2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Louis Williams, IESE Business School

Louis Williams

IESE Business School

Hyperactive, self-assured and optimistic.”

Hometown: Reading, United Kingdom (Danish-British dual national)

Fun fact about yourself: I used to cage fight (Mixed Martial Arts) with former and current gang members back in London in a rehabilitation charity.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Cambridge, Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked at Wilmot ML as the interim COO, setting up a machine learning investment and macroeconomic consulting firm, spun out from Credit Suisse. As in any start-up, I also spent significant parts of my time as an economist producing economic research for our clients.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I worked at Emi Labs in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Emi is an AI Recruitment Automator, using chatbots and other machine learning tools to replace the role of outsourced recruiters in all parts of the talent acquisition process. I worked on their international expansion into Chile and Colombia, as well as restructuring their pricing scheme and sales process. They are now raising follow-on funding at Y Combinator in San Francisco.

Where will you be working after graduation? Along with one of my fellow students at IESE, we are launching a property technology venture builder. We are bringing the latest technologies in construction and property management from Northern Europe and North America to Spain and Southern Europe.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Founder of Barcelona Midnight Runners: In my first year, I launched the largest running and fitness community in Barcelona, before passing on control to one of our first recruits to lead it while I went to MIT Sloan on exchange.
  • Treasurer of Start-up & Entrepreneurship Club: Controlling all finances, as well as running and organizing start-up Treks to Berlin, start-up job and internship fairs and ideation sessions for MBAs exploring entrepreneurship.
  • Founder of the Clean Brexit Movement: Co-founded the Clean Brexit Movement with the founder of UKIP, to offer a vision and policies for Britain post separation from the European Union.
  • Homeless Challenge: Interviewing homeless populations across Barcelona to see how technology could be used to better target services to those who are “sleeping rough.”
  • Barcelona Technology Transfer Group (BTTG): Worked with a group of academics to try and commercialize their voice dubbing technologies.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During the first term of the MBA, I published my first book, An Optimist’s Brexit, laying out how Brexit could be a good thing for my country and the world – so long as the government adopts the right attitude and policies.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? For the last two years, my work in crowdfunding helped more than 20 start-ups across Europe and North America to raise over £10mn of capital. This ranged from helping start-ups in medical technology bring to market new surgical machines to enabling the Airbnb of boats (Borrow a Boat) to launch and now be worth over £5mn.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Inés Alegre, who teaches within the Managerial Decision Sciences department. She went the extra mile for every one of her students, prior to exams coming in on weekends and running late evening revision sessions to help those who struggled with her classes, despite being heavily pregnant through this period. This student-first mentality really set Inés apart.

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favorite course was leadership – it was, for me, the topic that was most enhanced by the discussions that arose out of IESE’s use of the case method. Learning hard skills, such as financial accounting or operations fundamentals, is valuable. However, I got the most out of talking through how to navigate the many “grey areas” of leading and managing others.

In particular, the leadership class allowed me to collect insights from students of over 25 countries across the globe and understand how people management techniques varied dramatically in different regions of the globe. This international exposure prepared me for my work projects and internships in Peru and Argentina, where Anglo-Saxon or “American” people management techniques were almost completely redundant.

Why did you choose this business school? Three simple reasons:

  1. The coffee chats: I went to coffee chats of a variety of schools and none of them made me feel more comfortable than when I met Vanessa Macdougal and a number of IESE students. People felt genuine to talk to and I didn’t witness the chest beating self-love that I had unfortunately seen at other coffee chats with other schools.
  2. An international perspective: IESE has no more than 15% of the student body coming from any one country in this world. I didn’t want to just end up being able to understand how business works in the US. I desperately wanted to understand how challenges are resolved in different countries
  3. The city: Honestly, I can think of a few places in the world as incredible to live in as Barcelona. You have sun, beach, mountains for skiing and cycling: a broad selection of bars and restaurants at 60% of the cost of London. It is a historic architectural center, connected by an incredible public transportation system with an interwoven quilt of cultures: Spanish, Catalan, Latin and International.

And that ignores the fact that Barcelona is one of the nightlife capitals of the world.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Before everything, ask yourself one thing: why do you want to do an MBA? If you are looking to move into Europe or Latin America or to make a move into marketing, consulting or banking, then an MBA at IESE is a stellar pathway. However, if you’re looking to stay within your industry and region, ask yourself, is an MBA the right thing to get me ahead or an expensive break?

