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#37 IESE MBA Admissions Q&A with Anjaney Borwankar “We’re a mission driven organization”

IESE MBA Admissions and Career Services Member Anjaney Borwankar

“Our mission has always been to develop global leaders who will have a positive impact on society.”

Can an MBA really develop “global leaders you can trust?”  This week I sat down with Anjaney Borwankar, Director of Corporate Develpment, SE Asia, to discuss how IESE MBA strives to fulfill this mission through its global makeup and case-study pedagogy.

Anjan is an IESE MBA alumni, and plays an active role on the program’s Admissions Committee and Career Services teams. We had an illuminating discussion about what makes IESE unique, the admissions process, and why candidates should see the IESE MBA as a launching pad for a global career – not just one in Spain. You’ll get some great tips here on what the school is looking for. Hint: it’s not the GMAT.

Both the Economist and Financial Times recently ranked IESE as #1 and #3 in Europe, respectively, despite Spain’s economic troubles. The school has overseas modules in New York, Shanghai, Sao Paulo and Nairobi, and is the 2nd largest producer of case studies in the world. If you prefer the case-study method, and want to get a global business education, IESE should be a leading contender.

The IESE MBA in 3 words: global, leadership, positive-impact.

Listen on for the insider’s scoop…

IESE MBA Application Tips

Touch MBA’s IESE MBA Essentials

Program Highlights (5:00)

  • IESE founded in 1958, as graduate business school of the University of Navarra
  • 1 intake / year in September
  • Length: 2 years (19 months)
  • Campus in Barcelona, Spain – IESE also has campuses in Madrid, New York City, Munich and Brazil
  • ~280 participants/intake
  • ~50 nationalities/intake, class is ~80% international
  • 100 Full-time professors from 30 countries
  • Partnership with 25 exchange schools around the world; 100 exchange slots open every year
  • Rankings: #7 Financial Times 2013, #5 Economist 2013
  • #1 in Europe by Economist 2013 and #3 in Europe by Financial Times 2013
  • Accredited by AACSB, EQUIS, AMBA
  • 2nd largest producer of case studies in the world

Admissions (29:28)

  • DEADLINES for 2014 intake
  • Round 1: Oct 6 (Dec 9)
  • Round 2: Jan 5 (Mar 4)
  • Round 3: Mar 2 (May 6)
  • Round 4: Jun 8 (Jul 25)
  • Non-EU candidates encouraged to apply before April
  • 6 applicants per full time place
  • IESE has an “assessment day” after interviews for strong applicants
  • Avg GMAT: 680 (range 550 – 780)
  • Avg age: 28, Avg work experience: 4 (70% of class 3-6 years), 2 years min work experience recommended
  • Min TOEFL 100 (internet), IELTS: 7
  • Interviews done by Admissions Directors

Financing (45:30)

  • TUITION
  • Full-time MBA Tuition: €73,900, roughly $99,500 USD
  • Recommended living expenses: €1,700 / month
  • SCHOLARSHIPS
  • €6 million of scholarships available
  • IESE awards 20-30 students each year with merit based scholarships (50% off tuition), IESE’s partner companies award another 20-30 partial – full scholarships
  • LOANS
  • International students can apply for loans that cover 80% of tuition without a cosigner

Career (48:40)

  • IESE MBA – Full-time placement report
  • 95% of graduates had jobs within 3 months of graduation
  • Average Salary: $117,000
  • Average 153% increase in salary
  • Top 5 regions graduates worked in: Western Europe (35%), Spain (28%), Asia (14%), South America (10%), North America (9%)
  • Placement by industry: Consulting (23%), Finance (18%), Industry (59%)
  • 38,000 alumni worldwide in 100 countries (10,000 MBA alumni)

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Show Notes

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Full Transcript

Darren: I’d like to introduce Mr. Anjaney Borwankar, who’s the Director of Corporate Development for Southeast Asia IESE Business School, which is based in Spain, but has many campuses in Spain and around the world. Welcome to the show!

Anjaney Borwankar: Thank you so much, Darren! It’s my pleasure to be back in Vietnam. It’s a special place for me, because I spent my honeymoon here.

Darren: Oh, really?

Anjaney Borwankar: But that’s not what we are going to talk about, no?

Darren: Fantastic! So just where in Vietnam, if I may ask?

Anjaney Borwankar: All over, actually.

Darren: So Anjaney has a really unique perspective to share with you all today, because he has worked for IESE for over seven years, he’s a member of the full-time MBA Admissions Committee, he’s also on the Career Services team, so he’s representing IESE in Southeast Asia, talking to companies, building relationships and he knows the business school’s whole suite of programs. And most importantly, he graduated from the full-time MBA in 2003. So he truly wears every hat possible and must love his school a lot.

IESE MBA Program Highlights

Darren: So let’s get straight into the meat and potatoes of this episode. What makes the IESE MBA unique from other top business schools?

