Sarah AL-Aoudah | IE Business School

Sarah AL-Aoudah

About me

Complementing 10 years’ industry experience, Sarah has enjoyed a strong academic background, culminating in dual degrees in Finance and Marketing and International Business. Her recent studies towards a Master of Business Administration (MBA) have provided an opportunity to analyse and report on the importance of sustainability in the face of growing externalities.

Sarah has built her career in a variety of roles across a mix of public and private sectors, including success displaying strong analytical and strategic capabilities as Manager at the Tourism Development Fund. While here, she confidently reported to stakeholders while articulating progress associated with strategic impact creation.
As Management Consulting Manager at government enabler, THIQAH Business Services, Sarah gained exposure to c-suite level engagement, project coordination, and business transformation. During this time, she sensitively navigated ambiguity while working with multiple government entities to develop strategies, business plans, and operating models.

Sarah is committed towards lifelong learning - facilitating human capital development while engaging international female entrepreneurs as part of a mentorship program. Her passions include soccer, reading, travel and adventure.

Sarah AL-Aoudah
Strategy at The Tourism Development Fund
Icono Punto en el mapaIcono Punto en el mapaMap point IconMap point iconSaudi
IE Brown Executive MBA
Sarah AL-Aoudah | IE Business School

"I chose to study the MBA programme to improve my awareness surrounding the effects of business on society and the planet. This has been pivotal in shaping my career ambitions."

Sarah AL-Aoudah

CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND?

I am a sports enthusiast. My passions include traveling, exploring new places, and experiencing new activities. I am an avid reader and enjoy losing myself in the pages of a story. I am also a gastronome who relishes different cuisines.

My unconventional personality plays a crucial role in my educational background and in how my career has crystallized.

I am a dual-degree graduate, with one degree in Finance and Marketing from Al Yamamah University and the other in International Business from the Grenoble Graduate School of Business.

My diverse education enabled me to kickstart my career in consulting to finally focus on being a strategist in the tourism industry, which combines my various interests, encompasses my love for experiences, culture, F&B, and entertainment, and culminates in creating an impact beyond the micro level.

WHAT INITIALLY SPARKED YOUR PASSION FOR BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION AND INTERNATIONAL COMMERCE?

I first applied to Al Yamamah University with the intention of enrolling in the prep year until I could sort out my application for genetic engineering, which was my passion at the time. After completing my first year and exploring a few schools abroad, I was faced with two options: either continue my education in business and earn two degrees or switch over to science and restart. I felt that acquiring business knowledge would open various doors and allow me to diversify and learn many disciplines simultaneously. And so, I majored in finance, marketing, and international business. I was also drawn to finance and analysis and thought the disciplines could pave the way for pursuing a personal business in the future.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER PROGRESSION THUS FAR? WE WOULD APPRECIATE SOME DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO YOUR CAREER AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE (PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCES, COMPANIES YOU’VE WORKED FOR, AND THE UNIQUE SKILLS SET YOU’VE GAINED)

I have worked on a portfolio of diverse projects, including a national-level initiative that was part of The National Transformation Program 1.0 and contributed to the Kingdom’s 2030 vision, where I was engaged in the design and development of key initiatives, such as developing the Saudi digital and creative industry and collaborating on an international mentorship program for female entrepreneurs. It enabled me to gain exposure and develop my skills at an early stage in my career.

In completing this role, I wanted to continue building my core consulting skills; thus, I joined Thiqah Business Services in their Management Consulting division. Thiqah is a government enabler in the Kingdom and offers business services in line with the government’s requirements.

My role focused on the Saudi economy in all its different areas, be it technology and the digitization of government processes or the establishment of new entities to help realize the 2030 vision. As a management consultant, my primary goal was to analyze the current situation, identify gaps, and find solutions to either ease the transformation or enhance the processes to achieve the objectives of an organization and improve its overall business performance.

After my years in advisory/consulting, I decided to focus on a specific industry, namely tourism, which is becoming a leading industry in Saudi Arabia and one that the nation is focusing on to diversify from oil. I am currently part of the strategy team at the Tourism Development Fund where my key role is to create strategic impact, which ties in agreeably with the MBA program in translating business concepts into societal and economic impact.

FROM ANALYST AND ADVISORY TO STRATEGY AND MANAGEMENT ROLES—YOU’VE DONE IT ALL. WHAT ARE SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR IMPRESSIVE CAREER?

  • Working on a portfolio of diverse projects across finance, health, human capital development, economy, and entertainment sectors, including national-level initiatives that contributed to the Kingdom’s 2030 vision.
  • Acting as the lead Project Manager in the development of a high-profile project to build a digital platform for the strategy management office of the Saudi Royal Court.
  • Developing the Fund’s ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) strategy.

