H@H: Ep. 54 – On this week’s episode of Here@Haas, Ray talks with Sarah Schilling (FTMBA 21) from ESADE, one of Berkeley’s partner schools for a virtual exchange this term. We talk about her interaction with Haas students and faculty, and how both ESADE and Haas share a penchant for entrepreneurship and collaboration. Sarah also mentions her extracurricular involvement within her class and how she fosters a strong culture of women leadership at ESADE.
Comparing Berkeley & ESADE: “At Berkeley, you cover different varieties of subjects – so you go much more into concepts in general. At ESADE we went a bit more in-depth.”
“I think a similarity of ESADE and Berkeley is a focus on the entrepreneurial side and on founding companies and finding your own […] individual way.”
On her proudest moment throughout the MBA: “I was able to help more than 40 students in my class and also in the incoming cohort to practice for interviews. Being awarded with that trust and being one of these go-to people to ask for advice has really been an honor.”
- ESADE Business School
- Forte Foundation
- 180 Degrees Consulting
- Helvellyn Foundation
- Invisible Women (bonus rec!)
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
[00:00:01] Ray Guan: I’m Ray Guan, and this is here@haas. A student-run podcast of the Berkeley Haas community. Today we’re joined by Sarah Schilling, a second-year Full-time MBA student from ESADE business school in Barcelona currently doing her exchange program at Haas. Welcome to the podcast, Sarah.
[00:00:21] Sarah Schilling: Thank you, Ray. Thanks for having me.
[00:00:23] Ray Guan: It’s an honor having you on as you bring a background that’s very different from the typical Berkeley student. So, you grew up in Germany, did your undergrad there, worked in business development, and then went to ESADE for your MBA. So I guess just tell us about that journey.
[00:00:44] Sarah Schilling: Yeah. So, as you already mentioned, I grew up in Germany, close to Hamburg. Did my bachelor’s degree in a university in Hamburg. Also started working at a company in Hamburg, but I started as a Product Manager and then worked my way up to lead a team focuses you had up in the end before I decided to go for an MBA at one of the toughest schools Europe. And the reason why I decided for that is because I really wanted to try out consulting, and an MBA is a very good way to get into that field.
[00:01:14] Ray Guan: Yeah. So, let me back you up a little bit. I’m curious about your growing up in Europe and just people growing up in Europe in general. Do you travel a lot? Do you go country-hopping a lot?
[00:01:26] Sarah Schilling: I guess we do. Obviously, in Europe, everything is a bit closer than in the U.S. if you were to travel to another country. I am living four hours away from Paris.
[00:02:02] Honestly, the pandemic has been really rough because traveling is one of the big passions of mine for sure. And I think everyone has felt these restrictions quite heavily over the last year.
[00:02:13] Ray Guan: You mentioned working in Hamburg at a company or working in a variety of roles. What led you to get an MBA, and how did you kind of land on ESADE?
[00:02:23] Sarah Schilling: So, what led me to get an MBA is the passion that I had for international projects and for working in smart-driven teams. So, before I started my MBA, I worked on an Amazon direct input project together with the headquarters in London and Luxembourg of Amazon. And that was super inspiring to me because you worked with very diverse teams with very smart people who also all had an MBA. And that, I think, also inspired me a little bit to pursue an MBA. And then the reason why I decided for ESADE, in the end, was basically three reasons. So, the first one is that I was looking for a great collaborative spirit among the people because I think what if the key benefits of an MBA is clearly the network. And I found that at ESADE for sure, then obviously the academic excellence, and also the contacts in many different industries. So, ESADE has a wide variety of contacts and different networks in different industries, which enabled me to explore different companies at different industries in general.
[00:03:26] Ray Guan: Yeah. Did you visit the ESADE campus prior to going there?
[00:03:31] Sarah Schilling: I did. I visited. I actually made this quite a project before I decided to one school to go to. So, I looked at eight different business schools in Europe because I was sure that I wanted to study in Europe. And then I went to the ESADE campus for sure. And my primary goal, as I already said, was to form a strong network with smart individuals with the ambition to have a positive impact. And when I visited the campus, I met exactly these kinds of people that I wanted to study with. So, yeah. The ESADE Spirit is very exceptional, you know, a lot of this is schools talk about collaborative spirit, but when you come to the ESADE campus, you can really feel it. For me, that has been the decision criteria in the end that made me choose ESADE.
