“Innovation will shape the 21st century”

@Roberto Arribas

Ana Martínez Valls received the IE Student Award, a prize awarded to the student from the graduating class of 2015, who best reflects the university’s principles of initiative, entrepreneurial spirit, and contribution to the university community.

Ana Martínez Valls, a Law and Business Administration graduate, has received the IE Student Award, a prize awarded to her by IE University for her performance, commitment, initiative, and entrepreneurial spirit. She’s worked for a number of international companies and organizations, including UNICEF, and also has a proven interest in everything related to law and economics, in addition to the study of factors that influence global societies. She belongs to the generation of young people who are set to change the world and lead the way in response to 21st-century challenges. She’s an entrepreneurial young woman who has shown extraordinary talent throughout her time at university.

Photo by: Roberto Arribas

What does being awarded the IE Student Award mean to you?

It’s an honor to have been presented with this award, but I have to say that there are so many other students who deserve it too. This to me is recognition of all the extracurricular initiatives that I’ve organized and all the effort I’ve put in, both inside and outside the classroom.

Why do you think they chose to give you this award?

I guess they decided to give me the prize given all the initiatives I’ve undertaken at the university, for founding the Debate Club and participating in it, and for representing the university at various international events such as, for example, the presentation of business plans on the subject of innovation in the world of law in Miami. Perhaps they also valued the fact that I’ve worked with a lot of start-ups and managed to keep my grades up throughout my degree.

You’ve attended a number of international congresses during your time at IE University. What are the benefits of participating in these types of activities with students from other countries?

They’ve made me grow as a person and many of them have taught me life lessons, which was one of the reasons I chose to study at IE University. I was accepted by other reputable universities, but they all lacked that dynamic, entrepreneurial, and international edge that IE University has. I’ve also learned to be more empathetic, to debate with people from around the world, and to continue pushing myself.

You organized, together with your classmate Eric Cuevas, the first TEDx seminar on innovative ideas, which was held in Segovia and attended by global leading experts in innovation, law, and entrepreneurship. What memories do you have of that event?

 It was a real challenge organizing an event like that when were just nineteen years old. We learned a lot, both personally and professionally. One of our biggest obstacles was finding sponsors at a time of economic crisis. But on the flip side, we learned to fight for our ideas to the end and above all, to not give up.

You’re a student who’s extremely mindful of the challenges facing us at the beginning of the 21th century.  For example, you participated, together with 25 other young people from 12 countries, in the Europe and Asia Regional Summit of Child and Youth Finance International, which took place at the headquarters of the Central European Bank. Here, you addressed issues including social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial mindset, unemployment, and financial education. What do you remember about that event?

 It was a fantastic event. We were given the opportunity to work alongside representatives of all the central European banks. We also debated a new directive that was about to be published on financial education with a European Union commissioner and presented our results to Mario Draghi. This meeting also witnessed the creation of a new initiative involving an increase in investment in children in disadvantaged countries. For this reason, Eric Cuevas and I then began giving online crowdfunding classes to children in El Salvador.

The economic and financial crisis of recent years has had a considerable impact on Spain’s younger generation. At graduation, the Rector claimed that “difficult times are well suited to creativity and innovation.” Do you think that these times of crisis represent an opportunity for young entrepreneurs?

 I think there are always opportunities and that in times of crisis, the fact that we have to reassess all the options, may mean that the environment is more conducive. I feel that the 21st century is a time in which innovation will be essential.  Big data has arrived and it’s destined to revolutionize many industries, from medicine to law.

 IE University is a special, unique university. The Financial Times described IE as “an extraordinary university led by extraordinary people.” Do you agree?

Yes, absolutely. It’s more practical and more international than other universities. It has to fit your profile, but if it does and you like it, it opens up a world of infinite opportunities to you. The most important thing at IE University is the people that you meet, who often change the perception you have of many things, together with the spirit of personal growth and innovation. It’s a young, agile institution which is why is has been able to easily adapt to the needs of the 21st century.

 What has studying at IE University meant to you?

Studying at IE University has meant a change. I came from studying in the French system and my other university choices were far more traditional. I took a gamble on a different type of education and it’s paid off.

How much importance do you give to education?

There are so many different types of education and a person should be aware of the system which best suits them. I also firmly believe that life experiences form a big part of a person’s education: traveling, participating in debates, or creating an organization can sometimes give you so much more than a class does.

 What advice would you give to those who want to set out on their own but are too scared to try?

That they should give it try and they find a mentor who has done something similar to encourage and guide them.

 What differences do you see between Spanish entrepreneurs and those from other countries?

 I don’t think there are many differences between the people themselves; I think the difference lies in the effort each country makes to promote entrepreneurship, and in Spain, although progress has been made, they should decrease the bureaucracy involved. It’s worth pointing out that the fees for people who are self-employed in Spain are among the highest in Europe.

 What are your short- and long-term future plans? What are you going do after graduating from university?

I had an offer from a bank in London, but I’ve decided to stay to become a lawyer and dedicate myself, if they’ll have me, to international arbitration. Later, I hope to work for a good law firm, work abroad for a few years, and then, much further down the line, start my own business in the law innovation sector.

 What memories will you take away from your time at university and in Segovia?

From the university, experiences, fun, and learning. From Segovia, I’ll remember it as a city where I’ve been extremely happy.