Options open: Mafalda Rebordão sees the value in spending time out of the classroom
Options open: Mafalda Rebordão sees the value in spending time out of the classroom © Pedro Guimaraes

I decided while studying for my masters in management that I wanted to do an internship at Google. It was quite a bold decision to take, but the staff at Nova School of Business and Economics in Lisbon were very supportive. They understood I saw it as an important move for my career and my personal interests, so we found a way of making it work. To manage my studies while working, I opted exclusively for evening courses for the six months I would be spending at Google.

During the internship, I helped some of Google’s largest clients in Portugal explore how to digitise their business strategies to encourage growth — successfully shifting to digital is a very important mission for Portuguese companies. I spent the six months working in Lisbon, where I live, and at the company’s European headquarters in Dublin. I also spent some time in Google’s Madrid office. It was an amazing experience.

Many people who secure internships at Google have been recommended to the company. That was not the case with me — I had decided to apply after doing a course in digital strategy and transformation in the first semester of my masters at Nova (which is part of the Cems global alliance of 32 business schools). I enjoyed that course, as well as our class on corporate social responsibility, which focused on the long-term vision of companies in terms of strategy.

The masters is a two-year programme. I will spend next year at Copenhagen Business School (also part of Cems), where I will complete my final project with a Danish company. I don’t know yet which company or what the project will be on, but the university in Copenhagen has a focus on disruptive innovation. Before I go I will spend a last semester at Nova, where I have been invited to teach calculus to undergraduates.

I studied economics at Nova for my undergraduate degree but then decided to focus on management. Economics is very specific — it gives you an amazing analytical background and teaches you how to develop frameworks. Management, on the other hand, gives me the opportunity to explore things I enjoy and might want to pursue in the future, such as digital transformation and corporate social responsibility.

My professors at Nova told me from day one that I could have an important role in the world and be part of the most important discussions. That is why I have been trying to do things outside the classroom during my studies. But I am the kind of person who wants to give 100 per cent in everything I do. I used to be a professional ballroom dancer from the age of six — I danced every style, from what you see on Dancing with the Stars to more classical dance. As my interest in technology grew, however, I could no longer give dancing my full attention, so about two years ago I gave it up.

There are only about 30 people on the course, which gives you the opportunity to ask questions and means the professor is more focused on you. The majority of the group is international: about 75 per cent are from outside Portugal. That is one reason why this masters is so successful — every day you speak to people from different cultures with different ways of seeing the world.

I am not sure yet what I want to do in the future, but harnessing technology for a government or an organisation such as the UN is one possibility. Technology will only become more important, but we have to find ways to make it more inclusive and bring more women into Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs.

My parents wanted me to study medicine after I finished high school with top grades, but I told them it was not for me. I did not have a specific goal in going to business school — compared with the career path of a doctor, lawyer or architect — but I had this drive to create. I went to Nova for my undergraduate degree to see if it would work out — and here I am.

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