Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2025

It’s going to happen…and sooner than you think.

Maybe it is a stretch assignment or nightmare boss – or an ‘all hands on deck’ emergency that scuttles your carefully-laid plans. It’s high-stakes and pressure-packed, unprecedented situations and unreasonable demands. You’re going to be clocking late nights and weekends; everything is urgent and hitting all at once. All the while, you’ll be deluged with opinions, data, and options – when you’re still figuring out what and why.

No matter what happens, someone is going to blame you. You’ll hear hard times will bring out your best. Some will even dress it up as an opportunity. In the moment, you won’t see it that way. All you know, this wasn’t what they prepared you for in school…unless you attended IESE Business School at the University of Navarra.

AN INTENSE PROGRAM THAT PREPARES YOU FOR EVERYTHING

Think three cases a day, four hours of preparation per case. There are the four-hour exams too. That doesn’t count clubs, activities, networking, job hunting, and even fun (IESE overlooks Barcelona after all). The workload is heavy for a reason, however. Call it a simulation of the real world, where the demands come fast and in waves. In these situations, you can’t wing it – you just need to make a plan, use available resources, and grind it out. Confidence stems from repetition. The body may tire, but the IESE MBA has faced just about every problem in just about every industry through the case method. Working in teams, they’ve learned to lead when the moment comes – or serve when the situation calls for it.

“From the first week, the intensity is there,” writes Christa Zacharia, an Australian business development manager who just completed her first year in the IESE MBA program. “I think this intensity is the best training for life after the MBA, where we will likely be in roles where we need to prioritize and decide where to use our limited time effectively. For incoming students or first-years, the best advice I can give is to be willing to work hard and remember to enjoy the ride.”

In testing their boundaries, MBAs learn their limits at IESE. In the process, MBAs turn to each other. Sacha Brenninkmeijer, is a mother of a one-year-old who headed up a retail chain in Belgium and Luxembourg. As a first year, she says, MBAs are placed into core teams of nine members. Designed to cover all gaps in case prep, Brenninkmeijer notes the teams are “handpicked” by IESE to include a mix of “diverse nationalities, industries, roles, and genders.” This creates an atmosphere for discussions that allow you to see how a wide range of people approach issues.

“These teammates are an amazing resource for approaching the coursework in ways you may not have considered,” explains Hugh Phelan, an American product lead. “I would try to learn as much as you can from your team.”

IESE Barcelona Campus

LEARNING THROUGH OTHERS

Even more, IESE teams are a reminder of something equally fundamental: You’re not alone. “Reflecting on the first term, avoiding being psychologically overwhelmed is crucial,” adds South Korea’s Hyelin Oh.  “It’s easy to become fixated on the notion that you are the only one grappling with numerous tasks, but the reality is that everyone feels the same. Acknowledging my imperfections ironically brought me peace of mind – and provided me with the energy needed to tackle tasks.”

IESE alumni chimed in with their own advice for the MBA Class of 2025. Marco Goffi, a spring graduate, talks of how difficult it is to “reconcile” IESE’s “Impossible Trinity”: Academics, Social Activities, and Sleeping. His takeaway was that he needed to “prioritize different things at different times” (with help from his fellow students). For Goffi’s classmate, Markus Kaschnigg, the IESE MBA was the “journey of a lifetime” – one that left him forever changed beyond what he could’ve imagined.

“During the program, I had the chance to meet truly impressive personalities among my classmates that left a deep impression on me. Their experiences and views allowed me to question my own views, realize how much I did not know and broaden my horizon. Especially with the case method used at IESE, learning is achieved by studying alongside fellow students. Through this approach, my learning curve was steeper than anything I expected. While we discussed hundreds of cases during our time together, there was always somebody who had been in the situation of the case or knew the industry from inside and could share his invaluable experiences.”

FROM DESIGNING COMMUNITY BUILDINGS TO RUNNING FAMILY ENTERPRISES

This past year, you would’ve found the Class of 2025 doing the same for each other. Want an inside look at how the c-suite operates? Hyelin Oh spent seven years working directly for four CEOs at the S-OIL Corporation. In retail, Sacha Brenninkmeijer was responsible for 110 C&A stories. Moving to marketing, Carolina Pascotto helped four of her interns at Red Bull land corporate jobs – even though the firm lacks an internship pipeline. She performed a Flamenco dance for the King of Spain too. The class even features a structural engineer, Christa Zacharia. In Australia, she partnered with architect Kengo Kuma, who designed the Japanese National Stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

“I started on the project when it was just a scribble on a page and followed it through to when the doors opened to the public four years later. It was gratifying to see something I worked on for years being completed and enjoyed by the local community, when they were visiting the library, childcare centre or the food stalls and restaurants.”

