2022 MBA To Watch: Danielle Zarbin, Cornell University (Johnson)

Danielle Zarbin

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

“Newly-minted management consultant. Aspiring theatre producer/investor. Brooklyn cat mom to Quincy.”

Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Fun fact about yourself: I can tie a bowtie without looking in the mirror.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Wellesley College, BA (Women’s and Gender Studies)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Playwrights Horizons, Interim Senior Marketing Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? EY-Parthenon, New York City

Where will you be working after graduation? EY-Parthenon, Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Fried Fellow (Merit Scholarship)
Consulting Club VP of Internship Education
BR Consulting
Emerging Markets Institute Fellow
Johnson Leadership Fellow
Johnson Board Fellow
Johnson Follies Board
Admissions Ambassador
SMART Program
Cornell University Hearing and Review Panel (Inaugural)
2020 Deloitte National Case Competition (U.S.) – Cornell Winner (top 16 teams U.S.)
2020 Microsoft MBA Business Innovation Challenge (U.S.) – Top 10 Team
2021 BR Consulting Case Competition (Cornell) – 2nd place (12 teams)
2021 Out Women in Business Conference (U.S.) – Organizing Committee Member
2021 John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition (U.S.) – Cornell Management Team Member
Member: High Tech Club, Women’s Management Council, Out for Business, Outdoor Ventures
Student Employment:
Go to Market Strategist – The Plastics Challenge Podcast (CALS)
Community Thinker – Cornell Labor Relations Department

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being elected as Co-VP of Internship Education for the Consulting Club because it was a huge responsibility to be dually in charge of preparing 100+ First-Year MBA students for consulting recruiting. I was proud to be entrusted with that responsibility by my peers who I had gone through internship recruiting with, and it was incredibly meaningful to serve as a confidante and sounding board for many First-Year students as they navigated the stresses and joys of recruiting.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of moving to NYC after college with zero connections and being able to secure a job at one of the most prominent Off-Broadway theatres in the country. It was one of the first times in my life when I had a goal for myself – and no clear way to achieve it – but had to employ self-discipline and focus to craft a plan to get there. I met so many incredible mentors along the way in interview settings, internship programs, and conferences whose support helped buoy me through my early twenties.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Cornell Johnson because of my experience at the 2019 Johnson Women in Business symposium. What stood out to me during that weekend was the number of women and men who enthusiastically gave time out of their busy schedules – some first years who had only been at school for six weeks – just to get to know us and share their experience. That level of care and dedication made me think Cornell would be a positive environment for women, and I was absolutely right!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Angela Noble-Grange because she continues to innovate and grow the Johnson academic environment by coming up with new and relevant courses. I took her brand-new Courageous Communications class and was so impressed by her ability to distill a complex topic into an immediately applicable and practical methodology for us to follow. She also possesses an inimitable grace and poise that I so admire.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition at Cornell is the fact that there are multiple cultural events, including Diwali, each year necessitating organized choreographed public dancing involving both students and professors. As a theatre person, I am absolutely enchanted any time a bunch of business students get together and basically produce full scale performance events all in the spirit of celebrating each other’s cultural traditions. To me, these events reflect the fact that we are all a big family and that there are moments when we can put aside our recruiting and academic commitments and just dance the night away!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I could do one thing differently, it would be to be a little more selective about my leadership roles and extracurricular activities during my MBA. I am someone who tends to give a lot to other people, which is something I value. However, sometimes I feel like I let my own goals and mental health in favor of serving others. It is a goal of mine to work on finding a better balance.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think the biggest myth about Cornell is that we despise the Ithaca winter and collectively suffer through living in upstate New York. Although it does get bitterly cold, there are plenty of winter activities to keep us busy such as skiing and drinking mulled wine with friends! There is always a light at the end of the wintry tunnel. 

What surprised you the most about business school? I have been most surprised by the level of love and care this community has for its members. During a COVID-19 outbreak, a few students organized Gatorade and snack packages to be delivered to everyone in hotel quarantine. These constant, wide-ranging acts of kindness for the entire class never fail to surprise and delight me.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I worked with an incredible admissions consultant, Raja Ashraf at Bancroft Admissions Advising. I decided to apply to MBA programs three weeks before the extended Round 4 deadline during the height of the pandemic, so I needed all the help I could get! Raja was instrumental in helping me refine my essays and I am eternally grateful for her support.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I most admire is Dimakatso Hayes because she continually throws her support behind causes that matter to her, while exercising a high degree of self-management by making time for her own goals and ambitions. She never seeks credit or recognition for her efforts and focuses only on the work she can do for others who follow in her footsteps.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The person who most influenced my decision to go back to school is an older alum from my undergrad who took a similar path from the arts to management consulting. I saw a lot of my own professional frustrations and ambitions in her journey, and she inspired me to go out of my comfort zone and reinvent myself. We had multiple conversations when I was still weighing my decision to go to business school, and she even helped prepare me for consulting interviews when the time came.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Bring my love for the performing arts to management consulting and create a Young Producers network at my firm.
  2. Make meaningful contributions to advancing women and minorities to executive level positions at my company.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? If anything, the pandemic has shown me that a career is a living breathing entity that is ever changing. A career is something to be cultivated, but it is also sometimes fickle and falls victim to the changing winds of the current economic climate. I have learned to be kinder to myself when contemplating the future of my career; to refine and create goals for myself while being forgiving in the face of uncertainty.

What made Danielle such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.” Emily Dickinson said it and Danielle Zorbin agrees.

Danielle has opened doors all over this amazing university. That’s kept her busy unto itself. What makes Danielle even more amazing is how much she gives back to everyone around her. She discovers opportunities and then makes sure her classmates are also able to take advantage of all she’s discovered. She’ll be an asset to any organization she starts or joins.”

Angela Noble-Grange, Senior Lecturer
Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business


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