2018 Best MBAs: Ahmed Bakr, IESE Business School

Ahmed Bakr

IESE Business School

“An outgoing, goal-driven, hard-working, people person and self-proclaimed pizza connoisseur.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Cairo, Egypt

Fun fact about yourself: For Almost 10 years before the MBA, I played American Football semi-professionally, and was part of the Egyptian National Team of American Football that won 2nd place at the 2016 African Championship.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The German University in Cairo – BSc. In Information Engineering and Technology, Communication Engineering Major

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Business Development Manager with FlameSource LLC., an energy startup in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Business Solutions Partner Specialist at Vodafone in Cairo, Egypt

Radio Frequency Engineer at Deutsche Telekom AG in Bonn, Germany

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? The Boston Consulting Group – Dubai, UAE

Where will you be working after graduation? Will be returning to The Boston Consulting Group as a Management Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Founder and President of the Business Analytics and Big Data Club
  • President of the Ambassadors Club
  • Vice-president of the Consulting Club
  • Vice-president of the Middle East and North Africa Business Club
  • World Government Summit Universities Competition Finalist
  • Class Host for Incoming Exchange Students

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’ve networked my way to a BCG interview after being initially rejected, and gave more than a 100 mock interviews to prepare my classmates for consulting recruitment. While I’m proud of these achievements, none have compared to the learning and satisfaction I’ve experienced from successfully founding the Business analytics and Big Data Club.

I believe that in today’s business environment, the traditional MBA toolkit has become insufficient, and that MBAs must develop a strong grasp on analytics if they want to remain competitive. This student group was launched to mend this knowledge gap. To do so, we hold practical workshops teaching students the fundamentals of business analytics, and regularly host industry experts to keep club members up to date with current trends and applications of analytics in business.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of my role in the turnaround of Flamesource – Working at a startup where there’s no defined business model, and being tasked to grow it is beyond daunting; Not to mention doing so in a completely new industry, city, and country.

By the time I joined the company, the founders had implemented stiff pro forma sales targets. I believed that these targets kept the sales team from taking risks, effectively killing our agility. After roughly 20 meetings, I convinced the founders to hand me the sales team management for six months. By adopting a more client-centric compensation system, our company was able to react faster to changes in customer needs. At the end of the six months, sales were up almost 84%. My time at Flamesource was instrumental in helping me realize my full business potential, and I owe my success there to my perseverance.

Who was your favorite MBA professor?

Professor Marc Badia – Professor Badia taught me one of my least favorite subjects coming into the MBA. Yet somehow, he managed to make me look forward to his class every week. It’s a combination of his really light and cheerful demeanor, and his great teaching style. He always managed to pace his class perfectly, so it never felt like we were racing the clock, and I never got a chance to check my phone once.

Out of class, Professor Badia’s door is always open for his students. No matter how busy he is, he somehow manages to respond to my numerous –and often poorly-timed– emails, and helps way beyond what is asked.

Why did you choose this business school? Definitely the people. I was completely torn between three schools, so I decided to visit all three campuses and meet up with students in an attempt to collect more data beyond what I learned while applying. The first thing I learned was that career opportunities and resources were very similar at schools of this tier. With that out of the picture, I was able to focus on what really differed. After talking with students from all three, it became clear that IESE was the right place for me. People here are so humble, helpful, and friendly that I think it’s impossible to feel lonely. Each course here has a teamwork aspect, and the teams are carefully engineered to reflect the diverse nature of the class as a whole. As such you have an unequivocal opportunity to enhance your leadership skills. This, combined with the intense utilization of the case method, offered the closest learning environment to the real world, and made IESE a clear choice for me. (Alright, Barcelona might have helped a little.)

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your schools MBA program? Meet as many people as you can from IESE. Ask them what they like the most about the school. While I’m pretty sure they will all rave about the culture in some way, you’ll be surprised by the diversity of answers you’ll get. Some might tell you it’s the gorgeous campus and the turtle pond. Some might say it’s attending the Africa Intensive Module in Nairobi. Others might tell you it’s simply making new friends from across the globe. You’ll get a million different answers. Take the ones that resonate with you the most, and bring them up during your application process.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Coming into IESE I was told that the school’s coursework is incredibly challenging. While definitely demanding, I found the coursework to be fairly manageable.

Having 80% of your classes taught using the case method means that if you are to get the most out of your time in class, you must prepare the cases. While time-consuming at the beginning, after the first term, you become really good at identifying the information that matters the most when analyzing a case. Cases that would have usually taken me hours to read and analyze, now take less than an hour to go through; leaving plenty of time to enjoy the extracurricular and social parts of the MBA experience.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not graduating with a bilingual MBA degree. IESE offers a fantastic Business Spanish program, but to really accelerate my learning I knew I had to take advantage of living in Spain, and being surrounded by many native speaking classmates. The MBA is all about tradeoffs. Between classes, club work, sports, and socializing, I simply lacked the extra energy to interact more with the locals, and face the awkwardness of speaking in Spanish to my classmates. I know it would have come at the expense of other activities, but I truly wish I had dedicated more time into taking my Spanish to the next level.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Antoine Lagier, who was fortunately also one of my first-year teammates. Antoine and I could not be more different. He is calm and soft-spoken, and I’m loud and, well…Mediterranean. Yet, he has the ability to read and understand people at a magnitude that most people, myself included, cannot begin to grasp. He managed to go through life, facing more adversity than most, and somehow remain grounded, humble, and considerate. I believe Antoine’s strength partially comes from his willingness to be vulnerable. As someone who spent his lifetime hiding behind his size, Antoine helped me learn that expressing emotions is not a sign of weakness, but one of great strength.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father. A self-taught businessman and entrepreneur himself, he started 3 very successful businesses while I was growing up. Shadowing him as he developed these ventures has been the best schooling a business aficionado such as myself could have ever dreamt of, and the traits I learned from him along the way are the strongest assets I possess. One of those traits is his love for learning. He taught me to relentlessly and continuously work on developing my skills, and to never turn down an opportunity to learn something new. The MBA was exactly that; an opportunity to accelerate my business learning and gain a broader range of skills. So I simply couldn’t turn it down.

If I hadnt gone to business school, I would beprobably stuck in a corporate job I didn’t really like, wanting to start my own business but not knowing where to begin.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would optimize the way new courses are rolled out, and less desirable courses are retired. The business world is evolving very fast, and with it the skill set MBAs need to acquire to remain competitive. While IESE’s current offerings leave little to be desired, courses teaching new alternative and unconventional management tools should be constantly rolled out. I believe taking such risks would cement IESE’s position among the best business schools in the world.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

#1: Take my mother to see the world. She didn’t get to travel much while raising me and my sisters, but I know how much she loves visiting new places.

#2: To pick up wakeboarding

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope they will remember me as a lifelong friend who always tried to push their limits as well as mine.

What would your theme song be? “Good life” by OneRepublic

Favorite vacation spot: Basata. A small and tranquil beach camp in Sinai, Egypt. 3 days there and you’ll forget what stress means.

Hobbies? Playing football (both American and regular), watching Arsenal FC struggle, reading science fiction novels, and traveling.

What made Ahmed such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Ahmed is smart, empathic, caring and a person that glues a team together and pushes everyone to perform. He was a joy to have in class, a big presence and brought incredible energy into class.”

Mireia Gine

Assistant Professor Financial Management 


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