2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Sarah Schilling, ESADE Business School

Sarah Schilling

ESADE Business School

“Positive, impact-driven European with a passion for giving back and empowering others.”

Hometown: Hamburg, Germany

Fun fact about yourself: I won the German Championships in rifle shooting with my team 10 years ago.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Hamburg School of Business Administration (HSBA), Bachelor in Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was leading the Business Development Team at Simon, Evers & Co. GmbH, a hanseatic trading house in Hamburg, Germany

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Bain & Company, Munich

Where will you be working after graduation? I will start as a Consultant with Bain & Company in July

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Vice President of the MBA Student Association board: I serve on the board and am mainly responsible for Academic & Student Affairs. In this role, I represent my class to faculty and Program Management, frequently coordinate events and activities, and mediate between professors, staff, and students. My most important task throughout the turbulence of last year was finding creative ways (for example virtual hangouts, quizzes and cheerful weekly messages) to keep the collaborative spirit of my class alive and thriving, even when we could not be together in person.
  • Forté Scholarship: As a Forté fellow, I exchange with scholars via the Forté network, help other women in business who want to pursue an MBA and actively support females around me, such as through events of the Women in Business Club.
  • Mentor at 180 Degrees Consulting: I mentor student consulting teams for projects from one of the world’s largest consultancies for nonprofits & social enterprises.
  • Advisor for The Helvellyn Foundation: Helvellyn aims to preserve wildlife and improve education in the UK. I am helping the trustees develop decision criteria and processes for grant giving, and define the foundation’s impact goals.
  • Fellow of the ESADE Admissions team: I help ESADE attract the best talent for the next MBA cohorts by being one of the go-to persons for applicants, answering questions about the MBA, hosting applicants on campus, advising on the admission process, and participating in open days. In this role, I have spoken with 60+ potential students one-on-one over the course of the last 18 months.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Academically speaking, I would say being ranked among the top 3 students in my class and fulfilling my dream of spending an exchange semester at UC Berkley, Haas School of Business. What makes me even more proud is the fact that I helped 30+ students from my cohort prepare for internships and job interviews. I was fortunate to land a job with Bain & Company early on in our MBA journey, and so I became one of the go-to people for interview prep. It gives me enormous joy to learn about the “invisible” stories of my peers and help them succeed. Just recently, I had the honor to be nominated by my class for the Leadership and the Engagement awards. While I am proud of my individual achievements, I am even more excited to see the variety of successes we can accomplish together as a cohort.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? After becoming the first woman in a leadership position in my last company’s history, I started building the first direct import program with Amazon Europe. This project was my baby during three years prior to the MBA – from the idea, to the strategy, and the final implementation and continuous growth. The project involved productions in 15+ factories, sourcing from 7 different countries, and distribution to 20+ Amazon warehouses all over Europe. I worked closely with the Amazon HQs in London and Luxembourg to pull this project off the ground and to pioneer a new way of product sourcing with them.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose ESADE because of the exceptional collaborative spirit, the academic excellence, and the contacts into many different industries. My primary goal for the MBA, besides the excellent education, was to form a strong network of smart individuals with the ambition to have a positive impact. When I first visited the campus, I met exactly the kind of people I wanted to study and thrive with.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? While ESADE has many outstanding professors, Ivanka Visnjic had a special impact on me. I loved her interactive and passionate way of teaching Innovation. She facilitated active discussions by leveraging the diversity of student backgrounds and led us to derive the right conclusions, creating many aha-moments. Moreover, her impressive professional background, her high academic standards, and her speed of mind made her a strong female role model for me. I especially appreciated her personal management consulting advice, since she is a former McKinseyite. Professor Visnjic is the kind of professor that inspires you to work hard, reach higher, and make a difference.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? While there were many unforgettable events where we celebrated the diversity of ESADE, such as Diwali, Thanksgiving, Gastrofest, the Christmas Gala, and Latin Carnival, my favorite routine was the coffee breaks between classes in our MBA cafeteria. The cafeteria is the place where our collaborative spirit is most visible – happy classmates making plans for weekend trips, working on group projects, hugging and laughing (pre-COVID), or joking around with the cafeteria staff.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If there was one thing I would change it would obviously be the pandemic, but I honestly would not alter anything else about my MBA journey. Rather I would love to do the MBA three times and always try a different route. There are countless opportunities you can explore at ESADE, but with the busy MBA schedule you barely find the time to attend all of the interesting guest speaker series, career trainings, and club events. Every MBA student knows the saying about the 3S’: study, socialize and sleep. These are your options during the MBA, however you only have time to do two of them – I chose to sacrifice sleep in the first half year of the program and I would do it again.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One of the biggest myths about business schools is that they are filled with elitist, competitive individuals. This is not the case at ESADE. Yes, we all have high ambitions, and yes, having the means to attend a top business school is an enormous privilege. At ESADE, I found the most supportive, most diverse and most open-minded group of inspiring people. There is a mutual understanding that we all benefit when our peers succeed. Hence, like other classmates, I tutored fellow students before exams and shared my class summaries with the whole cohort many times.