[00:04:12] Ray Guan: For sure. And it’s a benefit as well being in Barcelona.
[00:04:17] Sarah Schilling: For sure.
[00:04:19] Ray Guan: The Winters aren’t quite cold and in the Summer, even in the Springtime, going to the beach is always an option.
[00:04:26] Sarah Schilling: Gosh. Barcelona is an incredible city. So, for one, yes, you have the beach. You also have the mountains in the bag, and then you have this beautiful city within Barcelona. Yes, like I was talking to my friends about this. If any of these houses in Barcelona would stand, you know, in Hamburg for example, and any other city, it would be an attraction, and in Barcelona, they’re just everywhere. It’s just the city. So, yeah. It’s stunningly beautiful.
[00:04:51] Ray Guan: Yeah. That’s definitely my favorite city in Spain and probably even in all of Europe, of all the ones I’ve been to. But, you know, unfortunately, a few months after you started at ESADE, the world went into kind of the pandemic or this quarantine, I should say. So, I’m just curious here because we Berkeley students kind of see how America has handled, or you can say bosh handled the pandemic. How has ESADE/Spain handled the pandemic? And how has that kind of affected you guys?
[00:05:25] Sarah Schilling: Yeah. So, for sure it was a real bummer that after six months of the MBA, you were sent into a lockdown, and a lot of students also left Spain again to go home in these uncertain times and just spent the lockdown there because, in March, Barcelona went into I think it was in total ten weeks locked down where it was super strict. You were only allowed to be outside to go grocery shopping for most of the time. And other than that, you spent most of the time inside, and then obviously ESADE had to shift all the classes that we had within, I think, a week or two to online. And when the format, especially at ESADE, is normally a lot of like interactive discussions in class, this was quite a shift for many professors, but I think in general, ESADE has handled it extremely well, but in the end, a lot of students actually like the online classes a lot and sometimes even better than the in-person one. So that they decide to take some classes online rather than going in person. I think it really showed the flexibility and also the innovative spirit of the school to be able to adapt so quickly and find new interactive ways in the online format to keep students engaged and create discussions.
[00:06:39] Ray Guan: Wait. Did I hear that there is now an in-person option now?
[00:06:42] Sarah Schilling: There is. No, I’ve actually been back. So, I think I was back on campus in September. We have a dual system now. So, you can either decide to join in person or online. And for most of the students, obviously, they want to go in person if they’re still in Barcelona, which quite many of my class fortunately is. We have, I think of our cohort; we’re quite a small class. We are 185 people, and of them, I would guess around a hundred still remain in Barcelona until today, which is an incredible number given that normally the max time that you can spend on the MBA is 18 months. Basically, now the end of March is 18 months, and you also have 12 months and a 15 months option. And almost everyone opted for the longest version to be able to extend the time.
[00:07:32] Ray Guan: Can you choose that within, like while you’re in a program, to extend?
[00:07:35] Sarah Schilling: Yeah. Again, shows the flexibility of ESADE. You can choose to do 12 months, 15 months, or 18 months, I think, after when you’re nine months into the program. But now, with the pandemic, they have become even more flexible. So, ESADE even offers a 21 months version now. So, you can stay until June.
[00:07:53] Ray Guan: That was one of the things about European MBAs is I felt, and even in the masters that I did in IE Business School, it just felt really fast. It was just ten months. And, you know, that doesn’t give you an opportunity, in some cases, to do a Summer Internship. But for you, I think you mentioned recruiting for Consulting. I see that you interned last Summer at Bain. So, I guess, how has this experience been recruiting for Consulting during a virtual environment?
[00:08:26] Sarah Schilling: I was lucky that I landed the internship with Bain already in January. So, still in-person, that was one of my last in-person interviews. So, there I was still lucky, but I also had a couple of other rounds afterward when I was like just interested in looking into our other companies. And that was, I think, in March and April before I even started my interview with Bain, and my internship with Bain, and those both virtually. And that is quite different because you don’t have the same interaction with the recruiter. Obviously, they still try to make it a comfortable environment and so on. But you still have a greater distance, and you’re not having the same interaction than what you would have in person.
