What an experience it was to go to the Boston e-lab programme this summer! There are countless takeaways (too long a list to include here!) that will serve me well in the years to come, both personally and professionally. From this long list, at a personal level, I take with me the strong connection and the lessons learned from my classmates – an amazing group of people from various Executive MBA cohorts across ESADE.
We experienced situations both in and outside class that made us become a real team, and which I’m sure will lead to collaborations in the future. Of course, we now know how to close deals over lobster dinners with bibs and all! If that isn’t a bonding experience, I don’t know what is! At a professional level, the best way for me to encapsulate the experience is to say that it was eye-opening and mind-boggling at the same time. I felt challenged just about every day to do something new; I also felt a sense of urgency to make a difference.
Sometimes we think within the constraints of what we know, but why not “think big”? The possibilities around innovation, technology and robotics were simply amazing, as we learned at MIT, at Harvard and at the various e-labs we visited throughout the week. Even when an idea seems crazy or unreachable or simply “out there”, if you believe in it, if you feel passionate about it, try it! Leaving with this feeling that “I can do it, too” was worth the money. We saw teams and people working on projects that I would have never imagined, and yet there they are, building businesses and getting funding for them.
Unlikely partners like musicians and engineers working together to come up with solutions to simple and complex problems – why not?! “Thinking outside the box” can be a cliché, but we saw that the most creative ideas came precisely from those who push the status quo. Of course, we needed to bring it down to the practical level: ESADE gave us a good run-down on how to pitch ideas to venture capitalists (our final assignment!), how to manoeuvre the Boston ecosystem (which is the same as that of Silicon Valley) and how to think about teams and working spaces differently. Lastly, I felt proud to see fellow ESADE alumni and fellow Europeans bringing their ideas to life in the Boston ecosystem.
Thank you, ESADE! I had a blast and I can definitely recommend the Boston e-lab. Anyone interested in entrepreneurship or life-changing technology should sign up for this experience.
The EMBA team has added a new communications channel. On 19 July we premiered on Facebook Live with a video featuring Judith Puigbó, associate director of admissions for the Executive MBA. She was accompanied by two participants from the current EMBA monthly format, Naïma Maëlle Zodros and Alexey Kultyshkin.
The video included a relaxed discussion on personal experiences and various aspects of the EMBA. Naïma, from the biotech industry, decided on the EMBA because she wanted a 360º vision of business; while Alexey wanted to complement his previous education with a more comprehensive programme.
Both positively value the diversity of EMBA participants – something that enables mutual enrichment and productive teamwork. Alexey, who had not previously considered being an entrepreneur, felt that starting a business was now an option after his experience at ESADE.
Questions discussed during the interview include the various methodologies used in the programme, its international weeks, time management, and student business plan ideas (one of the most important sections of the EMBA in which participants choose whether to develop their own entrepreneurial idea, or develop a project within the company where they work – called intrapreneurship).
The care and follow-up provided by the ESADE team is another factor that participants value. ESADE enables participants to visit the school, attend classes, and talk with alumni to acquire more information and viewpoints before making a final decision.
During the video, there was also an opportunity to talk about the best personal moments experienced during the EMBA. At the end of the discussion, viewers could participate and ask questions live or later at: email@example.com.
The video already has more than 2000 viewings and can be seen here. It is the first of a series that will be made periodically to bring live EMBA news, experiences, opinions, and advice from participants. See you next time!
“On our EMBA study tour, we visited the Indian school of business. I must say that I was very pleased with the quality of the classes. They were all tailored to give us a general view of India’s current situation regarding foreign investment. After four days of intensive learning, I found myself wondering if I would I invest and how I should do it?
India is a pool of untapped opportunities, however doing business in India is not easy. When selling to the emerging middle class, prices should be affordable – hence low – while still managing high margins. It makes it tough to obtain an acceptable return on investment. I found interesting how the teacher mentioned that for a product to succeed in the Indian market it would have to succeed first at the bottom of the pyramid. Then it should be adapted to higher segments therefore making innovation a key reason for success in India.”