Anjaney Borwankar: Darren, that’s a very important question and before I get into the program, I just want to talk about IESE itself. IESE, IESE (different pronunciation), it’s the same school, in Spain we call it IESE, so I’m going to use the term interchangeably. We are a mission-driven organization, this is the most important thing for anyone to recognize. Our mission has always been to develop global leaders who will have a positive impact on society. It seems like a tall statement, but it’s actually quite critical to understand within the IESE context what we mean by that. It’s three things: global, leadership, positive impact.

If you can understand what we mean by that, I think you will understand what is IESE and how the MBA program is unique. So let me just spend a few minutes explaining this. So when I use the term “global” within the IESE context, I’m not just talking about different nationalities in our full-time MBA program. I think that’s great and many schools have that, but we are really talking about a program where anyone who is part of IESE actually has an interest in developing their knowledge about global business. They appreciate that even if you’re running a local business, the forces at work today are global.

So whether it’s the course material that we use, whether it’s the professors, our careers for our alumni, this is truly global. So if you have an interest in a truly global program, and I’ll highlight later on how within the structure of our program you can actually spend time in different places in the world, it’s important to appreciate this first point, which is global.

Second thing is leadership. This program goes beyond just technical knowledge or even managerial skillsets. We’re actually dealing with what we consider the highest level of business education, which is leadership. And it’s actually very difficult to teach leadership. So what we try to do is create the context which helps you to foster leadership.

I think if you want to lead a global business which is sustainable, it’s not enough to just master tools and techniques. That is very important. So you will learn about finance, marketing, operations, all the different facets, but that’s not sufficient, we believe. Also the managerial skills. So when I use the term “manager” in this context, I’m referring to a person who has to get things done. You are given resources as a manager, budgets, people, etcetera and you have control over this. So if something’s going wrong, you can escalate the problem, you can ask for more resources, you might be able to fire the person.

But the leader has often a different set of challenges. A leader has to deal with issues like taking decisions under ambiguity, there’s no right or wrong answer, how do you get better at that? Listening skills. If you’re not able to listen better, how will you develop new products, solutions, new innovations? And given the multicultural context in business today, it’s quite important to develop your leadership abilities.

The last point which I’d just like to highlight on leadership is things like influencing. So as a leader you are going to be affected by for example the government with its regulations. In Asia I think that’s a big thing. But you don’t control the government, so how do you actually influence a stakeholder like the government to make sure that your business fosters? Or your competitors or your peers.

So what I’m trying to say here is leadership is a very different angle compared with just technical skills or managerial skills. If that’s something of interest to you, than IESE is probably the right place for you.

The final part in this to understand the mission, and I repeat, developing global leaders who have a positive impact, the third part is also very critical for us. So when I talk of positive impact in business, we in IESE believe that anyone who goes through our programs has to appreciate that at the end the decisions that you take finally affect people and society, even if it might be something financial, which looks so distant from people. At the end it’s going to affect people and society.

So we ensure that in our programs we bring in this human aspect, this human dimension, this ethical dimension where you’re responsible for your decisions and appreciating always that it affects people and society.

So if this is something that actually interests you, the leadership context, the global context and the positive impact, then IESE is the right place for you. So this is how we’re really different from most programs. I’ll be happy to actually explain within the MBA program structure how this plays out. Do you want me to do that right away?

Darren: Yes, perfect.

Anjaney Borwankar: So our MBA program, the full-time MBA, is over 18 months. It’s a general management program and the first year of the program is very rigid, we make sure that everyone goes through the same courses, so finance, operations, HR, marketing, entrepreneurship. You will need to go through everything, even if you have some functional experience in that, and most of our students on average have about four years of work experience, so they would know a particular function. But still we make them do that, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

But the second year of the program is completely flexible. You choose the electives and you can do the program also in different places in the world. Now if you see the structure, you can be an expert in any discipline that interests you, but you can’t only be an expert. So this is very important, so you can’t say, “I’m only interested in finance and let me take all the courses in finance.” That’s not what we are doing.

Why do we kind of force you to go through this experience? This is an obvious question. So as a future leader you can’t say, “I only know finance and I’m not interested in dealing with the people problem.” Whether you’ll run your own company in the future or you’ll lead a global business, you have to be aware of how the different functions of business interplay with each other. And that’s what we are trying to build in your program.

If you see the first year, even if you have some finance experience, we are not actually now focusing that much on the technical level. Of course you will master the techniques, but we are trying to make you appreciate at least two things. One, how do the different functions interplay with each other? And number two, how something that has worked in one context may or may not work in another context? We use cases quite heavily, business cases. We are the second largest producer of business cases in the world after Harvard Business School.

And we use cases again to help foster this leadership aspect I touched upon earlier. In a case, in a business case, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the person and take a decision. And you’re given information that that business leader had, from financial information, organizational chart, his personal life, what’s going on, it’s like real life. So you don’t have a right or wrong answer, only hindsight will tell you whether that’s good or bad.

