What is the impact of coronavirus on business schools? We bring you the latest live updates including campus closures, changes to MBA admission requirements, and more
INSEAD Students Tackle Coronavirus Pandemic
A group of MBA students at INSEAD have come together to solve some of the problems caused by coronavirus—through the COVID-19 Innovation Competition.
With support from INSEAD’s faculty, staff, and corporate partners, the competition challenged teams of students to find a business solution to a problem created by coronavirus.
In total, 120 MBA students, with 50 innovative ideas between them, took part in the contest. More than 80 participants dialled into the finale—a six hour event that saw teams present their idea to a jury of five expert judges.
Jury members included serial entrepreneur Mika Salmi, and vice chairman of Roche Holding, André Hoffmann.
Hoffman is also the patron of the Hoffmann Global Institute for business and society, one of the competition's sponsors.
Expert judges selected competition winners from among 16 teams © INSEAD via Facebook
One of the main challenges that came with executing the competition was working in a virtual environment.
Organizers planned the event using online conference software, while competing teams met, developed ideas, and eventually presented them, entirely remote.
INSEAD is also using a virtual environment to host its first ever virtual MBA graduation ceremony, which will be livestreamed on YouTube.
Since 75% of employees perceive remote work as the “new normal,” the ability to plan and execute strategies in a virtual environment will serve these students well as they enter the MBA jobs market.
After each competing team had given their final presentation, judges selected two winning business plans.
The prize for Best Business Venture went to All About Space—a membership service that aims to tackle the issue of inadequate home workspaces.
Although many companies have implemented a work from home policy in response to coronavirus, not all staff can access a comfortable, distraction-free workspace in their home.
In response, All About Space plans to connect these workers with empty hotel rooms. With this set-up, staff can be more productive and comfortable, while hotels fill unoccupied space.
All About Space connects workers with remote workspaces, and won the Best Business Venture prize © INSEAD via Facebook
The prize for Best Business Venture With Highest Social Impact was awarded to Farm Fresh. Hoping to tackle disruptions to food supply chains caused by COVID-19, the team proposed an online platform to connect farmers with their customers directly.
Simplifying the supply chain this way removes the issue of limited access to shops and markets caused by social distancing guidelines.
The plan would also help avoid food waste through faster turnaround times, and increase income stability for farmers.
The role of innovation competitions
Competitions like INSEAD’s are an increasingly popular way to encourage innovative thinking around COVID-19.
NATO’s 2020 Innovation Challenge focuses on the logistical and communication challenges posed by the pandemic. Meanwhile, Innovate UK ran an innovation competition in April, which aimed to support UK businesses as they responded to urgent problems thrown up by coronavirus.
Innovation competitions have a long and successful history—one competition in 18th century France led to the invention of canned food. Another competition in Britain sparked navigation advances that helped sailors define their longitude.
Competition can clearly motivate and foster new ideas and technologies. Faced with the current pandemic, these events have the potential to inspire real solutions, and create real change.
The Harvard MBA Driving UnitedHealth’s COVID-19 Response
Harvard MBA Shawna Gisch (MBA 2009) ponders what has been the biggest motivator throughout her career.
“I’ve always wanted to be a leader who acts with integrity, who cares about the mission, and who has really stood for something.”
At UnitedHealth Group, where she is a vice president of clinical strategy and innovation, Shawna has a huge responsibility to act on a mission that impacts millions of people’s lives. UnitedHealth is the world’s largest healthcare company, with $242 billion in revenue in 2019 and working with 130 million people worldwide.
It’s been an exciting journey for Shawna, from a chemical engineering bachelor’s to studying an MBA at Harvard Business School (HBS), before climbing to the top of the healthcare industry—an industry now at the forefront of attention and investment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From chemical engineering to a Harvard MBA
Growing up in Oregon, education has always been an emphasis for Shawna. With two parents who were teachers, and a high-achieving older brother, Shawna has always seen great value in pursuing education to realize her goals.
She had a science streak running through her, so opted for chemical engineering as a bachelor’s degree. But she quickly realized that she was more cut out for people-oriented roles.
