Andrew Lutjens, soon to graduate from the MBA program at IE Business School, is living proof that you can combine right-brain creativty and left-brain business nouse.
Lutjens has spent his career following his instincts. Growing up in the US, he knew from 2nd Grade that he wanted to go to Parsons School of Design in New York, spending a summer there studying design management. When it came to applying for college, he was single-minded in his choice. “Much to the dismay of my parents and college advisor, I only applied to Parsons.
“I went to a typical WASP-y prep school and my parents were neurotic, y’know… it freaked everyone out. I had started applications to other art schools, the Brown-RISD thing, which my parents were pushing for, but I ended up only sending in one application, and luckily that worked out!”
Lutjens took a BBA in Design Management at Parsons, a concentration with a breadth of requirements. “One period I’d be in Econ, and the next I’d be in figure-drawing class or blending or something like that. That’s the brilliance of the program - their motto for the course was ‘if you’re going to manage creatives, you need to know how one thinks.’”
Alongside his studies he interned for Tulah, an NY fashion house, and then as a fashion assistant for Condé Naste’s Men’s Vogue, which had just launched. Soon he was juggling a job on the magazine with schoolwork.
“My first internship was my freshman year. I arrived in New York like any aspirational arts student - really hungry. Parsons engrains in you from day one that you intern, and that’s how you’re going to get a job after graduation.”
At Men’s Vogue Lutjens got the ‘editor’s itch’, setting a goal of becoming a fashion editor before he was 25. At a new magazine the team was smaller and the work more involved than at a giant like Vogue; rather than just fetching fabrics and coffee, Lutjens was helping put shoots together as well as managing interns.
Graduating in the midst of the magazine's demise, he jumped to the Wall Street Journal's WSJ magazine as a founding staffer, soon promoted to Market Editor (at 23 - two years ahead of schedule). The role was creative (going to fashion shows, identifying trends in the market, pitching story ideas for editorial) but also strongly linked with the publishing business, working with the marketing team to pitch the magazine to both readers and advertisers.
“This is where I got my business chops, understanding our advertising team and what they do, understanding that a magazine really is a business, and trying to grow that business in any way possible.”
After four years at WSJ, Lutjens started exploring his MBA options. Looking for a break from New York, IE business school based in vibrant Madrid, stuck out. “I think you need an innovative curriculum and a diverse culture. In the end, going to business school and making that investment, I think you need more than just a nice brand name and location in the United States. You need something that expands your mind.”
IE offered a curriculum with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. A lot of the electives are based on entrepreneurship or innovation, or business as a global activity rather than weighted towards a particular market. “I think that’s something European schools do really well - their student body is in general more diverse so they just have to. You have to cater to your audience and ultimately the audience of a European business school is more varied.”
Communicating with diverse audiences is what Lutjens does best - whether it’s expressing a magazine’s brand to advertisers and readers as a market editor, or explaining the requirements of business to designers as a consultant, or pitching to investors, he knows that any endeavour comes down to working with other human beings.
“The people, at the end of the day, is what an MBA boils down to. You learn a lot of hard skills in an MBA, but you can learn those hard skills at a European MBA, a top-tier MBA, a US MBA, a second-tier MBA… basically a hard skill is a hard skill - a monkey can learn that. It’s the soft skills that, ironically, a lot of people lack that really help you. At IE your workgroup isn’t just a group of other Americans. You’re working with people from all over the world, and so you gain a lot of soft skills about understanding their particular culture, where they’re coming from, that you wouldn’t gain just by working in another start-up in the United States.”
There can be no easy league-table measurement for diversity, but this aspect of a program selection is still significant and the difficult-to-define soft-skill it develops - ‘cultural fluency’ - essential. “You’re forced to become self-aware, and adapt. I’ve seen a change in myself over the program, becoming much more open to different ideas and different cultures.”
Lutjens has been an active idiversity advocate at IE. He’s spent a term as president of ieOut, the school’s LGBT society. When looking at schools, the LGBT community was one of the features of IE that stood out. “IE has one of the biggest LGBT clubs of all the business schools I know of. I can't say enough good things about it.
"We have, depending on the intake, about 15-20 active LGBT members in the school, and also a lot of alumni taking part in cocktail events or our flagship event 'LGBT At Work [including speakers from Barclays, IBM, and Diversity Consulting]. It’s been a great experience being at IE and being openly gay, the community absolutely accepts you and there’s been a lot of support for it.”
Looking forward, Lutjens is thinking about technology, after having spent the summer working in Bangalore for Infosys. He compares technology to fashion and publishing; “With publishing you have to put out a new magazine every month, with fashion a new collection. Technology is just as innovative and changes as much as media and fashion.
Ideally I’d like to meld the two; I’d like to go into e-commerce or something of that nature. I love the idea of the convergence of mobile technology with fashion and traditional brick-and-mortar retail and how the consumer moving forward will engage with technology in that environment. So ideally something in that realm!”