2022 MBA To Watch: Cassian Stanjek, IESE Business School

Cassian Stanjek

IESE Business School

“Cheerful, inspiring, and motivating olive oil enthusiast with a passion for sun, food, and travel.”

Hometown: I am from a small village close to the Franconian winelands, which offer numerous opportunities for great wine tastings (Schweinfurt, Germany).

Fun fact about yourself: Having been a top athlete in rowing, it was always one of my biggest dreams to participate in the Olympic Games. As I did not have the opportunity to do so during my professional career, I searched for creative ways to be able to sneak myself into the Olympics and made my dream come true at the games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. I was a volunteer driving a motorboat for two weeks on the lagoon during the rowing events – probably the best job you can have during the Olympic Games.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Engineering in Mechatronics from Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg (Germany), and Double Degree with First Class Honors from The Open University (UK) including international exchanges to Chile, Mexico, and China.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was a Senior Consultant at Porsche Consulting, working on international projects mainly within the Automotive and Aerospace Industry. In parallel, I founded “Just Olives”, a social start-up for Italian premium olive oil that supports local Tuscan olive farmers to sell their excellent olive oil in a market inaccessible to them.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I joined IESE’s Summer Entrepreneurship Experience program, and used the summer months to work on my own project to found Vitana, a health-tech start-up for all the vitamins, supplements, and superfoods your body really needs.

Where will you be working after graduation? Manager at Porsche Consulting, and CEO of Just Olives.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Vice President for Founders Development, IESE Startup & Entrepreneurship Club
  • Vice President for Finances and Languages, IESE DACH Business Club
  • Exchange student at MIT Sloan and Harvard Business School
  • IESE Start-up Experience and Barcelona Technology Transfer Group projects
  • IESE Trust Scholarship
  • Hult Prize 2020 participant

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? From an academic perspective, I am very proud to have been ranked as one of the best students at IESE in spring 2021. This allowed me to also study at both MIT Sloan and Harvard Business School, as the only exchange student selected from IESE during the exchange term. I am very grateful for this experience at two of the best business schools in the world, and for the opportunity to engage in their entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Besides this, I am also very proud of all the impacts I have had on fellow students during my time both at IESE and during my exchange. These range from little things like my motivational greetings in the mornings, which have been appreciated by many of my fellow students, to changing people’s career aspirations after long coaching conversations and encouraging others’ entrepreneurial endeavors.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of Just Olives, a social start-up for premium Italian olive oil which I founded, together with my two business partners, while working full-time as a consultant in Asia. In this role, we have been able to work with three extremely passionate and dedicated farmers who produce exceptional olive oil but who, through lack of knowledge and education, did not previously have access to international markets. Because of this lack of access, they struggled to pay their bills and generate enough income to support their families, as the big olive oil industry prices are otherwise so low that a sustainable production at high quality is impossible. Seeing this dilemma, we decided that we must act and help them.

Founding a start-up while being fully committed to an intense job was not easy. I spent many long nights and weekends setting up our homepage, negotiating with food authorities, as well as advertising and marketing the olive oil. But the payoff has been worth it. Today, we sell their olive oil not only in Germany and Austria, but also in Spain, the UK, and Ireland, and have Michelin-star chefs among our clients. This has enabled us to pass on all our profits to our farmers, helping them to build a sustainable olive oil business they can be proud of. Now that a market has been established for the farmers, we are encouraging them in their endeavors to make and sell additional products like soap and tea, created from the by-products of the oil production. Seeing their smiles on their faces makes me happy every time, and shows me that we are on the right track with our start-up.

Why did you choose this business school? I always wanted to do my MBA after completing my bachelor’s degree, either in the US or at one of the two big MBA schools in Barcelona, but I postponed my return to university due to a very well progressing career. Then COVID-19 happened. With the prospect of working from home for the next months and possibly years, I quickly decided in spring 2020 that it was the right time to pursue my MBA dream. As there was no way to consider schools in the US due to the travel restrictions, I dedicated all my focus to applying to top schools in Europe.

