Posted on August 19, 2019

A Portuguese Veterinarian’s Journey to IMD

Andre_InterviewAndre Costa, a Business Support Analyst Asia and the Middle East at Aviagen, applied to only one school IMD. He partnered with MER (myEssayReview) for his application for the MBA program of his dream school IMD and was accepted. Andre is currently pursuing his MBA studies at the IMD.

In this video interview, Andre talks about:

  • His personal and professional background
  • GMAT Planning and Preparation
  • Reasons to Pursue an MBA
  • Career goals
  • Preference for IMD/ his favorite things about IMD
  • Application strategy, planning, and preparation
  • The most challenging part of the application process -Assessment Day
  • Advice to older aspirants

And now presenting Andre..........

Poonam: Congratulations. You are soon going to graduate from your dream school IMD’s MBA program. How does it feel?

Andre: Thank you very much. Yes, it feels very good. After a lot of effort, I got admitted because the program was hard to get into. I feel pretty good because the prospects out of the program are really nice as well. So, I am feeling comfortable in my future and the program as well.

Poonam:  Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What was your pre-MBA job?

Andre: Yes. Of course. I am Portuguese, I am 33 years old, married with a small kid, and I have a very typical background. I am a veterinary doctor. I worked in Portugal for a while, so after I finished my course I was in Portugal for a couple of years, and then I moved to Scotland, where I joined Aviagen, the company where I currently work. Throughout my career of nine years, I had done a lot of different jobs, such as sales, technical service, and customer service jobs. My last job was as a Business Analyst. I have done a bit of everything.

Poonam: Could you please tell the audience about your planning and preparation of the GMAT?

Andre: GMAT was a headache for me. It was quite difficult. I tried it three times and really struggled to get a high score.  The reason was that I am a vet, so I did not have any math for the last 13 to 14 years. So basically, I had to start from scratch. I didn’t know what the prime number was, I didn’t know really basic things. I started preparing with Manhattan Prep, then I realized it was probably too soon for my kind of level, and if I want to have a good score, I will have to spend some money and time. So I hired a GMAT tutor for the quant part to help me from basic to a high level.  Though most of the time my verbal part was quite good I hired a tutor for verbal as well. That was a good investment. Both tutors were very good. My first GMAT score was 560 and in my third attempt, I reached 700. It was a big jump. Most of people say it is impossible, but it is not.

Poonam: You are so inspirational. So you will advise prospective applicants to hire a tutor or go for a GMAT prep company?

Andre: it really depends on your level. The people who have just graduated from college have Math still fresh in their minds, or people who are working with these concepts and their score is already high can just go through regular GMAT prep service which is definitely cheaper. But if you start with a low score, it might be really difficult to get a high score unless you hire a tutor.

Poonam:  When did you start thinking about the MBA? Why now?

Andre: A long time ago when I discovered that I have a passion for business and did not have the typical profile of a vet! It took me time to prepare my profile to be ready for a top B school! I started thinking about an MBA a long time ago, soon after I finished vet school. I took an economy class that I really liked. In the first year in my job as a veterinarian, I realized that I was not a typical veterinarian, and I like a business. Then I started thinking about switching to a more business-focused role, and an MBA immediately came to mind, because an MBA can help me use my technical skills in a business role using the MBA. The problem at that time was that my background was purely technical, and I was living in Portugal. It took me a long time to prepare my profile for business school. I could have invested one or two years on the GMAT and apply to a low-tier business school, but I thought if I had to invest this amount of money and time, I would go to the cream of the crop. It took me four to five years to plan the next step, get an international job to boost my profile, then prepare for the GMAT, and boost my English level. It was all very planned, but it took me a very long time.

Poonam: Your story is unique. From veterinary doctor to an MBA- it has been a long journey for you

Andre: In fact, I was the only veterinary doctor in the MBA group which is quite interesting as well.

Poonam:  Definitely. Can you tell us about your career goals?

Andre: My next career step is to join a big company in the leadership program. Basically, I am trying to switch industries as well. Most of the time, it is not very realistic to switch everything and land into a good job afterward. So I think one of the best ways is to switch industry and going into a leadership program which means developing leadership inside the company and I hope this is a stepping stone to a more senior management position, in Sales or Marketing.

Poonam: How is IMD the best school for you? How are you a better ‘fit ‘for it?

Andre: When I choose IMD, I took into consideration many factors.  My first approach was looking at the rankings, but when I started digging, I found that all the schools are different. So I started asking myself questions:  who I am in terms of personality, culture, and background, and where do I want to work afterward, and how much time and money I could spend on the MBA. I was already 32 at that time and was a bit too old for INSEAD and most of the US schools. I wanted to work in Europe in a new industry; I did not want to work as a consultant or a Banker.

When you put these three things together, Europe, industry, and a more mature program, that basically screams IMD. IMD is exactly what met my needs. The other factor that I took into consideration was the program’s duration. IMD is a one-year program. I didn’t want to spend two years of my life and money on MBA. Basically, these four things were the main key things for selection of IMD: work in Europe afterward, stay in Industry, my age and the maturity of the other applicants, I didn’t want to go to a school where everybody is in the age group of 26 -27.

Poonam: That is understandable.  What is your most favorite thing about IMD?

