This post is part of a special series celebrating the School’s Alumni Forever Week (March 30 through April 3).
Rob Torti ’07
Turnaround Consultant, AlixPartners LLC
Tell us about your career path.
Like every other former investment banker, I wanted to be in private equity. I pursued that but I learned it was a solitary job and that my real passion was for management, and that was something I was good at. After school, I took the summer off and traveled and then came back and looked for jobs at turnaround firms. I wish I could say that it was the result of having foresight, but realistically I liked the job description. The job entails a lot of finance, business analysis and strategy as well as some law; there is a huge management aspect where you get parachuted into a company and take a senior management role.
Looking back at your Columbia Business School experience, what was your aha! moment?
While I was in school my ideas changed dramatically. I took Turnaround Management with Gregory Rourke during the first semester of second year and that opened that whole world to me that I didn’t know that existed. I also took Professor Ralph Biggadike’s Top Management Process class. I really enjoyed the complexity of management, and I realized I had a passion for working with a lot of different people and solving complex problems.
In your industry, what trends are you watching and where is there opportunity?
I probably have a more doom-and-gloom view of the economy in the next two years than most. Having been an investment banker myself, I know that some of these companies just cannot survive. Given the distresses out there, I am looking at the end of 2010 for the economic recovery — and it won’t be a quick bounce back. If you see your company headed for a bad spell and think that bankruptcy will be a real possibility, rather than put everyone in bind at the eleventh hour, you need to get professional help. The bankruptcy process is not something to be feared; you have to embrace it. Don’t wait for a white dove to save you. There won’t be a huge turnaround.
What advice do you have for current or prospective MBA students?
Think of your career as a tree: move along the trunk and don’t jump to a branch too early. When you work for a distressed company, you are given more work and you learn so much more. If the company has a good management team and you are there to help them through the process and see the nuts and bolts at a unique time in their business, you will be successful. This climate allows you to learn at a magnified rate.