Managing to Make a Difference

MBA graduates putting their skills to good use

05/03/2015 Barcelona

IESE Business School
(From left to right) IESE Prof. Antonino Vaccaro; Emerging World’s Matthew Farmer; Jaime Briz, financial specialist with the Bill Gates Global Fund; and Randall Krantz, sustainability consultant / Photo: Quim Roser

"If you want to have purpose in your life you have to dedicate yourself to something bigger than you."

So says sustainability consultant, Randall Krantz, who spoke to MBAs on the eve of this year’s Doing Good and Doing Well Conference (DGDW). Krantz (MBA '02), was joined by social entrepreneurs and fellow MBA graduates Matthew Farmer (MBA '03) and Jaime Briz (MBA '04), to talk about how the skills they learnt at IESE have helped them make a difference. And the growing opportunities facing MBAs keen to make a difference, while making a living.

Which Are You: Astronomer or Astronaut?

Krantz believes that key to making a real difference is in knowing how best to deploy your skills to the maximum benefit of the most people. And size isn’t everything.

He challenged MBAs to think about where they could apply their management skills to do the most good: at a grass roots or an institutional level.

"Are you an astronomer or an astronaut?" he asked. "Are you seeing the stars from afar or close up?"

Krantz has done both. He worked with the World Economic Forum’s environmental team on climate change policy for around seven years, and then joined Druk Holding and Investments, an investment arm of the Bhutan government, as adviser to the CEO. He now works as an independent consultant, partnering with businesses to build strategies for sustainability.

Wherever you are, whatever the size or sector, says Krantz, it all boils down to finding and cleaving to your purpose: "It can be climate change, an orphanage, anything … if the problem is bigger than you, it doesn’t make you feel small and insignificant. On the contrary, you feel but useful and purposeful."

The Road Less Traveled

Like many MBA graduates, Matthew Farmer considered pursuing a high-paying job in banking or management consulting. But after some soul-searching, he knew that working to improve the lives of others was more aligned to his personal values.

"I wanted to do something that was worthwhile with the skills that I had. The MBA gave me the confidence to take these ideas and build a financially successful business."

In 2003 he founded Emerging World, an organization that creates programs for organizations to help them integrate business strategy and social responsibility in emerging markets. "As I developed the business, I realized how the work I do can make a difference," says Farmer, "especially in how our programs help to change mindsets."

Emerging World is starting to see major results with a client roster that now includes the likes of IBM: "It can really start to change the way companies and organizations behave. That can make a difference in how all of us live … that is my value proposition and what gets me fired up," he says.

What Will You Be Remembered for?

Jaime Briz’s career choices have been driven by a single question. "I was obsessed about the impact of my work. I used to ask myself continuously: If I die tomorrow, what will I be remembered for?"

On completing his MBA in 2004, Briz he took the decision to switch his focus from the for-profit to the nonprofit sector. For nine years following his MBA he worked around the world on missions for the International Committee of the Red Cross, and most recently he has taken on the role of financial specialist with the Bill Gates Global Fund.

"I am seeing the impact of using the same skills I learned at IESE and that I used in the private sector before," he says. "There is a world out there waiting for you to make an impact."

Social entrepreneurship has been steadily growing, says Briz; and MBA graduates can find more opportunities than ever before to make a living while making a difference. "Look into sectors where you already have expertise. For example, if you worked in the construction industry, why not consider social housing?"

Today’s businesses should be aiming to incorporate the "triple bottom line" of profit, social and environmental goals, he says.

"You can be part of the generation that makes a change."

IESE and Social Entrepreneurship

The student-organized Doing Good and Doing Well Conference aims to promote debate and discussion around social entrepreneurship. The IESE MBA also features an elective in social entrepreneurship, taught by Professor Antonino Vaccaro. Professor Vaccaro has also recently created the Social Entrepreneurship Network to connect the IESE community with social enterprises.