There are certain similarities between pursuing the full-time MBA and starting a family. Both activities are life-changing, and both are capable of consuming all your available time. Therefore, combining them can be a challenge — but IESE students with kids think it is well worth the effort. In this post, we ask some MBA Class of 2022 students about their motivation, their experience so far and some life hacks.
Why did you choose to do the MBA and why IESE?
Bartosz Radzikowski, Poland: Joining a top MBA program has always been my ambition, as I would like to consolidate my management knowledge, grow in a smart and collaborative environment and build up an international network. I also appreciate learning through the case method as it allows us to solve real business problems – three per day at IESE!
As we, together with my family, decided to stay in Europe, IESE was the preferred choice. The enormous number of opportunities the school offers, reflected in its position in rankings, were one side of the coin, but for me even more convincing were the IESE people. Each time I met an IESE alumnus (for example at IESE Alumni & Friends events in Warsaw) I saw people who care, who stay engaged, who want to change themselves and contribute to the world. This strongly incentivized me to become part of this community one day! Additionally, IESE does a lot to support students with their families, including family scholarships.
What has been your partner’s experience during the MBA?
Mafalda Oom Torres, Portugal: One of the positive things that Covid brought was the opportunity of remote working. This way, my husband is able to keep working at his company, combining the best of the two worlds: to continue developing his professional career and also to take advantage of our MBA experience as a family. Not only the MBAs, but also the partners community at IESE give him an opportunity to meet extraordinary people across different cultures and backgrounds. Furthermore, for many parents, the city of Barcelona also opens new horizons for future professional development.
Tatyana Komarova, Russia: I’ve lived through IESE MBA twice, first as a partner while my husband was doing his MBA, and now as a student. From my experience, an MBA is a family project, and even more so – when you have kids. On one hand, partners are having almost the same amount of pressure and workload as students, though of a different kind. Therefore, it is important to share responsibilities beforehand and be realistic about them. On the other hand, moving for an MBA is an immense opportunity for partners as well.
The MBA is a big family journey. Like every long journey, it is definitely not easy, everyone gets annoyed or sick sometimes, but most of the time – if you remember looking around – what you see is just amazing. And not knowing the destination adds to the excitement.
What does an IESE MBA offer to parents specifically?
Mafalda Oom Torres: Firstly, the IESE MBA offers an amazing diversified cultural experience for our family (both partners and kids). Secondly, when doing MBA, while reflecting on what kind of leaders we want to become, we have the opportunity to make that reflection not individually, but always with our partners. In the end, the simple fact of coming home everyday and having a wonderful family waiting for us and living this experience with us is very gratifying.
What was your experience moving to Barcelona with your kids?
Joseph Rizzo, USA: We have lived in various cities and we find Barcelona to be the most “children” friendly. Obviously, the weather and beaches are great. We were lucky to take many weekend trips via local train to beautiful Sitges where our daughter Thea loved to play on the beach. In the city itself, there seem to be playgrounds every other block. In our opinion, schools are excellent and very welcoming, even to those who don’t speak the language. The bilingual experience for our daughter was daunting at first, but she is catching on well. Local transit and the healthcare system are great. People here seem to be really friendly towards families and young kids. Living in Barcelona really has been rewarding for our family, and I couldn’t imagine a better city during this MBA experience.
What was the process of finding and choosing schools for your kids?
Mafalda Oom Torres: I talked with parents from IESE alumni and second year students to ask for recommendations. In my particular case, I met a Spanish second year mother that gave me lots of recommendations and even talked with the school about our family, she was extremely caring and helpful. After that, we had an interview with the school and everything went smoothly. As my daughter was still one year old I believe the process was easier than it would be if she was older.
