To say the last 19-months were like a dream in fast-forward would be an understatement. I’ve made dozens of friends, read hundreds of cases, and created a million memories. Have experienced loss, success, loneliness, and euphoria – sometimes all in the space of a day! I’ve seen Barcelona at its best, in the middle of a riot and completely locked down. Have (somehow) travelled across three continents despite being in the midst of a global pandemic.
All this is to say, there will never be a dull moment during your MBA. If anything, you will find yourself pulled in many different directions and learn to prioritise faster than ever, because it is impossible to do everything (so try to ignore the FOMO!).
Reflecting on my journey, and adapting the ever present 5 C’s of marketing, I wanted to share the pillars of my transformative IESE experience – collaboration, communication, community, career and culture.
One of the primary reasons I choose IESE was its case study method and approach towards teamwork, namely creating diverse teams of 9 that must work together for the entirety of the first year. The experience of working, daily, with eight peers who had competing priorities, interests and working styles was a rollercoaster. And while we were truly lucky that our team got along well, there was also enough drama to write a sitcom. I learnt a lot from my team on the academic front but my three takeaways in terms of teamwork would be:
- Don’t shy away from difficult conversations; addressing issues early helps nip conflict in the bud.
- Compromising and adapting is not just advisable but essential; people who don’t do this struggle visibly.
- Listening is not only underrated but difficult; be patient, reserve judgement and build on each other’s ideas.
While this is a soft-skill I began developing pre-MBA, working in PR and marketing, it was only during my MBA that I truly understood its value. From writing admissions essays and developing STAR formatted CV bullet points to storytelling in front of peers and sharing my work experience during interviews – communications is an integral part of business schools and the business world. Having a mandatory module, electives as well as a club dedicated to this art, IESE really tries to equip us all with the required skillset. It may seem like a waste of time but put in the work during Comco, create opportunities to improve your public speaking and apply the learnings in your life to build better personal and professional relationships.
“At IESE, you will find your people.” From friends obsessed with TV to those who want to go to as many bars in Barcelona as possible. From partying until sunrise to having intimate games nights with wine. Whatever your vibe, you will find a tribe. And that, is the beauty of an MBA class of 360 students – it is large enough to foster genuine diversity yet small enough that you don’t miss opportunities to cross paths with all your classmates.
IESE’s strong and inclusive community, that emphasises values and social impact over rankings or GMAT scores, was another aspect that appealed to me. Being in an environment where the majority believe in the power of paying it forward is rewarding and inspiring. Be it as immediate as spending time and energy on helping first years or looking beyond borders to fundraise for high-risk covid countries – our students and clubs are constantly working to help society.
It is important to note that there is no silver bullet nor guarantee to realizing the infamous triple jump – switching function, industry and geography. However, the following steps helped me start on the right foot.
- Know what you want. Using my application phase to genuinely reflect on “why MBA” helped narrow my focus and avoid distractions, including recruitment events and internships unrelated to my end goal of consulting. The idea is to have a plan A and a plan B, otherwise you risk spreading yourself too thin.
- Leverage your support system. The CDC, professional clubs and IESE alumni network are well equipped to support recruitment so be sure to leverage them! For me, the Consulting Club and CDC were great sources of structure and information. Finding peers to hold me accountable and regularly conduct mocks with was also helpful.
- Put in the time. Nothing can substitute effort. Attend the relevant sessions, do the legwork, start early and make the required sacrifices. Ultimately, it’s your life, your dreams and your responsibility to make it happen.
The cultural effect at IESE is three-fold. First, the supportive school culture evidenced by the teams, section groups and various mentor/buddy programs. Second, the diversity of an MBA, so you can enjoy fabulous events like Diwali or Multi-Culti and make friends across the globe. Third, the opportunity to learn Spanish and enjoy the wonderful lifestyle offered by Barcelona – where you have beaches, mountains, shops plus bars at your fingertips, and siestas are a thing for everyone (except first years)!
At the end of the day, what the MBA really comes down to is (brace yourselves, here comes another one!) – commitment. So commit to finding your way, to learning your strengths and limitations and to making the most of the opportunity.
Disha Widge, MBA Class of 2021 is from Hong Kong. She graduated from the University of York with a B.A in Economics and Politics and spent 5 years of her career working in public relations. During her IESE MBA, she did her summer internship at McKinsey & Company in London and will be joining them full time in the fall. All the best, Disha!
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