If after this you want to come, work on your mathematics and get a solid GMAT score. Your CV will speak for itself, but strong quantitative competency will not just help you get in, yet also help you immensely in the work when you get here.

What is the biggest myth about your school?

Myth: IESE is an old and established school.

Fact: IESE has existed for 60 years teaching business to professionals across the Spanish speaking world. However, its entry into international and English-speaking business education is only a recent foray in the last 15 years. As such IESE is changing far faster than any of the other established business schools in this world!

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Really consider the geography of where you want to work afterward. I did not realize how important it was to study in a school with strong geographic ties to the market you want to work in. If you consider working in Europe, do not neglect the benefit of being a 2-hour Ryanair flight away from an interview. If you want to work in the US, remember the importance of the OPT visa for international students.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Before the MBA, my working and educational experience had been so UK-centric. With only a brief four-month foray into China to study Mandarin, effectively all of my experience was in the UK focused around London and the financial services industry. The MBA case method opened my mind to the functioning of hundreds of different industries and stretched my brain into finding common applicable techniques across these varying industries. I feel like I have learnt decades of business experience in less than two years. Beyond that, the MBA enabled me to gain professional experience in Spanish in both Argentina and Peru working in the B2B start-up and venture capital space.

If you had told me when I got into my MBA at IESE that I would have lived and worked in two Latin American countries and lived in two new continents in the past year, I would have just laughed it away. My brain has been broadened and enhanced by the insights of those around me. Today, I feel prepared to work in Spanish in an industry different from that which I was in before my MBA.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Eunice Mudialba. Eunice has been a role model for all of us at IESE. She was in my section in the first year and positioned herself as the mother of the group, a person anybody could speak to, whatever problems they faced. She has been a rock for our class and nothing is more admirable than somebody whose focus has been helping all those around her. Despite spending a disproportionate amount of time worrying about the rest of us, she has secured a great offer in financial services in London.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It may be cliché, but my father. Honestly, he has been an absolute inspiration. He managed to escape from one of the poorest boroughs of the UK (Birkenhead) to being the youngest CEO of a FTSE 250 company in his 30’s (before all the tech CEO’s came along in the dotcom bubble). He managed to achieve the “American Dream” back in the UK and created incredible opportunities for the thousands who work at the companies he has run. He gave up on his dream of politics, in order to provide me and my brother opportunities that my parents could only have dreamed of as kids growing up in the poorest parts of the UK and Denmark respectively.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? COW (comment of the week), the person who makes the funniest comment of the week has to look after a toy cow protecting it from being stolen by other sections.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…trying to expand rapidly the economic consulting branch of Wilmot ML. Probably having convinced the founders to let me start a geopolitical risk arm so that I could follow my true passion.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? That is a nightmare of a question. I feel I could only truly answer this in 10 years, looking back and seeing what insights I had gleaned. If I had to make a call, I would say $125,000, just under double what I paid for it ($50,000 for the education I received, $75,000 for the signaling effect of receiving an MBA from a good school for recruiting – particularly in Latin America/Spain).

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Short term: Release a music album of my own works.

Long term: Run for public office and achieve a ministerial position, where I can shape the economic development of my country.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? The one you could talk to when everything was going wrong.

Hobbies? How much time do you have? I love trail running, having run last year across Ibiza, sleeping on beaches (I know not the conventional Ibiza holiday). I play field hockey and will play casually any sport including a ball that you can think of. I used to sing a lot having my own a capella group and am currently looking for a choir now that I’ve landed back from the exchange.

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

“Louis Williams is a brilliant student that excels in learning all sort of subjects and disciplines, from the most technical, quantitative and “hard” to the qualitative, political and “soft” matters. His eagerness to learn and critical thinking are exceptional. Thus, his contributions to class discussions provide significant value to the collective learning of the whole class. In spite of his young age, he has already proven his entrepreneurial drive and talent as well as his resilience to overcome difficulties and setbacks. His involvement in the Entrepreneurship Club at IESE has been very active, for instance when running start-up networking events for his fellow classmates. His passion for sports is contagious, having set up and launched the largest running club in Barcelona, providing free exercise classes to hundreds of participants outside of the School as well.”

Alberto Ribera, Ph.D., MD

Senior Lecturer of Managing People in Organizations



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