Read Naïma M. Zodros’ (EMBA ‘16) whole experience in this article
Naïma M. Zodros and her classmates in ESADE’s Executive MBA just returned from an international week in Brazil, one of three trips abroad that will take place during the monthly programme format.
Zodros described a highly practical experience in Brazil, where the EMBA participants discovered the peculiarities of the country’s economy. She noted that multinational companies like Wal-Mart and Lenovo – wrongly assuming that the strategies they used in their home countries would also work in Brazil – have failed in their attempts to enter this new market.
When implementing business systems and procedures in another country, you must also make a cultural change. This is something of a revolution, in which, according to Zodros, women executives can play a leading role due to their management style. Thanks to – or because of – their efforts to reach heights until recently reserved exclusively for men, women have developed a unique entrepreneurial spirit. Zodros trusts that this sort of female leadership will inspire other women to pursue their goals and seize new opportunities in order to achieve their aims in any area.
Naïma M. Zodros (EMBA ‘16) shares her experience in this article
Which of these strategies leads to success? Although there is no easy answer to this question, based on the content and considerations explored in the subject General Management (EMBA, ESADE Madrid), I will defend my own view: differentiation, hands down.
This is not to detract from optimisation or operational efficiency. Simply put, optimisation is not a strategy, but a basic pillar for a company to be able to compete.
Except for those companies that have no competitors (few and far between), any company seeking to be competitive must cultivate a philosophy of optimisation and operational efficiency in each and every one of its processes if it wants to succeed. Otherwise, the market itself will expel it. This leads to a new hypothesis: if a company manages to optimise better than any of its competitors, could it base its strategy on that?
No way, because it is only a matter of time until it would be plagiarised. This is the polar opposite of companies that reach a maximum level of optimisation through technological differentiation.
Those companies achieve their differentiated position based on their technology, which allows them to differentiate themselves specifically in terms of costs.
This final consideration shows that all strategies should be based on differentiation and making the maximum effort to create barriers to defend that differentiation over time, regardless of the type of differentiation chosen.
A turning point. A challenge. Leaving your comfort zone. A push towards a dream. Trust. Passion. Finding your place.
What do these concepts – which attract us as much as they scare some of us – have in common? Change. They all arise from a change, a decision, a transformative act that opens up paths that you had never before imagined. New experiences that, once you’ve had them, you are very grateful for.
And you know what? These are the responses that our EMBA students gave when we asked them what ESADE’s Executive MBA meant to them. These are the opinions of our changers. But now it’s time for others to form part of this transformation, which begins in one person and expands throughout the community.
Watch the EMBA’s testimonial video (in Spanish) here
What is #beachanger?
Our changers talk about drivers of change, personal development, catalysts, and how the EMBA has given them the personal and educational tools they needed to cope with changes in their careers that many of them had dreamed of but didn’t know how to bring to life. The professionals who take the EMBA acquire a renewed sense of security and confidence as a result of gaining new knowledge and sharing business ideas and experiences with their peers and professors.
For these professionals, the EMBA is a holistic change that affects them and their companies. And the companies, in turn, value and cultivate the participants’ new capabilities. That’s how you create a cycle of positive feedback and growth that benefits both parties.
Many people simply see change, but not our EMBA students. They want to be change. And they are. They are changerswho, from day one, want to be involved in transformations that they believe in and are passionate about.
And slowly but surely, that passion makes them feel more and more unstoppable. A passion that many of them say is the most effective and accurate way to find one’s way in business and in life.
Elective Exchange Program SDA Bocconi, September 2016
Opportunities are everywhere; you just have to grab them. One of the great possibilities the EMBA at ESADE offers is to participate in a study abroad program in other renowned business schools around the world. From multiple courses and schools one can select the elective which suits best its time and study plan and once accepted the adventure can begin.
