2018 Best MBAs: Leen Issa, Warwick Business School

Leen Issa

Warwick Business School

“Positive, energetic and hard-working. I always find myself in a place where learning has no limits.”

Age: 25

Hometown: Amman, Jordan

Fun fact about yourself: I believe in the power of the “present moment”. Each moment is a present that I try not to waste. “Making things better by giving back” is my motto in life. I have always believed that change starts with me; I have been volunteering in community services since I was 12 years-old. I was teaching English and Math to Iraqi refugees – aged 10-12 years old – in Jordan when I was myself a 15-year old student. I also represented Jordan in 3 international conferences promoting fraternity, human rights and brotherhood values: “Genfest” (2012-Budapest), “Labcitoyen” (2013-Paris) and “Focolare Congress” (2015-Italy).

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Jordan – BA in Business Management

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

  • Capital Bank of Jordan – Business Manager

“Capital Bank provides trade finance services in Jordan, Iraq & Dubai to corporates & individuals.”

  • Caritas Jordan – Projects Coordinator

“Caritas Jordan is a non-governmental organization that implements emergency projects to positively change communities.”

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? I didn’t do an internship in summer 2017; I was still working at Capital Bank in Jordan as my MBA started in September 2017. I will not be doing an internship this summer as I have my dissertation project work.

Where will you be working after graduation? It is not finalized yet but I’m currently in contact with one of the big 4 Management Consultancy Companies. Also, I will be working in YH Design Studios – a Graphic Design and Website Development Company in Jordan and Israel – as I am the co-founder.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • MBA Representative at Student Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC)
  • Co-Director of MBA Case Challenge 2018

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? This year has been an amazing one filled with many achievements on both the academic and extracurricular aspects. I am proud to be representing my syndicate group in the Student-Staff Liaison Committee. I have been working to address any issue affecting our learning experience and propose ideas to improve the experience of future MBA students. I am also very happy to be the Co-Director of WBS case challenge 2018. It is a chance for me to give back some of the life that is given to me at Warwick Business School. These extracurricular achievements have been amazing in adding great value to my experience, yet the one I am most proud of is the academic result that I achieved with my syndicate group during the first term. We got a distinction of (+70%) in our group projects (Marketing and Operations Management); the highest marks among the other 11 remaining groups. We would not have achieved this without being a real team working all together, helping and motivating each other. Although we faced many challenges (such as being from 5 different countries – India, China, Canada, Afghanistan and Jordan) and have different personalities, preferred ways of working and priorities, we were able to overcome all these challenges and perform as a high-performance team. The learning that I gained from this experience was invaluable.

What achievements are you most proud of in your professional career? It is my work with the Syrian refugees in 2013 at Caritas Jordan. As a project officer, I coordinated the work of 12 field officers working in 7 cities in Jordan. I was monitoring the implementation of 2 education projects worth US$2M and targeting Syrian refugee kids. The project aimed to increase the possibility for Syrian refugees to access improved, quality and age-appropriate educational services. After escaping the war, students had typically quit schools for more than three years and it was hard for them to catch up with their peers – some of them didn’t even know how to read and write. The aim was to develop three educational programs serving as a bridge to let them catch-up with peers of the same age. The program also provided psychological assistance to help them overcome what the war left in their minds. I was responsible to make sure that the program was implemented according to the plan and students were getting efficient services that would let them join public schools with their peers. We were providing them with stationery, uniform, meals and activities. I was not only following up on these details, but I was also leading focus group discussions with the parents to make sure that the program was addressing each challenge that was preventing them from being enrolled in schools. Moreover, I was coordinating with different stakeholders such as the Ministry of Education and National and International NGOs by attending Education Sector Working Group (ESWG) meetings. As a result, 80% of the refugee students were successfully enrolled in formal schools and Caritas Jordan won the US government bid for further US $4M funds.

The most touching moment I had during one of my field visits was when one of the students’ mothers came crying and showing me the notebook of her son who passed successfully an English test and who was able to read and write after quitting school for two years between the age of 6-8. That was one of the happiest moments that made me feel that all the hard work and effort I put in was worth it!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Bob Thomson – the module leader of LeadershipPlus. During the first week of the first term, we were given black journal notebooks from the school and we were advised to use these notebooks as a personal reflection space. It was not compulsory, but it was suggested as a way to learn and change our behaviors. I didn’t understand how that could happen and I didn’t feel that this was a suitable method for me. So, I informed Bob that I would not be using it. He told me: “How would you know if you don’t try?” That question made me think really deep about what I wanted from this year. What I wanted to achieve and how I wanted to achieve my goals. From that day, I decided that the MBA year would be a laboratory space to break the rules. I decided not to make any prior judgements, to forget the methods and tools I previously used and try new experiences. My goal from the MBA was to stretch myself, thoughts and vision. How could I do that without going out of my comfort zone and challenging myself? Bob helped me to set the ground rules for my MBA experience to widen my vision and let me do things that I have never tried.

