Blair MerlinoMBA+ MSDT Chief Operating Officer, Cogo Labs, Inc.
“The network I developed at Questrom not only resulted in me getting my first private-sector job at Deloitte Consulting, but also has yielded some of the most impactful relationships of my adult life.”
Blair Merlino has a life motto that has served him well: “Start with a target and plan backwards from there to achieve it,” he says. That’s how he landed at Deloitte Consulting and ultimately became COO of Cogo Labs, a venture capital fund's startup incubator and venture origination company.
Rewind to 2013, when Blair turned to his motto as he was preparing to leave the military. After serving six years as a U.S. Army special operations soldier, he set a new target: a private-sector career in a fast-paced, high-growth business area at the intersection of technology and business strategy. Working backwards, Blair chose Questrom’s dual-degree program in business and digital technology as the best place to start.
“The faculty and curriculum of the MBA+ MSDT (or MBA/MSIS as it was called in my day) focused me on learning skills and concepts that, in the military, I had no exposure to,” says Blair. “The program trained me in aspects of business and management, and applied technical skills, including Python and SQL, both of which I now use in my work (although admittedly most of the coding and querying are done by our insanely bright dedicated analysts and engineers!).
In the dual-degree program, Blair also gained the contextual basis to marry the management side with the technical side in application. “Since Questrom, I've used both in applications ranging from direct and indirect project and P&L management to coding up and building process robots and automation for clients and project teams. Experiences across that spectrum have accelerated my career to where I am today. I didn't have the know-how to do any of that before Questrom.”
Blair also values the way his degree program focused on outcomes. “That set the tone for me in my work and job hunt,” he says. “That attitude and approach from everyone in the program’s faculty and staff was a highlight for me.”
Thanks to Questrom, it didn’t take long for Blair to land the job he was targeting. “The network I developed at Questrom not only resulted in me getting my first private-sector job at Deloitte Consulting, but also has yielded some of the most impactful relationships of my adult life.”
At Deloitte, Blair advanced quickly, from senior consultant to data analytics manager to chief of staff for disruption and innovation to senior manager. In 2019, he made the move into the startup world and joined Cogo Labs.
For students contemplating a dual-degree at Questrom, Blair has this advice. “Plan target-backwards! Identify what you want to achieve and where you want to be after your degree. For me, Questrom's MBA+ MSDT was absolutely on the critical path to my target.”