But some alternatives could be better than others. So what we do in the IESE class, typically an MBA student would be doing about two or three cases per day, nearly 600 – 700 cases, depending on the subjects you choose by the time you graduate. Which means you will be actually looking at companies across different sectors, across different geographies. And I can guarantee you, going through the program myself, you are not going to remember that much in terms of the details of each case, but you’re going to walk away with the mental model that allows you to look at vast amounts of information and hopefully take much better decisions than you would have taken if you hadn’t gone through this process.

So it’s a lot of hard work. Remember, in a case session you can’t walk in without having read the case and prepared for it. In a lecture you can, sometimes. We’ve all been students, so we know what we are talking about.

So I hope these kinds of aspects are helping you understand some of the important differences between IESE’s MBA programs and the other programs out there.

Darren: IESE places a really strong emphasis on the case study.

Anjaney Borwankar: That’s right.

Darren: Your students walk away having done almost 700 of those and, like you said, one of the key differentiators of the program is, I could just say what your tagline is, “Developing leaders you can trust.”

Anjaney Borwankar: Right.

Darren: So what I’m curious about is how you try to teach people to make that positive impact, to be trustworthy through your curriculum and maybe it’s not just the case study. I’d love to hear more about that.

Anjaney Borwankar: Yes, it’s a good question. I would argue that actually what the case method does is help you to take decisions and put things into action. So it’s not so theoretical, it’s not about being a consultant and giving advice to somebody. No, it’s what would you do on this Monday morning, what would you propose to your board within the company given that this problem is there? And what the professor is going to do is actually repeat this question, “What would YOU do?” This is important. So you’re forced into a mindset where you have to start thinking about your decisions and taking action.

Now how do we inculcate this well rounded view? Often the same case may be taught from a different angle. Let’s say there’s a case in finance and you’re actually evaluating whether you want to close a factory or not and the number crunching, etcetera, indicates to you that you need to close the factory, which is the right decision, technically. But there will be a discussion around what are the implications of closing this factory, what are the different stakeholders, how they are affected, the costs of those things in the classroom. So we’ll spend some time discussing the human aspect of that decision, even though it’s a finance class.

This probably is not going to be that common in other business schools. And why we do that is, again, going back to the mission of the school, to make you appreciate that this decision, of closing a factory, is not just a financial decision, it also has other implications.

Darren: Crystal clear. I also noticed that IESE is one of the few bilingual MBA programs in the world. So I was wondering if you could talk a bit more about the Business Spanish program, is that required? How does the bilingual aspect work?

Anjaney Borwankar: Yes, so one of the advantages of actually doing an MBA from IESE is that you will be given lessons in the Spanish language in addition to your regular classes. So it gets very intense. In the first year of the program you will be given lessons after your regular classes and you will be put in small groups depending on the progress you’re making.

So you don’t need to know any Spanish to enter the program or to graduate from the program. There are no credits or no additional incentives given actually to learn the Spanish language. But we encourage people, because it’s a huge asset, Spanish, given that it’s becoming more important in the world today. If you are from the US, I think you’ll recognize that more and more people actually speak Spanish.

Darren: Yes.

Anjaney Borwankar: But it’s also about appreciating another culture. Remember, when you learn a new language, maybe mastery of that language will take many years, but at least you start understanding the cultural nuances. And we have seen some other benefits, which was not the original intention, but we’ve seen some of the companies from the US actually preferring our students because they know that we will have more sensitivity to the Latin American culture for example.

So it’s a huge benefit. We also have a pre-course before the actual MBA starts, it’s an intensive Spanish course and it’s to get you off the ground. Remember, you are the first year in Barcelona, in Spain, and in Spain the first language is Spanish. So outside of IESE, everything is in Spanish, but in IESE, everything is in English. So actually it can be quite difficult to learn Spanish within IESE, unless you kind of mingle a little bit with the other people.

Darren: Have there been any new exciting developments with the program?

Anjaney Borwankar: Absolutely, there are a number of them, but I’d like to highlight within the MBA program, so when I graduated back in 2003 we didn’t actually have these things going on. Today we have international modules hosted in different locations run by IESE itself. So we have a module in New York, in São Paulo, in Nairobi, in Shanghai, some of them in our own campuses and some of them in the campuses of our associated business schools.

They’ve been designed with different intentions. So for example the New York module is focused a lot on the media and entertainment industry, São Paulo obviously on doing business in Latin America, China about doing business in China, Africa about social organizations but also about how business is going on in Africa.

So what I was talking about, the global aspect again, it’s truly embodied in the structure of the program itself. So you’re not just in Spain, you’re actually going to move quite a bit around the world, depending on your interests.

Darren: And that’s in the second year and could I go to all four places if I wanted to?

Anjaney Borwankar: You could, actually. Again, this would depend a little bit on which year you join and what’s on offer at that time. Remember, electives may change and will change, because they represent the business interests from time to time. So depending on which year you are starting, you will actually have to watch out. So when I did the program, we didn’t have these kinds of electives, today we have them. But some others have disappeared, so it reflects the changing nature of business as well.

