For the past ten years, Cornell University’s esteemed Johnson School of Management has had Cynthia Saunders-Cheatham at the helm in a dual role as both senior associate director, and since 2014, executive director of MBA Career Management.
As Career Management director, Cynthia oversees all aspects of program development, communications, and campus recruiting.
BusinessBecause spoke to Cynthia about her advising processes, the current climate at Cornell, and recent trends in career choices among Johnson’s MBA students and alums.
At Johnson at Cornell, 93% of the MBA class of 2017 got job offers within three months of graduation. The average base salary for Johnson MBAs went up by around 3.5% to $125,578—the highest salary level to date.
Consistent among MBA programs globally, one of the overarching trends at Johnson is an uptick of student interest in tech. Many students are especially interested in pursuing product management roles within the industry.
Johnson’s burgeoning tech craze is due in no small part to the school’s emphasis on data science within its MBA curriculum—another widespread development among US schools.
“We also see a strong interest in analytics, the ability to analyze data coming from different sources, and to tell a story or make business decisions with the data,” says Cynthia. “Skills like SQL, Tableau, and even some computer programming like Python, are desirable.”
While tech has certainly grown exponentially in popularity at Johnson, the school’s 2017 employment statistics suggest that when compared to the financial services (33%) and consulting (25%) industries, the road to Silicon Valley remains one less travelled by. 12% of graduates went the tech route.
“Unlike many schools, we continue to attract students with a strong interest in investment banking,” Cynthia explains. “Over 20% of our first years will be interning in this space.”
Why? “Our Investment Management Immersion does a good job of prepping our students for internships,” Cynthia continues. “Our finance student club does a great job prepping students for the search.”
Only summer internships in consulting (22%) and general management (19%) topped the enduring popularity of investment banking for Johnson’s MBA class of 2018.
The school’s Old Ezra Finance Club—aimed at students interested in pursuing a career in investment banking, corporate finance, private wealth or asset management, or research—meets once-a-week during the school year.
Cynthia also recently announced the Johnson MBA Project Initiative, pairing companies facing a specific business challenge with an MBA student for a minimum 10-week consulting project.
The program offers top talent to potential employers at low cost, and offers current students, ‘a chance to apply what they’ve learned in a real-world setting and build their resume in the process.’
Many of these consulting opportunities come outside the US. In fact, 9% of 2017 Johnson graduates pursued international employment.
Compared to previous classes, this figure represents a decidedly upward trend in students who opt to seek opportunities outside the United States. The school has put together resume books of MBA students seeking international opportunities in response.
If Cynthia has one essential piece of practical advice for the incoming Johnson MBA class, it’s for students to take the Career Leader online assessment prior to beginning their studies.
“The assessment evaluates the students’ strengths, skills, and motivators and suggests MBA-level roles that may be a good fit,” she explains.