2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Katharina Klohe, IESE Business School

Katharina Klohe

IESE Business School

“Endlessly curious, I love to learn alongside a great team, with a focus on impact.”

Hometown: Darmstadt, Germany

Fun fact about yourself: I dance tango and am obsessed with Argentina (without ever having been to the country!)

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • BSc (Hons) Psychology, Bath University, UK
  • MA International Studies & Diplomacy, SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), London, UK
  • MSc International Health Policy, LSE (London School of Economics), London UK

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Programme Manager, Global Schistosomiasis Alliance, Munich & London and Managing Director, Center for Global Health, Technical University of Munich, Germany

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Arabesque – a sustainability fintech firm in London, UK. I was their first MBA intern working in the sustainable asset management team

Where will you be working after graduation? Coming back to the second year of the MBA, I totally changed my original post-MBA plans. Instead of staying in Europe and going back to Germany specifically, I realized that I really wanted to move to Mexico. Due to the unstructured nature of impact investing and sustainable finance recruiting, I am currently building my network in Mexico and am excited to find out who I will end up working with.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Director of Sustainable Finance in the Finance Club (2020-2022)
  • First Year Director Responsible Business Club (2020-2021)
  • Director of the IESE Impact Fund (2020-2021)
  • Co-President of the IESE Impact Fund (2021-2022)
  • Forté Fellowship

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I have to mention one professional and one extracurricular achievement, both of which fill me with a lot of happiness and pride.

In my capacity as co-president of the IESE Impact Fund, I initiated the idea of a sponsorship / partnership with an impact investing player for our annual Impact Investing Competition. Myself and the team pursued this and secured a 5-year partnership with a prestigious Spanish fund for a significant amount of money. This allows us to equip future leadership teams with financial continuity and expert support.

During our first year, due to many COVID restrictions and the inability to spend time together as the entire cohort, a great group of fellow students organized what we called “La Liga” – a soccer tournament for all the different sections. I played for my section, and despite never having played soccer before, scored a goal at a crucial moment during a very tight and important game. The goal boosted our confidence to the extent that we not only ended up winning the game, but became eventual “La Liga Champions”.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Having just managed the first step in pivoting my career and entering the field of sustainable finance, I am very proud of having developed and executed a very successful engagement strategy for my summer internship employer, Arabesque.

The goal was to develop a strategy that was aligned with the values and requirements of such a tech-oriented organization. I developed an engagement strategy looking at disclosure and reporting shortcomings with regards to CO2 emissions amongst publicly-listed companies. The strategy was conceptualized in such a way that it would be a collaborative campaign via the PRI (Principles of Responsible Investing) platform. In the end, $750bn AUM signed the campaign. With such power in numbers, Arabesque has a real chance to convince the targeted companies to adjust their sustainability reporting and thereby drive the sustainability efforts forward.

Why did you choose this business school? IESE was my top choice from the moment I decided to go to business school. My priority was a European business school with a two-year programme that reflected my desire to use business to “do good”. IESE’s spirit of service — the school’s actual focus on having an impact and “leaving a mark” — really resonated with me. This approach to business and teaching was reflected by the people I met throughout my interactions with the school. Scoring higher on the risk-averse side of the spectrum, I applied to five business schools, yet the moment I visited the school and met its students I had no doubt that that was the place I wanted to end. Being keen on languages, I also saw the opportunity to improve my Spanish over the course of the two years, something that is very much encouraged and supported by IESE with its Business Spanish classes.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I tend to approach life with the attitude not to regret decisions that I make, as there would have been good reasons for those choices at the time of making them. Having said that, I do try to learn from past behaviors. If I were to start my whole MBA experience again, I would tell my first year self to not say “yes” to everything!

I am very curious and enjoy exposure to different opportunities and very naturally wanted to be involved in all the different challenges IESE provides (Hult Prize, Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge, Clubs, Football; Wine Tastings, you name it…). At the same time, I really did care about academics and wanted to find an attractive internship; needless to say, juggling all of this was rather challenging. It is better to do a smaller number of things really well than spreading yourself too thin. Taking baby steps, as we speak, it is a lesson I am still learning to apply in second year.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The case method. I found it really does make a difference to your learning experience.

