Sowmya Ballakur

Sowmya Ballakur

One-year MBA '16

Hometown: Bangalore, India
Education: Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering, Pennsylvania State University
Bachelor of Engineering in Instrumentation and Electronics, Bangalore University
Prior Employment: Medtronic

Why I chose Johnson

I chose Johnson for its unique Ivy League One-year MBA in Ithaca program designed for people with advanced degrees, its close-knit high achieving, diverse community of student and alumni, and focus on learning by doing and developing your signature leadership style.

Cornell University’s emphasis on entrepreneurial thinking and core strengths in science, engineering, agriculture, and other programs also present several opportunities and avenues of collaborative learning making the Johnson experience that much more appealing and special.

Distinctions and Awards


May 23 2016

7 Tips for Surviving the One-year MBA Summer Core

Yes, the rumors are true. The One-year MBA at Cornell’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management summer core is intense for those of us not possessing a business background. It will challenge you in ways you’ve never been challenged before. But, that’s a good thing. As learned from personal experience, it doesn’t kill you (yes, everyone survives). The intensity of the experience will anneal you making you stronger than before this journey. It’s not designed to be impossible – it’s designed for you to discover just how much you are capable of.

As you mentally prepare yourself to drink from the proverbial fire hose, here’s my version of a survival guide cobbled together based on my summer term learnings. I wish I had the wisdom to know then what I do now; as always, hindsight is 20/20. Here’s hoping this benefits you:

  1. Take time to hit your stride

    This took a couple weeks to figure out. For a while I thought I was the only one feeling pressured. As I was waiting for the bus outside Sage Hall one evening, I ran into a graduating one-year student from the previous year. The first thing she said was how hard summer term was. I was immediately calmed to hear this from someone who experienced a tremendously successful year at Johnson and was headed to an exciting career. We all react to pressure and new experiences in different ways; some of us take a little longer to find our stride but it finally comes together. If for any reason motivation eludes you, as it happens to the best of us, look to your cohort for inspiration or better yet, help a classmate if you are in a position to do so. You will be off and running in no time!

  2. Ask for help if you need it

    Your cohort is your biggest resource. It will be full of intelligent people with careers in accounting, finance, marketing, economics, analytics, and more. Do yourself a favor and ask for help if you feel like you need it. Remember to pay it forward. I am convinced that asking for help at the right time from the right people in the right way, is a highly undervalued skill worth learning before being thrown into the real world.

  3. Find your energy juice

    Summer core is relentless in terms of what is expected of you. By the end of the term I was convinced my blood composition was at least ¼ coffee. Just so you know the depth of this statement, despite five years of graduate school before Johnson, I never drank coffee until summer core. If it’s not caffeine, find the magic mojo that keeps you going. You will need it in spades.

  4. Celebrate your wins

    One of my biggest life learnings from summer core was how important it is to be your own cheerleader. We tend to be a breed that pushes to perform better and set exceptionally high standards. On the flip side, we are also people that are really hard on ourselves. It’s just as important to celebrate your wins, in whatever form you get them, as it is to learn from failures.

  5. Prioritize sleep

    This was the best piece of advice I received from a friend. I asked him the standard question we all ask – tell me the one thing you wish someone told you before starting business school. He told me not to forget to sleep. I reacted the same way I’m sure you are. Business school students tend to be maximizers – we want to fit everything in the confines of 24 hours and the one thing that suffers is the amount of sleep we are able to carve out of a chaotic schedule. But I promise you, sleep will be your secret weapon. Never underestimate the wonders of a rested mind.

  6. Maintain perspective

    Stay in the long game of learning. If by chance, you don’t perform to your expectations in one course, it does not mean you will not excel in another. While this feels like common sense, you may have a difficult time remembering this tip as pressure mounts. Worst case, you will learn an incredible amount in a short period of time. Best case, you will have fun learning it. The difference lies in the perspective you decide to take. Get inspired and stay excited!

  7. Remember to have fun

    There will be times when you feel like this journey is unsurmountable. Summer term can feel like a series of assignments, case preps, quizzes, and exams, all coming at break-neck speeds. Take time to find happiness and relaxation. Ithaca is truly gorgeous in summer. Get to know your classmates outside the classroom, make friends, spend time in the sun, and be grateful for how fortunate you are to be part of the wonderful Cornell community. The quality of your MBA experience is directly proportional to the strength of bonds you are able to build. Time for this will be well spent.

I leave you with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” These are words to live by. As you embark upon your Cornelian “experiment,” I hope you have the time of your life.


Career Treks

  • NYC Consulting Trek, Summer 2015

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Favorite Cornell Activities