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Magazine

Doctor MBA



Nora Benhabiles, admitted to IESE

by Will Toussaint

It was while she was working for a biotechnology company that Nora Benhabiles discovered something about herself. Though she had previously achieved a PhD in molecular biophysics from UPMC, Nora felt she needed something more. She found the answer at IESE’s Executive MBA program, where she was accepted last year and is learning everything from accounting to management skills.



Hello Nora. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am currently a visiting professor in Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), although I am based in Paris. I earned my PhD in Molecular Biophysics from Université Pierre et Marie Curie. I had been working in a biotech company for several years as the head of the bioinformatics team. That is when I decided that I wanted to explore getting an EMBA. I knew the field of Biotech was a promising field. In addition, I felt it would be wise to gain a deeper understanding of how to manage people and how a business works. With an EMBA, I felt I would be able to better position myself, should I decide I want to start a company or work for a company that is doing cutting-edge, large projects in biotech.

Why did you choose IESE?
There was definitely a fit for me when it came to IESE. I had attended an educational fair a few years ago, and I felt a real connection with the people I met from the admissions department at IESE. I also wanted to gain an international exposure at a location with a tremendous growth potential. IESE is highly regarded and has an absolutely beautiful campus and facilities. I visited the campus, and I attended an open seminar they had on a Saturday. The seminar covered a case that involved Tata Corporation. It was a great experience. I really enjoyed the professor; the people that I met were also incredibly professional. Overall, I would say it was an intense experience.

Now that you are currently taking classes, do you still feel it is intense?
Whew!!! Intense would be an understatement. But then, I have 18-month-old twins. Their names are Aurélien and Hadrien.

How do you manage teaching, looking after twins, and earning your EMBA?
There are really two things that help me do it. Time management and support. Of course, with only so many hours in the day, time management is critical. But, I would not be able to do it without support. We are a team at home, and my support comes from my family, like my mother, my mother-in-law, and my husband. They are all here to help out. We also have a nanny. So, it is challenging. At all points of the day I am moving from one task to the next. In one day I’ll go from reading a case study to changing diapers to performing scientific research.

What are your goals in achieving the EMBA?
I want to be in a position to come back into a business. I’d like to create my own company or work on a much larger project within a company. I am looking for the next big opportunity. I want to be a part of a challenging innovation project in Europe.

What are some of the experiences you have had at IESE that might enable you to take advantage of those opportunities?
IESE recently conducted a two-week visit for the EMBA students to Silicon Valley. We got to meet with representatives from many of the top companies there. We were at Yahoo! on the day the news broke that Microsoft was looking to buy then. That was quite interesting. I also found the experience really made an impact on me because we were able to see the kind of culture that is involved in that area. There is a tremendous amount of innovation and entrepreneurial activity going on. I believe that Europeans could really benefit from this kind of thinking; it hasn’t always been a defining characteristic.

That sounds like a positive experience; would you encourage others to attend IESE’s EMBA Program?
It’s an excellent program. I think first of all, we have a great mix of people that come from all over the world. But, being from someplace different is not enough at IESE. You have to work very hard. I would definitely encourage scientists and engineers to get an EMBA. I think if Europeans are really going to compete, we have to be willing to also manage. That means they are going to have to learn what a venture capital firm is and how it works. It’s all a part of the innovative and entrepreneurial aspects.

What advice can you give others who are interested in applying to IESE?
Be honest. If you have a strong idea of why you want to do an MBA, then you can succeed. But you have to be prepared. The first module is very hard. The second is not much easier. It will be tough because there is a tremendous amount of involvement and effort. I think it was challenging to me because on the first day, I was just a student, like everyone else. It didn’t matter that I had a PhD; everyone was equal, and it was really interesting to learn about my classmates and their impressive professional experience. That can be intimidating. But it is rewarding.

Are there any other aspects you felt were rewarding?
Overall, I think the EMBA is just a fantastic human experience. We work in teams of six to seven students trying to solve challenging problems. When we are not together in Barcelona, Madrid, Silicon Valley, or Shanghai, we work via an IT platform called Global Campus. I think the experience is so unique because you have a team that is made up of an assortment of skills and personalities. While you are learning important skills like management and finance, the teams also give you a meaningful connection with other talented professionals.


 
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