Meet Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class Of 2021

Pierre Demarquette 

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

“Born and raised in Paris, I’ve lived in Brazil, China, South Korea, and Singapore.”

Hometown: Paris, France

Fun Fact About Yourself: I speak five languages, which always makes it a challenge to be heard as a local.

Undergraduate School and Major: Kedge Business School — International Business

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: EFESO Consulting, Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Working as a consultant in operations, I have worked in every sphere of a company to help make improvements. My biggest accomplishment, thus far, was to lead a team that helped turn a factory on the edge of bankruptcy into a profitable unit without cutting jobs. In addition, as I was leaving my job to come to Cornell, an operator at the factory came up to me and thanked me for improving his daily life and giving him back a certain joy in the morning to wake up and go to work. That kind of reward is priceless to me.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The first trait that meets the eye on meeting classmates you encounter is their sense of fellowship. The main difference here is that the environment that Johnson has built for its MBA program brings out the best side of truly driven and passionate individuals. And that describes my future classmates: a group of driven and passionate people who are ready to do everything they have in their power to make a positive impact on the world.

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? “At Cornell, we value students who create an impact.” That is how I started the first question of my essay for Johnson. The Johnson MBA focuses on motivating students with the proper set of tools needed to create an impact, and above all, not just any kind of impact, but a meaningful impact that makes a difference. That is why I chose Johnson. I believe that this school in comparison with others is the one that will truly help me to achieve my goals.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The Investment Club, the European Club, and the Golf Club are the clubs that I am looking forward to joining and that I had the chance of discovering in depth during Destination Johnson (weekend-long festivities and presentations for admitted students around mid-April).

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Johnson focused on leadership and asked for concrete examples. In Europe, and especially in France, there is a cultural difference. We are somewhat shy and we do not want to be seen as arrogant. My main piece of advice to MBA prospects is this: do not lose any sleep over this. Admissions committees will not see you as an arrogant person — they are the ones asking you the questions. Secondly, you really have to take the time to step back and reflect. The GMAT prep can be lengthy and frustrating and the pursuit of the MBA starts the day you decide on pursuing the degree.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? An MBA gives you an opportunity to advance your skills in theoretical knowledge on matters such as finance. I chose to pursue an MBA at this point in my career because I wanted to take part in the full-time MBA experience. Later in life, I think it becomes challenging to take the time to study and live halfway across the world.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? NYU, Chicago Booth, Notre Dame

How did you determine your fit at various schools? My first research on schools was based on rankings and notoriety. I quickly realized this information is based on different variables that don’t really determine personal fit at a specific school. The three things I mainly considered were the following: the international presence of the school, the network of the school, and the means of communication with current or former students. Poets & Quants has been a reliable source on a lot of these topics, especially the Meet the MBA Class series. What a coincidence to be selected for this prominent feature!

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was the day I visited a pastry complex in the south of France. I arrived early in the morning and, later on, the managing director joined us. Although it was not his first time on site, it seemed like it was. He did not know anyone’s name and hadn’t visited the shop floor that often. When the MD arrived, he struggled with the regulatory sterilizer that opens the turnstile and it was apparent that he did not know how to access the shop floor of his own factory.

This small detail showed how disconnected management was. He tried to impose his leadership by shouting and stamping his feet instead of leading by example and setting the appropriate environment for people to thrive. He didn’t take the time to understand all the good activities and work that had been done. With this type of behavior, is it any wonder that the average workforce tends to be full of cynicism, paranoia, and self-interest?

During the beginning of the project, our team worked passionately with factory members to improve productivity. People were excited to present their work to the top management. The spirit was there; we were changing the culture. By the end of the project presentation, instead of capturing what was happening and the excitement of the moment, management could only see the bottom line. He only saw that the results were not strong enough to report to the board, despite the enormous turnaround. He did not care about the positive changes taking place in the workers’ attitudes toward their work. After the meeting, I witnessed many devastated and frustrated workers. All that we had accomplished instantly disintegrated. Right at that moment, I found my life’s vocation and promised myself that I would do everything I could to inspire people and to turn a situation around such as that one.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Management consulting taught me how to drive positive change through an organization by boosting productivity when the workforce discovers its true purpose with compassion and comprehension. Experience has taught me that corporate culture needs a reboot and reassessment in human values if it is to remain relevant to job creation, bringing manufacturing into the 21st century by creating new products and technologies that matter. My dream in the long-term is to acquire an existing enterprise and instill this environment with the trust necessary to rally people behind one common purpose to challenge the status quo and thrive. To meet my objectives, it is my belief that Johnson is the perfect match with its diversity, creativity, and excitement.

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