I was lucky to be one of five ESADE students selected for SDA Bocconi electives in September 2016 for the course “Corporate Entrepreneurship”. The participants in this seminar came from all over the world: Besides Global and Executive MBA students from SDA Bocconi, people came from UCLA (USA), Mumbai (India), Recanti (Tel Aviv), ESADE (Barcelona) and a few executives were send directly from their companies. Italians, Israelis, Spanish, Germans, Belgians, Luxemburgish, Indians and a Danish professor created a enormous diversity of experiences, nationalities, professions, industries and cultural backgrounds, enriching any group work or class discussion.
During two and a half days we were able to really evolve into the subject, to approach the topic corporate entrepreneurship from different perspectives, learned theoretical models, benchmarks from innovation leaders and understand through case studies different ways of practical applications. The fact that we had people in the class who were entrepreneurs, working in start ups, incubators or leading innovation centres in their companies fused the discussions with actual issues, successes and failures.
Doing all this in a new learning environment with new study colleagues created an exciting experience that I can just recommend anyone who is given the possibility. Electives abroad are not only connecting the best business schools in the world but creating a sense of community by bringing international students closer together, enhancing cultural understanding and creating global networks that might evolve in new partner- and friendships. Isn’t that what an MBA student should aim for?
The origins of the company Made of Genes date back to 2013, when Oscar Flores (Calella, Barcelona, 1985) and Miquel Bru (Barcelona, 1978) (then both unknown) decided to take the ESADE Executive MBA. It was in the Business Development Project course, taught by Prof. Jordi Vinaixa, that they met and they got the idea for what would become their company several years later and take up a big part of their lives. Miquel came from the business development field in a technology consulting firm focusing on the Health Sector. Oscar had just finished his PhD and Bio-Medicine in a joint programme between IRB Barcelona and the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre.
We spoke to Oscar and Miquel, two of our ‘changers’ to find out about the project that they started in ESADE’s classrooms and which has ended up as a firm with a bright future.
How did Made of Genes come about?
Oscar Flores [OF]: Made of Genes is a firm focusing on personal genetics. Here, one should remember that genetics is involved in 9 out of 10 of the main causes of death in developed countries. Nevertheless, personalised genetic medicine still needs to overcome several hurdles: the high cost of gene sequencing, the technological complexity of managing the resulting data, and the lack of knowledge of the field by both health professionals and by society in general. In Made of Genes, we try to find answers to these problems, providing technical tools and a legal framework so that experts’ knowledge reaches the man in the street. There are now eleven of us in the company, we have secured over €600,000 in funding and we are laying the ground for the firm’s internationalisation.
Miquel Bru [MB]: The truth is, the whole thing started as just another assignment in the Master’s programme but Oscar’s vision hooked me from the outset. It was not just a question of solving technical problems — that was the easy bit. The hard part lay coming up with a package that: both fostered tailor-made care for each patient and put the patient’s health and illness first. Moreover, this had to be based on knowledge of the patient’s genome and the testing had to be responsible, efficient, protect users and be sustainable in system terms.
In broad terms, how does Made of Genes work at the technical level?
MB: There are studies suggesting that less than 30% of prescription medicines are effective due to individual variations. This makes one realise that we are not all the same and that the differences between individuals should be taken into account. This is the idea that led us to develop the technological part of our product: a high-performance computing system that allows one to obtain, analyse and store genetic data from a saliva or blood sample. We use the system to provide medical specialists, researchers and customised health services with this genetic data as and when each user wishes. We offer preventive solutions and diagnostic support, and personalised services/products created specifically for each user depending on his genotype. Each person decides what should be done with his genetic data and we do our utmost to carry those wishes out while ensuring complete security and privacy. This ensures that our customers can receive medical care that is both personalised and precise.
On your web site, you argue that “Everyone should be given the chance of improving his or her life”. How do you see this democratisation of technology at Made of Genes?
MB: To answer that, let me put the Health Sector in context. According to the OECD, public spending alone on Health rose from 6.9 % of GDP to almost 9 % in 2030 and will rise to 14 % by 2060. We live in a society that is ever more demanding when it comes to Health Care. In a globalised world in which knowledge flows freely, we have to come up with strategies that allow efficient Health Care through policies and tools that focus on preventive medicine, more effective treatment and the re-use of information by various service providers.
