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Second-year students have just returned from summer internships where they put in long hours to secure full-time job offers, so there are surely more enjoyable things they could be doing. Nevertheless, they are here in Sage Hall, meeting with us future Investment Banking-hopefuls. It is truly an inspiring experience to be a part of.”

This is part of a conversation I had with a first-year MBA student.  Almost all of the students and alumni I spoke with showed a similar excitement about the collaborative learning environment and the opportunities to learn about different cultural norms and gain valuable perspectives from their classmates on solving problems in different ways.

This extraordinarily collaborative tight-knit culture was one of the main drivers in my decision to apply to Johnson. I want to get my MBA in a community I feel I belong to, and in which I can learn from others and vice versa. Working in such environment would provide me with the opportunity to create a positive impact, and I strongly feel that I can add significant value not only because of my vast professional experiences working in the private and public sectors in 7 countries, but also because of my unique life experiences outside of my professional career.

Prospects to engage in some of Johnson’s more than 100 student clubs open up an additional avenue to create impact. While talking with another student, he mentioned how he got involved in the Green Revolving Facility (GRF) and spent weeks analyzing different solutions to improve energy efficiency and cut GHG emission. Having worked in the Energy sector for the last 6 years with world-renowned veterans, where a key part of my job was to lead energy-efficiency initiatives, I strongly believe that I can bring out-of-the-box ideas to the table as part of GRF club activities. At the same time, this unique opportunity would allow me to practice pitching to investment committees and monitoring investment returns, broadly what I expect to be doing post-MBA for a firm such as Blackstone or Warburg Pincus in the Private Equity sector.

Finally, I believe I have a larger role to play post-graduation in bringing sustainable development to emerging countries. My long-term goal is to bring private capital to the Water sector in Africa and Asia, through a PE fund that will be aimed at providing clean drinking water to people below the poverty line. Sustainability knowledge and experience I gain in various classes at Johnson, such as the Sustainability Global Enterprise Immersion, will help me achieve this goal. I realize that in order to successfully overcome the challenges of entering the PE industry, I must strengthen my professional network, and hence another main driver in my decision to apply to Johnson was the strong and accessible global alumni network. Through my interactions with Johnson alumni, I know that this network will help me connect with industry leaders and lay the foundation for groundbreaking initiatives in the Water sector.

‘Mischief, Prank and smiles’……………

Being the youngest kid in my family, my innocent harmless pranks were loved and adored, making me popular amongst my friends and family

‘From playing badminton at district level to chairing a cultural committee’…………………….

My extracurricular activities formed an essential part of my upbringing. My parents were of the opinion that “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and hence I was encouraged to participate in as many extracurricular activities as possible.

 ‘I may be powerless to prevent injustice but there will never be a time when I fail to protest……’

Being raised in a cosmopolitan society I was taken aback by the discriminatory practices that existed in many parts of India, including my undergrad college. The chapter narrates the story of my fight against this discrimination by backing and lobbying for a neutral candidate for the post of general secretary

‘My stepping stone to the business world’………..   

From learning management theories, to organizing inter college Business plan competitions, to arranging field trips and gaining lifelong friends – I spent my college years discovering and pursuing my passion for business

 ‘Treading through difficult waters after Global Meltdown-2009’……………………..

The Global meltdown struck me hard and pushed me further back, but could not break my perseverance. I fought back in a resilient manner and braved all odds to make meaning for myself.

‘Branded as the BLACK SHEEP for following my dreams of starting my own venture’…………..

My decision to start my own venture did not go down well with my family, who wanted me to have a ‘stable job’. My struggles I faced in building my business would prove to be one of the greatest learning opportunities of my life 

 ‘When the GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH GET GOING’……………..

Broken hearted from having to shut down mintleaves.com, I decide not to let the situation break my spirit. I know I had to rebuild everything from scratch. So be it….the chapter narrates my journey from small successes to big impactful victories, leading a $468M brand repositioning strategy

‘The day I was criticized I knew I was doing something right’

Entrusted with the responsibility of managing the Marketing Communications department after the sudden departure of my reporting manager, my leadership abilities are put to the test as I work to  gain the trust of my team members, many of whom much older and experienced than me

‘Finally I have a dream Job’…..

After an exhilarating 1 year experience at SCJCB I land a dream job with a technology company

‘Sequel’……….

Start my own product designing consultancy in partnership with my wife and establish a foundation which focuses towards educating under privileged kids

Dedicated to my parents, wife, and future child

Opening:

Year: 2043

Occasion: At my book publication ceremony

Frame 1     

Welcome everyone.

Let me begin my speech by giving a brief introduction of myself.

Frame 2

My name is ————, and I am the founder of ———–.

I was born and raised in Sri Lanka, lived in India and the US, and am currently living in Kampala, Uganda.