What surprised you the most about your business school? I was positively surprised to see that the focus on sustainability and ethics was not just marketing talk. Almost every class had references to ESG principles and professors emphasized the importance of these factors for long-term business success in order to form students into responsible, thoughtful leaders.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I spoke to many current and former students, as well as ESADE staff. After I was done with my research, I was able to build a solid case around why I wanted to go to ESADE and why it would be a mutual fit. That’s because I simply felt that it was the truth. The award-winning admissions team at ESADE does an excellent job and is very well known for putting great emphasis on personality and emotional intelligence.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Lauren Holmes. Coming from a background in teaching and non-profits, Lauren pursued her MBA in order to understand the world from a commercial perspective to explore how businesses can have a positive social and environmental impact. Not only do I admire her motivation, she also is one of the most caring and collaborative people in our class, who always thinks of herself last and puts the community first. Over the last year Lauren taught me about mindfulness and has inspired many in our class to look out for each other. It is people like Lauren who made our MBA a remarkable experience and who will make the world a better place.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? While ESADE did an amazing job of transferring all in-person classes to the virtual environment within two weeks’ time, it was still extremely sad not to see your peers face-to-face anymore. The lockdown in Spain was very harsh from March to May 2020. People were only allowed to leave their houses to work out during specific times of the day and to shop groceries. Since about 95% of our class is international students, many left during that period and some have never come back to Barcelona. However, despite the physical distance and many struggles in these difficult times, we managed to stay in touch and remained closely connected as a cohort.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My uncle. Jens was the first in my family to study – I was the second. At family gatherings, I loved Jens’ anecdotes about his business trips. I was fascinated by the things he had seen of the world and the impact he had on others in his role as board member of a large German multinational. By reaching high himself, he enabled and inspired me to do the same. Since I can remember, he has always been a wonderful mentor and advisor.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My first consulting case for a nonprofit and launching my own education start-up.

What made Sarah Schilling such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Sarah understood from the very beginning what the Esade MBA could do for her and, with her perfect mix of hard and soft skills, she made the most of it. She is the kind of person that gives the best of her in everything she does; very committed to the MBA student body, she decided to join the MBA Student Association Board. She was also member of several MBA Student Association Clubs, which helped her to expand her network, and to help others expand theirs as well.

Apart from that, she also enrolled in the Career Acceleration Programme (CAP) in Consulting and took advantage to learn and network from all invited speakers. An example of her professional attitude during the MBA was that she always prepared in advance, having meaningful questions ready at the end of the session, something that created a very positive impact on lecturers and an image of thought leadership on her peers. As she became an expert, she was invited to be a CAP Consulting Coach, where she could then help her first-year peers understand the sector and the mechanics of case-cracking.

She has had a clear career goal focused on Strategic Consultancy; after receiving several offers from top strategy consultancies she decided to pursue an internship with Bain & Company – which always had been her dream job. As a result of her outstanding performance during her internship, Bain clearly saw what an amazing asset Sarah was and extended a full-time job offer in the very early stages of her MBA, something rather extraordinary.

Sarah has also been an Admissions Fellow, being in contact with prospective candidates. On the other hand, during the COVID impact on the student life, she pro-actively looked for solutions and suggestions, being often the intermediary between the student body and the academic department, to find ways to manage this complicated situation while building up a dialogue and finding solutions to whichever topics might there be. All in all, Sarah is a strong inspirational woman as well as an amazing MBA Candidate who is not only a role model on how to manage critical situations with elegance, professionalism, and positive attitude, but the living example of what Esade MBA collaborative spirit means.”

Jan Hohberger
Associate Dean, Full-Time MBA at Esade




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