Current IE University student Paula Izquierdo, was recently selected to represent Spain at Aspire 2020, a women’s workshop hosted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which brings together talented female students from 30 different countries and degree programs. BCG is one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world with more than 20,000 employees spread across over 50 countries.
Paula, a final-year Dual Degree in Business Administration and International Relations student, is part of IE University’s Honors Program (comprised of students in the top five percent of their respective programs), a member of Nova Talent, and also a freelance content writer for a London-based travel app and magazine.
She believes events like Aspire 2020 not only allow you to gain insights into a particular company or industry, but also offer a wonderful opportunity to challenge yourself and grow both personally and professionally. To other students, she recommends “taking advantage of all the support provided by IE University and enrolling in as many activities that allow you to grow, expand your knowledge and broaden your vision.”
Paula kindly shared her experience with us.
Can you tell us a little more about Aspire 2020? What did it consist of?
From September 18–25, I had the honor of participating in BCG’s Aspire 2020, representing Spain among more than 30 countries and alongside 80 other talented women. Over this week, we spent four hours a day undergoing leadership training and attending various workshops, keynote speeches, interesting panels, fairs and teamwork activities. Initially, this event was supposed to take place in Barcelona and was later postponed in hopes that we could eventually meet there if the current COVID-19 situation improved. However, since this was not the case, the whole event was successfully adapted to a virtual experience, which was equally gratifying and insightful.
During the event, we had the pleasure of meeting Rich Lesser (CEO of BCG), Leila Hoteit (Managing Director & Senior Partner for Dubai at BCG), Wendy Woods (Vice Chairman of Social Impact for BCG) and Zipho Sikhakhane (global speaker and business strategist), among other truly inspiring and motivating professionals. We also had a memorable masterclass called “Body Talk” by Richard Newman. Finally, we conducted a case study simulation in teams to design and implement a pricing strategy, which my team and I ranked highly for—we were so excited! The event ended with an empowering masterclass called “Strength-Based Development,” led by Lydia Green. She showed us how to use our strengths and behaviors to maximize success.
Where did you hear about this opportunity and why were you interested in participating?
I first heard about this opportunity from a friend who participated in a past edition and had a very good experience. The following year, I discovered the same event announced in the weekly Talent & Careers email, so I read about it and thought it would be a great opportunity. I was interested in participating not only because I was curious about the world of consulting and didn’t know much about it, but also because it would be a valuable chance to meet wonderful and talented female university students (undergraduate, master’s, or PhD level) from all around the world and from very diverse fields of study.
How did IE University IE Talent & Careers team helped you get this opportunity?
I believe they helped both by informing me of the event and by guiding me through the application process. For example, my career mentor, Victoria Tornos, provided feedback on how to update and improve my CV, which was one of the documents required for the event. I think IE University offers many powerful resources which allow students to take part in building and refining their professional careers. On a broader level, I believe IE University has equipped me over these past five years with very useful skills that are highly valued by businesses nowadays.
What do you think are the benefits of participating in an event like this? What about this experience would you highlight?
As I mentioned before, events like this not only allow you to learn about the company or industry in question, but they are also a wonderful way to challenge yourself as you grow personally and professionally. It was also a chance to make friends (despite it being online), expanding my network worldwide and enriching myself with the cultural and intellectual diversity that is always present in events like these. Additionally, it creates an atmosphere of creativity and empowerment, which is very motivating.
I would highlight the people (both participants and organizers) as the factor that really stood out for me. I was extremely surprised by how friendly, welcoming and supportive the staff and participants were. This made me feel very comfortable. I learned a lot from all the events organized, but the extra-special dynamic was created by combining these educational events with other types of activities (panels, socials, coffee chats, sports, etc.). I would also highlight the name of the event and the meaning behind “Aspire,” which is what drives us to achieve our goals. Lastly, I would like to quote a girl on our last day who, when asked about our main takeaway, said: “Beyond all the input and keynotes and masterclasses, it’s this: maybe, one day, one of the women on this screen will be president.” That simple comment made me feel special and motivated to aspire.
What would you say to other students interested in applying to future editions?
I would say go for it! You won’t lose anything by trying, and being granted such an opportunity will be memorable and enriching. It doesn’t matter what your background is or how many years of experience you have—if consulting is an area you are interested in or would like to know more about, you should do it. Take advantage of all the support provided by IE University and enroll in activities that allow you to grow, learn and broaden your perspective.