2021 MBAs To Watch: María Carnal Fusté, IESE Business School

María Carnal Fusté

IESE Business School

“Committed, energetic and passionate professional and a kind, helpful and empathic person.”

Hometown: Barcelona, Spain

Fun fact about yourself: I have always wanted to be a Formula One engineer, and I also love to design and sew my own clothes. Yes, these may seem two completely opposite interests, but they could not define me in a more accurate way. I love technical and analytical challenges but at the same time, I am also extremely creative. While I was studying engineering, I took extracurricular courses on design, pattern and sewing. I would love to launch my own clothing line someday!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Royal Institute of Technology, KTH – Double Master Energy for Smart Cities: M. Engineering Energy Innovation

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, KU Leuven – Double Master Energy for Smart Cities: M. Engineering Energy

Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, ETSEIB UPC – Bachelor of Science General Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Naturgy Energy Group – Project Leader in Energy Transition.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020?

Infosys Technologies – London, UK

Ship2B – Barcelona, Spain

Where will you be working after graduation? Oliver Wyman – Consultant.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Presented the Operations Strategy project at the IESE Excellence for Operations initiative meetup
  • First-Year Director, Energy Club
  • Mentor, Consulting Club
  • Mentor, Women in Business Club
  • Forté Fellow, Forté Foundation

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Last year, I was selected to present the final project of the Operations Strategy course – which was on the impact of Covid-19 on the supply chain across industries – in front of 50+ C-level executives through the IESE Excellence for Operations initiative. I felt extremely excited for the opportunity to give life to an academic project where the whole team had put in a great deal of effort. It was a great experience getting to understand how the pandemic has affected different sectors and what the real challenges managers were facing in their day-to-day business. I also got to share the best practices we had detected regarding the ways global supply chains need to change to become more resilient to these kind of shocks in the future. After the presentation, I also had the chance to share my thoughts with some executives, build a common framework to help companies respond to the pandemic and drive conclusions on the journey. It was an incomparable learning experience.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Amidst the pandemic, it was more challenging to find an internship which matched my expectations and interests. Thanks to persistent networking activity, I managed to find an amazing opportunity at Ship2B, an impact investing fund and accelerator, which had not previously hired any MBA.

I am particularly proud of having worked on an amazing project, with extremely energetic professionals, and to have contributed to Ship2B’s mission of boosting the impact economy.

Throughout my internship I was involved in collaboration projects to drive innovation opportunities within big multinational companies such as Nestle by connecting them with startups in the sector. The collaboration helped the big corporation integrate impact in their value chain, transforming processes to become more environmentally and socially friendly and supporting their evolution to a more conscious-focus mindset. Furthermore, I also had the chance to participate in a mentoring journey for social startups where I was able to apply the concepts, I have learnt throughout the MBA in real business models to help them become more economically sustainable.

My experience at Ship2B helped me further realize that making a positive impact in society is what drives me. I felt fulfilled by the opportunity to be a driving force for change and I look forward to continuing to have impact in my future career.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose IESE for their strong academic record, the case methodology approach, and their values (to which I feel deeply connected). Nonetheless, one of the main reasons why I chose this school is the international mix of its students. I believe that having such varied backgrounds and cultural diversity enables each one of us to open our mindset. From each disagreement, nurtured by the different perspective each culture has on life, one can derive a great learning experience. I remember they once asked us how many continents there are in the world. Such an apparently simple question ended up having four different answers depending on whom you were asking. That astonished me!

Due to globalization, I believe it is highly probable that we will be conducting business with different people from all over the globe. To be able to succeed in such a global environment, we need to be ready to look through the lenses of the person who is sitting in front of us and understand how they approach a certain problem. It is not only a matter of knowing business concepts anymore, but of understanding other cultural biases, motivations and ways of doing.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Eduardo Calvo because of his enthusiasm, his ability to engage students, and his attachment to values. First, even though his course was a bit technical sometimes, he has the ability to make complex concepts easy. This year, he taught the course through an online setting due to lockdown restrictions, but he made it feel like we were in the classroom. Second, he transmits enthusiasm and passion when teaching, engaging students and getting the most out of them. He is at the same time professional and approachable, a hard-to-find balance. Finally, in my opinion, his last class was the best last class I had at IESE. In that class, he shared with us three main topics which ought to make us reflect once we set foot again in the real business world: 10 commandments, 7 deadly sins and 3 questions. This made the class step out of the technicalities and academics and think broadly about life. It made us think about who we want to be and, at the end, how will we measure it.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? There are many traditions I enjoy at IESE. If I had to choose one it would be the “Breakfast with the Dean” initiative. I participated in this initiative last November with our Dean, Franz Heuzkamp. During the breakfast, I better understood what challenges schools are facing in the current pandemic and I learned about how our Dean envisions the future of learning and how a top MBA school is preparing for this imminent future. We also had a chance to express how we have experienced the pandemic as students, what have been our major concerns, and what we think could be valuable to include and consider to maximize the experience for our predecessors. I believe it is an invaluable experience, which brings the top management of the school closer to students. I believe the openness, proximity, and personal care IESE puts in their students is one of the outstanding qualities of this great school.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? After my internship experience at an Impact fund, I find the possibility of detecting high potential ideas and providing strategic expertise to drive growth extremely interesting. Therefore, looking back to my MBA, I would have loved to participate in the VCIC competition of my school. In this competition, students play the role of investors, and real startups pitch to them. After that, they pitch an investment proposal in front of a strong committee of judges who evaluate the proposals and choose a winner. I feel participating in this competition would have been a great opportunity to get in touch with disruptive ideas and get to know passionate entrepreneurs. At the same time, it would have been a wonderful occasion to get the real experience of an investor´s job and network with different funds. I believe I would have enjoyed it very much!

