Steven Cheng, MBA ’18
Hometown: Austin, TX
Undergraduate School: Dartmouth College
Concentration: Strategic marketing
Thinking about where I am now relative to when I first started at Johnson, the contrast is striking. Not only have I become more well-informed about all the various functional areas within business, but more importantly, I’ve gained so much more confidence in my own abilities.
Why did you decide to go back to school for your MBA?
Following six years of work experience, I was ready to make a career pivot. After much research and many conversations with mentors and existing MBA students, I came to the conclusion that an MBA would be the best platform to allow me to successfully “reposition” myself.
What did you do prior to coming to Cornell?
Before Cornell, I spent time in investment consulting and also in portfolio management and analysis. It was a great learning experience that taught me how to perform successfully in a fast-paced professional environment, and also sharpened my thinking on how to be a savvy investor. However, I couldn’t necessarily picture myself spending my entire career in that field, hence leading to my decision to pursue an MBA.
What have you learned about yourself as a result of the program you are in?
Thinking about where I am now relative to when I first started at Johnson, the contrast is striking. Not only have I become more well-informed about all the various functional areas within business, but more importantly, I’ve gained so much more confidence in my own abilities. I remember being intimidated by the thought of presenting in front of large groups of people before the program began, and now I feel that I actually thrive in presentation situations and actively seek out more opportunities to present.
What do you think makes your program unique?
I have been so impressed with the quality of my classmates, whom I can always count on to challenge my thinking in novel and constructive ways. The ties I’ve built at Johnson go far beyond the walls of the classroom, and being in the picturesque environment that is Ithaca plays a large role in fostering an authentic sense of community. I have no doubt that many years from now, my peers at Johnson will continue to be some of my closest friends.
What advice do you have for anyone applying to the program?
Do your research! Try to visit campus if possible, and speak to current students both at Johnson and at other schools you are considering, so you can make the most informed decision possible for yourself. You’ll learn during the recruiting process that finding the right “cultural fit” is so crucial to your success and happiness, and this holds equally true in the business school application context. Invest the time to learn what you can gain from the Johnson program, but at the same time, never lose sight of what you can contribute and bring to the program that will make it even better with you here.
Who is your favorite professor or class and why?
Professor Risa Mish is an absolute gem here at Johnson. You would be hard-pressed to find someone with more boundless enthusiasm, a perfectly timed sense of humor, and genuine interest in her students. Her class will equip you with a framework for critical thinking that has applicability across a remarkably wide range of business situations, and her seemingly infinite wisdom and charm make it so you never want to miss a single class session.
What student groups, activities, or clubs are you a part of?
I actually just returned from the Johnson Leadership Expedition to Patagonia, which was an incredibly rewarding experience that I’m still in the early stages of fully processing. Spending ten days in a remote environment, navigating challenging terrain and dynamic weather conditions, has a special way of forcing you to reevaluate your “mental models” and draw broader parallels to work and life.
Along those lines, I’ve found the international treks offered at Johnson to be highly valuable, because they allow you to reexamine what you’ve learned in the classroom in unique contexts, and encourage you to find both the similarities and differences. Having attended the UAE trek during spring break last April, I can attest to that firsthand, as we met with local, national, and multinational business leaders and engaged in memorable cultural activities (including a fascinating fireside chat at a private Emirati home).
Whether it’s finding yourself in the wilderness or engaging foreign business executives in stimulating discussions, Johnson treks have been a formative part of my experience.