Marta Ortega-Valle had a detailed wish list, but she was doubtful that it could be fulfilled, not every item. Senior manager and AIMS France Lead for Accenture France, she was looking for an MBA program in which her classmates were as experienced as she was.
Ortega-Valle wanted to be a member of an intimate yet fully international class of students. Born in Barcelona and now working in Paris, she'd spent her career building a global network, and she knew how vital it was to personal growth and professional success.
But there was one more thing. The program needed to have internationally recognized prestige. If she were going to take a year away from her position at Accenture — the first person in the company to take such a sabbatical — she needed her colleagues and clients to understand this as a strategic move, not a detour.
Armed with this checklist, Ortega-Valle did her research. It led her straight to the MIT Sloan Fellows Program. She realized the program met every one of her requirements. And there was another plus: her husband had earned his PhD in Artificial Intelligence from MIT's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, so she felt very much at home in the MIT community.
Ortega-Valle says her search in the marketplace did not uncover anything like the MIT Sloan Fellows Program. “Several people pointed me to the program because they knew it was precisely geared for people like me,” she says. “After a decade in the professional world, I felt I needed new skills, new ideas, new energy, new perspectives to take me through the next stage of my career. To do that right, I needed to take my focus off day-to-day work, which is impossible if you're still immersed in the company environment.”
Ortega-Valle's position at Accenture is to work closely with clients to create innovative programs that strategically leverage information to reach key goals. At MIT, she says, she is expanding her capacity to generate more value for her clients — but she is also learning to innovate within her own company.
“At MIT, you discover a whole strain of creativity you never knew you had. You no longer look at things the way you've been used to looking at them,” she says. “I am learning more comprehensive ways of innovating — innovation in the design and execution of business models, innovation in the way I work with my customers, innovation in what I can bring to their business to make them more competitive.”
Ortega-Valle admits that in addition to the items on her checklist, she was drawn to the Sloan Fellows Program because of everything she knew about the science side of MIT. “I didn't really know much about the business side, but it turns out that the business side of MIT works just the same way the science side does. It's all about experimentation and proving things in the real world.”
The program's pace, Ortega-Valle observes, is brisk, but there is a sustaining feeling of camaraderie and purpose. “Sure, it seems we never have a moment to sleep here, but at MIT there's so much going on, who wants to sleep?”