What is the biggest myth about your school? I believe a big myth of IESE is that it is focused on the Spanish market. While it is only natural that there are many opportunities in this market through IESE, I have found this is not the case. IESE´s career services have strong contacts not only in Europe but also in LATAM and Asia. On top of that, IESE´s network goes beyond countries and reaching out to alumni is a great way to find the opportunity one is looking for. As I see it, this is the power of being part of such a strong and close community. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will always have a colleague who will be happy to help you.

What surprised you the most about business school? It was only the beginning of the MBA when it hit me; the magic of an MBA resides in the classmates you share it with. Everyone has had different experiences and the possibility of listening to their perspective and learning about them while solving a business problem was deeply enriching. That is what surprised me the most about business school. I learned to be able to learn from other’s successes and failures to become a better and more effective leader in the future.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I believe what gave me an edge at IESE was the multiple touchpoints I have had even before the application process.

First, I was selected to participate in the Young Talent Path program of IESE, a one-week program where potential candidates get the experience of the case method and the atmosphere of an MBA just after their undergrad studies. Having such a good time and learning experience pushed me to look for a similar one at a later stage in my career by applying to the MBA. Second, during my application process, I had close contact with MBA alumni who were happy to share with me how doing an MBA helped them shift their careers and made them grow both personally and professionally. Finally, and even if it may sound obvious, during the application process I didn’t try to be anyone else but myself. I am a firm believer that choosing a school is a two-way process; they choose you because of who you are, and you choose them because the values and life at the school represent you. Feeling connected to the school is of outmost importance and if you feel it, you cannot go wrong.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have a great admiration towards my teammate and friend Michael Gross. He comes from a very untraditional background, as he was a professional dancer before the MBA. He has dedicated a lot of effort to keep up with the most technical and difficult concepts of the MBA. He has been an example of perseverance and hard work for all the team. On top of that, he has also pursued his goal of changing careers towards tech and he has taken extracurricular courses on coding and account management, which enabled him to become the CMO of an AI-powered HR Tech company while finishing his MBA. Mike is a source of inspiration and motivation and the very life example that with perseverance and passion one can accomplish anything.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? During the lockdown, the change to online classes was quite disruptive. It was a new setting for everyone from students to professors and each of us had to put in effort to adapt to the new reality. However, I believe IESE made an impressive effort to make the experience as close to the usual one given the circumstances. In just one day, professors had cameras and boards installed at their homes to provide students with a similar experience and as soon as the lockdown was relieved (in June 2020), IESE had taken all the necessary measures to be able to continue with on-campus classes. With that, I am not saying it was not challenging and also difficult for us students who are pursuing a Master with a significant social component. However, I believe that the Covid-19 is a situation that has affected everyone’s life and there is no perfect timing for it. We just have to get the most out of it, whatever the situation.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Both my parents had attended business school and at home following that path seemed somehow a natural step. However, when I think about who really influenced me to take that decision I think about my mentor, a female director in a big energy corporation. Throughout my sessions with her she has always pushed me to be bold. She used to say, “You know a man would do this without giving it a second thought, but we woman we overthink it too much and sometimes are afraid of stepping up, if a man would do it, why shouldn’t we?” It was this perspective, my admiration towards a person who has arrived so far in a sector mainly dominated by males and the feeling of empowerment that she made me realize I had inside me, which really made me pursue an MBA.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I attended a speech from Fuencisla Clemares (the CEO of Google Spain and Portugal and an IESE MBA alum) at the “The day-to-day of a CEO” course at IESE. She pointed out, “in your early career, choose a job that enables you to learn”. This reinforced my belief that one of the most important things in life is this, to learn. At the beginning of your career, you learn concepts, working styles, and how do companies work.  However,. I believe that this learning process doesn’t end but rather changes.  You learn from the decisions you took to arrive where you are and you learn from those who surround you, being colleagues, clients or even your children. This is one of the top items of my professional bucket list, have a career or a job that enables me to learn every day.

The second item I wish to accomplish in my career is to have positive impact. I would like to be the force of change and to work to improve society. I wish that with my work and actions I can contribute to leaving a better place for the next generation.

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

“What made Maria an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021 is the passion she puts in every task, her resilience and determination in pursuing new projects and her spirit of service to others.

Throughout our mentoring sessions, I got to know Maria both as a person and as professional. Maria is an energetic person who actively engages in different activities and is an enthusiastic member of the IESE community. Her passion is contagious, and she motivates and integrates those who are around her. She has a hunger for learning and has proactively maximized the number of courses she has taken while maintaining the same level of excellence in her studies. Furthermore, she managed to balance an online exchange at UC Berkeley with some courses at IESE, making the most out of the current situation.

She is extremely resilient and fights for what she believes and to achieve her self-set and demanding goals. During the pandemic, she was able to get two internships, one of them in a company where they did not previously hire MBAs. This is a clear example of her ability to step outside the box and pursue what she feels would complement her skills and provide her with a broader vision.

Finally, Maria brings to practice the IESE spirit of service. She gives herself to others not only in a professional way such as mentoring first’s years or MIM students, but also by making herself available when a classmate seeks support. She represents IESE’s values really well.

After the MBA, I believe Maria will continue to contribute to IESE and will follow the steps of her father, who is also an alumnus of the school.”

Jordi Canals
Professor in Strategic Management and Economics



Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.