2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Andrea Derman, IE Business School

Andrea Derman

IE Business School

“Driven first-generation low-income student, from a family of four women. Comfortable leading in uncomfortable situations.”

Hometown: Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Fun fact about yourself: Since I was 18, I never had less than three different active jobs/projects at the same time.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Faculty of Economics, University of Banja Luka – Business Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?

Official paid role that ended six months before the MBA:

  • Company: MELTWATER (SaaS – Software as a Service, BI – Business Intelligence, $500MN) – SaaS/BI catering to Social Media, Communications and Marketing departments worldwide, including Fortune 500, governmental, and non-profit entities
  • Role: Senior Manager – Client Experience & Self-Serve Department (Middle East, India & Russia)

6 months prior to MBA started:

  • Company: Women in Tech Global Movement (remote, volunteering, women-in-tech.org)
  • Role: Global Expansion & Experience Director

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I quit my job in Dubai and took on remote volunteering Global Expansion Director role for Women in Tech.

Where will you be working after graduation? Targeting MBB Tech Consulting Roles while developing own EdTech start-up focused on Balkan market

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • IE Excellence Award Recipient
  • Elected MBA Section Chief – In charge of organizing activities to promote Diversity & Inclusion amongst students and participation in Cross-Sectional events
  • Initiator and coordinator of IE “Candidate Journey redesign” project with IE Talent & Careers office employees (six people) and Student Leadership (seven people)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Coordinated eight volunteers (US, UK, Spain, USA, India) and launched new Chapters for Women in Tech- Global Movement organization (Malaysia, Nigeria, Mexico, Germany & Ukraine-process interrupted) – This showed me that my passion for growing the community to address inequalities in Tech industry was strong enough to make me not slow down my involvement, despite studying full-time MBA program.

Recruited and trained 3 volunteers for Women in Tech organization from MBA-partners club to help those women have continuity in their careers and stay attractive on the job market (wives that quit their jobs to follow husbands to MBA).

What  has been your most important professional achievement?

Speaker on Importance of Youth Activism, Climate Action UNDP program Bosnia & Herzegovina (January 2021) & CX Module speaker at Molson Coors Business Academy Bosnia & Herzegovina (December 2020): These speaking opportunities were proof that my experience is valuable and they allowed me to show Bosnian youth that it is possible to build an international career and to, hopefully, inspire them to do the same. I am especially proud of this because I am coming from bottom of Bosnian society, from an uneducated family, and many of the participants now have more means to succeed than I had. Also, I am the oldest daughter of three, in a family in which we have only a mother. This was the first time I was making myself visible in our community and the first time appearing in our language, and so my sisters and our mother could follow the event. It was my great achievement to make my mother proud of me.

My promotion from Sales Account Manger to Head of Delivery (Client Operations) which is semi-technical role. When I was recruited to Meltwater, SaaS company, I had broken English. I learned to speak English just three years before arriving in Dubai and getting the job. In addition, until that time, I had not owned a computer, which, needless to say, meant that I was less accustomed to understanding software. I was mocked at the beginning for not knowing how to clean the “search history”, yet my KPI was software sales. Eventually, thanks to extra hours put into working and learning, I managed to become Global-to-10 Sales person. More importantly, I became very adept at understanding software and simplifying it to customers (I was learning it myself at the same time – we spoke the same language.) The company made an unprecedented decision to transition me from sales (being among the best sales people in the office) with a promotion to lead four teams in Client Delivery department (Customer Support, Onboarding, Reporting, Internships) and to set the standard on how to train and deal with customers. The fact that I had not owned a computer for much of my life actually became my advantage. In an undeveloped market such as the Middle East, I was able to speak with the customers in a language that they could understand.

Why did you choose this business school? IE breathes entrepreneurship! I had three failed start-ups in Bosnia. While attempting to break out of poverty, I went with two friends on an adventure of trying to make money through local start-up ventures. All three failed within the first year or two. At the time, it seemed hopeless and that we had put what little of our hard-saved money we had from student jobs into a failure. Later, though, I have come to realize that those learned entrepreneurial skills are what made me succeed outside of Bosnia, hence those small, lost budgets turned out to have the highest ROI in my life. I never want to lose that spirit, and IE is the school that knows how to nurture and develop entrepreneurs.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? It was the mindfulness sessions that created a space for us to learn how to look inside ourselves and helped us develop a calm space for self-time. I never expected to see these types of initiatives at business school. It has truly made me enjoy my experience more to know that the is focused on fostering leaders who are mindful about driving change.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I were to do it all again, I would engage in more events from the Arts & Humanities department. An MBA experience is laced with constant job hunting and networking and so it is easy – but not advisable – to neglect the events that help us see different perspectives in life such as the arts and humanities, and to see the beauty that is beyond the obvious.