“Pretty early on I realised that I got my energy, and I'm at my best, working with people rather than things,” she recalls.
She tossed up the possibilities of either business or law, but it was the former that really grabbed her attention. “It teaches you how to be a better leader, and gives you so many skills that are applicable in so many areas. Being someone who likes to learn and explore, business school seemed like a great way to open doors.”
She had a thirst to learn and interact with the best of the best, so it’s no surprise that she applied for the MBA at Harvard. She applied via the 2+2 deferred admissions process, which allows students to defer entrance for two years while they gain work experience. She was accepted, and after two years working for Intel, she packed her bags and moved from west coast to east coast to enrol at HBS.
Impact of the Harvard MBA on her career
Shawna shared the numerous ways the Harvard MBA impacted her on a personal and professional level.
First and foremost, the people and network she built while she was there.
She celebrates the amazing diversity of the people on the program. “It was a place where I felt people celebrated diversity in a way that I'd never really seen before. People are really proud of what makes them different, and want to share that with others.”
But she also found a great deal of commonality between her and her classmates, particularly when it came to being socially driven. “A lot of people that are mission driven, and want to make a difference in the world,” she says. “Part of me thought it might be filled with people who just want to come in and make money on Wall Street, but it really isn't.”
This diversity contributed in a big way to the second highlight: the classes. The HBS case method throws students into a classroom environment where everything is up for discussion, and participants must be prepared to debate their opinion.
“It teaches you how to think, reference past experiences, pull out examples, and even fine tune your own internal compass of what kind of leader you want to be,” she emphasizes. “It helped me feel ready for any conversation in the real world.”
Getting into the healthcare industry
HBS gave Shawna both the career direction she was looking for, and the contacts and connections to employers and recruiters. Given her science background, healthcare had always been a particular interest of her’s.
During her two years at Intel between her bachelor’s and her MBA, she was involved in Intel’s foray into the healthcare industry. She was on a team looking at how the company could leverage its technology in healthcare, particularly when it came to helping older people live more independently through the help of technology.
She was drawn to the social aspect of the industry. “I knew early on that I couldn't just work to live, I needed work to be more meaningful, it needed to be something where I felt I was making a difference.”
At HBS, she was lucky to take part in a healthcare immersion course, led by Professor Michael Porter, creator of the famous five forces strategy framework, where she could take a deeper dive into how healthcare works, as well as taking part in discussions on how it could be improved.
Towards the end of her MBA, she met representatives from UnitedHealth during on campus recruiting. She got interested in the company, specifically to the Optum branch of the business, which deals with the services that UHG provides. She was actually introduced to another Harvard MBA graduate, who guided her through the application, and remains a mentor to this day.
Ten years on, Shawna is now a senior vice president for clinical strategy and operations, overseeing the clinical and quality programs delivered to UnitedHealth's Government Programs. It's a mammoth task, overseeing medical cost savings, quality performance and population health strategies for 6 million Medicaid beneficiaries and 12 million Medicare beneficiaries.
Responding to COVID-19
As for many companies and leaders, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge test for Shawna and UnitedHealth. As a leader in the healthcare industry, many companies and state agencies look to UnitedHealth as a thought leader and model of good practice.
They recently pledged $1.5 billion of additional support to their members, aiming to widen its access to those in need. The Medicaid side of the company, which provides healthcare cover to low income or unemployed adults, has a huge responsibility to protect those who are at greater risk.
“It’s about figuring out the right balance of helping the populations that we serve while protecting the safety of our staff,” Shawna explains.
For Shawna, this has involved analysing the funds available and working out where money is best allocated to deliver the best possible healthcare, as well as non-medical services like food banks. She’d had to think creatively to come up with solutions to problems on a scale they’ve never faced before—fortunately, this is something her MBA taught her to do.
“What an MBA really helps you do is always approach things from an overview position. It allows you to take a step back and teaches you to be the positive disruptor of the way things have worked, to see opportunities and understand how to influence change.”
