2023 MBA To Watch: Nicola (Nicci) Gowing, IE Business School

Nicola (Nicci) Gowing

IE Business School

“A process-oriented person who is highly invested in empowering people and teams to succeed.”

Hometown: Cape Town, South Africa

Fun fact about yourself: I love exploring and trying new things, especially sports, and the feeling that comes with being a beginner again.

Undergraduate School and Degree AFDA (Cape Town, South Africa) – BA Motion Picture Medium

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Head of Studio -Sea Monster Entertainment

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? N/A

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

– Forte Fellowship Recipient – working to promote and encourage women to apply, enrol and succeed in business school

– Class (Section) Representative – Being the voice for our class and link to program management to mediate any issues that may arise and assist with the smooth running of the program

– Product Club Vice-President: Responsible for the communications for the club, including editing the monthly newsletter, event promotion and member questions and requests

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being selected as the student representative to share my experience with the next MBA class at their opening ceremony. It was an honour to be the “voice” of my class and share some insights and helpful hints for the incoming batch. One of the most unexpected parts of this experience was that I was paired with another student in my class, whom I previously hadn’t met, and through the process we clicked and discovered we get along really well. So, not only was I able to share my experience and perspective but I also gained an incredible new friend.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Developing and launching a financial education mobile game for one of the largest banks in South Africa. It was commissioned by their financial education department, not as a marketing gimmick but as a tool to help people understand the long-term impact of their short term actions, specifically around goal-setting and saving. I was lucky enough to be a part of this project from inception to delivery over a period of four years and seeing the results, especially in user interviews, was incredibly fulfilling. I specifically remember interviewing one user in the beginning of the process who had a relatively low level of financial literacy and had opened a bank account for the first time in their lives. We interviewed her again two years later and had done a few game testing sessions with her. The insights she was able to draw simply from “playing a game” were incredible and an especially rewarding moment was when she told us that she’d opened a savings account and was putting a little bit of money away every month for her daughter’s schooling.

Why did you choose this business school? Coming from South Africa, the “Rainbow Nation”, diversity was the most important factor for me when considering a business school. Seeing how many different nations are represented in the IE Business School class, I knew I would have an enriching experience. I wanted to pursue an MBA to become more of a global citizen and learn from my classmates’ lived experiences. Another diversity element that was important to me was diversity of experience and background. I didn’t have a business education and wasn’t looking to pursue a career in finance or consulting and I wanted to find a school that would not only support that vision but also had other students looking for a similar experience as me. Out of all the schools that I had researched, IE had one of the broadest ranges of undergraduate degrees represented.

Who was your favourite MBA professor? Susana Martinez-Meyers (Corporate Finance). Entering my MBA, the finance subjects were the ones that I was most nervous and excited about, as I had very little previous knowledge in this area. However, this was one of the reasons I had chosen to pursue an MBA, to gain a broader understanding of all the elements of business. Susana was my corporate finance professor in term 2 and the course built upon another course called Financial Markets that we’d completed in term 1. I had struggled to fully grasp the concepts in term 1 and had put in a lot of extra effort reading and recruiting help from my classmates to help me understand. Susana’s style of teaching, lecture structure, and patience in answering any questions we had not only allowed me to come to understand the subject more but inspired me to continue learning and digging deeper into the topics covered. She also went out of her way to provide some additional resources to help me catch up and ensure I was on track. I would never have imagined this to be possible a few months ago and am incredibly grateful to have had such an amazing professor.

What was your favourite course as an MBA? Entrepreneurship. IE Business school is known for its entrepreneurial spirit and it’s woven throughout the structure of the courses. In the first term, we had entrepreneurship as a course and it became my favourite subject because so much of the content is relevant not only for entrepreneurs and business owners but the methodologies, frameworks and most importantly way of thinking is helpful in many spheres of life. Coming from a developing country where innovation and entrepreneurship is often more of a necessity than a choice, I appreciated seeing these skills being taught in class.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?
Prioritisation and allowing FOMO to get the better of me. Even though IE’s MBA is a one-year program, it’s still a marathon and not a sprint. However, it’s so easy to get caught up in wanting to do everything –

from reading every case and article to attending every social event and party as well as signing up for multiple clubs and extracurricular activities. There is so much on offer at IE Business School, both within the MBA specifically and more broadly across the school that it is very easy to become overwhelmed. If I were to do it again, I would keep my goals and intentions front and centre when considering opportunities to be able to make better decisions and show up more fully for the things I did choose to pursue.

