Building relationships as an international student at the Kellogg Miami Campus
Ivan Jose Mejia Alberty '23 MBA, who serves as vice president, strategy and execution for a retail chain, is leveraging his travels to the Kellogg Miami Campus from Santo Domingo to expand his network in an intentional, meaningful manner. He also shares how the Executive MBA (EMBA) program at Kellogg is helping him build upon strategic business frameworks.
Why does pursuing an Executive MBA at Kellogg matter to you?
During the pandemic, everything changed for many of us. We had to make decisions faster and find new ways to keep people in tune with the situation at hand while at the same time adapting to a completely new set of expectations with no previous experience. It's moments like this that will test you, and you’ll ask yourself if you are living up to the best version of yourself.
When you come to the realization that you are a work in progress, you then are constantly looking for ways to grow and improve to be able to serve in a more efficient way the people you lead. This is why pursuing an Executive MBA fits perfectly with me at this point in my career.
What are you trying to achieve with an EMBA?
At this moment, EMBA is helping me broaden my perspective, strengthen my critical skills, engage in diversity and be surrounded by people, that not only are great professionals but are also great at genuinely helping others go through any issue that arises.
What the future holds in terms of my career path is getting clearer. I thrive on creating high-performance teams, dealing with high-stakes situations, and navigating uncharted waters — that’s the road I intend to follow.
How is it making you better at your job?
It has created new ways to obtain feedback from teams of which I’m a part, and also helped map out clearer actions for my individual development plan. It has also helped me hone in on asking the right questions to engage with my teams more efficiently allowing them to better understand what results we are trying to achieve and how their actions play a part in that.
How have you been able to accommodate your school schedule to meet your career demands and personal needs? What’s your course load like?
My course load tends to vary but on average is between eight to 12 hours per week. In the beginning, it was more trial and error — trying to find the sweet spot of how much you can take on a daily basis.
On the business side, you have cycles that you can plan and situations that come and go. For the ones that you can plan, you fit the dates of the EMBA schedule to see how they might affect those deadlines. For projects that arrive unexpectedly, you deal with those as they come.
As for my personal needs, family support has been crucial. They understood that my involvement would be compromised for about two years. This means missing some key family events; however, the important part of it is that we (my wife and I) knew what we were getting into because a close friend went through the program and his kind wife gave us great advice.
What course have you found to be most helpful in enhancing your career?
It is extremely hard and unfair to put one in front of the other at this point. Two classes that come readily to mind are Frameworks for Strategic Analysis (Professor Mike Mazzeo) and New Science of Leadership (Professor Brian Uzzi). Both courses were very different topics, content and teaching approach; however, both ended up being triggers for self-reflection. They prompted me to ask questions that helped me implement new initiatives at work to improve business.
Miami is a multicultural hub with distinct neighborhoods and a thriving global economy including its booming tech scene. How do you feel your location has given you an advantage as you pursue your MBA? How did the Miami Kellogg location work out better for you?
Miami's location is extremely convenient because it is a two-hour flight from Santo Domingo and with multiple flights every day. It has strong connections and a remarkably diverse representation among the Latin American (LATAM) region, the continental U.S. and the rest of the world. It has nice weather, great locations and a long list of activities to develop and strengthen relationships.
Evanston had many pluses; the deal breaker was more the time devoted to travel and limited options in terms of direct flights.
What do you enjoy the most about the campus location?
It is a combination of multiple factors. Primarily, the people. Everywhere you look there is someone worthy of admiration. The city does not fall short of spaces and places to use for opportunities to get to know your peers on a deeper level. Even just experiencing everyday activities like ride shares to and from the airport with my peers end up evolving into rich and supportive conversations — these all serve as touch points to strengthen your network.
Also, the staff takes care of all things you can imagine, and they devote time to making you feel at home.
Miami is the epicenter of multiple trends for LATAM and the warmth of many cultures that have found a second home in it adds to the pluses of the city.
You recently attended the Global Network Week that brings together other Kellogg EMBA students. What was the most rewarding aspect of the experience?
The word that can sum it all up is community. Put into words, it’s an impressive experience having almost 200 people with remarkably diverse backgrounds and cultures come together in a space where people want to genuinely help each other. What would have taken years to meet these business leaders, instead happened in a span of days thanks to Kellogg bringing us together—that’s something you can't put a price on. I’m very thankful that they’re a part of my life now.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Each moment is important and every interaction counts —lessons will come in multiple ways. Some of us will realize them now and others will arrive at them through self-reflection moments or feedback from others. No matter what, someone from the community will be there for you when things are not necessarily going according to your expectations.