Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Javier Sánchez Peña, IESE Business School

Javier Sánchez Peña

IESE Business School at the University of Navarra

“Former (fire) engineer; (questionable) writer by hobby; (spicy) food lover; (occasionally lost) travel enthusiast.”

Hometown: Malaga, Spain

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve dedicated my whole professional life to being a fire engineer, which is a profession not many people have heard of…

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Edinburgh, Civil Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: OFR Consultants, Fire Engineer

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? In a lecture-style classroom, the professor is practically the only one who speaks. However, the case method encourages everyone to speak, and, while the professor always adds valuable insights, the comments made by my colleagues, who come from all over the world and have all sorts of backgrounds, are at least equally as impactful.

What has been your favorite part of Barcelona so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA? I’ve lived in some of the best cities there are, but Barcelona might very well top them all (at least during this stage of my life.) Having lived in Edinburgh and London, I welcomed coming back to the good weather. I’ve also lived in Malaga and Madrid, two amazing cities to live in; however, I feel Barcelona blends some of the best characteristics of those two cities, making it very special. It’s lively, it’s by the sea, and it has lots of fun things to do – and, of course, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

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? I had heard IESE puts a huge emphasis on academics when compared to other schools, and that was one of the main reasons I chose it. I’ve had very technical jobs, so the MBA is an opportunity for me to learn business and management concepts I didn’t have a chance to learn during my professional career. I think IESE offers one of the best learning experiences, and I’m glad I chose it.

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 program does indeed require heavy reading. However, the cases are very interesting and insightful, so they are enjoyable. My advice to first years would be the following: don’t forget to enjoy your time during the MBA. Appreciate every second, as time flies and these years won’t ever come back. Make the most of the academics, and try to find a job you love, but not at the expense of not enjoying these two years. Get to know your colleagues and make life-lasting friendships.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at IESE? This is a very difficult question. Some of the most fulfilling courses so far have been those that encourage debates between students in the classroom – some with very different views, but all making great points. The Leadership course during the first term – where the cases involved interpersonal challenges such as unmotivated employees, conflict between big personalities, and power struggles between colleagues – fostered very interesting discussions. That’s because people had very different opinions and ideas on how to approach the issues. A course we’re having now during the second term, Business Ethics, is igniting even more interesting debates.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I led a fire safety project for IKEA Oceania, the first IKEA in Mexico. This was a challenging project in a multidisciplinary and diverse team. Some of the team members were in Mexico, others were in Singapore, and my colleagues and I were in Spain. Time differences made it difficult to plan meetings (though thankfully, they were at a reasonable time for us!). This was in the early stages of my career, and it was the first time I was going to meetings and presenting to clients and the design team on my own, which was very fulfilling. The project involved complex engineering analyses, which were not only difficult to undertake, but also challenging to communicate to nontechnical stakeholders.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far: The IESE MBA starts with an intensive course called Communication where they teach you useful techniques for speaking in public. Public speaking makes me very nervous, but it is something I’ve always wanted to be good at. I gave a speech for my 70-people section about the benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone and moving to a new country. Right before starting, I was very nervous. However, when I got into it, I stopped being nervous, and I am proud of my performance.

What has been your best memory as an MBA so far? Another very difficult question! Some of the best memories come from the social events in the first couple of weeks, which were incredibly fun. Everyone was getting to know each other, and it marked the beginning of some friendships that are very important to me right now. However, there is one particular memory from the first week that was very special. On the first day I met my MBA team, we had a meeting where each one introduced themselves. I asked to be first. I was emotional, because I had a tough summer before the MBA, and I decided to open up to eight people, most of whom I had just met. They were incredibly supportive. Afterwards, everyone else opened up too and shared very personal stories. This introduction united us and made us close to each other from the very beginning. We are all very different, come from different countries, and value different things, but together we make a great team.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.