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Once you know what motivates you, you can steer your career towards things you enjoy. Towards the end of 2008, after working for Citi Peru for about six years, ever since I was an intern, I felt it was time to take the next step: an MBA.
I had a great start to my professional career, as I held various positions and moved rapidly within the company in a relatively short time. These jobs included roles in quality and innovation, operations and technology, client and product management.
Having the opportunity to do different jobs, and not become a specialist in just one, gave me a more holistic view of business and at the same time helped me discover what I enjoy doing.
However, the timing of my MBA could not have been worse. Economies around the world were shaken by the financial crisis, student loans were reduced to a minimum, job prospects looked terrible, and uncertainty was the name of the game.
But in Peru, the economy was booming, and local growth prospects could not have looked better.
I needed to make a tough decision: give up a great job with excellent opportunities in one of the only economies still growing and do a full-time MBA programme; or sacrifice the experience of living and potentially working in a bigger, more developed country and do a local part-time programme while working.
I decided to stay in my job and look for a part-time programme that would allow me to develop the skills needed to live and work in a different market or region, and look for such an opportunity in the future.
In that search, I was introduced to Thunderbird Global School of Management by many colleagues who had studied in the school, were satisfied with the programme, and now worked outside the country.
The programme was a 21-month global MBA, designed for Latin American managers.
Although I had given up on the opportunity to live and work outside Peru, once the decision was made I felt that I was embarking on a journey that would eventually help me steer my career towards gaining experience outside my country.
On my first week of classes, I heard a term that at the time did not mean as much as it does today, which is the need to develop a “global mindset”.
At first I did not pay much attention to the term, but as the programme continued, it resonated throughout the learning experience.
From the very foundation of most courses that have a strong focus on global business – including marketing, economics, strategy, political economy or finance – to developing a network of people from across the world, to experiencing other countries or regions in an international business interim trip, I believe the programme has been designed to allow you to develop a global mindset.
This helps you to become aware of the many variables that change from market to market and, as a result, have the resources needed to adapt to it.
The business interim trip was probably the most interesting experience I had in this regard. It is aimed at providing the hands-on experience of analysing a potential country to do business with, visiting it and interacting with other businesses and organisations operating in it, and also experiencing the cultural differences and evaluating adaptations needed.
Having many options to choose from and having travelled in the Americas, Asia and Europe, my natural choice was the Middle East.
We travelled for a week to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
The visit included sessions to get to know and understand the culture, meetings with businesses, both local and western, operating in the region and, of course, a little bit of leisure.
The trip opened a new vision of the world for me. The fact that the way of life considered as “normal” for a large part of the world population differs so much from the western way of life was hard to grasp.
Nevertheless, it highlighted the fact that embracing diversity is probably one of the most important variables needed in a global manager.
But studying at the same time as working is not all fun and games. Balancing your work and family life with the demands of a top-notch programme requires a lot of sacrifice and focus to reach your goals, especially when you get promoted and assume more responsibilities in the middle of the race.
But the experience has been enlightening, not only because the learning process is much richer once you have work experience, but also because having peers with different backgrounds provides points of view that do not always match your way of thinking.
I guess my decision to stay put and look for cross-border opportunities later was the right one. Two months ago I was selected in an international associate programme within Citi that will take me on a four-year journey to different countries, regions and job experiences.
The main goal of the programme: to try to develop a global mindset for a generation of potential future leaders within my business unit.
I’m two months away from finishing the programme and strongly believe it was ideal preparation for this experience, and also to put me one step ahead of the rest and hit the ground running.
I feel ready to take the next step I was looking for, and thus continue developing the skills needed to become a global professional.
The writer is an MBA student at Thunderbird Global School of Management