Mexico City Power Couple To Launch Social Ventures Through UBC Sauder MBA

Pair aspire to start up companies with meaningful impact on society

Alejandra Cerbon and Ignacio Trelles are entrepreneurially wed-locked. The power couple aspire to start up companies with a meaningful impact on society.

The pair form part of a diverse MBA cohort at Vancouver’s UBC Sauder School of Business — 60% of which is international, according to the latest FT MBA rankings.

UBC Sauder has strived to provide a smooth transition for international students, who are increasingly flocking to Canada. Alejandra and Ignacio’s classmates have been supportive in their transition from Mexico City, their home. UBC Sauder offers Talent Scholarships for international students, for example from Colombia, Israel, or Mexico among other destinations.

It was such diversity that attracted the couple to the MBA program, along with its focus on sustainability and social impact, the 16-month duration, and Vancouver — they have taken advantage of opportunities for outdoor activities: the city is revered for its parks and ocean views. They applied separately and their marriage was unknown to the admissions committee.

But with the intensity of the program, striking the right work-life balance is a challenge, they explain in this joint interview with BB.

Previously, Alejandra was an associate investment analyst at Banamex, Mexico’s second biggest bank. Ignacio worked in sales, covering central and southern Mexico for Monsanto, a company which helps farmers grow crops in a more sustainable way.

Why did you choose the UBC Sauder MBA?

We chose UBC Sauder because it was the perfect match, in terms of professional and personal objectives. On one side, the strong focus and reputation UBC has on sustainability and social impact — it is ranked among the best sustainable programs globally — aligned with our professional goals. Not to mention its internationally diverse class.

Additionally, the length of the program was the exact amount of time we were willing to spend back at school and out of the job market.

As a couple, Vancouver is one of the best cities to live in around the globe, and has a great outdoor lifestyle, so that attracted our attention as well. We wanted to experience a different lifestyle in a new country.

What’s it like living in Vancouver compared with your home in Mexico?

Living in Vancouver is really different than Mexico City. Comparing the population and size of both cities (2.4 million vs 21.2 million in population respectively), you can tell there are big differences.

We are enjoying the ethnic diversity, and the amazing amount of parks and ocean views. The weather itself is another point of difference — however, we experienced some Vancouver summer days when we arrived. Since then, we have realized how beautiful this city is.

What support have you had from your classmates in settling into Vancouver?

Sauder has a “buddy” program. Its main objective is to provide as much help/assistance as possible from classmates. This was great because they gave us excellent tips for our transition, making it easy and smooth.

Our Canadian classmates have been really supportive in terms of helping us settle in and adapt to Vancouver’s diverse culture. They have taught us the main Canadian traditions and shown us local restaurants and activities: it has been really easy so far. They even have taken us to the best Mexican restaurants in town.

What challenges have you faced juggling work/study/life priorities?

The UBC Sauder MBA is intense and really challenging, so finding a study-life balance is challenging. We have become experts in time management in order to be able to deliver expected results, and still enjoy the outdoors of Vancouver and UBC’s awesome facilities. Cycling around Stanley Park and its vast forest areas is incredible; Cypress Mountain views are breath-taking.

What do you both hope to gain, both personally and professionally from the experience?

Based on the three months of the program so far, and the meaningful relationships we are building with our classmates, we have made life-long friends from all over the world. (India, Vietnam, Norway, Colombia, Nigeria and Canada, just to name a few). Living here as a married couple is the experience of a lifetime.

On the professional side, we will gain global, top-class education, and develop and enhance our hands-on business experience.

Already, we are providing consultancy work to different companies within Vancouver, helping them to improve their business operations. We are also looking forward going to India next February for an assigned, two-week business project, teaming up with other MBAs from Japanese and Indian business schools.

What are your plans post-MBA?

We would like to start-up a few companies with a sustainable and social approach, and with a meaningful impact on society.

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