Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Maria Claudia Rengifo Cabanillas, Cornell University (Johnson)

Maria Claudia Rengifo Cabanillas

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

“Charismatic, creative and courageous.”

Hometown: Lima, Peru

Fun Fact About Yourself: I enjoy creating art. When I joined the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in high school, I focused on the visual arts and particularly on the complexity of women in society. I painted 12 pieces, and three of them were sold at auction. One of them was even featured in a Peruvian art magazine.

Undergraduate School and Major: Andrews University (Michigan, USA); Double Major; BBA: Finance and International Business

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Grifo Las Pirámides S.A.C. (Family Venture in Oil & Gas) – Managing Partner

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Cornell’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? My hunt for higher education prompted me to seek a program that encourages leaders within family businesses. The Smith Family Business Initiative at Cornell, which provides education and support for family business owners and successors, motivated me to apply to Johnson. I was looking for a program that will allow me to expand my professional network with like-minded problem solvers and decision-making entrepreneurial individuals. While attending some of the Connected Conversations hosted by the Smith Family Business Initiative, I immediately knew I wanted to join, engage and connect with this tight-knit community of continuous innovative investors.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Cornell? I am excited to take the strategy, innovation and growth courses with Professor Gautam Ahuja.. For instance, a highly recommended class by second-year students is Cases in Strategic Management, where I hope to learn to develop my strategic thinking and strategy formulation skills by evaluating companies in emerging, mature and transforming industries.

What excites you the most about living in Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region? I was taught since I was a young girl to admire God’s creation. Now that I have the opportunity to call Ithaca home for the next two years, I am thrilled to reconnect with the natural beauty of the lakes, gorges and waterfalls dotting the Finger Lakes. I can’t wait to explore and relax on the more than 240 miles of trails both on campus and throughout Tompkins County, New York. I also want to hike the Fall Creek and Cascadilla gorges that run through Cornell´s campus and complete my bucket list by kayaking, canoeing, and paddling on Cayuga Lake or Beebe Lake.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Before joining my family business venture in oil and gas, I was a financial derivatives and operations control coordinator at Buenaventura — Peru’s largest publicly traded precious metals company and a major holder of mining rights in Peru. Among my responsibilities, I oversaw the hedging portfolio of El Brocal, one of Buenaventura’s nine mining units. At my time of hiring, the hedging portfolio was negatively impacting the company’s total net sales. I decided to go against the grain by proposing drastic changes to El Brocal´s hedging algorithms. At the beginning, I faced resistance from the senior team’s traditional approach; however, I included fundamental and technical market analysis in my hedging proposals rather than just a “gut feeling” for hedging. In doing so, I reversed the direction of the portfolio. By using statistical analysis and investigating prior trends in price movement, I developed new strategies for pricing in demand, volume and implied volatility. By refusing to hold to antiquated strategy, stepping out of my comfort zone and restructuring the hedging approach, I helped the portfolio reap positive returns, surpassing the “golden goal” the following year.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched or listened to that you enjoyed and would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? One book recommended by many people in my life is the book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. As prospective MBA students, we will be conflicted with different choices or nudges. That is why it is important to be aware that how these choices are presented will influence our decision-making. It is definitely a book I recommend on the search for your choice architects!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Ever since my undergraduate years, I knew one day I would take the next step and search for higher education. I am at a point in my career where I want to pause and further learn about investments, strategy, and leadership in an top MBA community. My ultimate goal is to unify my family’s ventures into one company and manage it as a portfolio of investments as we look to continue growing in different areas of my home country.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan School of Management), University of Michigan (Ross School of Business), Boston College (Carroll School of Management), and Boston University (Questrom School of Business).

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Cornell’s MBA program? First, your story is like no other. Take advantage of the power of uniqueness. Take the courage to step forward. Believe in yourself, and let your past accomplishments speak for your future potential!

Second, reflect on what you want for your career, how Cornell’s program can help you achieve your goals, and how you can contribute to the community if admitted.

Third, engage with current MBA students and start building your network at Johnson; we are all eager to get to know you and help you in your journey to Cornell. Leverage our understanding of the program and be ready to ask specific questions so that you have insider information to work with when you write the application essays. These interactions will also help you understand the culture of the program and allow you to know if Cornell is the best fit for you. I think a great way to connect with us and get to know us in an informal environment is by attending Cornell’s Virtual Chats and Coffee & Convos.

Finally, go one step further and experience Cornell’s MBA program first-hand. Take advantage of this new virtual world and attend virtual classes and colloquia. This is also a great opportunity for you to get to know your future professors and connect with them before or after class. Picture yourself in the class, get excited about your MBA journey at Cornell and transmit those emotions to the Admissions Committee in your interview!


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