2019 MBAs To Watch: Mariana Kaplan Pereira, IESE

Mariana Kaplan Pereira

IESE Business School

“A driven woman committed to giving back and pursuing her dreams.”

Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a foodie, and I have an Instagram with my husband (who is also in the MBA, another fun fact) called @reservaparadois, where we make restaurant reviews. Hope to have time to make more posts after the MBA!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Industrial Engineering, Pontifícia Universidade Católica Rio de Janeiro,

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Coca-Cola, where I was a Key Accounts Finance Specialist

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Amazon, Brazil

Where will you be working after graduation? I’ll be going back to Amazon Brazil as a Senior Vendor Manager.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Forté Foundation MBA Scholarship

President Women in Business Club

VP Responsible Business Club

Mentor for MBA students pursuing a career at Amazon

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Definitely being President of the Women in Business Club. Having to lead a team of ten vice-presidents and eight directors was the best learning experience I had.

in the MBA, and it was a great opportunity to give back to the school. I wanted to be a leader who fostered equality, and I’m extremely proud that under my leadership more men joined the club: for the first time ever we had four guys in the club’s leadership team, and 22% of the members who joined the club last year were men. The club’s biggest event is the Women in Business Conference. In 2019, we achieved our goal of making an even better conference, with more diversity in terms of gender (7 out of our 19 speakers were men) and industries and nationalities, which probably translated in our success in getting sponsorships (40% more than in the previous year). The club also strengthened the pipeline of events, and I devised a plan to help Admissions increase the percentage of women at IESE. I hope I’ve been able to increase the awareness that gender equality is a business issue and not a woman’s issue.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In April 2016, I joined the Key Accounts team of Coca-Cola Brazil. The company was renegotiating the commercial agreement with the third-biggest client in the fast-food channel. In a regular situation, my role would be simply to support the Key Account Manager with the financial modeling of various possible scenarios. However, a perfect storm happened: the manager responsible for the account was away on vacations, my Director was in a short-term assignment in Argentina, and my boss was on medical leave. To make things worse, our biggest competitor came with an aggressive proposal to our client, and the terms our client was asking were completely different from what we were accustomed to doing. The Key Accounts Director was new to the area and barely knew me, but he realized I was the only person he could rely on for help. So, we had multiple calls every day to analyze different scenarios and I helped him think of out-of-the-box solutions to deliver what the client wanted without sacrificing Coca-Cola’s bottom line. In the end, it was my call to say the finance area agreed with the closed terms. We renewed the contract for seven more years, and I received an award for the important role I played in this project.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Nuria Mas, professor of Global Economics. As an engineer, I studied very little economics in college, so I was really looking forward to this class to learn more about the topic. My friends from the second year had already told me she was fantastic, so my expectations grew even higher. Fortunately, Nuria was able to even exceed my expectations. She is an excellent professor who is able to teach the dense macroeconomic concepts in a simple and engaging way. What I loved is that she would always draw parallels between what happened in cases and what is going on right now in the world. She would also challenge us to think, using our newly acquired skills, what would happen to certain economies in the near future given their recent macroeconomic policies.

To add to all of that, she is a superwoman, who besides teaching is also in the board of the Bank of Spain and has two kids.

What was your favorite MBA Course? The African Experience overseas module. We spent two weeks in Nairobi. In the first week, we had classes on the business environment in Africa. During the second week, we worked on a consulting project at a local company. Going to a completely different culture and seeing how creative companies can be when faced with multiple adversities was without any doubt the best experience I had in the MBA. It was also very rewarding to work with my team and realize how much value we were delivering to this Kenyan company, to which we gave recommendations based on learnings gained in the MBA and also from previous work experiences. I took away two main business lessons: constraints foster creativity, and cases from other countries and companies can be used as a source of innovation and business growth in another reality.

