Mariana and Ricardo’s Journey to IESE Together

2017 has definitely been a memorable year for Mariana Kaplan da Veiga Pereira and Ricardo Goncalves (MBA Class of 2019) so far. Not only did they get married, but they will both be starting their MBA together at IESE in September. In the second of two posts, this Brazilian couple tell us what made them both choose IESE and offers some practical advice to all applicants.

Ricardo and I had been together for six years when I started the process of applying to an MBA in January 2016. He always knew I had the dream of going to a business school abroad, but he didn’t know if it made sense for his career at this point to take time off. At the time, we were both 26 years old and he was working in his family business, a logistics company, while I worked in the financial department of a large consumer-goods multinational.

My first step was to hire a coach to help me with the MBA process. This is something we would recommend: get someone to help you in the process, whether it’s a coach, a therapist, a mentor… Having this person helped me to understand more about myself, my goals, what drives me, which are the values and characteristics I was looking for at a business school.

I suggested that Ricardo meet with her, and after a couple of sessions with her and conversations with alumni she recommended, he too saw how an international MBA could be valuable to his career. Once we both decided we were going to study abroad, it was time to decide where we wanted to go. My first idea was to go to a school in the United States. It was solely based on the belief that they had a strong tradition and therefore would be better (the only research I had done so far was talk to a couple of students from each school). Ricardo wanted to explore the schools in Europe, so he took a trip to visit business schools in three different countries: Italy, England and Spain. He came back telling me wonders about the schools, especially IESE, and how the diverse environment found in Europe would add more value to us. In the meantime, I had the chance to visit one school in the U.S. and see with my own eyes how diversity played an important part in an MBA. 70% of the students in this school were Americans, and the exchange of ideas between them in the class I attended was fairly poor as they all came from very similar backgrounds.

Having then decided that our goal was to be in Europe, we started more thorough research and aimed to apply in the second round. We attended events from the schools in both Rio and São Paulo (we are from Brazil and live in Rio), talked to many alumni and students, arranged interviews with members of the Admissions Committees. We ended up applying to three schools (with two in common), and at that time had a very clear idea that, if we were both admitted at IESE, that would be the school we’d be going to, for various reasons:

  1. IESE’s values: The values of the school resonate a lot with ours. The school is focused not only with forming the next CEOs of Fortune 500, but also with building leaders that will have an impact on people, on society and on their communities. Its focus on entrepreneurship is also very important to us.
  2. Students’ passion: Everyone we talked to (current students, alumni) is absolutely passionate about the school! They love the campus, the professors, the atmosphere, the city. They talked with an intensity about their experience that we didn’t see in any of the other schools we researched. It was very impressive also to see that the members of the Admissions Committee were all former students. This showed us the great impact IESE had on them.
  3. Diversity: Less than 20% of the class is composed of local students, and there are over 60 different nationalities represented. We consider this diversity essential for a richer exchange of ideas and a more holistic learning environment.
  4. Case Study Method: We had the opportunity to attend a case-study class offered by IESE in São Paulo. We loved this learning methodology, since it allows students to play a significant role in class, and you learn by studying real-life cases. There is no right or wrong, the value is extracted by the exchange of ideas and experiences among the classmates.
  5. Two-year program: The people we talked to that went to one-year programs in Europe said they missed some of the social part of the MBA and that it went by too fast. We wanted to have time to profit from everything the school and the city have to offer.
  6. Opportunity to learn a new language: Spanish is the second most spoken native language in the world. At IESE we’ll have the opportunity to have our classes in English and have six hours of Spanish classes during the week.

Mariana & Ricardo, IESE MBA Class of 2019

In February of this year, I received a phone call from the Admissions Committee saying I had been accepted. My heart thumped, and I immediately asked: “What about Ricardo?” We had considered going to different schools if we weren’t accepted together at any of the schools we had applied to. It would be tough, since we would be married by then and would have to start our lives as newly-weds apart.

Thankfully, she said: “I’m calling him next to tell him he was accepted too”. It couldn’t have been greater news! We had been accepted, together, to our first choice! To other couples applying together, or if you are applying by yourself as well, some of our tips are:

  1. Give yourself time: The earlier you start, the better. I had one year to prepare, so I managed to do my research thoroughly and handle well both the stressful process and my work responsibilities. First do your GMAT as many times as you need to get the score you want, then start with the applications. Find someone to help you structure your goals, it doesn’t matter if it is a coach, a therapist, a mentor or a friend that knows you well.
  2. Talk to people and attend events: Talk to as many people as you can from the school (members of AdComm, students, alumni). They will give you a good perspective of the school values, tips for your application, how to best profit from the experience. Also, attend the events the schools offer and, if possible, visit their campus and attend a class. This will provide a real picture of the experience and help you to understand which program suits you best.
  3. Learn about the school’s values: It’s not only the school that chooses you, but also you who choose the school. It has to be a perfect fit, and this will only happen if you truly create a relationship with the school beforehand. Don’t worry too much about the rankings, first find out what are your drivers and motivations and then start searching for the schools that have the same values as you and that will offer the best experience FOR YOU.

For any of you applying, best of luck and we hope to see you in the Class of 2020!

Mariana and Ricardo

Thank you and congratulations to Mariana and Ricardo for sharing their story! 

Would you like to find out more about IESE MBA’s full time program? Click here.

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Camille Chow View more

Associate Director, Admissions (MBA '16)

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