This interview belongs to the blog series featuring interviews with current and future MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the IESE MBA Program. And now, introducing Tommy Kim, a true career changer and Student of the MBA Class of 2015.
IESE: First, tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from? What and where did you study as an undergraduate? What did you do before joining our MBA program?
Tommy: I was born and raised in South Korea, and studied my undergraduate in the States. Upon graduation, I got my first job at a U.S. affiliate of a Japanese manufacturing firm and spent about 3.5 years there, mainly in marketing and sales roles. During my time in the States, one of the projects I worked on was very successful and was recognized by the Japanese senior management team, which eventually led to an opportunity to work in Japan with more responsibilities before coming to the MBA. So, in this sense, I could say that I am quite international in terms of my overall personal and professional experiences.
I: You had a child during the MBA. What is it like to combine fatherhood with the MBA?
T: I had just gotten married three months before coming to Barcelona, so everything happened I came to IESE with a lot of worries and nervousness since I did not have a clear picture of the medical system in Spain. However, we met some really good people, good friends, and good medical teams who speak English and who have always been supportive in every circumstance.
Obviously, having a baby during the MBA is quite challenging as you have to make a tremendous effort to balance your personal life and school life, and we all know that it is not going to be fun, at least the first few weeks! But one thing I can say for sure is that you will enjoy the moments you spend time with the baby because you will soon realize that you might not ever find this much time to spend with him or her once you graduate and re-enter the real world. It is tough but surely manageable!
I: Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at IESE?
T: I looked at European business schools when applying for MBA programs because I had already spent nearly seven years in the States and knew that I was missing a European part of my experience (not including traveling). Additionally, I wanted to build and expand my network and get a better understanding of European regions during my studies. I looked at a few things to select a program: length of the program, diversity of the student body, and culture. I also attended MBA career fairs to speak with the Admissions teams from different schools.
After all this, I decided to apply to two European schools, which both admitted me in the end. When I had to decide between them, the Assessment Day at IESE actually played a big role. I came to Barcelona for an interview and an Assessment Day, and had a great impression of the school, the people, and the living environment that Barcelona has to offer. After spending two days in Barcelona, it was very clear to me that IESE was the place that I wanted to explore during the next phase of my life.
I: What are some of your favorite things about IESE? How would you say that you’re a good fit for IESE?
T: Classmates, a.k.a my great friends from all over the world. Most IESE students have lived or worked more than two countries, which makes them very open to cultural differences and very mature. We always help each other out in any circumstance. I have lived and worked more than five countries, so I also fall into this category and consider myself a good fit for IESE! My 280 classmates are the best part of my MBA experience, which I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am truly grateful to have met them at IESE.
I: Are you involved in any clubs at IESE? Do you think it is important to supplement your education with these activities?
T: Yes, I am currently involved in a few clubs at IESE: the Healthcare Club, the Ambassador Club and the Korea Business Club. I think it is important to get involved in club activities, especially if you are interested in a specific sector that you would like to pursue post-MBA.
I am personally interested in the healthcare sector but come from non-healthcare background. Obviously, the healthcare club activities that I was very involved in the first year (i.e. Healthcare Trek and the Healthcare Day) helped me a lot to build a network in the sector and learn more about the industry in general, which eventually led me on a clear path that I want to focus on. The bottom line is the more you are active in a club, the more you get out of it.
I: It seems like you are looking for a career change. Do you think the MBA allows you to do so?
T: It is certainly true that IESE MBA has allowed me to achieve what I would like to do for my future career. As a career switcher, I think the beauty of the IESE MBA is that the school provides all of the necessary resources to make things happen. Not only do you receive help from Career Services, but faculty members and friends with different backgrounds and experiences are also there to help. You always feel that there are lots of helping hands available.
I: What are your plans after graduation?
T: I have received an offer from a healthcare company and am currently interviewing with other players, all in the healthcare industry. As a person coming from a non-healthcare background, it has been really hard to break into the sector, but my club involvement and the network that I have built over these last two years have helped me get this far. I am now excited to take on new challenges in a new industry and to expand my learning agility!
I: What are your top 3 admissions tips for applicants aiming to go to IESE?
T: Be yourself, show your motivation, and enjoy the process. You are about to make one of the largest educational investments in your life, so enjoy the application process and don’t get stressed out from it all – I know what the GMAT is like! J
Essays are the best tool to sell yourself in a written way to the Admissions Committee, and interviews and the Assessment Day will help sell yourself in a visual way. I know it is a very tough process that you have to go through, but my advice would be, once you have everything ready, to just enjoy it. I enjoyed my time during interviews and on Assessment Day in Barcelona, and it led me to a good outcome in the end. Interestingly, the same logic applied during my job hunting. When I enjoyed the interview (conversation) with an interviewer, the outcomes were always better. Be yourself, show your motivation to the Admissions Committee, and most importantly, enjoy the process!