1. What was the main reason you decided to study at IE?
IE initially attracted me because it offered a blend of face-to-face and online learning according to a schedule that suited my professional as well as my personal responsibilities. In a word, balance. Then, when I read more about the program and the values of IE, in particular to support innovation and intra/entrepreneurship, I saw that these fit well with my professional goals to support social enterprises and sustainable investing.
2. What was the greatest challenge you faced during your studies?
Going back to school after more than 15 years and embarking on an MBA that had nothing to do with my previous academic background in environmental science, policy and anthropology, I expected that academically I would feel challenged by new materials. And, the IE GXMBA delivered on that expectation! What surprised me more is the work we put into developing our soft skills. Recently, at the World Economic Forum, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern pointed out that the one quality world leaders need right now is empathy. IE recognized that as senior leaders we cannot neglect our soft skills. Turns out, consistently practicing empathy may be even harder to learn than business valuation! Through course work, individual coaching, 360 feedback, and an array of other tools, IE GXMBA candidates were provided the opportunity (and the challenge) to strengthen traits like empathy.
3. What has been the primary lesson you learned during your program?
Coming from the not-for-profit/public sector – as did a couple others in my cohort, another element of the IE blending I appreciated – it was easy, prior to the program, to believe that there is an unbridgeable gulf between the mindset in a mission-driven NGO and that in a corporation. In talking with my peers, absorbing the course materials and reading the cases, I realized that the similarities far outweigh the differences. Many of the challenges are shared, and there is great and increasing transferability of the toolkits between private and public sectors.
4. How has this program impacted your life?
The GXMBA is already bearing fruit, boosting a mid-career professional switch I have underway, leading to a contract with Clarmondial AG in the Impact Investing field. Moreover, the experience and the encouragement of my peers has built up my confidence that, after many years in one sector, change is possible. What was interesting to me is that a large proportion of the women in our program seemed to be driven by this type of mid-career switch, either of sector, country of work/residence or similar. The IE GXMBA can serve as an incubator for empowering such changes. So, that is on the professional side. On the personal side, I have formed cherished friendships and connections with women and men from all over the world. These relationships enrich my life.
5. What was the best memory you have from the program?
There are a lot of memories of intense group work going late into the night (both face to face and in online working sessions), late night phone calls, and late nights exploring strange cities. The Late Nights motif is intentional! Our cohort’s dynamic exchanges during online Saturday seminars stand out, also – However, I like to close by looking forward. Would you believe we are already kicking off the planning our first quarterly GXMBA Oct17 reunion? That’s right, a mere 3.5 months after graduation whoever is willing and able will get together and make new memories, this time with no school work distracting us.
Allison Grove Smith is Program Manager for the Agrobiodiversity Index; Advisor for Food Securities Fund; and GXMBA graduation 2018.