An international cohort, an entrepreneurial culture and the chance to learn Spanish: these are the key features that drew Sarah Magnell to IE Business School. She enrolled in March last year into the full-time MBA at IE, the Madrid-based school ranked 12 in the latest global MBA rankings.
A former chief of staff and consultant at London’s Saxton Bampfylde, a leading independent executive search firm and leadership consultancy, she hopes to strengthen a career in human resources.
Once a paralegal at Ellison Tillyard Callanan, a law firm based in Sydney, Sarah has benefited from a rich experience in class with a diverse peer group, and has been inspired by IE’s start-up focus.
The headhunter will hope to search out a senior role in HR after she completes a current internship at Simanye Group, a management consultancy firm that is based in South Africa.
Why did you decide to begin an MBA degree?
Prior to starting the MBA I was working as an executive search consultant in London, advising clients about their management structures and top talent.
However, I didn't feel that I understood business well enough from an insider's perspective. I thought the MBA would help me understand the technical side of business functions.
What made your business school stand out from the rest?
IE Business School stood out for three key reasons. Firstly, it was a top-ranked business school. Secondly, I wanted to complete my MBA within one year rather than two – many schools were not an option for me. Thirdly, the prospect of living in Madrid for a year and learning Spanish was incredibly appealing.
How would you describe the culture at your business school?
Firstly, the culture is very international. In my intake of 200 students there are 69 nationalities. This creates a rich experience, learning how to work with a variety of cultures.
Secondly, my peers are genuinely great people. IE attracts people who are friendly, helpful, intelligent, and will be successful in their future careers.
Thirdly, IE strongly promotes an entrepreneurial culture. Many students are in the process of starting their own businesses and some have already had some success with funding.
Which aspect of the MBA has been the most valuable?
The most valuable aspect for me has been the people I have met at IE. I have met some outstanding individuals. Some will be future business colleagues and others lifelong friends. The network that IE creates is certainly the most valuable aspect of the MBA.
What advice would you give to people who are about to apply to business school?
Firstly, work out whether you are really committed to completing an MBA. There are big time and financial commitments involved, and the workload is intense. If you are not committed in the first place, you will get very little out of the MBA.
Secondly, it is helpful to know what you want at the end of the MBA. Is it a job in management consulting? Is it to start your own business? Is it to find a job in industry? If you know the answer to this, then it becomes easier to find schools that cater to those needs.
Thirdly, know whether you want to do a one or two-year course, as this may limit the number of schools and locations available to you.
Fourthly, choose a top-ranking school, if possible. The quality of the faculty and the quality of the networks tend to be higher for top-ranked business schools.
How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
I came to IE from a female-dominated workplace in which 95% of my colleagues were women. Although it was strange to enter an environment where women are the clear minority, I have really enjoyed my time working with men. Most of my closest friends from IE are male and I find it helpful to obtain a male perspective.
Working in a male-dominated environment has actually taught me the importance of speaking up, giving opinions and having confidence in one's own ideas.
What are your future career plans?
My plan post-MBA is to work in HR. The options I am exploring at the moment include in-house HR, HR consultancy, or going back into headhunting.