Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2024

IESE MBAs aren’t afraid. They know what their two years will bring. Picture 600 case studies that reach your waist when you stack them. Beyond intimidation, there is temptation. After all, IESE Business School sits atop a hill overlooking sunny Barcelona and the breezy Mediterranean.

Come graduation, IESE MBAs are ready for anything. Founded in partnership with Harvard Business School, IESE has adopted its mentor institution’s academic rigor and case-based learning model. More than that, it has crafted a distinctive experience that instills an entrepreneurial mindset and an ESG focus to prepare graduates for an uncertain world ahead. While IESE maintains the HBS commitment to teaching excellence, it has also doubled down on a more personalized approach, maintaining a 4-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

IESE Barcelona North Campus Interior


In the end, IESE attracts a certain type of MBA student: hard-nosed hustlers and free-spirited creatives who embrace sacrifice, discomfort, and risk. At IESE, they learn how to balance competing demands says Ross Gething, a Cape Town native and member of the Class of 2024. Every day, MBAs are analyzing three cases, with each requiring 1-3 hours of work, Gething notes That doesn’t count extracurriculars, networking, recruiting, and exercise. Translation: IESE MBAs are continuously making tradeoffs with their time – the kind they will be expected to make as leaders.

For Gething, that process starts with setting priorities at IESE.  “In combination with introspection, peer engagement, and reviewing MBA data – the answer will present itself to you within the first few months on campus. Secondly, build a close bond with your team as soon as possible. The pace of work speeds up early in the semester, and you will want to be able to trust and rely on your team to help you when things inevitably get overwhelming.”

And Gething is a handy guy to have on any MBA team. Before joining IESE, he created and ran anti-money laundering models at First National Bank South Africa, which ranks as the continent’s largest bank by market cap. At IESE, he’ll join forces with classmates like Nikhil Santhosh Stephen, whose team developed an anti-tank missile. Speaking of brainpower, Emeline Beltjens studied Physics and Nuclear Engineering as an undergrad. In her last role, she conducted safety assessments on nuclear power plants. If the class has any issues with Microsoft, they can turn to Cynthia Kreng, who most recently worked as a senior program manager at the firm.

“My biggest accomplishment thus far is launching two Landing Zone Accelerators, a package of artifacts that embedded best practices to accelerate the adoption of Azure, Microsoft’s public cloud,” she tells P&Q. “It was a project that went on for more than a year with volunteers, all more experienced than I was, contributing across the world and having a great time at the same time. I’m proud that we were able to deliver the first version of the product and that it was a fun process for everyone involved, which was a goal I set out from the beginning.”

IESE MBA students relaxing on campus


When they’re looking for a team leader, there is a good chance the Class of 2024 will turn to Boyd Williams. A Headquarters Battery Commander in the U.S. Army, Williams has grappled with diversity his entire career. Over the past eight years Williams has lived in four countries and worked with two dozen militaries. That experience would enable him to help unify a student body where 87% hail from outside Spain.

“My greatest accomplishment thus far has been the successful establishment and growth of a multinational military training partnership between the US and UK, US and Polish militaries,” Williams explains. “Establishing formal partnerships between specific units in different militaries can be difficult. However, I was able to achieve my organization’s goals and create a foundational agreement for our specific units to conduct regular training and airborne operations annually.”

The class also features Raghad Gomaa, an Egyptian native and Boston Consulting Group consultant who once had her face plastered on a Dubai billboard. By the time she was 21, Angela de la Peña was already reporting directly to a managing director at BBVA, a Spanish financial services giant with a $47 billion dollar market cap. At Alibaba, Yajie Luo managed the firm’s diaper self-run operation, even achieving double digit growth in new customers. As a consultant, Meg Hirai re-shaped one company’s human resources function.

“We were able to build out 5 global Human Resource Centers consisting of 150 HR specialists, who supported 300,000 employees across 40 different countries.”

IESE North Campus Exterior


Yasushi Kobayashi could literally serve as an IESE case study. Against all odds – and wading through a maze of red tape – Kobayashi managed to close a $30-million-dollar contract with the Cuban government. Rather than wait the required three years, he hit the pavement, meeting with 20 ministries and 100 state-owned companies (not to mention the nation’s vice president). Eventually, his persistence paid off, earning Kobayashi an award for “Project of the Year” from his company.

“What I learned is that “Where there’s a will, there is a way,” he explains. When people face hardship, they hesitate to keep challenging themselves, but you cannot see the reality you want if you give up. I learned that a path may not be there to begin with, but you must forge it yourself through hard work.”

Since arriving on campus, class members have notched achievements, big and small. Meg Hirai landed a summer internship with Johnson & Johnson. In contrast, Nikhil Santhosh Stephen helped lead a nine-member team to victory in a short film competition for Leadership class. In a rigorous program like IESE, Ross Gething honed one of the most important skills of all…

“I master[ed] the Friday afternoon powernap.”

