Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2020

Dat Quoc Pham

IESE Business School

An entrepreneur, a story teller and a seeker of meaning.”

Hometown: Hanoi, Vietnam

Fun Fact About Yourself: My friend calls me eccentric, which is a nice way of her saying I’m the weird one. I have two cats, one black and one white, just so I have the yin and yang in my home. I also have huge collection of music. I also wear engagement ring, but I’m not married. I love trekking and hiking. One time I did 3-day hike to a 3,000-meter mountain. Since one of the members had muscle cramp, we had to hike 5 hours, around 10km upwards, in complete darkness. But that sky full of the stars… I wish I can live that moment once more.

Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Business English, Foreign Trade University in Hanoi

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Founder & CEO of HATCH! Ventures

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: It’s hard for me to single out one activity to be the biggest accomplishment in my career, since each challenge poses different meaning to me.

However, I can say the moment I was standing on the podium, giving the opening speech to the 2,000 people event I organized with my team, I was almost in tears. The event, HATCH! FAIR, is our annual startup and technology event, and is probably the biggest startup event in Vietnam with participants from over 20 different countries. My team of 25 members were not only amazing, but also crazily hard-working people. We worked every day, weekday and weekend, 14-16 hours day. Often, we went home around 2-3 a.m. Almost everything we dreamt of, from cutting paper usage to only 10%, to having 50% female speakers at a technology event, was achieved.

In such moment, all of the flashlights became insignificant. I realize that the relationship I built is the most important thing, and no matter what I do in the future, I would be ok.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Overwhelming. I have not met any classmate in person, but through the chats we have online, my classmates are all amazing people. In some way, I am slightly frightened knowing that I have so much to learn still.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you?

It is definitely personal value of “doing well and doing good”. I believe that as an entrepreneur, you have the power to do many goods in the society. Apart from creating an innovative product or company, you also have the responsibility to be the leader in many other aspects.

Many MBA programs are geared towards purely finance or consulting career, which usually don’t interest me that much. I want to make sure that not only I will learn to be a better business leader, but also to be a better leader. IESE Business School seems to be the top choice (especially after many good recommendations from the alumni).

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I would naturally incline to work with the Entrepreneurship club. Andrew, the club president, has been very helpful in talking with me and sharing to me all the interesting articles. I have also been talking with a couple of people from the startup community and will try to meet them soon. I am very excited to learn about the startup ecosystem in Barcelona.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Coming from Vietnam, gaining an international working experience is very hard, especially if you’re not from a wealthy family. I missed out on my opportunity nine years ago with undergraduate education due to financial reasons. I would not want to do that now. I really want to go beyond the border and work in a company that has global impact.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? It is really hard to say whether it is worth the investment, but from all the good things I heard about IESE and Barcelona, it might be the best investment.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to quite a few of the schools, and got rejected by a few of them, and accepted by a few of them. IESE was the last school I applied. To be honest, when I looked back, all other essays I wrote to Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia were pretty bad. Not until IESE could I truly reflect about who I am and have a deep understanding of myself.

How did you determine your fit at various schools?

  • School ranking: I did compare the schools across all the rankings and make sure that I choose the ones within top 50 of all the rankings. The MBA network is very important to me. The Financial Times was probably the most trusted source so far to me.
  • Two-year program: as an entrepreneur, I know the importance of taking time to immerse myself into the experience. One-year program is a bit short and feels like a commercial exchange. There is more than just going to the class.
  • Latitude: I travel enough to know that I need my sunshine.
  • List of faculty members: I want to make sure I learn from the best. IESE does have amazing faculty members.
  • Location: As I am learning business, I want to be in a city with international airport. Mid-size city is the best, since I really want to have a bit more space to myself (I am from Asia. Everyone knows that Asian cities are massive). Furthermore, I love Europe. I always have a good time in Europe. I was given the opportunity to do the MBA in US, but I turned that down. Lately I really don’t want to get into any political debate. Neither do I want to see any gun.
  • Culture: I want to make sure that the place I go have a distinctive culture. And good cuisine. A few cities I’ve been to seem to have an identify crisis. It was just confusing to live there. Moreover, I really want to learn a new language, so it would be helpful to be in a place where English is not the only language.
  • Startup Ecosystem: Silicon Valley would empty my pocket in a few months, so it is definitely out of the question. But it has never been my top choice anyway. I do want to live in a city with vibrant startup ecosystem and a strong investment community.
  • Cost: I would not deny that cost of studying and cost of living play a very important role in my selection, especially when I have to finance the MBA all by myself. I used Teleport cities to compare different cities and picked a few cities I liked most.
  • Startup Visa: I just want to make sure if I want to start a new company, there is a visa for it.
  • School Value: What does the school stand for? What values are constantly reminded in the classroom?
  • Recommendation: I highly recommend talking to alumni. You learn so much about the school and whether it would fit you or not.
  • MBA interview (probably the most important criteria to me): I think MBA interviews are not only a way for the school to evaluate the candidate, but also for the candidate to assess the school. The quality and the depth of the questions help you understand what the school stands for. To be honest, some other MBA interviews were really boring. I had two interviews with IESE, each lasted around one hour. Both interviews were very interesting and challenging, especially the one with the Director of the MBA Admission, Mr. Pascal Michels. And no, I still don’t know what Mathematics is but I’m pretty sure it is still there when we all die. And yes, I do think most good movies have somewhat sad or unsettled ending.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I’m not sure if the world is ready for this yet.

Let’s me give you a sneak peek: it happened in bed. In fact, most of my ideas occur in bed.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? Either work for a growing startup or start my own company. We’ll see.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I will probably be managing my own company that is expanding globally. Or maybe I will stick to the startup I work with and help them expand. I love the challenges of growing a company and that’s probably where I feel the most comfortable.

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