2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Alissa Warne, IE Business School

Alissa Warne

IE Business School

Naturally curious and full of ideas with a bias for action.”

Hometown: Perth, Western Australia

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a qualified makeup artist. I ran a wedding makeup business back in Australia, as well as volunteered for a not-for-profit conducting beauty and skincare workshops for cancer patients going through treatment.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Melbourne, Australia; B.A. (Honours) in Communications & Political Science.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Dassault Systemès, a French software company, as Marketing Manager for their Mining Division looking after Asia Pacific.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? As the IE MBA is a one year programme, I did not have a summer internship. I was still working full-time at my previous company last July but arrived in Madrid a month before the MBA to study Spanish.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am undecided on the company, but I plan to work in a product management role for a global technology company where I would lead the development and launch of new software products. After seven years in B2B marketing, I want to broaden the scope of my career and play a direct role in developing technology that improves the way we live and work – whether it’s remote sensing in underground mining or autonomous data collection to streamline processes.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Career Representative – Elected by my class to represent their career concerns and feedback to the IE Careers Team; I also initiated and organised a career trek program to empower MBA students to organise their own treks after hearing how difficult students found it to launch their careers in a totally different country.
  • Co-organiser of a student-led Career Trek to Singapore
  • Vice President of the Technology & Innovation Club – Highlights include organising a panel discussion on the future of travel tech with speakers from CWT, Adobe and Amadeus; starting the club’s first LinkedIn page; and organising workshops in collaboration with other clubs such as a public speaking workshop on tech topics and Agile Certified Scrum Product Owner Training.
  • President of the eCommerce Club
  • Selected to represent IE at the HEC Montreal CSR Case Competition in February
  • Recipient of the Forté Fellowship Scholarship for Women
  • Active member of Women in Business Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? It might not sound like much, but six months into my MBA, I’m proud of the fact that I survived term 1 classes and placed 7th in class while maintaining an active extracurricular schedule of organising club activities, competing in case competitions, brushing up my technical skills through online courses, and job searching – while also travelling Europe and spending time with my husband.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of leading a virtual team of eight people based in different geographies and from different departments to launch a cloud-based mining software product at my previous job. Getting everyone to agree on a course of action through a Skype call was one of the most challenging aspects. Despite low staff morale, we ended up achieving our goals. This involved developing the value proposition and using cases through to market positioning and pricing plans in close consultation with our customers. This was particularly significant, given that the mining industry is conservative and relatively resistant to embrace new technologies.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I’ve had so many amazing professors during the first half of the MBA that have shaped the way I view business and society. However, I would say my favourite so far is Ana Rumschisky, Professor of Marketing Management. In addition to her vast experience working in various marketing roles in Spain, the way she teaches is unique – she has so much energy and enthusiasm for the subject and always challenged me to think differently about products as everyday as cream cheese and shampoo. When I was working on a pitch for a marketing case competition, she offered to listen to and critique my presentation.

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favourite MBA course is Strategy, taught by an amazing professor Luis Diestre. I particularly enjoy classes that challenge the traditional way of thinking and cases that do not have an obvious solution. To provide a recent example, the common perception is that vertical integration provides better synergies and profits for corporations so they can harness common resources and collaborate better. However, in class, we dived deeper to find out why this isn’t always efficient nor profitable, and under what conditions.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose IE because of its focus on entrepreneurial thinking and practical courses that can help me succeed in the real world. Because my post-MBA goal is to become a product manager, I chose the school that would allow me to think and act “intrapreneurially”, which is pretty much like running my own startup within a corporate environment. The opportunity to participate in IE’s Startup and Venture Labs were major draws and provide an ideal testing ground to develop new ideas.

Secondly, almost all our professors are practitioners, which means they bring their work experiences into the classroom, teach by the case method, and use simulations/roleplays to help us learn better. Lastly, I chose IE for its one-year program, highly diverse student body and its fantastic location in the city that never sleeps – Madrid!

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? IE Business School looks for ‘unconventional’ MBA candidates who have had interesting life experiences, have lived or worked globally, think creatively, or have taken non-traditional career paths. I would emphasise these aspects when applying to IE, as well as talk to alumni to find out more about their MBA experience.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program?I wish I wouldn’t have so much FOMO (fear of missing out). I’ve been labeled as “the most involved” by some of my classmates and it’s true – hearing all the great things about the MBA experience, I immediately signed up for 20 clubs and went to all the events and social gatherings that I possibly could within the first month of arriving. Now that I’m halfway through the programme, I’ve learnt to prioritise the activities that will either benefit my career or “spark joy” (to use a Marie Kondo phrase), such as going out to dinner with friends or that long weekend road trip.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? It has allowed me to explore subjects that I’ve always been curious about learning but never had the time to study. My career has always been in marketing, so I’ve really enjoyed learning about finance, managerial decision-making, operations and entrepreneurship – not because I want to get the highest grade, but because I want to learn. I’ve had many other transformative experiences that include forming a really great group of friends (shoutout to Accrual World!) and diving headfirst into starting a business from scratch.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s impossible to choose just one, but I would say Kyle Flick for his single-minded passion for his health tech startup (plus he wants to write a book on economics during the MBA!).

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? There was no one person, but rather a combination. They include my former boss who wrote my referral, my parents, my colleagues, my husband… and myself. Being a competitive person by nature, I’ve always wanted to gain more business skills and knowledge to succeed in my career and I knew that an MBA was the way to go.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… still working in marketing, probably in the tech industry!”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I can’t place an exact dollar value on my education as it will all depend on the job when I graduate, but I think MBA education, in general, is overpriced. That being said, I don’t regret studying my MBA, as it has allowed me to access an ecosystem of business knowledge, contacts and experiences.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Starting my own not for profit business against animal testing, and climbing the Himalayas.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Machiavelli may have preferred to be feared than loved, but I’d much prefer to be loved – I would like my peers to remember me as friendly, optimistic and compassionate with the ability to make a positive impact in the world.

Hobbies? Reading (I set myself a goal of 50 books this year!), traveling, yoga, and cooking.

What made Alissa such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“It was a privilege to have Alissa as a student. From day one, she struck me as sharp, inquisitive, hard-working, keen to learn, and eager to defend her ideas. But I really got to know her when she showed me some work she had prepared for a project outside IE.

Alissa used to sit in the last row in class. So when she and I met at the Launchpad, I was able to get a good, close look at her for the first time. As I always do, I looked into her eyes.

I believe there are two kinds of people: those whose eyes sparkle when they work, and those who don’t. Alissa’s eyes twinkled as she explained the strategy and ideas behind her project, which was an entry for a marketing contest. I loved her work and was really hoping she, and the other student who presented with her would win.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen – I think they came second – but Alissa taught me a lesson. She told me, with a broad smile, how much she had enjoyed the contest and how much she had learned. And her eyes never lost that sparkle! I have to say my eyes welled up as I gave her a hug, thinking how lucky I was to have met her.

I have no doubt Alissa’s future will be the brightest and will shine wherever she chooses to go.”

Ana Rumschisky

IE Business School Professor



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