Joseph Rizzo: State school education (public school) is free, but some costs can be expected as schools usually charge for different things like books and supplies. Be aware of the fact that state schools are mostly taught in Catalan and not in Spanish! Another option is one of the many “Concertado” schools. These schools are partially private and partially subsidized by the state, so they are less expensive than the private schools and many of them offer trilingual education (English, Catalan, and Spanish). Make sure to ask exactly how much of each language is taught at your child’s grade level because it can vary greatly school to school. Lastly, are the private schools that are pretty pricy, but you can choose what is the main language (there are many English schooled, some with French, German etc.)
How do you balance a full-time MBA with parenting? Any advice?
Mafalda Oom Torres: Define your priorities upfront. Is very important to start the MBA with a clear set of priorities. Otherwise, if you try to do everything and be everywhere, the intensity of the heavy curriculum and entire MBA experience will make you not be really present anywhere.
In terms of organizing the timetable: define work-hours, outside from which you dedicate your time entirely to family. Make the most of the time kids are at school to work on MBA school projects. Integrate your partner in the MBA life as much as possible and get involved with other MBA families.
Tatyana Komarova: Focus and prioritizing are key to success, and FOMO is the worst enemy. I decided to focus on job search, learning, and family, and, frankly, I rarely do anything else, but in these aspects I achieved even more than I wanted so far. Of course, you are going to miss a lot of conferences, club events and amazing parties — but if you remember your priorities, it is ok. Besides, even a young and single MBA with a healthy liver can’t embrace everything the program and extracurricular activities offer.
What positively surprised me was the level of understanding and support from my teammates. Don’t be shy to openly talk about your needs and set the clear limits – and you will soon discover how much people do respect your limitations and have their own.
Nevertheless, life with kids is unpredictable, so you should always have plan B, and, ideally, C. Unfortunately, during the pandemic inviting relatives is not an easy option, but if you can do it — help could be especially useful during the first weeks or in November-December, when the pressures of career activities and exam preparations are at its peak.
Bartosz Radzikowski: Take chances and do not stress too much. Try to do your best in all dimensions (family, career and academics) but do not be afraid to fail. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success, so just fall forward. Second, planning in line with priorities is crucial as it saves time and I have learnt a lot from my teammates how to improve on that. However, at the same time flexibility; with kids, your life becomes so unpredictable that you need to adjust plans quite often.
Enjoy the social life and be in contact with other families. Do not forget that MBA is also about connecting with fantastic people from different cultures. Reserve time, especially weekends, to socialize with peers and with other families, as you will experience similar challenges. Last but not least, support your partner in developing her/his opportunities in Barcelona, discuss what she/he expects from this 2 years and prioritize accordingly. Let it be a great adventure for all of you!
What are some practical steps to take before moving for your IESE MBA with a family?
Joseph Rizzo: My previous career was in the US Navy, where I frequently had to move duty stations, so we are experienced in re-locating. Here are my top tips:
- Downsize. It is really helpful to only bring what you really need (or what brings you joy ala Marie Kondo). Try to minimize before you move and either sell / donate what you can or put some in storage. Barcelona apartments are generally small with not a lot of storage space. Another thing is we love using “packing cubes” to keep suitcases organized and separated. For extra efficiency, vacuum seal the big items in your suitcases.
- Bring all medical records and shot records that you can. IESE has provided all students with AXA healthcare, which has been great and is also available for the rest of the family with a fee.
- Research areas you want to live and consider securing an apartment from an outgoing MBA student before even landing in Barcelona. There are numerous neighborhoods great for kids but still close to main city areas and IESE campus.
- If you are overwhelmed, ask for help from current students and families who have done it before! The Family and Partners Club is super helpful and you can reach out before starting the program. They have created a “Survival Guide” and can help answer any concerns moving a family and with getting settled. Plus when you land, they have frequent events for partners and also for children.
- Stay ahead of all visa paperwork for the big move, including bringing extra copies of everything. This preparation and organization will help when acquiring your TIE once settled in Barcelona.
Thank you Bartosz, Mafalda, Tatyana and Joseph for sharing your stories! If you would like to learn more about the IESE Family & Partners Club, please visit this webpage.
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