Real Humans of Mondelēz International: Maria Pia Iriarte, MIT Sloan ’18, Sr. Manager Commercial Finance, Alternative Channels
Maria Pia Iriarte, MIT Sloan MBA ‘18, is passionate about two things: global experiences and food sustainability, making global snacking giant Mondelēz International the ideal company for her. Mondelēz (formerly Kraft), which puts sustainable ingredients at the forefront of its mission, is one of the world’s largest snacks companies. With popular brands like Chips Ahoy!, Oreo, Ritz, Sour Patch Kids, Milka, Nabisco and Cadbury, the Mondelēz brands are as diverse and rich as their consumer base. Operating in approximately 160 countries, it is truly an international company.
Maria, a Lima-native, first started working for the company at their Lima location. Wanting an international experience that would simultaneously broaden her business knowledge, Maria embarked on her MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management.
After gaining business skills from many different perspectives and getting to know the U.S. market firsthand, Maria Pia Iriarte decided to go back to Mondelez — this time as a Senior Manager of Commercial Finance.
Read on in this edition of Real Humans: Alumni to hear more about how her MIT Sloan MBA helped bring Maria Pia Iriarte’s experience full-circle.
Maria Pia Iriarte, MIT Sloan ’18, Sr. Manager Commercial Finance, Alternative Channels at Mondelēz International
Hometown: Lima, Peru
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Universidad de Lima: Industrial Engineering
Graduate Business School and Graduation Year: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT Sloan School of Management Class of 2018
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 5 years, Mondelēz International (former Kraft Foods)
Why did you choose to attend business school? Back then, I had been working for a multinational CPG in Finance and had the opportunity to connect with people from many different countries and functions and learn so much from them. I wanted a global experience that would help me learn from others with different backgrounds as well as develop a broader business knowledge that would prepare me for leadership opportunities and challenges in the future. I also wanted the time to dig into things I was passionate about, like the food industry and sustainability. All this combined pointed towards business school and the MIT Sloan program.
Why MIT Sloan? Which factors influenced your decision? MIT had always been my dream school and when I visited Sloan before applying to MBA programs, I was so inspired by the people I met there that the program quickly became my first choice. The school’s mission of developing principled, innovative leaders who improve the world resonated strongly with me. The collaborative environment could be felt even as a visitor, and the program flexibility would allow me to explore my interests and customize the experience to what I was looking for. The ability to take electives starting from the first semester and the option of connecting with the broader MIT community for classes, clubs or conferences, just made the possibilities endless.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice? For my internship, I worked with an early stage food startup helping design their route to market strategy. All my previous work experience had been in big/structured organizations, so I wanted to take an internship that would allow me to experience the fast-paced startup environment, as well as giving me the possibility of designing a business end to end.
Why did you choose to work for your current company? I decided to go back to Mondelez International mainly because of two things: the culture, which I already knew was a good fit for me, and the opportunity to have an impact on areas I’m passionate about, like food sustainability.
How did your MBA experience prepare you for your current career? The MBA experience helped me develop skills to understand the business from different perspectives, which is key to have as a finance business partner to be able to connect with my cross-functional teams while still being able to step back and look at the full picture to make decisions and manage trade-offs.
Also, as an international student, the MBA gave me the opportunity to get to know the U.S. market better. The different classes I took had guest speakers that brought real-life experience to cases we had studied, my classmates brought their own experiences and points of view for very rich discussions, and the student-led clubs I got involved with led events and conferences.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans? COVID drove unprecedented demand for snacks, so we had to adapt quickly to be able to support it. This has boosted innovation within the organization and many changes in our ways of working to be able to respond faster. On a professional side, I had the opportunity to experience this while supporting one of our biggest brands, and then take over a new role partnering closely with our sales teams, who have been in the front lines making sure our products were available to consumers.
What advice would you give to a current MBA student?
- Take advantage of the broader university environment, like cross-school clubs or taking classes outside the business school.
- Don’t be scared to follow your own path. Each one of us decided to go to business school for different reasons and for different goals; don’t lose track of what you wanted to get out of the experience.
- Try new things: the possibilities are endless, it could be a more challenging class, a trip to somewhere you always wanted to go to or taking a leadership role in a club.
Learn about more business school alumni like Maria Pia Iriarte by exploring our Real Humans: Alumni series.