Susana Monsalve-Jones spent several years mixing it with music industry A-listers in Los Angeles before relocating to Australia for her MBA.
As an audio engineer and producer, she worked on Coldplay’s sixth studio album, recorded a Christmas single with Barbara Streisand, and jammed with the Wu-Tang Clan. Now, she’s applying for jobs at McKinsey, Bain and BCG.
Determined to break into business, Susana left the music industry and took up a project consultant role in her native Colombia prior to her MBA. She started at Sydney’s Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) in January this year.
Since then, Susana's interned as a strategist at the Suncorp Group. She’s met with corporate leaders on-campus. Currently, she’s on an international exchange at London Business School in the UK.
She’s aiming to make the fabled triple jump – changing country, industry and role - to work for management consulting or music tech firms in Europe after her MBA.
What experiences stand out from your career in the music industry?
I worked with Coldplay on their album, Ghost Stories, at one of the biggest studios in LA. Coldplay are one of my favorite groups of all time. And working on a whole project with them, with no budget, was amazing.
I got to cover last minute as an engineer for Barbara Streisand. She was recording a Christmas song. The engineer got sick. I was called an hour before the event. I’d never worked in that studio with that team before. I was not prepared at all. But the session went well!
After that, Barbara Streisand recommended me to the Wu-Tang Clan. That was a very interesting experience! They were way more relaxed. They brought their whole family to the studio. And we spent three days with all these kids playing music all the time and adding new ideas to the song.
How did you find working with high-profile celebrities?
I was really star-struck when I first started to work with Coldplay. But once you get to know them you realize they’re just like you.
You form a relationship with them. You tell them how they should sing to try and get the best out of them in each session. It’s difficult! You need to be very sensitive. But they’re not arrogant. They’re really open to suggestions from new people.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
While I was working in music industry, I also worked for film composer. I started doing a lot of the management stuff like financial planning and strategy. I realized that what I really loved was business and numbers. Music was a great experience but I needed to move on.
I got the opportunity to work as a project consultant in Colombia. And I started considering the idea of doing an MBA.
What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?
Fit is very important. Different schools focus on different things. Definitely target what you’re looking for in your career. That way you’ll find the best classes and the best network for you. AGSM focuses a lot on management consulting. They really shape us for that and their offering is targeted to those types of jobs.
Why did you choose to study at AGSM in Australia?
I knew that I wanted to experience something different. My mother’s Australian. I’d never lived in Australia before. So the MBA was the perfect opportunity. And Sydney is a beautiful city. There’s lot of opportunities. From the big firms to startups; the scene is very promising.
When I saw the program and all the people involved, AGSM was a no-brainer. It’s very diverse; in my class there are 63 students from 30 different countries. The faculty is world class: we have ex-partners from top consulting firms. And AGSM has amazing relationships with other top schools in the world, like London Business School and Wharton.
How important was your consulting experience to your MBA application?
I don’t think it would have changed anything if I hadn’t put it in my application. AGSM are really open to diversity. We have a girl who used to host a show at CNBC, we have engineers, people from oil and gas. We have people from every industry.
How has AGSM supported you in your career so far?
AGSM gives you the resources to work for global companies. I’ve already networked with them and interviewed with them here.
I’m not a very typical MBA student. But the careers offering is really personalized. The careers team guide you, help you prepare for interviews, and try to find employers that suit your mold.
In careers month, the firms actually come on campus to meet us and tell us about opportunities they have available. They have special application processes, just for AGSM. McKinsey, BCG, Uber, Google, American Express; you name it, they all come on campus to recruit us!