Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Bárbara Grossi Hamdan 

IESE Business School Class of 2021 at the University of Navarra

Passionate businesswoman, optimistic globetrotter, food lover, and wine enthusiast.”

Hometown: Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Fun Fact About Yourself: I sort of love giving speeches at weddings. Although I’m outdoorsy, I’m not a big fan of pigeons.

Undergraduate School and Major: Faculdade de Direito Milton Campos – FDMC, Law

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: TRACE International, Business Development Consultant

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was the last member of the newly-formed business development team for a Pan-African law firm. I hit the ground running and embraced every project, upskilling myself in every aspect the role encompassed, from understanding complex projects to the nuances of each different culture I had to interact with. My unwavering commitment, work ethic, and performance paid off, and I was promoted to head of business development a few months after joining the firm. Going from being the last team member hired to the one leading it is something I am very proud of.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I only actually met my Brazilian classmates and a few others from Latin America who attended the Assessment Day but have been interacting with them globally through our telegram and whatsapp groups. The first thing that really stands out is how interesting and supportive every individual is. Each of them is quite unique background and expertise-wise, having already accomplished a lot in their careers and lives. It is humbling and flattering to become part of this cohort. On top of that, my classmates showcase a desire to do something that goes beyond each one of us; it is a very warm, fun, and friendly atmosphere that already feels quite family-like.

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? Practical learning has always been my preferred method of learning, though I was rarely exposed to it. The case method gives you the opportunity to apply theoretical learning to real-life situations and really put your skills to the test. Another positive factor from this is that, as we work in teams, it goes besides learning the theory, but developing soft skills, learning how to work together, listen to distinct view-points, defend your own, work with deadlines and in a challenging environment, which mimics what we will experience at work. 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.

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?  When speaking with alumni virtually, all were categorical in saying almost in unison: “IESE was the best experience of my life”. That is when I knew, with a heartfelt certainty that this was the school for me. I wanted a program where I would feel supported and forge meaningful connections, which would be strong in academics but also fun. More than anything, I wanted a program that goes beyond simply being a strong MBA program. I was looking for a transformational experience, and this is what IESE offers.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? IESE has so many interesting treks, clubs, and activities that it is hard to choose. However, I am really looking forward to joining the Responsible Business and Women in Business Clubs, as well as attending the international opportunities embedded in the program. As for activities, as a huge foodie I am super excited to try all the tapas, jámon, paellas, riojas etc. that Barcelona exhales and delivers either in simple gems hidden in the city or more refined places.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? All questions related to why I deserved something (Why I deserved a spot at the school or why I deserved a scholarship). I have always been the kind of person who allows my attitudes and my work to speak for me, but you can’t really do that with your MBA essays. I struggled at first, as every time I would try to put my strengths on paper, I would get the feeling I sounded arrogant or like I was trying to say I was better than others.

The first draft I wrote started with something along the lines of, “There is a gap in the skills I have and what I want to accomplish.” Bia Campos, the consultant who I lovingly call the “essays guru,” glared at me and said, “Darling, you are such an accomplished professional; you have so many interesting and vivacious things you can talk about, though you start your essay talking about a gap in your skills?”. That triggered a deep self-reflection, the realization that knowing your strengths does not make you arrogant, it is just self-awareness. If you want to enter a competitive MBA program, you need to showcase yourself in a manner that is accurate but also reflects the positive things you have to offer, not just highlight your shortcomings. Present who you are in the most honest and transparent way – with a twist of some smart words – which certainly adds on to the process. If that is the profile or fit the school is looking for, then it will be great synergy for both parties and the kick-start of a lifetime experience!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I am passionate about learning, evolving, and consequently being successful. This was for me the pivotal moment to take this next step which will allow me to achieve what I want to, by learning the technical skills needed as I come from a non-financial background. I also want to hone my leadership skills. Moreover, joining this community, who like me, want to become transformational agents. The fun part of it is that we will experiment with those transformations within ourselves first and then transpose the MBA circuit. I’m certain that the academic content and humane interactions will give me more resources as I follow my career path.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? HEC Paris

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I started my search quite methodically reading about each school and its culture and program. I also looked at the core courses and the electives, along with how schools were ranked, which companies recruited on campus, and where alumni were working (companies, positions, and geography). I also spoke to corporate recruiters.

In parallel to that, I also did a lot of self-reflection in thinking about the things I was looking for in an MBA. The factors that were most important to me were the following: an MBA that felt truly global with a diverse class; a school with ethical leadership and corporate social responsibility bias; strong academics and an active faculty on the job market; a top-tier university with a collaborative environment; and a meaningful and truly immersive program. After deciding which programs best fit my needs, I went to the part which was the most decisive, speaking to admissions officers and alumni. I also spoke with a lot of people involved with the school, which was instrumental in helping shape my decision. Assessing all the above factors, IESE stood out from the list and became my #1 choice.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I was quite fortunate in having a family that always supported and instilled in me from a very young age the values and principles that I hold close to my heart: honesty, kindness, integrity, ethics, humility, respect, compassion, and the importance of hard work and commitment. It was also a blessing how they always took my sister and me along with them in their international travels, which allowed me to be exposed to different countries, languages, and cultures from a young age.

My father passed away when I was 16 after fighting cancer for two-and-a-half years. During his illness, he never once complained about anything; he was always kind and kept his sense of humor. He was a fighter who never once missed a day of work. My mother stood by his side as a rock and exemplified what true love, companionship, and selflessness were. Their example leads me to always strive to be a better person and to achieve further. Things were very difficult for a while, but with time I realized that I was stronger and more resilient than I gave myself credit. That gave me the courage to go for the things I wanted and take risks I might not have taken otherwise. That includes pursuing an exchange program in Ireland, living in Berlin for a couple of summers, moving to Equatorial Guinea, and now jumping into this MBA journey.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? This is a hard one, considering the MBA opens so many doors, so it is hard to pinpoint the exact function! I aim to work in a large multinational, whose values I resonate with, as I am passionate about designing and implementing strategies and solving problems. I see myself being involved in that. I would also enjoy leading a team, guiding their individual and collective growth, and being deeply involved with the company’s socially responsible initiatives.

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