Earning an MBA can change a student’s life and help them redefine their career. For Ana Cecilia Sarabia Flores, manager at GEP Worldwide, this meant launching from her role as an information-systems engineering consultant in South America to the world of procurement in the United States.
As an international student from Peru, Flores was attracted to Michigan State University for its winning reputation as home to the nation’s No. 1 supply chain management programs. During her two years in the Broad College’s Full-Time MBA program, she was the only Spanish-speaking student, navigating various cultural changes.
“I wanted to do my master’s in an English-speaking country, and it was one of my personal goals to learn a new language, but it was really hard to try and understand the business culture and how recruitment happens in the United States,” Flores said. “There is no elevator pitch in Peru. That was the hardest part — I had to learn how to sell myself.”
The Broad MBA boasts a smaller class size compared to other programs, but Flores deemed this a competitive advantage, especially for international students like her.
“I liked that the program was small,” she said. “This was one of the main points that I came to MSU for the MBA, because I know how many international students at big universities aren’t able to access career services and recruiting resources.”
Flores said the recruiting services offered through the program and the college’s Russell Palmer Career Management Center are what really stood out to her as making the experience special. They offered programs and coaching tailored to international students to boost their confidence with finding careers in the United States, along with hosting a variety of events, like tailgates, to offer opportunities for candid conversations with recruiters.
With her intentions set on charting a new career path, Flores earned two concentrations in supply chain management and finance, not only challenging herself but amplifying her skills as a well-rounded consultant.
“Nobody told me I could do a double major, but I was checking all the options and thought finance would help with consulting and to challenge myself as an engineer,” she said. “When they give you an option to do a little bit more, I think you should take as much advantage as you can of the program.”
Although Flores knew her presentation skills were sharp in Spanish, she said the Broad MBA perfected her skills for presenting in English as well. She was put to the test at the end of her internship with GEP, and to this day — five years later — she still receives compliments about her presentation.
“For two semesters, we took a class that drives home how to present and focused on all the little details, like how to deliver, confidence, and even [the importance of] clothing,” she said. “The reality is that when you go to companies after graduation, one of the most important things, especially in the consulting industry, is how you present. And that’s something that MSU is well known for; companies recognize that Spartans have good skills for presentations.”
With classmates from China, India, Rwanda and the United States, Flores said learning from peers and participating in education abroad experiences in Vienna and Munich also helped her understand different cultures and challenges in business, informing her work today.
“I think that gave us a lot of interesting conversations in the classroom,” she said. “That was something I was expecting in some way, but it ended up much better than what I thought to get a sense of business from different realities.”
Her words of wisdom for current and future Broad Spartan MBAs? Put in the effort to build your network and learn from your peers and alumni.
“I think students need to put in more effort than before, especially because of the pandemic,” she said. “Go to the recruiting events that the program is hosting. Even if the companies you’re interested in are not attending the event or recruiting from MSU, you can find alumni who work at those companies that you can connect with, and they’ll help you get to where you want to go.”