MBAs Jobs Prospects Strong Despite Coronavirus, Says Top Careers Director
With class of 2020 graduation dates just passed, business school students may be worried about the impact of coronavirus on MBA jobs prospects. But according to Doreen Amorosa, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business' career center associate dean and managing director, MBA grads are still in a good position to bolster their careers.
“Employers generally hire MBAs to strengthen their leadership talent pipelines,” Doreen explains. “Even during difficult times, opportunities exist. MBAs need to be nimble, diligent, and disciplined in the hunt for jobs right now, and we are witnessing wins every day by our students.”
MBAs around the world have nonetheless expressed concern, comparing the job market to the uncertainty MBAs faced in 2008 after the financial crash. The IMF also anticipates a 3% drop in the global economy this year, a steeper downturn than ‘08. So, are concerns well-founded?
Where are the MBA jobs?
Major MBA recruiters, such as Google, Amazon, BCG, and Goldman Sachs haven’t reported any hiring impacts so far, but the likes of Facebook, LEK Consulting, and Johnson & Johnson have reportedly canceled interviews and rescinded offers for internships scheduled to run over the summer months.
Doreen explains that for McDonough MBAs consulting and investment banking positions for the year have largely been filled, and that these firms––more often than not––have honored their job offer commitments. Healthcare, technology, and e-commerce are all under increased strain due to increased consumer demand, and are looking for workers as a result.
“However, hiring has dramatically slowed down in the hospitality, retail, and transportation sectors,” she continues. “Real estate hiring is paused, but the expectation is that it will pick up soon. Small companies in some sectors aren’t faring as well as large companies.”
McDonough School of Business lists among its top MBA employers the likes of Bank of America, EY, and Microsoft. Graduates could therefore be in a strong position to secure roles with these firms, which are operating in less affected global markets.
The number of secured placements for the class of 2020 are almost at the same levels as they were the year before, Doreen adds.
“Given the current environment, we are advising students who are still seeking jobs to play to their strengths and seek jobs where they can make an immediate impact,” she says.
Navigating job market uncertainty
Even at times of crisis when everyday life seems to have screeched to a halt, there are still opportunities to be found. Even during the financial crisis, Wall Street continued to recruit for critical positions, Doreen emphasizes.
So far, the McDonough School of Business 2021 cohort isn’t seeing too many interruptions to internship programs students had secured prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, for those students who have been affected, Doreen says the school is encouraging them to be creative and secure whatever valuable experiences they can.
“Consider crafting a summer experience that combines project work, educational or technical training, and volunteerism,” she says.
Future employers will appreciate the willingness to be creative when building up your portfolio of experience. Times such as now, as the pandemic rages on, make it so the conventional path MBA students take to secure job roles in their chosen industries simply isn’t possible. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
“At this very unique time in history, our goal is for all second-year students to have compelling stories to tell employers when they begin their full-time job searches in the fall,” Doreen says.
Read how McDonough is supporting its MBAs on page 2
Support from McDonough School of Business
Georgetown has an ethos of Hoyas Helping Hoyas––and Doreen says this has been shown tenfold by McDonough alumni who are supporting current full-time MBA students.
“It’s been amazing,” she says. “Jobs, internships, and short-term virtual projects have been posted. Resume books have been requested. Hoyas have offered to open their LinkedIn networks, conduct virtual mentoring, deliver technical training, and provide industry insights.”
Doreen’s role, fortunately, is just as impactful online. She explains the MBA career center is fully operational and offers virtual interview practice––online networking events and coffee chats––as virtual networking becomes the new norm.
"Through Zoom, we can seamlessly share documents, such as cover letters or resumes, conduct mock interviews, and hold job search strategy sessions. Zoom also works well for presentations, webinars, and career programming.”
So, according to Doreen, there are still plenty of opportunities for MBA graduates this summer––you’ve just got to be a little bit more creative in your approach.
COVID-19: Is Now A Good Time For An MBA?
Is it a good idea to apply to business school during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I have five years' experience in mechanical engineering, and was hoping to do a one-year MBA program to change fields.
Given the current situation, should I still pursue an MBA program this year? Will I miss out on anything if I have to take the MBA remotely?
