Big careers in finance, marketing can begin at a startup

The Charter School Business Management staff.

by Balt Heldring (GSB ’14)

College students in search of their first job have a unique opportunity: to choose a career path that not only meets their goals, but also fulfills their passion.

So many of us feel like we must start our careers at a large, reputable organization: KPMG, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Deloitte. These companies offer great opportunities, but are they the only way?

One company in particular is out to show Fordham students that the answer is “no” — offering the same high level of experience, but with a different mission.

CEO Raj Thakkar founded Charter School Business Management, known as CSBM for short, in 2006. Why? He had learned that 80 percent of nearly 1,100 charter schools — publicly funded, privately run alternatives to public schools — had been shut down over the past 20 years due to financial mismanagement.

CEO Raj Thakkar.

Thakkar found this to be a solvable problem.

CSBM began working with New York City charter schools to help manage their financial portfolios, and today, its past and present client list has surpassed 100 schools. Each project is different: The company might help a school with human resources, brand management, payroll or day-to-day bookkeeping.

Thakkar recently expanded his reach to other states as well, including Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Georgia.

“We want to be a business that is best for the world, not just one that is in it,” he said. “Our mission is to give kids a fair shot at education while making a difference in the world, not just making one individual wealthy.”

Gabelli School students have looked to CSBM for internships that let them give back to their communities and neighborhoods. Gabriela Cinkova (GSB ’15) recently completed a summer internship with the company. “CSBM has evolved to be a very successful startup,” she said, “and having the opportunity to be part of a business that is experiencing such growth is incredibly exciting and motivating.”

Gabriela helped with event planning and with charter schools’ grant applications for the No Child Left Behind Act and New York’s Department of Youth and Community Development, in addition to administrative responsibilities. Other fellow interns, meanwhile, worked closely with CSBM’s marketing and finance teams.

The Gabelli School hopes to expand students’ thinking about what kinds of jobs lie beyond graduation. Both the school and CSBM believe in promoting the good of society by doing business for the benefit of neighborhoods and communities.

Starting a career with a large corporation is not necessarily always the key to success. The path to a successful career can start anywhere. The trick is to find a career, like Raj Thakkar did, that you are passionate about, have the skill set for, and wouldn’t trade for anything.

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