Meet Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class Of 2021

Silvia Zamora

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

“Energetic and curious-minded Guatemalan, driven by challenges and embracing of diverse ideas, cultures and cuisines.”

Hometown: Guatemala City, Guatemala

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a trotamundo, or globetrotter, having spent one-third of my life living abroad (six cities in four countries) and traveled to 23 countries on four continents.

Undergraduate School and Major: Worcester Polytechnic Institute – Industrial Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Organizational Development and Internal Communications Manager at Esmax Distribución Ltda.  (Santiago, Chile)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Esmax Distribución Ltda. is the third-largest petrochemical distributor in Chile, and over 80 percent of the staff work at gas stations. Despite the company’s fair and equal-pay practices, many of our employees are economically vulnerable and the sole providers in their families. With the goal to change this situation, I led my team to develop an initiative that provides free vocational training to the spouses, parents, and siblings of our most underprivileged employees. In 2018, we launched the first pilot, successfully training over 80 family members. This opened the door to improve the quality of life of our employees and their families.

After presenting the cost-benefit analysis and the pilot’s results to the board of directors, the program was approved to be implemented company-wide this year and be a recurring project to support our employees across Chile.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Supportive. Classes have not even started yet, and despite many of us not knowing each other face-to-face, the sense of community and support my classmates have shown is remarkable. From responding questions on financial aid to offering car rides to Ithaca, my classmates have truly displayed the sense of community embodied at Johnson.

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? The close-knit community. I have thrived the most in supportive, yet challenging, communities. In order to excel and achieve my career aspirations, I wanted to become part of a community that reflects these features. For me, this is Johnson. When I visited the campus, I had the opportunity to meet and have one-on-ones with student ambassadors and faculty, including Johnson’s Dean, Mark Nelson. They all spoke so fluently about their community members, sharing stories on how they created these strong bonds (classes, interview preparation, TREKs, travel, socials, and more). Interacting with all of them was very natural and down-to-earth, which confirmed that Johnson was a perfect fit for me.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The Immersion – I can’t wait to unleash the knowledge and skills that we will develop during the first semester of real industry problems. By enhancing our skills in various functional areas, this activity boosts our readiness for summer internship recruiting.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? What is the one feature that is not mentioned in your application that you would like me to convey to the admissions committee?” When asked this question, it was difficult to think of something I had not already covered by portraying my personal and professional accomplishments in my written application. Therefore, I took the opportunity to highlight stories of my motivational energy and resiliency. This helped to round out my narrative and showcase to the admissions committee that I would be a great addition to Johnson’s Class of 2021.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I am pursuing a career switch. An MBA is the perfect platform to boost my current experience and skills while deepening my knowledge on all functional areas in business. An MBA at Johnson will push me to the next level and allow me to reach both my short- and long-term goals.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Goizueta.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I prioritized my decision based on five factors:

  1. Culture
  2. Class size
  3. Companies recruiting on campus
  4. Diversity of career
  5. Industry background of classmates

In the case of Johnson, the information for the last three factors, located on the school’s website, aligned perfectly with my career goals. Therefore, I proceeded to learn more about its culture by visiting campus to meet student ambassadors and staff members. Additionally, I attended the MBA Admissions Multi-School Director ́s event in Santiago, Chile, where I connected with alumni and Johnson’s Executive Admissions Director, Judi Byers. Lastly, I spoke with professors regarding the school’s initiatives and leadership opportunities. Through all these interactions, I was able to appreciate Johnson’s culture and determined that is a perfect fit for me.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? It was moving abroad at the age of 18 to pursue my undergraduate studies. This experience not only pushed me to mature faster, but also exposed me to broader ideas, new cultures, and a steeper learning curve. Understanding the rewards of stepping outside my comfort zone despite the hardship made me a braver and more resilient person. I learned not to shy away from a good challenge, to explore career paths, experience various countries and cultures, and more.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years, I see myself holding an executive position, where I can promote diversity across the organization and implement groundbreaking workforce practices on people management. I aspire to mentor men and women in the industry to develop their full potential and give back to communities that have helped me to achieve my goals.

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