Meet The IESE MBA Class of 2017

Karen Marian Crisostomo

Josse Memmi

IESE Business School

Hometown: Paris, France

Undergraduate School and Major: Université PARIS 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Master’s degree in Science in Management

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: 

2007-2008: INDITEX SA (La Coruña, Spain) – Junior Business Controller for Corporate Department

2008-2011: INDITEX SA (Paris, France) – International Business Controller for Europe Area

2011-2012: J.M. DISTRIBUTION MODA SL (Madrid, Spain) – Entrepreneur, Wholesaler of French Prêt-à-Porter brands

2012-2015: INDITEX SA (Paris, France) – International Business Controller for Europe Area

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE?  I had a tutor who helped me during the whole admission process, including the preparation for the GMAT exam. To me, having a tutor for this exam is not essential. Scoring high for the GMAT exam is all about practicing all that you can – and not necessarily with a tutor. I spent 2 hours weekly in class during 3 months and we just re-did what I learned using the books. Except for a couple of tips, my tutor didn’t teach me anything new.

What I highly recommend to prepare for the GMAT exam is to get a strategy guide set, such as the ManhattanPrep one that I used. Everything that you need to know about the exam is inside and you just have to follow it from the beginning to the end. I also used the official guide for GMAT review, for both the Quant part and the Verbal part, and practiced over and over.

Finally, what maybe helped me the most were the mock tests. I purchased 6 mock tests through the ManhattanPrep website and took two of them each month. Being in the real test conditions is really helpful in managing the timing and spotting your weaknesses when reviewing the corrections. Also, after a couple of tests, you can realize your progress and therefore gain in confidence.

I could save a significant amount of money by preparing for the GMAT by myself with no help from a tutor. However, my tutor was the one who recommended me the books and the mock tests. So I have to admit that tutoring was helpful after all.

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? In my case, to define to which school to apply, I just used two filters.

1) Location: I’m married and I have a 6-year old child. Saying that, I’m not the only one who decides where to lead my family. Moving to Asia or America when you’re single is pretty much the same as moving from Paris to Barcelona. However, with a wife and kid, it felt a bit more complicated.

I knew from the beginning that an MBA will be very demanding in work and time, and I couldn’t ask my wife to do everything outside the MBA. So we decided to stay in Europe, close to our respective families in order to help us if something unexpected happens. And when you have a child, something unexpected happens all the time. By chance, we have family in Paris, Madrid and Barcelona. And by chance again, there are some of the best schools in the world just there.

2) Reputation: Before starting the MBA, I had the chance to work for a multinational company (INDITEX). I had a well-paid job in a good position. So when I decided to do an MBA, which represents a significant investment of time and money, why not choose the best ones (meaning the ones with better reputation)? My investment would be barely the same but the return on it will be better. 

With these two filters, I had my list drawn:

  • Paris: INSEAD and HEC
  • Barcelona: IESE
  • Madrid: IE

Being married and having a child is not a common case when you apply for a full-time MBA, but I realized afterward that I wasn’t the only one. I met students who were in the same situation and we realized that our preoccupations for our family were the same.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf? Get help! Preparing for the GMAT can be definitely done without a tutor, but there is no book to help you write your essays or to prepare you for interviews. A tutor brings a critical eye on your work and I definitely needed one. I thought my essays were perfect until my tutor read them. Besides all of the grammar mistakes that he spotted, he told me that my essays were very pretentious and didn’t answer the question asked. And he was right. So after several drafts – and a lot of grammar mistakes – we reached a much better definitive version which I know I couldn’t do without him. The simple fact of talking and sharing the essay questions with him gave me perspective and ideas. Being confronted with simple questions such as, “Are you sure this point brings something to your essay” or  “Explain to me how, forced me to justify and support every point in my essays.

For interviews, we practiced together a couple of times. As for my essays, an outside critical eye was very helpful. He didn’t tell me what to say exactly during interviews, but more things to avoid doing. Also, having a feedback gave me much more confidence than practicing in front of my mirror.

Regarding recommendation letters, it’s always difficult to insist to your recommenders to write their letters. They are usually very busy and they are not spending the day thinking about your letters. My advice is that you have to find a middle point between being pushy and not insisting at all. For my part, I avoided asking them directly for the letters. Instead, I involved them in the admission process. I regularly sent them e-mails such as, “Hey, I had my first interview yesterday and I think it went great. The admission looks on a good way.” However, the message really meant “I’m still alive, please don’t forget me.” I received the letters on time, and I obviously didn’t stop writing them until the end of the admission process. I think they were as pleased as me that I was admitted.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? From the beginning, I always had a preference for IESE School because of the professional relationship that I made in INDITEX. And my feeling grew stronger all along the admission process.

But I think my choice was definitely made after the group interview in Barcelona on the IESE campus. I remember having interesting and passionate conversations with teachers and the admission team this day. Also, I really got along with the other candidates that I met and with whom I spent the all day. What I’m trying to say is that I choose IESE because of the people that I met and the strong values that they convey. Admission team, teachers, former alumni and future candidates of IESE – They all made me feel to be part of this school.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? My aim is to switch from finance to a more strategic and managerial position within my sector of activity. I’ve always been highly interested in the textile industry, but I realized, through my 6-year experience in the controlling department of INDITEX that the finance side of this sector wasn’t the one where I want to develop my career.

An MBA program is perfect to reach my goal. I’ve already started the IESE’s career service program, which is great to guide you in the job hunting through self-assessment tools and networking classes. Before even starting the program, I already achieved to be in contact with more professionals than I ever was before. I’m very confident that I’ll succeed my transition thanks to the IESE’s MBA program.

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