Career Forum, Midterm Exams and Applications

Another month has passed, and writing this, I feel like “this ALL happened in just one month?!”. Time runs fast when you’re busy. And believe me, we are VERY busy. I had high hopes of regularly doing sports here, but that was strongly limited in the past weeks. It is partly because I am applying to consulting firms which gives the extra workload, but other people are not less buried in work. Once the consulting phase is over (after the interviews in January), it will probably get better (or not, we’ll see). Actually I’m already getting better at managing my time and I find ways to carve out those extra two hours to get to the gym sometimes.

Career Forum

We had most of the top consulting firms and banks on campus, giving company presentations and answering all your questions at the career forum. From the industry side we had Microsoft, Amazon, H&M, Nike and a lot of other not so well known companies here. It was quite exhausting. Networking and attending so many company presentations was at the same time highly interesting and demanding.

Midterm Exams

High pressure and no time. Regular classes don’t stop and you have to get all your studying done in the evenings, while preparing tomorrow’s cases at the same time. We had exams in Financial Accounting, Capital Markets and Decision Analysis, each 3 hours.

Applications

Consulting and Banking applications were due on Nov 16. While other people went to Tech, Pharma, Sports Business and Finance Treks, I stayed in Barcelona with the consulting club, visiting company workshops, practicing case interviews and preparing cover letter and application documents. This doesn’t sound so much now, but it did take a lot of time actually.

Now final exams are just around the corner and we just handed in our final Analysis of Business Problems report today. Every free minute in between goes to consulting case interview preparation. Here, see some pictures to get an idea of what else is going on.

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Sunrise campus terrace
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My section
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10k fun run against breast cancer
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Rugby team in Madrid
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Sunshine in November
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Süddeutsche Zeitung Economic Forum in Berlin
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First week of my IESE MBA

I’m here! In Barcelona! It has started.

I arrived last week’s Sunday evening, just in time for the start of the Business Spanish Program (a 2 week intensive course for all the non-native Spanish speakers).

So what has been going on?

IESE

I met a ton of incredibly interesting people at the first day event, where we received our welcome and health care documents. Everyone is indeed very international and has lived or worked in other countries than his own. There are really a lot of impressive backgrounds on campus here. The atmosphere was very open – you basically walked up to everyone you saw, introduced yourself, chatted a bit about each others background and then tried to remember all those name.

Business Spanish Program (BSP)

After taking part in a 15-minute evaluation Spanish group discussion, I was placed in level 3 of 12. It’s a comfortable level for my previous merely basic Spanish knowledge base. So far I had a lot of fun learning Spanish the last couple days. My group is great and has people from Taiwan, Korea, U.S.A, Serbia, Greece, Netherlands and Germany in it. Many of those have then lived in different continents for a long time. We’re 10 persons in the classroom and are very openly discussing and speaking in Spanish. So far it’s very effective and has considerably lifted my Spanish speaking confidence. I have no problem speaking and practicing the language in taxis, restaurants or bars. I’m also pretty dedicated on getting this language up to a professional level now.

Housing

It’s done. I secured an apartment. With the help of my two soon-to-be roommates, who organized all the visits, I looked at a few apartments after the Spanish classes. We paid the reservation fee for a 130 sqm, 3 room apartment in the center of Eixample, exactly the area where we wanted to live. The only drawback: It’s only available in a month and each one of us has to find a place to stay until then. I’m still in the process of figuring out the best option. It definitely feels good to know where you’re going to live and that you don’t have to spend time on checking the apartments online and visiting them in reality anymore.

Social Events

There have been a couple of social events so far: Several lunches and dinners and a big Saturday night get together among most of the IESE first-year students who are already in town. It was good fun. I also played Beachvolleyball with a few guys and have football coming up tomorrow. The day is pretty much covered with the BSP, which goes until 18:15 every day, and doesn’t leave too much room for larger social activities. But I’m sure there is much to come.

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This is my Spanish group on the roof of the IESE North Campus.
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I went running up the Tibidabo, and this is the view you’ll get for that.

 

Flight booked and things to do

Okay, I just booked my flight to Barcelona! I’ll arrive just the evening before the intensive Spanish classes begin. Quite last-minute, but what to do; I am busy all along and can’t arrive earlier. I also still don’t have a place to stay, but this will hopefully change, before I land in BCN. I have a group of people with whom we are trying to find an apartment together. Anyway, if everything fails, I’ll take an AirBnB or sub-rent a room for a short period and start looking for housing, when I’m there. Of course, it would be better to have that item off the list as soon as possible, not to interfere with academics.

So what’s still open?

  • I have to finish the last assignment of the IESE Accounting Course
  • I have to complete the entire Career Course and also the Consulting Assignment
  • I need a new business profile photo
  • I need to finalize/update my CV and LinkedIn profile
  • I need to go shopping, to be properly dressed for all the upcoming career events
  • I have to start reading through my case interview preparation book and start to solve some cases. I am not sure if I can still accomplish to do that before Barcelona though, – the other tasks have priority.

And then, there are hundreds of other things, that are not directly IESE related, but have to be done before leaving the country.

I’ll leave local things like opening a bank account, getting a Spanish cell phone number, buying a moto, getting the NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero), and whatver there is to come, for the time when I’m actually there.

How to pick the right business school for your MBA

Your first task is to define what you are looking for in your MBA, where you see yourself afterwards and how much effort you are willing to put into the program. Before you even start to look at schools, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you want to study abroad or would you prefer to remain in the country where you are right now? If abroad – are you planning to return or would you rather settle down somewhere else?
  1. What is your main intention of the MBA? It could be a planned change of industry and/or position, the next step towards a promotion, a desire to expand your network, the attempt to get international exposure or an approach to leave your comfort zone and let your views be challenged.
  1. Define how important the brand of the school is for your plans. Do you have to rely on the career services team to find a job? Should recruiters have heard of your school or is that not of importance in your target industry?
  1. Do you thrive in large groups or do small team sizes allow you to excel? Would you rather have some internal competition or a focus on teamwork and collaboration?

