Tereza Koudelková comes from Roztoky u Krivoklatu and finished her Bachelor’s studies at the IES in 2013. After graduating from the IES, she moved to Switzerland where she gained her Master’s degree in Banking and Finance at the University of St.Gallen in 2015. Currently, she studies the MBA program at Harvard Business School where she is expected to graduate in May 2019.
She began gathering work experience while studying at the IES - she worked at O2 Czech Republic, as a CAPEX Controller, for more than a year. During the summer at HSG, she interned at McKinsey & Company in Prague. In 2015, she started to work there as a consultant fulltime, advising European and Australian clients across multiple industries, mostly in telecommunications, e-commerce, and banking. She also spent a few months in New York at McKinsey New Ventures, where led projects to design and implement processes that formed the basis of Firm’s accelerator. At the moment, Tereza works for Danish food & beverage company Joe & The Juice as a Strategy & Business Development Intern.
In her free time, Tereza likes travelling, cooking or building Lego or puzzle.
Your favorite subject at the IES?
To be honest, I don’t really remember which class was my favorite one when studying but the one I look back to the most today is definitely Mathematics with professor Kalenda. I may not have necessarily used many of the hard skills I have learnt in those classes but I think the soft skills that I have learnt there - especially grit and perseverance – were even more important for me (and still are today).
Studying all those mathematical proofs at 3am weeks prior to the exam, trying to crack them, was obviously really tough – but I loved the feeling of accomplishment when it finally hit me and I had the “aha” moment. I think this was actually one of the things that led me to consulting few years later – the idea of cracking the toughest problems that the clients faced really appealed to me. And it was the same mindset and perseverance that later helped me to be successful (not just) at McKinsey – not giving up even when the problem seems unsolvable, tackling it from different perspectives until it finally gives in, however long it takes.
Currently You are studying the MBA program at Harvard Business School (HBS). Which is the major difference in between these studies and your studies at the IES or your Master at University of St. Gallen (HSG)?
The difference between IES and HBS (with HSG being closer to IES on the spectrum) I probably found most stark is related to admissions and student success rate once admitted.
I still vividly remember how many of my friends failed out IES, especially due to Math 1. We often used to say that you haven’t been truly admitted to IES until you actually passed that exam. HBS is very different from this perspective – once you are admitted, it is actually extremely difficult to fail out. If a student starts to fall behind (or even starts to feel like he or she is falling behind), the Student Services shower the student with additional resources ranging from professor meetings, review sessions, or individual tutoring to make sure the student can catch up. Obviously, the school is able to do so because it has all the necessary resources - huge alumni endowment, as well as and high tuition (around 75k USD / year right now) – but it is not just about the money, it is also about the mindset. Given the extremely competitive admission process, the school believes that whoever is admitted has what it takes to finish the degree.
The grading mechanism also incorporates this mindset and is typically two-fold – 50% class participation and 50% exam (which is also case-based) and grading curve (1-3) for each class is forced. Professors are also able to award the fail grade (4) but I think that I would have needed to miss like half of the classes (attendance is strictly mandatory), frequently come completely unprepared (as tested by so-called cold calls at the beginning of each class) or not just not show up for final exam without reason .
If a student gets 3s from about half classes (and only about 15% of students from get a 3 from each class), he or she gets reviewed at the academic board and in relatively rare cases can be required to gain more professional experience before being allowed to return to finish their MBA. I actually don’t know anyone from my class who would be required to do that (but then again, our class is over 900 people – which is another huge difference to IES – so I definitely know only small portion of the class).
You spent quite a long time at McKinsey. What was the most important thing you have learned from this company?
Funny you asked – this is something I have been thinking about quite a bit recently as I have been starting my summer internship.
While you are at McKinsey, you kind of know you are learning a lot of things but you can’t really put a finger on what exactly the “lot of things” is. I have personally often questioned exactly how much and what exactly I was learning, maybe even was occasionally slightly dissatisfied with the pace of my progress.
