Inés Arenas decided to study for an MBA after working for one of the biggest tech companies in Latin America for seven years. Here, she shares how important it is to explore what is driving your desire to pursue an MBA
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career to date?
I’m originally from Argentina, and I studied Industrial Engineering at the Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires. After graduation, I worked for seven years in the biggest tech company in Latin America, Mercado Libre. My first role was in product management with the Fintech business unit, where I was responsible for the redesign of their website platform, something that required rapid learning around understanding customers, identifying their needs, and organising a website platform with multiple features to make it as easy to use as possible.
I moved to two different teams after this role, and this web initiative grew to be five per cent of the total revenue of the company in Mexico, with thousands of Chinese sellers onboarded and selling their products in our platform through drop shipping, but also storing their products in our warehouses in Mexico. I was exposed to teams from across Latin America, US and China and was part of building our direct sales team for China.
What does your current role involve?
I’m working as a product manager in innovation for ESW, a DTC e-commerce company that supports brands in their global expansion. My role involves ideating, validating, testing and suggesting ideas to be included in the company’s development roadmap. The scope is to investigate ideas that are riskier and might have a longer-term impact in the business.
The purpose is to think outside the box and make sure the company stays ahead of new technologies and trends to maintain a cutting-edge position in the market. The job involves gathering ideas from workshops, research, customer feedbac, and internal suggestions, then prioritising them in terms of impact versus effort. After this, we go through a series of scoping and testing to validate if they’re worth pursuing.
Where and when did you achieve your MBA?
After seven years of working for Mercado Libre, I joined the full-time Trinity MBA programme (class of 2022) at Trinity Business School.
Why did you want to study for an MBA in the first instance? And why did you choose to do an MBA at this particular School?
First and foremost, I wanted to experience studying abroad since I hadn’t had the chance during my time at university. Given my ‘technical’ academic background, I felt that a lot of the experience I had gained on the workforce would be better paired with a business degree. When deciding where to complete my MBA, I chose Trinity Business School due to my strong connection to Ireland (I come from an Irish family) as well as my desire to move to Europe. Trinity College also has so much history, as it was founded over 400 years ago, and is well-regarded around the world.
What is the most interesting thing you learnt from your MBA?
Surprisingly, the biggest learnings from the MBA were about myself. I had been involved in many culturally diverse teams at work; however, during my time at Trinity Business School, working many hours and in many different group projects, I was able to identify how valuable my input could be in certain scenarios. The Trinity MBA helped me understand what skills I brought to a situation and how important it is to communicate clearly and frequently in order to fulfil all team members’ expectations.
What were some of the challenges you faced when studying for an MBA?
Overall, the Trinity MBA was probably one of the richest experiences I have ever gone through. However, the main challenge was having to deal with settling down in a new country, finding a place to live and making new friends. This required a lot of energy and I had to do it on my own, all the while being away from my family for the first time in my life. In addition to that, going back to being a full-time student and finding an efficient routine, after all those years of a nine-to-five job, was a challenge in the first couple of months.
How has the MBA made a difference to your career path and leadership journey?
It’s only been a few months since I finished my MBA, but I can clearly see that the programme has made me more prepared and confident to have discussions with senior colleagues within the organisation. With the education I received on the Trinity MBA, I am now able to understand specific metrics and reports and I’ve also developed better communication skills that have built the confidence that I can have an opinion, suggestion, or comment about important matters. Basically, I know that my voice deserves to be heard.
In what ways have you taken what you have learnt in your MBA into the organisation for which you work?
The various company projects I completed during the MBA were based around building innovation capabilities for an Irish bank. We worked closely with the institution to give valuable feedback on how to approach these new ideas.
I am now working in the innovation team for my company; I find that a lot of the research we had done for the project translates into how I organise my work today. We worked to try and avoid traps, which, in turn, is helping me to avoid falling into them with my new position.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about studying for an MBA?
My advice would be to really think about why you want to do it. Before doing any GMAT prep or looking into schools, really ask yourself what is driving you to apply for an MBA programme. That will give you a better idea of where to do it as well. Of course, you can research different schools, programmes and so on, but I would recommend getting in touch with people who have been through the experience. Ask a lot of questions based on what you hope to gain from the experience. First-hand knowledge is always the best, and people are usually very generous in sharing their experiences.
What are the next steps for you on your career journey?
Right now, I’m enjoying my first European work experience. I have moved back to product management, and I am really enjoying working in the tech field again. I always want to keep learning from my fellow colleagues, so I am looking forward to getting back to a management role and develop my leadership skills a bit further later this year.