Having answers to these questions will make your decision process easier. However, if you are still unsure in a certain area you can also come back to this later.

Now it is time to start narrowing down your selection:

Stage A — USA vs Europe vs Asia

To make this first decision, it is important to know where you are going to look for a job after the MBA. US schools have the longest history and many of them are considered the best in the world. However, the level of international diversity is fairly low compared to European schools. Harvard Business School’s class of 2017, for instance has 71% students from North America whereas INSEADs class of 2017 is diversely represented by Europe (37%), Asia (31%), North America (14%), Middle East/Africa (10%) and Latin America (7%).

Study where you want to work. U.S. schools mainly teach U.S. related business cases, give you a strong U.S. network and have companies hiring for the U.S. job market on campus. You will be perfectly prepared for the States, but if you plan on working in Europe or Asia these things will be less relevant.

The same goes for Asia: Choose a school based in Asia if you have a dedicated interest to work there, to learn an Asian language or to develop intense networking relations to the continent. If none of those apply, cross it out.

European schools are more global: you will develop deep connections to classmates from many countries and will see them re-locate to all corners of the world once the MBA is over. Anyhow, the focus is again local: you will mainly meet recruiters who are looking to hire for the European job market. And here even the country choice inside Europe becomes important because in most of the cases you will need to speak the local language of the country where you want to work in. Study in Barcelona and learn Spanish if you want to work in Spain. Go to Paris and learn French to get a position in France. If you are from Europe and plan on returning home after the MBA, consider the additional language as a plus for your profile.

Stage B — 1-year vs 2-year program

Once you are sure with the continent, you will have to pick the program length.

Do you already have a great position at work where you want to return to as quickly as possible with your newly earned MBA knowledge? Are you not interested in an international exchange program or in an industry switch where an internship could help you? Go with the 1-year option. You will experience a fully packed intensive year where you will learn all the business skills, have ample networking opportunities and start with your post-MBA job hunt from day one. However, you will not have much time to reflect and try out new things. A year is quickly over and your game plan should be set out already before you start.

The 2-year option will give you a similarly intensive first year where you will cover all the main subjects. You will have more time to find yourself and learn about all the interesting experiences from your classmates, though. The second year with its international exchange and corporate internship gives you ample opportunity to try out a new industry and re-position yourself during the MBA. If you are still open for different industries and want to take as much as possible from the MBA experience, a 2-year program is the best fit for you.

Stage C — Rankings / Tier 1 vs Tier 2

Now that you have a rough idea of how your MBA program of choice should look like, it is time to consult the rankings. In the end it is about personal fit, but rankings normally correspond to the brand awareness that recruiters have towards the several schools and are a good indicator if the schools can be considered tier 1, tier 2 or even tier 3.

Start with the schools that have been continuously in the Top 10 (Top 20) over the past couple years and cross-compare different rankings (Financial Times, Economist, Forbes, Bloomberg, Business Insider). Work your way down from the top and cross out all the schools that do not comply with your Stage A and Stage B requirements.

You should be left with only a couple of schools that make it into Stage D.

Stage D — School specific pros and cons

This is the part where you actually have to conduct your own research. You are trying to figure out which of the schools are strong in the areas that you consider important. Now it is not only about facts and figures but also about your personal feeling towards the school. Can you picture yourself studying there? Assess the following areas to get a full overview:

Campus location

  • Country / Area
  • City vs village
  • Lively and crowded campus vs quiet campus
  • Commute distance and time from housing to campus
  • Language
  • Climate

Class profile

  • Diversity of nationalities
  • Diversity of industries
  • Male / female ratio
  • GMAT average
  • Class size and overall students

Atmosphere

  • Collaborative vs competitive
  • Conservative vs liberal
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Strength of bonds formed
  • Individual support

Curriculum

  • Electives
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Exclusive opportunities such as business labs or real world consulting projects
  • Case method vs various teaching methods
  • Grading system (bell curve?)

Intensity

  • Demanding vs relaxed
  • Amount of workload
  • Time pressure

Reputation

  • Industry ties
  • Hiring firms on campus
  • Partnership with other business schools
  • Brand awareness
  • Mission values and goals

Costs and Scholarship

  • Total tuition fees
  • Living expenses
  • Likelihood to receive a scholarship

Alumni network

  • Size and spread of alumni network
  • Interpersonal bond of alumni and personal identification with the school
  • Number, frequency, size, and location of alumni events

Industry focus

  • In which field do most graduates find a job?
  • What is the school known for?

Career services quality

  • Percentage of students finding a job after the MBA
  • Total salary and salary increase

Once you completed all four stages you will have a selection of schools that you can apply to. Get in touch with the admission team to discuss your profile and get help with your application. Be aware that a campus visit will not only give you great insight on the “feel” of the school but will also give you an edge in your application essays. Towards the admission committee, it is a strong sign of dedication and will be considered in your favor.

All the best with finding your future business school!

The ambiguity is over: IESE ‘2018

iese_1The choice has been made! I will attend the IESE Class of 2018 and spend the next two
years on the Sarrià-Sant Gervasi Campus in Barcelona.

I am super excited to start this chapter of my life. It will surely be a transforming experience.

Since the school decision is history, I can finally concentrate on the administrative things that are coming up:

  • Research and apply for scholarships
  • Find housing in Barcelona
  • Get a moto
  • Arrange tuition payments and check for possible tax deductions

We’ll see what else I’ll have to add to this list – I’m sure there’s more to come.

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IESE South Campus