“These are the kinds of experiences you can’t get enough of.”
Jessica Harmer, USA
Managing Associate, AccountAbility, London
When I was considering degree programs, one of the attractions was the timing. At IE University, I was basically getting two master’s degrees in a year and a half. This would have taken four years in the US. It was also much less expensive than in the States, and offered me a hub in Europe, which was important to me. Being in Madrid also gave me a chance to apply my Spanish and get to know the people and professors here. I wanted to build my career in Europe, having mainly worked in the US before, and I’ve done that.
I’m a Managing Associate at AccountAbility in London. My role revolves around sustainability—I develop, sell and implement sustainability plans for NGOs and private-sector companies, leading them in the integration of sustainability into their day-to-day corporate strategy. I think from its beginnings, maybe in the 1950s and 60s, sustainability has gained momentum. Originally, particularly in the private sector, it was more about marketing—companies wanted to project that they were sustainable. We do get a lot of marketing and communications teams reaching out to us, but we try to demonstrate that sustainability is for all organizations, helping the bottom line and creating social impact.
My own experience in sustainability was limited before my time at IE University. Both of my master’s degrees helped me build expertise in the field, in governance, design thinking and other aspects. The program itself is pretty robust; the amount of work and the number of different classes mean you have to manage time and prioritize effectively. But working with people from all different kinds of backgrounds, this really helped me. I think the connections that you get at IE University are really one of a kind. Everyone comes with a really open mindset. And it’s such a diverse group of students and professors, that you have really fascinating conversations. It brought a whole new understanding of the benefits of diversity to me.
A particular highlight of my time there was the social lab. I was part of a group working with a Madrid-based impact investment fund, one of the first in Spain. It got me hands-on experience doing impact work, and it was a pivot for me, from corporate management and finance into social impact in the corporate and financial world. I also attended the MBA Summit in Australia, where my workshop on social impact and design thinking was voted the best at the summit. These are the kinds of experiences you can’t get enough of.
“I think the connections that you get at IE University are really one of a kind. Everyone comes with a really open mindset. And it’s such a diverse group of students and professors, that you have really fascinating conversations.”
I’ve worked with a number of my MBA alumni who have started up their own entrepreneurial practices and companies. I’ve supported some with mentoring and in some cases I’ve actually worked for them. So that experience was crucial, because before, I really just had typical corporate management experience. I’d had some previous social impact, doing a lot of volunteering and pro bono work for NGOs, consulting and so on. But IE University was really the place where I was able to put that into practice. It kick-started it; made it my focus. So it was an important transition, giving me what I call “clickable” skills.
Before IE University, I didn’t even know you could consult in sustainability. Talent & Careers pointed me toward a number of companies in this sector and AccountAbility was one of them. I followed them for a while and as soon as they had a position available, I applied. So Talent & Careers was crucial in helping me understand what else was out there. Without them I really wouldn’t have known.
Looking forward, I always want to look at the bigger picture. Sustainability, social impact… These areas are still progressing. I want to be at the forefront, a leader in helping the sector develop in the right direction. I want to look at both local and global best practices, and help the company scale. We’re doing important work and if we can scale, we can make an impact at a global level.