What an MBA did for me
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
American. Esade (graduates 2021). Accepted on Amazon graduate MBA Launch programme subject to MBA. Barcelona, moving to Munich in March
What advice would you give to prospective students?
Write down why you are choosing to invest time and money in an MBA. Are you trying to change your career, move to a new country or expand your network?
This is not the time for another application essay where you set vague, lofty goals for the future. Be concise and brutally honest with yourself. An MBA is intense and goes by so quickly: having a quick reference of what I truly wanted out of the programme helped me to set priorities, structure my time and focus.
Our schedules were always full of classes and club events, so remembering the specific reasons that led me there helped me to expand my aspirations and refine which internships and jobs to apply for — instead of just pursuing the same opportunities as my classmates.
Indian. SDA Bocconi School of Management, 2020. Senior marketing manager, Praesidiad, Italy
How did the pandemic affect your studies and how did you adapt?
The period between the end of February and June, when Covid affected my studies, was the diamond of my MBA journey because I learnt so many things about myself and the world around me. The first couple of months were chaos and there was a lot of strain on my mental health. It was very difficult to understand what was happening and how to cope with it. The school was very supportive: it quickly adapted to online classes. But the change was huge.
During this experience I learnt how to deal with uncertainty. Being an MBA student, you are programmed to have a plan A, B, C and D. During Covid you cannot have a plan B: you make plans, wake up the next day and everything is different. Everybody supported me throughout the journey, including my professors and the careers service.
I spent a lot of time accepting what had happened, that things would be different, and not everything would be under my control. I learnt how to find my own peace. The motto of 2020 was “one step at a time”.
Glenn Budhi Santoso
Indonesian. Antai College of Economics and Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong, 2021. Full-time student, China
What are your MBA survival tips?
The first tip is to always be prepared. It is quite common to receive the course material before classes start, so you can read it in advance. It will help if you do that because once the course or the day starts, there is virtually no time to catch up.
The second thing is: do not procrastinate. Every day we have courses in the morning, and in the afternoon we work on our end project, for example. We must do this on schedule. Never procrastinate because once you do, it just snowballs.
One thing that was important for me was to talk to my friends and seniors. We go on MBA programmes to make connections — to get to know and interact with people. There is a chance that you will not be an expert in a subject, so talk to people and exchange ideas. That really helps you through the course.
Indian. Indian School of Business, 2020. On graduate programme at Siemens, India
How are you applying what you learnt on the MBA?
You are primed for many things in your job. You are expected to be more of an authority on subjects, and you are given more freedom and are expected to take on more responsibility.
I think the best part in terms of what you can apply is attitude. You take things on and accomplish them. You stay self-motivated: you do not need somebody to give you pep talks every day. You know how to stick to a schedule, and you are organised.
A lot of academia is very relevant and current too. For example, many of us work on digitalisation and “industry 4.0”. We were prepared to make that leap because the materials — case studies, discussions, panels, networking events — were relevant to industry. We were exposed to the market conditions as they are. I also learnt to say, “I do not know but please tell me what that is.”
Often we do not accept that we do not know something. At ISB you are encouraged to ask questions and fill in those gaps. It takes a lot more guts and confidence to say “I don’t know” than “I know”.
Indian. Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, 2020. Vice-president, AlixPartners, Chicago, US
Why did you decide to do MBA?
Before going to Tepper, I was in India, where I was born and brought up. I am a mechanical engineer and was involved in the supply chain at Maruti Suzuki, one of the largest automotive companies in India. It was an interesting three years and I worked really hard.
But I wanted to be in a leadership position and take more decisions. I could affect my area of work, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to understand different functions, such as finance and how marketing and research and development work. I wanted to see how different things come together to form an organisation or to take decisions to benefit the company.
I realised the MBA was a very good option because it provides holistic development and opens your mind to new perspectives.