IESE convinced me through their dedication to always strive for excellence while still keeping people at the center of everything they do. This professionalism combined with a personal touch was visible during each step of my application process, in which they even arranged a campus visit for me in the midst of the pandemic. During this visit, I was impressed by how professionally IESE had set up their COVID protocols, how perfectly located and maintained the campus was, and by how IESE’s values and commitments influenced campus life.

Besides this, the admissions officer devoted several hours for my visit and even showed me the best-kept secrets of the campus. This people-centric approach is also present during all class interactions, which are based on embarking on a common learning journey where everybody learns from each other. Today, I could not be happier with my decision, and every day I am grateful for this amazing opportunity.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? IESE has many excellent professors. However, Professor Marc Sachon had the biggest impact on me during my learning journey at IESE. Marc teaches Operations Strategy. Thanks to his tremendous energy and passion, he created an extremely dynamic learning environment in class, engaging all of us to participate and benefit from the experience and knowledge of their fellow students. The way that he both educated and entertained my class during his sessions was outstanding and very impressive; it facilitated a high-quality learning experience for us all. Also outside of class, Marc always had an open door for me, challenging my thinking and enriching my thought process with new ideas, aspects, and his tremendous knowledge.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Overall, I am very happy with my experience and would do it all over again in almost the same way. The only thing I would consider doing differently is trying to spend even more time with people I do not fully know yet. The biggest benefit of participating in an MBA program is the opportunity to meet the brightest, most diverse and fascinating people from all over the world, exchanging ideas, opinions, and views with as many people as possible, which is a truly enriching experience. The pandemic has not made it as easy for us to connect and build meaningful relationships with one another, but I would challenge myself even more in regards to connecting with others.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Many people think that IESE is a very competitive school and that students fight for participation points, grades, internship positions, and full-time offers. Having been a student myself at IESE, I cannot disagree more with the competitive aspect.

Of course, the academic program of IESE is one of the most rigorous programs in the world of MBAs. As grades are a way to measure performance, there will always be some level of competitiveness. However, the true spirit of IESE, for me, lies in its openness and familiarity. IESE actively fosters a culture of collaboration, sharing, and cultural understanding. Learning with each other, not competing, is the focus, in every single class and activity.

I went to business school and thought I would meet the best-of-the-best in a highly competitive environment. But what I learnt is that we students are all connected by humanity, respect, and the ambition to support each other on the way to becoming the best versions of ourselves. As a result, I am proud to say that most of my fellow students are now part of my family.

What surprised you the most about your business school? The greatest surprise for me is linked to the myth above. It very quickly became apparent that IESE is adept at creating the best collaborative learning environment through its careful initial selection process and wise subdivision of students into teams made up of members from diverse ethnicities and educational and professional backgrounds. I had not anticipated that a place of such academic rigor would foster such a listening, family-oriented ethos where everyone cherishes teammates for their talents, knowledge and opinions. During the last two years, I have made friends for life and the kindness and friendliness triggered by IESE’s selection has been the nurturing ground for my learning, and the unforgettable endeavor called MBA.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I believe that the personal contact I had with professors, alumni, current students, and the admissions team itself gave me an edge at IESE. Being late in the process, it was important for me to quickly gain a broad understanding of what it meant to study at IESE and what was expected from me during the application process. This helped me to explain on the one side why I am the right student for IESE, and on the other why IESE is the right school for me.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have met many outstanding people during my MBA, people who inspire me and who have enriched my life. If I had to select only one, my choice would be Oriol Aragones. When I started my MBA, I focused a lot on the academic side as well as the learning. However, over the course of the MBA, I more and more understood that the true value of the MBA comes not only from the academics and the learning obtained, but also from the meaningful connections we make with our fellow students and professors.

