Meet London Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Natalia Estupinan

London Business School

I live by this motto: I’d rather have a life full of “oh well” than a life full of “what ifs”.

Hometown: Popayán-Cauca, Colombia

Fun Fact About Yourself:  Once a week, I hike just to be able to hug trees; I am a tree-hugger.

Undergraduate School and Major:

London School of Economics and Political Science – MSc in Human Rights

Universidad Externado de Colombia – BA in Government and International Relations

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Corona Foundation, Senior Independent Consultant

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: When the former government of Colombia signed a Peace Agreement with FARC, I campaigned actively for the ‘Yes’ campaign to have it ratified. However, when the plebiscite narrowly failed (50.2 percent of voters rejected the peace accord), I realised that I had made a mistake in stereotyping those who voted ‘No’, trivializing them, and not including them in the dialogue.

I realised that we would not have a stable and lasting peace if we didn’t start working together. Within this context, I created and launched Vamos Colombia. Vamos was established under the premise that it is possible to work towards a common goal despite our differences. We promoted reconciliation actions in regions of Colombia affected by the armed conflict. 1668 corporate volunteers from 62 enterprises, victims of the armed conflict, former members from guerrillas and paramilitary groups, the army, and local communities worked shoulder-to-shoulder to achieve concrete goals such as the reconstruction of schools and reforestation of specific areas.

Vamos was about bringing people together and humanizing the other.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Although I do not yet know that many people (just the Colombian crew), I have reaffirmed why I came to LBS. There is a strong collaborative and friendly environment. All of us are willing to help each other, both academically and personally, and we enjoy each other’s company. Even before arriving to the UK, we have already managed to watch football matches, go to birthdays, and have drinks and dinner together. There is a strong interest among all of us to know our histories and to cultivate what it will become a lifetime friendship.

What is the best part of coming to London to earn your MBA? The best part of coming to London to earn my MBA is London Itself. I did my Masters in Human Rights seven years ago at LSE and I promised to myself that I would be back. London is a diverse city, with a rich cultural and gastronomic scene – and with an incomparable location for traveling. The fact that I can wake up and walk around the river, have a picnic at one of the parks, run around Little Venice, eat some curry at one of the markets, and go to concerts, exhibitions and the pub makes it the best place for me to be.

Aside from your classmate and location, 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 key factor that led me to choose this programme was the possibility to be in one of the most dynamic impacts investing markets and at the center of the Social Impact Bonds (SIB) market, while acquiring solid financial and investing tools. SIBs were born in the UK and the main organizations designing and implementing this innovative mechanism are based in the UK. This, combined with the fact that LBS has a strong financial and investing programme, led me to choose LBS. Furthermore, the fact that I am going to be able to apply what I learn at school in different internships, thanks to the flexibility of the programme, was another key factor that shaped my decision.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am eager to be part of the Social Impact Club. I am looking forward to meeting classmates who are also interested in how to achieve social impact while doing business. I want to understand the challenges faced in other countries and the impact investing tools implemented in different sectors, such as education, energy, and health.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? For me, it was the question about LBS’s negatives in comparison to other schools where I was applying. LBS has different characteristics that make it a perfect match for what I am looking for at this point of my career. Therefore, it was hard to find a factor that I preferred in other schools.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Throughout my career, I have managed multiple programmes aimed at achieving sustainable peace in Colombia and acquired a comprehensive view of the challenges we face in my country.

I am convinced that the private sector can play a critical role in helping address Colombia’s pressing social issues and that the MBA at LBS will provide me with a complementary skill set to perform as a better-rounded professional.

In Columbia, I have had the opportunity to work on the implementation of the first SIB launched in a developing country. This has been an enriching experience and has shown me that there are different tools available for foundations and companies, among others, to achieve impactful investments. I am eager to learn more about impact investing as a way to promote social transformation.

What other MBA programs did you apply to?

Columbia Business School

NYU Stern

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I prioritized three main factors: a programme that would give me the sets of skills that I needed, the programme location and the diversity of the class.

I looked for a curriculum where I could develop investment and financial tools. I also analyzed how flexible the programmes were in terms of schedule, length of the programme, and choosing electives. I enjoy being in big and diverse cities where there is plenty of stuff to do apart from the MBA. I put so much importance on location that I ended up applying to schools just in NYC and London. Finally, I love meeting people from all over the world.  I enjoy learning and understanding other cultures and ways of living.

Besides understanding the programmes and courses of the schools that I applied to, I had coffees and calls with their current students and alumni. Through these informal conversations, I started to understand which of the schools that I applied to was a better fit for me. My best tool: intuition. It does not sound sophisticated, but deep down I knew that LBS was a better fit for me and I was right.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I don’t have a specific defining moment that shaped the way I am. However, through the years, I have identified two main factors that have influenced my personal development: my grandmother and the region where I come from in Colombia.

My grandmother’s journey influenced me to become a confident, independent, and determined woman. At the age of 50, and after having nine children, she decided to study law and pursue politics at a time when women were expected to raise children and take care of their husbands.

Colombia faces deep socio-economic inequalities and has suffered a prolonged armed conflict. Throughout my life, I have had the chance to witness two completely different countries: the remote, rural Columbia, where you still find communities with no access to water and electricity, and the urban, developed Columbia, with a cultural scene of international standards.

This reality has played a decisive role in who I am today. As a child, I ran a school campaign to encourage families to provide street children with an opportunity to go to school. Even though I was only able to convince four families to participate, the campaign made me realize that it is possible to make relevant changes in society. Since then, I have continued to reaffirm my passion for, and commitment to, contributing to the effective guarantee of human rights and social equality.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In 10 years, I see myself leading impact investing initiatives across the globe, with a focus on Colombia and LATAM. With 20 years of experience, I imagine I will be an influential and recognized figure in social impact. I want to advise companies, investors, and governments on how to invest their resources in an effective way while creating social impact.  I am convinced that I can do this while enjoying one of my biggest passions: traveling.

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