2016 Best MBAs: Sean Porta, IESE Business School

Sean Porta IESE

Sean Porta


IESE Business School, University of Navarra

“I’ve gained a real appreciation for what diversity brings to a group of people. We all have our own cultural norms (or oddities!), ways of approaching situations, senses of humour, food tastes, you name it – but we all get along and we’re better off for the differences. Plus, from now on I’ll have a couch to crash on and someone to show me the best restaurants and nightlife in >50 countries around the world whenever I go travelling.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Calgary, Alberta (Canada)

Education: University of Calgary; Bachelor of Commerce (Finance)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Scotiabank Global Banking & Markets; Investment Banking Associate (Oil & Gas Group, Calgary)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Coller Capital; London (Private Equity; Investment Group Senior Associate Intern)

Where will you be working after graduation? Adidas Group at their headquarters in Germany; Senior Manager, M&A and Corporate Ventures

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Student Council Representative; President of MBA Sports Club (coordination of all sports activities, clubs, and sponsorship at IESE); Co-Captain of the IESE Rugby Team; Head of IESE Spring Games Organizing Committee (IESE Spring Games is an Olympics-style MBA sport and social event in Barcelona with >900 participants from >10 schools); Movember Charity Fundraiser School Lead

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My most proud achievement was helping to found “La Copa IESE”… a competition throughout the academic year between the school’s 4 sections and 2 years that awards points based on extracurricular activity, in everything from soccer tournaments to charity fundraisers. The vision for La Copa was born from the traditional House Cup systems seen in many UK boarding schools, with the hope being that gamification of the amazing activities students were already partaking in would encourage greater extracurricular involvement, increased school spirit, and boost community involvement / charitable giving. It’s been very cool to see the project through from conception, to founding and now through execution this past academic year. Thus far, the results have been amazing – our students have really jumped on board and activity seems to have increased dramatically. More importantly, though the charity, fundraising and volunteering engagement has been record breaking. Hopefully La Copa IESE becomes a legacy and a real pillar within the IESE MBA experience for years to come.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Being promoted a full 12 months early from analyst to associate during my investment banking career was definitely something I was am very proud of, as it was pretty rare within the bank. Getting additional project/people management experience, with greater exposure to our clients, was incredibly rewarding at that point in my career. I feel it continues to pay dividends, and I am really thankful to have gotten those professional opportunities so young.

Favorite MBA Courses? I wasn’t a fan of the actual subject matter, but I always looked forward to Operations Management with Professor Wei Luo. He brought so much energy to the class, and still found ways to weave in ethics into classes about warehouse capacity or inventory management. Apart from this, our Entrepreneurship, IT and Entrepreneurial Finance classes were a really great first peek for me into the startup / high tech world, which helped me form a new passion within this space.

Why did you choose this business school? Mainly because of the community feel of IESE. You get a real sense that everyone actually cares about the welfare and development of each other – because the school is so small, it feels like a family. You know almost everyone’s name and at least something about him or her. After just a short campus visit and a few chats with alumni, I already grasped this aspect of the school. Apart from that, the strong commitment to the values of “doing good and doing well” through responsible business, a strong entrepreneurial focus within the school, learning a new language, and of course the location in my favourite city in the world – Barcelona were also helpful in my decision.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Meeting and becoming close friends with people from all over the world and all sorts of backgrounds. That was one of the major reasons why I chose to come overseas to do an MBA, rather than stay in North America. It’s easy to get trapped in a bubble, and I wanted to really get outside my comfort zone. Since coming here and making friends with people from all over the world – some of my closest friends are from countries as varied as El Salvador, Norway, Singapore, United Kingdom, and Iran – I’ve gained a real appreciation for what diversity brings to a group of people. We all have our own cultural norms (or oddities!), ways of approaching situations, senses of humour, food tastes, you name it – but we all get along and we’re better off for the differences. Plus, from now on I’ll have a couch to crash on and someone to show me the best restaurants and nightlife in >50 countries around the world whenever I go travelling.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? I guess it’s an important lesson we learned in our Leadership, Self Management, and Personality classes, driven home by some readings I had for school from the famous author and psychiatrist, Victor Frankl (but that are very applicable to business). The lesson is that every situation, every moment in our lives – represents a choice, and that our biggest asset is our ability to choose. When we’re stripped of everything – job, status, money, clothes, even freedom – we still have the ability to choose how to handle our situation. We can take very negative events and choose to approach them with resolve. We always have the choice to do the right thing. We can also choose to find meaning and learn from what’s happening to us even if it’s completely out of our control. I think this is extremely true of business situations. For example, we can choose to treat our employees well even if its not mandated. We can choose to take some piece of learning away from a crisis at work. Every moment of our lives, in business or otherwise, is a choice.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? Perhaps the workload – sometimes there’s an (apparently misconceived) notion that business school is a bit of a cake-walk when it comes to the amount of work. Of course there’s loads of opportunities to socialize, party, and travel – but there’s still a pile of work a lot of the time and you still sometimes feel a bit underwater by all of it.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Take every opportunity you can to get involved extracurricular-wise. 5 years from now, you won’t miss that $20 you spent, but you’ll still have the memory from that dinner the Japanese Club organized or that trip to a traditional Catalan BBQ in the countryside. The events are also a great way to meet new people at the school outside your core friends or section classmates. MBA school is a once in a lifetime experience, and as I’ve learned too quickly, way too finite. Don’t waste the opportunity to experience crazy things you never thought you’d get to see or taste, with the amazing group of people that come to IESE each year.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…every time I sat down to study for my Level II CFA exam, I ended up researching MBA schools instead.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…perhaps much better off financially at this moment, but dreaming about living in Europe.”

What are your long-term professional goals? One day I’d love to start my own company, probably in the travel business (one of my major passions). In fact, until recently, I thought that’s probably what I’d do right after the MBA. However, when the Adidas opportunity came up and I got the chance to work in an industry I’m obsessed with personally (sports) and an area I’ve become very interested in professionally (startups and venture capital), I knew I couldn’t pass up what is a bit of a dream job for me. One day I’d definitely like to revisit starting my own business though.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Tough one – honourable mentions to my girlfriend and a few of my sports coaches throughout my life. However, I think it would be a crime not to thank my parents. They gave me the chance to go after every opportunity I wanted, but without it being a free lunch. They were also super laid back about how I lived my life, as long as I was doing relatively well in school – I had a lot of freedom and never got flack from them about how I spent the rest of my time. It always felt like the best type of motivation.

Fun fact about yourself: I have seven tattoos, acquired from three different countries… and am always looking for more!

Favorite book: The Hobbit

Favorite movie: Gladiator

Favorite musical performer: My childhood heroes… Blink 182

Favorite television show: The Sopranos

Favorite vacation spot:

Hvar, Croatia or Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Hobbies? Rugby, snowboarding, cycling, ice hockey when I’m home, travel, cooking

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

“Sean is an invaluable member of IESE´s Class of 2016. He is super active on campus! He is making lasting impact by being a very important member of our student council. He also runs many of the sports initiatives at the school. He is working every day to make student life at IESE better.” — Marta Escardo, Dean of Students, IESE Business School


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