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Real Humans of Entrepreneurship: Timothy Go, IESE MBA ’12, Co-founder, BuildIt

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If you want to spearhead a startup venture, you need rigor, grit and the skills to tackle complex business problems. In this installment of  Real Humans: Alumni, entrepreneur Timothy Go talks about how the MBA program at IESE gave him a well-rounded business education and instilled a values-driven style of leadership he needed to move from a technical role to a commercial role. Read on to learn how Go used what he learned in the IESE MBA to co-found a construction start-up.

Timothy Go, IESE MBA ’12, Co-founder of BuildIt

Age: 40
Hometown: Manila, Philippines
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of the Philippines, Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Facilities Engineer, Chevron Geothermal Philippines, 4 years, Energy
Post-MBA Work Experience: Former – Senior Assistant Vice-President for Business Development, SM Retail Incorporated, 7 years, Retail. Current – Co-Founder, BuildIt (pre-seed Start-up, construction space)

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I decided to attend business school to move from a more technical role (Operations/Engineering) to the commercial side of the business. I wanted to explore new industries and opportunities from what I was doing at the time and felt that attending business school would help jumpstart that move.

Why IESE? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I wanted to do a two-year program as I was looking to do something new/different post-MBA and felt that I needed enough time to get experience and exposure to different roles and industries. Another major factor was how diverse the class would be – since I really felt that this would have a significant impact in my overall business school experience. In the end, what really drew me to IESE was that the institution espoused a very values-driven style of leadership/culture – which really felt aligned with my own personal values and principles.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
The MBA primarily helped me in two ways. First, the IESE MBA helped me gain the skills and experience to tackle complex business problems – things that, prior to my MBA, would be foreign to me. This gave me the confidence to take on increasingly more challenging projects and roles over the past ten years. As a recent start-up founder, the MBA also gave me a very well-rounded business education – exposing me to all the facets of running a business – such that I’m more prepared to tackle the rigors of running a young business. I also had the chance to spend time at UC Berkeley as part of the school’s exchange program – which gave me direct access and exposure to the world-class Bay-area technology scene, where I learned firsthand how leading tech companies were started and run.

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I had the opportunity to work remotely for a small venture builder, which was really my first foray into the start-up/technology space. This experience helped me better understand the rigor, grit and principles of trying to get a venture off the ground.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
Post-MBA – I realized that I wanted to switch industries and enter the tech space, which was still pretty nascent in SEA when I graduated. I had an excellent opportunity to help start Lazada as part of Rocket Internet here in the Philippines, which really helped me make the big step into tech and set the trajectory of my e-commerce and technology career. This led me to take on various roles in e-commerce, most prominently for SM Retail, the largest retailer in the country. Building businesses is what motivates me and the opportunity to build SM Retail’s initial ecommerce business was too good to pass up.

These days, I’ve given up the comforts of corporate life and am getting my hands dirty as a co-founder of a young start-up in the construction supply space because of that same motivation. I still feel there’s so much innovation and digital transformation that can be introduced in very traditional businesses and industries, which is what we’re trying to do for the heavily fragmented construction space.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Since I wanted to break into technology, I took on a lot of different projects and opportunities to gain as much experience as I could. I not only tried to find an internship that was in the tech/VC space, but I also wrote a few cases for our TMT departments. To this day, I am able to reference the learnings I got from the research and interviews for those cases. Ultimately, there are many ways to gain experience and exposure, and I advise current MBA students to really leverage all the tools and opportunities to build a profile that is attractive to recruiters and hiring managers in the industry/role you want to move your career into.

–One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search?
What has really been helpful throughout my job search has really expanding and capitalizing on your network. I think that most of the interesting opportunities are not publicized on job boards, and the roles and opportunities I have gotten have been speaking and meeting with people from my network. This was a fairly foreign concept to me prior to the MBA, so I had to really “train this muscle” throughout my two-year stay at IESE, and this has helped me grow my career post-MBA. If I could do things differently, I would have leveraged this earlier in my career.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
One thing I have realized is that recruitment is less about capability, since the majority of the candidates already meet that bar even before they step in for an interview. Most recruiters are looking for a lot of intangibles that they feel will make you successful and/or a good cultural fit for the company. I think this is where networking, research and informational interviews really help you prepare/find companies and roles where you’re a good fit. Matching cultural fit is just as important for candidates as it is for companies – and making sure you’re applying to places where you would be a good fit goes a long way to being successful and satisfied.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
The two years at IESE really flew by so fast – especially once you’re in the daily grind of MBA life. What I’ve come to learn is that the most limited resource during any MBA program is time, and there are so many opportunities in and out of the classroom competing for it. If there’s anything I would tell current/prospective students, it is that they need to decide earlier on the things they want/need to focus on to get the most out of their MBA experience because, admittedly, there won’t be enough time to do everything. Speaking with current students and alumni will definitely go a long way into helping shape that, so speak to them and come into the MBA in the right frame of mind.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.