For the incoming MBA class of 2019, their IESE journey began long before they arrive on campus in September. We talk to some students to find out how and why they chose IESE’s MBA program. In the first of two posts, Dibah Jiva (MBA Class of 2019) shares her story and offers some advice for those coming from a less traditional business background.
My MBA thought process
I grew up in France in an Indian family of entrepreneurs who immigrated from Madagascar. From the age of 17, I pursued a career in the sciences, first with a Bachelor in Nutrition and then a Medical Degree. While completing my undergraduate degree, I founded the Medical School Application Guide (www.theMSAG.com) which has helped thousands of students get into medical school. It all started when I replaced sleeping at night with writing guidebooks in my bedroom. These guidebooks have up to date information for medical school applicants and became the backbone of my company. Four years ago, I expanded the MSAG to include application strategy consulting, personal statement and medical school interview coaching.
Like many who have done a job for 4 years, I began to slowly find I was not developing as many new skills at the hospital while the MSAG was providing me with an avenue to help a greater number of people in a greater variety of ways. I have always had the entrepreneur “gene” and at age 30, this gene became intensely active. From April 2016, I chose to dedicate myself full time to the company and I had now done the first step towards changing the path of my life. Within the first few months, I realized that although my aspiration to create positive change in the world had not changed since I chose to go to medical school, the medium through which I wanted to achieve this was different. Business, unlike my clinics, would allow me to think bigger, in a more collaborative way and ultimately impact more people.
With most of my network being doctors and scientists, I felt very unsure about my suitability for an MBA. I heard most people who do an MBA come from finance, consulting and business. I feared I wouldn’t cope with finance classes or accounting where my knowledge of microanatomy would not help me. Would a good MBA program want someone like me? I had no idea. I approached my doubts and questions with 3 key strategies:
- I spoke to students who are in an MBA program or recently graduated from one and asked about what will I learn in the MBA? Would they recommend it to someone with my profile? What were the downsides of doing an MBA? What were the pros? I was enthused by how happy people look when they talk about their MBA years. “Life changing”, “Unique opportunity”, “Best time ever”, are words that always resonate. This helped me develop my own unique reasons for wanting to do an MBA which is very important to have for yourself and for your interview.
- My second strategy was to approach professionals in different parts of the business world. From a doctor’s perspective “Consultant”, “Venture capitalist”, and “Banker” all sounds sort of the same. I wanted to understand the professions everyone talks about during and after MBAs. It is a big change of “world” switching from medicine to business. I had to learn a new vocabulary to communicate effectively. This was a useful exercise and helped me open my mind about career options post MBA.
- My final strategy is that I did a lot of research online. I read blogs about MBAs, about when in one’s life it may be best to do one. I learned that there are a lot more than 3 careers one can do after an MBA and probably one of the most valuable thing I learned is that not all MBAs are the same. This may sound obvious to most but it really was not to me. As a doctor, when a colleague says they went to medical school X or Y, it does not matter much as they would have learned roughly the same thing. But I don’t believe this is true for MBA programs and along the way, I discovered that every MBA program was very different from each other.
IESE: The Right Decision
I chose to apply only to IESE. I thought it may be more efficient to think first where I ideally want to go and then try to go there. If it doesn’t work, then I can always rethink my options.
During my time researching, I realized that most individuals in the business world can roughly list the top 10 MBAs in the world. Is it important to attend one of the top MBAs in the world? Well maybe not for everyone, but for me it was. I believe it gives credibility to my qualification and it opens doors to opportunities not available elsewhere. After all, they didn’t become top 10 by doing nothing!
Once I had done my initial shortlist, I first considered the values, mission and focus of the various MBA programs. My interest as described at length above is entrepreneurship. MBAs were traditionally set up to train people for corporate positions but not necessarily to make entrepreneurs. From my research, I found IESE to be one of the MBA programs who is the most invested in developing entrepreneurs. They have local investment funds, an entrepreneurship & innovation center, networking events such as “Breakfast with Entrepreneur”, and entrepreneur club and even the option to do the summer internship as an entrepreneur. Their offer of optional entrepreneurship classes in the second year is also impressive. IESE is entrepreneurial at its core and already a great match for me.
Then, I considered my personal goal during an MBA. Commons things people list as their goal are networking, career progression, etc. For me, it is a little different. I want to build skills to develop my own business. Multiple forums and articles online clearly describe IESE as a more “rigorous” program than some other schools with a heavy workload. I found the fact that external organizations recognize IESE’s curriculum as rigorous particularly attractive.
Next, I considered the teaching style of the various programs. With two degrees under my belt, I have had time to discover my preferred learning style. For medical school, I chose a problem based school because I really believe in the case method to become good at making clinical decisions. In the same way, I really believe in the case method to become good at making managerial decisions and I thus favored a course that uses the case method such as IESE or Harvard.
Also, I considered where in the world I wanted to live for the next two years and who I wanted to interact with. An MBA is the opportunity to network of course but also to discuss cases and go through decision making with classmates in a learning process. I really believe that having global perspective has an immense impact on how we learn to make decisions as managers. With close to 85% of the class profile being international, it was very hard to find other schools that could match such a diversity. Programs in the US that I was attracted to still from the above-mentioned criteria lost their place here. Although they are very international, they do have a much higher proportion of American students and faculty than any other nationality and I believe this would be reflected in the methodology and approach to cases.
Finally, I went to the Open Day at IESE and it felt right. No internet research or conversation can replace going there and seeing for yourself. IESE has open days almost every month and I would highly encourage prospective applicants to attend. You will see what a jewel the campus really is, the facilities, the smiles on everyone’s faces and feel the sun. You will want to come back for sure.
Not only did IESE full time MBA program meet all my criteria but also, there is no other program I found that met them too. With the additional personal reasons that I love the sun, Barcelona is an amazing place to live and that I have had a lifelong goal since I am 12 years old to be fluent in Spanish, I am sure you can all understand why I didn’t apply anywhere else.
Thank you to IESE for giving me the opportunity to become part of the IESE family, a mosaic doesn’t look good with any important tiles missing. I am convinced that my life mosaic is looking better and becoming more complete with the IESE tile in it.
Many thanks to Dibah for writing this post. In the next post, a married couple from Brazil tell us how they both found their way to IESE together.
Would you like to find out more about IESE MBA’s full time program? Click here.