[00:09:09] Ray Guan: Yeah. You mentioned that some of your classes have gone in a dual-mode, where you can either go in-person or learn remotely. How has that experience been for the students and also for the teachers? Because I would’ve imagined it would be a little bit challenging.
[00:09:25] Sarah Schilling: So, the benefit obviously is that you still have the variety of courses that you can join. So, you’re not restricted to join classes that are only online or only in person, but I think one of the challenges certainly is the active participation if you still want in class. So, I’m a person that really learns a lot from the discussions with my peers. And if you’re online and the rest of your class is in person at there are only
, let’s say, six students were online. Naturally, they’ll not have the chance to participate as much and start conversations because you don’t even see your peers. You don’t see the reactions, and as you knew, a lot of communication is just body language and also part of discussions. And that obviously is cut out if you’re in the virtual format.
[00:10:08] Ray Guan: Yeah, and I think some of them, some of what you lose in not being able to see, “Oh. I wonder what this person is thinking as I’m talking”, because it’s very hard to see what people are doing, but in person you can tell when someone is giving you like a weird face when you’re explaining at principle, you might not be explaining it right. But on Zoom, I guess we have the chat function where you can interact with people and receive messages. Although, the downside there is that it might be distracting. Oh no. I guess there is pros and cons.
[00:10:46] Sarah Schilling: Yeah. But I like, I’ll be very honest. What I really liked about my Berkeley classes so far is that they are all online. So, in the sense that I at least get to meet people in the same way because otherwise, if you would be one of the few people who are online, you wouldn’t have the possibility to interact with people over the zoom chats. So, often when there are in class in person. So, you, for example, I think, but what are the first people that I spoke to at the MBA. And I was so grateful. This was one of the things that I really enjoy about the Americans in general, and they’re very good business schools. I think is that you just all seem super open and approachable and just reach out to people you don’t know and make them feel included. So, I’m very grateful for that.
[00:11:26] Ray Guan: No. Thanks. And, you know, I guess, I’ll kind of shift here then to like the fact that we met in Heather Whiteman’s People Analytics class. So, in general, then, how has your experience been in these Berkeley classes given that, like you said, it’s an even playing field with the virtual experience for everyone. But there’s also some downsides, including like the time zone shift and how it’s 09:00 AM for you is 06:00 PM.
[00:11:55] Sarah Schilling: I think the first thing that really stuck out to me is that you have such a huge variety of choices. I think there were a hundred electives or something that I was able to choose from, which was incredible to me.
[00:13:34] Ray Guan: Yeah. The student interaction. Learning from your fears is definitely one of the advantages of, really you can say that could be the biggest advantage of doing an MBA program is really what you gain, not while just doing your two years or three years or however much time you spent on campus, but also afterward, right? Like connecting on LinkedIn and I know people who have started companies together, who have went into business together, and just kind of that network is always going to be at your advantage.
[00:14:10] Sarah Schilling: Yeah. We have that too. I love to see that. So, we have a couple of people who also founded their own companies already. And I think that’s also a little bit of a similarity of ESADE and Berkeley. I think there is a lot of focus on the entrepreneurial spirit and on founding companies and finding your own passionate individual ways in a sense. So, I really think that’s also one of the reasons why I chose Berkeley very early on as my exchange university that I wanted to go with.
[00:14:36] Ray Guan: What sort of extracurricular activities have you been involved in at ESADE, and how have you adapted those during the pandemic as we go from in-person to online?
[00:14:48] Sarah Schilling: There have been quite a lot of extracurricular activities that I’ve been involved in. I think the biggest role that I’ve taken on is I am part of the MBA student association part. And in that role, I am the vice president of academic and student affairs and represent my class to faculty program management. And yeah, I frankly coordinate events, activities, and media between students. And I guess all the turbulences of the last year then most of one task that I had was finding creative ways to keep our collaborative spirit of the class thriving while we couldn’t be together in so such as like virtual hangouts, quizzes, cheerful weekly messages, these little things.
