Real Humans of the Cornell Johnson MBA Class of 2019
Lauren Basist, Cornell Johnson MBA Class of 2019
Hometown: Moved all around the northeast, but most recently NYC
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Connecticut School of Business, marketing
Pre-MBA Work Experience: After graduation, I began my career at Accenture Consulting to gain exposure to many different companies and departments, so I could understand the full lifecycle of a business. I consulted for three years there. My clients were all in the products industry, which I loved because of the tangible end-products, dynamic culture, and consumers I could relate to. I transitioned into the industry as an internal consultant at Global Brands Group, which is an apparel company, where I worked for one year in change management.
Why business school? Why now? I always knew that I wanted to be a brand manager and would need my MBA to ever have that functionality. After four years of consulting work, I was at the point where I had something to bring to the classroom. I felt that I had the experiences and a frame of reference for diving deeper into the business theories I learned in undergrad. It no longer would seem just like memorizing a textbook.
Why Cornell Johnson? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? I saw an incoming call from Ithaca, and I signed approximately two minutes later. For me, there were several factors that made this such an easy decision.
I knew Johnson would open up all the right doors for me—it is highly ranked on CPG leadership, which is my career goal. I also wanted to come back to NYC, where Cornell has a huge network. As a school that is strong in marketing, but doesn’t have that many marketers, I’d be able to take full advantage of all the resources. This aspect was useful before I even set foot onto campus. The Career Center marketing director reviewed my resume, career plan, and cover letters in April. She personally mock interviewed me three times before I attended diversity conferences in the summer, which helped me land an internship before I had a single class. I wouldn’t have had access to guidance like that at a bigger program. Another factor was that I could really immerse myself in the MBA experience in Ithaca. At Johnson, I have been able to connect with all my classmates personally and truly take in this unique chapter of my life.
What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2019? It’s hard to say, since, as a class of 280, I’ve already interacted with all my awesome classmates who bring a lot to the community. I’d say I’m probably most known for my non-stop enthusiasm and passion, which has led me to be really involved socially and in extracurricular activities. I am planning on and hoping to make a lasting, positive impact on Johnson through my Marketing Association presidency.
Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? The first time I ever voted in an election, I ended up accidentally winning a position myself! It was a township, off-year election and no one ran, so two joking write-in votes (from my dad and me) closed the deal.
Post-MBA career interests? Brand management at a CPG
Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? I spent a lot of time on forums and at MBA conferences researching schools to gauge fit. I’d say continue investing the time and energy into this process—it will pay off. B-school is a one-time thing, so apply where you think you’d thrive.
–One thing you would change or do differently? I personally would probably have not used an MBA consultant. I used one for a few of my schools, then managed the others’ schools entirely myself, and I had the exact same success rate without them. I ended up spending a fortune just to get in, when it seems it wasn’t necessary.
–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? I definitely would’ve skipped the GMAT. I’m one of those people who just cannot do standardized tests. I read through about 10 different testing books, went to a class, would perform really well on all my practice tests…then show up and bomb. Once I got to the testing location, it’s as if my brain would shut down. I ended up taking the test several times, with fairly discouraging improvements. My advice on this would be that everyone has an Achille’s heel, so don’t panic about one portion of your application. As long as you make up for that weakness with other aspects, continue putting in the effort and time to get into the programs you want to attend. Don’t hold yourself back just because you’re worried that your one area of weakness may hold you back with admissions. When I saw the average GMAT at Cornell, I almost didn’t apply. I assumed I’d be a quick “no” for them and it’d be a waste of an application fee. I’m very glad that I kept going and didn’t knock myself out of the competition.
Greatest highlight so far at Cornell Johnson? I’d say Battle of the Brands (BOB), which is a marketing campaign competition amongst the first-year marketers. BOB is an engaging, fast-paced way to create a campaign with several other classmates on a real CPG product, with actual consumers. Our judges come from both the real-world and faculty and give feedback on the strategies. Some of the firms this year were Kraft-Heinz, Colgate-Palmolive, P&G, SC Johnson, Ocean Spray, and DanoneWave. When all the teams launched the posters, banners, and samplings, our school was almost unrecognizable. Everyone got really into it, especially the “consumers” who received a lot of products for free!
One thing about Cornell Johnson that you didn’t expect before arriving? How much the second-years help the first-years—the second-years’ main goal seems to be guiding us as best they can. For example, when we finished our first final exam, they had a party waiting for us in the atrium with streamers, banners, & champagne. One of the Finance TAs, despite having her own finals that week, set up time with some of us and booked a breakout room to ensure we could ask her questions before our exam. I didn’t expect people to be so caring in what I’d assume was a competitive environment.
Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? I was extremely anxious for “core” (Johnson’s first semester), which is a very rigorous, intimidating academic marathon. It’s fast-paced, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up. Spoiler alert—I clearly lived to tell the tale. Don’t worry too much, applicants—it will all work out just fine!
Thing you are most excited about in your first year? I’m very excited for my Immersion. Every first-year selects their Immersion (Banking, Marketing, Digital Tech, etc.), which takes place during our second semester. This spring I’ll begin the Strategic Marketing Immersion and be able to handle a real project for actual executives, then present to the firm at the end of the semester. Our ideas are often then implemented, which makes the work really meaningful and exhilarating.