WITH MORE THAN 12 SUCCESSFUL YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY ALREADY BEHIND YOU, WHAT VALUES GUIDE YOU? WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED TO ACHIEVE MORE?

  • Commitment goes a long way; the commitment toward work regardless of the challenges and hurdles one faces.
  • My passion to learn; the sky’s the limit when it comes to learning. It piqued my curiosity, which results in higher creativity and building my acumen in various disciplines.
  • Creating impact; knowing that what I work on will result in impact, be it at the micro level in an organization or the macro level in national operations. I have been lucky enough to experience both, and that is the epitome of my professional drive.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO JOIN THE IE BROWN EXECUTIVE MBA PROGRAM?

I knew that I wanted to pursue my graduate degree but not lose out on years of experience. The other aspect is the blended curriculum of humanitarian studies, which I have never experienced given that my background is purely related to business. The IE Brown Global Program offers a holistic economic, political, and psychological view of business.

As I have explained, before joining the program, my role focused on the Saudi economy in all its different areas. I wanted to make a difference and bring back the insights and knowledge from the world’s top schools and the diverse network of well-established professionals I would be able to interact with in the program.

At present, Saudi Arabia is undergoing a massive economic shift that impacts the three main pillars of the country’s 2030 vision, one of which is a thriving economy. The main challenge today is realizing the benefits of these rapid changes. The country is led by young and old leaders; while bridging this gap is a challenge, doing it quickly is an even bigger one.

Given the wave of youth empowerment underway in the country, this program offered me a great opportunity to hone my skills. My aspiration is to become a change agent in my country and hopefully, become a leader one day.

WHAT DID YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE OF THE IE BROWN EXECUTIVE MBA?

This program taught me to cultivate a 360-degree view of things and not focus on only one dimension; it also trained me to think on my feet and make rational decisions. IE and Brown offer academic knowledge of a high standard, given their respective legacies, in addition to promising professional exposure and on-ground practical experience.

I learned a lot from my classmates, each of whom brought a fresh perspective to various discussions. Learning from their diverse backgrounds and experiences allowed me to view things from a wider perspective than the typical business lens that I am used to. I also valued the in-person sessions, which I wish were not interrupted by the pandemic and were more frequent, as they provided a great opportunity to create deeper connections with people.

The learning groups were a unique experience and being able to join two different groups was remarkable; I worked closely with the world’s most brilliant minds, gained knowledge that is indispensable, and formed friendships for life.

WHAT KNOWLEDGE OR SKILLS DID YOU LEARN THROUGHOUT THE PROGRAM THAT YOU BELIEVE WILL BE MOST USEFUL IN YOUR CAREER?

The blended innovative management curriculum with the humanities and social sciences provided valuable experiences. This program integrates humanities to reflect how business influences and is influenced by the greater political and social aspects. It sheds light on the ways to influence our society to be more tolerant of divergent viewpoints and construct a solid moral compass.

The program helped expand my awareness on sustainability, which was a recurring theme in both business and humanities subjects, and was the topic of focus for our Key Reflection Project (KRP). I understood why it is important for firms to uphold and promote sustainability and the triple bottom line in the face of growing externalities. At present, it is not enough to focus solely on a company’s bottom line; we need to consider its broader effects on society and the planet.

Courses that stretched my boundaries and helped me challenge the status quo were an enriching experience. Learning to write an OP-ED and mastering financial modeling was a key learning for me, especially at this point in my career.

The leadership knowledge in both courses with Professor Paine, which I apply in my current role and revisit frequently, and the leadership advisory track, which allowed me to work with a coach and helped me identify my areas of development in a scientific manner with the use of various tests and 360-degree feedback, were valuable learning experiences.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR IE BROWN EXECUTIVE MBA EXPERIENCE?

The Key Reflection Project where I worked with my brilliant classmates, Eugenie Teasley and Marc Franks, on how to integrate ESG and impact decisions in a business start-up formation.

CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS AND GOALS AFTER YOUR RECENT GRADUATION? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE, AND HOW WILL THIS PROGRAM HELP YOU DO SO?

I hope to further my knowledge and experience of sustainability and transform my learning into action. Translating the outcome of our KRP into initiatives that can be executed by the Fund. Also, I aspire to grow into a thought leader in the sustainability space.

ANY ADVICE OR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BOTH STUDENTS CURRENTLY PURSUING THE IE BROWN EXECUTIVE MBA, AND THOSE PLANNING TO DO SO IN THE FUTURE?

It is an intensive program that might seem impossible to get through at certain times. But taking it one day at a time helped me.

It will all make sense in the end; all the courses will connect with each other and where there was once pure confusion, you will have a number of “aha” moments.

Ensure that you have a support system to help you pull through! Hone your time management skills—the required 20–30 hours/week are challenging. Make the most of your learning groups and in-person sessions; that is where the majority of the learning takes place, and where real connections and debates happen.