Helena Vargas Serrato
“Food-obsessed Colombian that has lived in many countries and still cannot read a map.”
Hometown: Bogota, Colombia
Fun Fact About Yourself: I have had the chance to live in seven countries across four continents and the most valuable thing for those years are the great friends I made around the world. I try once a year to visit at least one friend in their home country as this allows me to see new places, learn about local cuisine and most importantly keep the friendship strong.
Undergraduate School and Major: BSc Electronics Engineering, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Schlumberger Algeria, Field Development and Engagement manager
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The most meaningful accomplishment was in my last position when I got the chance to support, advise and guide junior field engineers in their first months with the company. They had to go through intensive training and were expected to get their first promotion rapidly. It was very overwhelming. I had the opportunity to help them and when they got their promotion it was as special for them as it was for me.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Intellectual curiosity: we are all here for different reasons and with different goals, but everyone is interested in learning not only what we see in class but also about each other.
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? The strong focus on personal development and leadership. I think all respectable business schools have a pretty solid foundation in terms of MBA toolbox skills, but for me only IMD invests a lot of energy to developing ourselves personally as well as intellectually.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The practical projects, start-ups and ICPs. It’s hard for a one-year program to have real-life experiences (like internships) and these two projects get that element into the program.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I reached a point in my career where I felt I was stuck and had stopped learning. I knew there were a lot of opportunities out there and an MBA was the best way to go after those opportunities
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Only IMD. A few years ago, I applied to North American 2-year programs, but when the time came to choose they did not feel right. I accepted an opportunity to move to Algeria instead. A year ago, when I was considering an MBA once again, only IMD had everything that I was looking for and I knew there was no offer that could match that.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? For me, it was about understanding the language of the school and the profile of the people who study there. I met IMD more than two years ago and something resonated with me, so I started following the school on social media and reading the blog. This allowed me to know the school and know it was a place where I would fit. The assessment day was when I was 100% sure this was the place for me.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My first international assignment was in Kuwait. It was the hardest three years of my life, living in a culture completely different from mine, but it was also the place where I learned two very important lessons:
- How strong and determined I could be
- How much you can learn from living in a diverse international environment
The two things might sound obvious now, but at the time I was young and inexperienced and having that space to become an adult shaped everything that happened ever since.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Part of this year is to fine tune the answer to that million-dollar question. The picture on the professional side is a little clouded right now, but for sure I want to be on a career path where I feel challenged and where I feel connected with my day to day activities. On the personal side, I see myself settled down with a family and for sure being in contact with my MBA friends!