Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Sweta Desai 

IESE Business School Class of 2021 at the University of Navarra

“I’m spontaneous and creative. I can bake a mean grapefruit loaf and cure colds via spicy green soups.”

Hometown: Beaumont, Texas

Fun Fact About Yourself:  As a child, a love for Nancy Drew books and collecting rocks and sand pushed aside more traditional childhood activities like learning to ride a bike. At the ripe age of 25, after nearly 2 decades of many loved ones attempting to teach me, I finally admitted myself to an adult bike riding class in the heart of Manhattan. Two closed off avenues, a sturdy helmet and a few hours later, I was finally bicycle proficient! I’m looking forward to graduating to motorcycle mastery this fall in Barcelona.

Undergraduate School and Major: The University of Texas at Austin – Marketing

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: DoorDash, Post-Sale Strategy & Operations Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: One of our sales managers had just signed a whale – one of the top 20 restaurant brands in the U.S. After congratulations were shared, he asked if I would oversee their launch. Three months into my role and eager to post an achievement of this size, I enthusiastically accepted. As I dove into the project, I realized two things. First, this would take a village to execute successfully – a broad effort across nine teams. Second, we didn’t have processes in place to launch within the client’s timeline. During a team meeting, a female manager I admired shared a piece of advice for successfully summiting daunting challenges: “When you’re facing a mountain, break the climb down into routes”. That night I took pen to paper and drew a roadmap for the next 12 weeks. The next morning, I asked for a meeting with each team lead and presented the plan. Two teams pushed back stating they couldn’t commit to the timeline. I met with these individuals offline in an effort to understand their load and work together. During this, I learned they had become accustomed to coercive tactics for urgent projects and had grown bitter to mandates. Ultimately, they appreciated the approach of comradeship and together we added two weeks to the timeline but gained their full support. I’m proud of this launch because not only did it provide an opportunity to lead a highly visible cross-functional effort, but it built the foundation of my relationships within our company.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The camaraderie I’ve experienced thus far is extraordinary. Friends who had pursued MBAs had relayed to me their two years in school provided the most supportive network they’ve been a part of. I think my IESE peer set blows the traditional definition of supportive out of the water. Even before the program began, folks are visiting each other across continents, sharing flat-finding best practices, and even booking for each other appointments to complete Spanish residency paperwork. It really does feel like a family and many of us haven’t even met each other yet!

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? Case studies put you in the decision-maker driver seat. 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.

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 decision to go back to school is such a large one that I don’t think there was solely one factor that convinced me IESE was the right program for me (location, conversations with alumni, culture, program length, size, prestige all played a factor). I will share what originally caught my attention and encouraged me to research the school further. At a Forté event one fall a few years ago, I met two alumni who shared IESE’s focus on responsible business. For example, they described the annual Doing Good Doing Well conference, the largest student-run conference in Europe. Themes vary each year, but the core mission is to discuss and promote the social impact business can have. The people-centered compass within IESE’s mission resonated with my personal goals and outlook.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The two I’m most excited about are Salsa Club and the Business Spanish Program (BSP). Before moving to Barcelona, I had the luxury of taking a few months off and wanted to invest the time in learning a couple of new hobbies, specifically dancing (because I have no moves) and increasing my fluency in and command of Spanish. After taking salsa classes for a few months in Medellín, I’ve begun to notice the surprising benefits of dance. For example, salsa specifically is a bona fide confidence builder. You really need to feel comfortable in your own skin when throwing combs, copas, and suzy q’s around a dance floor in front of a crowd. You also get to participate in a sort of speed networking, meeting a number of people in one night as you typically switch partners every 1-2 songs. Finally, one of the reasons I was so attracted to IESE is BSP – a program comprised of language classes and electives offered in Spanish that culminate in a bi-lingual degree. I’d love to work in a Spanish speaking country post-MBA and Spanish incorporation into the MBA was a selling point.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? If you weren’t admitted into business school, what would you do? This question threw me for a loop because I’m the type of person that once I have a destination in my head, it’s really challenging to think of any other outcome. It’s typically full steam ahead.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? An MBA was something I saw many of my peers pursue, but wasn’t sure if it was right for me (much to my father’s consternation). It wasn’t until I began to think about what I would use the MBA for did the value of one become clearer. For me personally, I wanted to pivot to an international career and saw an international program as an excellent launching pad. I also saw a need to strengthen my analytical skill set and gain exposure to aspects of business outside the ones where I was familiar. I spoke to co-workers and friends who had completed an MBA about their experience and the feedback was staggeringly positive. Transformational was the word I heard most often. Finally, I thought about what I would like to pursue post-MBA and whether the degree would prove vital to that goal.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? From the onset, I chose to be selective and narrowed down where I’d like to attend school to IESE and INSEAD, and applied to just those two programs.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Since I was looking at international programs, the location was an important factor. Ideally, I was looking to live in a city where I knew a little bit of the language (learning German, French, or Danish from scratch was low on my list of priorities). The teaching method and program duration also played a role. I had a preference for case-based classes as my learning style favors interactive environments and a longer program allowed the opportunity to pursue an internship. I also thought if I was going to take the plunge, I wanted the full experience (an extra year out of the workforce in our 50+ year career is a drop in the bucket). With that said, I learned the most from conversations with IESE staff and other alumni – their motivations for choosing said program, what they hoped to get out of the experience, and their roses and thorns of campus life.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? People tend to be surprised when they find out I was painfully shy as a child/adolescent. I was shy to the extent that I still remember teachers asking me if everything was okay and constantly being told to speak up or speak more. I believe these experiences helped shape me into who I am today – going to a massive school for undergrad where I was forced to be social, entering a sales role out of college, learning to connect with an audience, and pursuing new career opportunities anytime I felt stagnant. Each stage pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to adapt in order to succeed. 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.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? This question gives me a bit of pause as my response is going to live on the Internet forever! Professionally, I’d like to be making a positive societal impact through my work alongside driven and intelligent peers that I respect and grow from. Personally, I’ll have found a community that has either a street with a few homes for sale or several story home that will allow the people I love to live together, preferably close to the Pacific Ocean, with a litter of adopted golden retrievers.

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