Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Nikhil Santhosh Stephen, IESE Business School

Nikhil Santhosh Stephen             

IESE Business School at the University of Navarra

“Loving son, caring partner, and a loyal friend”

Hometown: Cochin, Kerala, India

Fun Fact About Yourself: I cook for my friends almost every other weekend and my first purchase in Barcelona was a 5-litre Sangria jar.

Undergraduate School and Major:

  • tech Mechanical Engineering, Vellore Institute of Technology
  • Guided Weapons Systems, Cranfield University

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Technical Project Manager: Guided Weapons Systems, Instalaza S.A.

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? The case method in IESE works on three levels:

  1. You prepare the case at home the day before the class. In this period, you form your initial thoughts on the case and do the preliminary analysis. This helps you develop deep analytical and technical skills in the real world, where the answers are not too obvious.
  2. After individual discussions, you have an assigned team with whom you discuss the case. The team helps you understand the intricacies of the problem as each of them comes from a very different background. You are forced to rethink your initial assumptions and convince, debate, and negotiate with your team members.
  3. Finally, in the class the professor leads the case to key learning points while having the whole class contribute their perspectives.

I find that this style of learning has imparted a new way of thinking in me. I no longer think uni-dimensionally about problems, but rather analyze the problem from different perspectives.

What has been your favorite part of Barcelona so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA? Being a foodie, I loved the variety of high-quality restaurants Barcelona offers. I have tried Peruvian, Chinese, Korean, Catalan and Mexican cuisine in my short time here.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of the IESE Business School MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Coming from a non-business background, I was very keen on learning new business skills. So, the two-year academic program was very interesting to me. I get to learn and practice building these skills over a longer term. Of course, the two-year period also helps in bonding with an amazing group of people who will be there for you throughout your career.

The IESE MBA is known for heavy reading and rigorous academics. Has the program lived up to its reputation? What advice would you give to first-years to help them thrive in the early months of the program? The MBA program at IESE is academically very rigorous and puts a premium on classroom learning using the case methodology. My advice would be to read the cases and develop a deep working relationship with your team. On this note, one phrase you would often hear during your MBA is “Trust the process.” The MBA team, the professors, and the second years are all here to help you thrive in the MBA. All you need to do is reach out.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at IESE? The section dinners were the ones I enjoyed the most. During these dinners, you get to meet your amazing classmates in an informal setting and just have fun. This year, I think the best section dinner was “Sushi with Yasushi”, where we celebrated a friend’s birthday in a traditional Japanese restaurant that served sake out of a barrel.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment in my career was leading a team that developed an anti-tank missile.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far: Our team of nine consists of engineers, investment bankers, and consultants, we managed to win a short film competition for our leadership class.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the IESE MBA program? My advice for applicants would be to think deeply about their fit for the school. In the end, we are a small school where people who have excelled in different backgrounds come together. However, what unites us is the value system we share on campus: integrity, the spirit of service, and professional excellence. So, I would encourage the applicants to demonstrate these values during their interviews.


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