Meet The Cornell Johnson MBA Class of 2017

Steven Batista

Steven Batista      

Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University

Hometown: Queens, NY

Undergraduate School and Major: New York University — BA in Economics, BA in Psychology

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: I started my career on the prime brokerage desk in the Sales and Trading Analyst Program at Morgan Stanley. After one and a half years, I transitioned to the equity derivatives space at Och-Ziff.

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? Conquering the GMAT was an arduous process for me. I’d encourage test-takers to give themselves ample time to prepare. Also, I recommend that folks take live classes, especially those who have been out of school for more than a handful of years. The real value-add in attending classes is that it creates a support system that you can tap into whenever you need it. Having a handful of classmates you can lean on when you are feeling overwhelmed preparing for the GMAT is vitally crucial to your success and keeping your sanity.

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? I’d encourage applicants to create a matrix with the top four to five attributes they value in a school. For instance, I valued class size, teaching method, geography, and career placement. I then began researching schools that met each of these criteria. After I created a rough list of schools, I began reaching out to current students and alumni to get a better sense of the culture at each of those schools. Although sending cold emails may seem a bit weird at first, you can learn a lot about a school’s culture by how students/alumni interact with prospective students. After I researched where each school landed on my matrix and had spoken to a handful of students/alumni, I made it a point to visit campus and sit in on several classes. The application process itself can be quite daunting, so I wanted to make sure I truly understood the culture and value proposition each school offered.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf? Similar to preparing for the GMAT, expect to spend ample time applying to schools. Before you start the application process, I’d have a crystal-clear idea as to why you are interested in business school. Are you a career switcher? Are you looking to delve deeper in your industry? Creating a coherent story explaining your career trajectory and vouching for why you need an MBA is crucial and should resonate throughout your application. Having a strong GMAT score without a coherent story will not get you into a top business school.

I’d then write down three or four main attributes you want to convey (i.e., problem solver, excellent communicator, natural-born leader, etc.). As you prepare your résumé and draft your essays, be sure these attributes resonate. As for getting recommenders, I encourage applicants to start speaking with recommenders three to five months before the actual due date for each school. I’d look to mentors and sponsors at work or previous colleagues who can speak to your work experience. Once you’ve identified recommenders, I’d encourage applicants to send a package to each recommender, including your résumé, school deadline, and a few bullet points highlighting the attributes mentioned before, and an explanation of why you need an MBA. I’d then check in every couple of weeks with recommenders to ensure they are on task to meet the school’s deadline. If you have done a thorough job understanding why you need an MBA, highlighted three to five attributes that are key to your personal brand and have a strong sense as to why this specific institution makes sense for your career trajectory. At this point, most of the work preparing for admission interviews will be done.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? As mentioned before, I valued a small class size, a mixture of case-based learning and experiential learning, strong ties to the northeast, and strong exit opportunities in consulting and finance. After speaking with a number of students, both first year and second years (in addition to alumni), Johnson’s full-time program was the perfect fit. Every student I spoke with was more than happy to set aside 30 to 40 minutes with me and provided a unique experience on their time in Ithaca. Not only did Johnson’s program provide a robust academic workload that allowed me to become a more well-rounded professional, it offers a number of student-led overseas treks that will give me the opportunity to travel the world with my classmates.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? Before I graduate, I’d like to become a leader on campus, travel abroad with my classmates, and further develop both my technical and EQ skills.

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