This year The Economist ranked IESE's full-time MBA first in the world. It was the first school in Europe to offer a two-year MBA and 94 per cent of its graduates are employed within three months of finishing the degree.
A graduate of the IESE full-time MBA herself, Itziar talks to us about the unique opportunities that the programme offers. Students likely to be admitted have a heavyweight undergraduate degree and can contribute to a "rigorous, demanding and fun" programme.
How long have you been with IESE?
I’ve been with the business since 2007. I did my MBA here from 2004 to 2006. I got the offer to stay and work with the school but rejected it to go and for work a multinational in Switzerland. After a year, I decided I wanted to move back to Barcelona.
I started as an Associate Director for MBA Admissions then moved to the Alumni office to help build up our alumni activity and promote the school and our brand in key geographical areas.Then in June 2011, I was asked to head the MBA admissions department.
Has it been a very challenging role?
The department has been doing excellent work even though the climate as a whole has been more challenging thanks to the EU crisis. However, the school is doing well. Classes are full and we haven’t seen any drop in the admissions rate. We’re very happy with our results and hope to maintain it. We’ve even added some international elective courses in Singapore, Sao Paulo and Nairobi so that’s quite exciting.
What kind of students come on the IESE MBA?
We have a very international class: 80 per cent of them come from outside Spain. We have around 56 nationalities. We normally attract students who are eager to be in an international environment. We do have a lot of people from engineering and business backgrounds but we also have people from other backgrounds such as law, sciences, and humanities.
Our classes are really a diverse setting. For instance we had the guy running the Formula One join our MBA programme. Most people use our MBA programmes to enhance their profile both personally and professionally. People with technical degrees want to enhance their business knowledge in order to move to more strategic roles. Others might want to develop soft skills or add another perspective to their profile.
What do you think current students like most about studying at IESE?
I think students like the programme itself. It's consistently ranked as a top school in the world. Our programme is rigourous and demanding but also fun. All our professors are PhDs and they focus on teaching, research and consulting. They all have practical experience in their areas either working as consultants or sitting on the boards of companies.
IESE also has a very friendly and open atmosphere. We have a student-professor ratio of 4 to 1 and all our professors operate an open door policy. This means students end up developing close friendships with their professors.
I also don’t think that it hurts that we are located in Barcelona. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend six months in Barcelona?!
Can you tell us some of the opportunities for travel and work experience during the programme?
There are plenty of opportunities for travel. In the second year, students can go on exchange to any of our 28 partner schools around the world. We also have international elective courses in New York, Sao Paulo and Singapore which are very popular. This year we are adding electives in Shanghai and Kenya.
As for internships, students with more than six years of experience are not required to do one but it is recommended.
We hold a number of company presentations and recruitment events on campus. We recently had 48 companies on campus recruiting for internships and full-time roles and we’re organizing another session in February because we didn’t have enough space for all the firms who wanted to come!
Some students prefer to work on a business plan or case study with a professor. IESE
gives students the opportunity to finance their business through a private fund called FINAVES
- they can access to up to €300,000 to work on a business of their own.
Can you give us some examples of the job roles IESE graduates go on to?
We have people working for a wide range of companies. I could name firms like JP Morgan, Google and Facebook as great recruiters of our MBAs but in fact we have strong ties with 479 recruitment companies in 38 different countries.
How can a candidate impress you in their application?
When I’m reading an application, I really want the personality of the applicant to come through. I want to have a feeling of wanting to meet this person. Because I read so many, the best bet is for applicants to try to be themselves. Use your hobbies, associations and travelling to explain how you will contribute to the class.
Is a very high GMAT score more important than work experience?
We are interested in the whole profile of a person. GMAT is only one component of the application. If we like a candidate and they didn’t get a good enough score, we will ask them to take the test again. We look at other things like the quality of work experience, recommendation letters and how they perform at the assessment day, where we measure other skills too.
What would you say to prospective MBAs who are worried about the state of the Spanish economy?
Spanish companies are still looking for talent. This year,we placed around 28 per cent of the class in Spain. We also place students globally: 38 per cent in Europe, 8 per cent in North America, 11 per cent in South America, 3 per cent in the Middle East, and 12 per cent in Asia.
We have career personnel all over the world establishing contacts with local companies. It's clear the growth is in places other than Europe these days so we are making an effort with that, but we still have good numbers for Spain. In total 94 per cent of our students have jobs in three months.
Your admissions team is made up of quite a few IESE MBA graduates. Does this help with the admissions process?
It helps us when we try to answer the question of whether we can see this person as part of our class. There is a component of fit when it comes to an MBA so by being alums, we can share our experiences with the applicants and honestly tell them if they would fit into the programme or if they should look for another school.
Can you leave us with a piece of information that anyone applying to IESE must know?
How international the programme is, including the opportunities to travel. The programme is very rigorous but it's great. Our mission is positive impact on society. We’ve had an emphasis on ethics and have been teaching it since 1958. We want to give students the tools to help them make better decisions and take responsibility for their actions.