Name: Elaine Kuo
Year of Graduation: 2018
Country of Residence: United States
Current Employer: Amazon
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What inspired you to pursue an MBA, and how did you choose IESE?
My career has been in the technical field, I am a scientist at heart and trained as an engineer. I started out as a clinical researcher at Roche and transitioned to a data analyst at a smaller pharmaceutical company before going to IESE. Having worked in the biotech industry in the Silicon Valley, I wanted a change that would take me completely out of my comfort zone. Obtaining an MBA in Barcelona was the perfect challenge. Learning a new skillset, a new culture, and a new way of living would add colors to both my professional and personal life.
I attended several MBA events and spoke with alumnus from different schools. After narrowing down to just a few programs and attending some prospective MBA classes, my heart was set on IESE. While all the top-ranked schools have outstanding professors and students, IESE stood out to me for two reasons – the high moral standards it holds and the big family atmosphere it creates. Choosing the right MBA program is a very personal choice, not only does the school name stay with you forever, you carry the responsibility for the school’s reputation as well.
In your post-MBA career, how has your MBA helped you and how so?
I have changed my job function, industry, and location – almost a mission impossible without doing an MBA first. Amazon recruited me for their MBA leadership program, where I did marketing for the retail business and sales for the advertising business. Currently, I am a Senior Business Development Manager at Amazon Web Services overseeing our product strategy and operation. IESE really helped me excel at these various roles because I learned to be a generalist and to create business solutions. This was not achieved just by attending lectures and case discussions, but also by absorbing my classmates’ distinct experiences, both their successes and failures.
While doing the internship to launch a beauty product for Amazon UK, I reached out to my classmate who has almost a decade of experience as a marketer to learn the dos and don’ts. While being P&G’s account manager at Amazon Advertising, I asked for advice from my professor who taught an on-line advertising strategy class for deeper understanding. Now working in Amazon’s cloud business and back in San Francisco, I realized the most valuable skillset I took away from IESE is the ability to learn and untangle complicate business problems.
What are some of your favorite memories from IESE?
My favorite memory from IESE was not a single event, professor, or classmate, but the way I felt. There were many times when I felt like I was not going to make it, the tremendous workload, pressure to secure an internship, and the preparation for consulting and banking interviews. What topped it all off, was when I found out I was having a baby, unexpectedly. It was tough because I was finally getting through the notoriously rough first year and about to start an internship at Amazon, which is known for grilling its interns. A gazillion questions went through my mind, should I give up my internship? Should I take a year off and defer graduation? Should I hide my pregnancy? Are my classmates going to look at me differently? How do I get through the pregnancy alone and take care of a baby while finishing the last semester? I was dead scared. What kept me going and decided to take on all these new challenges was my IESE family. My classmates were genuinely happy for me and my professors were overwhelmingly supportive. That gave me the confidence that I could do it all and I should do it all. Was it difficult? Without a doubt. Was it worth it? Absolutely yes. This is my fondest memory because of the growth I experienced professionally and personally.
Finally, do you have any advice for incoming IESE MBAs?
Have an open mind. You may have a perfect plan going into the MBA, but be ready to come out of the MBA completely changing that plan. Experiment with new ideas. You will oscillate, and that is also how you will find the happy medium. Embrace your environment in and outside the classroom. You will be surprised how many life-long friends you get to make. Finally, savor every moment because two years will fly by before you even realize it.
Pursue your dream MBA! Take these next steps today: