2016 Best MBAs: Ihsane Aziz, SMU Cox

Ihsane Aziz SMU

Ihsane Aziz


Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

“Izze is just the most optimistic and extroverted member of her class: liked by all, respected by her peers, admired by her professors and welcomed by the senior staff. She typifies what it means to be involved.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Casablanca, Morocco

Education: Bachelors in Marketing – Institut Superieur de Commerce et d’Administration des Entreprises (ISCAE)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Assistant Brand Manager – Lesieur Cristal, leader CPG in vegetable oil and laundry detergent in Morocco.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Assistant Brand Manager – Unilever, New Jersey, USA

Where will you be working after graduation? Assistant Brand Manager – Procter & Gamble (P&G), Cincinnati, USA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School?


  • Dean’s Circle within SMU’s Business Leadership Center, focused on promoting leadership and professional development through extracurricular involvement with local business leaders
  • Forte Fellowship, focused on increasing the number of women applying to and enrolling in MBA programs by offering fellowships to women pursuing a full-time, part-time or executive MBA education at our sponsor business schools.

Leadership roles: President of the Graduate Business Marketing Club, Vice President of the Graduate Business International Club, Officer in the Women in Business Club

Membership: Strategic Alliances (LGBT) Club

Campus activities:

  • Was selected for Teaching Assistant position within the Hart Leadership Center in the SMU Lyle Engineering School, focused on improving teamwork and business presentation among undergraduate engineers,
  • Was selected as the Marketing and Analytics Career Coach in the MBA program at SMU Cox Business from among all MBA students based on my academics and my work experience, interviews and involvement with students

Community work:

During my academic years at the business school of ISCAE, I served as the Student President and played a crucial role as the liaison between administration, staff, and students. I enjoyed devoting time and energy to lead many activities, such as the job fair in our college. I successfully carried out my many responsibilities, including event planning, contacting recruiting agencies, and encouraging corporate participation.

I also used the Student President role as a platform for outreach to the other volunteer organizations such as AIPEC and BAYTI to help needy people at large. For instance, I organized an event that helped these organizations by collecting clothes, toys, and supplies for families in need. As a Brand Manager, I also extended the same volunteer program during my career with Lesieur, one of the most prominent consumer oil brands. I coordinated, communicated, and collaborated with all different entities to channel donations to the right volunteer organizations and downstream low-wage communities.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? First and foremost, balancing both my personal and professional life has been my ultimate goal. It is important to me to achieve the goals that I set for my education, professional career, and be an important part of the lives of my family members.

During my education, one of my great accomplishments has been being admitted in the best accredited business school in Morocco. ISCAE is the number one ranked business school in Morocco and is known for its worldwide excellence in education and building talented individuals. Only the best students can be admitted from all over the country and overseas. The admission process is competitive and thus requires excellent grades. I was admitted to the program where only 150 students are admitted from a total of more than 5,000 candidates.

Also, I am very proud of my transition to the U.S. since I have never spoke English before. My first language is Arabic and my second language is French. Therefore, I had to challenge myself to move to a new country with a new language. It was a big decision for me, but I was able to face it and take the GMAT, apply to different programs, and get admitted to SMU with a dean’s scholar honors to pursue my MBA.

On the extracurricular level, I think that being considered as a successful person in my family can be considered as an accomplishment for my personal life. I consider the fact that my sisters look to me as a role model for their lives as proof of my achievements. Being the oldest in my family, I constantly strive to be a good example and to be successful for both of my younger sisters. Also, my parents are very proud of me and of my successes. They are especially proud of my career and were optimistic about my vision and goals when I decided to leave a successful career and pursue an MBA in the U.S. Thus, I am confident that I can reach my future goals. I see my perseverance as the key to my future. To continue to earn my parents and family’s trust is the most important goal which propels my ambition and motivates me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? A substantial accomplishment was my promotion to a brand manager. I was the youngest member on the team with no experience in marketing, and I had to prove my competency at work to earn trust and show how successful I could be despite these constraints. As such, I set out to learn and grow using my innovative approach, creative thinking, courage, motivation, and passion to succeed. I had the opportunity to conduct a market opportunity analysis for one of our existing olive oil brands, Mabrouka. The Mabrouka brand had been challenged by another competitive brand and lost market share. Consequently, the market growth declined with an increasing trend leading to major deterioration in sales and margins. Mabrouka had only 20% of the market share while one of the competitive brands enjoyed the remaining 70%. The other 10% was fragmented among different small players. After implementing my marketing strategy approved by my manager, I increased internal awareness about the urgency that we needed to save this promising brand. Second, I formed a successful team to support and build a holistic action plan from strategic marketing goals all the way to making the sale and satisfying our customers.

From this experience, I learned that there is no constraint to success and that even young inexperienced professionals can have major successes by using innovative critical thinking and inquisitiveness.

Moreover, I believe that my internship at Unilever this summer and getting hired at P&G are great achievements to be very proud of given my recent integration in the American culture, language and new lifestyle. I am looking forward to achieving bigger accomplishments and reaching higher goals after I finish my MBA.

Favorite MBA Courses? I had many courses I enjoyed during my MBA program. However, I believe that “Customer Loyalty” was one of my favorite classes. Working with a team of 5 other students, I collaborated with American Airlines on a real project to increase their customer loyalty for different tiers in the American AAdvantage Frequent Flyer program. I think this class was very helpful to learn different soft and hard skills. For example, I was able to use my leadership skills as the head of the team to coordinate, and delegate tasks for my team. Also, I was able to use my analytical skills since we had to analyze data for 10,000 customers, each with different attributes in order to formulate our recommendations. I was also able to learn time management since the class was 7 weeks long and our final presentation was in front of high level managers at American Airlines.

Another favorite class was “Web and Social Media Analytics” because this class is very up-to-date with current demand and the increase of social media usage across different ages. I was able to learn NodeXl, Enterprise Miner and other software tools that helped me to analyze many advertising campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, and use those insights as a benchmark for our fictionalized product before coming up with the right recommendation on how to launch it in the US market.

Why did you choose this business school? I was very enthused at the prospect of being part of such a comprehensive MBA program that will allow me to learn, prosper, and add value to my professional experience and personal life. I wanted to be part of a world-recognized program. SMU Cox School of Business has differentiated itself in the academic and business communities through its business excellence and proves to be the best fit for my aspirations and goals.

As far as the ranking, SMU has always been among the top programs, but also strong for alumni networking that helps students post-graduation. Moreover, I was able to talk to staff and faculty and I learned about different programs offered at SMU such as the Global Leadership Program, which includes an international trip to learn about new cultures and visit and benchmark companies overseas to see how business is done. Another key differentiator for me was the marketing academy that selects best students based on their GPA, work experience, and involvement with other graduates. I set a goal to be a member of the academy (which I was able to achieve) in order to be in touch with different companies and learn about their work and their industry on a constant level and also take advantage of their experience for my resume and interview process.

Reading about Cox School of Business alumni proved to me the efficiency and effectiveness of the MBA program and how successful alums become after graduation. I felt that SMU would offer me the knowledge and skills I needed to achieve my goals.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Beyond the great academic program that allowed me to land amazing jobs for my career, I enjoyed meeting up with new people from all over the world. Being the first Moroccan in the Full Time MBA program was a scary step in my life since I was going to face a new world, so different from my background and the way I grew up. However, I enjoyed learning about those differences and sharing in the new cultures with other students.

I will always remember every activity we shared during our program, such as the volunteering opportunities I was offered and the extracurricular time we spent together as full-time students. I also enjoyed spending time with the faculty and the staff who are always welcoming and happy to help students with any specific needs or questions we have.

Academically, I believe that I had amazing professors who shared their passion for their domain and teaching us all the subjects to develop our skills and for the short term and long term.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? The biggest lesson I learned is “PURSUE ALL YOUR DREAMS.” Since I started my undergrad program and discovered my passion for marketing, I had a dream to join the prestigious company Procter & Gamble. During my interview for the MBA program, I shared my goal with the admission staff as one of the main reasons why I am pursuing a graduate degree.

My academics and my extracurricular time built a strong personality and a great marketer who applied for P&G and went through the whole process for ABM. As a result, I was one of the one percent of one million applicants in the world who got accepted to the biggest CPG in the world.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I think the most surprising thing was the diversity and the helpful students that I met in the last two years. I came to the MBA program with the thought that students might be competing against each other, which might affect the quality of the study and teamwork I would experience. However, I was surprised by the collaborative environment and the willingness of students to help other students, even when it came to preparing others for same interviews that we are all preparing for.

We were all driven by the motivation to build a great reputation for our school and support other students to reach their goals on an academic level or even through networking with contacts that might be helpful to other students.

What was the hardest part of business school? The hardest part of the business school was the time management between my academic and extracurricular life. I am a very active person who likes to be involved in different activities, which made it challenging for me to balance between the expectations of the full-time program, my role as an officer in different clubs, spending time with friends and having time for my family at home.

I believe that time management was definitely a strong skill I learned because I didn’t give up on any of the experiences that I could get from the program without penalizing my personal life.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? The best advice I would give an applicant to SMU is to be ready for a very busy two-year program, but that it is completely worth it because every minute spent there comes with a lesson that will help you on a personal and professional level.

Every student will be able to live great experiences and build a great connection with the school physically and emotionally that will accompany you for the rest of your career.

Moreover, I would recommend them to get used to the word “networking,” as it is a strong key differentiator in our school vs. other schools. We are more of a community ready to help each other and share all the knowledge we have, and to meet with students whenever we can to answer the questions they have for a specific job, company, industry or even with a personal experience.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I grew up in a business-oriented family and inherited the passion for business from my parents.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a volunteer at a humanitarian organization to help kids/elderly with any challenges they might encounter on a daily basis.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I admire my dad, CEO of MNM African shipping line. He grew up in a modest family and challenged himself to go to one of the best maritime schools in Morocco to achieve his dream to be a captain. He was able to get the job he has always dreamed of and be a captain for over 15 years. Then, he applied for a Masters in France at HEC Paris. After graduation, he came back to Morocco as the Chief Commercial Executive at Comanav, Casablanca. He spent many years there and transferred this desire to be goal-oriented to his daughters before he decided to start a new company in Morocco as a subsidiary of a big African company. Today, he is one of the highly respected people in his domain and is leading the company in Morocco to a better future as it keeps growing on a daily basis.

I believe that all the skills that my dad used to reach his goal are inspiring me every day for the best career for me and my kids.

What are your long-term professional goals? My goal is to develop seasoned global business skills and universal leadership capabilities founded on MBA experiences and real world-class business expertise.

In the short term, my goal is to become a seasoned business executive equipped with cutting edge and applicable MBA experience. I am looking forward to enriching my global expertise on both dimensions: professional competency and universal leadership skills. Additionally, I love learning, researching, and interacting with other academics. I am eager to participate in team projects, to use my strategic critical thinking skills, and develop creative business concepts. All these skills would help the brand manager that I got the job for and achieve the professional goals that I have for myself.

In the long term, I aspire to gain entrepreneurial skills to allow me to found my own business. This would give me the opportunity to shape the direction of future marketing initiatives and share my knowledge with junior marketing professionals. Eventually, I would like to join a Ph.D. program in order to pursue scholarly research. This would allow me to gain a more in-depth understanding in marketing subject matters and build constructive simple solutions to complex problems.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? First and foremost, I would like to thank my parents for their support and their encouragement to help me become the person I am today. They have given me an amazing contribution facing different challenges on a personal and professional level, especially by helping me stand up after each barrier I face in my life.

Moreover, I would like to thank my husband who believes in me and in my competencies. These past two years have been full of surprises and new challenges that he helped me overcome with his patience and his kindness that inspires me every morning.

Fun fact about yourself: I am a great cook who won first place in three different competitions (middle eastern) and second place in one competition

Favorite book: Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

Favorite movie: Zootopia by Disney

Favorite musical performer: Celine Dion

Favorite television show: Friends

Favorite vacation spot: Brugges, Belgium

Hobbies? Spending time with kids, cooking

What made Ihsane such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Izze Aziz, a native of Morocco, proved herself an invaluable addition to the SMU Cox Class of 2016 after having been instrumental during the first year of her program by helping to coach and send a team to the Babson Marketing Case Competition. She arranged with marketing faculty and student teams to set up a ‘run-off’ so that her classmates could select the best team among her peers to compete. She worked in her summer internship for Unilever and then returned to campus as the Co-President of the International Business Club. She and her fellow international students put on the best event of the year – The International Festival – which will be held at SMU Cox in mid-April.

Given her stature among her peers, she has now been appointed by the Cox Career Office to be a career coach, so she is personally reaching out to her classmates and connecting them with job opportunities with employers. Izze is just the most optimistic and extroverted member of her class: liked by all, respected by her peers, admired by her professors and welcomed by the senior staff. She typifies what it means to be involved.” — Michael Caplan, Assistant Dean, Student Services for Graduate Programs, SMU, Cox School of Business


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