Why did you choose this business school? I was given offers in other schools like Oxford Said Business School and it was a difficult decision to make. Warwick Business School is a well-known place for the quality of teaching, research facilities, diversity and network. They also awarded me an MBA scholarship which gave me another encouragement. But the main reason that made me choose Warwick Business School was the interview that I made during the application process. It gave me positive vibes and enthusiasm. I felt that I will not only make a great fit in the school but it will also make a great fit for me. At the end, it is a formula of two sides and both sides should make sure that they are making the right decision.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? First, remember that the MBA is an investment of time and money. Before you apply, think about the school and why it makes a great fit for you. Think about your achievements, what you have done untill now and what you aim to reach in the future. Then ask yourself what are the gaps that you need to fill, how you can fill them and how can the school help you fill these gaps.

Be confident about yourself and think about the small details that set you apart from others. Each detail matters. Sometimes the small experiences are the ones that will make you different, not the big ones.

Finally, be yourself always and show the school your motivation.

What is the biggest myth about your school? It is the myth that says that you should have a career plan, stay focused, and know what you want. It is useful to have a career plan and know what you want, but I don’t think you can stay focused all the time. There are hundreds of events going on and many workshops and seminars for all the sectors. It is ok if you lose your focus and open up to all the opportunities around you. This can give a wider vision for all the options you have. As a result, your career plan can be changed or it can stay the same. In either way, you won’t lose anything but you would get more knowledge, experience and fun!

What was your biggest regret in business school? That I didn’t attend all the events that occurred in the school. There are so many things happening around me such as lectures, seminars, workshops, trips, parties, etc. The most important thing is how to manage our time to be able to attend them.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire all the mothers in my class who are doing a great job at home and at school. They are sacrificing a lot to be in the school and I appreciate that so much.

 Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My influence was from a business training workshop that I took after high school. At that time, I was studying architecture and I was feeling that I didn’t have the passion for it. I decided that I wanted to be open to all the alternatives around me. I started talking to my professors and colleagues. I signed up for many sessions and workshops. One of them was related to business followed by an internship in a place we choose. I chose to do an internship in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and from that workshop, I understood that I am really interested in business because it will give me the tools, knowledge, and power in the future to make a change.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…an architect.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would extend the course for another year. I am definitely in love with this experience, so much that I don’t want it to reach its end!

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Learn a sixth language. I speak now 5 languages: Arabic, English, French, Italian and Spanish. But I would like to learn a sixth one
  • Get the most out of the International experience I am living now before going back to my hometown

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? An energetic, genuine and open-minded leader with a strong presence.

What is your favorite movie about business? A Small Act; it talks about a small act of love that changed the life of a man and gave him the education he needs. After he became a well educated lawyer, he wanted to create his own organization to help others be educated. It is great as it shows the challenges he faced.

What would your theme song be?

Lipdub Fontem – Up In The Sky – 77 Bombay Street

Favorite vacation spot: The Blue Lagoon – Iceland

Hobbies? Travelling, photography and social activities with friends.

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

I think Leen will be a very important person in the Middle East in years to come. She is Palestinian, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Leen on TV in 20 years helping to bring peace to the region. She has a lovely personality. She is balanced and a great team player. It is amazing to learn how young she is, given that she already has three or four years’ solid experience in organizations. She is committed to doing good and making a difference in the world, helping the Palestinian people and others – I was hugely impressed by the way in which she talks about what she did to help refugees and her passion for helping her people. She stands out as an incredible MBA, and her maturity given her age is very impressive. I have seen people as mature as her on the course, but they have been at least ten years older.

Leen is incredibly popular among her fellow MBA students and belies her tender age. At just 24, her confidence and enthusiasm is an inspiration to her classmates. She is very competitive and certainly leads from the front, she always volunteers to do the presentations on behalf of her syndicate groups. She has taken up the responsibility of organizing the annual WBS GE Healthcare Case Challenge and is doing a fantastic job, attracting teams from universities all over the world to take part.

Leen is wonderfully generous with her time and truly believes in making a positive impact on the world. Outside of her MBA, she has worked incredibly hard to organize fund-raising events for the Youth for a United World. Coming from the Middle East, she is passionate about bringing different cultures and people together to live in harmony. She has worked hard with Youth for a United World to spread the message of fraternity in her home country of Jordan and elsewhere. She is passionate about helping those affected by poverty and war and has coordinated the screening of humanitarian movies across four universities to promote this message, which was followed by post-film discussions with the actors.”

Bob Thomson

Professor of Practice

Organisation & Human Resource Management


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.