Deep in the Latin America’s biggest economy, a network of MBAs from some of the US’s top schools is stirring.
Founded by Patricia Volpi over a decade ago, the exclusive MBA Alumni Brasil community has grown to nearly 2,200 members, from 50 business schools including Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB.
“The group has really taken off,” says the Indiana, Kelley School graduate.
MBAAB helps graduates network and find MBA jobs through company visits, “happy hour” drinks doos, from São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte to Miami, New York and London, and job postings from companies such as Bloomberg, Microsoft and Nestlé.
“The exchange of job opportunities drove the group,” says Patricia, who has worked at Frost & Sullivan, Telefonica and GNext, a recruitment firm.
But Brazil is mired by a political crisis and a faltering economy. Its president, Dilma Rousseff, has been suspended and its central bank forecasts GDP to contract 3.5% in 2016.
“One of the challenges was finding jobs that met MBAs’ salary expectations,” Patricia says.
Below, BB speaks to two members of the MBAAB network working in São Paulo.
A Hub For Entrepreneurs
With a large financial center, well-regarded universities, and local heroes such as Dafiti, the e-commerce business backed with $250 million of venture capital, the city has a growing start-up ecosystem.
“São Paulo is the best region in Brazil for entrepreneurs,” says Ric Scheinkman. The local entrepreneur is managing director and founding partner of Harpia Capital, an advisory and investment firm.
He plans to study for an MBA at University of Miami, and says the MBAAB network has introduced him to top-level executives and entrepreneurs in São Paulo. “It has some of the best and brightest of the Brazilian business community,” Ric says.
São Paulo has the largest of entrepreneurial scenes in Brazil, and it commands roughly 30% of the emerging market’s GDP. But the country has been engulfed by a political scandal and a deep recession.
“For a corporate job, the market has definitely shrunk,” admits Ric. But he says it’s a good time to be an entrepreneur: “Since bankruptcies have been rampant around the country, it opens space for new companies with new ideas, services and products.”
A Growing MBA Market
The best business schools in Brazil are Insper, Fundação Dom Cabral, COPPEAD Graduate School of Business and FGV School, according to Newton Campos, an entrepreneurship expert who teaches at Spain’s prestigious IE Business School, pictured above.
Brazil’s MBA market has been growing. But Newton does not see the country being able to compete with the US and Europe in English language programs. “This would be unthinkable in the short term,” he says, pointing to competition from India and South Africa.
He says the MBAAB network has helped him meet other Brazilians who have different experiences to share.
“It opened my eyes to a nationally-connected, emerging business society that is changing the way we face historic Brazilian problems.”
Newton teaches at, or is involved with, a number of educational initiatives in Brazil, mostly related to entrepreneurship and innovation.
He says there are local challenges start-ups face — “bureaucracy, political instability, endemic corruption, social inequality, violence, fraud, lack of access to capital, lack of infrastructure”.
But, “Brazil will still offer a large number of opportunities to entrepreneurs in the decades to come”.