Real Humans of Stanford GSB’s MBA Class of 2021
Karim Ibrik, Stanford GSB MBA Class of 2021
Hometown: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Texas A&M University at Qatar, BSc. Chemical Engineering
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 7 years, Oil & Gas
Why business school? Why now?
I spent the past 7 years doing a variety of technical engineering roles. I learned a lot about the energy sector and technical problem-solving. However, as my career progressed, I became increasingly interested in learning about the commercial side of things, particularly regarding innovative technologies in energy. Given the recent rise in renewable energy (an interest of mine since college), I figured it was the right to time to transition to the sector. Notably, several mentors advised me to enrich my background with stronger commercial acumen and leadership skills to be able to play a unique techno-commercial role within the growing sector. I then researched the sector extensively and become convinced that an MBA was the perfect next step and that the timing was right.
Why Stanford? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Other than fantastic weather, I’d say there were two primary factors.
Firstly, Stanford offered a more customizable experience for me. Given my focus on the energy sector, I knew that I needed to learn about as many diverse perspectives as possible (policy, education, application of software etc.). The porousness of Stanford’s departments made me feel that I could explore these perspectives with more ease than in other places.
Secondly, I became convinced that developing myself personally as a leader was likely even more important than the academics – I’d probably never open a finance book again after graduating (much like my engineering experience). The unique approach Stanford takes towards personal development felt like a perfect fit for me.
What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2021?
Firstly, I can help my classmates get a better view of on-the-ground engineering and organizational issues within industrial sectors. More generally, I also help my classmates get a better understanding of the complexity of the energy sector and its future adaptation to combat climate change.
Secondly, as someone who grew up in the Middle East as a stateless person, my hope is that by opening myself up, my peers would take my views into consideration to enlarge their perspective and stay more informed as they make career choices and business decisions as future leaders.
Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I was really, really into video games. I even held a few leadership roles in gaming teams. My gaming years actually taught me a lot about leadership.
Post-MBA career interests?
The cross-section of renewable energy with manufacturing/industry. I hope to leverage cheaper renewable power and recent technology innovations to unlock “greener” approaches to delivering basic needs (e.g. fertilizer, chemicals) especially in developing countries.
Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Take the “what matters most to you, and why?” essay as more of a journey of discovery. While vacationing, I spent almost a month or so just pondering what my story was before even typing my first word. The sheer amount of reflection was worth it all in itself; I felt like I had a much clearer story and trajectory as a result. Furthermore, sharing my thoughts and talking about my essay with my SO and friends was an all-around great experience.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
I wouldn’t freak out about my GMAT. I did well, but I was slightly below average by Stanford levels. I caused myself a bit of stress worrying about what my score meant. I even considered not applying, especially since Stanford is notorious for its high GMAT average. Ultimately the people in my life convinced me to give it a go, and I’m very thankful for their intervention!
–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Summarizing the past 11 years of my life on a 1-page resume. It’s doable of course; it just took some 14 drafts. This type of work is not a strength of mine at all. I’d say talking about my work experience with my SO and friends really helped me hone in on my accomplishments and how to best present them.
What is your initial impression of Stanford’s students/culture/community?
The school’s culture felt like a perfect fit—and still does. Within a few hours of my visit during “admit weekend” I saw myself coming to Stanford and having a fantastic two years. There are two reasons for this: nature and culture.
In one of my earliest conversation during “admit weekend,” my group of prospective classmates talked about evolution theory, psychology, cryptocurrency, and a start-up idea in the healthcare space all in the span of 30 minutes after first meeting each other. This type of curiosity and openness is something I deeply value.
I also very quickly appreciated just how amazing the weather and natural scenery is in the area. This is something that matters to me as I spent most of my adult life in the arid climate of the Middle East.
One thing you have learned about Stanford that has surprised you?
The incredible friendliness and warmth of everyone in the Stanford community, including the staff, faculty, and alumni. I felt extremely welcome even before arriving on campus, and even more so after arriving. This exceeded my wildest imagination and all the articles I’ve read about the Stanford community.
One thing that I found incredible is the Slack chat groups with classmates. Regardless of what group chat I was a member of, students went out of their way to share the latest news, links to articles, updates on nearby events, book recommendations, etc. I really felt that my capacity to explore and learn was augmented immensely by having access to hundreds of people all working to benefit each other.
Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Pursuing my passion in the energy space vs. exploring other interests. I feel like I have a clear view of my goals, but there’s simply so much happening around me – from guest speakers, to special lectures, to coffee chats with students from different backgrounds. This translates to a fear on whether I’m managing my time well and balancing depth vs. breadth. While this is a luxury, I have a voice in the back of head saying “Should I go? What if the experience changes my life forever?”
Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
This is going to sound so nerdy but it’s actually the GSB classes. In addition to the pure academics, I’m intrigued by what my classmates will share about the content, their experience with the topic, and their unique perspectives.
As an engineer who’s seen the words NPV a total of 3 times in the past 7 years, I’m learning so much so quickly. Before B school I had no clue what PE, VC, or IB even did, and now I’m surrounded by amazing classmates who not only worked in those fields, but openly share their experiences with me. The combination of the two is helping me understand the larger world around me in a terrific way.