For Nazanine Matin, an MBA course in luxury management at the International University of Monaco offers a chance both to build a second career and indulge a long-held passion. 

IUM MBAMY MBA journey started when I decided to take a leave of absence after 13 years of non-stop work around the world. Exhausted with the corporate treadmill, I had found it harder to go to work every day and do something I didn’t love. During my time off, I spent time with my family and pursued childhood dreams by enrolling in fashion and language courses in Italy. Realising how much I still enjoyed fashion, I looked into getting a master’s degree in brand or luxury management.

I started to visit schools that offered such degrees. I became active on MBA blogs and forums, asking for advice on which schools had the best programmes in this field. By happy coincidence, the International University of Monaco (IUM) was among the names that kept popping up. As I had spent part of my childhood in the south of France and also had family in the principality, the location seemed ideal. And, of course, Monaco’s status as a playground for the rich provides ample opportunities for observing luxury. I decided to visit IUM, sit in on a few classes and meet the programme’s director. This informal meeting ended up, in effect, being my admissions interview: we spoke for over an hour about the IUM MBA program, the school’s professors and the potential job opportunities after graduation.

At this point I was already pretty much sold on Monaco, but I continued my research. One concern among the family members, mentors and recruiters I talked to was my preference for a small, relatively low-profile school. But I welcomed the chance to avoid the status anxiety and competitiveness often associated with big-name schools, which in my view would only serve as distractions from the real task of immersing myself in my new field of study. Also, IUM was one of the most affordable schools on my list; this meant I would not be left with a large debt after graduation.

So here I am in Monaco. Our MBA class of 20 students is a mixed bunch, with over ten nationalities represented. Complementing my background in finance, operations and engineering, our class includes a neurosurgeon, two PhDs, finance professionals, an economist and several entrepreneurs. Fortunately for me, the average age is 33, higher than is typical in most MBA programs. (Some schools had said that at 36 I was both told old and experienced, and too inexperienced in luxury, for their courses.) We have between three and 15 years of work experience. Our professors also come from all over the world, with backgrounds both in academia and business.

The course has been great. We have done six months, and have four left to go. Although we are surrounded by luxury, with over 300 days of sunshine a year and a beautiful Mediterranean coastline, we have no trouble remembering we are not on holiday. Indeed the IUM MBA has been very demanding. The first term was devoted to core subjects such as statistics, corporate finance, economics and accounting. Not very exciting, but a necessary grounding which made me think at times that I had perhaps waited too long to do an MBA.

Now in our second term, we have started more luxury-specific courses. We have been to networking events where we have met executives from luxury brands such as Fendi, Cartier and Ralph Lauren. In our consumer-behaviour class, we have learned about the many strategies luxury brands use to increase profits. Studies on scarcity management, advertising, store layout, packaging and logos have taught us why companies make some of the decisions they do. We have looked at research and case studies to understand how consumers make choices—both conscious and unconscious—about luxury purchases, and why many people will buy luxury products when cheaper alternatives are available. Next term we will cover topics that include luxury retailing, distribution and branding. We will also have courses on venture capital and entrepreneurship.

During the spring holiday we went to Geneva, where we visited watchmakers, a jeweller, a private bank and a non-profit organisation. Apart from getting a chance to network with the luxury industry, we gained insight into how certain companies tailor their offerings to rich customers.

Overall, these first six months have been an unforgettable experience for me both personally and academically.  The course is encouraging many of us in our entrepreneurial ambitions, and Monaco is a unique place in which to study. So far my instinct in choosing a small school has been right.

Sources: The Economist Which MBA, March 13, 2014