This week's Applicant Question is answered by Andrea Flores, global head of admissions and enrolment at IE Business School
Deciding to move forward with one’s original plans, when all we hear around us is pessimism, takes courage, but putting a hold on an education that will train you for the future is hardly an option worth considering.
Engineers are highly qualified professionals with superior technical skills but who lack, in most cases, a solid and profound business acumen.
Technical skills combined with top managerial skills are a powerful combination, and one of the most demanded profiles in the job market today.
Industries and sectors are being reinvented thanks to technology, but with digital transformation also comes human transformation, and this is the biggest challenge of all.
An MBA is a journey that is meant to transform the way you face new business challenges; this pandemic and its consequences on our economy is one of them.
Now more than ever, considering an MBA is a great option.
It will be a place where you will broaden your horizon at an intellectual, practical, and social level.
IE Business School program options
At IE Business School, we offer two MBA options. Our Tech MBA, a STEM profile oriented one-year full-time MBA, is aimed towards shaping the leaders of the technology sector or who are involved in technology-related functions.
It was designed to provide a learning journey across the areas of technology, management, and transformational leadership, creating professionals who can adapt to the fast and continuous pace of technological evolution.
This program allows you to earn a very strategic positioning in a highly competitive environment.
Alternatively, our International MBA, the one-year full-time program, allows you to develop your leadership skills in a highly diverse environment. This program prioritizes hands-on learning as well as customization, you can create an experience of your own.
Perhaps an MBA is a safe bet in the economic climate. But, you might also be wondering about the experience of an MBA program these days.
How will it be affected if you need to start the program remotely?
My best recommendation here is to get to know your school’s plan in detail. As there is no precedent, business schools are finding themselves reinventing everything they held true prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
Diversifying the way you learn at IE
For IE Business School and IE University, the pandemic brought an opportunity to take the lead in reinventing higher education. Our promise is to deliver the same experience online as face-to-face.
We will be able to achieve that by putting into practice our new Liquid Learning philosophy. We have embarked on a journey of program redesign that aims to transcend the barriers of face to face vs online formats, curricular vs extracurricular, and professor vs student led learning exercises.
As of fall 2020, we will be taking the meaning of hands-on to the next level. Our Liquid Learning will be based on a robust implementation of our hybrid methodology. By hybrid, we don't mean taking traditional business school case-method approach to online classes. Our methodology will be based on three pillars:
1) Active learning: Continuous engagement and development of critical thinking skills. Implemented through synchronous and asynchronous class discussions, group debates, peer-to-peer evaluations, and personalized feedback from professors in a multi-platform environment––beyond the typical class schedule.
2) Real world practices: Encouraging trial and error practice, career development, and networking. Implemented through multimedia cases, professor-led simulations, personalized career advising, company sessions, and student run networking activities.
3) Flexibility: Adapting to the new reality and providing students options that easily adapt to their circumstances. This doesn't mean we intend to minimize the importance of an on-campus experience.
In fact, full-time programs will continue to lay their foundations on this given it is one of the main deciding factors when choosing Madrid. However, we want to guarantee that, no matter the external factors (e.g. second outbreak, job interview outside Madrid, personal force majeure, among others), our students can continue their education with the same level of quality, rigor, and engagement.
IE University was among the first universities in the world to advocate for high-quality and interactive online education. Over 20 years ago, the journey started by launching MBA programs based on distance-learning format.
Today, we're ready to continue bringing innovative pedagogical and networking tools, where the digital and face-to-face worlds blend into one. This isn't just a contingency plan; it's our way of challenging the higher-education status quo.
We're prepared to deliver on-campus and remote experiences. Our aim is to prepare you for the future challenges and to help you face this new reality with resilience and equipped with the best tools to succeed.
Next week, you'll have the chance to ask Dr. Thierry Post, a member of the admissions committee for the Master's in Finance at Nazarbayev University's Graduate School of Business, anything you want about getting into business school.
As well as selecting students for the schools Master's in Finance program, Thierry acts as head of the accounting and finance department.
Prior to joining Nazarbayev University, Thierry acted as professor of finance at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
He has lectured at institutions including Cass Business School in London, and worked in asset management.