[00:15:28] Ray Guan: It’s great that you were both managing relationships between the students and faculty as well as keeping the students connected because at Berkeley, at least for first-year students, we have an academic cohort rep that does the academic side of things and connects the class with the faculty. And we also have social cohort reps who are in charge of doing these like virtual happy hours in-person happy hours, at first, that have turned virtual. And then just organizing virtual events for us to stay connected as well. It sounds like you’re doing both, which I definitely commend your spirit and enthusiasm through, like you said, all of this turbulence, all of what we’ve experienced in the past, let’s say 12 plus months now.
[00:16:15] Sarah Schilling: Yeah. So, a couple of other things that I’m involved in at ESADE is for one; I am a fellow of the admission team at ESADE, which has been a really cool experience because I got to talk to over 100 potential students that applied or were interested in applying for ESADE. So, that’s been really cool. I also mentor for a student-led consultancy called 180 degrees consulting, and they do basically student teams that help companies in the non-profit sector, yeah, to develop their concepts and so on. So, that’s a super interesting journey
[00:17:19] Ray Guan: The foundation is to advance wildlife?
[00:17:22] Sarah Schilling: So Helvellyn aims to preserve wildlife and improve education in the U.K., and I’m helping the trustees to develop decision criteria and processes for grant-giving. And define the foundation’s impact goal.
[00:17:34] Ray Guan: I want to go back to the admission team involvement. I’m curious, what are some of the question that you’re getting from students at this time?
[00:17:43] Sarah Schilling: Well,
[00:18:02] Ray Guan: Yeah. No, it’s so interesting because my first year too, there were students who audited the class, right? And afterward, we would invite them to happy hours, and of course, during the pandemic, that’s not an option. And it does feel a little like you feel a little bad for them because they can’t have the same experience like you’ve had. Okay. Pivoting to international women’s month. How do you support some of the other women in your network?
[00:18:31] Sarah Schilling: I think this has always been a big topic for me because, at my last company, I worked in a very men-dominated business field. I come from the field of material handling equipment which is anything from a screwdriver to a hand pallet truck, more or less. So, normally I would be the only woman in a room in most of the meetings. And also, my last company, I think there weren’t so many women. I think about 25% of the staff was female. Yeah. So, that has always been, early on, already been a topic for me. And I actually became the first woman in the 140 years of the company’s history to be promoted to a management position which was a big deal for me. And, yeah, I
[00:20:30] Ray Guan: Yeah. And you know in Berkeley, and in the Bay area in general. I think gender diversity and equity is a big emphasis within the community. So, I’m curious, how does that, I guess, compare in Europe? Maybe more broadly? And does it vary by country?
[00:20:50] Sarah Schilling: If you look at the business schools in Europe, they tend to have a little less percentage of women in the MBA for sure. Just because the MBA in Europe traditionally is still a very men-dominated subject, I guess
. But I think in general, it’s definitely something that everyone is paying much more attention to in the companies but also in the schools. And ESADE has been definitely one of the ones to lead the way there in Europe on diversity. And they’re putting a lot of effort into recruiting women actively and also increasing the diversity of the people. And the admission team has actually won some awards on how they recruit over the last years. And one of it was that they really take care of diversity in their classes and try to create a diverse field for every student in ESADE.
[00:21:41] Ray Guan: And I know we learned in our people analytics class some of those. And hopefully, that class helped bring some value for you to take back in your role as an Admissions Counselor.
[00:21:50] Sarah Schilling: Yeah. For sure. I know especially being able to quantify some of the positive impacts that diversity has a community on the workforce that has been super helpful in our people analytics class for sure.
[00:22:02] Ray Guan: Cool. Alright. Well, Sarah, you are basically 15 or maybe even 16 months into your 18-month MBA. Which begs the question, what are your plans after ESADE?
[00:22:14] Sarah Schilling: So, after ESADE, I’m going to start with Bain & Company, the same company that I did my internship with. I’m planning to start with them 1st of July. And I’m very excited to go to management consulting because that was my plan before the MBA or let’s say my dream before the MBA, and everything that I wanted so far from this MBA, besides the pandemic, has turned out wonderfully. So, I’m very excited to take on the next step.
[00:22:40] Ray Guan: And I hope they will give you a project so that you can come out here to Berkeley sometime.