Darren: As a student and as an Admissions Team member and as a Career Services team member, is IESE particularly strong or well regarded in any academic discipline?

Anjaney Borwankar: The first thing is, it’s rigorous program, it’s got the highest quality in terms of accreditations, in terms of the quality of the teaching, the professors, they have the best PhDs in the world. They’re not just researchers, but they have a lot of experience in the real world as well.

If I have to highlight a few things as to what makes IESE special besides the mission and how that translates into the program, number one would be the case method. It might look as though it’s something easy to teach, but believe me, it takes years of training before a professor can actually run the case session very well. We are considered experts in this field.

Not only do we produce the second largest number of cases in the world, which means we have to have those relationships with companies for them to share their personal information, but more than that, we also have been running within the IESE umbrella a program where we train other institutions on how to run the case method as well. We have an international faculty program, it used to be called The International Faculty Development Program, and under that umbrella we’ve been training different professors, often deans of different institutions, to run the case method as well.

So that’s one aspect. The second aspect is the curriculum that comes in the classroom, that’s quite special as well. Now I didn’t mention this earlier, over the last 50 years that we exist, we’ve helped created a number of business schools across the globe, we call them Associated Business Schools. Out in the region here, in Asia, you might have heard of CEIBS in Shanghai.

So what you may not be aware of is that back in the 80s my then professor of entrepreneurship, professor Pedro Nueno, he actually helped initiate this idea, to create a world class business school in Shanghai. At that time it was based in Beijing, he got European Union funding, the Chinese government supported, there have been of course a lot of other people who collaborated to make this a success, but professor Pedro Nueno continues to be the President of CEIBS and it’s a great example of how we have a global reach as well.

Like that we have 15 schools in different places in the world, Latin America, Africa, etcetera. So when you’re part of IESE, often people don’t recognize this, you’re not just part of IESE in Spain, you’re actually part of a global community. In the future, who knows where the big opportunities will come from? But I’m willing to bet on places like Latin America, Africa.

So are you ready for that? And I think IESE prepares you for that true global context. This is how we are quite different from many other business schools.

Darren: That’s a perfect segway to my next question, which is why Barcelona and why Spain? I’m sure you’ve heard more than anyone, people would love to study in Barcelona, I’ve met many candidates who would love to study in Spain, but they say, “Oh, the unemployment rate is so high and they’ve just gone through an economic crisis and I’m worried about my job prospects after the program.” So I’d just like to hear your thoughts on that.

Anjaney Borwankar: That’s a frequently asked question to me and that’s why I’d like to highlight and go back to the mission. If you’re choosing IESE, don’t choose it because we are in Spain and because we are in Barcelona. Which by the way is a great city, I lived there for nine years and it’s a fantastic country going through quite a lot of difficulties today.

But the program that we have is a world class program. The alumni are all over the world. The people who come to recruit, the companies who come to recruit, they come to recruit because they’re able to find global talent who can be mobile. They’re not just recruiting for Spain or Barcelona.

So if you actually look at the data, you will see that most of the people are actually working in different places, depending on your interests. So if you look at the finance sector, you’ll have quite a lot of alumni actually based in London or some of them in Singapore, Hong Kong, etcetera. But we have alumni in over 100 countries and this goes to speak for the reputation of the school.

So don’t choose IESE because of Spain, we just happen to be in Spain. Assuming that you’re going to a world class program, then, when you take this decision of, “Okay, do I want to be in place A or place B?” Barcelona wins. But that I think is a second stage decision, the first stage is, “Really is it a world rank program? Is it truly global? How are my career opportunities going to be? How can IESE help me if I’m going to come back to Asia for example?” These are very good questions and I’ll be happy to elaborate if you want.

Darren: Yes, just one more question on that, because I understand the global nature of the program and your pedagogy, but my peers in the US, fewer of them would know about IESE than say Berkeley or UCLA or Stanford. So I’m wondering if with your corporate recruiters, do most of them tend to be from say Western Europe? Because generally candidates would be, “Okay, I want to work in Western Europe or I want to work in Asia somewhere or the US.” So do you have stronger connections or are more well known in a certain region?

Anjaney Borwankar: Again, this would depend really on the sectors, etcetera. So for example, I did an internship with McKinsey & Company. Now McKinsey & Company for example for its consultant level hiring doesn’t go to every business school in the world. We are in that preferred list and it’s a global firm.

So if you come to IESE and you want to work in Vietnam or in Singapore or in Japan in McKinsey, unless you’re part of IESE, you won’t get that stand. And it doesn’t matter then whether you studied in Barcelona or somewhere else in the world. Of course the firm is going to hire you because of who you are, but IESE gives you that initial platform, to be interviewed, etcetera.

So on the comment that you made earlier, in terms of other schools, etcetera, remember IESE is a pretty small school by class intake. We take in about 280 students every year. So we are not making that much noise in terms of our alumni, etcetera, we are not a numbers game thing. If we want to be true to our mission, we can’t see how we are going to churn our thousands of MBAs and have that personal impact, that transformative impact. Which is why we are taking it quite slow and I think you have to also distinguish prestige from popularity.

