olga-slavinka-small.jpgBy Olga Slavinka, IMBA 2007, published in FT.com

I now have my MBA diploma in my hands, the diploma for which I have worked so hard. Although the programme took only 13 months to complete, the sheer intensity of these five terms made me feel that I had been at IE Business School in Spain for far longer.

On the one hand, the idea that I no longer have to burn the midnight oil analysing business cases is quite appealing. On the other, I now realise that the unbelievably intensive academic experience was not only one of the smartest investments of time and money I have ever made, but was also amazingly, albeit exhaustingly, enjoyable. It may sound clichéd but I feel very well-equipped to deal with the real world waiting for me, although maybe I should add that Iâ??m acutely aware there is still plenty to learnâ?¦

Returning to where I left off in my last entry, in the summer I travelled for a couple of weeks after the core MBA courses came to an end, returning to Madrid in September with my batteries somewhat recharged for the fifth, and final, elective period. Whereas during the core terms classes ran from 9am till 3 pm, with a permanently heavy workload in the afternoons, the elective period seemed easier to handle. The schedule was not as structured however, with classes sometimes taking place from early morning till 10 pm to allow practitioners to come and teach after their working day was over.

The New Technologies and the Consumer course, for instance, was taught by a senior manager of Google Spain, Jose Maria Garcia, and a practitioner from a digital marketing agency, Alberto Knapp. Although the course was in Spanish, which I have never studied formally, I decided to enroll because I am interested in digital marketing. Sometimes I found it hard to follow class discussions, mainly because of the broad variety of Spanish accents among the class, but I still managed to learn a great deal about the subject matter and became quite comfortable interacting in Spanish. It also brought the opportunity to do my first presentation in Spanish alongside the members of my team, and I was very happy (and relieved!) to see the supportive nods of the instructors at the back of the classroom as I spoke in Spanish, for the first time in public.

I also spent time on various entrepreneurship projects and courses. As part of the Venture Lab, an IE initiative designed to help students transform their ideas into a business plan, I worked on a technology-related project with another IE student as well as my husband, who was also part of the start-up team. Work on the business plan was probably the most time-consuming and challenging project I have undertaken at IE, but it showed me just how rewarding entrepreneurship can be if you are passionate about the business idea and ready to put unlimited effort and time into moving it forward.

One of my role models in this respect is Martin Varsavsky, chief executive officer of Fon, the largest WiFi community in the world, and a â??serial entrepreneurâ? as he calls himself. Born in Argentina, he made his first millions in the US and then moved to Spain. I took his elective on starting a business where he shared his stories of success with us, and we all took part in a business game that tested our abilities both as entrepreneurs and investors. One of my final MBA activities in December was a course on Luxury Brand Management at Essec Business School in Paris. This was one of a number of short exchange programs at IE partner schools, aimed at providing further insight to different regions and industries. The course addressed the most recent trends in luxury goods and services, and presented an overview of the brand-related, financial and licensing aspects of the industry.

The excellent faculty who taught this course â?? Simon Nyeck and Denis Morisset â?? were able to give us both theoretical concepts about the industry as well as practical advice based on their experience; for example, Mr Morisset held senior positions in the fashion industry.

As for the job search, perhaps one of the downsides of a one-year MBA may be the fact that the sheer intensity of coursework makes it hard to focus on a job search. Of course I have prepared a killer CV, attended career fairs and networked. Several companies have shown interest in my candidacy, but I intend to make sure I make the right choice.

The corporate culture and learning opportunities are very important to me: I want to be able to put the philosophy of the Funky Business Club that I founded at IE into practice, that is to say, work for an organisation that values creativity and innovation and empowers its staff to give full expression to their entrepreneurial spirit. My professional interests lie in marketing and brand strategy, and I will be exploring professional opportunities in this area once I return to Brussels.

The good thing about having done this MBA is that the real journey of excitement and discovery has only just begunâ?¦.

Please click the link to view the original article and explore other MBA Diary entries Olga has written.