We recently sat down with Ivon Rodriguez, EMBA’16 and Vice President of marketing at the History Miami Museum. We were curious to learn about her IE Brown journey as someone who chose the program having completed a Brown Bachelor of Arts (BA). It turns out, a number of Brown alumni fill the ranks of IE Brown. The question at the heart of this interview, why do Brown students return to IE Brown for an Executive MBA? Here’s Ivon’s story.
In the Beginning
After completing her undergraduate studies at Brown in 2000, Ivon started her career at Telemundo, a global industry leader in the production and distribution of high-quality Spanish-language content. She was hired to help build a new station from scratch.
“On my first day of work, my boss gave me a Yellow Pages and a desk. That was it. I had to learn how to do everything. Nothing seemed clear but for some reason I loved it.”
Later she realized how Brown’s interdisciplinary and liberal arts excellence prepared her to wear so many hats and, within three years, become the youngest station manager at Telemundo. When asked by the Telemundo President what she wanted to be, she replied, “I want to be you.” He laughed but she wasn’t kidding.
The MBA Conundrum: “I really need one. Right?”
As her career flourished, Ivon increasingly felt the need to supplement her business experience with an MBA. “It became a personal goal. I came close to pulling the trigger a couple times, but in retrospect, I realize I was saved by my two pregnancies.”
Originally she applied to an Ivy MBA that best fit her work schedule. “I found the program uninspiring and too focused on finance and accounting but I was ready to grin and bear it. Luckily, I got pregnant and had to postpone. Later I decided to get an entertainment law degree. I took the LSATs not knowing at the time that I was pregnant with twins. Needless to say, I once again postponed.”
In 2012, with her twin girls, older son and a standout career, Ivon serendipitously opened a Brown Alumni Magazine and saw an ad for IE Brown. “It was like the clouds parted and the rays illuminated the pages. I immediately knew this was the program for me.”
IE Brown appealed to Ivon because of its emphasis on liberal arts. “IE Brown made sense to me because of the role my undergraduate work played in my entrepreneurial accomplishments. And it wasn’t just me. It was so many of the kids I graduated with who had gone on to lead new business initiatives at impressively young ages. The open curriculum cultivated in us an adventurous mindset and willingness to take risks.”
IE Brown – The Business Power of Liberal Arts
According to Ivon, IE Brown felt very much like her Brown undergraduate experience. “Yes, we learned about finance and accounting but it was fully integrated into a program that focused on the softer side of business – the vision, integrity and focus that you need to lead in industry.” These are the skills that most people think can’t be taught – you either have it or you don’t. Ivon explained how IE Brown proved that assumption wrong.
A South African Workout
The residential session in South Africa cemented this business mindset for Ivon. It forced her to rely on these new skills to explore and research entrepreneurialism for the purpose of job creation in South African townships, a complex and unfamiliar environment, for Ivon and her colleagues, with its own set of market rules.
“Not long after we arrived in South Africa, we boarded a bus and drove through the township on our way to a choir performance. We were asked to be silent and observe. This exercise taught us the power of observation – to absorb data and stifle the reflexive behavior to pigeon-hole information into our worldview.”
“With this approach, we were able to ask better questions and probe beneath the surface of our expectations. It confirmed the value of taking stock of our own expectations and finding a mental space where we could hear people and discover new opportunities.”
The End Result
Ivon summed up her experience by saying, “IE Brown gave us a recipe for creative and out of the box thinking which in the end gets you a seat at the table and the attention of decision-makers.”