By Alissa Warne (Sept ’18 IMBA)
When I first arrived in Madrid to begin the IMBA, everyone kept talking about the three S’s that I would have to prioritize: sleep, study or socializing (not to mention looking for a job!) So how can you get the most out of your one-year MBA at IE despite constantly competing priorities? I asked a couple of my classmates for their advice and here’s what I found.
Prioritize from the start, but don’t be afraid to change them as you go
Why do you want an MBA in the first place? The answer to this should be apparent during the application process – for me, it was to pivot to a different geography and industry, but it may be different for others. It goes without saying that if you want to get into tech, attend relevant tech talks, join the tech club or ask your classmates who work in this industry.
“Spend the first two weeks of each term figuring out what you want to learn and then spend the rest of your term prioritizing your time accordingly – including skipping the occasional class to dig deeper into the topics that interest you,” says Katie Williams.
Ensuring that what you do during the MBA meets your goals is important to help you get the most out of the MBA, but don’t worry if these goals change as you go. As you learn new things during the program and from your classmates, your priorities are bound to shift.
Forge valuable connections
One of the three S’s is socializing, but I don’t mean just at the bar or at a section party. Part of what makes the MBA experience special is forging valuable connections, whether it’s with your classmates, alumni or faculty.
“While the parties in Madrid are great you have to think a bit bigger. Talk to everyone, get coffee or lunch with new people when you can. Don’t be closed off in groups and really get to know the backgrounds of people in your class because there is no other place like it,” says Kyle Flick.
I scheduled coffee catch-ups in Term 1 and 2 with IE alumni based in Madrid to find out more about the industry I wanted to pivot to and the skills I would need. LinkedIn is the ideal tool to find out where IE alumni are today but don’t overlook the networking opportunities in clubs or through the geographic chapters.
Constantly test and challenge what you know with hands-on competitions
Learning by doing is one of the best ways to apply what I’ve studied in class in a real-life setting. Case competitions or industry challenges allow participants to come up with a solution under pressure, and are usually associated with a business school or sponsor company.
“The MBA teaches you to stretch yourself and take advantage of opportunities,” says Andrew Tucker. “Travelling to the other side of the world (Montreal) for just two nights to compete in a case competition, despite end-of-term deliverables and finals starting the following week – while stressful – was a reminder of what an incredible privilege this year really is!”
My first case competition was developing the marketing strategy for a new hotel in Madrid, which my team and I worked on for two days. Though we came second place, we were able to put into practice marketing, entrepreneurship and accounting concepts, develop a pitch deck under pressure, and align what the client wanted with our own assumptions about the industry.
Collaborate, not compete
This may sound counterintuitive to the point above, but it’s important to differentiate between healthy competition in a formal setting of an MBA challenge, versus being competitive in the classroom. Collaboration is always better than competing in the classroom because you’ll learn more from your classmates working with them rather than against them.
Classmates whom I’ve spoken to about my random ideas have been willing to not only listen and critique them but also excited to participate. During exam week, the class shared notes and organized study sessions in which subject experts would teach the others; the same goes for reviewing each other’s resumes and cover letters.
Find your support crew
Whether it’s friends or family, find your support system. Most times, this will be from your section, but it can also come from clubs, lab period, other sections or extracurricular activities.
“My support group started out of necessity in Term 1 as we had to study for the accounting exam, but it’s evolved into so much more than that. I’m so thankful to have found amazing friends that keep me sane through tough times. The MBA is a great leveler. You cannot let arrogance blindside learning. Be humble,” says Ankit Somani.
Being in a one-year MBA program is intense and tough. There are definitely times when you don’t think you can make it through, but it’s an experience like no other because of the people you meet. The simplest advice is really to do what matters to you in the long term, and be kind to yourself by taking a break once in a while!
Alissa Warne is a current MBA candidate part of the September ’18 intake who is the career rep of her section, the President of the eCommerce Club and VP of the Technology & Innovation Club.