MBA program launches career checkpoint event for recent grads

Class of 2016 reunites with old friends, gains new wisdom, during return to Barcelona

May 20, 2019

Members of the MBA Class of 2016 returned to the Barcelona campus recently for the inaugural Career Checkpoint event for alumni three years out from their graduations.

The day’s program included a campus tour, career workshops and faculty lectures about the state of the global economy and shifting management paradigms. But the 63 alumni in attendance gave the all-day program the convivial air of a college reunion as they congratulated each other on babies recently born, professional strides made and dietary regimens improved since leaving case studies behind.

Professor Alberto Ribera during his workshop cited a quote from Harvard’s Happiness 101 professor Tal Ben Shahar: “When you appreciate the good, the good appreciates.”

That could apply to the thinking behind the Checkpoint, a Dean Franz Heukamp initiative that aims to bolster the continuity of the IESE experience and the bonds of its community well beyond participants’ semesters on campus. The late professor Paddy Miller inspired the event’s timing with his theory that the 1,000-day milestone at a new job quite often coincides with a period of deep career reflection and change.

Attendees started the day with a welcome from professor Marc Badia. He reviewed the major institutional changes that have taken place since the class’s commencement, including the Section E expansion, a new South Campus auditorium that holds 330 people, the ongoing doubling in size of the Madrid campus footprint and the brand new Venture Hub.

“You’re very welcome to use it,” professor Julia Prats said of the hub. “We want you to know that there’s always a physical space here for you to share.”

Then, professor Nuria Mas spoke of the state of the global economy, concluding that it’s now performing “slightly worse than [economists] expected” thanks partly to the U.S.-China trade war and Brexit. Yet she sounded an optimistic note when telling the young alumni that “We’re in your hands now” and opening the floor to spirited participation.

“I’m gonna die at IESE,” professor Toni Dávila said with a chuckle during his talk on tech’s disruption of management and drastically reduced average employee lifespans. He encouraged the attendees to “seize change” and innovate in whatever job titles they hold, for however long they hold them.

“I’ve suggested to the school to change the program’s name from Master’s in Business Administration to Master’s in Business Administration and Creation,” he said.

Ribera built on that theme during two “Peak Performance” workshops. “The bad news is that time flies,” he said. “The good news is that you are now your own pilot.” Ribera doubled down on the importance of flexibility and ability to adjust expectations throughout one’s career, and life. Few of the alums raised their hands when he asked how many of their lives had unfolded as they’d envisioned back in spring 2016. (Nearly every hand shot up when Ribera asked how many of the group had been back to campus since graduating.)

Conversation turned to recent personal and professional peaks — starting construction on a building development, getting married — and valleys — a grueling recovery from back surgery, office politics. The key, Ribera said, is to focus on your many victories, big and small, rather than letting one or two failures gnaw at you as you try to fall asleep.

He added that trust is a critical component of professional and personal growth, saying that “the most difficult question we all have to ask ourselves is: Is this a hostile world or a friendly one?”

Friendliness certainly reigned during the event, as old classmates hugged and the crowd enjoyed a frank, but supportive, conversation about triumphs and setbacks. Ribera was clearly moved.

“This is the best kind of motivation for a professor,” he said. “Even years later, people remember something you taught them. One of the most rewarding things about working at IESE is getting to see former students who are now your friends.”