Meet The MBA Class of 2022: Michelle Marie Miranda Cua, IESE Business School

Michelle Marie Miranda Cua

IESE Business School, University of Navarra

“I’m a courageous dreamer, willing to take the plunge to make an impact.”

Hometown: Manila, Philippines

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m very fond of the water and enjoy all sorts of water sports – I can land the kicker ramp on my wakeboard and am a certified PADI open water diver. I want to learn how to sail in Barcelona soon!

Undergraduate School and Major: Ateneo de Manila University, Bachelor of Science in Management

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Unilever Philippines, Assistant Brand Manager – Knorr Innovation Design and Development

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager?

An alumni of IESE once told me that the pile of cases she went through went up to her waist when stacked on the floor. While this was initially quite intimidating to me, I came to recognize the value of IESE’s case study method. It is the most practical approach to quickly learn how to manage various types of businesses, as it allows you to see things from the perspective of global business leaders across industries. There is no “correct answer”, as each case can be approached in various ways. I personally look forward to engaging in healthy debates with my peers as we work together to identify the best course of action to approach business problems. Through IESE’s case study method, I am confident I will strengthen my decision-making skills to become a better business leader.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA program that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you?

  1. World class 2-year MBA program: IESE is one of the highest-ranked MBA programs in Europe, known for its rigorous academics and high percentage of international students. I also prioritized IESE because of its 2-year program which would provide me with ample time to go on exchange overseas and do an internship because I plan to switch industries.
  2. IESE’s values: Throughout my life, Christian values were at the core of my curricula in school. This helped shape me into the person I am today, who aims to be a person for others and to make a positive impact in their lives. I loved how IESE’s values aligned with my own, one of the reasons being their affiliation with Opus Dei.
  3. People: I had several virtual coffee chats (as my application period intersected with the global corona virus pandemic) with students, alumni, and the admissions team. The people I encountered from IESE were the most genuine, approachable, and friendly. When I was choosing between two schools, a student went out of his way to further elaborate on his personal experience to help me make an informed decision. Even though I have yet to meet with most of them face-to-face, I immediately connected with them and they were thrilled to know I decided to join the IESE community.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am very excited to participate in the overseas module in Nairobi and work with leaders in this emerging market. This will allow me to broaden my perspective by seeing the opportunities and challenges encountered by local companies in Africa. I have never travelled to Africa before, and am looking forward to being immersed in their culture. This will probably be a once in a lifetime experience!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: One of the biggest highlights of my career was seeing Knorr Philippines gaining recognition globally, as it earned its spot among the top 10 markets through consistent and profitable growth. I’ve been rotated across several roles, handing both brand operations and innovation development. I am particularly proud of the product and technological innovations I was able to launch to innovatively address consumer needs. For instance, I led the launch of Knorr Recipe Pal, Knorr Philippines’ first Viber recipe bot which was recognized by international marketing associations and the Unilever Executive Board for its innovative mobile-first strategy. The bot allowed Knorr to intercept users, sending them regular cooking cues as we noticed that in-home cooking was declining due to the busy lives of consumers.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Growing up, I witnessed the power of an MBA and its ability to eliminate barriers to opportunities through the life of my mom. After starting her career in banking as a secretary, she took her MBA as a scholar, which enabled her to climb up the corporate ladder. Like her, I had always considered taking an MBA, but I only applied when I was clear on my long-term goals and recognized how vital the program was to being able to achieve them.

After working in the consumer goods industry for the past 4 years, I recognized I wanted to pivot to the tech industry because I saw how it had the power to rapidly transform the future. The tech industry is still at its infancy stage in the Philippines as compared to other developed markets. I realized that taking an international MBA program would be perfect, as it would put me at the forefront of learning to help me make that transition and hopefully land a global role post-MBA. Now, I am incredibly excited to be able to network with a diverse cross-cultural community of students, professors, and alumni. I intend to maximize this opportunity to learn from those who have gained expertise in the other areas where I lack practical experience.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? London Business School, Cambridge Judge Business School, and Stanford Graduate School of Business

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I was caught off guard when I was asked why I had to join the intake this year. I had mentioned in one of my essays that I was inspired by the grit of my grandmother, who was able to build our family business from scratch. The interviewer had me explain why I did not consider gaining a year of work experience in our smaller-sized, family-run company prior to grad school, as I mentioned I had entrepreneurial aspirations in the long-term.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I began by searching for the top MBA programs online. I looked into the criteria of the various MBA ranking agencies, and also went through the curricula of the schools to identify their similarities and differences. Lastly, I attended several MBA tours, which allowed me to hear from the schools’ representatives to better understand how the program can help me achieve my long-term goals.

I sent in my applications to the four schools I shortlisted. After I was invited for interviews, I decided to research further by attending webinars arranged by the schools and watching videos by current students. At this stage, it was most vital to speak to students and alumni. I reached out to fellow Filipinos and they were more than willing to share anecdotes to help me better understand the culture of their school. This helped me determine which school would be the best fit.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? As an Assistant Brand Manager, attending consumer immersions helped me delve into the psyche of my audience. I met several Filipino mothers who worked tirelessly as neighborhood sundry owners. With no systems in place, they often failed to establish an organized inventory coupled with a systematic cash flow. This resulted in increasing debt faced in parallel with their responsibilities to their families. Through these encounters, I uncovered how micro-entrepreneurs often lack the access to technology to expand their businesses. My exposure to these realities ignited my passion for technology, as I recognized how simply streamlining operations would effectively help improve the lives of these micro-entrepreneurs.


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