OF: At Made of Genes we have always wanted to provide personalised medicine based on Genomics. That is why our model puts the client first. There are many companies, especially in The United States, which have seen the value of genome data and which gather personal information to commercially exploit it later on. We have always shunned this model. We want to create a genomic service that anyone can use without renouncing privacy, and always have the final say in what information is released and to whom.
You met each other taking an Executive MBA [EMBA] programme at ESADE. What made you decide to take it?
OF: I always knew that I wanted to work in business. I am a Computer Engineer and when I was finishing my degree, I began a diploma in Business Studies, which I dropped when I decided to do a PhD. It was then that I decided to do an MBA on finishing my thesis.
MB: For me, the key factor was the need for a change. After five years working in consultancy, I wanted new challenges and goals. However, I thought that just a change of job was not the answer. I needed to think, acquire knowledge and pool experience with others before taking the next step. Here, the ESADE EMBA seemed just the ticket.
Did you want to become entrepreneurs before you took the ESADE EMBA programme? What influence did the EMBA have on your project?
MB: No, I wasn’t thinking about starting my own business, rather it was part of the process I just mentioned. The EMBA is not an Academic Master’s programme but a change process that gives you the tools to reflect and to plan your next objectives. With regard to how much the EMBA affected our project, it all began as just another assignment and a year and a half later, we are striving to make the dream come true. I don’t think we would be where we are now if it had not been for the EMBA programme.
OF: I had also neither thought about founding a company and in fact I am still surprised at doing so. In the beginning, it was simply a capstone project. We had found we had too good an opportunity to let it slip through our hands. I suppose that the EMBA programme gave me the self-confidence I needed to tackle something as inherently risky as founding a start-up.
What knowledge and values did you acquire during the EMBA programme and that you applied in setting up Made of Genes?
OF: Made of Genes is a firm that is inspired by the Lean Start-up model. We began with an idea and its corresponding Business Model Canvas. Then, after several validations of the idea, we varied it up to eight times until we found a value proposition where we could say to ourselves: “That’s the idea, now let’s register a company”. We then carried out several more iterations of the idea and honed our vision in the light of market feedback and the resources we had available. Nevertheless, having a flexible, dynamic vision at the outset was vital. With hindsight, the first seven business models would not have worked in the real world.
MB: Yes, that’s absolutely right. The obsession with validating the model and focusing on the market has become of part of Made of Genes‘ DNA. It is something that we have established as ‘best practice’ among our various work teams. The key is to meet users’ real needs in which technology has to solve problems, not create them.
What changes has taking the EMBA made to your careers? Did it mark a watershed in your lives?
OF: It certainly made a huge difference. When I joined the MBA programme, my view of things was an entirely technical one. For me, the technical aspects were the most important things about a product and I naively believed that a good product would sell itself. After completing EMBA, I no longer thought that. I had become aware that the market and sales strategy are much more important than the product. Paradoxically, I believe that having the new vision of the market helps technical types like me to identify real needs and thereby develop better products.
MB: The key point is the 360-degree vision EMBA gives you in a classroom with 50 professionals drawn from different backgrounds and experience. In the year and a half that the programme lasts, you take this in and it changes your way of seeing a company and helps you grasp and take decisions far beyond your context or position. Having founded a start-up marks a watershed in one’s personal and professional development. Why would you recommend taking the EMBA?
MB: Taking the EMBA is a unique opportunity for personal, professional and intellectual growth. I would recommend it to anyone who is eager to grow and learn in ways that go beyond the strictly academic.
OF: As I mentioned, I believe that the EMBA programme is a way of giving a technical type like me the tools they need to thrive in senior management. To be honest, I would not recommend EMBA for everyone merely as a way to get a better job. I think such an approach is the wrong one and that there are many other ways of climbing the ladder — for example, through professional specialisation. An EMBA is a way of getting a better grasp of business complexity while renouncing greater specialisation. If you aim to get this wider grasp of business, the EMBA programme is undoubtedly one of the best investments in time and money that you can make.
