2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Frederick Gifford, ESADE

Frederick Gifford

ESADE Business School

From London, grew up in Tokyo; strategy geek and customer centricity hype man.”

Hometown: London, UK

Fun fact about yourself: After my undergrad, I researched and wrote a book on the Japanese restaurant industry, and managed to get an agent to send it to six publishers who all said… “Thanks, but no thanks!”

Undergraduate School and Degree: Leeds University, BA in Japanese

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? (List Company and Role)

C Space (Omnicom), Senior Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Improbable.io, London

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided, strategy.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:


  • Vice President, MBA Student Association
  • Vice President, Tech & Media Club
  • C4Bi case competition 2017 (Hewlett Packard) – Finalist
  • C4Bi case competition 2018 (FC Barcelona) – Student Mentor
  • Leading Futures Case Competition 2017 (fintech) – Finalist and Winner of Audience Choice Award


  • General Management and Strategy
  • Power and Influence
  • Final Masters Project


  • ESADE Tech competition and speaker series


  • Class band (rapper and songwriter), 1st football team, 2nd tennis team, Women in Business Club (Member and Panelist), Consulting Club (Member), Design & Innovation Club (Member)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I launched a competition and speaker series that’s now an annual event called ESADE Tech.

On arriving at ESADE, I was intrigued by the talents of my classmates. They had incredible careers and brilliant stories, and I wanted these stories to get developed, told and disseminated even more.

I led our Tech & Media Club to build competition, and we choose three winning stories – awesome tales of on-demand food, the Circus, and Formula 1. We coached the winners and developed their presentations into TED Talk-style speeches. I secured funding for the program and we organized an event for the school, at which our Dean, Luis Vives, was kind enough to give the inaugural speech. We’ve got a commitment from students and faculty for this year’s version, which will kick off next month.

I think I’m most proud of this for two reasons. First, ESADE Tech gave voice to my peers and school and helped communicate our diversity and tech expertise. Second, ESADE Tech moved me personally from a presenter (something I’ve always enjoyed) to a publisher, and it taught me that the latter augments the impact you’re able to give.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I believe in beneficent capitalism, and my career has been about connecting business and people through customer-centric growth. The time when I made the most impact with this approach was when consulting one of the UK’s major automotive companies at C Space. After a year delivering thirty-something innovation projects for them, I also led the implementation of a software that took them from 250 customer interactions a year to 500 a day, while cutting their research costs in half and accelerating development cycles. Customers went from being a data source to an extension of each department, something that was embodied best in a pub session I organized for a group of customers and three engineering directors!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was José M. de Areilza, who taught our second-year elective on Power & Influence and radically changed the way I understood the power structures in which we find ourselves and the role we can play in them. As well as being kind and engaging (he asked a jazz pianist friend to lend him a song for our class, and played this every session as a ‘class theme’), Jose delivered the mind-altering insights on our cases about Kissinger, Thatcher, Rockefeller, etc. that only a professor with his vast and varied experience could.

What was your favorite MBA Course? It may seem boring, but my favorite MBA Course was Financial Accounting. This was a new subject for me, and no other course changed my perspective on business so much in so little time. The biggest insight I gained was that there are many ways to help a company: the accounts give you unlimited routes to driving growth.

Why did you choose this business school? It was because of its people… its students and professors, its dean and faculty (the unsung heroes of any MBA!). More specifically, it was because of their intellectual prowess, international makeup and mindset, and unyielding values.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? ESADE loves diversity in thinking… the more you show that you can bring new perspectives, and use these perspectives to challenge ideas every day, then the better you will fare.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That size is either “good” or “bad”. For instance, I love how small ESADE is (We’re 180 students). It means building new things is easy because you know everyone, and you can reach them all quickly. But I did my exchange at Kellogg and I love how big it is… its size also means building things is easy, because there is such a massive pool of people with whom to work.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? How to dance Salsa. It would have been such an asset.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? That’s a tough one. Satoshi Tajima always springs to mind as someone whose drive and energy are extraordinary. He worked for Japan Rail, so he has the managerial rigor of an astronaut, and he’s used this to embed himself in the ESADE community and deliver endless initiatives to his fellow students… always with a smile on his face.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My old managing director at C Space, Felix Koch. He taught me to pull myself out of a career lull ‘by my own ears’ and take responsibility for my development. It was sad eventually telling him I was leaving, but he didn’t hesitate to tell me it was the right choice.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Sound of Music – it teaches you that diversity breeds creativity and that you can make nice play clothes out of curtains.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? ESADE, along with IESE, IE and HEC. No one can tell me what any of these letters stand for.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a man who reached 30 and never fulfilled his dream to join a band and write rap music.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? There is no dollar value you can put on friends, education, or experience! But no answer is boring, so I’ll say $1 million. It was definitely worth more than what I actually paid for it.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I’d like to live in a skyscraper (on a high floor, naturally). And I’d like to record a song.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as a guy who was grumpy in the mornings, and who often spoke too quietly, and who truly loved every second spent with his peers.


Music – listening, watching, making

Football – playing

Stories – writing, reading, hearing, presenting

Business – thinking, doing

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

“If we were to choose a really special student that has shown determination and passion to achieve his goals, that would be Fred. He accumulated a unique personal and professional track when he decided to join our Full-Time MBA programme.

Right after joining, Fred became part of the MBA Student Association Board, assuming the role of VP of Academic Affairs. In addition to that, he also joined the Tech & Media Club as VP of Engagement. In the latter role, he launched the first edition of ESADE Tech: a very successful competition to identify three expert speakers within the MBA student body to talk about the impact of technology on their respective industries

From a Careers perspective, he has a great profile reaching and successfully fulfilling expectations. Right from the first weeks of the programme, it was so clear to him that he had to challenge himself in some way that he immediately started to explore and step outside of his comfort zone. Fred is critical, also to himself. He decided to take full advantage of the MBA in order to excel and chose to explore all areas that were not familiar to him, turning his “unfamiliar zone” into another extension of his comfort zone. He has a great sense of (ironic) humor and is absolute fun to be around.”

Prof. Luis Vives

Associate Dean of The ESADE MBA

Associate Professor of Strategy and General Management at ESADE Business School


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