A conversation with Cassandra Christian
Cassandra is an International MBA candidate at IE University in Madrid, with a previous Bachelor’s degree in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience from the University of Michigan. Her experience includes creating an AI voice assistant for oncologists at a unicorn biotech start-up and she is planning to start at a biotech start-up in August!
What is your preference and why: full-time on campus, part-time, distance/hybrid studies?
I personally prefer full-time on campus, because I think one of the most valuable things about my MBA was meeting so many new people from diverse backgrounds and developing relationships with my classmates. I think that would have been a lot harder learning part time or remotely. Being in person in Madrid has been such a great experience as well. I loved my time here so much I decided to take a job in Madrid after graduation!
What were the most important aspects you considered when choosing the programme and the business school/university?
For me, the entrepreneurship programme was really important. Working in a start-up, I really wanted to grow my skills across all functions of business, with a focus on preserving the creativity and scrappiness needed to thrive in a start-up. I also wanted an international experience where I could live in a new country, learn a new language and culture and be in a diverse setting with people from all over the world.
What was your most valuable experience during your studies?
The Start-up Lab at IE was the most valuable experience for me. You have five weeks to build a company from scratch, with the support of mentors and professors with real experience as entrepreneurs themselves. My team and I created a travel platform for people with disabilities and during the course of the start-up lab we were able to develop our idea to the level that we took second place at UC Berkeley’s Investing in Inclusion Pitch competition!
How did you benefit from the school career services and alumni network?
IE has a very global alumni network, so whatever region you want to end up in, there are probably some alumni there to support you. They also have a platform to connect with alumni or people related to the university, so it makes networking digitally easier than just sending a cold email or something similar because they are people who have elected to help students.
How would you describe the learning environment at the IE University?
I’d say that the learning environment was pretty focused on participation during class and on group work. You have the same group for term 1 and then a different group for term 2, and you usually have 1-2 group projects per class. Taking an active role in class and in the various assignments is important in the programme, so overall I’d say they have a pretty active and applied learning environment at IE.
How can students at your programme customise their individual learning experience?
The lab period and electives give you the opportunity to really customise your MBA. For me, I’ve focused heavily on the entrepreneurship side of the programme. Labs give you a chance to try out a certain sector (or try creating a company as well!), and from there you can develop various skills with fairly specific electives depending on your interests.
What made you feel at home at the school/university? How would you describe the organisational culture in your MBA programme? Was it a good fit or a challenge for you and how has it influenced your overall experience?
For me, it was the community at IE that made me feel at home. For the first two terms you’re with the same section of people and you end up getting really close. As for the organisational structure of IE itself, in general I would say that it is pretty flat and everyone is pretty accessible. While professors don’t have office hours like they did at my undergrad institution, professors here are always willing to set up time and help you outside class. The administration is the same way: at one point, my start-up got accepted into a competition at UC Berkeley and both my professors and the administration were always available for whatever resources we needed as we prepared. Overall, I would say that IE was a great fit for me for my MBA and it had a huge impact on my overall experience. This is where your network starts, where you make friends and have the ability to specialise on what in business is interesting to you, so for me the access to entrepreneurship resources was important.
What is the value of international education (study abroad study or study in an international classroom in your home country)?
Studying at IE was especially international: not only is it away from my home country, but the student body itself is from all over the world, so it’s a great experience to get exposure to a lot of different cultures. In an increasingly globalised world, the ability to understand other countries and their cultures and the nuances associated with them are only becoming more important, so from a business perspective, I think the more diversity you can be exposed to, the better. From a personal perspective, it’s also been a great experience of growth as I’ve developed a more open mindset and felt myself become more sensitive and aware of other cultures (and now I have an excuse to travel all over the world to visit all of my friends made during the MBA!).