In this discussion, we talk with Nicolas Grisolia, a business professional currently working at ExxonMobil, and Pablo Benzo, a consultant at Strategy&. Nicolas and Pablo are both highly experienced businessmen with over 10 years of work experience under their belts. At 35 years old, they would be far and away the oldest in any MBA program. That is why they are currently working towards applying to executive MBA programs for mid-career professionals. Read our discussion below to learn more about what kinds of programs are available for people with more experience, and what types of benefits these programs offer.
Where are you in the GMAT/MBA process?
Nicolas: We took the prep course last year with Joe at Merchant GMAT. We wanted to take the GMAT at the end of the year last year. And then I moved to the countryside for a job opportunity here. I took the exam last year and did not prepare everything like it should have been. Pablo did not take the exam. We are thinking of taking it now. But then this year we have the problem with COVID. We are delaying our test date because we had it set up for June 1st.
Pablo: Our backup date was yesterday but we changed it again. With COVID everything is very uncertain, for me at least. At this moment I am not clear on what I am gonna do and whether I’m going to take the exam and then do – it’s not an MBA program that we want to do, it’s another program which is at Stanford and LBS and it’s a one-year program.
Nicolas: Yes, the MSx program, and there’s another program at LBS. MSx is an 11-month program at Stanford, about one year.
Pablo: Yes it is for senior professionals, or older people with a little bit more experience. That program is at Stanford, LBS, and MIT. It is different from an MBA program. It’s kind of like an MBA but for more experienced people. I did an MBA here in Argentina. I have 10 years of experience. So, if I apply, I will apply for a different program, not a traditional MBA.
What does an MSx degree offer?
Nicolas: For me it is like, I will move to another level, I will play in another league. I think I have the skills to do it, but the context now in Argentina will require that we figure out financially and economically how to upgrade our status. Economically it will be a challenge here to move up. Staying here is like delaying something, like having a linear career. I think we need to try and take an exponential path. I think for me I have done everything I have to do here in my country, and I need to move forward, go abroad, get experience, and then come back in 10 years when maybe I will be able to modify my society and community in a different way than I could if I stayed here.
If we want to move forward in our careers, then it is quite necessary to study abroad.
Pablo: We have kind of the same view, in that if we want to move forward in our careers, then it is quite necessary to study abroad. Things here in Argentina are getting a little bit complicated economically, politically, socially. So, I think that we need to be abroad for a few years and add more tools to our toolkit if we want to come back here later and have a different kind of life.
What is the benefit of an MSx compared to a traditional MBA?
Pablo: I know that for friends that have done MBAs in the US or Europe they’re usually 25 or so. We have a friend who did his MBA in Barcelona a few years ago. He was the oldest in his class, and at that time he was 31 or 32. So now we are old compared to the others. And Nicolas is older than me.
Nicolas: No, no, no he is older than me! And I am 35. We don’t want the type of program where you go to university, and review theory. We need a program that is practical and specific to the areas that we want to go deeper into. We need a one-year or year and a half program that is very specific and gets us back to our job quicker. I am more like an entrepreneur in that way and maybe I want that type of network through this program. I want to go to university and work on my ideas and maybe find people that want to invest in my ideas. I think MIT has that approach and Stanford for sure. Chicago Booth is more theoretical. But anyway we need guidance along these lines.
We don’t want the type of program where you go to university, and review theory. We need a program that is practical and specific to the areas that we want to go deeper into.
Where do your professional interests lie?
Nicolas: My interests are finance and the economy. I have more skills in those fields. But, technology in the future will dominate anything, so combining those things is gonna be my challenge at any school or university. Maybe I can combine my knowledge of finance and mix it with IT guys and create some improvements in that area. So robotics and finance could be a good mix for me when I study abroad. I think those are the main interests I have.
Pablo: When I think of myself in 10 or 15 years I’d like to be working at an international organization like the UN or World Bank. I am currently working at a consulting firm, Strategy&, and I have been working in the public sector of Argentina for 2.5 years, and I really like that mix of working in the public sector and channeling my abilities there.
How have you utilized your networks, and where are your networks weak?
Nicolas: We studied at different universities to get our masters degrees, and we have many friends that have already gone to study abroad. So we have a very rich network locally, but we also have all the guys that went abroad. I have a friend at McCombs School of Business in Austin, and a guy who is doing his MBA at Kellogg in Chicago. I have friends that have studied at MIT. Anyway, I think it will be important for us at the time of applying to have a good network to have good recommendations and letters and everything. I really haven’t thought much about my contacts and network, I think it will be very useful when it comes time to apply. Though for now, I am focusing on the GMAT.
Pablo: The biggest hole we have in our networks is that we don’t know anyone who has done an MSx program, so it would be useful for us who has done this type of program. Or, the one thing I know is I don’t want to do a traditional MBA. But maybe there is another type of program out there, so our networks are missing people who have done programs for more experienced business professionals.
Nicolas: Yes maybe there are other programs that are really good maybe in Europe or the US, and I know that MIT has some other interesting programs. But for now, the MSx from Stanford is the best we can get. That is our aim, our goal. After that maybe we can find a B or C or D option, but this is our goal. But again, we know it’s really hard to get in, as only 5% of applicants get into the program. I know that I need to get my GMAT score above 700 in order to apply and get into those programs.
Pablo: There are two big things. First, who else has done this type of program at Stanford or LBS or MIT. And then we want to know if there are any other programs like them in the rest of the world.
Have you guys been to the states at all?
Nicholas: Yes many times. I worked a couple of months in Fairfax, Virginia for ExxonMobil. Then I went to Boston to study English for 4 months in 2012. Then I worked in Houston at the ExxonMobil campus. I went to see Manu Ginobili play for the San Antonio Spurs at the NBA playoffs. And Pablo also..
Pablo: Yes I worked in Houston. I did a few work and travel programs while I was in school. I was in Breckenridge once. Then I’ve been to Houston 5 or 6 times for work. New York 3 or 4 times. San Francisco, Disney World, Miami, I’ve been all over.