The Leading Independent
Resource for Top-tier MBA
Home » Blog » Real Humans of MBA Students » Real Humans of MBA Class of 2023 » Real Humans of Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class of 2023 » Page 2

Real Humans of Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class of 2023

Image for Real Humans of Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class of 2023

johnson mba classAlok Pathak, Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class of 2023

Age: 32
Hometown: Varanasi, India
Undergraduate Institution and Major: National Institute of Technology, Trichy, Electronics and Communication Engineering.
Post-graduate Institution and Major: National University of Singapore, Electrical Engineering.
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 8.5 Years, Robotics/SaaS 

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
After almost eight years of building my own company and working on early-stage product innovations, I was ready to scale my learning. I’m ready to develop my skills at Johnson as the next generation leader of the upcoming technology companies that are scaling across the globe.

Why did you choose Cornell? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Cornell represents the legacy and brand that has attracted top innovators , leaders and strategists over the past 150 years. It is a pleasure and honor to be learning at Cornell, knowing that greats such as Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, and Kaushik Basu have taught and are teaching courses.

I thoroughly enjoyed talking with the admissions team. From the very outset, I was excited about the culture and the tight-knit community at Johnson. I had the opportunity to experience it firsthand when the Johnson’s admissions and administration team helped me with my transition to the U.S. under very stressful circumstances. 

Second, I was driven by the vision of Johnson Dean Mark Nelson and Associate Dean Pascarella and the focus on collaboration and teamwork. I still remember the introduction speeches at the Destination Johnson event, and how it filled me with passion and excitement to join this wonderful community. 

I was amazed by the diversity of background and ideas, and above all, humility. I was certain that I fit in at Johnson better in comparison with other schools I was considering. 

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
The class of 2023 is extremely talented and diverse. Each peer brings a unique and fresh perspective to every interaction and discussion inside and outside the classroom. I bring eight years of deep experience of what makes a tech product market ready and how venture capital can be leveraged to scale the product and early teams of a venture. Having lived and launched multiple products in southeast Asia, I have a network and understanding of a market, which is fragmented, extremely diverse and early to technology. My goal for the next two years is to work closely with future entrepreneurs and innovators to help them in their journey and create enduring companies. I am pleased to be part of the Big Red Tech Strategy, as well as the Entrepreneurship Club, where I look forward to working on exactly this. My other aim is to work with VCs outside of Cornell to venture into the beautiful world of innovation at Cornell. 

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I’ll share two. 

  • Our daughter was born on my second day of school at Johnson. Crazy story!
  • I love reading books, especially autobiographies. I had so much fun reading Shoe Dog (Phil Knight, Nike) recently, and am enjoying Lee Kuan Yew’s “Singapore Story ” now. My favorite past-time is geeking about music, books, coffee, and football. 

Post-MBA career interests:
Technology, Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital. 

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
– What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I was very determined to share stories outside of my resume. Sharing specific instances will help the Admissions team evaluate you better. I would highly encourage applicants to understand your personal fit with the college by talking to the current students, admissions team and visiting the school if possible. Remember college admissions is a two-way street – you have to find the right match.

– What is one thing you would change or do differently?
One thing I couldn’t do due to pandemic and my personal situation was to visit the college in person. It would have helped with my decision. You will be spending two years of your crucial skill development on the campus, so it’s important to feel passionate about it 🙂

– What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I spent too much time preparing for GMAT. I probably would have balanced the time talking to my mentors, family, and friends reflecting on the experiences and real stories that could make it to the essays. GMAT is of course important, but it is just one part of the application. 

What is your initial impression of Cornell’s students/culture/community? 
I’ve been at Cornell for over a month now, and I will say this about the culture – It’s exactly what it says –  a tight-knit community, with a very strong focus on collaboration. Empathy and humility is a big trait, and the focus on winning ethically is very important for Johnson students. Every day is a new learning experience, and I’m blessed and honored to be learning in such a positive environment.   

What is one thing you have learned about Cornell Johnson that has surprised you?
Not surprised, but I’m enjoying my time at Ithaca. It has a pretty cool downtown and Collegetown area, with amazing food options. My favorite past-time is exploring the deli station at Wegman’s and trying new food. It is a wonderful place, well connected by bus, and you’ll eventually end up meeting a Johnson mate downtown for meet-ups and social events. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
It did. I understand how difficult it is for international students to make a transition to the U.S., in such an unpredictable environment. My wife and I had plans to move from Singapore to India to visit our family before coming to the U.S. in April. Then the massive wave of the pandemic shattered our plans, and we were stuck in a serviced apartment in Singapore for two months, hoping for the VISA to be processed. 

After a long period of uncertainty, and much needed help from Admissions Director Eddie Asbie and the admissions team, we were able to make the move in time. That is a big reflection on the culture.  

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I get anxious looking at my calendar. There’s literally so many exciting things to do, and I experience “fear of missing out” or FOMO, but I’m learning from our seniors to prioritize what’s important to you. 

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m looking forward to making new friends, connections, and learning about other schools at Cornell. I’m also super excited about the strategy product marketing immersion, and a deep dive into product and design in the spring semester. 

Besides Cornell, I look forward to exploring the upstate New York area, and hopefully visiting Niagara Falls this October. 

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.