Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Christa Zacharia, IESE Business School

Christa Zacharia

IESE Business School at the University of Navarra

“City-shaper with big ambitions in the business world.”

Hometown: Wagga Wagga, Australia

Fun Fact About Yourself: During Covid lockdown, I learnt every lyric to Hamilton The Musical.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Sydney, Bachelor of Civil Engineering and Architecture.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Lendlease, Senior Development Manager in London.

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? The case method is an effective way of learning that places you at the heart of real-life business problems. It compels you to consider, “What would I do in this situation?” Reading and preparing each case before class is engaging, as each case is unique regarding the industry and the specific challenges faced. However, the actual learning experience happens in the classroom, where professors challenge and encourage debates among classmates. Often, I have arrived at class with a particular perspective only to have it changed by the discussion. The process brings forth new viewpoints and encourages self-reflection and growth, ultimately making us all better managers.

What has been your favorite part of Barcelona so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA? Barcelona has incredible architecture, food and weather. However, my favorite part is the local culture! It seems there is a street festival or parade every week, like the Gracia festival in the summer. With beaches and mountains, it has something for everyone.

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? The combination of the two-year program and the case method made IESE my first choice. After working for ten years, I wanted time to reflect on my goals and explore different career paths while learning through cases in a dynamic classroom setting. From a non-academic perspective, the mission of the school to develop leaders who will have a positive, long-lasting impact on their communities resonated with me. These values are reflected in the alums, who are incredibly generous with their time and guidance.

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? Yes, the IESE MBA has lived up to this reputation so far! From the first week, the intensity is there. Preparing three cases a day is very difficult, so you need to leverage your team to make the most out of each class. 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.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at IESE? I enjoyed the Decision Analysis course in the first term, where we covered both prescriptive and intuitive decision-making. The content covered how to make mathematical-based decisions, but also recognize the psychology behind our choices, like our own biases towards risk. One of my favorite cases was the COVID pandemic; learning how this crisis was analyzed by governments and managed differently around the world.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was the lead structural engineer on a community building in Sydney, Australia, with world-renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. 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.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far: During the Communications course in the first week of my MBA, I was chosen by the professor to lead a plenary session on storytelling. With no pre-warning, over the next 30 minutes, I gathered my classmates’ responses to 10 questions that were written on the board. This experience taught me that being an IESE professor is not an easy job, as they have to pick different students, listen, write, and think of what to say next – all at the same time. However, it was a unique and unexpected experience that gave me the confidence to speak up during case study classes for the remainder of the first term.

What has been your best memory as an MBA so far? My best memories so far are all of the social events we have had celebrating everything from the diverse cultures of our classmates, like an Argentinian Asado and Nigeran independence party, to the end of Term 1 Ball with all the first-year students. The student clubs also organize many fantastic events throughout the year, like the Women in Business Conference, and Career Treks to cities worldwide.


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