Using the pandemic as a motivation to finally do your MBA

After the pandemic brought the hospitality industry to its knees, Mariana Goncalves took it as an opportunity to do what she had long wanted to do.

In short

Mariana Goncalves (Brazil)- ESSEC MBA

Finding the right time to do your MBA

For many people, the most difficult part of the MBA process is finding the right time to do it. Our professional and personal lives can soon consume us, leaving us with no free time to pursue other things. So when an unexpected opportunity arises, you have to take it.

Mariana Goncalves was working in the hospitality industry in Singapore when COVID-19 hit. Almost overnight, borders closed, quarantines were imposed and the industry was brought to its knees. It was a difficult time for her and her industry, but a silver lining soon appeared. She used the situation as the motivation she needed to finally pursue an MBA at ESSEC Business School.

“I always knew I wanted to do an MBA – it was just a matter of when” she says. “When COVID hit, you can imagine [the impact on] the hotel industry and airlines. Singapore was very reliant on foreign tourists coming in, so it was a very slow period. It was very difficult, so it was the last push to go ahead with the MBA plans.” (01:10)

How studying hospitality management prepares you for business school

Mariana is well-schooled in the hospitality industry, having already graduated from hotel school at undergraduate level. She says the things she learnt there have turned out to be a good grounding for her MBA.

“The school I went to focused a lot on the business aspect of the hospitality industry, so we did have a lot of courses related to marketing, microeconomics, accounting…all different things which overlap with business school. So in a sense I feel that prepared me for business school.” (02:40)

It wasn’t just the course content that prepared her for business school – it’s also the diversity. She is used to being in diverse cohorts from her time at hotel school, and now she is using the diversity of her MBA class – 100% of her MBA class are international students – to broaden her perspective on life.

“In a business school everybody has their own experiences, everybody has their own ideas, everybody has their own beliefs and the way they work, because people tend to be older when they’re doing an MBA” she says. (05:14)

“In that sense, business school would be very helpful to broaden your view, open your mind and remind you that you need to be seeing things from a different point of view. It’s always to your advantage to be doing that” (05:40)

Ready to revitalize the hospitality industry

After completing her MBA program at ESSEC, Mariana is hoping to bring new knowledge and fresh ideas into the industry. Her chosen program aligns perfectly with where she believes hospitality is lacking.

“My MBA program here at ESSEC focuses on digital transformation. This is just perfect, it’s the thing you need, especially in hospitality which is not a very tech-forward industry historically. We’re trying to change that, but this [MBA] fits so well. I’m looking forward to when all of this is behind us and then we can start bringing the industry back. They will be interesting times for sure.” (06:52)

“The strategy and digital leadership focus of the MBA program (at ESSEC) was something that really was very different from all the other programs I was seeing. It was something that fitted with my goal of coming back after the one year and getting back to the hospitality industry and helping ourselves back.” (08:08)

The future of hospitality

For an industry that has perhaps faced more disruption than any other during the pandemic, it will be a long and slow recovery. Research from consulting firm McKinsey indicates that recovery to pre-COVID levels may not happen until at least 2023. But Mariana remains optimistic about its future, and understands the importance of the business side of hospitality to ensure the industry does recover.

“Hospitality is about making the guests feel comfortable and feel at home, but we have to remember it’s also a business, and we need to take care of the business first so we can take care of the guests.” (15:04)

“We need people with new ideas, we need people who welcome technology and innovation to help bring the industry that little bit further – [not] just follow what everyone else is doing.”  (15:26)

While there is never a bad time to invest in yourself, for Mariana there has never been a better time. By taking the chance to learn new skills and expand her network, she will be ready to revitalize her industry when all of this is over. 

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