Darren: Absolutely.

Anjaney Borwankar: So whichever country you go to, if you talk to the senior people in those organizations, they would have heard of IESE and they would have a lot of respect for IESE. But if you go and ask in a taxi, “What is IESE?” I think… and we are not really too concerned about that.

We counsel students on how to make the right choice, at the end it’s really about you and the right kind of candidate will actually take the effort to discover. Of course, having said that, we also have to help the students. So I’ll give you an example given that my responsibility is in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia and India, how we are helping our students actually find the best jobs in these places.

So I talk to companies across different sectors and interestingly they all know us very well, in fact we are on their preferred list of schools to go and recruit from. The challenge is not so much whether the company knows IESE, the challenge is whether the student actually wants to work in that region.

See, historically, Asia has been a place where people used to go and do an MBA outside the country, basically to emigrate. This was true also when I did the MBA more than a decade back. Asian opportunities were very limited at that time and the US and Europe were still booming. Today, that’s not the case. It’s turned around, it’s flipped around completely. The best opportunities today are actually in Asia. The problem is there’s not enough information for the candidates to recognize that.

So they’re still going with this mindset that, “I must go and apply to a US school or an European school because I will find a job out there,” and I think that’s a mistake. So what we are trying to do is actually make IESE the school of choice for Asians who want to come back to Asia. And we’re doing this through a number of means. We had a career event hosted in London recently where companies came from all over the world basically to look for students for Asian career opportunities. So we have to help the companies as well.

Of course besides the treks, etcetera, we’ve created actually a forum, this is going to be held in March next year, in Singapore and in Hong Kong, where our students get to actually interact with companies from the region, not just to know them, etcetera, many of them will actually be in job processes, so to close those offerings.

But we have to recognize that the big thing within companies today is growing local talent, which means an Asian who comes back to Asia, but, remember, these are still multinational companies. So they need a person who knows the local context very well, but who knows how to operate in a global setting. So maybe you’re based in Vietnam, but you’re operating for a company that could be headquartered in the US or in Europe and you might have to deal with a lot of people out there.

So a program like IESE actually helps you with that. Local programs don’t benefit from this. So there’s a lot of value, but the value’s quite different from what it was more than a decade back and I think you should counsel your students really to think about this.

Darren: Yes, well I do and I try to feature programs that are not just the top ranked ones, but the most interesting as well.

IESE MBA Admissions

Darren: Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about admissions.

Anjaney Borwankar: Sure

Darren: I guess my first question is do you have an ideal candidate?

Anjaney Borwankar: Yes, of course. If I didn’t, then I would have a problem, right? But it’s not so easy, it’s not so easy initially to identify who this person is. What we want is someone who actually wants to be part of IESE, who can be our future ambassador. It’s like a marriage, actually it’s even stronger than a marriage. I make a joke about it because today even marriages are becoming a bit fickle.

But this is something that’s for life. So do your homework well. As a candidate, you really should know why you want to come to IESE and why not some other school. And that’s not going to happen just by looking at the brochure or the website. It’s actually going to happen when you, maybe if you can visit the school, interact with alumni, attend information sessions, reach out to us directly. And it’s okay to say, “This is not the right place for me.” That’s a much better outcome than actually applying and then kind of trying to trick the system to get in.

So of course that’s the first thing. We’re looking for someone who’s truly motivated to be part of IESE. Then there are of course the “hygiene factors” so to say, good academics, good communication skills, someone who can operate in a global setting. There will be students from more than 70 nationalities between the first and the second year of the program. So if you are not comfortable with a global setting, if you don’t respect different viewpoints, if you can’t listen or aren’t open to learning, you’re going to have a serious problem in IESE. So we try to identify these things.

We also pay a lot of attention to your overall personality. So in our admissions process, we have an additional step, which is an Assessment Day. And why we do this, so Assessment Day is a day where we invite shortlisted candidates, often the candidates who are already interviewed, who we like, but we want them to come and spend some more time with us. We conduct this all over the world, in Barcelona, of course, we host that regularly, but we do this also in Singapore, in São Paulo, in New York, we’ve done this in India in the past.

So what we do is we invite the shortlist of candidates and we spend a day with them doing different things. There’s no preparation required, you just have to be yourself, but we like to look at how they’re now behaving in a group setting, how they are able to communicate with one another, things which are very difficult to gauge in an interview or through the essay.

Often we are also trying to compare some strong candidates, because if we want to offer scholarships to a few of them, then it’s much better to see them all in the same room and then it becomes quite clear who’s the better person. So it’s helped us in many ways, but it also helps the student recognize or the prospective candidates recognize that IESE is very serious about the selection process. So this is a special step.

Darren: Yeah, and in fact I planned to ask you about that. I’m sure you want applicants to be themselves in this sort of situation, but in the back of their mind, they have to be thinking, “Oh, no! They’re watching my every move!” So I guess my question with you there is if you could share, do many of those candidates at Assessment Day not get into the program and what would you advise them to do aside from being themselves to show their best qualities?

