Seda Saracer: 'Now have a network [of MBA student peers] all over the world in all different types of businesses
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The Financial Times MBA blog features students from across the world who – for the duration of their stay at business school – write about the highs and lows of their experiences. But what happens after they graduate? Where do they work and was their MBA a help or a hindrance?

Four former students, who were among the first to contribute to the MBA blog, describe their lives post-business school.

The students

Seda Saracer, SDA Bocconi. Graduated 2010

What happened once you left business school?

I started working for Johnson & Johnson’s Medical Devices Company in Turkey in January 2011 as a junior product manager in their orthopaedics business. I had a month off after graduation before starting my new job. It gave me some time to move back to my home country, Turkey.

I was hired within Johnson & Johnson’s leadership development programme called “International Recruitment and Development Program” which aims to recruit MBA graduates from the top business schools from all over the world. One or two MBA students are hired for each country that participates in the IRDP (International Recruitment and Development Program). I was selected through a mass-recruitment event in New Jersey, US (at the Johnson & Johnson headquarters). There must have been 500-600 MBA students from all over the world. And I was selected as the one MBA student to be recruited for the Turkish Johnson & Johnson unit.

What was it like to be back in the working world?

It was a little weird in the beginning since I had a year and half break away from the working world. I guess I had got used to not having a manager and not doing any reporting while I was a student. It felt a little bit weird to go into the reporting hierarchy of the business world again. But I adjusted in a couple of weeks after I started working.

Are you still in that same job or were you promoted or moved job/country?

After working for a year, I got a promotion and became a product manager (senior). Then six months after that I got transferred to a bigger business unit within orthopaedics called Joint Reconstruction as a product manager. I started doing the marketing and product management of a much bigger business. I have been working in this job since August 2012.

Are you carrying a lot of MBA-derived debt?

I had done my MBA at SDA Bocconi with an 80 per cent scholarship. This scholarship was a merit-based scholarship given to me by Bocconi University. It was funded by the US “Forte Foundation” which supports women leaders in business. I paid the [remaining] 20 per cent of the school fee with my own savings and therefore have no current MBA debts. I was very lucky.

Are you still in contact with your MBA peers and did they help in securing a job?

I am most definitely in contact with my dear MBA colleagues. We have reunion events a couple of times a year. In addition to this, we go to each other’s weddings during the summers. We had reunion at two weddings last year – one of which was the wedding of our two MBA colleagues who met on the programme and fell in love.

I haven’t secured a job with the help of my colleagues per se but I have had MBA colleagues who have started their own businesses together as partners – quite a lot of them actually. And I have colleagues who have helped each other to get jobs or to network.

Were there any gaps in your knowledge that the MBA hadn’t filled?

I absolutely didn’t have any gaps left when I started my job. I had all the information I needed to do my job and excel at it. That is why I would suggest to anyone who wants to excel at their professional careers to get an MBA, at a good ranking business school.

And the million dollar question – was it worthwhile? Are you glad you did an MBA and would you tell others to do the same?

It was definitely worth it. It was worth it in terms of learning all the knowledge I needed in the business world (finance, marketing, economics etc) Plus I now have a network all over the world in all different types of businesses. My MBA colleagues would be willing to help me in any way they can if I needed networking or business contacts or know how in a different country.

I had the most amazing year of my life during the MBA. I met all these wonderful people, had an awful lot of fun and learned about different businesses, specialisations and business cultures which I couldn’t have learnt about in a lifetime if I hadn’t done my MBA in Bocconi. I met over 100 wonderful people coming from 30 plus different countries and gained life-long friendships. I think that was my biggest gain from the programme. I would recommend that others do an MBA, preferably at a very international school so that they can learn from other cultures too.

Thomas Gatley Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management. Graduated 2011.

What did you do when you left Tsinghua?
I’d been working part-time for Gavekal Dragonomics, a macroeconomic research firm, during the final year of the MBA. I joined full-time in June 2012, my role is China Corporate Analyst.

What was it like to return to the world of work?

It was great to get back to work – learning is fun but nothing beats getting real work done. I have recently been promoted to senior analyst, still in Beijing.

Are you still in contact with your MBA peers and did the network help you to secure a job?

Yes – they’ve spread out all over the world but I am still in touch with many of them. The job I found on my own, but the network is strong. In the last year I’ve been to classmates’ weddings in Islamabad, Chongqing and Seoul.

Once you settled into working life again did you find there were any gaps in your knowledge that the MBA hadn’t filled?

Plenty – my job is pretty niche – but I use a lot of the skills I learnt at Tsinghua.

Are you glad you did an MBA and would you tell others to do the same?

Yes – I have a superb job and a great life in Beijing, the MBA was a critical catalyst for both.

Federico Zaldua, Columbia Business School. Graduated 2011

What happened immediately after you graduated?

After my graduation I went to work for AB-InBev (the global beer brewer) in their first Global MBA programme – a programme designed for MBAs from leading schools, it is a fast-track leadership path.

Was it strange to be back in the working world and was there a period of adjustment?

It was not weird at all but I had to adjust to not working in a pure financial organisation. Culture across sectors differs a lot. I did learn a few things about people and about myself so overall that was a positive experience.

What happened next?

After a while I left AB-InBev and I got a client who would trust me enough to manage his Latin American bond portfolio. Luckily, things went very well so far. It was not easy at all to go from one of the biggest and most successful consumer goods organisations in the world (a safe place) to become independent. But in the end it worked. Its incredibly important – as Warren Buffett says, “To tap-dance to work”; at least it is for me.

After well over a year managing a LatAm bond position essentially for a family of Argentine entrepreneurs, I got a call from Itáu BBA’s (investment bank in Brazil) head of sales and trading to help with the new operations the bank is running from Chile. So I will be starting to work on the fixed income desk in the coming days.

Are you carrying a lot of MBA -derived debt?

Thank God, I was able to pay-off the MBA out from my pocket. So no debt. Well, No MBA debt.

Do you remain in touch with your MBA peers?

Yes, I met amazing people at the MBA and I am in contact with a lot of them. Actually, I just came from the wedding of one of those great people in Milano and in a week from now I am going to São Paulo to see some other Columbians. They have been a great help every time I was in need.

Did you find there were any gaps in your MBA knowledge?

Of course. There is always a gap. That's what life is about, isn’t it? That said, I did learn a lot during my years in New York.

And the million dollar question – was it worthwhile? Are you glad you did an MBA?

Those years I spent in Columbia and in New York were the best years of my life. For sure. No doubt about that. I had a blast. And I do not think I could have had such an amazing time anywhere else in the world. The combination of Columbia with New York City makes the life experience an incredible one.

Maxime Droubi, IMD. Graduated 2010

What happened once you graduated?

Right after IMD, I stayed in the same sector (IT) and the same region (Europe) and joined a local Swiss start-up to develop a social media platform as product manager and business developer.

How useful was your MBA at this stage?
In this entrepreneurship experience, my MBA was very helpful in setting strategies, business plans, and in developing a product that won several competitions.

Did you tap into your IMD network?
The IMD network helped me to find potential partners and investors in this project.

Would you recommend doing an MBA?
Every day, I also use the fundamentals, tools and case studies we learnt in class and in projects, both as an inspiration and for systematic approaches.

In order to share this worthwhile MBA experience, I decided to collaborate to “Yes Mum, Business is an Art !” , a visual book for entrepreneurs, synthesising the best insights of the IMD year. So, yes, I would definitely recommend [others] to do the same.

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