April 2014, I was in the old church of Segovia with 200 hundreds other cohorts for the Opening Day of our MBA. It is needless to say how excited we were to start this journey. Guests including the Deans, successful alumni and honored guests from companies were invited to deliver welcoming and inspiring speeches to us. One thing that almost every guest speaker mentioned in their talk was “this is going to be the best year of your life”. At that moment, a quote from Marshall in How I Met Your Mother popped in my head: “when you have made the sale, stop selling it”. Yet, a year later, here I am to describe that one year of my MBA as the best year of my life, and yet it is not enough to capture how amazing of an experience it was. Let me instead tell you the 4 things that only IE Business School can offer.
- Taking diversity to another level
IE Business School embraces diversity like no other graduate school. My class alone (with 50 students) has 94% international, leaving the rest 6% Spanish students. IE doesn’t take more than 10% of students from any country which makes the problem of majority go away. I never felt different at IE because everyone was different. We celebrate diversity with events held by different country clubs (USA club, Brazil Chapter, Russian Business Club ect ) almost every week and Global Village once a year for all countries to show off their cuisines and cultures. The pitch at the Opening Day was “you have the whole world in your classroom”. Truth to be told, we have the world with us for the whole time at IE.
Global Village 2014
Diversity did not only enrich our knowledge, it forced us to grow, to grow out of our comfort zone and to grow out of our limit. Every term, I had a new group of 7 people from 7 different countries and backgrounds. I had to work with them to deliver reports and assignments for 5-6 subjects in that term. I assume you all have worked in a group before and know how hard it sometimes gets. Hey, most of the time, your team speaks the same language, from the same culture and probably has a leader with some power over the rest of the team. Our team is nothing like that. The opportunity to lead is on the table and no power of such is granted to anyone. Your ideas get shot down, your points sometimes are not fully understood and more often than not you feel stupid and not appreciated. I know I did. One thing I learned was “It is not personal”. I learn how to present my thoughts, how to persuade my team when they already killed my ideas. We used to joke with each other that they (our beloved MBA Academic team) tossed us in a group, watched us struggle and along the way, occasionally sent in a therapist (soft skills class or leadership classes) with advice on how to work together.
- Making everyone a better communicator
Many people say studying in a native speaking country is the best way to improve your language skills. Maybe. I did a quarter as exchange student at Kellogg School of Management, while my English skills improved; I have to admit that my communication skills did not. At IE, I learned to communicate effectively and clearly by adjusting my speed and word choice. We even encouraged our classmates to give feedback and correct each other. I told one of my American friends that maybe he could diverse the way he started his arguments rather than saying “Now” every single time. Moreover, 80% of the assignments at IE include presentations. And we took it seriously. Even if it was worth only 10% of the final grade, every team got together and practiced. We prepared the PowerPoint so it best aided what we wanted to present. We timed each other so that it never exceeded the 10 minute limit. The morning of the presentation, we gathered to warm up and rehearse. Because of this, each team has their own identity in their presentation.
we are rehearsing before the real show
- Liberating class discussion
This is a picture from my first class.
I know elsewhere, you raise your hand and you are guaranteed to talk. You see here, you gotta keep it hanging. Class discussion made up a large proportion of the final grade. I refuse to believe that this is the main reason for the enthusiastic dynamic in 90% of our class. At first I was shy and did not want to speak up because I thought I did not have anything good to say. One of my classmates told me that I did not need to say something “correct”, I just needed to take a stand and build my argument around it. What is astounding to see is not how many or how often people talk, but the interaction in the class. I hardly saw anyone make a comment to hear the professor saying “that’s right!”. They comment because they have something to offer. Because of that followed their comments more often was “I don’t agree with that” from another classmate. That is when you know the discussion just got lifted to the interesting part. I could say that this is unique to IE because I spent time at Kellogg, and to be honest, my Financial Analysis class at IE had more participation than my Advertising Strategies class at Kellogg.
4. Making group work a real deal
As I am preparing for job interviews, my husband would tell me that these school experiences are not as good as my work stories. I would argue otherwise. I know at Kellogg, you have different groups for each subject and for some, you only get to work with your group for a few hours. This is not the case at IE. We work with each other for at least 2 months to finish 5-7 subjects which translated into approximately at least 10 hours/ week outside of the class. As a group we worked toward a shared goal, delivered for all of the classes. Just as your team at your company, you meet, you brainstorm, your debate, you develop a solution and how best to finish the work. Take Financial Accounting as an example, 9 assignments, with an opportunity to present granted at random, which means you prepare but may not be chosen. The thing is that the professor would call “randomly” on your group members who do not have a background in finance, thus if that person screws up, the whole group is screwed up. So, you gotta do what you gotta do. You sit down with your whole group until everyone understands the problem and solution thoroughly. You tell me if that is not real.
To articulate on my earlier point that to say “it is best year of my life” does not capture what an amazing year it was for me, I am thankful for the opportunity to come to IE, meet with people around the world, learn with them. I am definitely a different person after one year. Apart from feeling more privileged for the knowledge that I was equipped with, I feel more well-rounded. I am less judgmental and more empathetic, less vulnerable and more fierce, less boring and more tolerant.
Below is a video from my beloved A1 section in illustration of how much fun we had while earning our MBA from top Business School #ForeverIE #Gobeyond