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MBA Applicant Voice: Digital Strategist Seeks MBA To Generate Social Impact

Gratianne Valdez Quade has worked in the public sector, the digital media industry and in the film business. Now she hopes to use an MBA in Europe to pursue consulting.

Wed Mar 4 2015


Gratianne Valdez Quade is a new media specialist with a keen interest in digital and brand strategy.

After years working in international organizations like AIM International and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, she is ready for business school and is certain that an MBA will help her to achieving her career goals. 

Why do you want to begin an MBA now?

I promised myself a long time ago that I would wait to apply to graduate school until I was absolutely certain of my objectives, no matter how long it took to define them.

I graduated from Occidental College in 2007 and subsequently have had time to explore many facets of new media in both advertising and the non-profit world in developing countries.

I want to combine my experience in the digital space with the leadership and management education of an MBA degree, to pursue a career in brand strategy.

What do you hope to gain from it?

I am looking for a way to strengthen and connect the skills I [have] learned in previous jobs, while adding marketing skills gained from an MBA program.

Having worked for and interned at a variety of organizations including Publicis Modem, the Charlie Rose Show and PBS’s American Experience, my experience comprises many moving parts.

I gained experience in film editing while working on the Oscar-nominated documentary Bully. I also worked with a team of journalist to cover the continued devastation in Haiti a year after the 2010 earthquakes.

For the last two and a half years, I have been living in Phnom Penh [Cambodia], where I work in the anti-human trafficking field. Here, my greatest achievement has been founding and developing, with a colleague, a database for missing and trafficked children in Cambodia.

I am at a point where I would like to take my experiences full-circle and augment them with education. My goals are focused and now I must concentrate on filling in my knowledge gaps with an MBA from a top business school with a global focus.

How will an MBA impact your future career?

My core objectives are to grow as a leader and to learn. I want to delve into marketing theory, brand strategy, consumer research, and more importantly the art of leadership. These skills are needed to bridge my skill-sets.

An MBA will give me the training and credibility I need to move into a leadership position, with the ability to influence overarching organizational brand strategy.

Which business schools will you apply to?

I am looking at business schools in Europe. My top choices are: HEC [Paris], ESSEC, ESCP Europe, EMLYON, and IMD.

What are the most important factors to you when choosing a business school?

Personal attention and class size are key considerations, as I tend to thrive in personal, collaborative environments. I value meaningful interactions with my professors and seek an environment conducive to forming lasting friendships and business relationships with my peers.

Opportunities for internships and consulting projects are also major draws for me. I would like to get experience in France before entering the job market. Since I am a non-native French speaker, finding a job will be a challenge.

Picking a program with a strong career development department and alumni network in France is essential. 

What has been your greatest challenge during the MBA application process?

The GMAT. After seven years out of school, getting into the habit of intensive independent study has been a challenge, but a fun one.

I decided to take an online course that I could complete at my own pace. I have augmented my studies with additional GMAT books and an enormous stack of flashcards. I was intimidated at first but I am now looking forward to taking the test. 

How do you plan to fund your MBA?

Of course I hope [to get] a scholarship, but applying exclusively in Europe means that tuition and living costs will be for one year, as opposed to two years in the US, where I am from. I have savings but am prepared to take on loans to finance the degree.

What are your future career plans?

I aspire to work in brand strategy, where I can combine my experience in the digital space.

What I love about the digital marketing and brand strategy space is that they are found in a variety of settings, from business consultancies to ad agencies and even in the non-profit sector.

Upon graduation, I’d like to work at a business consultancy firm that has clients including corporations as well as non-profit organizations.