Unlocking growth and learning on the Madrid International Elective Module

15 May 2024

Global Online MBA participant Olivier Harvey shares his motivations for studying the programme and his experience of the Big Data & Analytics International Elective Module at IE Business School, Madrid.

A question that eventually echoes in the minds of MBA candidates is, "Why am I doing this MBA?" For some, it might be a quest for knowledge, for others, a prerequisite to a new promotion or a tool to pivot to a new industry. For those with a bit more experience under the belt, like me, it can be a mix of "if not now, when?", professional repositioning, and renewing our sense of purpose.

Irrespective of the underlying individual drivers, the MBA journey will be universally relatable. It’s about the time and opportunity to address our knowledge gaps to enable us to better navigate the changing dynamics our world presents.

The Global Online MBA programme at Warwick Business School (WBS) offers many opportunities for students to take modules at other top-ranked institutions globally. Despite the rigorous coursework and the demanding nature of some assignments, it’s crucial to immerse fully in the experience. The challenges unlock growth and learning.

With a strong background rooted in energy and agriculture commodities, adding a sustainability specialisation was a strategic decision to help me better contribute to overcoming our global challenges. As data plays an undeniable role in measuring our activities and progress, such as in reducing our carbon intensity, the Big Data & Analytics module at IE Madrid was on my list of electives.

Image of Olivier Harvey namecard and desk

What is tracked, gets measured; and what gets measured, gets improved (or monetised) – this resonated throughout the module. In an era where data is the new rush, the ability to navigate this terrain to leverage data-driven decision-making must be second nature. We covered the significance of identifying gaps within our data and strategies, including unknown (dark data) and prospective insights from future data for predictive modelling, forecasting scenarios, and data-driven decision-making.

While the MBA programme offers several group projects and team activities, it will inadvertently sometimes seem like a lonely journey. Therefore, maximising every opportunity for face-to-face interaction, whether during residential weeks or through global electives, becomes paramount. These intense learning periods are not just academic collaborations; they are moments to build lifelong friendships, share knowledge and support each other.

Here are some thoughts on how to make the most of these enriching experiences:

Manage your time wisely

Time management is a critical skill to have when there are so many things going on at one time that require our attention. Begin networking and conversing early; don’t wait until the last day to introduce your true self. Every interaction is an opportunity to introduce not only the person you are but also the person you aspire to be. WBS is for the Change Makers. Allow even the smallest moments of life to take you toward that growth.

Pre-connect on professional networks

There will always be familiar faces, though chances are your fellow classmates might come from different cohorts and programmes. Starting connections on professional networks prior to your module can make introductions matter more and interactions count more. Seize every opportunity to socialise. Get out there, connect – sleep/rest will come later during your return trip or once home.

Mix and mingle

Be open to diverse contacts during formal meals and make an effort to sit with different groups. This expands your network and enriches learning through various perspectives.

Faculty interaction

The lecturers will likely join the cultural and evening programmes. Engage with them - they are advisers and mentors and can help create links between people. Ask them questions, engage with them and keep the discussion going on professional networks.

A guest can always ask

Remember that visitors can usually get away with a bit more than locals – so take the initiative if you stumble upon someone, whether it is a classmate or a faculty member, whose ideas could broaden your understanding or who can advise you on what to do next. Find some time outside of class and meet for coffee or just chat freely. They may provide important insights and create long-lasting relationships. Seize every question, every curiosity — don’t wait.

Image of Madrid

Don’t forget your local network

Before going to Madrid I contacted several people within my network to arrange meetings. This simple proactive step turned into an invaluable opportunity to solidify relationships and meet up with some people in person after having virtual conversations for months, sometimes even years. Remember that the only thing separating us from each other is the unwillingness to make the first move in opening a conversation, whether it’s with a potential employer, recruiter or simply someone whose work you’ve admired.

Living arrangements

Opting for shared accommodations with peers can be a great way to forge lasting relationships. While in Madrid, I stayed with a Global Online MBA peer, and it not only saved on costs but significantly enhanced the learning experience and bond. For Global Online MBA students, such opportunities to connect with peers in person are rare. The friendships and professional relationships formed during the modules are as valuable as the knowledge gained.  

Apply, test, improve - make it personal

The essence of learning lies in its application. Don’t let new knowledge go unused - apply it as soon as possible, in whole or in part, test it in the real world, refine it and then most importantly - make it your own. This not only enhances personal and professional growth but also ensures that the knowledge you acquire remains relevant, dynamic, and closely aligned with your evolving goals and challenges.

I found the IE Big Data & Analytics module to be an enriching experience. The blend of cultural immersion, academic exploration, and the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge in practical settings has enriched both my MBA and personal journeys. As welcoming as Madrid and the IE faculty were, I am now very much looking forward to returning to WBS in a few weeks for my last face-to-face module, this one on Managing Sustainable Energy Transitions.

As I look forward to returning, it is not just the anticipation of acquiring new knowledge, but a renewed commitment to integrating these learnings into my journey towards making a tangible impact on the world. The MBA journey, with its blend of challenges and discoveries, has been instrumental in shaping not only the professional I am becoming but also the person I strive to be.