Having started my internship in an industry I don’t know at all, I have gained a completely new appreciation for my time at McKinsey. If I had to mention just one thing that I have learnt during my time there, it would definitely be the structuring and breaking down a problem into discreet pieces that can be tackled in order to solve an issue that on its own looks insurmountable. We will talk about what I am doing this summer in a little while – but at a high level, in the little time I have been in the company, I have been able to gain insight to the vaguely defined “problem” the company is facing through interviews with various stakeholders around the company, have broken it down into tangible pieces that I have started solving one by one. It might sound simple but I think figuring out a practical way to approach a problem is often very big of the solution.
You worked at the division McKinsey New Ventures in New York. Can you pick some project, which affected you the most?
When I was in New York working for McKinsey New Ventures (the innovation arm of McKinsey), I was actually in an internal role – meaning that I didn’t work on client project during that period of time. I worked in the accelerator arm of New Ventures – or more precisely, helped to build it.
Like many other companies, McKinsey is trying to come up with new, innovative ideas to better serve its clients. In order to facilitate that, it has created an accelerator for internal ideas to promote intrapreneurship. The accelerator allows McKinsey people with great ideas to take a time off from their standard jobs (while keeping their salaries) and get funding from the Firm – and spend few months developing their idea into an actual “start-up” (called a “Solution”).
My role was not as “glamorous” as I might sound on the surface - I was involved in the nitty-gritty details of daily operations (mostly designing and improving processes) but I really enjoyed actually implementing my recommendations, not just telling other people what I think is the right thing to do. The project I enjoyed the most was probably working with all functional leaders (from HR to Technology) and many “founders” to pull together a playbook outlining all key resources and best practices available to the “start-ups” – to help them develop, test and scale their ideas faster and hence improve their chances of success.
Currently you are doing an internship at Joe & The Juice in Denmark. What exactly are you doing at the position of strategy and business development intern?
Since most people haven’t heard the company’s name - Joe & The Juice is a Danish juice bar chain. It is not really a start-up as many people believe since they have only started hearing about the company recently – the company celebrated 16th birthday two weeks ago. However, the company is growing rapidly, especially after receiving funding from General Atlantic for their US expansion. This year, they are opening around 50 bars and expect to hit 300 bars (as they call their stores) globally.
The company has an interesting people model – they basically do not hire externally for their office and leadership roles, but rather promote people from their bars (yes, there are few exceptions, like me, but you could count them on your fingers). Even the CEO, COO and CFO started as juicers in one of the bars. Their core belief is centered around the juicers – make juicers happy by giving them meaningful work and a lot of freedom in how they interact with customers and they will make the customers happy (and hence drive revenues).
The meaningfulness piece is what I am working on – I am helping the company to think about how to sophisticate the way they measure it, how they use the meaningfulness scores to steer meaningfulness and performance of the bars and how the scores communicate to their investors.
The second piece that I am working on is related – but it is around education. Many juicers come to the company at a young age (sometimes even high school) and work their way up through the ranks without advanced formal education and hence learning on the job is extremely important. Joe & the Juice is hence building something they call “Joe University” to promote learning and I am again helping to define skillsets and modules that can be used to influence different drivers of meaningfulness, such as leadership.
Could you tell us what do you do in your free time? Do you have some? How do you relax?
Now that I am a student again, I should probably have some more free time, right? Well, kind of. Even at business school, I have been pretty busy, probably because I have spent a big chunk of my free time over the last year traveling with my classmates taking advantage of the diversity of the school – many classmates organize trips to show off their country to the rest us. Travelling has always been my passion so I have been truly enjoying traveling again just for fun, instead of for work. Since January, I have had the chance to visit South Africa, India and Japan (on top of US and Europe) and I still plan to visit few African countries and Middle East over the summer.
When I am not travelling you are likely to find me either cooking, building Lego / jigsaw puzzle or read in my free time. I like experimenting with new recipes and recreating my favorite dishes that I got to taste when travelling. Also, somehow, I find chopping veggies while sipping a good wine extremely calming and relaxing. Reading is something I have slowly been trying to fit more of into my schedule recently - I used to be a huge book worm as a kid but definitely have had hard time focusing on long readings in the last few years. This summer, I started reading War and Peace so let’s see how far I will actually be able get before I head back to school.