Andre: My most favorite thing about IMD is that it’s a leadership program of one year which has an MBA attached to it. IMD teaches you all the skills that other MBA programs teach, but at the same time, it is e a leadership program. You are invited by international teams with whom you will have to work; and learn to manage people from different backgrounds, different cultures, different personality profiles. At the same time, they give you feedback on the style of leadership and tell you why certain things happened. On top of that, you are followed by a psychoanalyst who helps you understand your feelings, your ways, and why you reacted to certain things in a certain way. This helps you to know yourself well. The repeated cycles of this kind of leadership training in one year is of immense value, as you learn how to be a better person.

The second thing which is more from a career perspective is the connections that IMD has in the industry. IMD is actually owned by Nestle and Meyers and has really good links with the industry in general. A lot of companies come to the campus. I have not yet finished the program, but I feel confident because I know that with the contacts they have and the students who are there in these companies, landing a good job will not be difficult.

Lastly, the Canteen at the IMD is great. The food is delicious. Every day, we have a huge Buffett. There are a lot of choices, so you struggle to choose what to eat? Most people actually gain weight while in IMD which is not so good😊

Poonam: That is great. So, you are having a lot of fun. Looks like you are not having a great learning experience but a great personal experience as well. Andre, have you been involved in any clubs/ student organizations?

Andre: I enjoy football matches, and I have been occasionally involved in the football club. We do have beaches and a lake close by, and we love playing beach volleyball. In my free time, I join a group of people who play beach volleyball.

Poonam: Looking back, what was your application strategy, planning, and preparation with our viewers? What would you advise the prospective applicants?

Andre: Yes. Definitely. As I said already you should know yourself well and understand where you want to be in the future. Instead of looking only at the rankings, it is better to look inside each school and ask yourself where you want to be, what you want to do. The second thing is researching the programs; on the surface, they all look similar but when you start talking to people, connecting with people, asking opinions, visiting the schools which is the important thing, you really start identifying the differences in each school’s culture and environment.

After shortlisting the schools, try to assess what your chances are, and what you need to improve, For example, if you need a high GMAT score, then study hard, if you feel you need a tutor, hire a tutor. If the application is difficult in terms of essays hire a Consultant if you need it. These are good investments in the long run.

And the third thing is preparing for the interview process. Don’t think you speak well, so you will do well. Talk with people to gather their interview experience, I found it extremely useful and felt confident, because I had some idea about the kind of exercises I was going to face.  So my few recommendations will be- prepare, prepare, and prepare. Never lose hope. Even if you are far away from your objective, just run the extra mile and you will get there.

Poonam: I agree. What was the most challenging aspect of the school admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?

Andre: The most challenging part was the assessment day. On the IMD assessment day, it is not a couple of interviews, it is a full day. Most of the time when you are close to Switzerland, one day here at the school, they have business cases, discussions, and interviews with the current students. It is a tough day. As soon as you get there, you see excellence everywhere; it can be intimidating because it is not easy to pull it off. So I would say go prepared.

Poonam: Do you have any suggestions for the applicants for preparation for assessment day?

Andre: The easiest way is to talk to people about their assessment day experience. Ask them how their assessment day was, how did they prepare, what kind of exercises will be fine, what challenges they faced and how did they meet them. This preparation will make you feel a bit more confident about the assessment day. This is all about preparation, but over-preparing does not help anybody. think there is a very fine balance between being prepared and having a script. You need to be prepared to go through the situation, but you should not do everything by the book either. You need to be yourself. The admission committee has seen so many people, so they know if a person is spontaneous or just reading a script.

Poonam: That is a very helpful suggestion. Sometimes people get to the assessment day, but they do not perform very well on the assessment day, and they end up getting rejected.
Lastly, you applied at the age of 32 with 9 years of work experience. I know you have already touched upon this, but do you have any advice/ insights for older applicants who think that after they turn 30, it’s the end of the road for them?

Andre: Don’t think you are out of an MBA just because you are over 30. Again, my suggestion is to do your research and look for programs that value experience and age and are welcoming of older candidates., For example, IMD favors people with more maturity. Usually, IMD applicants are older and more experienced, and after graduating, they climb to Senior Positions. At IMD, the average age of applicants is 30 years. I think the oldest person in my class at IMD is 37, and the youngest is 26.

Poonam: Yes, and as you have already mentioned that this was an important criterion for your selection of IMD. Is there anything else that I haven’t asked that you would like to share with our viewers/ readers?

Andre: I think most of it is covered.   IMD is a fantastic program. Also, I would like to say that a lot of people think that IMD is a very small class- only 90 students- so they have no chance of getting in. If you have the right profile, if you work hard and take it seriously, you will be able to get in. So IMD aspirants shouldn’t get discouraged because of the small class size. Because we are just 90 people, we get really close to each other and make good friends which are helpful in terms of networking in the future.

Poonam: Very nice. I am glad that you are having a great experience at your dream school IMD. Thank you so much for your valuable insights. I am sure the prospective IMD applicants will benefit a lot from your advice and experience. It was wonderful chatting with you and wish you good luck with your remaining time at the IMD and your post- IMD professional career. Thank you so much.

Andre: Thank you, Poonam.

You can connect with Andre Costa via Linkedin:

For more video interviews of successful MER students, click here.