My Imperial MBA: Back to school after 20 years’ of industry experience | TopMBA.com

My Imperial MBA: Back to school after 20 years’ of industry experience

By Niamh O

Updated May 14, 2021 Updated May 14, 2021

Alejandra Lona Guerrero said: “Now that I am in a senior leadership position, my MBA couldn’t wait any longer. This is a must for any leader who wants to continue growing.”

The benefits of an MBA, from networking opportunities to enhanced specialised knowledge, mean that it’s never too late to enter the classroom. While interest in MBAs and other business degrees has grown among younger students, there are still many students on business school campuses around the world who arrive after 10 or more years of industry experience. 

Alejandra Lona Guerrero (pictured) is a candidate on Imperial College Business School’s Global Online MBA Class of 2020-22 and started her MBA at 44. But with 20 years industry experience, why was now the right time for an MBA?

alejandra lona guerrero imperial college business school

Career so far 

Alejandra is a Mexican engineer with more than 20 years’ experience in various management and senior leadership positions in technology, automotive and manufacturing industries – many of which leading global teams with a presence in Mexico, the US, Europe and Asia.

She also has a strong background in quality with multiple certifications like Six Sigma Black Belt, Lead ISO/TS Auditor for Automotive and Technology, Certified Manager for Operational Excellence.

Alejandra said: “Currently I am General Manager running operations in Mexico and head of global Quality at HERE Technologies, a location platform company with over 9,000 employees across 56 countries, a truly global company serving thousands of customers at scale.

“I am passionate about personal growth and development, I am highly committed to reducing the global gender gap, leading actions such as Lean In circles, public speaking in universities, NGOs, TEDx talks, etc.”

Why now? 

When Alejandra decided to pursue her MBA, she wanted to ensure she was choosing the best school.

She said: “As a quality professional and practitioner, I know that global standards and recognitions matter a lot, so I did my search using the most recognised global university rankings like QS, as I knew I wanted to try an option outside of AMER.

“I would only choose an option where diversity matters, so with those criteria I chose the top-ranked options in Europe, which in turn brought me to Imperial College Business School.”

Alejandra says she knew she had to demonstrate her technical expertise as a female engineer living in a Latino world. She said: “Now that I am in a senior leadership position, my MBA couldn’t wait any longer. This is a must for any leader who wants to continue growing.”

The realities of being a mature student 

Alejandra says there are pros and cons to being a mature student like most things in life, but she does think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

She says she can relate topics from most of her MBA sessions to previous career experiences and challenges, which she imagines could be difficult for someone who hasn’t been in the field as long.

“As a mature student, I really prioritise and dedicate myself to my studies. This is not to say that a younger student would not, but having a senior leadership position is a 24/7 job. Plus, being a mom of two teenagers, among multiple additional compromises, every minute I dedicate to my MBA comes with 100 percent dedication.”

But what can mature students bring to the table compared to students in their 20s? Alejandra says the major difference is experience. With more than 20 years in the field, she says she has multiple real-life examples for topics covered in class.

She said: “I can bring real-life examples, not only from textbooks, but experiences from a time I struggled with a production factory bottleneck, or adjusting my leadership style to working in a global environment and leading teams in different parts of the world.”

Benefits of an MBA 

Alejandra hopes to achieve professional career growth post-graduation, but the most important thing she wants from the MBA is personal growth – something she is already seeing as her way of thinking has changed since starting her MBA.

She said: “Even though I had worked in global companies for many years, having a multicultural environment, not only in terms of nationalities but also industries, really makes you realise the wealth of opportunities waiting for you.”

Alejandra credits the Personal Leadership Journey on Imperial’s MBA for changing her way of thinking and encouraging her to grow.

She said: “The whole programme is great, but there are two exercises that made me see things in a different way; Interview a Leader and the Career Change Pathway. Both exercises made me feel stronger and that I could really decide the destiny of my future, so post-graduation I foresee a world of opportunities that I will be ready to explore.”

Advice for prospective mature students 

Alejandra’s most important piece of advice is to not delay the start of your MBA as when you’re in a leadership role you may feel as though you don’t have time to spare – and even less with an MBA.

She said: “I’ve heard this comment from many colleagues: How do you manage to pursue an MBA when we are so busy!?

“My advice is this: An MBA will help you grow. Focus on what is critical; there is time for everything. Quoting Stephen Covey, ‘The key is not to prioritise what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities’”.

This article was originally published in May 2021 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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