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Real Humans of Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class of 2023

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johnson mba classTeni Akeju, Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class of 2023

Age: 26
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria. Law.
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 3.5 yrs. in law.

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
I had reached a point in my career where I wasn’t having as much of an impact on businesses as I wanted. I realized that a change from a purely legal advisory role to a role where I had a deeper effect on business and strategy was better suited for my needs. I decided to attend business school to gain quantitative and qualitative skills to fill the gap between the role I had previously and my future career goals.

Why did you choose Cornell? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
The Cornell Johnson MBA program ticked several boxes in terms of the kind of business school I was seeking. The program offers several options in terms of a customized learning experience; the tech-focused immersions and tech intensives in New York City and the opportunity to work with the Emerging Markets Institute were very interesting. The reputation of the school’s culture was a huge factor.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
My background as a lawyer from an emerging economy offers a different perspective of the world. My experiences have shaped the way I approach not just business, but also social issues, and the way I solve problems. I think this can be a valuable contribution to the MBA class.

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I wanted to be a playwright at some point in my life and it’s something I’d love to explore in the future. 

Post-MBA career interests:
Right now, I am exploring career opportunities in tech and tech strategy. I’m excited to see where that path may lead. 

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
Be sure of yourself, take time to deeply reflect on your story and what you hope to gain from the program. Focus on your strengths and communicate them. Also, speak to as many students as possible and ensure the program is the right fit.

– What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I attended events organized by the admissions and diversity teams at Cornell and was able to get a feel for the school and connect with students who offered me great insights about what to expect as a student. This was an enjoyable experience, and I would absolutely do it again.

– What is one thing you would change or do differently?
Focus more on my strengths and fret a little bit less. Although, this is easier to say in hindsight.

– What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
The GMAT. Definitely. It was fun preparing for the GMAT, but it was also very challenging, tense, and nerve-wracking for me. Especially combined with work and navigating pandemic uncertainties at the time. Sometimes, you just trudge on and get it done and that’s how I got through it.

What is your initial impression of Cornell’s students/culture/community?
The school has really put its words into action when it comes to a collaborative culture. This is something that was so apparent to me even before I arrived on campus. It has been exciting to watch and be a part of.

What is one thing you have learned about Cornell Johnson that has surprised you?
From the faculty to student services, to the career management center, to the second years – everyone is open, happy to share and accessible. Settling in has been much easier than I imagined.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Taking the right steps and making the right decisions. The first year of the MBA presents a fork in the road for the rest of your life and it is kind of anxiety-inducing to know that certain decisions could set the tone for the rest of your life.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Meeting different people from different backgrounds across the world. It has been an absolute delight getting to know all the amazing people so far and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.

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.