2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: João Soares, ESMT Berlin

João Soares

ESMT Berlin European School of Management and Technology

“Observant. Confident. Introvert. Calm. Very analytical and rational.”

Hometown: Porto, Portugal

Fun fact about yourself: I went from not being able to run five kilometers to running a half marathon in a year. I have since run three half marathons, completed 888 km of the Saint James Way in 29 days (from France to Finisterre in Spain), and I’m currently training for my next half marathon.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Economics from FEP School of Economics and Management of the University of Porto – Portugal, and post-graduate studies in Financial Analysis from ISEG School of Economics and Management, Technical University of Lisbon – Portugal

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Willis Towers Watson (WTW) as a service leader

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? I didn’t.

Where will you be working after graduation? I’m looking to work in the insurtech/fintech scene in Berlin.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Graduated top of the class, receiving the Academic Award. Received the President’s Award for highest leadership potential. VP of the Tech and Innovation Club. Part of winning team in MARGA competition. Part of Team Kietz, which made it to the second phase (top 30) of the MyGalileoApp competition.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Second place in a football tournament in Paris at the MBAT organized by HEC Paris. Sumit (aka The Beast) and I ended up losing by one goal in the final, but had a blast earning a medal for ESMT Berlin.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As a service leader for Western Europe at WTW, I rolled out a valuation service to six European countries that brought significant savings to the company and created over 20 high value-added jobs in Portugal. I’m most proud of the team I was leading, which continues delivering excellent work today, long after I left.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Martin Schweinsberg – Negotiations course. Choosing just one professor is very difficult, as the quality of the faculty at ESMT is at an amazing level. With Martin I learned how to structure and approach negotiations. More important, I understood that a lot of interactions I was casually having were, in fact, negotiations with both sides setting out to achieve something. I especially enjoyed feeling that Martin was learning as much from us as we were learning from him. His negotiations course was dynamic, engaging, and very useful.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The Brazilian barbecue, which I helped to organize (I’m Portuguese though), was one of the many memorable events we had all year. We also had a potluck with food from all over the world, which reflects the extremely international nature of the MBA at ESMT Berlin, with 50 students representing 24 nationalities and six continents.

Why did you choose this business school? I went to a German school in Portugal, but was losing my German language skills with each year without practicing. When deciding where to do my MBA, Germany was the first option that came to my mind and the only one I seriously considered.

I was accepted at two top schools in Germany: ESMT Berlin and Frankfurt School. After speaking to alumni I decided to go for ESMT, as it had a greater focus on innovation and technology. One other very important factor was being in Berlin, which is an amazing city to live in!

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? If what you really want is to do an MBA, if you have the right mindset and you are committed to learning for a full year, then I’m sure there will be a place for you at ESMT Berlin. Once you join, make sure to keep an open mind and enjoy the amazing friends you will make for life.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Berlin is said to be poor but sexy. It is still sexy but not that poor anymore. The sexy part also includes ESMT. It is surrounded by an entrepreneurial vibe and attracts board members and CEOs of big German companies for very interesting and personal talks with MBA students.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I had an amazing year with ups and downs, but everything contributed to making it special. I would not change a thing.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Abhishek Singh. I was impressed by Abhishek’s devotion to contributing and how he inspired people around him with a witty sense of humor and intelligent comments in class. He has (or seems to have) read all the books in the references list of all MBA courses, but still most impressive were his own unique perspectives he constantly shared with the MBA class.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I was drawn to business at a very young age. My grandmother gave me an old safe, and I started saving most of my weekly allowance money and counting it every week. She used to say I would become a banker someday. After doing an internship in a commercial bank at the age of 16, I decided traditional banking was not for me, but business in general was still fascinating.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I want to do meaningful work in a company that makes a difference. Eventually, I want to become a general manager.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? João is a trustworthy friend I can always count on (and he is also extremely funny).

Hobbies? My hobby now is to run. I enjoy running, even though I don’t run very fast.

What made João such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Before moving to Berlin to start his MBA at ESMT, João was working as a leader in a global function in actuarial science. His bachelor in Economics and post-graduation education made him a financial analysis expert. He made an impeccable impression from the beginning of the program. Always a gentleman and always willing to help other people. He stayed calm and effective and convinced with words: his credo. In addition to his strong focus on the academic program, this resulted not only in being highly respected by his peers but also in his receiving two prestigious awards:

First, he received the “President’s Award.” ESMT established the “President’s Award” to emphasize the role leaders face in running effective and responsible organizations and promoting efforts in leading the whole community. This award is presented to a graduating participant of the Full-time MBA class who has proven to possess the highest leadership potential and the highest capabilities to fulfill our mission. Second, João was also nominated and awarded the “Academic Award,” which acknowledges the achievements of the Full-time MBA participant who has graduated from the program with the highest grade point average. What to say more? João is a role model for everyone.”

Marcel Kalis
Head of Career Services


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