How to make the most out of your MBA, from a former ESCP MBA student

An MBA can be a great way to jumpstart your career or initiate a successful career change. At ESCP, many students joining the MBA in International Management programme are looking to advance their education and gain hands-on experience that will enable them to navigate international settings. Léa El Kattar was one of them.

A former biologist and biochemist, with 8 years of experience within the MedTech Industry. Léa was looking for a way to gain access to regional managerial positions while developing her management skills in a multicultural environment. We spoke with her to understand how enrolling in ESCP’s MBA in International Management programme has helped her reach new heights in her career, and how prospective students can learn from her experience. Here are a few tips to make the most out of an MBA:

Understand why you want to embark on an MBA journey

Deciding to earn an MBA requires careful consideration and introspection. Before prospecting various programmes and schools, make sure you understand your motivations behind pursuing an MBA, as reflection will help you shape a successful and fulfilling academic and professional experience.

“I am very goal-oriented; I prioritised networking alongside academic pursuits, recognising its importance in career advancement. I also wanted the two-campus experience offered by ESCP, aiming to explore new cultures, meet diverse people, and gain fresh perspectives from around the world,” Léa says.

Léa emphasises that it is important to be clear about what you hope to achieve and how you want to see your career evolve.

"Know that an MBA programme may not be enough to enter the business world. It will, however, definitely enrich your journey and help you move forward towards leadership roles,” Léa explains. “The MBA provided me with the exposure and knowledge necessary to confidently transition into managerial roles, but through my 8-year career in within the Medtech industry, I had already gained practical experience in management the hard way, which helped as well.”

Be ready to take on new challenges and learn from your peers

Undertaking an MBA is always challenging — at least to some extent. Even if you are already familiar with marketing techniques, sales or have had a first experience in management, some subjects will require more effort than others. For Lea, finance was the most daunting, but provided her with invaluable knowledge.

"Finance was the most challenging course to me, but it also proved to be the most important, as it significantly enhanced my ability to make informed decisions in my current role,” she says. “Understanding financial concepts and evaluating investments are skills crucial for making sound decisions, and the finance course provided me with the necessary tools to do so effectively."

Fortunately, the programme’s diverse student body provided Léa with a fair amount of support. "Relying on my peers and colleagues for help was key. Their explanations, coupled with my extra effort, really boosted my understanding," she says.

Other key aspects of the MBA include group projects and use cases, which allow future leaders to immerse themselves in managerial challenges.

“Group projects helped us learn from each other and reach our goals together. Using real-life examples helped me connect theory to practice, improving my logical and strategic thinking skills,” Léa says. “This practical approach from the MBA has been invaluable for making decisions in my job. Regular exposure to real-world situations has honed my critical thinking abilities and helped me organise my ideas effectively for daily tasks."

Put your networking muscle to work

But what would theoretical teachings be without diligent networking? Léa underlines the importance of making connections for anyone wanting to make the most out of their academic journey.

"During your MBA journey, seize every opportunity to network and engage with professionals beyond your MBA cohort,” Léa says. “Networking is crucial for success in the professional world, and mastering it during your MBA can set you up for future success. Learn to initiate conversations and connect with everyone you meet.”

For Léa, this practice was crucial. “The MBA has been a real turning point in my career, and I was offered a job three months before graduation. In order to make this happen, I used every resource available to me, from career services to networking events and alumni networks. My advice is to actively pursue every avenue available to you. Don't wait for opportunities to come to you; instead, proactively seek them out.

Léa also advises every student to showcase themselves as much as possible. “Make your presence known on social networks, as this is how you build your personal brand nowadays."

Beyond the MBA: drive change as a leader

In her time at ESCP, Léa benefited from the Women in Leadership scholarship which aims to actively promote and support women in their pursuit of MBA-related ambitions. Now in a managerial position heading Global Partnerships and Alliances at a multinational company, she aims to promote more diversity in her workplace.

“Receiving the Women in Leadership scholarship has reinforced my belief in the importance of promoting gender diversity,” she says. “Empowering women is not just a concept—it's a fundamental aspect of societal progress. Within and beyond the classroom, we must actively work to empower women and break down barriers that hinder their progress. Despite the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions,

I am determined to foster an environment that supports and promotes women's advancement. By championing diversity and inclusivity, I hope to see more women in leadership roles within the company and on my team."

Léa's journey is a great example of the transformative power of an MBA, while her commitment to driving change and promoting diversity underscores the broader impact MBA graduates can have beyond individual career aspirations. If you're inspired by Lea's story and interested in embarking on a similar path, explore ESCP's MBA in International Management programme to discover how it can empower you to drive change and excel in global business leadership. Learn more about ESCP's MBA programme here.