Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Image of Cecilia Kindelán as she discusses the IESE Business School Class of 2021

Cecilia Kindelán

Q&A WITH IESE ADMINISTRATORS

P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments at your program?

IESE: “Without a doubt, the most exciting new development is that the IESE Business School Class of 2021 will be the first cohort to have the option to decide the length of the MBA program. Students will now be able to choose between a 15-month track MBA or a 19-month track program. The shorter option will permit students to complete all of their courses within a reduced period of time. This new option will offer them the chance to focus sooner to their companies or to their family businesses, while the 19-month track provides students with a longer immersion in the IESE learning experience.”

Cecilia Kindelán  
Spain 
Associate Director for IESE MBA Program, International Exchange Director 

Headshot of Tomofumi Nishida, who discusses the IESE Business School Class of 2021

Tomofumi Nishida

P&Q: What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish prospective students knew more about?

IESE: “It would be how rewarding our 1st-year teamwork would be: Through 75-minute daily meetings as a 9-member team to discuss three classes prior to them, you would cultivate life-long friendships among team members and leadership skills that would be applicable to any types of international business environments.”

Tomofumi Nishida 
Japan 
Associate Director for IESE MBA Admissions and Career Development Center (Japan & Korea) 

Headshot of Eddy Zakes, Director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center of IESE Business School 

Eddy Zakes

P&Q: IESE is increasingly becoming a popular MBA program for starting a business. Talk to us about some of your unique offerings for aspiring entrepreneurs such as FINAVES? How will your Venture Hub provide more resources to these students?

IESE: “At IESE, we believe that having an entrepreneurial mindset is a critical success factor for every business leader, whether he or she is running a three-person startup or a multi-national corporation. We’re hyper-focused on fulfilling our pledge that no matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey we’re going to help you take the next step – from discovering your own entrepreneurial spirit, to developing an idea, to launching a project, and to scaling up and beyond. Our team has doubled down on that commitment in the past year, opening a new space for entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors called the Venture Hub; expanded our Summer Entrepreneurship Experience (an internship alternative for entrepreneurs between Year 1 and Year 2 of the MBA); added a fellowship program in search funds, venture capital, and tech transfer; created a new course on emerging technologies; and reorganized our team to make it easier for students to get the help they need through coaching and mentorship.”

Eddy Zakes  
United States 
Director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center of IESE Business School 

Headshot of Paula Amorim, Associate Director for IESE Business School MBA Admissions in Latin America.

Paula Amorim

P&Q: What have graduates told you is the biggest strength of IESE? Why has that been so important to them? 

IESE: “Sense of community is one of the biggest strengths of the IESE network. This is IESE’s greatest highlight among our graduates and it comes almost unanimously. Willingness to help and spirit of service are strong values we have in our school and it’s beautiful to see how they’re actually put in practice. In a moment of your life where everything is changing, it’s important to feel supported and to have people you can rely on. When you feel empowered, you achieve greater things and this what we’re going for: greatness and excellence in everything that we do.”

Paula Amorim  
Brazil 
Associate Director for IESE MBA Admissions (Latin America) 

WHERE THE CASE IS KING

To develop its general management perspective, the IESE MBA leans heavily on the case method. Basically, business cases simulate the types of options, questions, incomplete data, contradictions, tradeoffs, and pressures they will face as managers.

“Case studies put you in the decision-maker driver seat,” observes Sweta Desai, a strategy and operations manager from DoorDash. “You read real business scenarios (and in IESE’s case 600+ by the end of your 2 years) and are tasked to identify problems and solutions. Once you’ve formed your own general opinions, you then discuss the case with your cohort, 6-7 people from far-flung areas of the globe, each of whom likely has a very different background and therefore perspective than you. In class, you’re then debating your viewpoint in a manner that’s succinct and impactful. Not only are you learning from your peer set – teaching you to keep an open mindset and consider others’ opinions – but you’re also selling your own argument and have to frame it in a way that encourages your highly intelligent peers to buy into your methodology to explore the given problem.”

The Class of 2021 has found that the case method offers an array of benefits. Helena Gräfin von Drechsel, for one, appreciates how cases take her out of her comfort zone. That way, she can observe how others would tackle issues she has faced, particularly from the vantage point of different industries. Carlos de los Santos Escribano, a BCG consultant who studied law, likens case classes to being in front of a judge and jury. The difference, of course, is repetition. MBAs are framing their arguments and defending their positions three times a day for week and five days a week…for 19 months, says Irwan Hernawan, forcing them to become leaders who can effectively convey their message. Such benefits are amplified by IESE’s team-driven culture.

Image of students interacting in groups in the IESE Business School Venture Hub for Entrepreneurship.

