Sunday, February 24, 2013

Interview with Mary Granger, Regional Director for Asia at ESADE Business School

I am pleased to present an interview with Mary Granger, the Regional Director for Asia of ESADE Business School, a top-ranked MBA program based in Spain. The interview is organized into three parts - the school and curriculum, admissions, and life after the MBA. Read on for more insights into ESADE.

The School and Curriculum

1. An MBA is perhaps the most significant investment a young professional can make in themselves and their future. Can you briefly describe the value proposition ESADE offers to students?

Our value proposition can be summed up in three words: Diversity, Collaboration, and Flexibility. 
  • Diversity is not only in terms of having 95% international students from 50 countries – it also refers to the diversity of educational and professional backgrounds; we have about 1/3 of the class every year coming from non-traditional MBA backgrounds such as law, sciences, and the humanities.
  • Collaboration is not the same as just being put into teams to work together; our methodology foments the collaboration by not forcing a bell curve, where by definition some students are destined to fail. Grading puts an emphasis on the teamwork, and the team is expected to present conclusions as a team, not as individual team members. We feel this leads to a lot of long-term networking and collaboration.
  • The flexibility of our program enables our students to make the decision as to length once they have all the relevant information, and to adapt to quickly changing macro- and microeconomic changes. This is a characteristic we look for also when interviewing applicants, and we also try to foment it in the program itself, by creating teams which are as diverse as possible to permit students to learn multiple ways of looking at the same challenge. 
Not only do we feel these three qualities are part of ESADE’s value proposition, we also receive feedback from our partner companies that this is what they value in our graduates. 

2. Can you highlight one or two areas of strengths in terms of the curriculum of the ESADE MBA?

ESADE is considered to have a generalist MBA, but with a strength in Strategy and Marketing.

3. When do applicants choose between the 12-month, 15-month and 18-month options? Can they change their mind at a later time?

Applicants don’t have to choose! Participants will have 9 months from the start of the program to decide on the length of their program (i.e. students starting in August/September 2013 would choose the length in May/June 2013). They will hence have input from Career Services, companies, peers, professors and even their own experience to help them decide. Given this late decision date, they will quickly start electives, internships and/or exchanges so we do not expect them to change their minds once they choose the length.

4. ESADE is an extremely diverse program with about 50 nationalities represented despite having a class of under 200 students.  Can you give an example of an extra-curricular activity that allows students to experience and learn about other cultures?

We have a great event called “Gastrofest”. Students prepare their local cuisine to share with classmates and there is a competition to see which is voted the best food. There are other categories such as the variety of food available, decoration of the booth, etc. Generally this is one of the most popular events on campus.

5. Can you tell us a bit about your new campus and the benefits it offers to your students?

We share a building with over 60 companies. Many are start-ups but there are also the innovation centers for such companies as HP and Xerox. The key is that this is a center for Open and Cross Innovation. This leads to interesting cooperations between companies and students, bringing industry experience to the students and business expertise to the companies.

The campus is very close (5-minute walk) to downtown Sant Cugat (a suburb of Barcelona, within the metropolitan area). Services, restaurants, etc. are all within walking distance of the campus. The new campus provides much more space than the downtown campus, and in addition the design is innovative, with plenty of light and large open balconies to enjoy the view.


6. Is there a minimum TOEFL score you hope to see? How about on the listening and speaking subsections?

We have a “soft minimum” of 100 and make the final decision through direct interview with the applicants. If an applicant has a score of 90+ then I would encourage them to apply and we will evaluate their potential to fully benefit from the MBA class discussions via the interview.

7. Obviously you consider an applicant's "fit" with you program when evaluating them, and so "why ESADE" is, I imagine, an important question. How about "why Spain?" Do you consider your program a Spanish business school, or an international business school in Spain?

We are a global business school in Spain! 95% of our participants this year are international and we have an ever-increasing number of international faculty and staff. Our alumni value the opportunity to learn such an important language and often choose ESADE because they know Spain is a bridge which can open opportunities in Latin America, but as a global business school, we have alumni working in over 100 countries worldwide! 

8. How strict is admissions on the minimum of 2 years of full-time employment?  Have you made exceptions, and if so why?

This is a strict requirement! We have even suggested some applicants wait even an additional year, if they are still consolidating a position and haven’t worked there very long. Our students learn as much from each other as they do from the professors, so we are looking for all participants to be able to contribute significantly from their work experience.

Life After the MBA

9. ESADE has been enjoying an excellent placement rate. What is the secret of your success?

ESADE is not only looking for flexible candidates and building flexibility into our curriculum – we also incorporate this into our way of doing business. Perhaps we can do this because we are so small...since we are constantly in touch with top companies around the world, we can identify recruitment trends, such as growing industries, regional shifts... and adapt our corporate outreach accordingly.

10. Do you have an active alumni group in Japan? How can a prospective applicant reach out to them? (note: a majority of the readership of this blog is based in Japan)

Our alumni in Japan are GREAT! They are always participative, reaching out to applicants who want more information, participating in recruiting events, and suggesting ways for ESADE to grow in Japan. They have designed a Japanese website (not a translation of the official one, but rather a student-generated website that they maintain and pass down to the following classes). They have an ESADE Japan Group on Facebook which we can use to schedule meetings or generate more suggestions. If anyone is interested in reaching out to alumni, they can just email me at with an overview of their profile, so I can try to match them with a current student or alumnus with a similar profile.

Thanks Mary for your time!

John Couke