprisingly, many of them asked two of planet's most successful people for career advice. Among Gates and Buffett's responses:

  • Buffett advised students to put passion ahead of perceived financial gain when considering a career path.
  • Gates told them to stay inquisitive and keep up with research on their topics of interest.
  • Gates also helped students identify sectors in the U.S. economy that are continuing to grow, including information technology, health care and clean energy.
Buffett and Gates also shared their optimism about the future of the U.S. and our economic system. When moderator Becky Quick asked if there was ever a time that the pair had doubts about capitalism or America's way of life, Buffett responded, "This country works, we've got 200 years of proof, and it's going to continue to work."

Gates added, "We have a complex financial system, and we've proven that we can make mistakes, but more fundamental than that is the innovation, the fact that you can create new companies, that people are willing to take risks and invest."

Even in the fall of 2008 when the financial meltdown was at its peak, Gates said that there were "inventions that took place; even in our darkest hour, people were working on new drugs, new chips, new robots and things that will make life better for everyone in the decades ahead."

  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.