Zakes Venture Hub for Entrepreneurship

TO LEARN IS TO HURT

“It goes besides learning the theory, but developing soft skills, learning how to work together, listening to distinct view-points, defend your own, work with deadlines and in a challenging environment, which mimics what we will experience at work,” adds Bárbara Grossi Hamdan. “The case method is also instrumental in knowing when to lead and when to play more of a supportive role, trusting your strengths and knowledge and also that of your team. These are all attributes we will need to become more effective managers and inspiring leaders.”

Looking back, Timo Buetefisch really appreciates the lessons he absorbed from the case method. A 2004 IESE MBA grad, Buetefisch built a company, Cooltra, which now employs over 1,000 people. For him, the case method prepared him for the high-stakes, always-on life of a CEO where learning often requires pain.

The different thing here is the pain is not coming directly from the professor,” Buetefisch notes in a 2019 interview with P&Q. “It’s more from the peer pressure because you have 70 talented, ambitious other people around you and you don’t want to bring down the level of participation. It’s not a competitive environment at all, but it’s a challenging environment. It’s like, playing at a very high level all the time. I think that’s the most enriching part of the case method.”

BARCELONA OR BUST

The case method isn’t the only attraction at IESE. For Samuel Zickgraf, IESE stood apart for its impact-driven curriculum. “My greatest concern in transitioning from my career in the Marine Corps and pursuing an MBA was leaving an organization that prioritizes selflessness and service for an unfulfilling job in a business world that often places the pursuit of profits above all else,” he admits. “Through my interactions with faculty, students, and alumni, it was clear that IESE teaches an ethical approach to business management and recognizes the often-harmful actions of the corporate world. As an institution, IESE sees the potential for business to be a driving force to combat global issues such as gender disparity, climate change, and economic inequality, and produces socially conscious business leaders.”

Aereal photo of Barcelona from above the roof of the IESE Business School campus.

View of Barcelona from IESE campus.

Of course, there is Barcelona. The Catalan crown, the city boasts sun-drenched beaches and cool Mediterranean breezes, not mention scenic walks amid a bevy of architectural styles ranging from Classical to Gothic to Modernist. A short drive away, students can ski down snow-capped peaks or indulge in world-class wineries

“Honestly, I can think of a few places in the world as incredible to live in as Barcelona,” contends Louis Williams, a 2019 Best & Brightest MBA. “You have sun, beach, mountains for skiing and cycling: a broad selection of bars and restaurants at 60% of the cost of London. It is a historic architectural center, connected by an incredible public transportation system with an interwoven quilt of cultures: Spanish, Catalan, Latin, and International. And that ignores the fact that Barcelona is one of the nightlife capitals of the world.”

GETTING OUT OF THE HARBOR

What is the IESE Business School Class of 2021 looking towards after graduation? Irwan Hernawan fancies himself as a partner in a boutique consulting firm catering to seed funding and product development. In contrast, Nana Gobadze pictures herself as the CEO of a global investment fund to spur further investment in the Caucasus Region, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. While Sweta Desai doesn’t have the details laid out quite yet, she knows one thing: whatever she does will force her to step out of her comfort zone and adapt.

“Comfort zones are different for each person, but what they universally do is limit exploration and create fear. There’s this quote I love… “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what it was built for.” Humans are the same – we’re here to connect, explore, and learn from each other which is awfully hard to do hibernating in a corner.”

MBA Student Hometown Undergrad Alma Mater Last Employer
Alix Chausson London, UK University of St Andrews Amazon
Sweta Desai Beaumont, TX University of Texas at Austin DoorDash
Helena Gräfin von Drechsel Munich, Germany Universidad Pontificia Comillas ICADE Avantgarde Gesellschaft für Kommunikation
Carlos de los Santos Escribano Madrid, Spain Universidad Autónoma de Madrid Boston Consulting Group
Nana Gobadze Tbilisi, Georgias Free University of Tbilisi JSC TBC Bank
Yahel Halamish Tel Aviv, Israel Hebrew University in Jerusalem Altshuler Shaham
Bárbara Grossi Hamdan Belo Horizonte, Brazil Faculdade de Direito Milton Campos TRACE International
Irwan Hernawan Jakarta, Indonesia Bandung Institute of Technology Bizzy.co.id
Shuji Maeda Tokyo, Japan Keio University All Nippon Airways (ANA)
Tselmegtsetseg Tsetsendelger  Darkhan, Mongolia Kenyon College SHOPS Plus
Sónia Vaz  Vila Real, Portugal ISEG – Lisbon School of Economics & Management Grupo Ageas Portugal
Xuejiao Wang Chengdu, China Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications Chengdu 33 Centimeters Trade LTD
Samuel Zickgraf Grand Rapids, MI Michigan State University U.S. Marine Corps

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.