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Real Humans of Novartis: Fernanda Carranza, Cornell Johnson ‘19, Finance Development Program Associate

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Novartis, a global healthcare company that provides solutions to address the evolving needs of patients worldwide, has increasingly been in the spotlight as healthcare companies come together to combat Covid-19. As the company collaborates with key players involved in vaccine production — including Pfizer — Finance Development Program Associate Fernanda Carranza, Cornell Johnson MBA ‘19, has had to think fast on her feet and make strategic decisions, which has been easier thanks to her time at Cornell Johnson and her experience completing the Corporate Finance Immersion program.

Going beyond basic theory classes to offer hands-on experiences, The Corporate Finance Immersion program at Cornell provides coordinated coursework and a series of courses and practicum sessions to better prepare students for the workforce and helps them gain a competitive edge in the industry. 

In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, we see how Fernanda Carranza’s experience in Cornell Johnson’s CFI program helped her move to a more strategic side of finance to enter a new industry that is allowing her to experience many different functions and geographies. Read on to see how the Cornell MBA has helped to accelerate Fernanda’s career in an ever-critical field.  

Fernanda Carranza
Fernanda Carranza, Cornell Johnson ‘19, Finance Development Program Associate

Fernanda Carranza, Cornell Johnson ‘19, Finance Development Program Associate at Novartis

Age: 29

Hometown: San Jose, Costa Rica

Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Costa Rica: Business Administration

Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: Cornell University, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management Class of 2019: Corporate Finance Immersion

Pre-MBA Work Experience: 3.5 years, financial operations; 1 year, volunteering through AIESEC

Why did you choose to attend business school? Prior to business school, I worked in financial operations at Procter & Gamble and was part of a high performing team leading the critical operations of business in North America and Costa Rica. I started as an analyst and over time took on a larger role coordinating with my team. I focused on delivering a seamless and transparent transition by creating great relationships with our customers and internal teams. I also worked on projects that increased simplification, automation, and optimized cash collection. I decided to pursue my MBA at Cornell Johnson to accelerate my career, increase my network and develop a wider set of skills that would set me up for success in the short and long term. 

Why Cornell Johnson? Which factors influenced your decision? I chose Cornell Johnson for several reasons. First, Johnson has a great track record of placing students in great positions after graduation. I knew that they would give me the tools, knowledge, and network to land the job I wanted. Second, I found it to have a strong academic curriculum that would prepare me to be a very well-rounded leader. It would not only help me build strong “hard skills” that would prepare me for my career, but I was sure it would also allow me to get have multiple opportunities to develop my leadership through experiences the treks, the Johnson Leadership Fellowship and the student led groups such as student council. Third, since my initial interactions with Cornell students and alumni, I could already tell how inclusive, supportive, and strong the Johnson community is. This is the kind of environment I knew I could thrive in and enjoy being a part of, and the tight-knit community of Johnson was a key factor that guided my decision.

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice? I completed my summer internship in finance in my current company, Novartis. I chose this internship because I wanted an opportunity to move to a more strategic side of finance, where I could act as a valuable business partner that helps drive critical business decisions. I was also attracted to the opportunity to learn about a new industry, especially in a company that is looking to reimagine medicine. 

Why did you choose to work for your current company? Which factors influenced your decision? I chose to join Novartis full time for multiple reasons. I had a great experience during my summer internship. From the start, I was given a challenging project that allowed me to make an impact and contribute to the team. I also knew that by joining the finance development program, I would have the opportunity to rotate among different functions and geographies. This has proven to be the case and I have worked in three different roles in finance and accounting and three different locations (New Jersey, Chicago and Basel, Switzerland). I also appreciated that Novartis has a team that supports my growth and personal development. It is a company that promotes a tremendous amount of learning. Overall Novartis, just like Cornell, is a great cultural fit for me. Besides moving to a more strategic side of the business and being in a fascinating industry, I also wanted to have experiences in different sides of the business in order to increase my knowledge and exposure. Other factors include: growth opportunities; international exposure; committed investment in career, training, a supportive culture; opportunities to contribute; reverse mentoring; experience to really learn; and working with top revenue drivers for the company.

How did your MBA experience prepare you for your current career? It prepared me in many ways, including: coaching; thinking fast on my feet; providing me with the ability to absorb a lot of information in a short period of time; improving my skills at networking and developing relationships; thinking strategically; and thinking in a structured way.

How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans? As a pharmaceutical company, we have been in the spotlight during the pandemic. Lots of collaboration was involved in producing vaccines for Pfizer. Thinking fast on our feet and being creative has produced even stronger partnerships with other business stakeholders.

What advice would you give to a current MBA student? Try to be as introspective as possible and think about how you want your life to look long-term, say in 5-10 years. Also consider all the potential ways to achieve and have an open mind and be authentic. It is also important to try out a lot of different things to escape your comfort zone; this is a super valuable opportunity to grow, find and develop yourself.

Learn about more business school alumni like Fernanda Carranza by exploring our Real Humans: Alumni series.

To see what current students from Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University are up to, visit their Real Humans: Students profiles.

Maggie Fedorocsko
Maggie Fedorocsko is a freelance writer and editor who recently graduated from Drexel University. When she’s not wordsmithing, she enjoys reading, hiking, camping, cooking, and buying far too many antiques and plants for her quaint Philadelphia apartment.