Meet Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class Of 2021

Ciara Chen 

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

“I choose to rise to new challenges, face my fears, and cherish everyone around me.”

Hometown: Zhejiang, China

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a very decisive person on important matters. Sometimes, I can be indecisive on innocuous things like where to eat. So I came up with a solution that uses the random function in Excel to help me pick a restaurant to solve this problem.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Maryland College Park, Master of Science in Business and Management, Accounting; Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, Bachelor of Management, Accounting (International Accounting)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Goldman Sachs (Greater New York City Area), Finance Division, Associate

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Before joining Goldman Sachs, I spent three years at Ernst & Young, where I served more than six clients. While all my clients strived to keep the accuracy of financial reporting to the highest standards, my achievement was helping them discover imperceptible inaccuracies in their financial reporting and the weaknesses in their controls. Among the clients I served, I was senior co-lead on an initial audit for a public client, developed the overall analytic strategy, designed and led the testing for the areas I was responsible for, and communicated the audit adjustments and control observations to the client. In addition, I created a new net capital calculation model for a broker-dealer client in compliance with SEC guidance, resulting in an audit adjustment and reduced capital charges. The client later adopted the new model.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Bonded and supportive. During the Destination Johnson weekend, I was impressed by how well the current students are familiar with each other. Knowing even just one student means you’ve opened the door to the whole Johnson community. All the current students did everything in their power to make prospective students feel welcomed. Through the conversations I had, I felt Johnson students were genuinely eager to share their strengths and want to help each other succeed. I knew right away that this is a small but supportive community that I wanted to join.

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?  I chose Johnson because I believe the resources of the program will help me reach my goal. As I am transitioning to finance, I am aware that Johnson has a strong reputation in finance with a solid alumni base in investment banks and the corporate world, evidenced by employment reports and LinkedIn data. With interest in exploring the tech and healthcare industries in-depth, Johnson offers easy access to both industries through the Fintech Intensive and healthcare electives and networking through the Healthcare Club with MHA students.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Women’s Management Council (WMC). I would like to join a community to connect with other similar-minded current and future women leaders, promote an encouraging environment for women in business, and support diverse professional and personal aspirations of women.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I do not recall any challenging questions during my admission process. My interview was very conversational. It offered an excellent opportunity for mutual exchange and helped me better understand if Johnson was a good fit.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Surrounded by talented professionals in the financial services industry in NYC, I realized the benefit of having the combined knowledge set of both finance and accounting. After working in global firms like Ernst & Young and Goldman Sachs for years, I felt now was the right moment for me to enhance my management skills to better prepare myself as a future leader for a diverse team. An MBA will help me achieve my goals.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? NYU Stern & MIT Sloan

How did you determine your fit at various schools?  Employment reports published by schools and LinkedIn data are very helpful resources to determine the fit. They provide a list of recruiting companies and the alumni network. Both resources allowed me to determine that Johnson fit my career goals. The location and reputation are also important factors to consider. While I am open to other locations, NYC as a finance center is one of my top focuses. Cornell has easy access to NYC with a longstanding strong reputation in finance. Ultimately, school culture plays a vital role. After visiting Johnson and talking to current students and alumni, I knew it was the right place for me.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? To practice solving real-world problems using math and modeling skills in undergraduate school, I participated in the Mathematical Contest in Modeling, a team-based competition. Although the competition was for math and science majors, I rallied a team of business majors whom everyone said could not win. Along the way, we overcame the inherent disadvantages, dealt with a teammate’s health crisis, faced team restructuring, and fought for the chance of advancing to national and global competitions. Through these hurdles, I learned to lead by example, radiate positive energy to boost team morale and make sure there is always a plan B. I realized that the best leader trusts the team and delegates tasks. As my team went from the edge of collapse to winning global awards, we exceeded expectations and made the impossible possible! This experience redefined my understanding of leadership and collaboration. I also truly believe that passion and determination are the most important elements that drive me forward fearlessly.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In 10 years, I see myself as a team leader in an investment bank or in the investment and/or strategy division of an emerging company.

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