2016 Best EMBAs: Paula Lafora Ornosa, ESADE

Paula Lafora ESADE

Paula Lafora Ornosa

ESADE Business School

“The ESADE EMBA taught me to think differently. It gave me the ability to focus on what’s important, plus the ability to look further, from a different point of view. It also taught me to make decisions with limited information. Instead of being afraid of that, I have learned how to make the most of it and optimise it.”

Age: 33

Location: Madrid, Spain

Undergraduate School and Degree: Business and Administration at Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Where are you currently working? Horizontal Project Manager in Customer Management at Iberia Airlines

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Member of Yaakar Africa, an NGO that develops various projects in Senegal, helping people who have nothing to develop their own businesses, such as farming, selling marmalade and juice, sewing, and dressmaking. The organisation provides these communities with medical materials and school supplies, and it also opens internet centres in rural communities. In addition, it helps people who wish to continue their studies by providing scholarships so that they can graduate.

Active participation in Foro Generación del 78, an association that provides a venue for young professionals and entrepreneurs to meet with political, social, and business leaders and to learn from their experience and knowledge.

Specific collaborations with Exodus Rescue and Care, an association founded in March 2015 that aims to promote and defend the rights of every person — especially children — considered to be a refugee.

Member of “Living Water”. I am a soprano singer in this amazing gospel choir, which performs many charity concerts to support various causes.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In the ninth month of the EMBA, my company offered me a promotion and I joined the new Customer Management unit as Horizontal Project Manager. This position allows me to apply some of the knowledge and experiences I acquired in the ESADE EMBA.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am very proud of being part of my company’s transformation plan: Iberia’s Plan de Futuro. I joined the project at the beginning, in April 2013. In 2012, the company had reported a significant loss.

The transformation plan aimed to introduce permanent structural change across all areas of the business in order to stem losses and return the airline to profitability, which happened in 2014. Iberia’s Plan de Futuro was led by our CEO, Luis Gallego, and our CFO, Javier Sánchez Prieto. The plan was coordinated by Strategic Management. As I said before, I joined it at the outset, so I had the opportunity to be involved in defining the plan. The Plan de Futuro was structured with 32 initiatives spread throughout the organisation and was driven by “change engines” (directors who were able to look beyond the day-to-day work in order to draw up a medium-term strategy). I was responsible for follow-up, monitoring and challenges in the transformation process in the sales, handling and internal communication areas.

The entire organisation worked very hard, and we are still working hard to consolidate our good results and achieve sustainable growth. Thanks to Plan de Futuro, we lay the foundation for the launch

Favorite MBA Courses? Advanced Marketing Management, Corporate Finance, Corporate Responsibility, Economics and Geopolitics, as well as the learning experience in India.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? After considering the top three business schools in Spain, I decided that ESADE was the place for me for various reasons. It’s one of the best schools in Europe and worldwide. It has a special focus on entrepreneurship that you can feel from day one. But on top of all that, the school has values. ESADE encourages cooperation, teamwork and personal growth in an environment of effort and improvement, always with a collaborative focus.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Meeting my colleagues, most of whom are now very good friends, and having the opportunity to share all kinds of moments with them (stress, laughs, study sessions, discussions, etc.) and learn a lot together.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? The ESADE EMBA taught me to think differently. It gave me the ability to focus on what’s important, plus the ability to look further, from a different point of view. It also taught me to make decisions with limited information. Instead of being afraid of that, I have learned how to make the most of it and optimise it.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I thought it was going to be good, but it turned out to be one the greatest experiences of my life. Despite the hard work and lack of sleep, I would definitely repeat it. I am not the same Paula as I was at the beginning. Not only I have learned a lot, but I am also much stronger and more resilient.

What was the hardest part of business school? It would be the times when everything seemed to be aligned against me: a lot of work to do at my job, a lot of cases to read, assignments to deliver and exams to study for, when I had a cold and the only thing I wanted to do was to go to bed. Fortunately, although there is constant pressure, these peaks only happened two or three times during the 18 months of the EMBA.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? Don’t hesitate! It’s going be amazing. You’ll grow professionally and personally in such a great environment of talent and challenge! Focus on learning as much as you can about every subject but don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues for help if you need it.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I saw my CEO analysing information and solving problems in various meetings, and I thought, ‘I want to be able to think like that.’

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Very upset. I really think it matches my professional career. It was just the right moment.”

What are your long-term professional goals? I would like to keep growing in my career, continually learning and improving my skills. In a few years, I would like to be able to lead an NGO or a foundation, or — why not? — start my own NGO.

 Who would you most want to thank for your success? First of all, my parents, for all their support and for giving me the chance to develop my career. Secondly, my husband, for his patience and understanding during my EMBA. And finally, my brother and friends, for their support and for being there for me even though we haven’t seen each other a lot over the past few months.

Fun fact about yourself: I always burn my toast and pizzas

 Favorite book: Los placeres prohibidos, a poetry book by Luis Cernuda

Favorite movie: Singing in the Rain

 Favorite musical performer: Lots of them! Coldplay, U2, The Beatles, The New Basement, Tapes, Maná, 3 Doors Down, Ismael Serrano, etc.

Favorite television show: “Friends”

 Favorite vacation spot: My parents’ house in Cercedilla, a mountain village in the Madrid countryside

 Hobbies? I am keen on music, singing, travelling, reading, skiing and laughing with my friends and relatives

 What made Paula such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Paula is Spanish and has 10 years of professional experience, mostly at Iberia (she has worked at the company for nine years in various positions), the largest airline owned by the multinational International Airlines Group (IAG). We chose her when she was part of a strategic team reporting to the general manager that was leading change, finding ways to improve operational efficiency and making sure the company posted positive numbers. That is why we believe she could be an inspirational example to other people. Due to the Executive MBA among other factors, Paula was offered a promotion and now occupies the impactful position of Horizontal Project Manager in Customer Management.

“Paula is a collaborative student with firm values and clear goals. She is always a valuable team player and offers good business insight to her classmates. Among her projects are creating an NGO and leading it by drawing on the lessons learned throughout her career.

“Paula is always helpful with her acquaintances and always has a smile on her face. With her young age and potential, we are confident that she will go far and achieve her goals brilliantly.”

Martha Torres Poveda

Admissions Director, Executive MBA

ESADE Business School


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