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Choosing a Business School for Me and my Wife

I was born in the northern city of Monterrey, the third largest city in Mexico and a major industrial center in Latin America. After graduating in 2004 with a B.A. in architecture, I joined the “Consultant in Development” program at CEMEX, a building solutions multinational. Along with a team of young graduates, I traveled extensively throughout Europe for CEMEX for several years. I left the company in 2008 to pursue some consulting opportunities, and after a couple of freelance projects, I ended up with the General Electric Co. in Monterrey. So when I started thinking about going for the MBA last year, I had four simple requirements.

First, it had to be a top school. I wanted a program that could help me develop a specific set of skills and abilities, as well as provide me with knowledge on functions that I had not been exposed to in my previous jobs. Second, it had to be one year long. It was both, me and my wife, that wanted to attend an MBA program, which implied a much higher cost when compared to the regular two year programs available in the US. This requirement narrowed down our school selection to just a few. And third, the school had to have an entrepreneurial edge.

Only two schools met these three requirements, and both were located in Europe: INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France, and Instituto de Empresa (IE) Business School in Madrid, Spain. Me and my wife made a final decision when we were notified that the IE Foundation had awarded a substantial scholarship to each one of us to be part of the Class of 2011.

The process of applying to business school can be quite daunting. It represented setting time aside every now and then to think about my career. I see business school as the link between what I have done up to this moment and what I want to do with my life in the years to come. It was a process that consisted of 80% of the time thinking and 20% of the time filling out the applications. This brainstorming process proved to be very valuable later on.

At first I thought I was admitted to IE Business School due to my odd profile: an architect with business knowledge from a Latin American country. My professional experience in multinational companies was also very interesting. I had lived in 7 countries across 2 continents in my life. However, once I met some of the people in the group, I realized that while each of us was unique in their own way, most of my classmates had vast international experience. I feel I am part of a cultural melting pot where our international experience will be our main asset.

It looks like a promising experience is laying ahead. Diversity is one of the characteristics that the school prides itself about, and so far they exceeded my expectations.

Perhaps I am one of the few who does not care much about the degree itself. The image that comes to mind when I think of a top MBA graduate is a well dressed professional driving a power point presentation that will end up saving substantial amounts of money or yielding a way higher return on investment than conventional instruments. While I have done that at some point, my interests lie beyond the economical benefits. I am looking forward to a great experience that will provide me with the tools to grow personally and professionally.

The industries that grab my attention today are real estate, luxury goods and consulting. At some point in my career I want start a new venture, but the situation in Mexico today is very complicated to achieve this in the short term. I will look for opportunities abroad right after graduation in specific companies that operate in the UK, Canada or Australia.

Miguel Suarez also blogs for the business education section of The Financial Times.