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Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2020

Ali Alamein

IESE Business School

A refugee aiming to use his second chance at life to make a difference.”

Hometown: Shepparton, Australia – originally from Karbala, Iraq

Fun Fact About Yourself: When I was 15 migrating to Australia, my family and I stayed in Indonesia for about three months. In this time, I made friends with an Indonesian man who taught me how to play chess even though we didn’t speak each other’s language. In the couple of years that followed and after arriving in Australia, I went on to win a number of titles at school, club and state levels.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Bachelors of Engineering (Civil) and Science (Operations Research) at the University of Melbourne

Post-graduate Certificate in Business at Monash University

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: WaterNSW, Asset Planner

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I have been fortunate to have had a well-rounded career in engineering and project management practicing in all areas of engineering projects including asset management and planning, design engineering, project management, and construction and commissioning. This has allowed me to work on many large water infrastructure projects both for large engineering consultancies and government statutory corporations.

I am proud of the fact that I have also been fortunate to live within some of the impacted communities and see the impact of my work first-hand – building communities and contributing to the sustainable future of water, agriculture and the environment.

This well-rounded career, along with my obsession for optimization, has put me in many positions where I have been able to suggest and implement both project and organizational changes that have resulted in many improvements and efficiencies at an organizational level.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I attended the IESE Assessment Day in Singapore, where I met some of my future classmates. This ultimately played a big role in my decision to choose IESE. Spending a day with the other candidates was very exciting. Amongst other things, what stood out was the diversity not only in terms of where people came from but also their career profile, age and gender. Everyone was very smart, friendly, open, genuine, and keen to be there and contribute. Also, another thing that has since impressed me is the willingness for everyone to help and share. For example, two of the students that I have never even met volunteered to travel to the other side of Barcelona to inspect a flat for me while I am still in Australia.

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? There’s a long list! My future classmates, the fact that IESE is amongst the top MBA schools in the world, its location, the focus on general management, and in particular the case study methodology.

For me, IESE and Harvard particularly stood out for that very reason. Just to know that, by the end of the first week, I would probably have to go through over ten case studies, it is very exciting.  I am a practical person and I believe I will learn best in a case driven program where I can break down complex problems, prioritize what is important, and find the optimal solution. I think it will be particularly interesting to see the diversity of opinions and learn from my classmates in the process.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? As a Barcelona FC fan, it is hard to ignore the fact that our campus will be a short stroll from the Camp Nou. I am looking forward to attending games and be part of the experience.

Some of the alumni also mentioned one of their projects involved working with Barcelona FC and that prospect is very exciting.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have always been interested in going back to university and furthering my business knowledge. I considered two main factors in deciding if this is the right time.

Firstly, in terms of my personal life, we had our first son last year and it made us evaluate what is currently important to us. Certainly doing an MBA in Barcelona and also being only a couple of hours away from Paris and Milan (especially for my wife), was on top of the priority list now before having any more kids.

On a professional level, I believe I have obtained the technical knowledge and can only go so far in the interim in achieving my long term goals in engineering. An MBA will allow me to develop my management skills and business acumen, along with helping me to build on my strengths and potential to achieve these goals.

I also believe it is the right time for me to expand my network, giving me greater access to some of the greatest minds and many future CEO’s. This will provide me with new information, perspectives and innovative ideas, and give me a greater appreciation of what people are doing globally.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Purely from a monetary perspective, it is a decision that is hard to justify, especially in the short term and given my specific circumstances.  However, this is the biggest investment I have ever made and the decision hasn’t come lightly.

What I believe will make this investment worth it is the whole Barcelona experience, the network and relationships, the confidence, the intellectual rigor, the business acumen, and the world of opportunities that an MBA at IESE will bring with it to help me optimize my skills and ultimately make a meaningful difference and impact.

The question is whether there is a cheaper way of achieving all these benefits and for me I don’t believe there is.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley and London Business School.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I shortlisted using some specific Go/No Go criteria then used other factors in developing a multi-criteria analysis to evaluate fit.  These include:

  • School reputation/ranking and quality/style/focus of teaching
  • Location
  • Length of course
  • School culture – collaboration and industry experience
  • Diversity (nationalities, gender, age and career profiles)
  • Experience/advice from friends
  • Target school for top companies i.e. MBB’s
  • Career services, job placement/internship opportunity
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Availability of financial aid and scholarships

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I have had a number of defining moments including the biggest one, which is my family’s migration to Australia as refugees fleeing risk of persecution from Saddam’s regime in Iraq in 2002. Australia gave us a second chance at life and we have all done our best not to waste this opportunity.

More recently though, earlier in 2017, I became a father and it has been life-changing. Most of all in my outlook – I am now so devoted to someone else’s well-being; it has made me realize that while my journey has been a struggle, it has mostly been about me: proving as a refugee I can be someone. Well, now I realize that I can start giving back, not just as a role-model, but as someone who dedicates their career to improving the world. The sacrifices my family and I made can’t compare with the sacrifices the Iraqi people have made to destroy evil, like ISIS. For years, Saddam murdered and terrorized many intellectuals and people with a vision for the nation, leaving a leadership vacuum in Iraq. I believe an MBA at IESE will help me become one of the leaders Iraq needs to re-build.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I am certainly keeping an open mind, but I do believe management consulting would be the best next step. While an MBA will help me carve out the first few steps to the rest of my future and achieving my long term goals, I believe pursuing a career in management consulting will better position me to further develop and practice the business knowledge and strategic thinking I will gain at IESE at an accelerated rate.

I love problem solving and I believe management consulting at an MBB is the best place to be exposed to a variety of business problem solving. The variety of business challenges that will come with management consulting will expose me to many industries and functions. This will open new doors and provide me with world class network of colleagues and clients.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I would like to use the MBA and work as a management consultant as a platform to obtain a management role in a global assets and infrastructure firm.  However, it is hard to say what the future brings especially given I am about to embark on a journey that is likely to lead to a substantial transformation and expose me to a world of opportunities. I may even end up pursuing my other dream of becoming a CEO of a not-for-profit organization dedicated either to refugee’s affair or providing clean water and sanitation to third world countries.