Current Full-Time Cornell Johnson Student Interview is continuing a blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at selected MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.

Cornell JohnsonHere’s a talk with a student who came to Cornell Johnson with a life sciences/criminology background, then transitioned into an international career in finance.

We hear Ithaca is “gorges” but what about those winters?

I’m a native of Hong Kong and grew up in Toronto, so the winters weren’t a big deal.  Cornell’s proximity to Wall Street was a major advantage during my job hunt.

What did you want out of an MBA program? Did your career goals change once you arrived?

I did want an Ivy League school — maybe it’s Asia — but people are way more aware of names than rankings, and that helps with the job search. I was deciding between Brand Management and Finance, but realized all the good brand management jobs were restricted to Americans. So I dedicated my search to finance, since I don’t have a green card and was not going to add an additional challenge to an already tough process.

What strategies helped you find a job?

Face to face time is so important.  I basically commuted to New York City a lot, made countless phone calls, even flew out to Hong Kong to meet people.  But the effort paid off.

What are you doing now?

I’m working in finance with the cash sales trading group in Citigroup in Hong Kong.

How did you sell yourself to them, without having a finance background?

Honestly, I think my life sciences familiarity gave me a different perspective and helped me sell myself as a special candidate. With life sciences, I’ll have a strength when selling equities in bio tech, pharmaceuticals.

What was your best day on campus at Cornell?

My best day was when I got my internship and full time offer! From then on, I could focus on my classes and social life. I was just cruising by then.

What was your worst day?

There were a few — mostly during the initial job search, when i was looking for an internship. The process was competitive, and first semester is always intense. It was very difficult to balance the academics and the job search.

Who were your favorite professors and why?

My Chinese professor was fantastic, because she really, really took the time out to make sure I learnt my Chinese well in preparation for class. I also really liked my accounting professors Margaret Shackell Dowell and Mark Nelson. Accounting wasn’t my forte, but they let me take my time to make sure I really understood the concepts.

Can you recommend any cozy places to warm up, and fill up?

Plumtrum, Sangam and State Street Diner.

And finally why do you think you got the job you want?  Any tips for incoming students on the job hunt?

Yes, network early! Get your resume ready early, be confident in yourself, be realistic, and also have backup plans.

Michelle StockmanInterview conducted by Michelle Stockman, who worked in the Columbia Business School admissions office, has a Masters in Journalism from Columbia, and has assisted clients applying to top business schools since 2007.  She is happy to help you with your application.