My experience of GNAM week at IE Business School, Madrid

I was shown to my seat in the front row about an hour before the show was due to start. To my right were two hardy young English guys, covered in tattoos and determined to chase away the effects of the night before with some hair of the dog. To my left was a very pretty young lady sat with her mother and father. As the start grew nearer, they conversed several times with one of the young matadors below us. As we all would find out later, he was the most reckless or courageous of all the matadors working that evening.

Sitting so close to someone who was so connected to the man in the ring gave the proceedings a very hard and very human edge. Their young man in the ring was the only one that was caught by a bull that evening. The second time it got him, the man virtually disappeared beneath the head and chest of the black beast as it thrashed and tried to run him through with either of its horns. It seemed like he was going to be killed before my eyes as his sister stood screaming beside me about to witness it. Desperately beating the little tin roof below us to distract the bull. Just meters from us.

I’m a big Ernest Hemingway fan and his love of Bullfighting has given me a certain interest in it, so having checked into my Airbnb I walked to the bullring for the last one of the year. Whatever your view on it, it was a remarkable start to my GNAM week in wonderful Madrid.


IE Madrid is a real city center campus. It is made up of several impressive buildings along one of the many beautiful wide boulevards that run into the city. We had an 8 am start on Monday and after the initial nervous and giddy introductions we were straight into lectures. The topics on Monday were Brexit: implications for the UK, Europe and the world, followed by, Spain on the periphery: surviving the eurozone crisis. Both lectures today were given by Prof. Gayle Allard. An American lady who has lived in Madrid a long time. Lectures each day finished at 1 pm followed by lunch and then a little bit of group work in preparation for the final presentations to be given on Friday.

In the afternoon we were treated to a fantastic guided tour of the city with a couple of stops along the way. It then finished at the home of Real Madrid for some cocktails and tapas in the bar overlooking the pitch.


Tuesdays topic was “the euro is dead, long live the Euro”. We looked at the past and the progression of the Euro and what the future holds for Europe and the nations not in the Euro. Lectures today were by Fernando Fernandez. After lectures we were shown the W.O.W room. This is surely the future of on-line education. A totally interactive virtual classroom for 55 students from anywhere in the world. An amazing facility developed by IE but it sounds like several deals have been done with Ivy league universities in the States. After the W.O.W room I went to the Spanish equivalent of the Louvre, The Prado Museum. It’s a trip back in time through art. A huge museum that’s got to be seen but I seriously recommend booking in advance. Otherwise you’ll be in a queue three blocks long, literally.


Wednesday’s lecture was given by Fernando Garland and the topic was “a perspective of the world economy”. A very interesting lecture covering topics like population, demographic, age, trade and migration. This was followed by a brief fun lecture after lunch on the economics of wine around the world. We learnt a lot!

Then it was up to one of the other buildings for a wine tasting and to put into practice everything we had just learnt.  This was followed by a flamenco show, which was very enjoyable. Then I went to see Guernica at the Reina Sofia. It is spectacular and as startling as I had envisaged. I was also blown away by the Dali’s, much more then I thought I would be. You only really appreciate the detail when you see them up so close. They are quite extraordinary. After this I went for a walk to get lost in the city. I stumbled into a flamenco place called Villa Rosa for some tapas. I stayed for my second flamenco show of the day and this one was incredible. Amazing music and dance and wonderful to see it live. So dark and intense and dramatic.

First thing Thursday morning we had an economic decision-making simulation that was designed in IE called 10 Downing Street. In it, each team plays the British prime minister who must make economic decisions regarding the economy during times of crisis to avoid being ousted in the next general election!

After the simulation we had another lecture with Prof. Allard called “the road ahead”, analysing potential outcomes of Brexit and evaluating the outlook for Europe.

After lunch we visited Telefonica in their original old building in the centre of town. The most interesting aspect of this was seeing their WAWA facility downstairs. This has 30-40 semi mature start-ups working in the building with a further 40 outside and globally. We got to see a couple of very cool products and got a great presentation from the young guys behind two of the them.

At the start of the week each group was given a certain viewpoint on the Euro or the Euro zone to critique or defend in their 7/8-person group presentation. These 30-minute presentations were then presented throughout the course of Friday morning. Each discussion followed by plenty of lively debate. It was most interesting to hear such a diverse set of views and comments on Europe from people from all over the world. Everybody certainly sees things very differently.

We had nothing on Friday afternoon, so people scattered all over the city. It rained a lot that afternoon, so I enjoyed Madrid over a long lazy lunch in a very cool restaurant across the road called Honest Greens. Later in the afternoon I got organised for my early departure the following morning and sorted out the apartment. Then it was out for tapas and drinks with most of the class. We went to 3 or 4 more bars and saw plenty more of the city.

In common with the MBA, one of the big bonuses and great things about doing GNAM is the great people that you meet from all over the world. I met wonderful people from every corner, Guatemala. India, China, Mexico, Lebanon etc.  I look forward to calling these guys when I make it around to their part of the globe.


We are in a very lucky position to be able to do these great weeks and I very much look forward to getting back to this beautiful city and seeing and experiencing more of it.

Paul Deegan, FTMBA 2018/19