What is the biggest myth about your school? “IE is the Entrepreneurship Business School” – This is certainly true and innovation and entrepreneurship are embedded in the DNA of the school. What surprised me though was that it doesn’t necessarily matter whether or not you want to be an entrepreneur or use business school to launch your own venture. It’s really the entrepreneurial mindset that permeates every aspect of the school and I believe, enhances the overall experience and leaves the students unique after their MBA is complete.

What did you love most about your business school’s town?  Madrid is such an eclectic, diverse, and historic city. There is so much to explore and discover. You’ll find so many hidden gems that even living here for a year you aren’t able to experience everything. The city itself is very convenient, being super easy to get around. Just outside the city there are some great nature spots, where you can hike, cycle etc.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was surprised by how much the staff and faculty are in your corner and really want each student to succeed and achieve their dreams. While there is the academic process of needing to complete assignments and write exams, the professors are genuinely interested in our experiences and in allowing us the opportunity to learn from our classmates as well as from them. Many of the professors made themselves available outside of class hours to offer advice or perspective specific to your situation, experience, or challenge. I have received fantastic feedback and input into career options from the Talent and Careers team, specifically our assigned career coach. They always believe in us and encourage us when facing rejection and disappointment and basically keep us motivated.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Being authentically me and incorporating all the elements of myself, not only the professional. I allowed my unique background, career, and set of skills to shine through in all the elements of my application. It was by changing my perspective and flipping the things that I was concerned about turning “weaknesses” in my application – coming from a non-traditional background with no business education – into strengths. I didn’t cover up, edit, or perfect every element, and I even chose to leave some of the mistakes in my application video. I was open and honest about why I wanted to pursue my MBA and what I hoped to achieve with the degree.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s very difficult to pick only one classmate as they have each inspired me in their own way. However, if I were to pick one person, it would be Nawid Fatahi. Nawid has an incredible life story, starting out as a refugee at a very young age. However, he has never let this stop him and used his life experiences to grow into an extremely kind, smart, and empathetic person. Nawid came to Madrid with his wife, young daughter, and a second baby on the way. I have massive respect for all parents that are completing their MBA, but Nawid specifically — he was so generous with his time and skills. So many times, when I needed help or just a friend to process something with, he was always there. He gives the best advice and is always there to lend a helping hand, shoulder to cry on or just a listening ear. Due to some visa issues, he wasn’t able to go back home with his wife when she gave birth to their second child and so wasn’t present at the birth. Still, he never once complained and made the best of the situation.

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

  1. Use my network and skills to help fund education development in South Africa. As Oprah Winfrey says, “Education is the way to move mountains, to build bridges, to change the world.”
  2. Open my own coaching business, with a focus on women in business, empowering them to break glass ceilings, forge a path for future generations and achieve greatness

What made Nicci such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Nicci is a passionate and dedicated student who possesses a deep commitment to entrepreneurship and sustainability by creating a positive impact in the world. She is an assertive communicator who values integrity and always upholds the highest standards of academic honesty. She is a leader who works collaboratively in teams, always ensuring that everyone’s ideas are heard and incorporated into the final project. Her contagious charming attitude, which served as a source of motivation for her peers.

In addition to being a successful student with a great GPA, Nicci was actively involved in extracurricular activities, representing IE in the MBA World Entrepreneurship Summit, and demonstrating a true passion for entrepreneurship and business. She is a truly example of a great leader, by having magnificent qualities such as Positive leadership and emotional intelligence. As a class representative, she leads with passion, resonating with empathy across stakeholders, and collaborating to make sure there´s improvements and solutions to everyday and major problems.

What sets Nicci apart is that she chose to attend IE not just to become a traditional MBA student, but to create an impact in the world while exploring different pathways during her MBA experience. Overall, Nicci is an exceptional woman in business who deeply cares about her peers, her school, and the world around her. I have no doubt that she will continue to make a positive impact wherever she goes.”

Camila González
Director – Full Time MBA Programs
Director Start up Lab
IE Business School


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