Meet the MBA Class of 2021: The Go-Getters

David Nguyen

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


“Resilient, gregarious, idea person, who enjoys solving complex problems but also pulling the occasional prank.”

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA 

Fun Fact About Yourself: On a dare, I once jumped off a cliff in Grenada into the raging and rocky waters below and lived to tell the tale.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Pennsylvania — Classical Studies, Psychology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:  Charles Schwab, Vice President, Asst. Branch Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I led a team of novice financial advisers in developing their books of business and becoming proficient in financial advising. I learned a lot about leadership in that role and could see my efforts pay off as my team developed and flourished. Not only was I able to coach to become experienced advisers, but I somehow managed to inspire a number of them to pursue leadership opportunities that landed them promotions.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Humility. Although everyone that I have met so far is smart, accomplished, and driven, their egos were nowhere to be found. Instead of just talking about themselves, they were genuinely more interested in getting to know each other, talking about ways to collaborate and succeed together. This is when I knew that I found the place where I belonged.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? As a career changer who is looking to pivot to consulting post-MBA, it was important for me to be in a program that provided many opportunities for experiential learning. Johnson’s Semester in Strategic Operations Immersion provides a path for me to gain this hands-on experience in various industries that will broaden my knowledge base. Additionally, Johnson Board Fellows, a program that provides opportunities for students to serve on the board of a local nonprofit, will allow me to further develop my skillset while contributing to the local community at the same time.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Continuing with the theme of hands-on experience, I am looking most forward to participating in Big Red Consulting. This is a student-run consulting firm that provides real-world experience to students by allowing them to gain direct client exposure through consulting projects for companies and organizations looking to achieve their business goals. (Also, Beer Club and Wine Club, but I think that goes without saying!)

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? As a self-improvement junkie, I tend to focus on the aspects of myself that I can improve and overlook the positive qualities that I have. So when I was asked to list five positive traits that my friends and colleagues would use to describe me, I nearly did the opposite. I’m not sure if this was the most challenging question, but it definitely threw me off.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After spending the past 10 years at companies that range in size from a small startup to large Fortune 500 companies, I was able to experience the on-the-ground realities of what makes a particular strategy succeed or fail. These experiences around strategy motivated me to pursue an MBA in order to pivot to a more intentional career path. A career in consulting would give me broad exposure to a multitude of business strategies and allow me to hone my strategic thinking and problem-solving skills. The timing worked out perfectly since my wife just finished her third (and hopefully last!) degree — it’s now my turn to hit the books.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Fuqua, Tuck, Wharton, Stern

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Aside from the various online resources that were available, I took an in-person approach. I went to info sessions and campus visits, spoke with the admissions and career counseling staff, and reached out to current and former students. I also gave great weight to the recruiting resources and career placement metrics. This holistic approach helped me see the unique culture at each school and allowed me to find the right fit — culturally, academically, and professionally.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Growing up as a first-generation, low-income (FGLI) student, my parents always emphasized education as the vehicle that would propel me out of poverty. After obtaining my undergraduate degree and achieving financial security, I experienced first-hand the transformative power of education that my parents had spoken. This has made me a firm believer in making higher education attainable for low-income students. My wife and I are involved with philanthropy at our alma mater, having created and funded book scholarships that provide targeted aid to the next generation of FGLI students. Having been an FGLI student myself, it is extremely important to me to find ways to pay it forward in both my personal and professional life.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? After gaining some experience in the world of consulting, I hope to translate that experience to entrepreneurship by starting my own company. Since I am open to opportunities that lie ahead, I do not know for certain the exact industry or space where I will be. However, I do know that my company will be a values-based company that strives to enrich the lives of its employees and clients, while also creating a positive impact in the world.

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