2017 Best MBAs: Patrick Grumley, Cornell University (Johnson)

Patrick Grumley

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University

“I follow rules everybody should obey and break rules nobody should obey.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.

Fun fact about yourself: I worked as a wine educator at a vineyard the summer before I left for the Navy — which was quite a work environment change.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Minnesota: BS Applied Economics, BA Political Science

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? United States Navy: Strike Officer aboard USS Shoup, Naval Surface Fires Officer at I Marine Expeditionary Force

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Bain & Company, NYC

Where will you be working after graduation? Consultant, Bain & Company, NYC

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Roy H. Park Leadership Fellow
  • President, Consulting Club
  • Teaching Assistant, Sustainable Global Enterprise
  • Teaching Assistant, Management Cases
  • Leader, Career Work Group
  • MBA Advisor, Cornell Hyperloop
  • Giving Captain, Class Giving Campaign
  • Admissions Ambassador, service2school.org

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Winning first place at Johnson’s Integrative Case Competition. I won the MBA lottery by getting placed on the best core team I could ask for (shout out to Farzad, Tina, Jefferson, and Nathan). We were finalists in the previous two Johnson case competitions, and this was the culmination of our efforts. Apart from being a high-performing group, we formed lasting friendships.   

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As a Naval Officer, I mentored sailors and marines in the development of their professional careers and personal lives. Their accomplishments will always be what I am most proud of and humbled by. I guided several of them through college applications (many of whom would be the first in their families to attend), advocated in their promotions, and coached them as they transitioned to civilian life. As I reflect on my military career, the contributions I made to their success are what motivated me to lead.

Why did you choose this business school? It was he Park Leadership Fellow program, the Sustainable Global Enterprise Immersion, and the Ithaca community. The unique opportunity I had at Johnson to work on my leadership abilities, look at business through a sustainability lens, and get to know a small cohort of students and faculty made this program overwhelmingly appealing.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The greater Ithaca community. During business school, I took sailing classes on Cayuga Lake, fly fishing classes in the many Ithaca gorges, and trips to wineries and distilleries with friends. Best of all, when you travel down the hill from Sage Hall to the always vibrant Ithaca Commons, you can count on running into another Johnson MBA.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?

Come up to Ithaca and see the program and town for yourself. Johnson students often have offers at schools in larger cities, but most students want to be immersed in an academic environment. There are definite trade-offs to being “centrally isolated” in Ithaca, but if you get to know the current students and faculty, you’ll quickly get to know if this is the place for you.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Business school is an exercise in balancing academics, recruiting, student groups, and social events. Looking back, I wish I would have spent more time getting to know all my classmates — I certainly hope to remedy this in my last semester.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Geoff Johnson. He was voted “sweetest graduate” by his high school class, and if Johnson gave out superlatives, I’m sure he would be a two-time recipient. Geoff is the guy on campus everybody loves. He came to Johnson from the State Department working on solar development projects in Latin America and remains completely dedicated to bringing renewable energy resources to all corners of the globe. Seeing someone so committed to one cause for the betterment of society is inspiring.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when I realized it didn’t close any doors in the public sector and opened doors to the private sector.”   

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a civil servant.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I’ll leave the substantial changes to our very competent deans. Since we spend so much time having cocktails and appetizers during networking events, I would love to see us put in a juice and smoothie bar.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Secretary of the Navy

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My wife, Angie. She listened to me give practice case interviews on Skype eight hours a day the first half of winter break (invading the acoustics of our tiny apartment); I left my summer internship two days before we got married; and she always showed up with a smile to my countless networking events. Despite all this, she was nothing but supportive. I couldn’t have succeeded in business school without her.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? When it came to helping others, he took things seriously but was never too serious about his own success.

Favorite book: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Favorite movie or television show: There Will Be Blood

Favorite musical performer: Whoever is on the Deep Focus Spotify playlist

Favorite vacation spot: On the beach with my wife — exactly where in the world doesn’t matter.

Hobbies? Recreational aviation, SCUBA diving, golf, and Karaoke. As I write this, I’m in Vermont learning how to ski, so if things go well, I may add that to the list.

What made Patrick such an invaluable member of the Class of 2017?

“Patrick Grumley is a military veteran and a dynamic leader in Johnson community in both academics and student organizations. Academically, he took the Sustainable Global Enterprise immersion in his first year and is now giving back by serving as a teaching assistant for the SGE immersion as well as for Management Cases. In co-curricular activities, he served as the president of the Consulting Club, executing a career program that supports both first and second year students, as a Career Work Group leader for mentoring first year MBA students in consulting, and as an MBA advisor to the Cornell Hyperloop. Consulting is the largest career path pursued by about 40% of our students. Patrick has worked tirelessly with students to grow this career path. Patrick stands as an exceptional example of how a student can successfully leverage what may be perceived as non-traditional background experience (military) while remaining focused on the desire to pursue unique interests (sustainability) without having to compromise on career goals (consulting). He is not only a great leader in the community but also a strong team player helping everyone grow and develop and supporting them when needed.”

Recommending faculty members:

Randy Allen, Senior Lecturer of Management

Mark Milstein, Clinical Professor of Management


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