Anjaney Borwankar: No, actually the Assessment Day is one of the steps, it’s not like the-

Darren: It’s not like the final yes or no.

Anjaney Borwankar: No, it’s not like the overriding filter either. So it’s not mandatory, sometimes people can’t actually make it to the Assessment Day for various reasons, which we understand. So we actually collect information through all the touch points with the candidate and we look at also all the information that’s available. Of course the Assessment truly works in the candidate’s favor, in 9 out of 10 candidates it works in their favor and that odd one person, it’s actually better that he or she recognizes himself or herself that this is not the right group for them.

So you find that, but usually I would say it works in the candidates’ favor, which is why we strongly recommend it, but it’s not mandatory. And it’s not like if that day went poorly for whatever reason, that’s not a big issue really.

Darren: Okay, I wanted to clarify that.

Anjaney Borwankar: No, it’s important, it’s not like this filter, the sales filter, where you’re dropping off people, no, that’s not what we are trying to do actually.

Darren: Perfect. So in terms of deadlines, I saw that you have four deadlines. You encourage non European Union citizens to apply earlier because of the visa issues. But would you encourage candidates to apply for example before round two, which is coming up very soon, in the earlier rounds, to improve their chances?

Anjaney Borwankar: Yes, so there are other reasons as well why we always encourage… the rule of thumb to apply early. The last round that we have is actually very tricky for Asians, particularly for the visa issues. Applying in the earlier rounds has a few advantages. For example, if you’re interested in scholarships, if you apply in round one, you are going to get the full bag of scholarships available to you. If you apply in the later rounds, that amount of money gets lesser, so it gets more difficult. That’s one.

Another reason is, given our program, using the case method, requires people from different backgrounds, different perspectives represented in the classroom. So let’s assume you’re a stellar candidate, but you applied in the later round. Now we have taken many other people let’s say similar to your background. Now that’s where we have a problem, because we can’t have that many people similar to each other. So even though you are stellar now, you might be waitlisted, and that’s just a tactical mistake.

Another final point I’d like to talk about, we didn’t really talk that much yet about the GMAT, etcetera. But for us the GMAT is again one more indicator. So we would never deny a place to anyone just on the basis of a poor GMAT, because GMAT is the only thing in the application that you can change by preparation. All the other aspects are very difficult to change in a few months with preparation.

So applying in the first round or the second round actually gives you a slight advantage. Because let’s say we like you a lot, but your GMAT is poor. We will, as an Admissions Committee, give you a decision saying, “Waitlist, improve GMAT,” which means we actually like you a lot and try your best to kind of make this a better score.

So this is something we would not be able to do if you’re a later round applicant, because you don’t have time to retake it. So, again, quite a few reasons why you want to apply in the earlier rounds compared to the later rounds.

Darren: And is there a consulting-like question in the interviews, given the importance of the case study?

Anjaney Borwankar: Well, not in the interview. In the Assessment Day we actually do many cases, though we are not professors running a true case session, but we’re just giving people a feel for what it is to take decisions. So that happens more in the Assessment rather than in the personal interview.

Darren: So the average GMAT score of IESE is 680 I believe?

Anjaney Borwankar: That’s right.

Darren: And I saw a range of 550 to 780.

Anjaney Borwankar: That’s right.

Darren: For those candidates who have taken the GMAT say three times and can’t quite get to that average, how else can they show their academic aptitude to you? I mean like you said, you can’t change where you went to school. I guess you could pick recommenders that could maybe emphasize your analytical abilities, but would you have any other tips there? And let me just combine this with the last question. What three things can applicants do to improve their chances?

Anjaney Borwankar: Firstly, let me explain how we use the GMAT. This is IESE business we’re talking, so you’ve got to think about other schools doing other things. For us, the GMAT, which is actually a test of English and math, we’re trying to see how you fare on the two components. The total score is not so relevant actually. And let’s say you’re an engineer who’s been solving mathematical problems all his life and you have a good average GMAT or slightly above average, but basically it comes from the quantitative component. That’s not really that useful for us. Because we are looking for evidence on your verbal skills.

So let’s say your GMAT is weak overall, show us evidence on the quantitative and the verbal side that you can actually go through the program without suffering. Like I said earlier, this is a rigorous program, this is not a holiday in Spain. The cases you have to prepare in the class… We want to make sure that you don’t suffer. And it’s not rocket science either, so it’s not something that’s very difficult or anything, as long as you keep up with the rest of the class, you’re going to be fine. But we want to make sure that you’re not going to really struggle with different things.

So if you don’t have a good GMAT and you don’t have good academics, then you might have a slight problem, unless you can show through the work you’ve done that you’re actually very comfortable with numbers, etcetera. And remember, we take the best GMAT score, so it could be that you’ve not done very well on the first time, for whatever reasons, then prepare and try to take it again. But demonstrate to us these aspects, we just want to be comfortable with that. For us, GMAT is not the critical thing, unlike maybe something else.