I want to present you with a montage of what you can expect to read about in my book. Let’s get started.

Frame 3:  1988 – 1998: The humble beginning

My family faced many challenges in my childhood. When I was 6 years old, my mother suffered from a severe illness. A few years later, my father’s business enterprise collapsed, pushing us into an economic hardship. As a result, I had a lot of struggles growing up and was not a good student in elementary school.

Frame 4: 1999: A life changing class

Then one day, I met a remarkable teacher who changed my attitude and perspective on life. Thereon, I became a more determined person to face any challenge, and embarked on taking many leadership roles in my school. I believe that development achieved through leadership roles immensely helped me become successful in my professional and personal life.

Frame 6:  2007: Getting closer to the community

Upon high school graduation, I joined a foundation aimed at community development in low income districts in Sri Lanka, which was a turning point in my life.  I was fortunate enough to lead some of the foundation’s programs, including setting up a scholarship fund for students from low income families, and had the privilege to interact with people who do not have access to basic social infrastructure such as water and sanitation. These interactions really made me think about my commitment to society. I am still involved with the foundation today, as the Chairman of the board.

Frame 8: 2011: Hosting a live TV show

In 2011, I was selected out of more than 100 staff members to host a weekly live finance TV show in Sri Lanka’s national television channel to build public awareness about capital markets.  This live show was sponsored by Securities and Exchange Commission, Sri Lanka.

Frame 9: 2011: Entrepreneurial spirit

While being a full time Investment Banker, I took the first step towards my goal of founding my own venture, and established a polythyne recycling facility to help a growing social issue of waste management in Sri Lanka.

 2013: Becoming a resource in South Asia and Africa

Upon graduating from university, I joined the World Bank Group, where I led financial engineering and structuring projects in the Infrastructure and Water sector in South Asia and Africa. While there, I took a lead role in organizing the World Youth Summit an annual summit in Washington, DC where youth from across the globe pitch their ideas to solve real-life issues and create the vision for the future of education..

 2017 – 2019: A Once in a life time journey

In 2017, I left the World Bank Group to pursue an MBA from Johnson at Cornell University. Spending two years at Cornell was truly a life changing experience.

 2017 – 2019: A Once in a life time journey        

I was able to make lifelong friends from across the globe, gain immense amount of knowledge and create a strong global network around me. While at Cornell, I was involved in the BR Venture Fund as an Investment Manager, and learned a great deal about investing in start-ups. In addition, I was extensively involved in the Green Revolving Fund as a project lead. Lastly, I was the President of the Asia Business Association. With the help of Johnson’s strong Alumni network, I was able to enter the Private Equity sector.

 2019: Becoming a New Yorker

After receiving my MBA from Johnson, I joined the Blackstone Group, the largest PE firm in world, as an Associate.

 2019: Becoming a New Yorker

Within five years, I was able to become a Director at the company’s Diversified Multi Strategy Fund, where I led a team of 100 in managing a USD 1 Billion fund invested in the Utilities, Energy and Healthcare sectors across the US, Europe and Asia.

 2025: A mission in Africa

After spending more than six years in Private Equity, I decided to take up a different role in the Water sector. In 2025, I joined Veolia Water, the largest water company in the world, as a Senior Director, Project Development in Africa, where I was responsible for expanding Veolia’s water operations in Africa and lead the project development division spread over 20 countries in the continent.

 2025-2030: Unlocking the continent’s true potential

In my five years at Veolia, I was able to expand the company’s footprint in Africa by more than 150%. I led the division successful entry into some of the most difficult markets such as Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Guinea. My focus was to invest in financially sustainable projects that can make society better, and I believe I was able to achieve that goal – more than half of the projects I managed received the United Nations ‘Water for Life’ awards.

 2030: Clean water to everyone

After spending several years at Veolia, I left to start my own PE fund focused on the Water sector. Leveraging the relationships I made while working at Veolia, as well as the strong network I built while getting my MBA at Cornell and the Cornell alumni network, I was able to collaborate with some of the largest financial investors and launch the largest Water sector-focused PE fund in Africa.

I hope you enjoyed the montage. To date, my PE fund has raised USD 500 Million. 100% of the committed funds have now been invested in Africa across more than 20 projects.

Much more importantly, last year, investee companies of the fund have dispensed water to more than 5 million people. I am currently working with several key investors, some of whom are good friends of mine that I met during my time at Cornell, to launch a division of Cool Water Fund LLC. in Asia.

Contents

 

Movie of first half of my life

Scene 1: The beginning

Scene 2: The Patch and the Growth

Scene 3: The foreplay of Climax

 

Scene 1: The beginning

“58 seconds! Yes, I made it!” one little girl excitedly yelled at the room with a face full of tears.

