Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Diego Calvillo de la Garza, Cornell University (Johnson)

Diego Calvillo de la Garza

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

“Empathetic leader who puts others before himself and believes in initiatives like the World Economic Forum’s ‘The Great Reset’.”

Hometown: Monterrey, Nuevo León. México.

Fun Fact About Yourself: On average – and not including one-term exchange programs – I’ve changed cities every 3.3 years. This two-year MBA will keep lowering this number!

Undergraduate School and Major: Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM), bachelor’s in industrial engineering with minor in systems

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Ternium (Techint Group), Sr. Planning and Profitability Analyst

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I think that most top business schools will help you achieve your goals. However some will stand out, such as Johnson, and provide additional benefits due to the unique culture. I chose Johnson because the school’s faculty, staff and its institutional efforts are aligned with mine and this was what I found most important. I believe the Cornell MBA will help me become an empathetic leader. Johnson’s firm statements and actions against racism these past months and their robust COVID-19 contingency plan focused on keeping students and faculty safe which confirms that I made the right choice.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? I would describe my classmates as “pay-it-forward” type of people. We have not even had the chance to meet in person, since the Destination Johnson event changed to virtual this year, and people are already taking time to help each other out! For example, classmates who are already living in Ithaca have offered to buy or receive things for incoming students who need to arrive and quarantine. I’ve seen classmates offering their cars to help others move, internationals helping each other with visa-related issues and much more. All of these actions make me proud to be part of the Johnson community.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I’m most excited to take part in social clubs such as Johnson On Tap and the Golf Club. I also want to take part in the Sports Analytics Club and Big Red Consulting, so I can learn and practice while doing good for the local community. I’m also very excited about the clubs and activities available to my wife Edith, who’s joining me on this journey in Ithaca.

What was your initial impression of Cornell Johnson? How did it evolve as the recruiting process continued? I initially thought of Cornell Johnson as I do about most Ivy League schools, as serious, competitive and results-driven. Nonetheless, ever since I visited the school in September, I’ve been proven wrong on every single interaction. When I visited campus, everyone I encountered was very kind and encouraging. As an admit, my classmates and second years were sharing pre-MBA opportunities, creating channels to talk about specific subjects and preparing for certain career tracks. I was also impressed to see Cornell and Johnson sending consistent messages about the importance of inclusion and antiracism.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment may not seem like a big hit to many. However, it feels like a home run to me. I have been able to influence people, by sticking with strong values and principles in the midst of tough situations. As a Work Environment Representative and Diversity and Inclusion Champion in my last company, I have been and will continue to be an example on how to stand up for my beliefs, in a professional and respectful way.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? At this point in my career, I realize I need more  knowledge in specific business areas and I want to reach a position where I can influence people and redefine strategy of major organizations to become more responsible and sustainable. I trust that a top-tier MBA program and network will help me get closer to these goals.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? My MBA application journey was a long one. I studied, practiced, and presented the GMAT three times over two years. Finally, I received a score that made me satisfied. I rushed second round applications to six programs, not including Cornell. I then interviewed with two schools and was denied by all six. With much more time to research and visit schools, I decided to apply to Johnson, Kellogg, Booth, Columbia and Wharton, with Johnson and Kellogg as my top choices.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question I was asked was ‘Tell me about a time you disagreed with your superior, what did you do?’ For a moment, I doubted my previous experience  since I had not had any memorable disagreements with my superiors to date. I explained that I’m an easy-going guy, so if I disagree with someone it will rarely escalate or heat up. I added that in every disagreement I try to reason with the person without reacting defensively.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? At first, I created a spreadsheet where I uploaded information on class profiles, size, location, and other variables regarding the top 15 schools (according to an average ranking considering The Financial Times, Forbes, Bloomberg, U.S. News & World Report and The Economist) and started comparing each one. As I began to prefer one school over another, I attended the informational sessions in my area and began searching for students or alums on LinkedIn. I then reached out and started having conversations, which made me realize you get a sense of each school’s culture when you meet the people. In addition, I also researched what the schools actions and activities were in the last few years so that I could better understand the types of communities and people.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? It’s weird but ever since I was an engineer student, I had a clear idea that I wanted to attend business school. Halfway through my degree, I realized I was eventually going to have gaps in my managerial and business skills and this is when an MBA came to mind. Nonetheless, this realization prepared me for business school because it became my top priority. The professional opportunities I took were based on this thought: “Where will I gain valuable experience to be able to launch into a great business school after a couple of years?”

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I love the way Cinépolis has run their business, growing timely while caring for its community at the same time. Cinépolis is a Mexican movie theater chain that was founded in 1947, initially as Cine Morelos and rebranded in 1994 with a change of administration (while keeping family members on the board). At that moment, Cinépolis had 300 screens operating only in Mexico. Today, they are the fourth-largest movie theater chain in the world with 6,000 screens in 15 countries. When studying their case, students can learn how to rethink strategy constantly and take advantage of policies and opportunities around you.


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