Notes from a second year: Getting through the core

By: Shantanu Naidu, Two-Year MBA ’18
Notes from a second year featured image

The Class of 2019 is well into their core curriculum as part of the Two-Year MBA program. While it can be an overwhelming time, it’s worth the late nights, team meetings, and study sessions. As a second-year MBA myself, here’s some advice from someone who has been through the core, an immersion, and an internship.

Hope you’re ready to dive into all the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management has to offer!

Note 1: You are Cornell. Own it.

Shantanu Naidu and friends during pre-term 2016
Me with my new Johnson friends during pre-term 2016

You were an achiever out there in the world; someone pushing toward goals every day. And then you found your way here—but so did everyone else in the Class of 2019 who will work and study with you for the next two years. As a whole, you are a group of high performers and each one of you will influence others with what you bring to the table. When the core makes you feel like bending a knee, it is important to remember who you are, where you came from, and that you have already made it! You made it to Cornell, you made it to Johnson, and you will keep on moving down this road as Johnson builds you up before you go out there again. As achievers.

Note 2: The calendar is your friend

The Johnson calendar is literally one of the keys to surviving the core. Don’t keep struggling with Outlook calendars forever, and don’t be too nervous to ask questions about something apparently so “basic.” Don’t go half a semester without syncing, organizing, and putting everything you can on those calendars. There’s no shame in starting at the beginning and getting all your classes, club meets, and informationals on it. Then when your buddies ask you to Level B, you can consult your calendar and know what to do. Take the time to get your calendar set up appropriately, too—you never know how mistakes might come back to bite you. For example, last year some of us sent out calendar invites to network, only to realize our Outlook clock was still synced to our respective home countries… judge away.

Note 3: Office hours are kind of happy hours

Shantanu Naidu Leading Teams core course
Me after winning first place for the Leading Teams Case Competition, part of the core, during my first year

Have you noticed how office hours are mentioned, and mentioned, and mentioned again by the professors every chance they get? They are a gold mine in plain sight! Office hours serve different purposes for different students. For some students, office hours are used for polishing an already superb understanding, and for others, it’s about getting a grip on the fundamentals. Or students use office hours to track their progress and receive acknowledgement that they are on the right path. No matter what the scenario, every student walking out from a professor’s office feels not only happy about having his or her queries answered generously, but also more aligned, supported, and confident about the next class. If nothing else, try to visit a professor’s office just once. Sometimes looking for their offices on the upper floors of Sage Hall literally feels like the chamber of secrets. The views are awesome!

Note 4: #FOMO is real

Let’s get this straight—you have to find a balance between work and play and extracurriculars. Don’t get torn between the “YOLO” and “4.0 or nothing” mindsets. There’s a middle ground that will help you round out your experience at Johnson. You are one person. There are many opportunities. Remember that opportunities don’t run out. So, don’t lock yourself up in Sage for endless studying. And on the other hand, don’t have your core team turn into a search party looking for you the next morning after a night out. Find a balance.

There are plenty of social outlets around Cornell and in Ithaca. Students can form a band, take sailing, or have a running group. The fact that every school at Cornell University has something for MBAs to do all year can be overwhelming sometimes. List out all your options and invest wisely. Yes, please, please choose. Toward the end of your degree program, you might start thinking about the things you “wish you had done” because someone else did it. But it’s important to remember there is no such thing as a “perfect MBA.” At Johnson, you can make your MBA yours. Some students might go on treks, some might not. It’s your MBA. You don’t have to do anything extra that you don’t want to. Despite all this, always keep the core at the core. See what I did there? Dad joke level 2,343,242.

Shantanu Naidu with his dog Winter
Me with my dog, Winter, who has been with me throughout my MBA journey

Note 5: Go see Betsy

Johnson comes with a pre-ordered best friend—Betsy Dick, program director for the Two-Year MBA program! She is NOT kidding when she asks you to visit if you need anything at all. If she does not know the answers to your questions, she will find them and send you along to where you need to be. If you’re having a tough time, she’s listening. There are a lot of ambiguities, dilemmas, or tough decisions that one finds themselves facing in their first year, and it’s not always apparent who can provide clarity. Go see Betsy for the proper directions and some heartwarming motivation. She will not turn away anyone or any problem when it shows up at her door. (Although, for her sake, please make appointments.) And always leave a note on her whiteboard outside! It’s the Johnson version of tagging in memes and letting her know she is thought about by the students, too.

Note 6: Not all Johnson students wear nametags? Wrong.

Corporate briefings, socials, and networking events all happen alongside the core from now until early next year. Sometimes you have a heads up and sometimes you don’t. Always be prepared. Always wear your nametag, have a spare tie or pair of shoes in your locker, two suits laundered and ready, “firmify” that handshake, and keep your pitches loaded. You might all be looking for varying career options, but as the Johnson brand of MBAs… represent!

As for us second years, we are all about returning to help.

Put time. On our calendars. That you synced.


Learn more about the Two-Year MBA program

Shantanu Naidu, Two-Year MBA ’18

Shantanu Naidu is an MBA student in the Two-Year MBA program at Johnson

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