Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Sónia Vaz 

IESE Business School Class of 2021 at the University of Navarra

“Food enthusiast, book lover, and passionate about traveling. Eager to see the world!

Hometown: Vila Real, Portugal

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love animated movies and I can’t resist a good quote (Portuguese version). Also, I am a fan of travel and adventure so I am always thinking about what to do next. My most recent “thinking” got me to travel by bus to Barcelona (from Lisbon!) – the longest 15 hours ever.

Undergraduate School and Major: ISEG – Lisbon School of Economics & Management, Undergraduate in Economics and Master in Finance – Financial Markets.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Grupo Ageas Portugal, Business Expert, and Project Manager.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As Project Manager, I recently implemented a new business solution. The goal was to sell Pension Funds to individual clients through various channels such as banks, mediation, and web. During the project, I had to deal with more than 20 internal areas as well as with 2 outsourced IT companies. There were times when it seemed impossible; however, I kept the optimism going and never stopped motivating teams. Despite all the time constraints, I am now proud to say the team rose up to the challenges and we had a successful go-live.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Passionate, caring, and extremely competent. We met in the Open-Day and in Assessment Day and we immediately got along. During coffee breaks, everyone was trying to know every single person in the room and it became clear how passionate, open-minded, and extremely competent everyone was. During the Assessment Day, we were assigned in teams. Despite the slightly more competitive environment, everyone was truly committed to help and highlight the best qualities of each other – team member or not.

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? During the Open Day, we had the opportunity to resolve a case study together. It was impressive to see the dynamic of the class and how our different backgrounds allowed us to analyze the case under different perspectives and ultimately solve it. I felt that this practical learning was very effective and the key to gaining a deeper understanding of the problems. It will make us think outside the box and train us for a top-management position.

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? As a candidate, I felt that IESE was present along the entire process and I realized after talking to former and current IESE students that IESE focus on personal development is real and highly valued. IESE combines an excellent curriculum experience with natural care for people. The more I knew IESE’s vision, the more I felt that this vision was aligned with what I wanted for my full-time MBA.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Women in Business Club

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Andrea asked me, “Name one thing that you wanted to do but you didn’t.” At that moment, the most honest answer I could give her was Nothing.” And it took me a while to answer too. I was quite embarrassed, but I explained to her that I usually do everything I set my mind to. In fact, a couple of years ago, I discovered a list of things that I wanted to do before turning 30. I had done this list when I was 18 years old and the only thing in there that I hadn’t done was skydiving. A couple of months later, I did it and it was an amazing and memorable experience.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I had two defining moments that led me to this point. First, I was in Cuba with a friend. We decided to go for New Year’s Eve in Havana and then travel across the country for 17 days. Everyone who had been to Cuba knows that the internet is a rare commodity. We had less than 30 minutes of internet each day and I can’t tell you how amazing it was. It gave us a real opportunity to disconnect from the world and just be in the present to enjoy every moment. This led us to ask ourselves, “What’s next? What’s missing?” After long conversations, we both realized that I was eager to learn more, to do more, and to give a push to my career. It was clear: my next move would be applying for an MBA.

The second moment occurred one month later when I attended an MBA fair. In that fair, I met Karen from the MBA Admission team. She told me: “Do you want to do it? So, you can do it!” And from that moment on, my IESE journey started.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? None. I decided that I would only apply to other MBA programs if I wasn’t admitted to IESE.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I went to an MBA fair in Lisbon, where I met the Admission members from the top-MBA schools in Europe. After the fair, I was still indecisive between INSEAD and IESE, so I talked to alumni from both schools and pondered factors like MBA rankings, class diversity, location, and salary increase after the MBA (among other factors). However, the more factors I listed, the more indecisive I became. After days of pondering the multiple aspects, I turned the list aside and trusted my gut. Truth be told, I felt a better connection to the people from IESE and I knew my values were more aligned with IESE than with other schools.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I don’t think I have one defining moment that shaped who I am. In fact, while I was growing up, my values were always strongly defined: honesty, helping others, setting high goals for myself, hard work, and never giving up. When I look back, I recognize myself with these values printed in my DNA ever since I can remember.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In 10 years, I hope to be a CEO capable of inspiring others.

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