[00:22:46] Sarah Schilling: That would be wonderful. Yes, I really need to come visit, and I fell in love with San Francisco in 2018 when we traveled for a wedding. So, I really want to come back sometime soon.
[00:22:40] Ray Guan: Cool. Alright. Well, we just want to wrap up with some lightning round questions. These are just kind of a quick Q and A. And they are designed to be fun. So, feel free just give your honest, really first answer that kind of comes to mind. First question. So, what is a book, podcast, or really like any type of media recommendation that you have?
[00:23:21] Sarah Schilling: This actually ties into the class that we just had because similar to you and how inspired you were by the book that you read, I was very inspired by the book that I had to read, which was called Factfulness by Hans Rosling. And it’s a really cool book. It seems very optimistic at first because the subtitle is, I forgot, 10 reasons why the world is better than we think or something like that. And it really helps you to put the distorted worldview that we have sometimes into a more fact-based perspective. And therefore, helps you to check your dramatic instincts, is what he calls them, in order to have a better view, a more realistic view, on the world and focus your worries. Let’s put it that way because there seems to be so many uncertainties right now, and funny enough, he wrote this book in 2017, and the number one threat that he actually said in the end of the book to focus on was the global pandemic. And here we are. I can really highly recommend this book. It’s an amazing read.
[00:24:24] Ray Guan: Okay. So, for this next question, you have to say either American or German when it comes to the next few categories. So. the first category is food.
[00:24:33] Sarah Schilling: German.
[00:24:34] Ray Guan: Second. Entertainment.
[00:24:36] Sarah Schilling: American.
[00:24:38] Ray Guan: And then, Sports.
[00:24:41] Sarah Schilling: German.
[00:24:44] Ray Guan: You hesitated there. Okay. And then, Humor.
[00:24:50] Sarah Schilling: American.
[00:25:09] Sarah Schilling: Yeah. I think we’ve spoken about this before because you have been. I really want to go to Machu Picchu. So, Peru is very high up on wellness, but also during the MBA, I’ve already mentioned this, we have 52 nationalities in our class. And a lot of them are from Latin America. So, that’s why I really want to travel the region. Go to Peru, go to Brazil, go to Costa Rica, go to many different places down there once it’s safe again, and we can travel.
[00:25:38] Ray Guan: Yeah. One of the benefits of having a global network.
[00:25:42] Sarah Schilling: For sure.
[00:25:44] Ray Guan: And then, what’s the first city in the U.S. that you would go to?
[00:25:48] Sarah Schilling: That is a good question. I’ve been to quite a few of them already. I think I’m going to go back to San Francisco just because I really want to go to the Berkeley campus because I haven’t been.
[00:26:03] Ray Guan: Yeah. And there might be a Bain office for you to work out of too when you extend your trip. Cool. Then, I guess, let’s just wrap up this interview. We talked a lot about doing an MBA during this quarantine, during this pandemic. What’s one thing that you’ve been proud of during your MBA?
[00:26:19] Sarah Schilling: Well, academically speaking, I guess I should say being ranked among the top 3 students in my class but personally saying, I think I’m even more proud that I was able to help four than 40 students in my class and also in the incoming whole cohort to practice for interviews at jobs. Being awarded with that trust and being one of these go-to people to ask for advice has really been an honor to me. And also taught me a lot about the students in my class and my cohort. You know there are these invisible stories that a lot of people just don’t tell at the first conversation that you have with them. And then when you go into these interview prep with them, sometimes there’s some really cool stories that come up.
[00:27:00] Ray Guan: And I think getting at that deeper level has been the challenge, but once you are able to have that connection like that’s really what makes it worth it in having that network that we talked about.
[00:27:13] Sarah Schilling: Absolutely. Yes.
[00:27:14] Ray Guan: Alright. Well, thank you so much, Sarah, for coming on the podcast today.
[00:27:18] Sarah Schilling: Thank you so much for having me, Ray.
[00:27:22] Ray Guan: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of here@haas. If you enjoyed what you heard, please leave us a rating and review on Apple podcast. Also, check out our website, haaspodcasts.org. That spelled H-A-A-S P-O-D-C-A-S-T-S dot O-R-G, where you can find links to episode references, show notes, and other podcasts in the Haas network. I’m Ray Guan, and we’ll see you next time here@haas.