Student Profile: MBA and Motherhood in Milan

Student Profile: MBA and Motherhood in Milan main image

Fernanda Roa is an MBA candidate at MIP Politecnico Di Milano School of Management, originally from Chile. Her undergraduate studies in business administration and master’s in strategic management led her to a career in finance, an industry she worked in for around 3 years before making the decision to study for an MBA. She speaks to TopMBA.com about her experiences of undertaking an MBA in Milan, and how she is combining her studies with becoming a new mother.


Why did you decide to study an MBA at MIP?

Working in finance is very competitive at the best of times. But when surrounded by male co-workers and a male boss, I felt I needed to work even harder to stand out for the right reasons. What led me to do an MBA was the desire to boost my career and enhance my managerial competences, as well as expand my horizons through international exposure.

I wanted to come to Italy as I’d been before and loved it, so started looking at the top business schools. One of the biggest draws to MIP was its hands-on program. Currently, I am taking part in a boot camp which involves delivering a project and working with managers from real companies, like Barilla, all in just one week.

Another unique selling point for me was the internships offered here, which last a minimum of three months. This real-world experience was something that the other MBAs I was looking at didn’t have.

You found out you were expecting a baby shortly after you applied for your MBA. What was your initial reaction to the news?

My initial reaction was, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?’ because I wasn’t going to be at home in Chile. I spoke to my husband, to see what he was thinking, and he totally supported me. I think he believed in me more than I did, that was crucial for the decision of moving forward.

Obviously, it’s not easy doing an MBA and being a mother, especially if it is your first baby. I was mentally preparing myself for many months before, so somehow, I managed to remain quite laid back. I knew that the worst-case scenario would be I’d have to postpone my MBA, and that’s not that bad!

Has it been difficult scheduling classes around motherhood?

I’ve only missed one-and-a-half weeks of classes, which was when I had my C-section, and that’s it. Everyone was surprised on the first day of classes because it was two weeks before my due date, so you can imagine how I looked, I was like a balloon!

I disappeared for a week and a half and then came back as if nothing had happened. They were all asking me: ‘Did you really just have a baby?!’

What does a typical day for you look like, combining childcare and being a student?

My day starts at 6am when I take care of my baby and have breakfast. After I’ve finished breakfast, I breastfeed my baby and spend time playing with her until 8.50am, then at 9am I arrive at MIP.

We have classes until around 12 or 1pm, then we have one hour for lunch. In that break I go back home, feed my baby, get my lunch, and then come back. Then we have classes until 6pm normally, although I might stay until a bit later if we have a group assignment.

My baby goes to sleep at about 8pm and from then until midnight I’ll stay awake and study. At 1am, she wakes up for a feed, and then again at about 4am, so my day is crazy. I don’t know how many hours of sleep I get, but I don’t feel that tired somehow.

Does your daughter act as an inspiration to you in your MBA?

Totally. She’s a woman as well, so I want her to go even further than wherever I get. Every time I see her, I melt, and I want her to feel proud of me. She’s the whole world in front of me, so now she’s the engine for everything I do.

I would like to encourage more women to do an MBA, as there’s still a gap between the amount of men and women on these courses. I think it’s about just believing in yourself and being bold. I have a lot of friends who would love to be in these kinds of programs and exposed to an international platform, but they feel scared because you have to invest some money into it, quit your job and maybe move to a new country. There are quite a few changes, and some might think it’s too risky especially when you have kids, but it really pays off in the end, so you just have to believe in yourself, work hard and then opportunities will come to you.

What advice would you give to people in a similar situation to you, so fellow parents doing MBAs or doing other studies?

I think the biggest piece of advice would be to just do it if you feel comfortable with it and if you have the support network behind you, because it’s going to be tough. For me, my husband has been crucial, without him it would be impossible. My family comes first, so I do what’s going to be beneficial to them because in the end, family is the most important thing.

Do you think you’re going to stay in finance or has the MBA inspired you to do something different?


I’m exploring staying in finance, or maybe something more related to start-ups. I’ve not quite decided yet because when you undertake an MBA, you get exposed to so many new areas and your choices are widened.

Written by Julia Gilmore

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