What I learnt in the Student Council

There are many events and activities happening during the IESE MBA and it takes a lot of hard work among students, faculty and staff to make sure that our MBA students get the best possible experience. What goes on behind the scenes? Mohamad Hajjar, MBA Class of 2018 who served in the Student Council writes about his experience and shares his biggest learnings.

They say learning happens in the classroom. IESE MBA’s case method validates this. However my greatest learning happened outside the classroom, being a part of the Student Council (SC). Every year, two MBA students are elected from each of the five sections to represent their Class and act as the intermediary between the student body and the school.

When I accepted my friends’ nomination in October 2016 to run for SC elections, little did I know that I would be embarking on one of my best IESE learning experience where I practiced “in class concepts”, discovered the meaning of teamwork and trust as well as built lifelong friendships with some of the finest people.

My biggest learning is that ”the most important part of a project is the team.” This applies to my beloved first year team #A7, Joanna the other section A representative and the support we get from our classmates Xavi, Carolina, June and Stefania for our section; and Patricia, section D representative with whom I worked on 2 SC workstreams with – managing all our student clubs and organizing Multi-Culti (IESE’s biggest party!) -along with the clubs presidents who supported our workstreams initiatives.

This experience allowed me to both learn and practice concepts such as financial modeling and planning, capacity management as well as building teams and working together toward a better value proposition for both IESE and the students.

Section “Awesome” A

Team synergy allows great teamwork. You can say Joanna and I started developing our synergies back in August 2016 before classes started while we roamed the Barcelona streets with 300 international students attending citywide events such as Gracia’s Fiesta Mayor. Once elected in October 2016, we decided to make our section feel like a real family: we were 72 persons from 32 different countries and it was critical for us to make everyone feel at home. We defined our action plan for the entire year and worked during the 3 semesters to implement it. This included planning events like monthly social gatherings, in class birthday celebrations and local holidays such as Sant Jordi in April as well as section awards to name a few.

To help us deliver our promise, we needed a team. Carolina, our birthday Project Manager ensured everyone had an in class birthday celebration with cake on their birthday. Stefania and Javier helped us with organizing dinners and events. We had our own Christmas tree decorated by students and professors. To further foster student relations, raise people’s spirits and relieve stress before exam period, we organized a Secret Santa gift exchange where all 72 students bought a gift for each other. Xavi even came to class in a Santa outfit and distributed the gifts! June our section Paparazzi made all moments memorable with his camera.

Section A celebrating Christmas

Serving IESE student body through SC workstream: Student Clubs and Multi-Culti

Dream big, achieve bigger! My fellow SC colleague Patricia and I decided early in our first year to raise the bar and provide the best service to the student body; we both had consulting backgrounds and shared an obsession for customers! We decided to professionalize the student clubs workstream: we listened to students, collected and implemented their feedback. To ensure clubs events visibility and avoid events overlapping, we pushed Campus Groups as our events tool, providing training to clubs leadership teams on how to use it.

During our summer internship period, we worked on creating a clubs booklet containing the structure and offerings of all IESE clubs. We believed the information should be available for anyone anytime. Countless of sleepless nights later, we delivered the first clubs booklet to all of IESE; the information was finally stored in one central repository and accessible anytime.

This activity allowed us to earn the trust and support of the student clubs leadership with whom we had worked closely with to make the students MBA experience better. Building on the earned trust, we prepared workflows and procedures to make clubs professional organizations and ensure full knowledge transfer to the next year’s leadership.

Our next action was focused on improving students’ learning as well as interactions between clubs and IESE. We formed a small team with several professional clubs presidents, for example Ravi (Energy), Dave (Responsible Business), Alberto (Consulting), Mira (Banking), Lionel (Retail & Luxury) and worked with Career Services and the Dean’s Office to integrate our team recommendations and suggestions in the MBA program. This included new ideas for proposed courses, strengthening relations between IESE-Career Services-Clubs-Alumni divisions, securing support from different IESE divisions to clubs during treks organizations and also all year long.

We were motivated by the various clubs leadership who invested hundreds of hours from their free time to ensure students were prepared for full time and internship interviews. This pushed us to help facilitate their activities through better collaboration with IESE. We worked with them to define a set of recommendations which we all believe will allow the clubs to provide a better offering in the coming years.

The Student Council Class of 2018 wrapping up a successful year with a farewell dinner

Study hard, party harder! In parallel we helped to organize Multi-Culti, IESE’s largest party where all students are encouraged to showcase and celebrate their culture through food, drinks and performances. Since we faced space limitations in previous years, we searched and found a bigger venue that could accommodate 50% more people. However, it came with a cost: it was 6 times more expensive than our old venue. To evaluate if we can afford it, we applied our learning from finance and accounting classes: we developed a financial model with the worst case, most likely and best case scenarios. This exercise allowed us to master concepts learned in classroom; at the same time we looked for sponsors and negotiated with the venue to reduce cost. A good use of skills learnt in Negotiation class! Organizing and successfully pulling off this event was a real example of dealing with operational issues like queues and capacity management, financial modeling and cross cultural negotiations.

While it brought lots of extra work on top of the academic workload, life in the SC was one of my top experiences. The learning gained was invaluable. I got the chance to apply concepts in real life situations which brought me learning beyond any textbooks could and relied on the support of a team who worked hard to provide the best customer service to entire student community.

Mohamad Hajjar was one of five Class of 2018 students awarded a MBA Award, recognizing his extraordinary contributions to the IESE community. Thank you Mohamad for writing this post! 


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