MBA diary: The business of politics

Michael Longaro, a full-time MBA student at ESADE Business School, founds a political and public affairs club

WHEN I told my friends and family that I was considering taking an MBA they were somewhat confused. Why would someone who lives and breathes politics have an interest in pursuing an MBA? I explained to them that the world of politics and policy on the one hand, and business on the other, had become increasingly intertwined.  There is a wealth of opportunity for those who understand the many ways in which they influence one another. I want to position myself as one of those people and help those with similar aspirations do the same. This is what motivated me to found the Political and Public Affairs Club.

My rationale for pursuing an MBA was that it would give me a solid understanding of business fundamentals, from finance and corporate strategy, to marketing and innovation, whilst allowing me to hone the management skills I had gathered while working in the public sector. I also hoped it would complement the knowledge I had acquired from my two previous degrees, a bachelor’s in International Studies and a master’s in European, Russian and Eurasian Studies.

I settled on ESADE Business School in Barcelona because of its global perspective and international student body. It also offers a wide range of activities to help students prepare for their careers. These include company visits, career fairs and student-led business clubs that help students to learn more about different industries by, for example, visiting firms’ headquarters or bringing prominent guest speakers to campus.

The school did not, though, have a business club focused on the relationship between government and the private sector. But I was told that, if I were were to be accepted into the programme, I would be able to found one myself. When I received my acceptance letter from ESADE I knew I would follow through with my idea: create a club that would help MBA students both to understand the intersection of business and politics, and procure jobs that sit at that intersection.

Arriving on campus in the autumn of 2016, I immediately began laying the groundwork. First, I filed the requisite paperwork with the MBA’s student-government association, including a charter outlining our mission and goals. Next, I got to know every one of my 189 classmates, making sure to share my passion for politics and motivations for starting the club. These conversations also helped me to identify students who would be interested in having a leadership position within the club. Then, enrollment for student clubs opened and I was fortunate enough to have 25 people register. This ensured that it would receive a budget, giving us the means to organise the events I was dreaming up. Finally, I chose my board members and we got down to work.

I decided that the marquee event in the first year would be a trek to Brussels, where club members could visit the European institutions. There, they could see the policy-making process up close, learn the ins and outs of public affairs from industry professionals, and get the press’s point of view on European politics. We also worked with the school’s careers officers to attract new companies and organisations to campus, such the United Nations Development Program and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In addition we planned a series of smaller events, including student-led discussions and movie nights, giving members the chance to learn from each other and foster stronger connections.  

Now, approaching the end of my first year of the MBA, I can smile knowing that the club has been a resounding success. Our events and work with careers officers were fruitful, regularly attracting dozens of students and allowing club members to meet with recruiters.  Furthermore, 20 students participated in the trek to Brussels, where we visited the European Parliament and European Commission, getting the chance to sit down with both MEPs and EU civil servants to learn about the policy-making process. We also had the opportunity to visit Kreab Public Affairs and Politico Europe, gaining first-hand insight into the day-to-day of public affairs, as well as hearing some of the fourth estate’s perspectives on the state of European politics.  

As I ready myself for the second year of the MBA, I have begun preparing the club’s transition to the incoming class of MBA students; I look forward to passing the torch and seeing the it continue to grow in the years to come. I hope that this club will continue to help other MBA students prepare themselves for positions situated at the intersection of business and government, whether it is political risk management, government relations and public affairs, corporate social responsibility, or working for international institutions. 

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