Why did you choose this business school? First, I knew I wanted to come to Europe, because of the class diversity, the two-year program, and to really be able to enjoy the MBA experience. This narrowed down my search to a couple of top schools in Europe. When doing my research on IESE, I was initially attracted by the case-study method and the general management focus (of course, living in sunny and shiny Barcelona would be a plus). When I started getting in touch with students, alumni, and the recruiting team, I knew it was the right school for me. Everyone was absolutely passionate about IESE, and they talked with an intensity about their experience that I didn’t see in any of the other schools where I was applying. I was able to notice a pattern from these conversations: IESE students were collaborative, humble, and wanted to become leaders who would make a difference in the world. I wanted to be in this environment where people are welcoming, helpful and have a higher purpose in life than just finding a high-paying job after the MBA.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? First, I would advise to conduct thorough research on the school’s values and reach out to alumni and current students to understand more about the school’s culture to see if you fit in. IESE students are, on average, super hard-working, so if you’re going to the MBA only for the fun part, IESE might not be the right choice for you.

Second, I would try to engage with the Admissions team in your region to show your interest in the school and that you are aligned with IESE’s values. If you make it to the interview, be humble and respectful and show the recruiter all the effort you’ve put into your application (talking to students, researching what the school stands for, etc.). In the end, they are as interested in the contribution you can bring to your classmates as they are in the more traditional aspects of your application, such as the GMAT score.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth is actually not a myth, but a complete reality: that IESE is probably the business school with the highest amount of workload (at least in the first year)! We have three classes every day in the first three terms (no Fridays off), which means preparing three cases for the following day. In the second term, we start having team projects, which makes life even crazier. However, the schedule becomes more chilled in the second year, which allowed me to travel all around Europe on my weekends in the fourth term. IESE is for those who work hard, but also play hard!

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? It was the concept of FOMO (fear of missing out), that was present almost every single day in my life in these two years. There are so many activities in the MBA that a student should devote thirty hours in his/her day to be able to do (and an unlimited budget, for sure). There are cases, team assignments, guest lecturers, bar of the week, section dinners, parties, treks, clubs – and you want to participate in all of that while having to look for a job! This definitely caused me a lot of stress and a few hours of sleep in the beginning because I wanted to participate in as many activities as possible and felt guilty when I couldn’t attend something.

As time goes by, you understand you have to drop some balls and you learn an invaluable lesson for the post-MBA life: prioritization is everything. If I had known from the beginning that the MBA was all about FOMO, the process of letting things go wouldn’t have been so painful.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? The MBA is indeed a transformative experience. I even joke with my husband that if we hadn’t come to the MBA together, we probably wouldn’t be married anymore. That’s because we wouldn’t recognize the new person each of us has become.

At the first day of the MBA at IESE, you are assigned to a team with people from nine different nationalities, most of them completely different from you. You have to learn to work with them for all your assignments in the first year. At first, you first hate them. Then, you have fun with them and celebrate with them. With your 72 classmates coming from the most diverse nationalities, cultures and business backgrounds, you learn that your strong opinion is simply another point of view that what you already know is just a small part of the collective contribution to the class. I am coming out of the MBA as a person who is willing to change her opinions, still thinks there is a lot to learn, is now more collaborative than competitive, and respects and values people who think differently from her.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? From the MBA class of 2019, the classmate I admire the most is Ignasi Buch. He dedicated his two years in the MBA program to improving the experience of his classmates and getting involved in the organization of almost every school major event, like SkIESE, Pool Party, Multi-Culti, and Spring Game. He was also the representative of the student council in my section. In spite of having all of this on his plate – even after landing his job at BCG Dubai – he helped the first years by giving on average four consulting case mocks every day. Last but not least, he helped me a lot in the Women in Business Club, as he was the Club’s VP of Events (and the first male vice-president in the history of the club).

