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An International MBA Helped Land Me A Job At Microsoft And Launch My Startup—Here’s How

Sarim Hussain studied at three world-renowned institutions during his MBA. Spending time in Portugal and the US helped him land a job at Microsoft and co-found a technology business


Thu Jun 13 2024

An MBA can open you up to a variety of career opportunities, including exposure to new job roles, the chance to get involved in entrepreneurial ventures, and sometimes even both. 

For Sarim Hussain, enrolling in The Lisbon MBA did exactly that: helping him secure a job with Microsoft—the world’s most valuable company—and also providing the tools to launch a startup out of business school. 

From India To An MBA In Portugal 

Sarim grew up in Mumbai, India, before leaving the region to study a bachelor’s in engineering and biotechnology in the northern city of Chandigarh. 

After completing his degree, Sarim embarked on a career in fintech. He spent five years building his career across two firms, eventually rising to a managerial role responsible for a number of key accounts.

However, Sarim felt he needed more if he was going to take his career to the next level: “I realized that I needed some finesse to go up the career curve. That’s where the first idea of studying an MBA came to me.” 

Sarim desired international exposure and the chance to experience a new business and social culture. Searching for a destination in Europe, he decided Portugal would make a good fit. 

In choosing a study location, Sarim decided to study The Lisbon MBA, a highly international 12-month degree offered by CATÓLICA-LISBON and Nova SBE in partnership with MIT Sloan School of Management. 

“I thought, if I’m going to Portugal, I am going to study an MBA from the best business schools in Portugal,” he explains. 

He was also struck by the diversity of the curriculum, which includes a one-month immersion period with MIT Sloan in Cambridge, Massachusetts; a leadership development program; and an in-company assignment opportunity.

“I started speaking with a lot of alumni and everyone spoke in very high regards about the MIT Immersion program and the MBA as a whole.” 

Studying The Lisbon MBA

After arriving in Lisbon, Sarim was immediately taken by the highly diverse nature of The Lisbon MBA cohort. The current class consists of 62% international students, with participants hailing from a variety of industries. 

“You had this mix and match of people from all different industries, backgrounds, understandings, and experiences,” he explains. 

On average, students bring around 10 years of work experience into the program. Within a very international cohort of about 40 students, this level of experience meant there was ample opportunity for Sarim to learn from his fellow classmates, as well as his professors. 

“In each area of the curriculum you have subject matter experts along with the professors, and then you have the learners, the thinkers, the people who have questions—and that encourages you to be a part of the discussion,” he explains. 

The wide variety of experiences packed into the MBA journey added to Sarim’s studies. While learning in Portugal he was able to cultivate relationships with his fellow classmates and increase his cultural awareness as he explored the local areas. 

At MIT, he studied within a large class of high achieving students at both International MBA and Executive MBA levels, with full access to the wide variety of resources accessible on campus. 

After returning from his immersion period at MIT, Sarim embarked on a two-month action learning internship with an IT consultancy firm based in Portugal, buoyed by a new level of confidence he’d gained during his time in the US. 

“After this boost of morale you go back into the workplace,” he explains. “Then you can execute what you have learned in theory into the real world.” 

Taking steps into a new career path 

Within The Lisbon MBA International curriculum, students embark on a two-month action learning period to apply the valuable competencies and academic knowledge acquired during the first part of the MBA to real business challenges. Students have the opportunity to choose from various options, such as in-company assignments with renowned organizations, or participation in the entrepreneurship hub to develop their own startup, or catalyze innovation within existing organizations.

For Sarim, the internship he undertook at the IT company provided the first step in his post-MBA career path. He was exposed to the world of technology, learning about cutting-edge areas such as cloud computing, which inspired him to pursue opportunities in the sector after graduation. 

During the final period of the program, he tailored his electives towards the technology industry and began applying for relevant job opportunities. Together with Cedric, a friend he’d made on the program, he also began working on building a new technology venture. 

Called ‘Flap’, the venture involves blockchain technology and focuses on creating a bridge between fungible and non-fungible tokens. After beginning work in October 2023, Sarim and Cedric have already completed a pre-seed funding round. 

“We had a lot of understanding of how to go about it because of the courses at MIT, the entrepreneurship sessions,” he explains. "Apart from all the outcomes of the MBA, finding an amazing friend and a co-founder, that’s above everything that an MBA can offer."

Since completing The Lisbon MBA International in the Class of 2023, Sarim has been balancing his entrepreneurial pursuits with taking the next steps in his career. He used his newfound skills, knowledge, and experience to impress recruiters after landing an interview opportunity with Microsoft. Today, he is working as a customer service account manager in the company’s Lisbon office. 

“For me, coming from India to live in Lisbon and handle customers across Europe for a company that has a lot of brand value and trust among its customers is a very good thing,” he says. 

Reflecting on his journey since enrolling in the MBA, Sarim feels he’s achieved what he set out to do when he left behind his career in fintech. 

“The finesse that I wanted to acquire, that happened over time throughout the year. You don’t feel it at the time when it’s happening, but now I do when I interact with customers [at Microsoft]. 

“Working in a big company and working in a startup are two different things, two separate worlds. I really enjoy both of these worlds.”