Getting My 'MBA of the Future'

Michael Abusabal looks back on his time in Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program and shares how it became a career catalyst for him.

When Michael Abusabal (MEM '19) was looking for a graduate program, he was fascinated by the focus of Northwestern University's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program. Specifically, he was attracted by the idea of being able to pursue a degree that combined business and technology.

Abusabal recently received his MEM degree, and as he prepared to start his new job at Santander’s Corporate & Investment Banking, he took time to look back on his MEM journey and explain how the program helped him grow both personally and professionally.

What was it about MEM that first appealed to you?

I was attracted by the idea of pursuing a degree that combined business and technology. I viewed the program as the MBA of the future, and since I wanted to be ahead of the game, I decided to join Northwestern's MEM as a full-time student. Looking back, Northwestern MEM was a career catalyst with priceless return on investment. 

How would you describe your experience in the program?

Being a full-time MEM student at a top-tier US university was an experience that I will always remember with joy. The opportunity to be part of a diverse and welcoming community and make friends from around the world has transformed me and broadened my horizons. In my opinion, the value of the experience goes beyond the lectures, as being in constant interaction with high caliber peers means that you are continuingly learning.

What are two or three of the most important lessons you've learned during your time in the program?

I will never forget Professor David Semb's opening words in my first lecture at MEM: “You have to learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable”. This quote holds so much value since business is inherently uncertain, it is imperative to develop the capacity to effectively navigate change to succeed as a leader. Also, Professor Don McNeeley taught me the importance of stepping back and grasping the “big picture” to understand the essence of a situation to make sound decisions. 

What were two or three highlights for you from your time in the program?

As I was looking to improve my soft skills during the program, Professor Gail Berger's Negotiation and Leadership lectures were two of the classes that contributed the most to my personal and professional development. Additionally, I enjoyed the unique and intimate culture among MEM students that allowed me to make long-lasting and strong relationships that will extend beyond my time in the program. 

What are you going to be doing after graduation?

I will be joining the Banking & Corporate Finance team of Santander’s Corporate & Investment Banking unit at their New York offices. Specifically, my role will be to provide structured and tailored financial solutions to the industrial sector clientele within Fortune 500 firms. 

How do you think you'll be able to apply what you learned in MEM to your professional career?

What I have learned in the MEM program is a solid combination of practical and theoretical knowledge that I will always carry as a toolkit that I can immediately apply to business. Most importantly, the journey of leadership is a never-ending path of learning and discovery, and I think I gained the necessary skills to be more prepared to transition to management roles when the time is appropriate. 

What advice would you give a prospective MEM student?

In less time than you imagine, you will be graduating. Take advantage of Northwestern University resources, learn, make friends, have fun, network, and ask questions. Most importantly, follow your passion and understand how your strengths can help you achieve your dreams. Competition for jobs is fierce, especially for international students, so having a plan and knowing where you want to be makes the difference. 

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I would like to thank everyone that supported me on this road, especially my wife Daniela who believed in me and has been a continuous source of motivation during this exciting journey.