Going into the MBA, I did not know what to expect with regards to this particular teaching method. After having read hundreds of cases over the course of the MBA, I appreciate the depth of understanding from a “learning by doing” and participatory approach. Being exposed to real world problems of companies across all industries and having to do the problem solving yourself — followed by lively discussions with your classmates — allows you to engage much more intensely with the material. You gain invaluable insights from your fellow students and learn from their experiences and perspectives. It is hard work to prepare up to 15 classes a week, but I certainly remember the problems and strategies to solving them far more vividly than I would remember a lecture. Imagine a conductor taking an orchestra through a piece of music; this is what it often feels like sitting in a classroom. The professors’ abilities to guide us through the cases have never ceased to amaze me.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose?  It is very hard to say, I never asked the admissions team about it. However, showing your genuine interest in the school is certainly important – for both parties involved. Prior to my application, I continuously engaged with the school, attended events at the Munich Campus (pre-COVID) and was always prepared with questions for the particular person I was talking to. This approach allows you to determine whether the school is the right fit for you as well as you demonstrate to the school that you are serious about your application. It was also very useful to attend the Open Day, during which I actively participated in the case method session they invited us to as well enjoying the opportunity to join the Women in Business Club members. I found it invaluable to take the school up on the opportunities they offer throughout the application process and actively engage with staff members and students.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I am humbled by so many fellow students, their intellect, experiences, and drive. However, there is one particular person who really deserves to be named here, it would be my housemate Keara Cornell. We met at the Open Day and there was immediate chemistry so that we decided to live together (together with our other fabulous housemate Cherie Bong). While clearly a very smart and funny woman, I admire Keara for the clarity with which she makes her decisions and how she prioritizes her well-being. Keara is very disciplined and efficient, but always makes time to listen to you and support you. She does so by helping you explore different perspectives and questions your thought processes to allow you to arrive at your solution by yourself (rather than telling you what she thinks is best). Keara is very dedicated to her work yet is a strong promoter of paying attention to all the things beyond cases and job search that are important contributors to your MBA experience. For example, living in Barcelona, we are blessed with cultural opportunities as well as nature to explore. Having been reminded of this by Keara I would encourage every MBA student to make such things part of your holistic MBA journey.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I have been very blessed to have someone I consider my mentor for many important life decisions. She is a partner at BCG in Germany and I admire her for how she is managing a very successful career, raising two beautiful children and makes time for anyone who requires her help. At the time, I was working in Global Health in the not-for-profit sector. While I had heard of an MBA before, it wasn’t on my radar as a possible route to take. Throughout conversations with my mentor and her husband, we explored the idea and benefit of doing an MBA and they really opened my eyes to how the MBA could be helpful for me without the more classic consulting and engineering background in order to pivot my career and open new opportunities.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Coming from a stable economic powerhouse like Germany, I would really like to work in an emerging economy, ideally in Latin America. I believe this would be an enriching experience, allowing me to gain new perspectives on challenges we face and how to address them. Living and working in a region in which impact investing is only just starting to take off, I would look forward to growing alongside it, being able to take away valuable lessons, which, in turn, would impact upon how to manage an impact fund successfully.

This takes me to my second item, which would be to ultimately manage an impact fund myself. Doing so would force me to have accountability to my shareholders and team, ensuring that what we do truly positively contributes to our society and planet.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? In a way, I feel blessed, having done my MBA over the last two years during large parts of the pandemic. Despite restrictions, I have still been able to meet new people and explore a new country. Having said that, it also invited a series of conversations, observations, and reflections on how I want to work and how I see a career progress or stall as a result of the pandemic.

Remote work is not about sitting on a beach in Bali with your laptop; this kind of remote working has thrown into sharp relief that, on average, the load between working parents is not evenly split. While working remotely gives parents a lot of flexibility, it also clearly highlights the discrepancies in responsibilities. It is most often working mothers who still tend to do take on the majority of tasks around the house, while secondary caregivers (usually the fathers) focus more heavily on their careers. According to the OECD, 61.5% of mothers of children under 12 reported to be taking on the majority of extra care work, and at the same time, it was these women that were also most likely to become unemployed towards the end of 2020. Given these observations, it is important to use the increased flexibility we see in the nature of the workplace and the trust companies have had to learn to develop towards their employees in such a way that all can benefit from these changes and can benefit equally.

A positive effect of the pandemic I did notice was that I was able to see my colleagues in a different light – people have become more compassionate as a result of seeing colleagues in their homes, interacting with their children, making their private lives more of a natural part of their professional lives. Maybe the pandemic has allowed us to blur this line in the positive sense – instead of only bringing work into our personal lives, we become more comfortable bringing the personal space to the professional.

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

“Katharina has always surprised me with her motivation and dedication towards her goal of making an impact in society. With a bright mind, hard work and lot of passion, she has been able to move from a Health Consulting background to Sustainable Finance. Besides being an example as a student and as a professional, she is an example of humility, responsibility, and teamwork. She has taken the leadership of the IESE For Impact Community Fund (IFIC), and in a short time she has been able to relaunch it with a new structure and a new focus. She has never stopped helping and mentoring her classmates interested in Sustainability and Impact Investing and she is the responsible for IESE being able to participate again in international competitions such as Turner MIINT. It is gratifying to have students like Katharina who live IESE’s values ​​to the fullest and who will surely continue to be a great leader in her professional career and in her personal life.”

Marcela Girón
Associate Director
Career Development Center, Financial Services

“I have had the opportunity to appreciate Katharina’s skills and abilities as a student as well as part of the IESE Impact Fund (the IESE student-run Impact Investment Fund). This MBA class requires students to engage with the emerging responsible investment industry from a finance, strategy, and policy angle. Her generous comments in class discussions showed her solid understanding of the different perspectives and ability to bridge them. She would always offer creative and analytical insights and express them clearly and persuasively. Not surprisingly, she was the best student in the class. Her work as Co-President of the IESE Impact Fund was even more impressive. This initiative requires much work as students need to deal with all the organizational, governance, strategic and operational challenges of running an Impact Investing Fund. The fund is still in a start-up mode, and Katharina and her team enthusiastically led the fund this year, solved some critical problems, introduced novel ways of fundraising, and revived the deal pipeline. Her stewardship of this fund will help many future students to get experience in impact investing during their MBA.”

Professor Fabrizio Ferraro
Professor and Chair of the Strategic Management Department & Academic Director of the Strategic Leadership Initiative




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