Looking for an out-of-the-box profession? Javier Sánchez Peña joined the Class of 2025 after working as a fire engineer. In the role, he developed fire safety for the first IKEA store in Mexico. At 26, Jan-Niklas Seiler was managing a glass bottle factory – where the average age of his reports was 45. Working as the deputy director for the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Satofumi Ushigami launched both a Sustainability Management Department an Energy Transformation Strategy Office. If you’re want exposure to the intricacies of running a family business, Thailand’s Pakaporn Utaobin can fill in all the details.

“Integrating familial ties with professional responsibilities can be a delicate balance, but I feel good to contribute to something that’s been a part of my life for so long. Additionally, during the challenging period of the COVID-19 outbreak, I spearheaded initiatives that resulted in a substantial improvement in the company’s profitability, marking a commendable 20% increase, mainly through improvement in productivity and in cost efficiency. The experience has reinforced my commitment to contributing meaningfully to the success and sustainability of our family business.”

IESE MBA Students

DECISIONS ANALYSIS AMONG MOST POPULAR COURSES

After a career in construction, Daniel Puentes Revelles came to IESE to lead the school’s Energy and Startup clubs, building out alumni databases to keep club members in touch with their predecessors. In contrast, Hugh Phelan considers gaining a “respectable level of fluency” in Spanish as his biggest achievement. He adds that his best memories at IESE came after the party celebrating the end of first-term exam – a sentiment shared by Satofumi Ushigami.

“Hundreds of students gathered to celebrate each other’s efforts over the past few months, spending time talking, drinking, and dancing. I realized that, in just a few months, I was able to meet and form friendships with remarkable students from all around the world. This experience strongly reaffirmed the value of pursuing an MBA for me.”

That value was reinforced by IESE’s classroom offerings. Decisions Analysis was among the courses that resonated with the Class of 2025. Christa Zacharia appreciated how the course balanced mathematical-based decisions with psychologically-driven processes, with one case examining how these approaches played out in various governments’ responses to COVID-19. For Jan-Niklas Seiler, the course reflected something deeper.

“We delved deeper into the behavioral science behind how we make decisions, how these decisions can be manipulated, and how we can control certain aspects of our decision-making. This course also showed me a different approach to university. The professors here are far more accessible than my undergraduate professors, making it possible to really dive into our areas of interest and grow as future professionals and leaders.

IESE

IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain

MULTI-CULTI

The Communications course, a two-week tour de force that kicks off the program, also made an impression on the Class of 2025. It started with MBAs facing one of the great fears in life: writing and delivering speeches. Not only did it help them cope with pressure, but also how to accept feedback and connect with people.

“It was fantastic because we learnt how to present ourselves, give diverse types of speeches, and how to tell stories within a business context,” writes Sacha Brenninkmeijer. “This helped us get to know our team members better, put us in situations that might be uncomfortable for several people, and really pushed us into something that is essential as a business leader. Most importantly, the speeches helped us prepare for how to get our points across clearly to our colleagues. This proved to be a foundation for the rest of the classes, where communication is so important.”

The Energy Trek to the Netherlands, held in November following mid-terms, was another highlight for the class. Organized by the Energy Club, the trek took 30 students to Amsterdam to meet with eight energy companies over three days, says Daniel Puentes Revelles. During that time, adds Satofumi Ushigami, the first term lessons truly came to life.

“We visited various companies ranging from major energy corporations to startups. It provided an opportunity to learn about the strategies of each company and stay updated on the latest trends in the industry. Additionally, we had opportunities to discuss the challenges currently faced by these companies. This unique experience allowed me to apply classroom learning to real-world issues, making it a highly enriching and educational time.”

When it comes to IESE’s marquee event of the year, students and alumni alike will point to Multi-Culti. Think of it as a celebration of the various nationalities who make up the student body. Here, each nation decorates their booths to showcase their culture. This includes food dishes, drinks, costumes, and art that reflect their unique customs and history. Later on, each nationality puts on shows with singing and choreographed dancing to give attendees – which number over a thousand – a deeper exposure to their cultures.

“This all-evening (and night) event is hosted at the unique Poble Espanyol, an open-air museum replicating a village with different styles of Spanish architecture and a large town square,” writes ’24 alum Markus Kaschnigg. “Imagine dozens of stands offering everything from Indian Pani Puri, Lebanese Baklava, Chilean Pisco, Spanish Tapas, German beer, Peruvian Ceviche and much more. Later in the evening, each country also gets on stage to showcase a typical dance or other performance. This event exemplifies the beauty of studying in the international environment with more than 50 nationalities at IESE. To me personally it also symbolizes the importance of being curious about other cultures and willing to try new things – something IESE strongly encourages, and which every MBA should have.”

Next Page: Class Profile, Case Method, and Barcelona

Page 3: Interview with the Vice Dean and Profiles of 10 Class Members

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