Overseas study on the MBA

23 May 2024

Global Online MBA participant Jon Clay reflects on his experience on the Big Data and Analytics International Elective Module at IE Business School and offers his top tips for anyone considering an overseas elective.

As part of the Global Online MBA at Warwick Business School (WBS), we can take elective modules hosted by partner business schools worldwide. As someone passionate about data, I was ecstatic to secure a place studying ‘Big Data and Business Analytics’ at the prestigious IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. This experience was exceptional and a highlight of my MBA journey so far.

Image of IE Business School

The module encompassed everything Big Data. No stone was left unturned within a packed agenda encompassing data platforming, machine learning, large language models, customer and business analytics, architecture, strategy, innovation, culture and data team compositions. The content was challenging but simply presented by high-calibre lecturers who all currently or had previously held senior leadership positions within leading global data or technology firms. This allowed them to craft academic theory with practical application, which delivered tangible learnings that students in their organisations could apply. The module is perfect for anyone keen to learn more about:

  • Artificial Intelligence in all its forms
  • Leading a data-driven organisation
  • Curating data products and services

There were many key takeaways over the week, but for me, one that Amazon does very well stood out above all others: ‘Create an ecosystem of value’. This can be achieved by developing a data platform business model. In these situations, customers using your products and services willingly provide you with more data as they are receiving equitable value in return. This enables you to create new products and tailor existing products to deliver even more customer value. The outcome for those companies that get it right is a virtuous circle of profitable growth – a situation I expect we would all love to create!

If you are considering this module as one of your MBA electives, here is some more practical information that should aid your decision:

How long is the module?

My course started early on a Monday morning, so if your module follows the same timetable, plan to arrive in Madrid over the weekend. It finishes early Friday afternoon, so you can catch a flight late in the afternoon or early evening. Alternatively, as many of us did, why not enjoy a Friday night in Madrid and travel home at the weekend?!

Who is in the class?

Anyone completing the Global Online or Executive MBA can attend overseas electives. My class was comprised of senior leaders from across the globe working in industries such as textiles, financial services, defence, healthcare, marketing, and everything in between. This diverse composition was a key reason the module proved so useful. The students' different views and experiences really added to the lecturers' teaching.

Where is IE Business School?

IE operates from multiple sites in the Madrid region, and the programme ensures you can see all of these. On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, we were based out of the Maria de Molina campus in central Madrid. This is the main base for all their Master's courses and the location from which coaches departed on other days. Tuesday saw us take a coach to their ancient Segovia campus (see social excursions for more), and the week culminated at the IE Tower, a stunning 180m high campus in north Madrid. 

Image of Jon Clay in Madrid

Where should I stay?

There is no shortage of hotels and apartments in Madrid close to the main Maria de Molina campus. Prices vary significantly depending on your choice of accommodation, but to give you an idea, my 4* hotel cost me £110/night, which is over 50% less than equivalent London prices.

How long are the days?

It is an intensive week, and you can expect 10-12 hour days, Tuesday through Thursday. In addition, you will need to find time to complete the group assignment that is part of your assessment.

Are there any organised social activities and networking?

This is a big part of the experience, and although some are optional, attending them allows you to get the most from the week. The IE staff worked hard to arrange activities that showed you Spanish culture and provided socialising opportunities. The highlight of the week for me was the trip to Segovia. The historic Roman city north of Madrid is stunning and home to one of the best-preserved Roman aqueducts in the world. After studying at the historic campus, we had an afternoon walking tour of historic sites followed by a traditional medieval Spanish banquet – the food was incredible! Later in the week, we also had a private tour of the impressive Thyssen-Bornemisza art gallery.

Image of Madrid

How was the module assessed?

The module was assessed on the Friday immediately after the week of studies. This assessment comprised a multiple-choice exam and group presentation, which we had to prepare alongside studies Tuesday through Thursday.

In summary, this module was intensive but theoretically and culturally stimulating. Importantly it was also very well organised and enjoyable. It is certainly a module I recommend everyone should at least consider.