Let me also turn it around. I just did a few interviews recently and some of them had very high GMATs, 780 around. But I can tell you that I couldn’t have a conversation with them for more than 10 minutes. So just having a great GMAT, focusing too much on that either, is not going to help. I would say that’s one of the mistakes that people sometimes make. They have a great GMAT and they think they’re going to get in, but they know nothing about the program, they haven’t talked to any alumni, they don’t know how the structure of the program is going to benefit them. So that’s one of the main mistakes I’ve seen.

And I think there’s a lot of noise out there that the GMAT is the most critical thing. No, it’s not. GMAT is important I would say for a few things. One, if you are really interested in scholarships, because what we’ve seen is very strong candidates also have a high correlation with the GMAT. So for that, it helps. It also helps for certain types of careers. For example, consulting companies, they will actually look at your GMAT. So if you don’t have a very good GMAT, you may not be picked up for the interview. After that, it’s irrelevant.

Other companies don’t really bother with that, they don’t even ask you for your grades or anything like that. So it’s not that relevant as you might think. So don’t just put all your eggs in one basked and forget about the rest, which is I think more critical. So that’s the first mistake.

The other thing is often, especially in Asia, I think people think that it’s about cracking the system. So what’s the right answer in the essay, etcetera. And my honest suggestion to everyone who’s truly considering IESE is just be yourself. Because you know what? We will be able to detect if you’re trying to kind of crack the system, so to say. And even if you crack it, you’re fooling yourself. So I think this huge investment that you make in time, money and effort to do an MBA, you’re being a bit naïve to not actually think about your future in a serious way. So be yourself, that’s my second suggestion, and represent that in your conversations with the school, in your essays, etcetera, whatever it is.

The last is, yes, often I’ve seen, and this is related to the second point, but it’s slightly different, because the career goals are important and many people are actually doing a top MBA because they want to kind of go higher in their career, which is perfectly reasonable. But then, be realistic as well. So if you say you want to work for a top consulting firm and you can only name two consulting firms and then you’ve never had a conversation with any consultant and you don’t know how the selection process works and you don’t have a plan B or a plan C.

Now that’s a high risk for us, because you’re putting a lot of your expectations on the fact that you will get into this job and maybe you don’t know the reality. So, again, this is about doing your homework, being realistic that this is not a magic pill that will solve all your life’s problems. You’ve got to be very pro-active, you’ve got to work a lot, but as long as you have your feet on the ground and you’re being realistic about this, you’re going to get a lot from an MBA like IESE.

Darren: That’s great, a lot of great advice in there. I just have one last question on admissions and that is, you talked about there’s no way to crack the code, but if you join any organization, you want to know what that organization is all about. The three things you talked about: leadership, global nature of the program and doing good, making a positive impact. How can candidates show that they’re aligned with those things without saying it? I guess my question to you is, when you come across an application and you’re just like, “Yes! I want this guy, I want this girl!” Why is that?

Anjaney Borwankar: Right, right. Again, there’s no thumb rule here and we get surprised often by some of the people, but the typical strong applicant has good academics, has really an interest in understanding global business, they might have worked on international projects, they might have travelled, they might have talked to people who are in different places, they are very realistic, they are not supermen or women, they’re just good, normal human beings with a very strong interest in developing themselves holistically, not just from a career perspective or the other perspective, “Let’s go for a holiday in Spain. I love Spain and I just want to be part of IESE.”

I think both of those extremes are risky, because you’re going to miss out a lot from the program. Remember, this is not just an academic program, there’s a whole rounded development that happens to the person. You’ll be interacting with people from different nationalities, you’ll be going and doing projects with them, you’ll be working outside the class on initiatives, on projects, you’ll be doing sports activities.

So it’s really about a fit, and the “good” person would be someone who has actually talked to alumni, often visited the school if possible, virtually or we have open days which we encourage candidates to think about participating in. You can reach out to us, we like to do one on one counseling sessions as well all over the world. So before you apply, we try to counsel you and it’s not about forcing you to apply to IESE, just about understanding and counseling you and what IESE is about.

Darren: That’s like a pre-assessment.

Anjaney Borwankar: Yes, we call those actually information interviews. These are meetings, and you might apply three years later, five years later or the next year. But it can be very useful for you. But many people, the serious people, would take advantage of these kinds of conversations. The typical one, who has just applied online because it’s an easy process to apply to and he has a high GMAT, I think that’s the risky kind, counterintuitively to what many people think.

Darren: Great stuff, so I’ll link to that URL where people can sign up for those informational interviews on my podcast and I think it came through very clear that for those of you who want to apply to IESE, talk to students, get a real, clear, right idea of what you’re getting into, what the program’s all about, what the culture’s all about, so you can speak the same language, do your research.

Anjaney Borwankar: Yes.

IESE MBA Financing & Scholarships

Darren: If we could talk about financing and I know we only have a few minutes left here, so could you let us know what percentage of your class gets scholarships and what your average scholarship amounts are?

