Many students choose to maximize their MBA experience by studying in a new country. Expanding your cultural awareness and connecting with a diverse set of individuals can open your mind to new opportunities and career paths.
That was certainly the case for Ashish Dave who, in 2011, left his hometown in India and a career in project management to enroll in an MBA in Europe.
Opting to study at IE Business School, one of Spain’s top-ranked institutions located in Madrid, gave Ashish the foundation to embark on a new career path after graduation. Now a decade after leaving the program, he has risen to become CEO of a top asset management firm in India.
A native of Mumbai, the densely populated city on India’s west coast famous as the heart of Bollywood and the commercial capital, deciding to study in a new country was a big decision for Ashish.
His previous educational and professional life was centered within the city, deciding to leave would also make Ashish the first member of his family to study outside of India. “This was the first time I stepped out of my comfort zone, staying away from my friends and family,” he explains.
After choosing to study at IE, Ashish found the initial transition period challenging. Madrid offered an entirely different experience to Mumbai. His MBA cohort was also highly diverse, meaning he had to become accustomed to dealing with people from a broad range of backgrounds.
IE helped to facilitate this during various in-class sessions and group projects, where members of the cohort were placed into teams comprising individuals from different geographical and professional backgrounds.
“The MBA made me culturally sensitive, mindful about how other people’s views have to be factored in while building consensus,” he explains. “IE always made our working groups as diverse as possible so that you constantly worked on these skills.”
The program offers a wide variety of networking opportunities to help students build connections that can prove influential for their careers. This includes company visits, guest lectures, and various scheduled events throughout the year. However, Ashish maintains the most important of these experiences took place in class.
“Even after all these years my classmates are still just one message away if I need their help on a cross-border deal or if I need a business introduction for my portfolio.”
The IE MBA: A formative learning experience
The IE MBA program teaches a broad array of fundamental business knowledge and skills. Modules cover subjects ranging from finance to marketing, while electives allow you to delve deeper into topics of your choosing.
Developing a well-rounded business acumen provides the foundation for success across various industries. Ashish still relies on the program in his current role: “Even today, there are times when I refer to my MBA case notes while studying a business plan or sector, or while preparing a presentation.
Balancing various responsibilities and opportunities, working hard in-class, and remembering to take time to enjoy life in a new country made the MBA experience highly impactful in shaping Ashish both as a person and a professional.
“Any MBA program is about rigour and discipline,” he says. “This made me more disciplined about work and life, it made me more self-sufficient, it helped me realize the value of time, money, and effort.”
Life after graduation: Becoming a CEO
Ashish finished in the top 15% of his IE MBA cohort and worked to channel this new-found perspective toward career success when it came to life after graduation.
He returned to India shortly after completing the program. Having focused on his future career path from the very beginning of his studies, he was quickly able to launch a new career in venture capital.
He spent several years working with a number of influential venture capital firms, first in Mumbai and then in Bengaluru—a large city in southern India. In 2018, he joined Mirae Asset Venture Investments, where he spent five years rising through the ranks before reaching his current role as CEO.
The role relies on his business acumen to think strategically, directing the future of the company. He also employs fundamental skills he honed during the MBA, including time management, project leadership, and delegation.
“You do the same work as a CEO as you would do as an analyst,” he says. “I have to hustle every day, I still source deals, talk to companies and partners at peer VC firms, spend time on hiring interviews for my firm or portfolio firms, read research reports and news articles.”
Reflecting on the successful journey he’s undertaken since leaving business school, Ashish feels the MBA placed him on a pathway, but it was up to him to walk along it.
“Any MBA provides equal access and information to everyone, hence the outcome of an MBA program is totally on you and how you leverage it,” he says.
“Do not expect that if you finish the program, you will [automatically] excel in life and your career."