This Venezuelan Entrepreneur Used Her ESADE MBA To Become An Innovation Consultant

The Paris-trained pastry chef co-founded a catering services company in Caracas

For Oriana Barra, 26, beginning an MBA at Barcelona’s ESADE Business School was one of the best decisions of her life.

She’s landed a job at a marketing innovation consulting firm in the Catalan capital and applies what she learnt during the program into work on a daily basis.

In particular, Oriana’s ability to work on international projects in global teams has grown by leaps and bounds. During the MBA, she worked on a project with Kellogg University of the US and went on exchange to the Guanghua School of Management in Beijing, China. ESADE’s MBA cohort is 94% international.

The Paris-trained pastry chef joined the MBA from Venezuela, where she co-founded a catering services company in Caracas. Oriana was also engaged in a volunteering initiative for four years, which helped underprivileged children gain access to education in her home country.

During the MBA, the class valedictorian was elected vice-president for the extremely popular and active Marketing Club.

Tell us about your entrepreneurial venture.

Before the MBA I had started my own business back in Venezuela, a catering services company, which I launched with a friend. Venezuela has one of the highest inflation rates in the world and we had a food shortage. We had to manage these obstacles to make the venture successful.

I’ve always been interested in the food and beverage industries. But first I wanted some technical training. So I moved to France and studied pastry and did an internship at a restaurant. It was outside of my comfort zone — I had to overcome challenges, such as a new culture and language. But it was a great experience.

Why did you want an MBA?

There were many drivers. Firstly, I wanted to expand my career internationally. And secondly, there were economic reasons: Venezuela is not in a very good situation right now and it wasn’t two years ago, either. I felt it was the best time to explore some opportunities abroad. I thought an MBA would give me the chance to explore a new career — I wanted a career change.

What did ESADE Business School give you that other schools couldn't?

I was very, very sure I wanted to do my MBA in Europe. Both my parents are European. I’m close to this culture. I’m more passionate about what Europe has to offer than the US. The US MBA schools occupy the top ranks. But they did not offer me the internationality I wanted. Most of the MBA programs in the States are less diverse than those in Europe.

All my classmates are from all corners of the world. We have over 90% diversity; 50 different nationalities. But it’s also about people with diverse professional backgrounds — such as myself!

You spent four years engaged in a volunteering initiative. Should MBAs consider their impact on society?

Yes of course. And they do. What an MBA does is to form a person of integrity. They not only have hard technical skills. If you’re a leader with good values you will pursue social impact through your professional career and personal life.

The thing that motivated me to be involved in social impact was the environment in Venezuela. My university was one of the most prestigious but the campus is in front of one of the biggest slums in Venezuela. It’s a huge contrast. I felt obligated to give back.

We had around 100 kids from the slums that came to our campus. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

What were your goals as vice-president of the marketing club?

Our main objective was to have some practical experiences for people who were interested in a career change to marketing. We did some conferences related to digital, for example, and one of our biggest activities was our trek to Amsterdam. We did some company visits and we had real marketing experts who could tell us about the challenges they faced.

What will you do, now that you’ve graduated?

Since April I’ve been working here in Barcelona in a marketing innovation consulting firm. I’m very interested in innovation.

Everything I’ve learned during the MBA program I am applying now. I’m very happy with what I’m doing. I did my internship in India and an exchange in China, so I’m also applying everything I’ve learnt internationally into my current role.  

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