For Daphne Amir, earning an MBA at Cornell Johnson was the perfect launchpad to a new career in tech with Google. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, she shares her insights into the leading business school, how the program supported her career and more about joining the tech giant.
Hometown: Palo Alto, CA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Tufts University, Public Health & American Studies
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, 2021, Technology
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 6 Years, Consulting
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 1 Year, Technology
Why did you choose to attend business school?
Before Johnson, I worked for six years, with my final three at Ernst & Young (EY) in management consulting. On my consulting projects, I ran programs to help employees adopt enterprise collaboration technologies, but I repeatedly found myself wanting to have more influence on the products. I realized that this influence was the missing ingredient in a meaningful career and wanted to pivot into a role where I could have a greater impact on product development and customer experience. I decided to pursue an MBA with an eye towards sharpening my business acumen and planning the transition into my next professional chapter. After serving as a manager at EY, I was also excited to further invest in my leadership development.
Why Cornell Johnson? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
As a prospective student, my discussions with Cornell Johnson students and alumni instilled a high level of confidence about the program propelling me to achieve my career goals. I was familiar with product management through tech consulting, but I didn’t have a clear sense of how to navigate the tech industry nor how to navigate career opportunities. My pre-MBA conversations shed light on just how well Johnson could help me carve out my post-MBA path. What types of product problems did I want to solve within tech? Which skills did I already have, and what were my gaps as an aspiring product manager? I could already see that the Johnson network was strong, with many students and alumni echoing my own career dreams and generously offering their time to share insights.
I gained even more confidence learning about the program’s career-oriented and curricular resources; a dedicated tech advisor in the Career Management Center (CMC), a student-led High Tech Club (HTC), and tech-focused coursework at both Cornell Johnson and Cornell Tech were attractive features as I set on my product management exploration. Johnson’s “Digital Technology Immersion,” as well the availability of technical coursework in SQL and Python programming, sealed the deal for me.
Johnson’s approach to leadership training further set itself apart from other programs, offering both formal and experiential opportunities. The “Leadership Expeditions” to locations like the Adirondacks and Patagonia piqued my interest, as students were given opportunities to test their leadership styles on their peers in an unconventional MBA setting. (As an aside, the Adirondacks Leadership Expedition was an absolute highlight from my time at Johnson; I highly recommend it!)
Beyond my career aspirations, I wanted my MBA to be both immersive and offer balance with my personal priorities, such as family, friends and my partner located in New York City. Tucked not too far away in gorgeous Ithaca, Johnson felt like the perfect way to intimately connect with my cohort while still only a 4-hour drive home, so as not to miss the important moments during the two-year program.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Cloud computing is a massive and complex industry, and Johnson’s core curriculum has given me a holistic framework to understand how Google Cloud fits within this space. My core courses in strategy and marketing have helped me raise a critical lens to my company’s product positioning and pricing. I can listen to a vision laid out by Google Cloud’s CEO and understand the macroeconomic forces and supply chain considerations that drive our business.
Aside from academic training, collaborating with myriad teams during the MBA has prepared me for this reality at Google, where I collaborate cross-functionally every day. As a technical account manager deeply focused on the customer’s success on Google Cloud, I work closely with our sales organization to ensure we promote new products and services that best serve our customers. I relay product requirements to product managers, and I work alongside our support organization to unblock customers from their issues on the platform. My Johnson teamwork experiences, ranging from time-pressured case competitions with my core team to leading the High Tech Club student board through an elections process, have helped me better understand how to balance multiple perspectives and my own influence.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned in Google Cloud Professional Services, supporting the company’s most strategic financial services customers in their cloud adoption journeys. As I observed the challenges these customers face in digitally transforming their businesses, I was excited by the opportunity to delve deeper into cloud technology as a full-time technical account manager. Coming from consulting, where I was largely an IT generalist, I thought gaining deep experience in cloud computing felt like the right next step to build more technical expertise before considering a switch into product management. I had a transformative internship experience, and the decision to return to Google was a no-brainer after I was fortunate to receive a full-time offer.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
As an intern, I found that Google’s collaborative, consensus-driven culture genuinely aligns with my approach. I also just found myself smiling a lot during the internship. An iconic example is when my co-interns humored me in acting in a film project I led to portray “A Day in the Life of a Cloud PSO MBA Intern,” which was later featured at an “MBA Intern Oscars Ceremony” at the end of the internship. I found it both thrilling and refreshing that Google is a place where people can bring their authentic selves to work. I also connected with many Googlers who shared interesting paths in the company, and I grew excited by the prospect of mobility I could have in my own career.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
I am fortunate that my career plans remained on track despite COVID, and that I have even had the flexibility to relocate coasts (from east to west) with my partner during the pandemic. If anything, the explosive adoption of cloud computing – with so many companies virtualizing operations and employees working remotely by the masses – brought momentum to the onset of this new career chapter.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Network, network, NETWORK. I invested significant time in the late Fall semester of my first year connecting with second-year students and reached out to Johnson alumni in product manager positions, in three target areas I identified within the tech industry. This was ultimately not about making connections to get jobs. It was really about learning the industry I aspired to join, refining my understanding and narrative of why I was pursuing my target role, and gaining a sneak preview inside prospective companies for cultural insights. I cannot stress enough how illuminating even a single 30-minute conversation was for putting out feelers to assess how a company works and where I might fit culturally.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
An area I wish I had explored more deeply during the MBA is entrepreneurship. I loved the experiences I was fortunate to gain, such as building a commercialization strategy for a new product as part of the Big Red Tech Strategy Program and hearing from Cornell alumni in the Entrepreneurship Speaker Series. However, I would have loved to take more risks, perhaps building out a startup idea or supporting a peer with theirs, in such a low stakes environment.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
I really enjoyed the Google MBA recruiting process, and I was honestly surprised at how straightforward and transparent it was once I received an interview. I felt more prepared than I expected by practicing case-prep questions with my Johnson classmates (shameless shoutout to Johnson’s High Tech Club community!). If anything, what surprised me most was how candid Googlers were with me about their experiences when I was finalizing my decision.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
There is no such thing as the perfect post-MBA job, and that’s not the goal! Make a choice that balances your professional and personal needs; I cannot stress enough that the right blend is so important. Recruiting during the MBA can be hectic and stressful, and students (myself included) place a lot of stock in getting their “dream job” after graduation. I have already seen Johnson peers and friends a year or two ahead of me transition to a new role or company, after gaining new skills at their last. While I’m excited by the prospects that lie ahead at Google, I love preserving the eyes-wide-open mentality, as wide as they were when I first started my journey at Johnson.