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Virginia Pavin is an MBA student at Esade Business School and president of the Spanish school’s Women in Business Club. She grew up in Brazil, where she studied computer engineering, and worked for five years at Openlink, an American IT software company that started its operation in Brazil in 2004. She also has experience in financial services.

Ms Pavin will be spending the summer working with GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) in Rio de Janeiro, leading a strategic finance project for the pharmaceutical company, before moving to Mexico for an internship with banking company Banorte and then returning to Esade.

1. Why did you choose to study for an MBA?

In Brazil, they don’t teach you strategy at school. You need to go abroad for that. I have always wanted an international career and exposure so an MBA was the best decision for me. I want to do what we call the triple jump: change position, field and country. It’s very aggressive and only a very aggressive plan, such as giving up my career in Brazil and going abroad for an MBA, would make it possible.

2. Why did you get involved in the Women in Business Club at Esade?

Having my mother raise me as a single mother was my major inspiration in life. She always gave me the strength I needed to work harder and believe in my dreams. My goal at Esade is to inspire people as my mother inspired me and prepare women for rewarding careers. Esade has amazing faculty who help the club achieve this goal. For example, Eugenia Bieto, our director-general, told us at the club launch event that she was the only woman in her undergraduate management course at Esade.

3. What are you enjoying most so far?

The people. I have been able to meet people from all over the globe with different backgrounds, lives and goals. Furthermore, I’ve had the opportunity to experience how different people and cultures do business. The teams I had during the first year of my MBA were so culturally mixed that, even with my experience managing people, I had to adapt, step back and start over.

4. What are you finding the most difficult?

The decision to put my career on pause for a year and a half. After 10 years of working, going back to school and living as a student is difficult. You have to stay up to date on the world and the MBA to become a better businesswoman than you were when you started.

5. What are the gender dynamics like?

MBA programmes are very male dominated environments. At Esade, women make up about 28 per cent of the class of 2016. It does not seem like a lot to me, although we are a powerful group.

Women have less access to education. Therefore, the pool of MBA candidates is small and the consequences are cyclical: when a company looks for a new director, vice-president or chief executive, the number of female candidates is minimal because they never got the chance to be there, to compete for the position. I think these dynamics are improving, but it will take many years to see significant increases in the numbers.

6. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

I’ve attended innumerable senior meetings in which I was the only young female in the room. I had a lot of trouble finding a chance to talk, but I always managed to speak up and prove my point. I was never afraid of the men’s responses or their prejudice and time has proved that was the best approach. I gained their trust and respect, and I’m still in contact with most of the challenging men I’ve met over my career.

7. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt from the MBA is that I’ll always have something new to learn, from everyone. Every single person on the MBA is there for a reason. If you’re open to understanding what their role is in your life, you’ll have one of the best experiences of your life, just like I have.

8. What are your top tips for networking?

Don’t be shy or afraid to talk to people — they are probably there for the same reason you are. Be polite and smile — you can open a lot of doors with those two simple rules. Networking is like a sales process — make sure you have a great offer and an excellent deliverable.

9. What has been you best business trip?

It was a long but fun business trip that started in Miami for a congress then continued to Guatemala, where I talked with my client, the central bank, and finally ended at the company headquarters in New York, where I helped prepare the budget for the upcoming year. Different climates, languages and cultures all in one.

10. Which business deals do you wish you could have been a part of?

I’d love to have participated in a major merger or acquisition, for example, the latest 3G Capital deal with Warren Buffett to take over Heinz.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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