Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Irwan Hernawan

IESE Business School Class of 2021 at the University of Navarra

“Educated engineer surviving in the investment and start-up world by doing travel photography and mild yoga.”

Hometown: Jakarta, Indonesia

Fun Fact About Yourself: Despite being average looking, I got “the guy I wished I had dated” award in my undergrad 10-year reunion, and it made me wonder why I kept single during those times.

Undergraduate School and Major: Bandung Institute of Technology, Industrial Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: as Senior Strategy Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I mobilized hundreds of millions of US dollars from APAC investors using unprecedented investment structure, for Indonesia’s emerging financial institution focusing on micro-entrepreneurs and SMEs and having the structure adopted in other SEA countries.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Really proactive! Even before we start the class, we already have our class logo and merchandise, and this is just one among many ongoing initiatives. The credit goes to the diversity, be it in terms of career background, expertise, and culture – and it is combined perfectly with the collegial and inclusive value of IESE.

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? If dealing with complex problems and solving them within limited time and under high pressure is a measure of becoming a great manager, nothing simulates it better than pre-reading three different cases on D-1 and solving them on D-day, for 5 days a week in the next 19 months.  And the interactive setting of the case discussion will push the students to be good communicators, and therefore influencing leaders.

Aside from classmates and cases, 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? Despite already having plan A after MBA, I want to be open to any emerging opportunities, and clearly IESE will accommodate it as the program focus its 1st year for students to evaluate their strengths, room for improvements, and passion in a career. So instead of rushing on something I am unsure about merely because of FOMO, I will be given a more thoughtful process in either justifying my initial plan – or figuring out what really suits me better both personally and professionally.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? So far, my exposure to big data was limited to a buzz word I frequently put when doing a pitch book during fundraising of my previous employer. I can’t wait to convert such buzz word into one of my skills by joining IESE’s Business Analytics and Digital Club.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I was put in a hypothetical situation in which I could not get my dream job after my MBA. I briefly touched upon some alternatives such as returning to previous employers or shifting to new industries. Nevertheless, what I truly emphasized was first the feeling of gratitude, knowing that I would be a better person by the time I finish the MBA. Second, I also believe that life will give me a Plan B as long as I give my full effort during my MBA. This answer interestingly led to a five-minute discussion between me and the interviewer about How Will You Measure Your Life book written by Clayton Christensen.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? So far, the core development of my career has been my technical skill. After I switched industry from investment to start-up, I realized many aspects I must address in order to excel further. I believe an MBA will accelerate my learning by pushing me out of my comfort zone, especially in the area in which I am not familiar such as operations, marketing, and product development.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Kellogg, Stern, and Fuqua

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The people factor is definitely on the top of my list. My approach for that was conversing a lot with alumni and current students. By doing so, I was able to draw a proxy of profiles of my future classmates. I also asked myself whether I will be able to work together and communicate effectively with those profiles for the next two years – and even keep in touch after graduating MBA. Second, I looked at the career path of the alumni, particularly those in my country. I asked their opinion on how IESE program helped them to land their first gig after MBA. Last, I preferred warm rather than cold cities, and definitely Barcelona definitely passes that criterion.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? For a while, I was satisfied just being a contributor in projects I got involved because my obligation was limited to delivering good works. But luckily, I worked with a manager that truly cared about my development. She mentioned that she once had the same problem, but she took higher responsibilities because it helped her to be a better person, both in work life and personal life. So, she challenged me to be a transaction leader and to also finish Toastmaster’s Competent Communicator module. At first, I was stressed in juggling these two things at the same time. Over time, I became more confident and clearly the presentation skill I acquired in Toastmaster helped me to close the first investment project I led, especially when I had to present the investment memo to the risk committee. So every time I feel like missing something in my life, I always try to look for new challenges. Otherwise, when my subordinates or colleagues are feeling being too long in their comfort zone, I always challenge them to try new things or to take higher responsibilities because, despite the initial fear, the accomplishment will be more rewarding.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Becoming a partner of a boutique venture capital that provides both seed funding and advisory services (such as product development and growth executions).

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