IESE MBA Students relaxing on campus


At the same time, IESE has been hardly an ‘all work’ proposition. The Consumer Goods Club, for example, sponsored a trek to Amsterdam, says Meg Hirai. Here, students met with alumni at companies like Nike, Amazon, and PepsiCo – when they weren’t busy exploring the city. By the same token, Nikhil Santhosh Stephen enjoyed section dinners – with the best one, she says, being at a Japanese restaurant where they ate sake from a barrel. For Cynthia Kreng, the best memories came during the scavenger hunt to kick off the first semester.

“We went around Barcelona to answer questions or complete specific tasks. It was not long after we met each other (we are all organized in teams of nine where almost everyone is guaranteed to come from a different country or background), and it was also not long after I shared with my team that I was very competitive. I made my team complete all the tasks that were available even though we were explicitly told we’re not required to do so. We ended up having a good time and enjoyed drinks and meals afterward.”

In a truly cosmopolitan class, multicultural events are particular popular. Raghad Gomaa participated in IESE’s Diwali celebration, where “Everyone dressed up, ate some yummy Indian food, and enjoyed incredible performances and music.” Ask alumni for IESE’s signature event and they’ll tell you how everyone looks forward to February’s Multi-Culti. This past year, 50 nationalities were represented at Multi-Culti, with students able to learn about their unique foods and customs in the comfort of Barcelona’s Poble Español architectural museum.

“During all the afternoon and night, each country (or group of countries) has a stand where they do cultural activities related to the country (from Chinese calligraphy to Spanish Flamenco music), including  regional food and drinks,” explains ’23 grad David Boix Nebot. “It is a large event where most 1st and 2nd year MBA students join (usually with other friends/partners) and a fantastic opportunity to discover other cultures while having fun with your MBA classmates.”

IESE South Campus Exterior


This year, IESE MBAs didn’t just celebrate their heritage. In February, the school ranked #1 in P&Q’s composite ranking of international MBA programs. That same month, IESE climbed from 10th to 3rd in the Financial Times’ annual global business school ranking. Better still, IESE leapfrogged its mentor, Harvard Business School along the way. In student and alumni survey, the school posted top ten scores for Career Services, Alumni Network, and International Course Experience. On top of that, IESE ranked 2nd for its ESG programming. Plus, the school produced substantive improvement MBA pay within three years of graduation. That latter trend is expected to continue, as the Class of 2022 experienced a 5.6% bump in pay over the previous year.

IESE’s recent success are rooted in longer-term trend lines. In the now-defunct global ranking from The Economist, the school ranked 1st in 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2021. Last year, when The Financial Times surveyed students and alumni about their overall satisfaction with their schools, IESE scored a 9.84 out of 10 – the highest average of any school. This year’s 9.61 mark remains formidable too. The biggest reason for IESE’s popularity can be summed up in two words: case method.

On the surface, cases seem like just readings. MBAs analyze real life scenarios and share how they would address their inherent issues.  In reality, casing is a repetitive process, one that hones students’ ability to quickly size up the factors, unknowns, resources, tradeoffs, and long-term impacts involved in problem-solving. At IESE, that means more than 4,000 pages of reading during their two years in the program.

The process starts with MBAs reading cases at home and performing “preliminary analysis”, says Nikhil Santhosh Stephen. From there, assigned student teams meet to discuss cases. At this point, students often “rethink their initial assumptions”, says Santosh Stephen, based on discussions with classmates. From there, teams disperse to their classes, where they engage in deeper discussions with a wider group of classmates. In the process, students learn to defend their positions and persuade their peers – or further modify their approach based on additional perspectives.

If anything, the process teaches humility, says Ross Gething. “Each time, I realize that the “obvious” features I identified alone only covered 10-30% of the entire problem and solution set. This occurs three times a day, 5 days a week.”

IESE students studying


The case method exposes students to problem-solving across a range of dimensions: industry, function, experience, and values to name a few. With each IESE class boasting 50 or more nationalities, MBAs tackle issues from cultural dimensions as well.

Maybe the biggest lesson of the case method: There are no correct answers. Instead, the case method is a means of identifying your blind spots, says Emeline Beltjens. Over time, casing prepares students to recognize patterns, adds Cynthia Kreng, so they can “borrow from past examples” to help solve problems. That’s because engaging with the material through discussions enables students to retain more than simply readings and lectures. According to Oscar Bravo, a consultant from Mexico, cases place students in a CEO’s shoes. Along the way, they practice the same process of researching, questioning, framing, listening, testing, and revising that leadership teams follow from launching products to quelling crises.

“For the scenarios that I have already experienced, [casing] has been incredibly helpful as it allowed me to reflect on my past decisions and evaluate them under a different lens,” writes Marco Goffi, an Italian product manager. “It also gave me the opportunity to share my insights and experiences with my peers, contributing to their development. For the scenarios that I haven’t encountered yet, it’s been equally valuable as it has allowed me to prepare and make sure to avoid any costly mistakes, while also learning from my classmates who have gone through them already. Additionally, working through the cases has helped me develop my communication skills, which are essential for any manager.”

Next Page: Profiles of 12 Members of the IESE MBA Class of 2024.

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