Reflecting back over my MBA experience, Oriol was the main trigger for this change in my perception. Oriol was in my section during the first year. Despite all the setbacks, limitations and restrictions of the pandemic, Oriol took the initiative and decided that our MBA experience strongly depends on what we make out of it. Based on this, he started to organize the best section weekends, hikes in beautiful landscapes of the region, bike tours that made us sweat, fantastic lunches and dinners, cultural events and many more. By doing so, he brought all of us closer together, connecting strangers with each other, creating a strong team I today consider to be like my family. I am very grateful that, besides working hard for class and securing the next steps in his career, he took the lead on our MBA journey. He helped me to recognize how important the people and the meaningful connections are for the success of my MBA program.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? During the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself locked down at my parent’s place. This gave me the opportunity to spend a great deal of time talking to them about career aspirations, life goals, and personal development. I remember on day one in lockdown when, in a true consultant style, I introduced a pinboard with our “goals of the day”, “achievements” and “to do’s”.

During all these discussions, especially with my father, I learned a lot about myself and my career aspirations, which ultimately culminated in my decision to pursue the MBA right away. Since I have been a child, my father always served as my sparring partner, influencing most of my key professional and educational decisions. I am very thankful for the open and challenging communication I still have today with my parents.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? During the years before the pandemic, I was completely immersed in my job as a consultant. I loved my work and the travel associated with it. I worked every night and most weekends, and was always on the run. The pandemic not only brought my life to an abrupt halt, but also prompted me to start thinking again about the life I used to live – my dreams, and my aspirations. The choice to do my MBA was one of the results of this process. I further discovered that work, success, and achievements are nothing compared to the time I have in my life and the moments I share with my family and my friends.

Today, while I am even more engaged and motivated than before the pandemic, I am also wiser. I care more about my own health, sleep, and nutrition. I am much clearer on my purpose and the way to achieve it. And I spend much more quality time with the people I love than ever before. Therefore, the pandemic has brought tremendous sorrow, but also for me, a completely refreshing perspective on my life.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, I want to build a start-up that has a long-lasting impact on society, and lead a team of highly motivated people, creating a workplace of diversity, inclusion, and aspiration to grow together and deliver value to our stakeholders and clients.

Second, I want to use my knowledge and expertise as a business angel to help other founders on their path to success through coaching, advising, and investing in their beliefs.

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

“Since arriving, Cassian has been an integral part of the entrepreneurial eco-system at IESE,

challenging the status quo and driving for progress and excellence in everything he has done. He has been tremendously active in different roles, whether it is within IESE’s Venture Hub, the Founders Circle (for student entrepreneurs) or the IESE Start-up and Entrepreneurship Club, where Cassian took up leadership positions in both the first and second year. I first met Cassian during IESE’s Tech Transfer program where he worked tirelessly to select the right candidates for the program and was, throughout this selection process, an incredible support, continually challenging both the team on the start-up’s applications striving to ensure that only the very best candidates were selected. This was a great example of the passion and dedication Cassian gives to everything he does.

Throughout his time in the Founders Circle, Cassian added valuable insights and knowledge based on his own entrepreneurial experience, supporting the other students in the group to think differently about their challenges and potential solutions. In both his involvement in the Founders Circle and the Tech Transfer team, Cassian has repeatedly shown his entrepreneurial spirit and his ability to credibly challenge others in the field of entrepreneurship. He has a strong commitment and dedication to both his success and the success of those around him.

It gives me great pride to recommend him, as I firmly believe that Cassian is an outstanding individual who will contribute significantly to any project he works on. His personal drive and high standards, combined with his deeply analytical skills, will set him up for success.”

Luca Venza
Director of Technology Innovation, Transfer & Acceleration, IESE Business School


“If I had to describe Cassian in one word, it would be “engagement”. Whatever Cassian does, he does it with passion, dedication, and determination.

I had the pleasure of getting to know Cassian in my Operational Finance class. Right from the beginning, he was one of the most active students in class, enriching the learning of everyone with his experience and knowledge. In addition, Cassian knows how to ask the right challenging questions while always showing the greatest respect for the comments and contributions of others. He encourages everyone to participate in an active class discussion, ensuring that others are heard and nobody is left behind on their learning journey. Having Cassian in class was a true enrichment.”

Heinrich Liechtenstein
Professor of Financial Management, IESE Business School




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