2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Claire Peterson, Cornell University (Johnson)

Claire Peterson

Cornell’s Executive MBA Americas program, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

Age: 33

“Passionate, technical leader driven by a relentless curiosity to develop solutions to complex, unsolved challenges.”

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Fun fact about yourself: My grandfather, father, all of my siblings, and I attended service academies and served in the Armed Forces. (James Collins-USNA ’59, Bradley Peterson- USNA ’80, Claire Peterson – USNA ’10, Elizabeth Kellum- USMMA ’11, Joshua Peterson- USMA ’12)

Undergraduate School and Degree: US Naval Academy, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

Where are you currently working? Microsoft, Cloud Architect

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

US Navy Reserve – Office of Naval Research, Deputy CIO

Washington State Science and Engineering Fair Judge

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My father passed away in a car accident in 2012. I became the executor of his estate while also beginning Nuclear Power School, the Navy’s most technical and academically challenging school, in Charleston, SC. Attending this school while grieving my father’s death was exceptionally difficult as my father, who was also a Navy Nuclear Engineer and taught me about nuclear power growing up, was no longer around. It was one of the most emotionally and intellectually difficult times in my life. I realized the power of perspective and how important it was to continue to move forward in the face of adversity by simply focusing each moment on finding and doing “the next right thing.”

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Ori Heffetz, who taught Economics, was my favorite professor. The course highlighted the essence of why I chose to pursue an MBA – to build a true understanding of how world events drive global national markets shaping the future of the business world. Ori was able to bring course content to life through his application of key topics to current events.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Cornell University was one of few top schools at the time that offered a hybrid program between coursework completed on campus class and that completed within a regional boardroom. The school was one of the first institutions to shape a different approach to learning, one that has become much more common since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I learned during this program was the importance of efficiency. Throughout the program, I worked full time at Microsoft, part time in the Navy Reserve, and also had close relationships to nurture while in the midst of a physically isolating pandemic. With so many commitments and the blurring of lines between work and life balance, I found that efficiency and time management in all aspects of my life became fundamental in my ability to manage many demands and commitments.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Juggling work, family and education during the Executive MBA program at Cornell University was challenging yet very doable at the same time. Prior to the pandemic, I recall a time where I was travelling to visit family on the East Coast, working full time remotely, and attending class. While I had to complete both work for my job and schoolwork, I made the time to focus on my family and spend time with them.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? An Executive MBA will change your life and understanding of the world forever. These programs require a great deal of grit and a large commitment in time and energy. However, the reward far outweighs the sacrifice required to complete the course of study.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? When our cohort began in 2019, many students were concerned about their ability to dive back into quantitative courses after having not attended formal schooling in years. Cornell University did a phenomenal job at meeting students where they were and providing a steady trajectory of teaching quantitative subjects. All of my classmates were impressed by the academic roadmap the school developed and the opportunity the program provided to not only learn, but also excel within more technical courses.

What was your biggest regret in business school? COVID-19 made it difficult for our cohort to meet in person. My biggest regret is not having the opportunity to network more in person after the pandemic began. However, we were able to overcome this in partnership with Cornell through creative virtual meetings and Social Hours. Our class continues to look forward to our next reunion to reflect on the unique events of 2020.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Claire Carver Dias is the classmate I admire most. Her passion for life and her relentless desire to master any professional or personal challenge inspires us all. Not only does she often set the standard as a high performer, she also helps bring others along. Her empathy and desire to change the world knows no bounds.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? Cornell University’s program offers students access to one of the nation’s top MBA programs while creating an opportunity to network and partner with some of the world’s top talent stretching across the globe and in many different industries.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term professional goal is to build and inspire large teams and shape strategic visions that will drive technological advances, changing the way the world operates.

What made Claire such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“Claire is a proud member of a military family. If you know Claire, you know that her family and her commitment to the Armed Services are at the center of all that she does. She studied Computer Science at the United States Naval Academy before embarking on her Naval career. When approaching the end of her active-duty career, Claire pursued a Master’s in Engineering Management to facilitate her transition. While Claire remains involved with the US Navy Reserve, she’s also found new challenges at Microsoft. She has been there two and a half years, and has already experienced a job move within the company. Claire is also a champion for veterans, and her story has been featured in Microsoft articles and videos, inspiring other transitioning veterans. Claire’s goals revolve around building and inspiring large teams. By pursing an Executive MBA program with Cornell, she has once again maximized the use of education to help ensure her success. Claire exhibits all of the qualities of a highly successful EMBA student. She brings passion and excitement to everything she does, works tirelessly, supports her team and classmates, and takes advantage of extracurricular opportunities. She also referred her twin brother Josh to the program, making the Cornell Executive MBA Americas program another family tradition. We are thrilled that Claire is a member of the Cornell community and we’re very proud to highlight her accomplishments in the Class of 2021.”

Verne Thalheimer
Executive Director
Cornell Executive MBA Americas Program





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