How would you sum up your experience as entrepreneurs? What would you say to someone who was thinking of setting up his or her own company?
MB: Entrepreneurship is a way of life for us. We think about Made of Genes 24 hours a day. Passion for one’s project is vital for anyone thinking of starting their own business. Second, I recommend that the decision be a family one. Do not even think about starting a business unless your wife or husband is willing to back you to the hilt. Last, when it comes to finding those who will help you along the way, seek people who complement your skills, who you can rely on, trust and learn from.
OF: I would ask someone thinking of beginning a firm whether they are just looking for a job tailored to their needs or for a scaleable solution to a social problem. They are two very different notions of entrepreneurship and involve different levels of risk and self-sacrifice. When it comes to scaleable business models, we in Spain cannot afford to continue thinking only about the domestic market. This means that we need to plan internationalising our business from the outset despite limited resources and access to funding. Whether we like it or not, we still have a lot of catching up to do when we compare how things work in the start-up eco-system in The United States.
Published in Poets and Quants on Sunday 12nd June 2016 by Jeff Schmitt
“The ESADE EMBA taught me to think differently. It gave me the ability to focus on what’s important, plus the ability to look further, from a different point of view. It also taught me to make decisions with limited information. Instead of being afraid of that, I have learned how to make the most of it and optimise it.”
Paula Lafora Ornosa
ESADE Business School
Location: Madrid, Spain
Undergraduate School and Degree: Business and Administration at Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Where are you currently working? Horizontal Project Manager in Customer Management at Iberia Airlines
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Member of Yaakar Africa, an NGO that develops various projects in Senegal, helping people who have nothing to develop their own businesses, such as farming, selling marmalade and juice, sewing, and dressmaking. The organisation provides these communities with medical materials and school supplies, and it also opens internet centres in rural communities. In addition, it helps people who wish to continue their studies by providing scholarships so that they can graduate.
Active participation in Foro Generación del 78, an association that provides a venue for young professionals and entrepreneurs to meet with political, social, and business leaders and to learn from their experience and knowledge.
Specific collaborations with Exodus Rescue and Care, an association founded in March 2015 that aims to promote and defend the rights of every person — especially children — considered to be a refugee.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In the ninth month of the EMBA, my company offered me a promotion and I joined the new Customer Management unit as Horizontal Project Manager. This position allows me to apply some of the knowledge and experiences I acquired in the ESADE EMBA.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am very proud of being part of my company’s transformation plan: Iberia’s Plan de Futuro. I joined the project at the beginning, in April 2013. In 2012, the company had reported a significant loss.
The transformation plan aimed to introduce permanent structural change across all areas of the business in order to stem losses and return the airline to profitability, which happened in 2014. Iberia’sPlan de Futuro was led by our CEO, Luis Gallego, and our CFO, Javier Sánchez Prieto. The plan was coordinated by Strategic Management. As I said before, I joined it at the outset, so I had the opportunity to be involved in defining the plan. The Plan de Futuro was structured with 32 initiatives spread throughout the organisation and was driven by “change engines” (directors who were able to look beyond the day-to-day work in order to draw up a medium-term strategy). I was responsible for follow-up, monitoring and challenges in the transformation process in the sales, handling and internal communication areas.
The entire organisation worked very hard, and we are still working hard to consolidate our good results and achieve sustainable growth. Thanks to Plan de Futuro, we lay the foundation for the launch.
Favorite MBA Courses? Advanced Marketing Management, Corporate Finance, Corporate Responsibility, Economics and Geopolitics, as well as the learning experience in India.
Do you want to see what EMBA participants’ experience at first hand? Watch GoPro videos of the exchanges.
RIO DE JANEIRO
The international exchange offered as part of the Executive MBA gives participants an unrivalled opportunity to develop their careers and to become leaders with global business vision, and to learn about the diversity of cultures and business models.
With this aim in mind, the programme includes three training exchanges, each lasting a week, at some of the best business schools in Europe, Asia, and America.