Anjaney Borwankar: Yes. Again, there are two groups of funding. One is the loan, which is given to every student who’s admitted to the program, irrespective of your nationality and financial background. It can cover your entire tuition, but it does not cover your living expenses. So this is available to anyone who’s admitted to the program. I took this loan myself to finance, it’s a great thing. Of course, it’s optional, if you want it or not.

The second bag is scholarships, and in this also there are two categories. The first, scholarships given by IESE itself, either through our trust or the alumni association. Typically we give about 20 to 30 students scholarships which are worth about half the tuition fees. This is on the basis of merit and typically the people who get them are very well-rounded, strong candidates, often students also with a high GMAT. This is the bag of scholarships given by IESE.

And then there’s another thing that happens with IESE, and you will see this for candidates who apply, when you apply online, there’s a box, which if you click that box it says you’re interested in all possible scholarships. If you click this box, once you’re admitted, your profile will actually go in front of some of our partner companies who are interested in hiring IESE people and these companies may contact you directly if they’re interested in your profile and they can give you let’s say a grant saying, “Here is some money, do what you want, because we want to promote people from your background,” or they might sponsor you for everything. Or it might be conditioned, saying, “Okay, here’s an internship, depending on how you do, we might finance you.”

So there’s a range of options, typically, again, another 20 – 30 students would get that kind of-

Darren: That’s very interesting.

Anjaney Borwankar: So percentage-wise, that’s 10% from the alumni itself, another 10% from these corporate scholarships, as we call them.

Darren: Got it. And then, in terms of the loans, international students can actually apply through IESE for a loan.

Anjaney Borwankar: Yes, we have the financial aid offers that would actually facilitate this loan. The loan is given by a private bank, this facility has been on for about a decade now. Of course, the bank will look at your risk profile, but so far we haven’t seen any cases where the bank says, “No, we’re not giving you any support financially.” So this is, again, a great option for you.

Of course, I would always encourage everyone to prepare financially also for doing a program. Remember, none of these sources actually cover your living expenses, so you want to actually think about this quite seriously. But it’s an investment which can actually help you a lot in the long run.

IESE MBA Careers

Darren: Speaking of investment, let’s talk about careers. We’ve already kind of discussed how IESE has that global reach and nature and has preferred standing with a lot of top companies, which is great. What could you tell candidates who are concerned about finding jobs? And maybe when you answer this question you could talk a little bit about how Career Services helps students with their job searches as well.

Anjaney Borwankar: The first thing I want to highlight is it’s really your personal responsibility at the end to think about your career and a good business school should be able to support you on those career aspirations, whatever they are and wherever they are in the world. So what IESE does is first make sure that the students recognize that this is just not about waiting and sitting and waiting for an e-mail to come from Career Services saying, “Here’s a great job for you, why don’t you take that?”

That will happen, but that happens for large companies, where they have well set MBA programs. And that’s a fraction of all the opportunities that exist today. So the first thing we do is make sure that we are counseling our students well, to recognize how to look at the different opportunities. So throughout the first year, the second year, different kinds of workshops are being held to help you get the skills required to look out for a good job, which will serve you not just post-MBA, but also in the long run.

Now, in terms of the support that we have, we have an entire division, the Career Services division, which consists of people with experts in different industries, but we also have outside of Barcelona, and this is I think quite unique for IESE and for actually at least European business schools, to the best of my knowledge, where we have people in different places who are there to talk to companies and to facilitate those conversations with students.

So I represent the Southeast Asia region, particularly ASEAN and India, I’m based in Singapore. I have a colleague of mine who’s actually in India and he’s talking to Indian companies to facilitate conversations for our students. We have a person in Japan who’s looking after Japan, Korea. We have a person now in China, in Mainland China, who’s looking after, again, the Chinese subcontinent. So these are resources that are available, I’m just talking about Asia right now.

Similarly we have of course in New York our own campus, in São Paulo we have a representative as well. So all these are special, in addition to the normal services that you get from Barcelona itself.

I can also talk about a few new initiatives, which help us with this mission of trying to make IESE the school of choice for Asians who want to come back to Asia from a career services perspective. So we’ve started a series of talks, called the Asia Discovery Series. Every month we get a top business leader from Asia to talk directly to students on different topics, not just about careers, but the first thing is that they get an update on what the business context is like. Often, if you’re in Europe for 18 months, you might get disconnected with what’s going on in your home country. And it of course helps us also foster those relationships, etcetera. That’s one.

The other is what I mentioned earlier, in terms of this career summit, so we are hosting one in Singapore in March. Companies from different countries in the region will be represented. It’s a forum to facilitate recruitment for our students. We organize this fair, the Asia Career Fair, in London. This was done along with some other top business schools in Europe, but the idea was to facilitate opportunities in Asia for companies, but coming to Europe itself, so that they can get access to all the students, otherwise flying them all down is quite difficult at times.

So these are some of the initiatives which are actually quite special.

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