2018 MBAs To Watch: Karol Kalejta, ESADE

Karol Kalejta

ESADE Business School

“An energetic, curious, and strategically-minded change maker striving to make an impact in the world.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Toronto, Canada

Fun fact about yourself: Sports are my second passion. I played soccer at a semi-professional level until university, and later in life I competed in kickboxing at an amateur level.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management – Bachelor of Commerce and Finance, Major in Economics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I worked at Investor Economics, a boutique management consulting firm specializing in the financial services industry. I started at the firm as an analyst and within five years I was promoted twice, finishing as an associate consultant prior to the MBA. During my time at the firm, I helped banks, asset managers, and insurers strategize their future, and benchmark their business performance against competitors.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Given the flexibility of the MBA program at ESADE, I’ve had the chance to complete two internships. I used the opportunities to broaden my international work experience. My first internship was as a business development intern with Infosys in Bangalore, India. My second internship was with the corporate planning team of the retailer Heinemann in Singapore.

Where will you be working after graduation? Heinemann Americas, Inc., as manager of strategic planning and business development

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

I was the president of Leading Futures 2017, an annual Case Competition and Conference hosted by the ESADE Business School. The event brought together over 80 students from six MBA programs to learn about design thinking and venture building in the fintech space.

I was also the vice president of events at the Design and Innovation Club. In this role, I helped organize the club’s trek to Amsterdam, as well as various design thinking and innovation events on and off campus in Barcelona.

I was a co-founder of The Decision Room, an ESADE podcast on business thinking/decision making and technology.

Together with three other ESADE students, I had the opportunity to represent the ESADE MBA program at an international case competition at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai. After qualifying from a field of 50+ international MBA teams, we traveled to China to present a new venture to Chinese VCs and tech firms.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of steering the effort to organize ESADE’s marquee annual case competition and conference, Leading Futures. The 2017 event brought together over 80 students from six European business schools and seven companies to redefine the future of the financial services industry. We’ve worked together with amazing companies such as Banco Sabadell, Infosys, Google, and Business Models Inc. to start a venture building competition with a top prize of €2,000.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? After several years at Investor Economics, I was one of the consultants asked to help structure and formalize the recruiting and training efforts of the company. I am most proud of this moment as it was both an appreciation of my work, as well as an acknowledgement of my expertise in helping the company shape its future. It was with this project that I realized that it’s not only about the work that you do for clients, but also the environment and bonds you foster within your organization that drive its future success.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Javier Solana – professor of the Global Governance class. The Global Governance elective is likely the best kept secret of the ESADE MBA program. This elective allows for interactive and intimate sessions with Professor Solana; the former NATO secretary general. His class was extremely insightful and filled with extraordinary guests and speakers. I was also exceptionally impressed with Mr. Solana’s youthful optimism about the future that was equally measured by his practical wisdom learned from his past.

What was your favorite MBA Course? It is so difficult to choose one course, there were so many insightful topics. Entrepreneurship had the greatest impact. It was an area that I’ve had the least experience with prior to the MBA. However, the frameworks and processes have made a lasting impression. We were taught to validate and test our ideas from day 1, and such an action-biased way of building a business is relevant in all aspects of commerce today. I still carry around the Lean Start Up book with me to this day.

Why did you choose this business school? ESADE was the most attractive business school to me because of its mix of international business with a strong innovation and entrepreneurship focus. I wanted to update my business education in these two facets. Aside from academics, ESADE also provides a strong sense of community and true collaborative spirit across all school life.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? “Speak about your passion!” – ESADE is full of students with big dreams; professional or personal. Many students decide to move from across the world to begin their journey to transform their lives. Such a drive and willingness to explore and work towards your goals will make you fit right in with the class of MBAs at ESADE.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Coming from North America, most people are not aware of the various European business schools. This lack of knowledge may lead to a sense of inferiority among the European programs. Such notions could not be further from the truth; I’ve received excellent academic training now confirmed at my exchange at Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley. European programs are more flexible and international, truly enriching life and providing a global perspective.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I missed out the study trek due to paperwork issues with my first internship. Aside from that, I tried to pursue all the opportunities the MBA offered.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Martin Mariussen – without Martin, my grades would have been much lower, and studying might have been more boring. I admire Martin’s intellectual horsepower and his ability to question the world with good humor. During the MBA program, I had the opportunity to start a podcast with Martin entitled “The Decision Room.” Organizing and recording the podcast was the most fun, engaging, and inspiring experience of the year; I only wish we had more time to make radio.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I took my first economics class in grade 11. I loved everything about that class: the systematic approach, the use of math, the element of human psychology, the insights into decision-making. It was my first economics teacher that pushed me to study economics further in college, an education that eventually led me toward a career in business strategy.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…missing out on the ideas that will redefine the next 50 years of our lives.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? This is a tough question! Some of the most memorable and gratifying experiences of my MBA were instances where I could share my experience with MBA students from other schools. Whether it was a conference, case competition, internship, or academic exchange, these have been some of the most valuable and gratifying times. If I were a dean for a day, I would aim to encourage even more of such events.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Starting or joining a high-growth start-up venture.
  2. Motorcycling across a continent (to be decided).

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as someone that brought energy and thoughtful conversation into their lives.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Corporation – it is important to not forget the impact business and industry has on society.

What would your theme song be? Started from the bottom – Drake

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere in South East Asia; this has become a second home over the years.

Hobbies? Any and all sports! I’m looking forward to wrapping up the MBA to be able to join a sports league again.

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

“Karol is an exceptional student, who nicely represents the values that we aim to build at The ESADE MBA.

Well-rounded, inspiring, and a relentlessly hard worker, he is capable of keeping a smile and a positive vibe even when dropping the highest wave while leading the organization of the ESADE MBA’s showcase competition – Leading Futures, an event that brought together over 80 students from six European business schools and seven companies to redefine the future of the financial services industry – and at the same time preparing for his finals, helping his peers, or even preparing his exchange!

He is a top performer, well esteemed by his classmates, Karol always shows an inspiring leadership style that is truly collaborative in nature. He is aware of himself and his strengths, and always looks for ways to learn from others and help others to learn from him.

During the MBA he was a very active participant in the classroom, helping to shape the consulting skills of his classmates, and served as the VP of Events in the Design & Innovation Club.

He has such a big character and personal talent, that we are convinced that not even the sky will be the limit for him!”

Luis Vives

Associate Dean of The ESADE MBA & The ESADE MBA team





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