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father. He comes from a third-generation of book publishers who excelled at finding the next bestsellers, but who lacked the tools to administer well the business. He had to drop out of college to help my grandfather in the family’s company. Later on, he realized that if he didn’t acquire the necessary business skills he would himself also have trouble in managing the business. When I was seven years old, he went to HBS to do an OPM (Owner/President Management Program) and two years later I went there to watch him give the closing speech to his class. He has been my role model ever since and has always incentivized me to pursue an MBA abroad and to invest in my career. Without his support, I wouldn’t have been able to come to IESE.

What is your favorite movie about business? My favorite movie featuring a real businessman is The Pursuit of Happyness, a 2006 movie featuring Will Smith. I love it because it is much more than a business movie, it is a real-life drama with lessons that can be applied not only to our careers but to all aspects of our lives. Will Smith’s character is a salesman who wants to offer a better life for his son. In spite of all the setbacks he suffers, he manages to create a multimillion-dollar company and fulfill his dream after a lot of hard work. It taught me that we should never give up when faced with obstacles that are preventing us from achieving our goals, either them being personal or professional.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? Impossible Trinity. It is a concept in Macroeconomics that states that it is impossible to have all three of the following at the same time: a fixed foreign exchange, free capital flow, and an independent monetary policy. At the end of the first year, we have the Capstone, which is a consulting project to a real company where the five sections compete among themselves (each company has a team from each section working on the project). Last year my section was the only one that had no winning team but, instead of becoming miserable, we decided to make fun of ourselves. We then created the impossible trinity of Section B: it is impossible to have good looks, party, AND win the Capstone at the same time!

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…extremely frustrated – or applying to the class of 2021. since this had always been a dream. Since I was in college, I knew I wanted to go on this two-year learning journey. If I hadn’t fulfilled this dream, I would probably be now miserable at my former job thinking about how my life could have been different if I had gone to an MBA. Knowing myself, I wouldn’t have taken this out of my mind and would still be trying to get into a business school.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I think it’s impossible to place a dollar value in my MBA education because many of the things I’ll extract from it are intangible and no amount of money can pay for that. If I looked at it only from the financial side, the return on my investment would be very positive: I doubled my pre-MBA salary and jumped two positions in the corporate ladder. But this is only a tiny part of what I gained from my MBA. At IESE I had the once in a lifetime experience to interact for two years with people from 60+ nationalities, built long-lasting friendships, learned to become a better leader, and had an immersion in a different culture in Africa. Much more than the business skills I acquired or the lessons from the case studies I read, what I’ll take from these two years are the friends I made and the unforgettable moments I lived.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Build a family (I’m already married, so only the kids missing) and start an NGO to help improve the quality of basic education in Brazil

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a friend they can always count on, a colleague that contributed to their learning and life experiences, and a classmate that is eager to give back to the IESE community.

Hobbies? My two main hobbies are traveling and reading. I visited 35+ countries in my life and will take advantage of the two months in between finishing school and starting work to explore more places in Asia, Europe, and Africa. I also love reading non-fiction books to accumulate more knowledge and historical fiction to transport myself to different times and places.

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

“The first time I met Mariana was during her admissions process. As responsible for IESE Admissions by that time, I had a chance of interview her and immediately realized how great member of IESE community she will be.

During that process, she wrote an article at IESE blog giving useful advice for other applicants too.

Therefore, the expectations of having Mariana at IESE was very high, and during her MBA she actually overcomes all of them.

She successfully engaged in a Woman in Business Club, elected president after delivering a great speech to all club members and was responsible of manage more than 10 people and organize many relevant events to all students: tasks that she can perform very well based on her strong leadership skills.

We must highlight the Woman in Business Conference that was held on Feb, 7th with more than 300 people, 20 speakers and was a great success!!

She was also able to guarantee a summer job and a Full Time Offer very soon and in congruence on her dream job.

It is really a privilege to have Mariana as part as IESE community, I truly believe that she will continue shining as an alumnus and we all will hear about her!!”

Melissa Afonso Ferreira
Associate Director of MBA Career Services

Are you a friend of Mariana? Leave a comment to congratulate her.