As I am beginning to write this note, I am on a short two-hour flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, Germany en route to the USA. Within minutes of taking my seat aboard the plane, I have already spoken two languages and have heard an additional three more. For the average person born in small town suburbia USA, this short journey in itself might be a dream; or perhaps, a very overwhelming experience. To be honest, I can’t tell you how many times in the last year I have had to ask myself “is this my REAL life”? If you are one of my IESE classmates reading this, you know exactly that whirlwind feeling I am talking about! In a few short hours from now I will continue my journey back to the USA for the first time since leaving over a year ago, but why it has taken me so long to return? What has kept me here in Barcelona?
Backtrack to August 5th, 2015
Last August, my husband Pat and I arrived in Barcelona with our yorkshire terrier, Bruin, and a few suitcases in tow. A year prior to that, we were visiting campus for the first time during our honeymoon. Six months prior to that, we attended our first IESE event, etc. etc. Committing to the MBA and selecting a school was not a decision we made overnight, and in fact it took a lot of time, planning, and sacrifice to reach this point. Together we made the decision to attend the full-time MBA at IESE with the expectation that it would be among the most challenging, yet best two years of our lives. Now, we can’t imagine what life would be like if we didn’t pursue this unbelievable opportunity!
In this picture, we just landed in Spain! In a taxi on our way to our flat! (August 2015)
By signing up for this journey we knew what we were getting into; what we didn’t know was where this experience would take us along the way or exactly where we would end up afterwards. I guess you could call it a big “calculated risk”. Some of our friends, family, and colleagues really did not believe we were actually going to do this. Yes, this is our REAL life and we are really moving to Barcelona to do this, come visit!
Fast Forward to the end of Year 1
Three long terms, hundreds of cases, many exams, and countless team meetings later at the end of the first year we had only begun to answer some of the “what’s next” questions. What I can tell you for sure is that we both ended up in summer internships we never imagined when we first embarked on this journey.
I had spent all summer prior to the MBA working very diligently on exploring potential career opportunities. I was reaching out to all of my contacts, scheduling informational interviews, researching, and doing everything I possibly could to learn about and break into investment banking. In 2009, I received my undergraduate degree from Babson College in finance and previously held a job as an equity research analyst at a small firm, so I thought if I worked hard enough it was possible (despite also having prior roles as a software engineer, fund accountant, and product marketing analyst on my CV).
This brings me to my next point — the MBA experience is not just about core academics or discussions held within the classroom. The process helps to uncover your strengths and weaknesses, personality type, interests, motivations, leadership style, etc. etc. among many other important factors that will play a significant role in your future personal and professional life. By discovering more about yourself in a safe environment like IESE, you are able to improve in areas where you feel you might fall short and excel in areas you prove to be strong. It is possible to “break the mold” here and try things you never thought of or that you were maybe afraid of before beginning this 2-year journey.
Reflection in Retrospect
The year-long process up until this summer took me through many phases and surely a lot of confusion and uncertainty about what I wanted to do in the future. A pivotal moment (one of many) came after I ended a call with a director at a top investment bank. It was at that moment, along with all of my other past experiences, that I realized while I loved many aspects of this career path, maybe I was chasing this entire time after something that in reality did not align with my personality and motivations. I realized I could still manage my own personal investments to fill this void of doing what I love, and that maybe this was my opportunity to try something different (again). After researching other industries, going on the Marketing trek in the Fall, and competing in a few case competitions I had finally settled on the next career track that I would explore.
The IESE Summer Entrepreneurship Experience (SEE) 2016
I decided to stay in Barcelona to participate in IESE’s Summer Entrepreneurship Experience (SEE) Program and Pat returned to Boston to work within a different role for the private equity company he was at prior to the MBA. This was a challenge for both of us personally and professionally. We would spend the next three months apart focusing on “figuring it out” and facing new individual challenges. For once, I was able to live my dream of combining all of my talents and passions into a single project. As for Pat, he was able to transition into an accelerated role that also played to his strengths and would provide an opportunity to learn a new part of the business. These were challenging, but also very exciting times.
Under the guidance of the SEE “Board of Directors”, Professor Hakan Ener and Professor & Business Angel Investor Luis Martín Cabiedes, 7 teams in total spent the summer testing various business opportunities hands-on. Each week, we would meet on campus to give what many might relate to a “Shark Tank-like” presentation to the Board. After which, they would provide comments to help us along in the discovery phase with the hope of validating the existence of a market and a business model that had potential by the end of the summer.
Throughout the summer, we learned to use critical tools such as the business model canvas, MVP, hypothesis testing, and more all based on the idea of the lean start-up approach. One of the biggest benefits of participating in the SEE Program however, was not just the direct feedback that your team received. Much of the feedback provided to other teams applied across the board, and it made for a great real-world learning experience. Near the end of the program after having listened to each other’s presentations and the Board’s feedback week after week, some ideas emerged as being more feasible than others based on the data collected throughout the summer. It is likely a few will even continue into a second year entrepreneurship course offered called Entrepreneurship: New Ventures (NAVEI), also taught by Professor Hakan Ener.
Picture to the left: Team TRUE | NORTH photoshoot (July 2015)
I am very grateful to have participated in this experience, and it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for many. It is one summer where you can risk doing something you were always curious about, but never had (or made) time for. Going into the summer, I thought that entrepreneurial ideas were so hard to find. Many people get stuck at this phase and never make the leap. If, however, you allow yourself to switch into this mindset, you begin to see that opportunities are all around.
The life of an entrepreneur is certainly not for everyone; you have to be willing to venture outside of your comfort zone every day. It takes self-awareness, determination, appetite for risk, skills, and many other qualities, but how will you ever know if you don’t try? Best of luck to the incoming Class of 2018! For any of you that are aspiring entrepreneurs, don’t hesitate to ask questions – be curious, this is the time and place for you!
IESE MBA Class of 2017
Editor’s Note: As part of the NAVEI course under the guidance of Professor Hakan Ener, Amanda has recently launched the M.A.D.E. Collection; an e-commerce fashion and lifestyle brand curating collections of the best artisan designers from around the world, www.themadecollection.com. She and her NAVEI team, consisting of Kirk Lao and Patrick McCarthy, were recently selected to present in front of potential investors during the final session of the course.