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Real Humans of the IESE MBA Class of 2023

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iese mba class claireClaire Zhang, IESE MBA Class of 2023

Age: 29
Hometown: Shanghai, China
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Sun Yat-sen University, Public Relationships
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 7 years in Real Estate Marketing

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
When I graduated from college in 2014, I had to choose between getting a Masters and getting a job. Considering my major is more combat-focused, I decided to step into a real business environment first to accumulate practical experience, and to get further education when I am prepared a few years later. 

Three years ago, my long-buried desire was rekindled when my best friend, a headhunter, casually suggested that I could pursue a MBA, which could help me get my career path further. After deep research, I saw that this was exactly what I wanted, and it was also a good way for me to change. 

Two years ago, I began to prepare for the MBA. During preparation, I dreamed that post-MBA, I could have an international vision and work abilities, which help me be able to live and to work anywhere in the world. Moreover, I could study with business elites from different cultural backgrounds with different industry experience, profoundly influencing and inspiring me for my whole life.

Therefore, after 7 years of work focusing on marketing, I really desired to break out of my comfort zone, expand my horizon, and explore my potential. This is the right time for me to take a pause and pursue an MBA. By immersing myself into a sea with diverse culture, intense knowledge, and a supportive community, I believe that I can gain a fast-growth.

Why did you choose IESE? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
IESE is undoubtedly my dream school. I really care about the diversity of an MBA program. I believe only by studying and working with people from different backgrounds and culture can I have a deeper understanding of the world and build a real international business vision, and more importantly, be more inclusive about differences. 

Second, I totally agree with the mission of IESE and love the culture of the IESE community. “The spirit of service” is embodied in anyone I meet in this community. Every alumnus of IESE is super nice and supportive, which is how I felt when I started the application process. Now that I have been on the MBA journey for about 1 month, the feeling is becoming even stronger. 

IESE‘s case study method is distinct among bunches of business schools. Over 80% of courses are taught in the case study method, which is a more interactive way of learning because everyone is the contributor of the learning journey. You can learn from your participation and your peers, not just listening to professors talk. 

Last but not least, I am a big fan of outdoor activities. Mountains and sea made Barcelona an excellent city for outdoor exploration. Hiking, scuba diving, sailing, you name it! Let alone wandering in Gaudi’s fantastic architecture masterpieces and sitting in the sun with a café con leche (Latte). I knew it would be the best experience if I could spend two precious years of my life as a student (probably the last time in my life as a serious student) here.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
Real estate, as a spatial carrier, carries complex functions of life, consumption, and work, linking natural environment, city culture, and personal development. Therefore, I would gladly share my experience in China’s real estate industry with students from diverse backgrounds and exchange real estate development trends with peers from different industries.

I also intend to share my experiences in IESE through WeChat, TikTok, Bilibili, and other social media platforms by creating interesting videos, photos, and articles that will expand IESE’s visibility and reputation in China, especially in the real estate industry. 

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I was once unfairly called a ShengNv (Chinese buzzword, literally means “leftover women”) for not getting married on time, which made my motivation for getting an MBA stronger.

Post-MBA career interests:
Consulting, tech, and entrepreneurship

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
– What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Attending the coffee chat and info session to know IESE’s culture; Reaching out to those super nice alumni and feeling like you are a part of the family.

– What is one thing you would change or do differently?
Don’t over emphasize the GMAT score and give up the application only because thinking your grade was not good enough. Take more time on your whole application package (essays, interviews).

– What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I would skip the time I spend on preparing for achieving a higher GMAT score. I was afraid it was not enough for application. And then I sent my CV to the AO and talked to her, and she gave me great encouragement. She told me I could definitely try it! So I finally seized the opportunity to be a part of IESE 2023! 

What is your initial impression of the IESE students/culture/community?
In the application process, I attended two coffee chats held in Shanghai. Both AO and alumni impressed me with warmth, enthusiasm and approachability. After the events, I reached out to some of the alumni, who patiently answered all my questions and gave me helpful suggestions. 

What is one thing you have learned about IESE that has surprised you?
I am so grateful that I am on a great team, which has 9 team members in 8 nationalities. It has been only 1 month since I started my MBA journey, and I have already learned quite a lot from my group members. Although we nine people grew up in different cultures and environments, I am surprised that they are all strikingly similar in humility, friendliness, diligence and sincerity.

Somebody will do “praise” every day. He will find many positive things in life every day, and he will speak out those great things in the group chat without stint, so that everyone in the team will feel great about themselves. I learned to stay positive, and you will have a positive impact on the people around you.

Somebody else is very good at “active learning”. Last Friday, the teacher assigned an online group practice in class, but I did not attend. They immediately proposed organizing an offline practice on Monday so that I could participate in the practice, and secondly, we could further practice to consolidate. In the in-person exercise, I got great suggestions and feedback from all my group members, which are very helpful to me. 

Another member is definitely a “doer”. He is the only person in the team who had consulting experience. One team member suggested that he could share his experience with us. Unexpectedly, he agreed with that idea, and sent a meeting invitation just in the next second. We know everyone is busy around here, and not everyone wants to spend time with others. But here, people are really caring about how to help each other. 

Another person knows that I love traveling and am curious about the world. So he recommended a book to me, which can have a comprehensive understanding of the global region. I jumped at his recommendation, only to find a brand new book put in front of me two days later! I suddenly realized what real help was.

I am amazed that the real excellence is not only individual excellence, but also the willingness to share experiences without reservation, to help and encourage people around them without asking for return, and to inject energy into them, and then continue to grow in mutual assistance. I learned from my peers in the moments of our discussion, collaboration, and even debates. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?The pandemic absolutely affected my application and made my application delayed a year, mostly because the GMAT test was delayed several times during the first half of 2020, breaking my original plan. 

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
The first year started in an overwhelming way, since I have to adapt to a different environment, build new connections and learn a new language. Moreover, we need to know how to prioritize my time with academics, recruiting and networking. So for me, the  thing I was most anxious about was prioritizing my MBA goals and making wise decisions in time. 

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I can meet and make friends from 60+ nationalities,. It is really cool. Whenever I want to travel somewhere or find some special food to eat, you can always ask your classmates because they are always the right person to ask. Moreover, I can learn from those smart people every day — not only professional skills, but also their excellent characteristics in terms of soft skills. 

Posted in: Real Humans of MBA Class of 2023, Real Humans of MBA Students

Schools: IESE

About the Author

Lauren Wakal

Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.

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