2019 MBAs To Watch: Fernanda Carranza, Cornell University (Johnson)

Fernanda Carranza

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

“A dynamic leader who seeks to create more equal opportunities for everyone.”

Hometown: San Jose, Costa Rica

Fun fact about yourself: I love to learn new languages, and I can speak five.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Costa Rica, Bachelor of Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Procter & Gamble, Cash Coordinator

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Finance Leadership Development Program MBA Intern, Novartis, New Jersey

Where will you be working after graduation? Novartis, Finance Leadership Development Program Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • International Student Chair, Student Council and International Student Representative to the Diversity Council (The Johnson Diversity Council brings together the presidents/leaders of Johnson’s Black Graduate Business Student Association (BGBA), Consortium Members, Forté Fellows, Hispanic American Business Leaders Association (HABLA), Out for Business (LGBTQ), Veterans’ Association, Women’s Management Council, and Student Council representatives for monthly meetings and dialogue with senior administration regarding Johnson’s diversity and inclusion strategy and goals.)
  • Johnson Leadership Fellow
  • Career Work Group Leader
  • Johnson Board Fellow
  • Admissions Group Interviewer and Ambassador

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of helping Johnson become a more inclusive and supportive community through my role in the Student Council. I was able to support international students by meeting with them and working to tailor and create sessions and activities that would help promote social integration and recruiting efforts. I was very impressed by both the administration and the student body’s responsiveness and willingness to raise the bar when it comes to supporting international students. The environment for international students across the U.S. is very tough right now. The political climate is tense, the job market for internationals is tight as fewer firms are sponsoring, and international student applications to U.S.-based MBA programs have pulled back. I made it my mission to ensure the Student Council was actively engaging with my fellow international student in an open dialogue, and that the school was doing everything it could in terms of cultural openness, recruiting support, and alumni engagement.

We can always do more, but some of the things that are already paying off are more tailored programming and support for international student recruiting, sharing of best practices across cultural and international student organizations, and new initiatives for incoming international students. I also loved promoting cultural understanding and awareness through events such as our International Education Week, which culminated with an “Around the World Celebration.” That event was met with much enthusiasm. Johnson also works hard to create a path for interested international students to apply for an H1-B visa in April.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I worked at P&G, I had the amazing opportunity to participate and lead parts of a project that moved core business functions from one office to another. This project was extremely challenging. It required extensive training, travel, and emotional intelligence. The entire transition was seamless and transparent. Once it was done, I was able to lead initiatives that improved operations, decreased costs, and optimized cash collection efficiency. During the project, I focused on creating great relationships with our customers and internal teams. This allowed me to gain their trust and confidence to keep initiatives moving forward.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Risa Mish. She is incredibly inspirational and passionate. I try to take one of her classes each semester. She has taught me a wide variety of things, from how to tackle deep organizational problems that don’t have an easy or quick solution, to how to be an active listener and develop my leadership skills. She is very invested in her students and is always willing to coach us on how to become better, not only in the professional world but also in our personal lives.

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favorite class was the Johnson Leadership Fellows course, which is co-taught by Professor of Practice Risa Mish and Executive Director of Leadership Programs, Laura Georgianna. The course focuses on leadership coaching. As Johnson Leadership Fellows, we are assigned a first-year core team and work in a coaching capacity for the entire fall semester. This course forced me to get out of my comfort zone in order to be a leader who can empower others by using coaching techniques to develop them, rather than just handing over all the answers. I learned to be a better listener and to use powerful questions to coach others. The class was unlike any other—its unique approach combined lectures and hands-on experience with a core team that was going through its own unique experience. I was incredibly proud to see how the team progressed during the semester, and to see myself grow. Every Johnson Leadership Fellow also has an opportunity to work with a certified executive leadership coach, so that we can experience coaching first-hand as we learn to do it ourselves. My work with my coach allowed me to dig deeper into my actions and help shape my leadership style and approach.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Johnson for three reasons: its strong curriculum, extensive leadership opportunities and a strong community. First, Johnson allowed me to dig deeper into finance through the Corporate Finance Immersion and the school’s broad set of great electives. Second, the leadership opportunities are endless, from representing the student body on the Diversity and Student Councils to testing myself on the Adirondacks Leadership Expedition. Third, the community at Johnson is strong. It is a very supportive environment. You definitely develop strong friendships and connections with students, faculty, and staff.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Take advantage of all the opportunities to get to know the community better. There is no better way to do this than visiting on a Thursday, attending a class and coffee chat, and joining a Sage Social (our weekly happy hour with students, staff, and faculty) in the Sage Hall Dyson Atrium. Thursdays give prospective students a chance to see Johnson’s academic and social side. They can also reach out to current students or professors who are leading clubs or initiatives that interest them. Everyone is happy to share their experiences and help prospective students understand our community.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Some myths include the following: the class size is small and that there is not much to do in Ithaca. I actually think that our class size is ideal because it gives you an excellent chance to get to know your classmates better during the two years. Also, there is always something going on in Ithaca. The student body is very active, so we are always planning new things to do, from visiting wineries to hiking along one of the beautiful gorges in the area to enjoying local festivals and on-campus events.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I understood better how fast everything happens. I initially thought I would have more time to make some key decisions. However, once I got to school, I realized everything happened very rapidly.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Business school has changed me in several ways. I am more willing to put myself out there, to try new things, and meet new people. I have developed a more critical approach to tackle issues and determine solutions. Finally, it has given me skills, connections, and experiences that have enhanced my leadership and confidence.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I really admire those classmates who have children. I can’t imagine how challenging it would be to handle academics, recruiting, and leadership positions while raising a family. They deserve a lot of recognition for all they do.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I have wanted to pursue an MBA since I was an undergrad, mostly because both of my parents have MBAs and always talked about the value it provides. They taught my sister and me the value of education, and how we should use it to not only pursue a successful career but also to contribute to society. After several years of work experience, I started exploring options and it felt like it was the right time to apply.

What is your favorite movie about business? I like The Big Short. It explains, in a very clear way, many financial concepts and what really happened during the financial crisis. I think its main lesson is that we always need to dig deeper to really understand everything that is going on around us, and how it affects businesses.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? “MBAs: Managers By Accident” is quite funny. We all aspire to grow in our careers. Hopefully, we’ll lead and manage people in a more thoughtful way than some who share our degree.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…pursuing an international career.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? My MBA was definitely worth more than its dollar value. It not only put me on the professional path I aspired to be on, but it also allowed me to create amazing friendships and connections which are priceless.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Become certified for scuba diving and see the Northern Lights.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want them to remember me as a good friend who is always willing to help.

Hobbies? Traveling, dancing, and karaoke

What made Fernanda such an invaluable member of the Class of 2019?

“Fernanda Carranza is a standout at Johnson because of her dedication to bettering the MBA experience for international students and because she is such a role model for leading with positivity, warmth, and humility. As a member of our Johnson Leadership Fellows cohort, Fernanda not only contributed thoughtfully to classroom discussion, she also took genuine pleasure in seeing others, including her assigned Core team members, shine. She is a pleasure to teach and a joy to be around.”

Risa Mish
Professor of the Practice, Management and Organizations

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