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Q&A WITH ALEXANDRA
How did your experience at IEU prepare you for your professional career?
IEU helped me develop strong communication skills, networking skills, and also helped me define my interests.
I completed my high school education in the French education system. French education is still quite theoretical and unfortunately, does not focus enough on the importance of, for instance, public speaking. Hence, presenting group projects was not always easy, nor pleasant for me. I realized how IE’s focus on this very aspect was so much aligned with our future professional lives and the reality of the workplace!
Also, I understood that I should make the most out of my university experience by broadening my horizons and utilizing the IE resources I had at my fingertips. IE has an incredible variety of workshops, seminars, clubs, events, and more. These are great ways to explore different industries, disciplines, and a way to get to know yourself better – your undergraduate degree is the best time to do so. You are free to decide whether to show up or not, but this is where and when all the interesting and unexpected things happen. The same happens in most of the big firms with a strong DNA: there will be work and so much more to learn.
What is the competitive advantage that studying at IEU provides or has provided you?
The ability to adapt and understand diverse environments, understand multicultural sensitivities, and enjoy them. Companies operating worldwide hire people from everywhere, and we get to work and deliver value all together, as a team. For some, it can be bewildering at first. For me, it was the norm and I felt like a fish in water when I realized my team at LinkedIn had over 14 different nationalities and spoke 18 languages all together. The companies I joined in Dublin are just like IE: international, versatile, and full of people who lived in several countries and need more than one sentence to explain where they are from and what their mother tongue is. I loved it and IE got me ready for embracing this melting pot, which is the global workforce.
Do you have any advice for IEU students and alumni who are looking to pursue a career in business development?
Business development means sales, specifically B2B sales. Business or Sales Development Representatives are strategic advisors and experts in the service or area they work in. You will be assessing the needs of a potential customer, putting yourself in the shoes of a consultant, and leading a company towards the best solution for their needs according to their challenges. It is an incredibly beneficial path that will give you a 360° view of how businesses do business. My advice is to start working backwards and look at your major assets, such as the languages you speak and all the soft skills you developed as a person, as an intern, as a volunteer, and of course, as a student. If you have ever been told that you are “good with people” or that “you ask great questions” or even that you are “approachable,” then sales might be worth exploring. At the end of the day, it is all about people.
What skills do you consider are needed to succeed in business development?
I would call these more aptitudes than skills, as we develop hard skills with experience. These are just like muscles and can be trained: curiosity, resilience, and developing a growth mindset are key. A person with average talent, but with strong will to continuously achieve more is way more likely to succeed.
Tell us about the IEU alumni community and the impact they have had in your life and/or career.
I am lucky to be surrounded with IE alumni here in Ireland. Even though I did not know most of them during my studies, I met them at work and even had the chance to work directly with some of them. It unleashed, once again, the amazing sense of belonging that sometimes fades a bit once we graduate. Having these IE brains and souls around has truly helped me confirm I made the right decision in choosing this path, joining these companies, and moving to Dublin.
The minute I finished my interview process with Salesforce, I was already chatting with a former IE classmate of mine to get his perspective and dispel my doubts, as he had been working there for nearly a year at the time. I did not realize it back then, but by doing so, I was already enhancing my motivation and my capacity to build meaningful relationships.
Today, I work on maintaining these relationships and IE alumni will always be my go-to people when it comes to guiding me through an interview process, referring me to a new job, or even introducing me to someone I could learn from.
Why do you think it’s important to engage with the IEU alumni community?
Well, if we didn’t, we would be missing on one of IE’s major added value: its network. Now, more than ever, we live in a world which demands much more than a bunch of skills and an academic degree to get started on your career journey. IE’s community has so much to offer, on a professional level of course, but also on a personal level. It is only by learning from each other and relying on one another that we will first, make the most out of our IE title, and second, deserve this “Community” title! Leveraging our IEU network is a must. Think about it: what better icebreaker is there to contact someone on LinkedIn than “Hi, I came across your profile and I realized we share the same Alma Mater, IE”?!
What skills would you recommend job seekers develop in order to make them more competitive in today’s workforce?
Again, I find it critical to differentiate soft and hard skills. I truly believe that we mostly acquire hard skills with experience, and by rolling up our sleeves.
Today’s young professionals must relentlessly work on their skills, showing adaptability and frugality (do more with less). However, all of this must be sustained by impeccable networking skills, which to me, is both a science and an art. I have been extremely lucky to attend IEU’s advanced seminar by Javier Rivero Diaz on the subject back in 2015 and his advice still resonates with me. Now that physical events cannot take place, you must do whatever it takes to become a successful networker.
What’s the best career advice you have ever been given?
To be relentlessly looking for and redefining your Ikigai, in Japanese, your reason for being. It is the sweet spot between what you love, what the world needs, what you are paid for, and what you are good at. We should all want our mission, vocation, and profession to meet each other.
The second one is open for interpretation and has to do with our good old comfort zone. I have once been told that we should not only step outside our comfort zone, but we should work towards expanding it. This is made possible my identifying our gaps, stretching ourselves, and learning from failure. Then, our vulnerability and danger zones will naturally shrink. The wider it is, the more agile and adroit you will feel in many areas of your life.
If someone was considering going to IEU, what would you tell them?
That they should absolutely go for it! And, that the journey does not stop once they graduate, it is the exact opposite. In other words, how you leverage whichever university you pick in the long run, is as important as how well you will perform as a student.
Also, think about your “why.” Why this one and not another school, why is this the best choice for you, and why should the university welcome you and not someone else.
What is one thing you wished you knew when you were a student?
That there would be a time when I would miss studying a lot, and that I would sometimes ask myself whether to go back to it or not, and if I did, what, when, how, and what. I would say it is a normal side effect at the very beginning of our career and I like to think that I might go back to it one day. Also, that perfectionism is absolutely not a strength nor a quality.
Why did you choose the BBA program at IE University?
I was about to get into a French Business school after two years of hard and competitive prep-school. The ones who are familiar with the French system have most likely heard of the “Prépa.”
Studying in France, getting a French degree mostly taught in French, and being surrounded with duplicate profiles (just like mine!) was not aligned with what I was looking for as a student and on the personal level (I was already obsessed with Spain and the language), I was yearning for multicultural diversity, and the whole idea of staying in France just did not make sense to me anymore. In these types of situations, it is also about going with your gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that it was IE University.
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