2018 Best MBAs: Nikolaos De Maria, Cornell University (Johnson)

Nikolaos De Maria

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

An aspiring leader seeking to do the right thing and pull up those around me.”

Age: 30

Describe yourself in 15 words or less:

Hometown: Amsterdam, NY

Fun fact about yourself: Prior to business school, I had never taken a single business-related course.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Rochester, BA, Political Science

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? United States Marine Corps, Infantry Officer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Guggenheim Securities, New York City

Where will you be working after graduation? Guggenheim Securities, Investment Banking Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 

  • VP of Investment Banking for the Old Ezra Finance Club
  • Member of St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church, Orthodox Christian Fellowship, and Johnson Christian Fellowship

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of growing the investment banking program as the vice president of Investment Banking for Old Ezra, Johnson’s Finance Club. The club was instrumental in not only increasing the number of summer internships secured by the first-year class, but also in expanding the geographical diversity of those internships. We saw growth in Houston, San Francisco, and Charlotte, and increased placement in New York. Overall, it was a really good year for investment banking.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my career as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps, I deployed twice to Afghanistan. Despite the larger, current challenges that we as a nation are facing in Afghanistan, I am proud to say that my platoon contributed to the stabilization and security improvement of our area of operations in Helmund Province.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Bill Schmidt, assistant professor of operations, technology, and information management, who teaches Core Data Analytics and Modeling. Professor Schmidt taught one of the most challenging topics of an MBA core curriculum in a manner that truly made me feel confident in my abilities to design data products, make data-driven inferences, and ultimately make decisions and recommendations. The design of the course — the work assigned, the lectures, the guest speakers, the exams — flowed in a virtually flawless manner. Also, who doesn’t love a stats professor who ends his class with a lecture on ethics?

Why did you choose this business school? This is the easiest question to answer so far: I wanted to become an investment banker. As a career-switcher coming to business school, I had extensively researched general management, real estate, and finance. After a huge process of elimination, I believed that I had the personality for investment banking. Banking combines teamwork, analytical work, and sales and communication, and has a direct impact on the economy. Johnson has a program specifically for students to make the pivot into investment banking from nontraditional backgrounds. The traditional finance and strategy classes, combined with our banking practicum and additional modeling classes, made Johnson the ideal fit for me. The academic instruction and strong track record of recruiting success made my decision very easy.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Get to know us! Johnson is truly a tight-knit community. We love to get to know everyone who applies, not only through admissions, but through informal chats. If you come up to visit, introduce yourself, sit in on classes, and meet with our professional club officers. We’ll be more than happy to take the time to get to know you, and these interactions will best position you to understand whether you really want to come to Johnson.

What was your biggest regret in business school? None. I came here on a mission. I achieved the mission. I got my dream job, made awesome friends, traveled the world, worked on areas of my life that I wanted to improve on, and learned the fundamentals of business. When I met with students and administration before I was accepted, they told me that I would be successful in banking recruiting if I came here and worked hard. We both kept up our end of the bargain, and I am happy as can be.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Brady Reece. Brady is a former military guy like me. Besides the fact that he’s the most normal mechanical engineer that I know, he’s incredibly smart, self-disciplined, and driven beyond anything I have ever witnessed. He has unique views about business and the world, and I am excited to see what his future brings.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father-in-law, Stephen Pearlman. Steve is more of a father than a father-in-law. Steve worked in real estate finance for over 40 years. Steve’s number one concern in life is the happiness and cohesion of his family. Nearly everything he does and has done is for us. He strongly encouraged me to pursue an MBA when I decided to resign from the Marines. He knew that an MBA from a school such as Johnson would lead to great career opportunities that would enable us to live good lives.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a Marine Corps officer.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I’d start classes much earlier in the summer and simultaneously forbid recruiters from coming on campus any earlier than they already do.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Oversee the construction of “Camp Pearlman” — our family goal of adding several adjacent homes at our upstate house so that our family and friends always have a place to rally to — and to launch an entrepreneurial endeavor (or “intrapreneurial” endeavor).

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? That guy who was a really loyal, caring dude.

What is your favorite movie about businessDoes Moneyball count? The bottom line is that managers should never dismiss data nerds and their recommendations — they might just make the enterprise a market leader.

What would your theme song be? “Non-Stop” from Hamilton with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Christopher Jackson, and Renée Elise Goldsberry

Favorite vacation spot: Tough question! I’m an off-the-beaten-path kind of guy, so I’m going to go with Georgia (the country).

Hobbies? Violin, theology, weight-lifting, co-hosting the best dinner-parties you’ve ever been to, being a toastmaster, and trying to not overwhelm my wife with my “next big business idea.”

What made Nikolaos such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Nik is an exceptional student in so many ways. As the Investment Banking Vice President of our Old Ezra Finance Club, Nik led what has shaped up to be our best year yet in investment banking recruiting. He took what has historically been a busy role to a new level. He understands that his role is to mentor and lead, not tell and force. He has adapted his leadership training in the United States Marine Corps to a new, unique environment in a way that has fostered collaboration; a positive, safe environment; and an expectation of excellence. I am proud of — and thankful for — what Nik has done for Johnson.”

Drew Pascarella
Rempe Wilson Distinguished Lecturer
Lecturer of Finance

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST: CLASS OF 2018