Meet Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class Of 2021

Anshul Bakhda 

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

 “A curious, tea-drinking traveler who loves learning and plans his days around food.”

Hometown: Hertfordshire, UK

Fun Fact About Yourself: For four and a half years, I lived on a tropical island that measured 1.5 × 0.4 km.

Undergraduate School and Major: Christ Church, University of Oxford — History

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Soneva Resorts and Spas, Group Innovation and Quality Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I am very interested in businesses, which provide goods and services that serve social or environmental needs. My (admittedly small) contribution to the social and environmental progress of the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, is certainly something I am proud of doing. Having noticed various gender inequities, I founded an initiative called Women in Soneva, which helped make the company a safer and more equitable workplace for women, as well as introducing sexual harassment policies and training. The campaign included increasing the number of women on staff. At the opening of the newest resort, the percentage of women staff was 26 percent, easily beating the national average of 4 percent. We strengthened our business by diversifying and increasing our potential pool of talent. I also co-founded a social enterprise called VITRIC, which desalinated, filtered, mineralized, and bottled water for local people. The bottles are reusable and save thousands of plastic water bottles from being sent to landfills or incinerated. VITRIC also provides a constant supply of clean drinking water, which is much needed during the dry season. Raising funds and registering VITRIC as a legal, profit-making organization was very tough, especially as it was the first social enterprise of its type in the country.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Incredibly friendly and generous with their time. While completing the application process, I spoke with current students at length about their time at Johnson. They also suggested other people I should speak with who they knew would be able to provide some helpful advice.

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? Johnson met all the criteria I was looking for in a business school. In addition to being a friendly and tight-knit community, the school’s close links with the world-renowned School of Hotel Administration and the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise meant that everything I needed to set me in the right direction was available at Cornell’s Ithaca campus.

I also looked at the LinkedIn profiles of people who have the sorts of jobs I want in the future. A very large number of them studied at Cornell (either at Johnson or at the School of Hotel Administration), meaning I knew that the network would be more valuable to me than any other school.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m really looking forward to joining the Hospitality Business and the Sustainable Global Enterprise clubs to learn more about and to get to meet individuals at the cutting edge of both areas. One of the advantages of Cornell is the great network, and being a part of the clubs will allow me to meet with both Cornell alumni and other visiting speakers.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? From my experience, I think there is one common misconception about the MBA application process. The admissions teams really just want to get to know you and understand your goals. That said, I appreciated the question about how my journey thus far. I really had to think about what I had done with my life, why I had made those decisions, and what I hoped to achieve. It required a fair amount of reflection, which can be difficult if you are not used to that.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Having gained experience in concept development and operations, I wanted to make the shift to a more strategic, corporate role. I hope an MBA at Johnson will provide the academic foundation and CV-credibility for me to pursue corporate roles in multinational hospitality companies.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? HBS, Berkeley Haas, Stanford  

How did you determine your fit at various schools?  With a wish to remain in the hospitality industry I had to be particularly careful that I applied to schools that offered classes that would be helpful for my career ambitions.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? While working in my first job, I realized that it was not something to which I wanted to dedicate my life. As a result, I made the decision to pursue something I cared about. I knew I wouldn’t be happy simply pursuing the obvious or more traditional career path. It was the first time that I had made a decision with consideration to the long-term implications that it would have on my life and happiness. Soon after, I took a job in a new industry on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean — along with a 50 percent pay cut. It was the beginning of an exciting new adventure and the best professional decision I’ve made.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In a senior role at a medium-sized luxury hospitality company, helping them grow, become more sustainable, and placing them in the avant-garde of luxury hospitality experiences.

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