Meet the IESE MBA Class of 2018

Members of the Class of 2018 at IESE Business School in Spain

Members of the Class of 2018 at IESE Business School in Spain

How do you become a global business leader? You start by immersing yourself in other cultures. You become fluent in the customs, language, and history of your hosts. Not only do you respect their values and experience, but you make them part of your own.

Location has always been a major enticement for MBA applicants, particularly those looking to study overseas. Who wouldn’t want to spend a year indulging in the succulent cuisine, stunning architecture, and stirring artistry that you’ll find in London, Paris, Madrid. Oh, how fast a year can go! For students looking to take a deep dive into different cultures, let alone their professional interests, the two-year program at the IESE Business School at the University of Navarra is tough to resist.


That was particularly true for the Class of 2018, which is comprised of students from 62 different nations. Here, IESE carefully screens its classes, so no culture lords over the others. As a result, students are exposed to an array of cultural and business mores from around the globe. In the process, they gain a comfort level in interacting with people from various backgrounds and a network that they can leverage for opportunities wherever they travel.



As part of the IESE curriculum, students master both English and Spanish, with the latter spoken by nearly 400 million people, opening doors for ambitious MBAs looking to operate in Spain, Central America, South America, and even the United States. Learning dual languages does more than just make it easier for students to communicate with people at all levels of an organization, says second year Justine Gonsalves in a recent blog post. “A business education in two of the world’s largest languages gives you a unique advantage and fresh perspectives on international business,” she writes.

That Spanish comes in handy in Barcelona (as does Catalan). That’s right, IESE is carved into a hilltop that overlooks Ciudad Condal in all of its majestic Mediterranean glory. A monument to modernism that genuflects to the Gothic, this Iberian ideal is the pinnacle of culture and commerce in Catalonia. Think miles of golden beaches and sparkling surfs; a spirited España nightlife in El Born or Old Town that brings to mind Miami Beach; and Roman walls and narrow cobblestone walkways flanked by world class bistros and swank boutiques. It is a place where you can snowboard down the Pyrenees Mountains of Andorra in the morning before parasailing alongside the Barcelona skyline in afternoon. For futbol fans, there is no greater paean to the world’s most popular sport than Camp Nou, home of the fabled FC Barcelona soccer club.


Indeed, IESE is a jewel of a program that has something for everyone, which made it hard to resist for first years like Danielle Francis, a New Jersey native who’s skilled in muay thai and kickboxing. “When I decided to go back to school full-time,” she explains, “I knew I wanted to be in a program that has an international focus, is two years long, is located in a large city, and provides the opportunity to learn a second language. I was drawn to IESE by its mission and the fact that everyone I met exemplified its core values of respect for others, humility, and learning and listening. It became evident that the IESE community actually lived by its stated mission and core values.”

IESE students enjoy a working lunch at the headquarters of Lemon, a virtual wallet application

IESE students enjoy a working lunch at the headquarters of Lemon, a virtual wallet application

That’s the other half of IESE identity. It is truly a mission-driven program whose vision is that business must be a force for good. This resonated with Jean-Paul Destarac, who hopes to leave an “imprint of goodness” by being a role model and example. “What separated IESE from the rest of the schools I was considering was its humanitarian approach to business, understanding that being a manager in a business is more about leading people than simply increasing profits and decreasing costs,” he states. “This does not mean IESE seeks to send all of its graduates to non-profits and NGOs. Conversely, the school intends to create positive change in the world through being involved in all levels of business across the world. I aligned well with this vision and wanted to be formed in this context.”

IESE asks a lot of its students over two years. Not surprisingly, it is considered among the most academically demanding programs in Europe. Call it the Harvard of the Mediterranean, with students digesting over 600 cases before graduation. This embrace of an American-style general management curriculum can be traced back to its beginnings, when it was founded in partnership with HBS. As a result, IESE MBAs are particularly skilled in critical thinking, communication, and decision-making. By graduation, they are true management material, equipped to reduce uncertainty, make tradeoffs, and produce solutions that take the best from a range of contrasting viewpoints. This approach has a fan in Gonsalves. “It allows you to learn from practical, real-life business problems. I thought this would be a nice complement to the theoretical approach of my undergraduate degree.”


As you’d expect, the 2018 Class comes to Barcelona with engaging personalities, entertaining stories, and bona fide credentials. Just a sample: Lance Kuang, who once hiked through a Siberian ice field for three days wearing only unlined trousers, describes himself as “a doctor with business mindset and a warm heart.” Perhaps he could give some points to Coralie Vaissié, who admits to getting trapped in quicksand as a teenager. Jolyon Sayer, a Newcastle and PwC alum, had a short stint as a music journalist, while Danielle Bailey was once a competitive swimmer.


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