The MBA Boxer

Vik Patel likes to stay busy, earning his MBA at Columbia as he hits a punching bag as an amateur boxer.
By Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10


Read time: 3 minutes

Vik Patel, ’07, likes to stay busy. Between hitting the books in NYC to gain his MBA at Columbia University, he hits a punching bag as an amateur boxer. Named a 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 in Finance, we talked to Vik to find out what led him to such an intense sport as well as graduate school.

Vik PatelBefore starting your MBA, you worked as an analyst with companies such as Bank of America and Millennium Management. What led to your career in finance?

When I was in third or fourth grade, my teacher told me I should consider business due to my eagerness to help with fundraisers. I did not know what that meant at the time, but I found that math was one of my favorite subjects. As I progressed, I kept my schedule full with finance and economics courses. I just liked the way those areas made you think about the world.

Attending the Ross School of Business was one of the best experiences in my life. I was in a two-year program that reinforced my interests and encouraged me to go into investment banking.

Who at Ross helped you along?

Professors Hyun-Soo Ahn and Damien Biel engaged students—not just in the classroom, but caring about and getting to know us. They made a big school like U-M feel like home and a community.

Vik Patel TrainingHow did you get into boxing?

If you asked me 10 years ago if I would be passionate about boxing, I would’ve guessed “No way!” But almost six years ago, after I moved to New York City, I reconnected with a friend, Shawn Raysor, who introduced me to the sport and coached me. We began training once a week, then twice a week, and I just began to fall in love with it over time.

What took me by surprise—what I now can’t live without—was the mental aspect. Boxing is exhausting, intensely competitive, and physically demanding, but in the ring I’m completely focused on a single thing. It forces you to be 100 percent present. It’s refreshing. I feel more energized after leaving the boxing gym than I do after any other activity.

And you put that passion to work for a good cause.

In November 2016, I participated in a charity event organized by Haymakers for Hope. I dedicated my fight to Shawn, who died from cancer a year earlier. Together, my opponent and I raised over $40,000 for cancer research.

 (Warning: Video contains blood.)

Do you have any advice for alumni considering going back to school for a graduate degree after having time in a career, as you did?

Generally, when pursuing an MBA, you come back after getting experience. You may return for academic reasons, for professional reasons, or even as a sort of vacation to reassess and enjoy. The time back in school is your time. It’s personal. If you ask 100 people why they are getting an MBA, you’ll get 100 different answers.

For me, it was a mix of professional and personal. Columbia offered me the Meyer Feldberg Fellowship, which included a full-tuition scholarship. With that came the ability to both expand my personal network and explore other interests. I’ve been finance focused for so long that it was an opportunity to branch out. Having a broader perspective of the world makes you a better investor. You think holistically.

Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10 is assistant editor of Michigan Alumnus magazine.

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