Vikas Panghal, One-year MBA ‘16

Aug 23 2015

The Incredible Johnson Experience

Vikas Panghal, One-year MBA ‘16

While working on complex product releases for Cisco in 2014, I found myself questioning why certain companies “treat” a product the way they do. I realized that I was learning about business through the keyhole of my work, which was limited to the micro side of a business. Nevertheless, I was exposed to something intriguing enough to trigger my thinking process as a whole. That was the defining moment when I decided to pursue an MBA.

Now the question was, “Where to go?” Attending school for a full-time MBA was a big decision for me and my family. As an international student, it meant leaving my family, friends, country, and everything I loved and knew behind. I started scouting for a program wherein I could take a minimal break from work and get the best academic experience. That’s when I began to ponder Johnson’s One-year MBA program. What sealed the deal for me was speaking with Johnson alumni and feeling their compassionate concern for fellow students. This confirmed that Johnson has an amiable and collaborative environment.

View of MacGraw towerFast forward to May 2015. I was ready to embark upon my Johnson journey. I couldn’t wait. Finally boarding the plane from New Delhi, I found myself amidst the sprawling campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Any trepidation about the Cornell experience and collaborative culture at Johnson, in particular, were dispelled as I met the diverse student population, attended gazillion of events, and interacted with the stellar-yet-approachable faculty. The positive vibes I felt the first few days punctuated the process of settling in Ithaca.

Summer core courses started in mid-May. Every time I heard people say, “summer core is going to pass so quickly,” I thought that it was pure exaggeration and nothing more. Now that three months have already passed, I realize that was indeed not an overstatement. As students, we had countless opportunities to be involved in various leadership roles, responsibilities, and activities. From student associations to clubs, from BR Venture Fund to case competitions, from career management sessions to networking webinars, you name it, we experienced it.

Core started with an orientation, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. I met new classmates, core group members, and our Johnson Cornell Tech and MBA/JD buddies, who completed core courses with us. The fun kicked-off with the Leading Teams Practicum activities at Greek Peak Mountain Resort. Everything was new and sometimes riddled with mystery. As we progressed, everything started to clear, and I realized how lucky I was to be surrounded by such amazing and accomplished peers, all “planted” for a year in such a well-structured program.

The awesome barbeque at Hope Lake Lodge during the first weekend soon gave way to an accelerated mastery of data analytics. The course was uber-quantitative, as one would expect, and a bit challenging, but with the help of my core team, classmates and faculty, everything turned out well. Looking back now, if I thought that was difficult; I was soon to be hit by a tornado of heavy weight courses including microeconomics, accounting, finance, strategy and marketing. The beautiful Ithaca weather and the enthralling Cornell campus mesmerized and reinvigorated me to cope with the challenges summer core threw at me. I took one step a time and hopped across the chasm.

With the overwhelming day-to-day academic deliverables, case studies, assignments, quizzes and club activity events, this was the best time to put my multitasking and organizational skills to test. I was glad that classmates were supportive of each other as helping to achieve goals and overcome difficulties brought the whole Johnson community closer. Most activities are designed to be solved in teams, and this, I am confident, is indeed the best way to learn about collaboration and leadership.

As I bid farewell to summer, the “fuzzing” sound of opening a Pepsi can still makes me nostalgic and reminds me of the day when the whole class burst into a “Mexican wave” of can pops as we opened over 40 Pepsi cans in unison to mark the end of microeconomics.

With fall approaching, I’m sure it’ll be here faster than expected. After swimming through the torrent of core summer courses, fall classes will be a breeze considering they include electives allowing us to concentrate on recruiting. Yes, we had to part ways with our Johnson Cornell Tech and MBA/JD friends but we wish them the very best in the months ahead.

There are lots of things that have made my first semester at Johnson an awesome experience and I am very happy to be here. For prospective MBA students: be ready for the most exhilarating time of your life, and cherish every moment as it’s going to pass sooner than you realize!

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