What surprised you the most about business school? I have been surprised by how approachable the IE Business School staffers are. I did not expect that students would have so much support and that our complaints and suggestions would not only be listened to but would be an asset. We have been empowered to participate in the shaping of the MBA experience for ourselves and for future students. I feel we are truly part of the IE community and valued as that part.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I did not base my application solely on professional achievements, but made sure to showcase the journey that brought me to apply for the MBA program. If I compared myself to the candidates coming from “better” undergraduate universities or wealthier countries, I might not have been as noticeable. But, considering where I started and my being a breadwinner for my family, whom I still support today, the distance travelled is significant.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?  Masashiro Igarashi, from Japan. “Masa” is shy to speak in English and it is hard for him to understand different English accents. He studies and prepares three times harder than the rest of us. That way, we can follow different professors in class and to help himself create a strong context so that he can understand better when professors speak quickly. He reads out the class material every night. He writes his summaries in Japanese, where he knows he is a master of being clear and concise. Afterwards, Masa uses Google translate to help him translate the thoughts and then forms his notes again in English.

In class, it takes a lot of courage for Masa to raise his hand, and often the more extroverted students will just speak up and quickly convey the thoughts that took Masa hours to prepare. Coming from a very respectful culture, he doesn’t repeat what is already said in class because he wants to only bring added value. In the beginning, he felt that his work was for nothing (I know this feeling!) and that he didn’t participate enough. But Masa soon developed a methodology where he writes a few versions and aspects of the same thought, so if one is used by a fellow student before he has a chance to do so, he has a way to still express agreement with the student who spoke up and still add value. His efforts, adaptability, and commitment inspire me and he has made me re-think how I approach my classwork and the way we evaluate people.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? That would be my friend Slaven Stekovic, who did an MBA in Cambridge in 2019. When I decided to visit Slaven for a week during his MBA, I thought I was just going to attend a series of parties with international people. But, when I started talking with the people of his intake, I soon understood that the awareness and outlook that these students had on the world were special — and not something I would find in my typical day. They were discussing upcoming technologies. They all had an opinion on which social and environmental factors to consider when investing or working with a company. I felt that, even though I was volunteering in Dubai to support disadvantaged workers and focused on self-development through books and online courses, I was missing something important. I was missing what comes from being challenged to see a different view, to take an action that will create true impact. I told Slaven that I thought me having an MBA experience was just a dream because of lack of money and I wanted to keep supporting my family. Slaven became my first challenger. He helped me see money in a different way and removed my fears by saying: “You are just scared you will be poor again if you spend your savings and take a loan. Fear of being poor once gave you wings, don’t let that same fear cut them now.” From that day, I dedicated myself to creating a plan for attending an MBA program and not even a pandemic altered my path.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Use my network to bring investments to fund female-led Tech startups in Bosnia – Bosnia has low salaries and this makes the market attractive for investment companies. My plan is to help develop the community I came from, a community I believe has a lot of potential and hidden talents.
  1. Open a Women in Tech Chapter in every country in the world to accomplish our goal of empowering 10milion women and children by 2030.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? When the pandemic hit, I realized that (1) a majority of jobs can be done from home and (2) a majority of people that lost their jobs managed to land on their feet and start something new. So why are we all so married to the idea of the corner office job? I decided that there are more important things to explore in life, and so I quit my job, took on a volunteering role for Women in Tech as a Director of expansion, and started travelling around the world while working remotely for six months (I visited Ukraine, Russia, Ghana, Tanzania, Morocco, and Lebanon — 10 European and nine LATAM countries). Now, I see a career as something fluid. Not that there is more opportunity to work from home. However, that place where we spend time is no longer dictated by the employer only – and KPIs don’t have to be strictly financial. We want to experience mindfulness and impact. Long ago, a career stopped being about settling into one company or choosing one path. When the pandemic came and brought all the digitalization and disruption, this idea of experiencing a variety of careers paths was pushed even further. What’s to come looks exciting.

What made Andrea such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Andrea is an outstanding and exceptional student. In the classroom and in our Career conversations, I was struck by her leadership skills. I was impressed to learn that she is still leading a team across different time zones as a Director for Women in Tech, while in the IMBA. Furthermore, she has risen to the challenge of taking up a leadership position among her peers, as Class Chief, and she is already driving impact in the IE Community.

Recently, Andrea approached me with an initiative for the Talent & Careers department: she wanted to reimagine the IMBA Student Journey for her peers. Because of IE´s focus on entrepreneurship and sustainability, students consistently come to us to explore more meaningful careers and build international networks. Andrea gathered feedback from classmates who were struggling with their Career goals post-MBA and not only shared it, but proactively proposed Talent & Careers to co-create a more streamlined Student Journey to help these students. She strives to map the job market demands on students throughout the program, and help them prioritize their time in the IMBA accordingly.

We really appreciate her commitment to our department’s mission and it will be a pleasure working with such an engaged and active student.”

Teresa Callejo, IMBA Career Advisor
IE Business School


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