Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Alix Chausson 

IESE Business School Class of 2021 at the University of Navarra

“Resilient, positive, and multicultural citizen; avid learner with an appetite for a challenge.”

Hometown: London, United Kingdom

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love trying new things, and can cross off my list eating chicken feet in Hong Kong, trying crunchy cricket sushi in London, and crossing a river with water up to the waist not far from a very large American Crocodile and his family in Costa Rica.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of St Andrews, Masters in Sustainable Development and Management

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Amazon, Vendor Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I am particularly proud of winning the Women@Amazon UK Award in 2017. This award is given to an individual who has shown a commitment to go above and beyond to deliver results, displaying strong bias for action and innovation, two core values at Amazon.

As soon as I joined Amazon, I became involved in the active Women@Amazon community; a few months into my role I took the lead on the Women@Entrepreneur conference, the biggest such event at Amazon in the UK. The aim of the event was to inspire women at Amazon to launch and run start-up operations from scratch. To achieve this, we brought together a panel of women entrepreneurs both internal and external to Amazon. To plan and execute this conference, I managed for several months a team of eight women working at Amazon in a range of functions and in jobs more senior than my own. This was on top of my day to day role and a considerable commitment – it was fantastic to see the event streamed live across the Amazon UK offices, with attendance exceeding our expectations. This experience was deeply rewarding, not only because it helped refine my leadership skills, but also because I was able to bring people together outside work and contribute to building a sense of community.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The IESE Business School Class of 2021 candidates I have met so far are all incredibly culturally diverse and hold a fascinating array of experiences. Within the two days I spent at the campus for my interview and Assessment day, I met candidates from Germany, Austria, Japan, Portugal, Peru, China, Spain, and the United Kingdom, all holding vastly different positions across a range of industries. I was struck by the genuine desire from every single candidate to get to know one another: for me, this exemplifies true cultural intelligence, a character trait that I constantly seek to cultivate and one that I was definitely looking for in my future classmates.

Throughout my career, I have worked in several countries and companies, and I have come to realize I thrive most when working with multi-cultural, cross-functional teams. A diverse student body with open-minded individuals was a key factor in my decision to pursue my MBA at IESE.

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? I am a strong advocate of face-to-face interactions over any other means of communication – I expect the case method to be the best way to ensure people are deeply engaged, work together, and exchange ideas. Analysing several cases on a daily basis is also a great practice to hone analytical skills and focus on the key points needed to make decisions as a business leader.

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? The key factor that led me to choose IESE was the relationship with the admissions team through the entire admissions process.

From the very first phone call I had with an admission officer when completing my application online to the informal coffee break with an admission officer in London and the Assessment day in Barcelona, every single interaction with the admissions team made me feel as if I was already part of the IESE family. Business schools conduct the admissions process in very different ways and I appreciated the opportunity to have both an interview with the admissions team and an Assessment day with other candidates. To me, this truly showed the admissions team is dedicated to spending time to get to know you while simultaneously helping you understand whether IESE is truly the right fit.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Promoting and celebrating female participation is one of the causes that take up a significant part of my free-time, and I am definitely looking forward to becoming involved in the Women in Business Club. I am also a strong sustainability advocate and I am very keen to learn more about the Responsible Business Club.

Finally – I love to ski, wakeboard, and play tennis so I will definitely be looking out for opportunities to continue these sports at IESE!

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? A question that I found challenging related to the concept of home. I was not expecting to be asked such a question and realized I had never taken the time to think about what “home” truly meant to me. I grew up in London in a French family, moved to study in Scotland, then worked in Paris, Hong Kong, and London, and I am now about to move to Barcelona. My parents currently live in Switzerland, which means there is no single place I consider home. This question was both challenging and insightful: reflecting on the concept of home during and after the interview helped me put perspective on the choices I have made so far, whether professionally or personally, and how these have shaped me.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Last year, I was filling out a questionnaire to join a women networking group in London and replied to the question “What would your dream job be if money was no object?” My answer was radically different from the role I held at the time and the sector I was working in. I took a step back and reflected on my career journey so far. An MBA seemed like the perfect professional development program to change sectors and accelerate my career at the same time. The timing was also right: by 2019 I had worked for six years, and I felt I would be able to contribute my experience to the class whilst simultaneously learning from my classmates.

On a personal level, I wanted to challenge myself and the prospect of building a solid business understanding surrounded by extremely smart and driven people was exactly aligned with what I was looking for.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? INSEAD, from which I also received an offer.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I had three key points in mind when reviewing business schools.

First, it was the diversity of the student body. I grew up in a French family in London and loved the quotidian exposure to two cultures. I chose my university for its international student body and selected professional roles that enabled me to evolve within a variety of cultural settings. Pursuing an MBA at an institution that focused on diversity and openness of thought was key for me.

Second, I weighed the location. I expect the MBA to be as much a business learning experience as a journey of self-discovery and I knew I needed to choose a school located in a country where I had never previously lived. Ideally, I was also looking for exchange opportunities.

Third, I considered the quality of teaching. We all know the investment that comes with an MBA, and I decided to only apply to schools where I knew I would be stretched and could build a sound business base.

In terms of research, the internet is, of course, a gold mine. However, I would only say this is the very first step to start narrowing down options. The most valuable means of collecting information and understanding whether you truly would fit in a school or not is to talk to current students, alumni, and admissions teams as much as possible.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? When I was 15 years old, I read 1421 by Gavin Menzies and became convinced that a working knowledge of Mandarin would be useful for my future career’s success – I was by then already determined to work internationally. For the next few years, I took evening classes after high school and spent summers in language courses in a remote province in China and in the US. While a mastery of the language still evades me, I gained cultural insights that proved invaluable when I later worked in Beijing and in Hong Kong.

Rather than a single moment, this experience shaped who I am today: someone curious and perseverant, always looking to take on new projects and try new activities. I love traveling and have a natural proclivity toward meeting people and learning from others.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I am fascinated by cutting-edge disruptive food technologies, particularly those close to the customer. In ten years’ time, I see myself driving innovation within the food technology industry at the leadership level.

However, I am conscious the MBA journey will open up a range of opportunities. Looking back at my career path, I know the next few years will be full of unknowns. In the summer of 2014, when I was still at L’Oréal in Paris, I would never have imagined that two months later I would be moving to Hong Kong for the most incredible experience I had yet to live. A few years later when I was working at Unilever and decided to attend the Web Summit in Lisbon, I definitely did not expect this would be a pivotal moment in my career and lead me to join Amazon.

Regardless of the industry, I will work in, I can confidently say that in ten years’ time I aspire to be a strong female leader, helping young girls understand career choices are not limited and inspiring females to seize business opportunities with confidence.

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