When Mauricio Aveiro sought approval from his superiors at Embraer, the Brazilian aircraft maker, to embark on an executive education course at Iese Business School’s facilities in São Paulo, he already had an idea of what lay in store.

“I got in touch with people who had taken the course before,” he says. “I knew about the level of the course, the professors and the opportunities I would have to interact with executives from other companies.”

Aveiro, vice-president of customer support for executive jets at the world’s third-largest manufacturer of commercial planes, was not the first from Embraer to enrol in a programme with Iese, a school based in Spain but with facilities and campuses in several other countries.

Although Embraer has yet to make use of Iese’s tailor-made programmes for specific companies, or its MBA course, it has since 2006 enrolled a number of executives in cross-company management courses where 25 students from different industries meet for one week a month over five months. The first four weeks’ classes are taught in Brazil; in the fifth month, the entire class flies to Barcelona for a week.

The course he attended in 2009 “was a kind of immersion experience”, says Aveiro, who lives and works in São José dos Campos, a city just outside São Paulo where Embraer has its headquarters. “I would go to a hotel outside São Paulo for a whole week, for which I was given full-time vacation. It was a great way to fulfil the purposes of the course, which was to expand our scope and build up the first and second level of executives in our companies.”

The growth of Brazil, whose economy expanded by 7.5 per cent last year, is creating opportunities for providers of business education programmes. Iese is one of the schools increasing its offerings there, and not only among local companies.

“We’ve developed customised programmes for IBM, Siemens, Pirelli and Santander,” says José Paulo Carelli, a Brazilian-born professor of financial management at Iese in São Paulo.

The school has also created bespoke programmes for the Brazilian branch of Santander, the Spanish bank, and for Queiroz Galvão, the Brazilian engineering company.

About the cross-company management programmes, Prof Carelli says: “The main characteristic is that all subjects are seen from the general management perspective.”

The participants all stay in one hotel, an arrangement that allows for useful interaction.

“The learning process is based on discussion,” says Aveiro. “When you get so many perspectives, you learn from what everyone has experienced.”

Aveiro’s course covered “management in all areas, including strategy, finance operations and personnel development”, he says.

“One especially interesting thing I learned related to ongoing business finance and how to control and measure the need for funds,” he adds. “The course provided a good grounding in finance for executive managers like us, rather than for financial experts.

“We were introduced to ways of monitoring the balance sheet month by month to understand how to finance activities, whether through creditors or shareholders. And this was based on real industry cases.”

Although Embraer is seen as a high-tech innovator in a country whose economy is dominated by commodity exports to Asia and the financial sector, Aveiro says he learned from other course participants from these sectors and from multinational companies.

Of course, the students drew on the knowledge of the lecturers too. “But we also had specialists from the school, and private sector PhD-level consultants,” Aveiro says.

Both in Spain and Brazil, the lecturers and guest speakers are encouraged to speak in their native tongues. Most of them speak English, while Brazilians and Spanish-speakers can rely on the similarities of their languages to come to a mutual understanding.

Prof Carelli says: “We decided that it would be easier to have the discussions in native languages, and it usually works out quite well.”

Iese may yet develop a customised programme for the aircraft maker. “There is certainly potential for a customised programme. We are currently working with Embraer in this direction,” says Prof Carelli.

Aveiro’s course cost his company about $26,000 at the time, hotel and travelling costs excluded, and the cost is now roughly $30,000. It is hard to compare this with the cost of a customised course, which takes into account the number of participants, the lecturers involved and several other factors.

“The customised programme depends on the client,” says Prof Carelli, “and normally we don’t go to Barcelona. They are usually shorter, three- or four-day programmes. Before we start, we try to understand exactly what they want.”

An upcoming customised course for Santander, though, will move between Shanghai, São Paulo and Europe.

It was not lost on Aveiro that he would be learning in interesting surroundings: first at a resort hotel in Campos do Jordão, São Paulo state, and then in Barcelona.

The executives were encouraged to take along family members to the Spanish city. “The last week included talks on how to avoid your professional life jeopardising your family life,” says Aveiro. “It was a nice link to the perspective of professional development.”

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