Merce Borrull’s view of Barcelona is biased. Although she has just landed a promotion at Zurich Insurance Group, a top insurance firm in Switzerland, she is Spanish through and through.
You should study at ESADE Business School, Merce says, not just because Barcelona is the best city in the world, but because of the high-quality professors and class diversity.
She credits her time on the Programme for Leadership Development (PLD) – a one-year course similar to an MBA – for helping her progress through the hierarchy of Zurich.
Six years ago she entered the company as a Business Analyst, but flash forward to 2013, and she is enjoying a career in a managerial role with a company that has 60,000 employees serving customers in more than 170 countries.
Merce goes to great lengths to praise professors Gloria Batllori (Finance), Eva Marco (Coach), and Jordi Brunat (Business Simulation) for making her time at one of Europe’s best-ranked b-schools a success. “I had no clue about some of the financial stuff,” she says, looking back at 2012 when she first set foot inside ESADE.
“I had never worked in finance then, and now I’m in a global position that needs me to understand the balance-sheets and financials, and how my role affects them.”
Just before taking up a position at ESADE, Merce was a Project Manager, providing business plans and consultancy while managing a team of up to 12 people. Although holding a Masters of Business Intelligence, she felt she needed a thorough b-school education to advance.
She studied half her course at ESADE in her home, Barcelona, while studying the other half at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, where she received personal business coaching.
The international study options at ESADE gave her a gateway into Switzerland. “The coaching and personal development is very useful because it brings the most out of you, and it gives you the tools to move forward,” she said.
“I wanted to achieve some personal development and get challenged. And, of course, have the learning that would allow me to connect the dots afterwards in my job and get a higher position.”
Like many MBAs, Merce thrives on diversity. She has spent time studying and working in Munich, Germany, Spain and Zurich in Switzerland. She got the job at Zurich Insurance in-part because they were looking for someone with international experience, with interdisciplinary skills.
She feels studying in two different locations gave her a chance to saviour different cultures. While studying in Barcelona, MBAs complained of not being able to understand the accent of some Spanish professors, she said. “We should be able to understand different types of people and embrace diversity and languages,” Merce said. “For me, it was enriching the class.”
At ESADE, 50 per cent of students come from emerging market countries, while The Economist ranks them first worldwide for international student diversity. A business school that prides itself on an international element, students can enjoy two Global Centers in Munich and Sao Paulo, as well as their campuses spread across Spain.
After a promotion to Global Underwriting Applications Manager at Zurich, Merce manages a team that is mostly offshore, in strategic positions around the globe. “I needed to put myself in a different environment, so my degree was key,” she added.
It is no surprise that Switzerland is one of the healthiest and happiest populations in the world. The World Economic Forum last month regarded the Swiss economy as the most competitive, topping the US and Germany. Zurich Insurance enjoyed an operating profit of over four million USD in 2012, and b-school graduates from European communities can enjoy the fruits of more relaxed visa laws.
MBAs who reside in the majority of European countries can work in Switzerland without a work permit, with relative ease, thanks to the Schengen agreement.
For Merce, every day at Zurich is a challenge - but one that she loves. “Every day is a challenge and a great new opportunity to learn new things,” she said. “The best part of my position is the people around me. We have great professionals who are always challenged to do a bit more, and that’s what I needed, and was looking for in a career.”
Merce aspires to continue working in change-management and hopes to grow in the company, with larger projects with different scopes. But would she have got this far without ESADE? “No,” she added. “I really believe that the type of education and support you receive at ESADE drives you to take the right steps in your career.
“ESADE helps you take wider steps and the program is well set. You will enjoy and suffer by learning. I was definitely in the right place.”
Merce may have given her career a kick-start in Barcelona, but it is in Switzerland that she is taking off. Thanks to the diversity and international exposure, she had a route into Switzerland.
In one quick year at ESADE, she feels she has gained many more to come at Zurich.