 

Narrator

That was me. I was training on how to cry within one minute, which was one of the requirements of a talent competition to become a hero for a movie. I was 14 years-old and had a dream of becoming an influential actress.

Without siblings and growing without friends during childhood because we needed to stay at home during the evenings, the television became my best friend.

In childhood, I was keen on the series of depicting stories of professional careers like policemen, lawyers and doctors, whose exciting life journey deeply attracted me

I only realized later in life, that the movies do depict and teach us many attributes and beliefs that we later need or use in real life.

For example, having an optimistic attitude. I learned being optimistic from watching romantic series and used this trait whenever I have difficulties in life. Holding such beliefs and using these attributes helped me both in my campus life in university and later on during my career progress.

Scene 2: The Patch and the Growth

 

One drop, two drops...

Narrator:

I was a little sad when rejected by the Shanghai Theatre Academy, for not acting in a “touching way” and not fulfilling my potential.

The movie “Pursuit of Happiness” saved me from the depression when I wanted to watch one comedic movie to find back a little laughter, only to find out it was such a sad but inspiring movie. The movie is based on a real life story and after watching it, I felt no reason to be depressed.

After discussing my future with my parents’, I chose to study Finance as my major and regarded acting as my amateur hobby. I participated in the acting club and conducted several dramas on campus.

The most meaningful event during campus life was when I changed my position from active acting to being a director through setting up a wedding studio during college.

Directing a wedding ceremony is like directing a movie and couples need to rehearse several times for the fruit of love and pass this happiness to everyone who blesses them. Coordinating every detail of the wedding ceremony was the perfect gift to contribute to the happiness of couples.

Scene 3: The foreplay of Climax

“Without you, we cannot start to produce the ”, said one man holding the hands of a young lady.

Narrator:

That lady was me. The man approached me because I helped his movie production company, Jiabo Ltd, get a loan of $2.23 million, which is indispensable for producing. I was so excited that my career could relate to my childhood dream.

Jiabo asked for the loan service from our bank but was almost rejected because of no positive cash flows. I decided to help it because of my lasting passion to the movie industry.

As a banker, I analyzed the financial data and collected future income contracts to prove its capital ability. I also connected and persuaded one shareholder of Jiabo, which is a famous stated-owned funding enterprise, to be a guarantee to manage the risk of the loan.

After offering these substantial evidence and negotiating with the approvers, finally the loan for the movie was approved. It was a closure for me.

I am so excited that what my routine work could dramatically change the destiny of one movie and thus let me know that although I cannot be an actress of a movie, I could be someone who contributes to it.

Besides the fact that the Cornell MBA will provide me with a lifetime wealth of networks and a substantial business and international education, the main reason for me to apply to the Johnson program is that the abundant organizations of Johnson will develop my leadership skills and help me achieve both my short-term and long-term career plans.

My short term goal is to specialize in the Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) business at an Investment bank such as Citibank or Morgan Stanley. This position, together with my MBA, will serve as the fundamentals to my long term career plan which is to manage a private equity firm focusing on the movie industry.

I am really looking forward to attending the Johnson’s Parker Center for Investment Research, which involves diverse roles in running a $ 1million fund .I am sure that this experience will help me master how to manage a fund in the real world.

Furthermore, I look forward to helping organize some Women in Investing (WIN) conferences utilizing my project management and event organization skills.

When I am back in China, I would like to utilize this experience to help strengthen many pioneering women who are still facing gender inequality situations. When I become a leader of a private equity fund, I am planning on sponsoring outstanding Chinese women by funding MBA scholarships in which they can elevate themselves, without any consideration of finance or recruitment.

Another valuable experience of Cornell is Johnson Leadership Fellow (JLF), which offers second-year MBA students opportunities to mentor new comers. Since I have had such an experience coaching 3 junior customer relationship managers after my promotion to Senior Client Manager, I am willing to utilize this experience and try to be a member of JLF, sharing my Johnson journey, emphasizing the importance of team work and giving some tips of communication skills which I acquired in the past.

I regard JLF as a course of self-discovery and also a way to repay the community, a belief which I will pass to my fellow students and wish them to benefit their inferiors.

In addition, the unique Johnson Board Fellowship (JBF) and the Women’s Management Council (WMC), provides me with another platform to network and make contributions outside of Johnson. Based on my work traits and strong interpersonal skills, I would propose to help Ithaca women to cope with diverse relations at the workplace, analyzing the situation and sharing my stories from my past about how I coped with conflicts in my organization.

Another plan I have is to establish a student organization of languages in campus. Last year, students of 38 countries were admitted to Johnson, which means that there is great potential for a club like this.

In this club, besides teaching their native language, students will also share unique cultures attributes with their classmates.

In summary, there are many ways in which I can use the MBA program to benefit others, but also to explore my entire potential. These considerations contribute to my application to Cornell.

Cornell Johnson MBA

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