width=200In November 2010, Farid Mammadov will begin his MBA degree at one of the world's top business schools, and it's all thanks to the QS World MBA Tour.

Azerbaijan national, Farid Mammadov, applied to IE Business School's MBA program because he wanted to develop and strengthen his soft skills. These were in particular managerial and entrepreneurial capabilities, especially strategic thinking, human management and business planning. The deputy chairman of the executive board of the Bank of Baku JSCB, Mammadov is responsible for the corporate line of the business but he's turned to an MBA for personal and professional development, and a possible career change.

I have plans to change the sector [I work in] within the finance industry from commercial banking to private equity and I want to increase the exposure of the company I work for in the European market, Mammadov says. I think an MBA will help me to improve my skills and knowledge and also serve as an entry key to a new market.

Business school rankings

Mammadov, who describes himself as a manager with expertise in corporate banking, microlending, risk management and business process development, first turned to business school rankings as he began researching MBA programs. I started with rankings to get an idea about direction of further research, he says.

After compiling a shortlist of MBA programs my criteria were: one of the top ten ranked schools, a one-year European program, good employment perspectives for school graduates, and feedback of alumni of different schools whom I know personally. I visited the Istanbul fair, [of the World MBA Tour] in 2009, organized by QS and met all the schools from my shortlist. I can say that the fair contributed most of all to my decision about which program and school. It is really very important to meet the school representatives, alumni, talk to them and feel what their approach really is.

His choice of business school, IE Business School in Spain, meant that Mammadov escaped the GMAT experience, as the school does not require a GMAT score for all applicants, but he still had to sit an admissions test set by the school itself. I passed it without any preparation because it tests not your maths or verbal abilities, but the speed and way of your thinking, Mammadov says.

The MBA admissions process

Then there were the admissions essays and Mammadov says he hoped the admissions committee liked the honest nature of his essays. I also have quite sizeable managerial experience in very fast moving, developing and challenging environments, so it wasn't a big problem for me to bring different examples to the attention of the committee [in my essays], he says.

Mammadov also speaks highly of his MBA admissions interview. The interview environment with IE Business School was very positive. I couldn't go to Madrid, so it was a phone interview. As I understood it, the approach of the interviewer was to evaluate some grey areas the admissions committee had, to make a decision about the value I could add to the program and to confirm for themselves if the international full-time MBA was really what fitted well for my profile.

The admissions committee obviously thought it did, and with the MBA growing in popularity in Mammadov's home country of Azerbaijan, come November he will be well placed to embark on this prestigious business school qualification.