Sara Mojdehi was on track for a career in heavy industry and academia in her native Iran, but the MIP Politecnico di Milano
transformed her future by winning her a job with consulting firm AT Kearney in Milan.
Sara, 32, graduated from the MIP MBA in 2012. She has a Bachelors in Industrial Engineering from Ira University of Science and Technology, and a Master in Management from Allameh Tabatabaei University (ATU), the largest university in the Middle East specialising in social sciences.
Sara worked for several years as an engineer and project planner for the National Iranian Oil Company, the Iran Marine Industrial Company and satellite communications firm Rahnegar.
In 2009 she decided to build her academic and professional credentials by starting a PhD in Manufacturing and Operation Management at ATU. However, she soon realized that she did not enjoy it: “The PhD was extremely difficult. I was the first person out of two in the whole country accepted onto the programme. It turned out to be very R&D based and I wanted to use what I had studied so far”.
Not one to give up easily, Sara completed her PhD in 2011, but by then she had already set her sights on getting international work experience, and had figured that an MBA was the way to do it.
“I wanted to bridge my academic knowledge and enter new international markets”, she said. MIP was Sara’s school of choice because of its reputation for bridging science with business.
MIP Politecnico di Milano School of Management was born in 1979 out of the partnership between the Politecnico di Milano, the largest technical university in Italy and major Italian industry bodies and firms.
Sara landed a role with top management consulting firm AT Kearney upon graduation, after five gruelling interview rounds. It helped that she had performed well during an internship with the firm.
The internship made Sara feel that her choice to go to school in Italy paid off: “I had a scholarship for Boston University but I wanted to do an MBA somewhere I could work. I didn’t want to waste more time... Because I wanted to stay in Italy, I had a very challenging year as I was also learning Italian, but the international experience was unbeatable”, she said.
’s career service helped Sara land the internship with A.T. Kearney. However, she had to convince senior partners during the interview process that she was committed to learning Italian.
Sara said, “The last partner who interviewed me told me to come back with a registration from an Italian language school. He told me he was investing in me because of my diversified portfolio and my mind-set.
"I studied a lot, practiced with Italian friends and realized that Italian is not so hard if you have a good base of English and French”.
Sara stressed the importance of learning the local language for professionals who want to work in Italy: “If you can’t speak Italian, you’re in big trouble since most of the business transactions take place in Italian”. Fortunately, MIP offers its MBA students Italian lessons so that is a good way to get a head start.
Sara is already immersed in life as a management consultant, aside from the challenge of tackling strategy cases in Italian: “There are a few technical words that I still don’t know but A.T. Kearney is helping and supporting me a lot, she said.
Our conversation took place while she was at the airport to catch a flight to meet with clients. Like most consultants she spends a lot of time travelling, although her trips are mainly within the Schengen countries because of her nationality and visa restrictions.
Management consulting has given her a lot of career satisfaction: “It’s really demanding and challenging. You have no time for friends and family, no time for vacation, but I’m not afraid of working a lot and not sleeping. Besides, I love seeing how my research can be translated into solutions”, she said.
Sara’s focus at AT Kearney is on financial institutions. She advises clients on cost reduction, marketing and business development.
She encourages women MBAs who want to get into consulting to give AT Kearney a go. “When I was hired, AT Kearney was looking for female consultants with international profiles because the company is big on improving gender ratios."
She also has a few tips to excel in management consulting:
“Be really determined. Be sure you want to be there. Prepare yourself by doing lots of business cases. Know already what you’re trying to say before you open your mouth. Invest in languages - lots of classmates didn’t take language seriously.
"Each lesson that we learned on the MBA was useful. I see it now and I regret not paying even more attention. If you invest in an MBA then seize each moment because otherwise it’s a waste of time”.